This is about the 9th or 10th trip my husband and I have made to various resorts in the Dominican Republic. We have stayed in Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, and now at the Barcelo in Juan Dolio. We have stayed at resorts with ratings from 3 to 5 stars and know we won't get 5 star service, rooms, food, and amenities at a 3 star resort. We only had a short 5 nights to get away and needed to be on a budget this time, so we chose the Barcelo Capella
It's actually very difficult to give the Barcelo Capella a ranking because some things about it we would rate only 1 or 2 and other things we would rate at 3 or 4. We did reserve and pay for an Oceanview room to insure we would be in the newer 4000 building. Some of the big travel websites only give the option of a standard room. We found Vacations to Go and the United Vacations websites give the option of paying a bit more for the oceanview. It's well worth it to assure you'll be in the 4000 building, even though our third floor room looked out mostly on the palm trees that line the beach and we really couldn't see much of the ocean from our balcony. We also suggest you ask for a room that isn't on the ground floor. Ground floor rooms in many places in tropical environments tend to be damp and musty.
Pros: We like the beach here. There are no palapas but there is a palm grove along the whole beach with plenty of chairs and plenty of shade and sun, whichever you prefer. We like the setting of El Pescador buffet at the beach. Very pretty to sit and look out over the ocean. We are snorkelers and like the fact that we can just walk into the water waist deep and see lots of fish of various varieties. (We bring our own snorkel gear for sanitary reasons.) The fish will come to you if you bring some bread from the buffet or you can just float over the shallow reef to see them. We are not so young anymore and the fact that there are no big waves here is a plus for us as we can get into and out of the water easily and don't get knocked down by the waves. We were at the east end of the beach, which is quieter, away from the animation and music of the pool bar, and we like the quiet. We like the fact that there are no banana boat rides, parasailing, or beach trampolines here. If you want lots of beach activities, this is not the place to go. If you want to snorkel and sit under a plam tree and read, the Barcelo Capella might meet your needs. In general, we find the Dominican people to be warm and friendly. Our room maid could not always meet our requests (extra towels or extra water for example) but it was no fault of hers; she tried very hard. Our servers at the buffet were rather quiet and a bit sullen until we talked to them (I speak some Spanish) and then they became quite friendly. I think some of them develop a quiet, unsmiling attitude because many of the guests are downright rude to them. Our room was basically clean, freshly painted, had good air conditioning, good water pressure, and we always had hot water when we wanted to shower. It was a bit musty when we arrived, but we've learned to expect this in the tropics. We bought a plug-in air freshener with us. We noticed that they washed the quilts, not just the sheets, when someone checked out, and that's a real plus. There are "better" hotels that seldom do this. We liked the fact that each floor of our building had ice machines. Some 4 - 5 star resorts require that you call room service for ice and then there's a wait.
Cons: The biggest con for us was all the vendors on the beach. The resort was not crowded when we were there in May and sometimes the number of venders was higher than the number of resort guests. During the prime beach time, them come by literally 4 and 5 in a few minutes' time, selling jewelry, pareos, cigars, water shoes, pedicures, massages, hair braiding, wooden carvings, full-size paintings on canvas, paintings on burlap, straw hats, and on and on.... They don't just pass by but interrupt you while you're reading and even say, "hola, hola" if you're sleeping. We realize this is a poor country and people are trying to make a living but, after saying "no gracias" for the 100th time in a day, it's difficult not to become surly. The beach: If you just want to swim and are not a snorkelers, the beach at this resort may not be for you. The reef is very close to the beach and there's a rough, coral covered bottom. You really need water shoes here. The other big problem is the fight to get basic necessities in your room - bottled water and towels. Each room is given 1 large bottle of water a day -- not nearly enough for two people in a hot climate. We kept asking for more but it never came. Then we discovered that there are refill stations at the beach bars and at the buffet, so you can fill your empty bottles or a container if you bring one. You just have to be proactive and do this yourself. Each person gets 1 towel in the room and 1 hand towel. The towels are taken away in the late morning and not brought back until late in the afternoon. They seem to have only one set that they wash each day, which is ridiculous, especially when the resorts isn't full. How expensive could it be for them to buy two sets of towels, one to put out while the other is in the wash? There are no washcloths, but we find this to be true most places in the Caribbe4an, in Latin America, in fact, that are not 4.5 - 5 star hotels. I buy a 3-pack of cheap washcloths at the Dollar Store and bring them then leave them behind. Beach towels also run out by late morning or early afternoon. If you don't get to the beach early enough, there are no clean beach towels left. In addition, while I'm on the theme of linen shortage, the sheets didn't fit our king size bed. The bottom sheet was a flat double bed sheet turned sidewards that came off each night. As others have mentioned, the people at reception are not smiling and friendly. We arrived mid-week and it was not busy at reception so we were taken care of quickly. If you can travel mid-week, I suggest you do so in order to avoid the Saturday and Sunday rush to check in and out. The servers and maids speak little English -- but this is a Spanish speaking country and you are in their country. Bring a Spanish/English dictionary if you don't speak the country's language.
Food: We only ate at the beach buffet and at Las Ollas, which requires reservations. We always found something we could eat at the buffet but there is no gourmet food here. The meats and fish tend to be overcooked. We found our best bet was to get whatever meat was being cooked fresh on the grill near the rear of the restaurant. The same veggies -- carrots, broccoli, cauliflower -- appear day after day. The fresh fruits are excellent. The banana and fruit crepes and ice cream, which were available. We made a reservation one night at Las Olas. One has to walk to reception and Guest Services in the morning to make a reservation. They don't take them via phone and they won't take reservations for even a day in advance. The fresh fish we had a Las Olas (Mero) was very good, much better than fish on the steam tables at the buffet. The drawback was that there was an upcharge for almost everything on the menu except for 2 fish, one chicken, one pork, and one pasta.
The population of the resort doubled as of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with local Dominican familes coming in from Santo Domingo, which is only about half an hour away. We like the outgoing Dominican people and, after all, this is their country and their resort.
In all, we probably will go back to the Barcelo Capella when we need a short, budget vacation. We wouldn't go for a long vacation. If we do go back, we will bring our own towels, washcloths, water shoes, and a container to fill with water. It's a bit like camping out on your own, rather than being pampered, but the beach and snorkeling are good and those are the most important things to us. if you want luxury, pampering, gourmet food, and service personnel who speak fluent English, spend more money and go to one of the 4.5 - 5 star resorts in Punta Cana.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.