My husband and I, along with another couple and their 4 year old daughter, stayed at the Grand Paradise Samana from December 1 to 15, 2013. Previously, we stayed at the Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa and the Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo.
The hotel has some great qualities worth mentioning:
The grounds are absolutely stunning. We felt like we were in a tropical paradise. If you’re a fan of turtles, you will get a kick out of the little turtle pond by the beach.
Staff are incredibly friendly, possibly the friendliest we have encountered at any resort we have visited in the Dominican. Francis and Leocalina, 2 servers who work at the buffet restaurant, gave us fantastic service. We’ll never forget the day Leocalina had the chef make French fries especially for our table or the times Francis would reserve a table for our group for breakfast and lunch. Reception staff were also very, very helpful and made us feel very welcome. I also have to give a shout out to Benito at the cluster pool bar --- he was a fantastic bartender.
Most staff speak at least a little bit of English so don’t worry if you do not know. You won’t have trouble getting around.
The drinks are of high quality and not watered down like at most resorts --- the beer is cold and crisp and the cocktails made with Brugal rum, which is the good stuff. You can buy Coco Locos for a fee of $5, served inside a real coconut. They are tasty but not anything like the Coco Locos you will find at the Grand Bahia Principe resorts.
Our room was clean and very spacious. The mattresses are great and we even had a walk in closet. The safe was the best we ever had at a resort. Lovely bathroom with plenty of space for toiletries. The air conditioner worked well (too well, actually, which forced us to have to sleep under 2 blankets some nights). The room was very dim though…even with all the lights on it was hard to read or play a card game.
There were lots of horses around and places to rent horses from nearby if you want to go riding up and down the beach.
It’s open to families and the kids seemed to have a great time. Our friends’ daughter had a blast and was treated very well by other guests and staff. There is a kids centre which has a ball pit and games.
There is a massage centre on the resort, run by a husband and wife team. She doesn’t speak any English but he does (and possibly French, based on his accent). The massages were decent and inexpensive --- a complete 45 minute relaxation massage costs $45 US. You pay the masseuses directly. This is not a spa and no other services besides massages are offered.
We liked that there was a large green belt between the resort and the beach --- it reduced the size of the beach but it gave us the opportunity to get the sand off our feet before going to our rooms or to the restaurant.
Because the resort is undergoing renos at the moment, many of the rooms were out of commission and the hotel was not anywhere near filling its capacity. As a result, it was very quiet which made for a very peaceful vacation.
Unfortunately, the resort does have some real downsides, some which really diminished our enjoyment of the hotel:
All of the rooms have 2 double beds, which is not ideal for couples. We tried pushing the beds together one night but found it was not worth the trouble of doing this. So we opted to share a bed. Way too small for 2 adults. It would be nice if the resort offered different types of rooms, one for couples and the other for families.
You have to pay for a remote for your tv. I believe the charge is $5 a week. This seems like poor customer service. It is possible to operate the tv without a remote --- you will have to turn it on/off and change the channels manually…and if you do watch tv, the selection was exceptionally poor compared to the Bahias in the area.
No coffee maker or kettle in the rooms and no beer in the fridge. It would have been nice to have had the ability to prepare a cup of tea or coffee or enjoy a cold one while relaxing in our room. And frankly, the coffee served at the restaurants was not that great. If you are wanting to enjoy some Santa Domingo, you may have to do what we did and bring your own coffee maker and go to town and buy some.
No spa. Not a major downside by any means, but a nice amenity to have access to nonetheless, especially at a resort.
Although we received great service from Francis and Leocalina in the restaurant, the overall service wasn’t great. Some nights at dinner we were lucky if someone came by to take our drink orders.
Wifi was expensive (no free spots) - it was $50 per week or $16 per day. And it was not accessible in all parts of the resort. For example, while were able to get Internet in our room, our friends had to go down to the pool area to get it. Not very convenient.
The pools were frigid! This was a HUGE letdown, as one of my favorite things to do on vacation is spend hours lounging in the pool. But alas, it was too cold to even get in most days. And judging by how deserted the pools were, I’d say most people at the resort felt the same way. The weather was a bit cool while were there, especially at night, and we did experience some rainfall, so this may partially account for why the pools were so cold. But temperatures were still around 27 or 28 degrees on average, so the water really should have been more pleasant.
We were disappointed with the food, in terms of its variety and quality. The breakfast buffet was the same every single morning, which got boring fast. Lunch and dinner items did vary but I wouldn’t say they were terribly exciting. We found the quality of the food declined over the duration of our vacation --- at some points, the food was so bad it felt like the cook and management had given up. The biggest disappointment was the range and quality of fruit offered. Most days our only options were passionfruit, pineapple, and watermelon, with cantaloupe and bananas offered sporadically, and they were consistently underripe or overripe (I had never seen white pineapple before this trip). We were particularly surprised by the lack of coconut on the buffet, considering its abundance all over the island. (Sadly, you will have to walk down the beach road toward town about 5 minutes and buy your coconuts from a local for 50 pesos…he will cut them open for you as well. We also bought a papaya like this). So while we did not starve, we did not find the buffet enjoyable and are happy to have it behind us.
We got the chance to get off the resort a few times and ate at a couple of restaurants nearby. The Beach Club is about a 5 minute walk from the resort and serves fresh seafood (including lobster, which is the most expensive item on their menu and will run you around $20 US or 900 pesos), pasta, chicken, beef, pork, and appetizers like fries and tostones (friend plantain chips). They also have free wifi. The food is delicious, though a little expensive if you decide to eat seafood. We also visited El Cabito restaurant, which is about a 20 minute drive from the resort. It is an expensive restaurant but the food is good (btw, they served us fresh, ripe papaya which was delicious) the portions are generous and, most importantly, the table-side views of the ocean are absolutely magnificent.
If you want to shop for souvenirs, including rum, vanilla and coffee, avoid the town of Las Galeras --- not much there for supermarket options. For jewelry and knick knacks, you can buy them on resort --- a group sets up a table once a week and their prices did not appear outlandish. Or you can take a 30 minute taxi into Samana town and visit the shops and the big Supermarcado across from the Scotiabank, which is what we did. We saved a bundle on our rum, vanilla and coffee doing it this way. We met a great cab driver in town and we highly recommend him…his English was great, he was very friendly and trustworthy and a super guy all around. When we are back in Samana, we will likely look him up just to go for a beer. You can ask at reception for Fermin…or send me an IM and I can give you his phone number and contact info.
So although we had a good time on this vacation, we are unlikely to return to Grand Paradise Samana. I think if the hotel made some improvements to the food and the pool, and threw in some value added items ( a free remote for the tv, a coffee maker and coffee in the room, beer in the fridge, etc), it could be a great place worth visiting. But until then, we’d rather spend our money at resort like Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa, which is a budget all-inclusive resort in Samana with all the amenities.
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- Also Known As:
- Grand Paradise Samana Hotel Las Galeras
- Casa Marina Bay
- Grand Paradise Samana Las Galeras
- Grand Paradise Samana Dominican Republic