Just got back from visiting the Esmeralda in early May. We travelled as a group of 4 (2 couples, early 20's). We all thoroughly enjoyed our trip and the resort itself lived up to all of our expectations.
Let me start by saying that given the price paid for this resort, it is well worth it. We all agreed that this resort does fall short of 5 stars, but still posseses many amazing qualities:
Grounds - the hotel is beautiful. As most other reviews state, the grounds are immaculate. I am sure that anyone who visits will agree. The hotel is situated in a large complex, along with three other resorts. They do provide a very efficient tram system to navigate the complex, but the Esmeralda does have most ammenities that one desires while on vacation - buffet, a la cartes, snackbar, 3 pools, lobby bar with premium alcohol and a private beach area.
The only time we required leaving the Esmeralda was when we wanted to go to the disco, the casino or to play golf. I'm sure that most would not even need to leave the property. Although guests of the Esmeralda can visit any of the resorts on the complex, only guests from the Ambar section can use the facilities of the Esmeralda, and vice versa.
Food- Let me start by saying that I am an extremely picky eater. Not only do I like particular foods, but I really look for quality as well. Most notably, I love my beef rare, and of high quality!!
Honestly, my first impression of the food was awful. My first meal was a lunch at the snack bar, and after a few bites I was convinced that I was dealing with the same quality of food that I experienced last year in Puerto Plata (not edible). I was definitely too quick to judge - the food is average to good throughout the entire complex, and I even had a cut of fresh sliced roast beef (rare) at the buffet one day that would qualify as excellent. Other then the cold meats (ham, salami etc.), I was quite impressed with the quality of the meats as a whole (chicken, beef and pork). The buffet offered a wide variety of foods of which I would consider half to be 'average' to 'good'. Again, take that for what it is as I am picky. I can assure you that the food at this resort will at least not be a burden on your trip and some people will definitely enjoy some, if not most of the food.
As for the a la cartes, I would not say that their quality of foods were any better then the buffet. We were less then impressed with their flagship a la carte, 'Don Pablo'. We found the atmosphere and food to be average - not bad, but not the best. We also visited the 'Garden Grill' which was also average. The Takara Asian restaurant had good flavor but there was plenty of gristle in their tapenyaki meals. The El Olivio was good all around, but judging by the food temperature, I don't think the food was cooked to order. I just want to reiterate that all of the food was good, but they do lable themselves as a five star so that warrants a critical review.
Bar/drinks - All of the bars were great. Friendly bartenders and qucik service - tipping certainly helps but is not necessary for good service. The beer on tap is Presidente (very good IMO) and is extremely cold, kudos for that. The girls in our group found the drinks to be way too strong, but I took that as a bonus. Most people complain of having drinks watered down at all inclusive resorts - certainly not the problem here. After asking the bartender for premium alcohol (and less of it) their issue was quickly resolved.
Disco was half decent. We felt a little bit old there as it seemed to be mostly 18-20 year olds so we stuck to the lobby bars. The casino on site was ok. It was small with some slot machines and limited table games. Drinks are not included so our visits here never lasted too long.
Rooms - rooms were great. The bathroom had a jacuzzi, seperate shower, his and her sinks and a private toilet. The bed was very firm, but not uncomfortable. Everything in the room was functional, and the TV even had a good selection of english channels. Our maid, Yubelkis, was great. She knew that we preffered beer and vodka to the other liquors that were regularly stocked in our fridge and gave us extra each day. Although our room was cleaned at different times each day of the week, the cleaning was thorough and she always left a nice gesture such as towel art, or flowers, or something of that nature.
Beach - beach was also great. It is more of a shaded beach then I'm familiar with, but this was welcomed by me as the Dominican sun is HOT. Although we never got a chance, renting non motorized sports equipment (kayaks, boogie boards etc) was free and taking a kayak out in the waves looked awesome.
Golf - the golf course (Punta Blanca) was adequate. We found it a little pricey for the calibre of course. We paid around $150 for a round with cart. Easy course, very forgiving in excellent condition but absolutely no 'wow' factor to it.
Overall this resort is very good IMO. It falls short of 5 stars for the following reasons.
- food is good, but not close to excellent
- maid service needs more consistency at what time a room is cleaned
- you should not have to ask for premium liquor, it should be implied. Who wants Esternoff vodka when they have Smirnoff and Absolute?
The overall impression of a resort is akin to whether one would return or not. I think we all agreed that we return. This is a solid 4 star resort with great ammenities, beautiful property, above average all inclusive food and the option of premium alcohol. It has everything you need and I can say with confidence that most will love this resort.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Facilities and services 2 Pools Sun terrace 4 Jacuzzis Sun umbrellas and loungers Beach and pool towel service BAHIA SPA (additional charge) Sports facilities: gym, 3 tennis courts, 1 padel tennis court (additional charge), multi-sports court Water activity centre Motorised water sports (additional charge) WiFi access in the lobby (free) and in rooms (free of charge) Entertainment amphitheatre 2 buffet restaurants 3 speciality restaurants 3 Bars 1 Snack- bar Wedding gazebo Punta Blanca Golf Club: 18 hole Punta Blanca Golf Club, designed by Nick Price (additional charge) Pueblo Principe: Shopping and Leisure Mall with local craft stores, live music, shows, stores, bars, karaoke, disco and casino. Rooms, 570 Deluxe Junior Suite Room facilities: King size bed or two full size beds Air conditioning Ceiling fan Sitting area with sofa Terrace Fully-equipped bathroom with hydromassage bath tub and separate shower, hair dryer and magnifying mirror Bathrobe and slippers VIP amenities Radio-alarm clock Flat screen satellite TV Coffee-making facilities Ironing set Pillow menu Umbrella 24 hour room service Minibar WiFi (free of charge) Other services Medical service (additional charge) Pharmacy (additional charge) Specialised service for organising weddings, incentive trips, events and anniversaries Personalised menus (for celiacs, diabetics, etc.) Available on request ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gran Bahia Principe Esmeralda Hotel Punta Cana