Let me start off by telling you that I am an individual that pays close attention to details and researches meticulously before booking any resort or hotel for my family.
With that said, let me try and provide you with a glimpse of the Esmeralda and what to expect.
My wife, daughter (infant) and I traveled to the Esmeralda from July 9th to July 20th. We traveled with Air Transat’s new Boeing 737-800. We’ve traveled with this carrier numerous times before but with their wide body Airbus A310 which is more spacious. The new plane is a little cramped, especially if you are traveling with children. There are no individual screens, instead they have very small drop down screens every 3 rows, so bring an iPad.
The overall flight experience was very good, the service was quick and efficient. I will mention that we paid for the Option Plus so I’m sure that had something to do with it. Onboard, the flight attendants pass out customs papers and individual pre-paid entrance fee cards for each person. Note that with Air Transat, the departure tax of $20.00 is covered. You do not need to pay it as it’s included in your package.
Upon arrival at the Punta Cana international airport at noon, the lines to clear customs were small and got through within 15 minutes. If you would like to know any details about the airport please message me. They have various fast food and duty free stores. (Do not buy alcohol or tobacco from the airport, it’s cheaper at the resort).
Once we found our luggage, we exited the airport to a large parking lot where numerous buses and taxis are parked. There are airport workers nearby in case you need help with your luggage. Some of them can be a little pushy so be firm and tell them no gracias. There are several counters just before you exit with all the major tour operators so you can verify which bus number is going to your resort, assuming that is part of your vacation package.
The ride from the airport to the resort takes approximately 25 minutes. Note, for those who are going to the Esmeralda, the bus leaves you at the lobby of the Grand Bahia Principe Punta Cana.
There are small go cart style buses that load your luggage and drive you to Esmeralda’s lobby which takes about 2-3 minutes. Keep in mind that this is a very large resort complex, which includes the Esmeralda. The same goes when leaving, they load your luggage from the Esmeralda lobby and drive you to Punta Cana’s lobby to board your bus heading back to the airport.
Once you arrive at the Esmeralda’s main lobby, you will most likely be greeted by Edwin. We called him “Modelo” for short as he’s worked as a professional model. He’s always with a smile and will provide you with your bracelets and other paperwork. At the same time, you will be greeted with some cold refreshing cocktails, so take advantage especially after a long day’s trip.
Your luggage will be taken to the room immediately after check-in by the very friendly staff. Just at the entrance of the lobby they have a luggage weight scale, it costs $1.00 USD to weigh your luggage before you go back home to make sure you’re not overweight, a really nice feature.
The resort is not very large so walking around especially with children is made easier since all amenities are close to each other. A great feature of this resort is that it has ramps for the disabled everywhere you go, including the beach. The ramps can also be used by parents with strollers. The only downside is there are no ramps or elevators to go to the second and third floor rooms.
THE ROOMS: Very spacious and comfortable, other reviewers mentioned a musty smell but we did not notice it in our room. We stayed in block 91, in room 91111 on the second floor with a pool view which is close to the pool, beach and lobby. We had a king size bed with a ton of pillows to choose from. There is a pillow menu in your room so you can select from soft to firm. The bed itself was firm but comfortable, we also requested a crib for our daughter and was in the room waiting for us upon arrival. The mattress of the crib is a little on the thin side so bring with you a quilted crib mattress pad and sheets to make it more comfortable for your little one. The bathroom has two sinks with a walk in shower and separate Jacuzzi tub.
The maid did an excellent job keeping the room clean every day. The room is cleaned once a day between 11AM to 2PM. They come a second time in the evening for the turn down service. Meanwhile the fridge is restocked daily with coke, diet coke, sprite, orange juice (Fanta), club soda and an assorted number of orange juice boxes, chocolate/vanilla milk boxes. The fridge is also stocked with small 50ml bottles of liquor, they provide one Bacardi rum, two vodka’s and one Jameson whisky. You get one small bag of regular Lays chips. As for water, they normally leave one or two 1 Liter bottles. However with a little one, we found we needed much more (Cleaning baby bottles, spoons etc..) so we asked for more and they gladly provided a case of 12 bottles every two to three days. The 32” flat screen TV had a nice amount of channels available and had a good dozen or so English channels. The AC was pretty powerful and quiet at least in our room. Note that the AC will not function if the balcony door is not closed. The electrical power of the room including the AC only works when you insert your room card into a small slot at the interior entrance of the room. It’s a little annoying but over time you get used to it. If removed, the power stays on for 2 minutes before everything shuts off. You can choose to leave the card in the slot that way the AC works continuously while you’re out but for security reasons, it is not recommended. The balcony is a decent size with one round table and two chairs. The lighting in the room at night is not that bright, personally I would have liked higher wattage bulbs.
Keep in mind that the mini fridge is not a fridge, it’s actually an ice box/cooler that keeps things cool but not cold. All rooms in this resort are identical, the only difference is the location and whether or not you have a view of the pools, gardens or the Punta Cana resort next door.
I would recommend blocks 90, 91 and 92. If you’re traveling with children that require to be in a stroller, I would recommend the ground floor. Although we had the second floor, we did not mind going up and down the stairs. For others though, you may want to consider the ground floor.
The room itself had good soundproofing however you can hear others from time to time in the main hallway coming and going. I think that had more do to with our location of being next to the stairs as opposed to further away down the hallway. The hallways are carpeted to reduce noise.
Beach/pool towels are already provided in your room inside the closet along with slippers, bathrobes, iron, safe and one large umbrella. Power in the rooms is the same as North American Standards, my European friends will need to bring an adapter.
I did use their laundry services to wash a couple of T-Shirts and shorts. The cost per T-Shirt is $1.50 and $2.00 U.S for each shorts. The overall prices for laundry are very reasonable. The charges are billed to your room so you pay them when you check out.
WIFI/INTERNET: Wi-Fi is provided for free in the lobby for one hour a day. The connection speed is decent. However if you want to have full service and a better connection speed, you will need to purchase a card at the lobby shop or go online through Kubiwireless and purchase either one week ($49.00) one day ($15.00) or one hour ($8.00) in U.S Funds. If you purchase any of these, then you will have Wi-Fi all over the resort including the pool and beach areas.
Keep in mind that the minute you connect, the system will start counting down the time you have left even if you disconnect.
MEDICAL: They do have a medical clinic that is located at the Punta Cana resort next to the Pueblo. The doctor is available 24 hours/7 days a week. I recommend packing your own first aid kit with basic supplies. Medication and supplies are very expensive in the Dominican. Example, one small bottle 177ml of Hawaiian Tropic SPF50 sun lotion costs $20.00 U.S.
POOLS/BEACH/WATER PARK: There are two large lake style pools on the property. The largest is near the beach and is the busier of the two. Note that the larger pool is warm during the day and does not cool you off enough. The smaller pool for whatever reason is cooler and more refreshing. In the center of the resort there is an adult’s only Jacuzzi section. The beach is simply beautiful, the sand is very fine and the staff clears the sea weed every morning and grooms the beach. There are enough Palapa’s for everyone, during our stay the hotel was at 110% capacity. I will say that the towel game is very much alive and well but I always found a spot close to the ocean or at the main pool. The only thing that really upset me was certain people’s indifference towards occupying Palapa’s that were clearly marked for disabled customers near the beach, shame on you. In the mornings between 9:30AM and 11:30AM the staff offer yoga lessons on the beach, followed by dancing lessons and volleyball. They do have waiters patrolling the beach and pool area’s but found the service to be a little inconsistent. Just 30 seconds away to the left, you can go to Punta Cana’s beach bar yourself for drinks because the Esmeralda does not have its own beach bar. You would have to go the pool bar for service or to the Arrecife snack bar.
The children’s water Park is a little far but well worth it. Word of advice, be there by 9:30AM to make sure you get a good spot because it fills up fast. The water is very cool and refreshing, even the adults were enjoying it. They have a small snack bar on site for drinks and some burgers with hotdogs for lunch. They have Palapa’s for shade so don’t worry.
BUSES/TRAMS: Since the complex of the Bahia Principe is huge, they have these little open air buses that pick you up from the Esmeralda to take you to the Punta Cana/Bavaro lobby. They pass by every 5 minutes or so. Word of advice, there are two bus stops for the Esmeralda, one is to the left of building 93 and the other is to the right of building 90. Go the stop next to building 90 because if you go to the second bus stop, you won’t have anywhere to sit. All the spots are taken before they even reach the second stop. We did walk it just to see how long it would take and it really takes 10 to 12 minutes from the Esmeralda to reach the Punta Cana lobby. Note that if you want to go to the Bahia Scouts Water Park, you will need to be dropped off at the Punta Cana lobby. At which point you will need to take another bus that specifically goes to the water park which is 2 minutes away by bus and about 5 to 6 minutes by foot.
SHOWS: There are no shows at the Esmeralda, you will need to go the Punta Cana for that. Either the Tropicana Theatre or at the Pueblo Principe which has nightly shows. Note they have a Caribbean Dance show at the Pueblo every Friday that costs $15.00 USD to get in. This is the only time that you would have to pay to see a show. My recommendation is to see the Michael Jackson show which is held every Monday at the Tropicana Theatre. It’s a very good show and the performer that plays Michael does a great impersonation. Note that they perform two identical shows, one at 8:15PM and another at 9:20PM. So if you miss the 8:15PM show you can see it again later on. This goes for all the shows at the Tropicana Theatre. The Tropicana Theatre is a covered outdoor theatre that also has a bar and bathrooms, so getting drinks or going to the potty is very convenient. Bring mosquito repellent when going to the Tropicana Theatre and dress very lightly. Once the theatre fills up with people it gets very hot even though they have ceiling fans.
PUEBLO PRINCIPE/SHOPPING/LOBBY SHOP: The pueblo is a large outdoor/indoor shopping mall if I can call it that. They have small vendors with carts that sell little trinkets and souvenirs. They have indoor air conditioned stores that sell t-shirts, hats, hand bags/beach bags and other souvenirs. They also have a cigar/liquor store, small Casino and a club/karaoke where all the teens go to get drunk and act like jackasses. Prices for the most part are all the same throughout the Bahia Principe resorts but this is the place you can haggle instead of the lobby shops where the prices are fixed.
The Esmeralda’s lobby shop is small in comparison with the other resorts lobby shops. However they do have the basic necessities. You can purchase bottles of rum, coffee, Mama Juana along with some basic toiletries and souvenirs. They also have a small humidor with a limited selection of cigars as well. I suggest Punta Cana’s lobby shop, it’s much bigger and has a larger selection.
FOOD: The food at the Esmeralda buffets is so much better than the buffet’s at the Punta Cana/Bavaro. All guests staying at the Esmeralda have access to all of the other Bahia Principe Resorts including their buffets. Keep in mind that the Ambar is over 18 so those with kids cannot enter unless you leave them behind. There are two buffets at the Esmeralda, the Jazmin which is next to the lobby and by far our favorite. The other is the Los Geranios at the far end of the resort. It felt more like an A La Carte than a buffet. If you go to the Jazmin, you will be greeted by Diane. She is always with a smile and is very polite, she will squirt a little bit of hand sanitizer on your hands as she greets you. Keep in mind that whenever you visit a buffet or restaurant no matter which resort in the Bahia Principe complex, they will squirt some sanitizer on your hands before walking in. When you walk into the Jazmin buffet, turn you head to the left towards the washrooms and you will see “Oranje” in his white and pink work clothes ready at a moment’s notice to pick up anything that fell on the floor. He’s 48 has 7 kids and is also a grandfather. Our daughter would drop her toys on the floor and he would swoop in to pick them up every time. Please, if you see him give him a little tip, he deserves it just as much as the waiters.
We only went to one A La Carte which is the Garden Grill. We liked the buffet so much that we did not go to any other restaurants. The garden grill is ok, nothing to write home about but you should give it a go at least once.
During lunch time, I suggest going to the Arrecife snack bar. It’s an outdoor buffet style snack bar that has a very good and wide selection. You can go to the other buffets as well but our favorite was to relax at the snack bar. Don’t be fooled, it’s pretty big and although it is an outdoor buffet, it is covered and has ceiling fans which made it very comfortable.
I will mention that this resort offers a 24 hour limited room service menu, however we never used it. Very basic breakfast, lunch and dinner menu (Yogurts, fruits, toast, Hamburger with fries, Hot Dog with Fries, BLT and basic deserts).
MOSQUITO’S: Oddly enough we did not see or get bit while we were at the Esmeralda, however the minute we went to the other resorts we were eaten alive. Our daughter was devoured when we were at the Tropicana Theatre to watch a show for the first time. Luckily I brought repellent from home so the next time out we were prepared. Note that according to pediatricians and pharmacists, mosquito repellents for children/Infants should not contain more than 10% Deet in them.
SPA: The spa at the Esmeralda is very relaxing, my wife ended up taking a one hour full body massage and she could not have been happier, the cost was $95.00 U.S. They have other services for a reasonable price as well. The minute you walk in, they have a very pleasant and relaxing aroma that starts to relax you immediately. Either that or the super cool air conditioning was doing the trick. Either way it’s highly recommended.
STAFF: I would be remiss if I did not mention Richard Morales the hotel supervisor and Natalia the director. They both were very pleasant and made sure that our stay was as comfortable as possible.
They went out of their way for my family and we appreciated their kindness and understanding.
Other staff members are well worth mentioning, however we lost the list of names we had written down on a piece of paper and feel terrible about it. Our butler did an amazing job providing us with scented pillows and surprising us with a romantic candle light bath on our last night. It was very much appreciated by my wife and I, thank you.
As far as family resorts go, you will not be disappointed in the Esmeralda. It has everything a family needs to enjoy a nice and relaxing vacation. It goes without saying that we recommend this resort not only for it’s location, amenities and services but because of the people that work there. They are the ones that make the difference at the end of the day. Without them, it’s just another resort.
On behalf of my wife and daughter, I would like to thank the Esmeralda and it’s staff, we had a great time and hope to return one day.
Feel free to message me should you have any questions.
Had a great time with our NY friends, see you guys soon.
- 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