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“A fantastic vacation spot with exceptional service!”

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The Palace at Playa Grande
Ranked #3 of 3 Hotels in Rio San Juan
Reviewed April 21, 2011

My wife and I stayed at the Palace (also called the "Balaji Palace" locally) from in April, 2011. We stayed in a Royal Ocean Front Suite, without a Jacuzzi. As soon as you walk in, the first thing that strikes you is that room is gorgeous. Beautiful decorations and lattice work, luxurious silk curtains, and well made furniture. The room was very large, had a nice seating area inside, as well as VERY comfortable seating on the balcony outside. My wife and I spent more than a few hours on our balcony, enjoying the weather, the view, and the sound of the ocean. The bed was king sized and decently comfortable. We had nightly turn-down service and the room was cleaned about twice per day (once during the morning, and again along with turn-down). There is plenty of lighting in the room, the bed was equipped with a mosquito net, and there were plenty of outlets for anything you might need to plug in. The bathroom was very large and had a big closet area with plenty of hangers, space for shoes, clothes, luggage, etc. The shower was about what you would expect from a villa in the DR - lower water pressure than what you might be accustomed to in 5 star places in the US, but no issues with hot water, etc that you might expect in some parts of the Caribbean. There was no construction being done, nothing was closed or off-limits, and the beach was full accessible (and was great!).
The next thing I have to talk about is the service. My wife and I have stayed in some great hotels (Four Seasons NYC, Ritz Carlton Beijing, InterContinental Bangkok, etc, not) and the service here blows all of them out of the water. If there is something that you want, ask for it and you will get it. Want something different for dinner than what is on the menu? No problem. More alcohol in your drinks? No problem. A special request for a special occasion? No problem. Whatever you want, the staff is more than willing to bend over backwards to make it happen for you. All you have to do is ASK. On top of that, all of the staff is extremely friendly and professional. We really felt that they had the attitude of when we were happy, they were happy. Juan Carlos, the GM, was always willing to help, and Carlos, Tony, and Phillippe, our waiters/butlers for the week, were on top of everything, from making sure we always had a drink when we wanted it to making sure we were able to get to the beaches, golf courses, etc whenever we wished to go.
For the duration of our stay, we opted for the all inclusive food and drink package. The food, we thought, was hit or miss. Some nights it was exceptional, other nights it was good, but not great. Some of my favorites over the course of the week were the Argentinean style steak, Grouper Fillet, and the Grilled Lobster. They also had a pretty good Shrimp Vindaloo and the pork dishes were all very good. Breakfast was standard each day and you had your choice of eggs (any style), bacon, sausage, fruit, toast, cereal, pancakes, etc. You can get any or all of these. The liquors that were included in the package were a mix of global and local brands. Dewars whiskey, Absolute Vodka, Dominican Rum, Dominican Gin. If you are picky about the kinds of liquor you like and don't want to upgrade to the top shelf selection (Jack, Patron, Tanqueray, etc), you can bring your own bottle from the Duty Free and they'll be happy to make your drinks from that (another couple did this while we were there). If you find that your drink needs more alcohol, just ask (as I stated before) and I guarantee that it will be strong enough for you the next go round.

Activities: On the Palace Grounds, there is a pool with plenty of chairs, a TV, DVD player with movies, a ping pong table, a pool table, a small selection of board games, wifi, and of course, the beach. Some of these things are great to pass the time after dinner with other guests/ your significant other. A lot of the nights we had a few drinks with other couples staying there, sometimes playing a board game or two, sometimes getting in a game of ping pong or pool. It is really a place to relax, so if you are looking for an exciting night life, this is not the place for you. Outside of the palace there are some great things to explore during the day. If you are a golfer, do not miss a round at Playa Grande Golf Course - amazing views, well maintained, not too hard, but challenging enough to be fun. If you want some adventure, definitely sign up for a tour on horseback with drhorses.com/ Rancho Paradiso. Abe and Chris used to live in the US and really understand what you want to see when you are a tourist. They are really nice, engaging, and really make sure you have a great time. If you are looking to try out a different beach, check out Playa Grande. The beach is right next to the palace, has plenty of space (we saw about 20 people over the entire 1.5 mile length of beach), and has beautiful views. If you go, please do not miss the fried chicken at Wilson's stall right off of the beach (you'll see it as you come up to the beach). Wilson's stall is marked with a #4 and says Restaurant Maria on it. Ask for the friend chicken/ chicken strips. You will not be disappointed, guaranteed!

  • Stayed: April 2011, traveled as a couple
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12  Thank vrgupta14
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed April 14, 2011

We honeymooned here last fall and were pleasantly surprised by how this place was not at all like a cookie cutter resort. It's intimate, the grounds are beautiful, and the staff is amazing. Both the day and night staff were friendly and great company. We even had a night out in some of the neighboring towns with one of the staff members. so we actually felt we got to experience the DR and some of its wonderful culture.

Our room was huge and even though some of the amenities weren't five-star material, everything was perfect. The peacocks on the ground were fun to watch and we had the pool to ourselves. I was disappointed by the beach on the property not being accessible in November, but the staff always accommodated us with a ride to the neighboring beaches whenever we wanted.

The one thing that will prevent me from wanting to vacation here every year is how horrible the food and drinks were. Unfortunately, the Palace is too far from town or beach to eat every meal out. The food was, without exaggeration, the worst food I've ever had in my life (except the pineapple for breakfast). I'm convinced the chef can do better and is just following orders to save money since the guests were sparse. He can probably cook regular DR cuisine since the fried seafood, chicken, beans & rice, and plantains at the beach were delicious. The drinks were fine and watered down as one might expect, but even when we decided to pay for a top shelf liquor because we were tired of watery drinks, the liquor from the bottles was watered down! I'm really hopeful that they change their food and drink policies because I'd love to return.

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank cjr123
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 8, 2011

The service, location, staff and the hotel was more than I expected!
The first thing, I had to call the hotel, since the gates were locked! This is for security purpose. The welcoming was great. They welcomed us with drinks. Took our bags. We had to wait for the manager to give our key to our room, however, we were given a tour of the place. I was in shock of the whole place. While we were waiting, the manager upgraded us to a balcony suite oceanview. It was to die for!!! Waking up every morning and hearing the ocean waves was unforgettable!
FYI- Laundry service and calls less than 5 minutes are FREE!

The room was decorated morrocan style, which is very nice and romantic. There is no TV in the room, which we liked. Double sinks, toilet and big closet space. Hot water and air conditioner was great! The bed wasn't as comfortable! The Westin has much better beds. Moreover, if there were more pillows would have been excellent!!!
The staff (clean) fixes our bed in the morning and opens all the curtains. And at night they close the curtains and removes the bed comfortable. Which that is fantastic!
The room smells great, no dust at all! extremely clean! No complains about that!
The Location is to die for! It has a private beach on the mountain top! Me and my husband were the only ones on the beach! You only see this in the movies!!!! The views were unforgettable! Couldnt get enough!
Outside the hotel, there is the playa grande which is very nice. Also there is a town called Cabera (15 mins away). And also about 30 mins from puerto plata. Choose your pick. We went on a horse back riding: drhorses.com, which the hotel calls and makes the arangements for you! Best 3 hours of the mountains and waterfall views! The owner was super nice and the guide tour too! Great people!
Honestly, this is worth every penny! Don't think twice!
By the way, the staff will do anything for you! For example: if you dont want anything on the menu, they will try to make anything you want to eat!!!!! We had a private chef and was pleased to make us anything! They have great meal plans which is good too!
Also they have a spa/salon service, so ladies, enjoy it ALL!!!!
If you want to impress your spouse or give one a suprise, you can do a bonfire with your spouse, they will set it up for you!

Room Tip: Be extremely nice and you will be surprised!
See more room tips
  • Stayed: March 2011, traveled on business
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2  Thank Segadores777
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 10, 2011

We have been back in New York after a five day stay at The Palace. This is not a place for anyone needing a high level of external stimulation. But it is a place for anyone who is looking for the perfect place to turn down the "noise" in their busy lives and reconnect with the natural beauty and friendly hospitality offered at The Palace. We viewed pictures of this resort before we booked our stay. None of the pictures captured the elegance of the resort. Trees and gardens stretched from the main building to the cliffs lining the private beach fifty feet below. My wife and I found a multitude of private spots to sit and view the Atlantic Ocean. One afternoon, we saw humpback whales off the cliffs. The private beach is private. It is not accessible except down the limestone circular stairway that leads down from the garden level, past two cliffside suites and a lower terrace with a wading pool. We spent two hours on the beach and were the only people there except for the few minutes when our afternoon waiter, Carlos, brought down a cooler with white wind and Presidente beer. Carlos also kept us from getting thirsty the afternoons we lounged around the hotel pool.

We had all our meals on the main patio right outside the main building. The menu choices were not expansive but the food was good and the soups were outstanding. All drinks and food is included in your room fees. Felix and Carlos were our waiters each day and Juan Carlos, the hotel manager, was very responsive to any other needs we had. There is little or no night life at The Palace. There is no television. There is WIFI but you are not going to stream videos. Electricity is provided by their own generators and the A/C was always available, but not really necessary. Temperatures were in the 70's and low 80's all week.

My wife and I played golf twice during our stay at the very nearby Playa Grande Golf Course. The hotel staff drove us over and picked us up after we finished our round. We rented clubs at the course and had a wonderful caddy who made our golfing outings a real treat. The course is challenging but more the views from the many cliff side holes make the round of gold memorable.

Another afternoon, several of the hotel guests took a horse riding tour in nearby Cabrera. The ranch owner picked us up at the hotel and returned us when we were finished. For me it was the first time back on a horse in forty years and another guest was on her horse for the first time. The ranch provided us horse suited to each of the rider's abilities. After our ride, both my wife and I went upstairs in the hotel for a relaxing massage out on one of the hotel terraces!

The Palace is a one and one half hour ride from the Puerto Plata airport. The road to the hotel runs through farmland and the seacoast. We did not visit the nearby towns of Rio San Juan or Cabrera. Neither is teeming with attractions or night life.

We will definitely return to The Palace. We stayed in one of the cliff side suites. Our room had a working kitchen (we did not use anything but the wine refrigerator and the stainless steel refrigerator to cool our beer and water. All the water used at The Palace is bottled water. The room had almost fifty feet of windows and we were a third of the way down the cliff to the ocean below. It was only a short walk up to the main building and the pool area. Each day our soiled clothes and towels would be freshly washed.

  • Stayed: March 2011, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank DickersonPondit
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 2, 2011

We really can't say enough about how beautiful the place was or how genuinely kind the staff was at this hotel. But it stops there. The "palace" is exactly that, a private Taj Mahal style mansion built around ten years ago and only in the last year has it been rented out as a "Hotel" They really sold it as a luxury resort with an executive chef that could cater to any special dietary needs. We are Vegetarian and Vegan so this was a major draw for us to stay here. I wrote a very detailed email explaining our needs and were told that it would be no problem and taken care of. Our first meal was full of cheese... and the comical dishes they tried to feed us at times were in no way considered in the 4 star range. They were unimaginative and in no way prevailing of the bounty of vegetables available in the area. Despite this, the staff did try their hardest to please us and really went away from their usual offerings:/ The chef could actually cook! He had a good sense of balance and everything was perfectly al dente so it was strange he didn't let his talent show at all.

The first room we had was facing the water and really pretty but we couldn't see at night because the lighting was so dim, the hot water would run out before one person could shower quickly, the wall socket would come out of the wall in the bathroom when you'd go to unplug, etc. They upgraded us to a nicer room with a private "hot tub" but there was never enough hot water to fill it so it was a jetted cold tub:) They say "luxurious toiletries" if you consider a Cosco bottle of watery used Pert 2 in 1 shampoo and a large bar of glycerin soap from the local bodega "luxurious" then your set:) Also they don't have TV in the rooms which was fine with us but they also couldn't get the internet working in our room until the last day we were there. They did make an effort by bringing in the" wireless guy" who only made it worse however.
We had one of the two nicest rooms in the palace and the other similar "hot tub" room next door apparently you couldn't flush toilet paper in the toilet! All of this is expected in a remote place in a country that doesn't have any major tourist infrastructure but then don't charge $1,000 dollars a night for a room that doesn't have hot water or a toilet paper flushing toilet. That's all I'm saying. They need to update everything including the mattresses and bedding... Ouch! and get a real food and beverage director in there to sort out the "All inclusive, executive chef" situation. Or just lower their prices to about $300 dollars a night and one would feel ok with it. I might go back. even after giving it that review, just because it was so relaxing and beautiful.

  • Stayed: January 2011, traveled as a couple
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7  Thank coachTia
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
ahs01, Manager at The Palace at Playa Grande, responded to this reviewResponded February 17, 2011

Thank you for your feedback and your recent stay at The Palace at Playa Grande. We strive to make sure everything is in working order in all of our guestrooms & Suites and we have made sure that all items you mentioned have been rectified. I am sorry that there was confusion regarding your meal requests,
The experience at The Palace is unlike many are accustomed to. We only have a maximum of 26 guests when we are full and more often it is around 10 to 20. This allows us to customize the dining experience for our guests. Some guests prefer an elaborate menu with many choices. We only offer a few set choices each meal period and allow the Chef to be available to create special selections according to our guests preferences. We encourage our Guests to tell the staff things like- we would love Lobster tomorrow or a great tropical fruit salad for lunch would make me happy! The response we have received to this approach has been great.

Thank you again for your feedback and we hope that you will come back and see us again soon!

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 31, 2011

We returned home yesterday from 6 nights at the Palace. Our stay there exceeded all expectations and we hope to return. There were three additional couples during our stay and we greatly enjoyed their company.

The Palace - in and out - beautiful and well cared for. It felt cosy and comfortable and became a home away from home. The wi-fi was in and out during our stay but the lobby computer worked each time - slow but got the job done when needed.

The beach - They do advertise as a 3 season beach. We had one day that the water was rough and high which made the beach off limits. The rest of the time, a good portion of sand was open. We swam and snorkeled off the beach several days towards the end of the week once the waves calmed down. There were a few days that the gate was locked - one only needed to ask and a staff member would sprint to open it for you. On our last day, we enjoyed a lovely lunch on the beach - table with linens and great food.

We stayed in one of the royal ocean front suites and enjoyed breakfast served on our balcony most mornings. The view is spectacular! They offer several options for breakfast - omelets, french toast, pancakes, sausage and bacon, etc , you can view a menu downstairs and they will serve you anywhere on the grounds. We mixed and matched items every day depending on what we wanted and they made everything to order. I highly recommend the fresh squeezed orange juice.

The lighting in the bathroom was quite poor but as we were on vacation at the beach - we had little need for primping. Blow dryers are available, as usual, simply ask.

The staff is exceptional and will go out of their way to do whatever necessary to make your stay enjoyable.

They only heat 1 of the 2 'hot' tubs on site. As they are heated with propane, they don't run all the time. After a few days of cool water, we asked and they made sure it was running properly and the water was blazing hot that evening.

We asked and they provided for taxi service to/from the hotel. The cost of the taxi was simply added to our bill which reduced the amount of cash we needed to have on hand, all we needed was a tip for the driver. On a day we ventured into Cabrete (about 1 hour away) they arranged for a taxi to drive us. He stayed with us through the day, watched our things and took us back that evening. This wasn't outrageously priced and was a great service.

The beach at Playa Grande is very long and mostly clean. There was minimal garbage on the day we went, mostly near the parking area. We found that the hawkers were respectful and didn't bother you once you got through the first round of no thank you's.

Our only other outing was a mountain and beach ride through Rancho Paraiso (www.drhorses.com) which was phenominal. They tailored the ride to our abilities and time requested. We spent three hours along back country roads, touring small communities, wide pastures and the most beautiful beach you've ever seen. If you do nothing else outside the Palace grounds, go and enjoy the country side on horseback.

Don't hesitate - book your trip now. Let me know if you have questions.

  • Stayed: January 2011, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Msturte
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 23, 2011

It has taken me a while to write this review and so some of the issues may now be rectified.
Firstly, on the whole, my husband and I enjoyed our seven night stay here. The service was fantastic. Every member of staff went out of their way to make sure that we had a good time. We were on the 'all-inclusive' package and the drinks never stopped flowing. Every member of staff was genuinly very friendly and made us feel very special.
The hotel is small and so you get to know the other guests. Something that we enjoyed very much and added to our vacation.
Other good things about the 'Palace' include the building itself. It is a fantastic Indian style villa. It is luxuriously furnished with objects and silks from India. Everywhere is exceptionally clean and the views are sensational. The outdoor areas include lovely gardens and lots of private places to sit and wander around.
The rooms differ enormously in style and size and range from the vast and sumptuous ocean view Royal Suites to the garden view Deluxe. We stayed in a garden view Deluxe room which was nicely furnished with a comfortable bed. We had plenty of wardrobe space and a very small balcony overlooking the swimming pool. There were things about our room, however, which we thought could be improved. The bathroom was very, very small and very, very dark. The shower provided intermittent hot water with good pressure but you had to manouevre yourself around the door to gain access. Sitting on the toilet was another challenge regarding the door. There was no way I could apply make-up or dry my hair in such a dark bathroom. The hotel advertises that the 'fabulous' bathrooms are an indulgent oasis equipped with slippers, bathrobes and toiletries. Ours did not have, or indeed have room for the slippers and bathrobes and the toiletries consisted of a large bar of household soap and a bottle of 'Pert' shampoo. Still, we did not go all the way to the DR to spend time in the bathroom and we were given plenty of clean towels.
The balcony was very pleasant but not large enough to sit on. The doors could not be wedged open and so needed to be closed the whole time to prevent them banging in the wind. The room had a very efficient AC unit but we would have preferred a fan with the windows open as the evening air was a lovely temperature in November.
There was a shortage of electrical sockets in the room. The one in the bathroom was unusable as the lighting was so bad and the other socket was right next to the door. There was no safe, hairdryer or full length mirror in the room.
The private beach unfortunately had disappeared. Apparently, it is a seasonal beach and whilst there we could not even go down and see where it should have been as the gates were locked. We particularly like to spend time on the beach and so this was a big disappointment to us. The staff do lay on a shuttle bus to the nearby beaches of Playa Caleton (calm and pretty) and Playa Grande (vast with large waves). They were lovely beaches but we were approached again and again by beach vendors and Playa Caleton was full of trash on the Monday after the weekend. Also, you have to arrange your pick-up time in advance. This worked well until one day all the of the guests were expecting a pick-up at 1215 but the driver mistook this for 1250 and so we all (including a couple with a very young baby) waited in the hot sun not knowing if we were to be collected or not.
Other issues we had were that there was a fair amount of building work going on around the pool area. Very noisy machines were being used all day long. We had not been notified of this in advance and if we had we would probably have reconsidered our stay there at that time. We also had builders working right outside our bathroom window which menat that we had to keep the blind closed for decency resulting in the bathroom becoming a little musty.
The pool bar was not finished and some of the pool beds had seen better days but other than that the pool area is delightful and with so few guests there was never any problems of finding our own space. We never used the jacuzzis which are located throughout the gardens as the water in them was cold and we never saw them working.
The food we found a little disappointing. For our first breakfast we were asked what we would like. There was no menu or buffet. We asked for yogurt, fruit and pastries. Only one yogurt could be found, the pastries consisted of white toast but the fruit was good. So, for breakfast every morning we ate fruit and an omelette, which was good. After about four days some croissants appeared but they were straight out of the fridge and very unappetizing. We noticed that none of the other guests ate them.
Lunch consisted of a salad appetizer followed by either a local dish of meat, rice and beans, including goat stew one day, or the option of something lighter like a sandwich, burger etc.
During the afternoon snacks including nachos, canapes and pizza slices were served. Dinner was again a choice of usually fish/ meat and a vegetarian/pasta dish. The menu was a little restricted and the portions small but the food was freshly made by the chef.
My only other negative comments are that the internet connection was abysmal, the fitness centre was housed in a flooded basement and there is no scuba diving within an hour of the hotel.
To sum up, our stay was made memorable by the staff and their excellent service and the wonderful cocktails that they made.
During our time there the hotel entertained a maximum of eight guests and on one night we were there by ourselves. So, we had a whole palace to ourselves, what could be better.
Apart from the service and the spectacular villa everything else was a bit mediocre. When the building work is complete the pool area will be delightful and when the beach reappears the setting will be divine. The food needs to improved and the smaller deluxe room in which we stayed needs better lighting in the bathroom.Ladies need to bring their own hairdryer and toiletries.
Lastly, we left with happy memories of the lovley Dominican people. They are so friendly and full of fun and were the highlight of our stay. To all the staff at the 'Palace' a big THANK YOU.

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled as a couple
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8  Thank heb999
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about The Palace at Playa Grande

Address: Calle Rio San Juan | Playa Grande, Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic
Location: Caribbean > Dominican Republic > Maria Trinidad Sanchez Province > Rio San Juan
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 3 Hotels in Rio San Juan
Price Range: $598 - $670 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — The Palace at Playa Grande 4*
Number of rooms: 13
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The Palace At Playa Grande Hotel Rio San Juan

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