For Americans travelling to the DR we must enter thru Santo Domingo Int'l Airport. This makes for a 2.5 hour drive up to Gran Bahia Principe el Portillo. The road is new for most of the drive. However, there are 2 mountain ranges that you must go thru.. the first range is ok. The second mountain range is like the "Road to Hana" in Maui.. very steep cliffs, winding and curvy road, some areas it is only one lane and very narrow. This road is presently being paved which makes it a little more bearable but it is still quite a treacherous ride. Don't forget your sunscreen. We forgot ours and had to pay $30 for a small bottle of sunscreen that would normally cost $8 at Walmart. The shops are very expensive on the Gran Bahia Principe property. We were exceptionally pleased with the service, the cleanliness and the beach. Everyone is exceptionally pleasant and gracious. I felt like the staff at the Gran Bahia Principe el Portillo was hand picked. We had to wait over an hour for our room but we just went to the afternoon buffet got a coupla drinks and some food. To our surprise we were upgraded to a suite which was quite unexpected and made it all worth the wait. CheapCaribbean had notified them in advance that we were celebrating a 50th birthday so when we arrived in our room it was completely covered in flowers, balloons and there was a Gran Bahia T-shirt wrapped up for each of us. After we returned from dinner we were also treated to a fresh fruit platter that had been left in our room. The rooms, the property and the restaurants are extraordinarily clean. We were quite impressed with the cleanliness. Our room was a bit dated. However, the linens were clean, fresh and in excellent condition. Our bathroom was all marble and simply breathtaking! Very modern with glass enclosures and very spacious. We had plenty of towels and soaps, shampoos, lotions and our fridge was stocked. We asked for water upon arrival and always had extra on hand. Also, the DR uses the same electrical plugs that we use so you can bring electric razors or flat/curling irons etc.. Our room had a blow dryer and we also had a clothing iron and a small ironing board. It rained one day during our visit-- our room also had a huge umbrella which came in handy. The only drawback in the room is that there IS a charge to use the room safe. We didn't use it.. It's not like the cruise ship kind where you can put in your own code... it's a "general" safe and i think it can be accessed by anyone who has a key... i just carried our wallets and passports in my handbag all the time. The property is well maintained and beautifully manicured..! It's a picturesque property that is lush with tropical vegetation and flowers.. And not one mosquito or fly. What a joy.. And the lobby is breathtaking! It's the most beautiful lobby i've ever seen: it's tremendous... and it's all open air.. and it's all marble! It's just sensational. The beach is spectacular! There is a coral reef about 50 yards out to sea from the beach where the waves break. So there is no rough surf! It's ideal for families to bring small children, it's very safe for them to go in the water. And if you like to put your lounge in the water it's ideal for that too... you don't have to worry about being hit by an unexpected wave. There are just small ripples, it's calm and tranquil..and warm-- about 80 degrees! Also, the beach is clean and soft and smooth... you don't need water shoes. You can walk barefoot in the soft sand. The only drawback on the beach is that you will have continuous vendors walking up to you and asking you to buy their jewelry or t-shirts, etc... A simple "No thank you" will send them on their way though.. they are very polite and will leave. However, the beach is loaded with these people! You get a little tired of saying "No thank you." We really enjoyed the activities director, Charlie. He is full of energy and has wonderful beach and pool activities planned all day long. He's everywhere! At night after all the day's activities they have an "awards" ceremony for whoever wins the competitions during the day...! It's so much fun ~~ lots of dancing and laughing.. everyone has so much fun. Each night there is some kind of entertainment from a comedy show to an island and caribbean dance performance to dancing under the stars.. there is always some kind of entertainment planned for each night. This was our first time to an All-Inclusive.. we had heard that the drinks in these places are watered down.... But to our surprise the drinks were quite potent!!!! And if you wanted a "floater" or just MORE liquor the bartenders are more than happy to oblige. The drinks and the beer are plentiful..... and the bartenders are LOTS of fun! This time of the year is their low season however, so some of the bars were not operating.. and the same with the restaurants...only one themed restaurant is open each night and you MUST make reservations if you want to eat at a themed restaurant. We ate at the French restaurant one evening and it was superior. The quality of the food and the quantity was much more than you would expect for french portions! We thought we would eat at that restaurant and have to go to the buffet afterward if we were still hungry. But that wasn't the case at all... we were really full when we left. And the food quality was outstanding... with lots of flavoring and details to all the plates. The buffets are excellent.. the food was a little cold .. it could have been hotter. But the assortment and the variety of choices is exceptional.. Each night there were new food choices and new desserts. Breakfast is the same each day.. however, there is an abundance to choose from. This was my first time arranging a trip using CheapCaribbean and i will use them from now on. Everything was well executed by them.. they do not miss a trick.. I have already given out their information to a few friends because i was so pleased with their comprehensive paperwork and package. When i made these reservations i also booked the airport to hotel transfer b/c my CheapCaribbean agent suggested i do so. I'm so glad she suggested it! The transfer company is called "Turinter." They have safe, reliable, sturdy vehicles and their drivers drive nice and slow and carefully. I was terrified in the mountain ranges but thankfully our drivers for both transfers were very very safe. We tipped our drivers $10 on each trip and they seemed appreciative. Also, for both transfers we were the only couple in the van! CheapCaribbean will also advise you in their paperwork to purchase the $10 "travel card" upon arrival. We followed their directions and got on that line after we disembarked from our plane. You will see the line right before you go thru customs. Lots of passengers from our plane just went directly to the customs line and were turned back b/c they didn't get their $10 travel card. CheapCaribbean doesn't miss a trick. We were so grateful that everything is laid out so clearly. You just have to read all the information they send you in your travel document package. It's there for a reason and it's very comprehensive and helpful. You will not need to change over your American money at the airport unless you plan to leave the resort. We stayed on the grounds for our entire stay. The shops at Gran Bahia Principe accept American dollars and also credit cards. There is no need to change over money. And besides, everything is already paid for unless you wish to purchase souveniers. The only thing we wanted to bring to the attention of CheapCaribbean was that when we passed thru customs etc.. and came out of the airport to find Turinter (our transfer) our CheapCaribbean connection person was right there calling my name (how he knew my name i'll NEVER know!! it was pretty funny)--- he was excellent-- carried his clipboard and was very professional. The part that set us off was the man who took our bags. He INSISTED we give him our bags to put on his luggage cart. We both had small weekend bags for our trip and they were on wheels. Anyway, he took our bags on his cart, rolled them about 10 yards to where we had to meet our transfer van and then PUT HIS HAND OUT AND SAID "GIVE ME SOME MONEY." Yes. those were his exact words!!!!! My spouse did not want to give him money b/c of his attitude but yielded to me and gave him a few dollars. However, this really set us off and put us on the alert. It was my first time using CheapCaribbean so we weren't sure if this was the manner in which they operated or not. The man who carried the clipboard never asked for money or a tip and we wished we had given HIM one! He was very thorough and careful and made sure all of us were put on the proper vehicles going to the correct locations. He really had his act together and was very friendly and professional. He saw the baggage man approach all of us travellers (there were 4 couples i think) and ask us each for money.. i saw his reaction.. he was not comfortable with that man being so forward about getting money... and like i said, he only rolled our bags about 10 yards.. if that. All in all, despite that initial arrival anamoly, the rest of the trip was stellar!!!! we can't wait to book again thru CheapCaribbean and go to another Gran Bahia Principe property!!!! we were so pleased with the resort and the arrangements thru CheapCaribbean. You really can't go wrong..they do all the footwork and they call ahead to make all your arrangements and to make sure there are personal touches on everything. Take their advice if they suggest something. I followed their advice on everything and our entire trip went off like a charm. We have so many nice memories and we would like to thank CheapCaribbean for making our special 50th birthday trip memorable and a complete joy. We can't wait to travel again with you!
FROM THE WELCOME FRUIT PLATE DELIVERED TO OUR ROOM WITHIN THE 1ST HOUR OF ARRIVAL TO ALL THE SMILING FACES THAT GREETED US EACH DAY WE HAVE TO SAY THIS WAS ONE OF THE BEST VACATION SPOTS IN THE WORLD.. THIS RESORT IS BEAUTIFUL AS WELL AS THE BEACH AREA... THE POOLS WERE GORGOUS AND THE DRINKS PLENTIFUL.. WE DID TIP BUT IT REALLY WAS NOT NECESSARY TO GET A "GOOD " DRINK... THE BARTENDERS REMEMBERED WHAT I HAD FROM THE FIRST DAY ON..BUFFET WAS AWESOME . WE ATE IN TWO SPECIALITY RESTAURANTS AND WERE VERY PLEASED...TREAT YOURSELF AND COME HERE... THE ONLY DOWNSIDE TO THIS RESORT WAS THE TRIP FROM THE AIRPORT.. ABOUT TWO HOURS OF UP AND DOWN THE MOUNTAIN ALTHOUGH THE SCENERY WAS BEAUTIFUL.
My family and I have traveled to the Caribbean 35 times, 15 of the times to the Dominican Republic. This resort, like many of the other resorts,has a beautiful beach,pool and Hotel. The food at the buffet was great.There was plenty of beach chairs and trees for shade. Now the BAD. When we arrived in our room,which was a VIP room, a room we paid extra for, had a broken air conditioner. After 4 calls and visits to the lobby a maintenance man was sent to our room after each call and did NOT fix the problem.We asked to have our room changed and would only send the maintenance man .By Midnight we gave up and laid in bed awake sweating all night. Also, the TV didn't work.The next morning I met with our AMSTAR Rep. and he talked with the manager Miguel who promised the a.c. would be fixed that day. By 7p.m.,it was not fixed.So,my wife called the lobby once again and insisted we get another room. Finally,after 2 days and a night of sweating in our room we were moved to another room which a.c. worked. The next day the electric went -off for the afternoon. Two days later ,we couldn't get into our room since our key cards would not work.They had to be re-programmed.Now the UGLY. Manager Miguel hung up on my wife 2 times while she was trying to get the a.c. fixed.At one point, Miguel said if my room key card didn't work,I could come back and punch him! PS: Our bill was not adjusted for a lesser room or 2 days and 1 night with no A.C.-caribbeanmike
We arrived at the resort very late due to a flight error. CheapCaribbean was so great about working with us to reschedule the taxi. We had to reschedule twice, no problem. Such a huge relief. We walked into the lobby at 10:30 pm. We apologized for being late. Pedro replied, "you're not late, you're right on time!" It was a relief to be welcomed. We were hungry, to put it mildly. We asked Pedro where we could get something to eat at this time. He gave us a map and directed us to a snack area that opened at 11 pm. We wandered the grounds a little bit - nobody else was out, it was so nice and quiet. We went to the snack area a little before 11, and were directed to sit down. No English here - good thing I know some Spanish. After a few minutes, someone came up to us, no introduction, and asked where we were from. He then said we needed to come back at 11, they weren't open yet. Not sure why they let us sit down, then, but okay. We went to our room - gorgeous here. "Minibar" was a couple cans of beer, soda, and two huge bottles of water, but that's really all we needed. The room was very clean, the view over the rest of the villas beautiful, the air conditioning worked great. Absolutely no problems here. Finally went back to the snack area and got a sandwich. Nothing to write home about, but it was food, and we were at least a little less cranky from the very long day of traveling we had just had. To sum up the rest of the tip: - Everything is Dominican Time. Don't expect the buffet or whatever else to open/start right on time as scheduled (but do be on time for your reservations). We frequently came half an hour after a buffet was supposed to open and they were just finishing set up. But, no problem. It makes you slow down and relax, walk the beach, grab a drink. Just move away from the go-go-go we're so used to. - Brush up on your Spanish. After the first day, I didn't even bother to try to say anything in English. From what we heard, English is the 4th most popular language here, after Spanish, French, and German. Be willing to try to speak their language, and they will try to figure out what you're asking/talking about. "Muchas gracias" goes a long way. - Get out there early if you want a beach chair. I've seen this on other reviews and they're not kidding. On Saturday and Sunday there were some in the corners but come Monday not a single one. Most of the sun we got was from walking up and down the beach, so you really don't need to lounge all day anyway. Speaking of which - venture beyond the resort. The beach to the West and East of the resort is beautiful, and we saw very few people. We spent several hours on either end just sitting waist-deep in the ocean, letting the waves wash over our toes. There are stray dogs here, but be not afraid! Most of them stay away from you and none of them are aggressive. They usually were just sleeping in the sun. - Bring some nice clothes. We brought mostly beachy, sandal-y stuff, and once nicer outfit for dinner. But this place is really, really nice. This isn't your average surf shack, drink-in-a-coconut resort. Beautiful marble floors in the lobby and bar area make sandals feel like an understatement. I saw many women with hair done, nice dresses, and high heels. Of course, bring your sarong and sun hat for the beach, but be ready to spend your evenings serenaded by live music, sipping mojitos with fresh mint, and dress accordingly. I recommend the Las Olas restaurant, highly. The food was incredible and the gentle ocean breeze made the night feel magical. But, every place we sat down to get even a snack (once we figured out the buffet schedule), the waitstaff was extremely attentive, offering water and wine. We were constantly catered to. I read a few reviews about housing/construction. The walkways in this place are so beautifully landscaped I wouldn't care if I had to walk across the resort to get to the beach. I nearly uprooted a tree in hopes I could sneak it back on the airplane just to keep a little piece of that paradise. There was no construction going on at all. There were activities going on, but we didn't do many of them. I loved how quiet the resort was at night, and how we could choose our activity level during the day. On our last night there we wandered a little ways away from the lobby area, down to the lounge chairs by the beach. It was dark of course, but the stars were out and the waves were rushing...I still get goosebumps thinking about it. The glow of the resort was behind us, but we were in our own little paradise in that quiet moment. Perfecto. So, relax, don't be in a hurry, and enjoy your stay in paradise.
We were very pleased with our choice of hotels. We upgraded our room and were glad we did as we were close to all the action including the beach. We were very pleased with the overall quality of the food as well as the selection on the buffet. We tried 1 specialty restaurant once and were rather dissappointed. It seemed they were more concerned with the presentation over the choice. The pool and beach were awesome! And everything was very clean. We also loved the area and the opportunity to go outside the resort to Las Terranes close by. Everyone was very friendly and overall seemed happy to greet us on a daily basis. We would choose to return and stay here again
My husband and I stayed @ Gran Bahia The first week of May 2011. We flew into Santo Dominga which is in fact about 3 hours from Samana. We had already booked transportaion which I was very thankful for. The Transportation was through Cheap Carribean and the van was very clean and the driver was nice even though he did not speak English. The ride was not great it is a poor country so you see the poorness. We arrived @ Gran Bahia in the afternoon and greated by staff. While we were checking in we were brought a Tequila Sunrise beverage... The bellman took us to our room and carried our bags. We had upgraded to the Gold vip room. This came in handy during our stay. The room was nice very clean( I didn't see a single bug in our room the whole time) Nicely decorated, the bathroom was large and clean. The pool was great plenty large enough and never had a problem getting chairs. The beach was great never had any issues getting chairs there either. I will say the gold wristband was very nice. We didn't have to exchange tickets for our beach towels, there was a seperate internet room that had upgraded liquor open pretty much all the time for free. I would suggest upgraded if possible. We are americans and the only complaint I would have is the food. It's not that the food is bad its just different. Alot of selection but not really our style. We went to the Gourmet one night and had veal and chicken it was good, One night we had Italian and it was good. The buffet is ok but what do you expect it's an all inclusive resort. The Staff was EXCELLENT!!! Everyone we came in contact with was smiling and really wanted to make us happy. You are there to relax and enjoy your self be happy smile at staff they will be really nice if you treat them nicely. Bar tenders were great!!! Tip them a dollar or two goes a long way. Overall we really enjoyed the trip had a great time and can't beat it for the $ I have pics I will post soon with the room and pool.
I have travel many islands in the caribbean, I had some concerns traveling to Samana El Portillo. I should not have been worried, it was wonderful. Plenty of snorkeling right off the beach, very clear water, fun entertainment staff, fab food, clean room. The only drag was the 3 HOURS it took to get to the hotel fro, SD airport. The driver was very slow. It was 2.25 hours on the return trip. I read that Jet Blue will start flying into Samana airport from JFK beginning in November but only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I have used Cheap Caribbean many times and haven't had any problems.
The resort was beautiful and very well maintained! We stayed in the Junior Suite Golden room which was a lot closer to the beach and buffet than a lot of the rooms. The room was wonderful despite a few burnt out light bulbs. Very clean with a nice little porch off the back overlooking the next set of suites. The only complaint I have about the room is the beds were as hard as a picnic bench!!! Woke up every morning sore all over. Get passed that and the room was great. Some TV was even in English! On to the food. The snack bar was a complete let down. Hot dogs, pizza, chicken, fish, french fries, salad veggies but not what we are used to here in the states. The snack bar had the same food every day, all day. Very disappointing. The buffet was usually pretty good. You could always find something to eat and every once in a while I found something adventurous to try. My only complaint is that the dining room was always to warm and only slightly air conditioned at dinner. Staff was so friendly! Im not really a drinker but my husband said they made the best Mojitos there, and didnt skimp on the alcohol. I loved the virgin Bahama Mamas and the virgin Pina Coladas! I really miss the now! A few touristy shops on the premises that are fun to visit. We went into Las Terrenas for a few hours and shopped. I would highly recommend it to everyone! Now to the best and brightest star - the beach and water!!!!!!!!!!!! The beach is large and has many, many chairs to choose from. We never had a problem finding chairs in the shade, either under the trees or palm umbrellas. Im not kidding here, the beach cleared out every day around 2pm!! My husband joked and said everyone went in for a siesta! But by 3pm, we were the only ones in the ocean at this resort! We of course went in July which is actually is the off season here but we were shocked every day to find ourselves alone on the beach or in the water. There is a very nice coral reef in these clear waters that sometime during low tide even peak above the water, but during high tide they make for some really relaxing snorkeling. We saw a nice variety of fish, starfish, urchins, sea snakes, eels, and anemone. We did book one of the snorkel trips and were a little disappointed. The first stop was fantastic. It was off what appeared to be a very small volcanic rock island. We jumped off the boat into about 40 feet of crystal clear water with a few really nice coral heads and fish. We only spent about 20 minutes there and then went to a small beach up the coast where we stopped for over an hour. We were greeted by a few natives who offered us drinks and food. After we accepted the drinks they said "oh by the way, that will be $15. HUH? I was so confused. I thought that this was part of our snorkel tour. There was nothing to snorkel here so after my drink I spent the rest of the how ever long we were there brooding in the water. We left there and one of the engines wouldnt come on so we limped to another cove where we were asked to get off so they could try to fix the engine. Oh by the way, there was a cannon on shore that supposedly belonged to Columbus' ships. Anyway, there was no snorkeling here either, just sandy bottom. Got back on the boat and limped slowly back to resort on 1 engine. What? No more snorkeling? Bummer. Would not recommend booking it. The representative tried to go on another one from a catamaran but we didnt bite. I felt like I had sucker written on the forehead. I was happy that we had a Golden Club House where I could email my family as wi fi was only in one place at the resort and it was intermitant. It was definitely hot there and the only place that had sufficient air conditioning was our room. Now, out under the trees on the beach was very pleasant with a beautiful breeze that was constant and lovely! I dont think we will go back to Samana any time soon but it was a nice, relaxing vacation. Dont expect any night life- there is none here but we just wanted a quiet place to relax and we got it!!! If the heat doesnt bother you, i would highly recommend El Portillo! A Beautiful resort in a Beautiful country!! Hola!
First of all, at the front desk, it was like you were bothering them. One restaurant open per night and they were filled, so this lady said ,where you make reservations. I tried to make reservations for other nights and again she said, they were full, but my wife and I walked by and saw a lot of tables empty. I was a little upset, but what are you going to do. So we were not able to try any, all they would say was sorry, that's it. They didn't care and they showed it. It is sad to pay the money, and not get what you paid for. We have stayed at a lot of resorts, some cheap and some not, but they all have tried to help us, try the restaurants, except this place. We will say, they had the best food at the buffet of them all. We would have liked to try the restaurants, but like I said, they did not try and they did not care. So before you go make sure you check on everything, because they do not care, and they will not help.
We had such a great time at Bahia Principe, in Samana Dominican Republic. The food was so good and the service excellent. We especially enjoyed the buffet with the many variety in food choices. The food was the highlight of our trip and then the beautify beach and pool. We visited the gym at the hotel a couple of days to burn off some of the calories we put on from the buffet. But, we also participated in the water aerobics by the Activities Team, which were also very entertaining and fun. The Whale Watching and Callo Levandado, National Park Haitises excursions we booked with Cheap Caribbean were also very enjoyable. We have already recommended this location to all our friends and we would surely go back.