Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Europeans families getting their drink on for hours on end, both indoors and out.
The guests at the Barcelo, primarily European families, came a long way to party and they don't seem to waste a minute -- drinking starts early and ends late. During the day, guests pack the pool area and the beach. At night, they fill the amphitheater to watch "The Comedy Show" or "Miss Puerto Plata." Whether it's in the lobby or at the bars, guests seem especially social here. Combine that with good food, and the Barcelo ranks high on my list.
The Barcelo has a Spanish colonial design -- white stucco buildings with red tile roofs. The grounds are well kept, with flowers planted in embedded planters on the balconies. A tight golf-cart path cuts between the buildings. Unlike at a lot of hotels, the Barcelo lobby actually functions as a popular social spot. People are always lounging, playing cards, watching soccer, and talking. It helps that the space is comfortable and there's ample seating.
In the safe, gated Playa Dorada complex, which it shares with 15 other resorts.
The Barcelo is located inside the gated Playa Dorada complex. Playa Dorada (“golden beach”) is located about 15 minutes west of the Puerto Plata airport.
Playa Dorada is a gated complex of 15 hotels, a golf course, a convention center, two casinos, and a shopping mall located just east of downtown Puerto Plata. The neatly manicured mini-city has horse-drawn carriages that promenade up and down the main street at all hours. It’s extremely safe and walkable, even at night -- it sort of feels like a gated golf community in the United States. The hotels in the complex range from Casa Colonial at the peak luxury end to a plethora of budget all-inclusives and timeshares geared toward families and young partiers, like Viva Wyndham, Grand Paradise, and the Celuisma Tropical. In the center of the complex is Playa Dorada Plaza, a two-story open-air shopping center that caters heavily to tourists with souvenir stalls, sundry and tobacco shops, a playground, and a few liquor stores. There are also a few ATMs and banks, as well as restaurants and bars including Hemingway’s, Senor Rock’s, Coco Bongo, and even a Pizza Hut.
There are lots of topless bathers. Though the water along the north coast of the Dominican Republic is generally a bit harsher and less clear than in Punta Cana, the shallow water in Playa Dorada is fairly calm. (It's protected by a reef.) It was popular with snorkelers.
Hardly state of the art, but comfortable and reasonably well appointed.
Rooms are clean but a bit worn. Like the rest of the hotel, they have a Spanish colonial look -- the main piece of art in the room is a coffee sack stretched over a frame. The lampshades are made of burlap, and the room is painted tan. But the rooms are clearly worn, as evidenced by the sagging mattresses. Some rooms have receive some sprucing since Oyster's visit. New white linens with green accents and similar sheer curtains have brightened the space, if not truly upgraded them all that much.
The bathroom has seen better days. The sink area is a little worn and had paint splotches and various marks of wear and tear. The hot water knob was kept in place with a wad of toilet paper. The soap comes prepackaged, but the shampoo, conditioner, and body gel are inside a pump dispenser mounted to the shower wall. Lots of little ants, which are common at many Caribbean resorts, crawled around the sink area.
The old TV, a Zenith Space Command model, didn’t look like it was going to work, but it did! And well! It featured about 50 channels, and a good 10 or 15 of them were in English. Other electronics include an The alarm clock with iPod dock and mini-fridge, which came stocked with the standard all-inclusive supply -- two beers, two sodas, and two waters. The mini-fridge also comes with the world's smallest ice trays a nice sentiment.
The balcony is really nice, with embedded purple flower beds. The balcony furniture is basic green plastic. However, the sliding door to the balcony doesn't have a screen -- kind of a bummer, especially for people sensitive to bugs.
Clean but a bit worn down, with a few ants.
Overall the Barcelo was very clean. There are some small ants crawling around my sink, but this is common in the Caribbean. Other than that, the grounds were well maintained and the interior of the hotel was always clean.
Decent options by all-inclusive standards, despite what you may have heard.
Buffet Giralda is better than most Dominican Republic all-inclusive buffets. For dinner, there’s a pasta station, various fish and meat dishes, a salad bar, breads, rice, and veggies. There were multiple decent vegetarian options as well. Compared with other all-inclusives, the buffet was pretty good -- but that’s not saying too much.
There are also a selection of a la carte restaurants, and a poolside snack bar. La Hacienda, the open-air Mexican restaurant, is a thatched-roof building built over the pool. Reservations are needed, as well as for Rodizio, the Brazilian restaurant and Via Veneto, serving Italian fare. La Fontana serves pizza, Las Marismas, seafood, and D'Oriental Asian cuisine. They each require reservations as well.
Great bars -- ask the many drinkers in each one of them.
There are also six bars at the Barcelo, and they’re the primary hangouts. The lobby bar and the Bodega Bar are two of the the most popular. Crowds gathered at the Bodega Bar to shoot pool and watch the evening entertainment. The Bodega Bar is wedged between the theater, shops, and the pool, so it's in a central place.
Located in the Playa Dorada complex, a safe, mini-tourist city, the Barcelo is popular among European families. It has a decent buffet, or at least a better buffet than most Dominican all-inclusives (not saying much). Guests are friendly but not too party-hearty, and most keep a reasonable bedtime. Rooms are old and clearly worn but functional.