Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
Strike up friendly conversations with the other guests -- if you can hear them over the street noise.
Unlike most hotels on the Dominican Republic's north coast, Casa Marina draws a significant number of American guests. There were also Canadian, French, and British guests, and everyone was especially friendly. The pool saw couples, little kids, lone retirees, and Dominican families posing for wedding photographs. Bars stood at regular intervals -- a drink is never more than a two-minute walk away.
But Casa Marina is also one of the loudest resorts in the Caribbean. Being close to one of the D.R.’s major highways, from the rooms guests listen to cars, trucks, buses, revving motor scooters, incessant jack-hammering, and pickup trucks equipped with huge loudspeakers advertising "Plantanos! Plantanos!" Along the tiled hallways, you can hear every guest that walks by, every 3 a.m. drunken conversation. Relaxation can get tricky here. Construction crews were also at work during Oyster's stay, finishing the beach to work on the Los Cocos bar. Debris and other industrial garbage were strewn along the sand.
The hotel is in the heart of downtown Sosua, a 15-minute, $10-$15 cab ride from the Puerto Plata airport. Walking a few steps off the property leads one to Sosua's endless string of small , , confrontational motor scooter taxis, and constantly soliciting prostitutes. (Prostitution is legal in the D.R. -- and a major part of the tourism industry). The hotel's main entrance is two doors down from Sosua's , which was so close that the museum was featured on the resort map. A across the street featured nightly amateur-level softball.
The property is built along a long, white beach, which is open for public use (like all beaches in the D.R.). The lively beach town of Cabarete, the Caribbean's kite-surfing capital, is a 15-minute cab ride away.
The beach is beautiful -- wide, uninterrupted runs of sand with views of faraway bluffs. An on-site, PADI-certified scuba operation offers an array of trips. A beach volleyball court, used mostly by the staff, stood near a table tennis area. Couples played many hours of Ping-Pong.
All rooms are pretty outdated, and the features are meager. There are no radios, alarm clocks, Internet hookups, or even mini-fridges (which virtually every other hotel has). The TVs are standard-screen, 21-inch Samsungs, and in some rooms, the remote isn't able to turn the TV on or off. Manipulating the power required getting out of bed.
The bathroom in the standard room smelled awful – it was as if a corrosive, wet mold had taken hold. Fortunately, the helped remedy the odor. The stains and grime on the bathroom fixtures and were uncomfortable. A low ceiling -- about seven feet tall -- did not make things any better. There’s no hairdryer, and all were from Ahmsa Marina, the hotel’s corporate chain.
The beds, however, were extremely soft and yielding. They made for a great night's sleep.
The hotel has three pools: the main pool, a kid’s pool, and a slightly smaller pool. The main pool is a massive structure with two basketball hoops (full court, anyone?) and a volleyball net. It’s highlighted by an overhead that stays on even after the pool closes for the evening. There’s also a smaller, more intimate pool, but it’s hardly small. It had a spouting fountain and was surrounded by ample beach chairs. Some balconies opened directly onto the plaza.
The spa, called the "Massage Center," has just three rooms: one for a single-person massage, one for a couples massage, and then another single massage station.
The business center was small and simple, with four HP computers separated by privacy dividers. Wireless Internet was not available in the rooms, though there’s Wi-Fi in the lobby charged per hour, half hour, or 15 minutes.
There’s also a medical center on-site, in the same corridor as the tour desk. It accepts all travel and personal insurance. Laundry service and room service were not available. Outside laundry services were a short walk from the property.
Like most Dominican resorts, though, it has no gym. The resort also lacks some basics like laundry services and tennis courts.
Great spot for families, as long as you steer clear of the off-site prostitution.
Organized kids' activities run throughout the day, with breaks for meals.
The amphitheater gets packed at night.The entertainment staff spends hours performing a "Broadway Highlights" show, among others. The house watched finely choreographed (albeit lip-synched) renditions of numbers from Grease, The Rocky Horror Show, and . Lurid costumes and a sexually ambiguous cast (men played many of the female parts) only pleased the guests further.
The Calipso Disco is open each night. The one-room club was relatively crowded -- 20 to 30 guests rotated in throughout the night -- and it played clubbed-up merengue tunes. A fog machine poured white steam from the far end of the pitch-black room all the way to the cash bar, drowning the dancing and kissing couples in a rolling haze.
The rooms are old and worn, and based on the muddy hallways, cleanliness is a low priority at the hotel. The bathroom faucets and fixtures were caked in mildew and grime. The mirror above the sink wore stray dots of caulking. The blue tile floor was stained and chipped, and the pipe under the was rusted. The wall below the sink was thoroughly , and the was cracked and stained brown. The tub had mold growing over the caulking.
Decent a la carte if you don't feel like elbowing your way to the buffet.
Dinner at the El Batey buffet was practically a feeding frenzy, with long lines and heavy competition for tables. Many guests felt the food was decent, but they preferred the a la carte restaurants. There is another buffet restaurant, El Acantilado, serving basically the same grub.
There are three a la cartes. At Sea Scape, the seafood a la carte, customers can choose from a number of fresh lobsters. This is the hotel's most popular restaurant -- guests spoke at length about the quality of the fish. Luiggi is the Italian a la carte. El Jalapeno serves a fast-food buffet during the day and a la carte Mexican dishes for dinner.
One of the only Sosua, the Casa Marina is just a short walk to quaint bars, shops, and restaurants. But the location also comes with rampant street noise and pervasive prostitution at night. With three large pools and a beautiful beach, most guests spend their time outside the worn, dingy rooms.in downtown