Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
Many Italian families are drawn to this easygoing resort's zero-entry pool, clear-water beach, and mellow bar. There's a carefree atmosphere here, and guests are likely to hang out together in the evening at the .
Originally a set of private time-shares managed by an Italian company, Catalonia Gran Dominicus was reopened a few years ago as part of the Spanish-owned Catalonia chain of resorts; the largely Italian clientele (50%) still remains. Spanish-style pastel villas quickly give way to a buffet restaurant with its own focaccia station and event bulletin boards with Italian translations at the top.
Despite its 400-plus rooms, this resort has an intimate feel. Guests meet and remeet each other every day around the pool, , and main . After a few days, it’s easy to recognize the people from the buffet last night or the group from the beach the other day. After dinner everyone knows where the action is -- at the main bar, conveniently located smack in the center of the resort. Young couples (mostly Canadian and Italian) join packs of middle-aged parents to salsa around the bar and sip cappuccinos and top-notch mojitos.
This easygoing resort is mostly couples and families; very few singles party here. By day, parents gravitate around the shallow end of the main where their infants can wade safely, or they run around filming their kids playing soccer in the sand. By night, attractive young women in miniskirts and heels walk on the arm of their equally good-looking boyfriends (not surprisingly, the high Italian population tends to make this resort a little sexier than most hotels in the D.R.). The pairing-off gives the resort a mellow feel, almost too mellow for groups of young singles who may venture here. The language barrier between the Italian contingent and the second largest group, Canadians, means that getting to know the few singles can be difficult.
The resort is 30 minutes away from the small, local airport; guests arrving at the airport in Santo Domingo should expect a 1.5-hour, pricey taxi ride.
Catalonia Gran Dominicus is on the beaches of La Romana, in the southeast of the Dominican Republic. It is one of a cluster of six all-inclusives along the resort-laden street of Dominicus Americanus, and right next door to Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus (another megaresort). Two big gift shops are outside the resort, but short of this, the street just serves as a connection between the all-inclusives., a former fishing village close to
Until the 1990s, Punta Cana.was just a little fishing town where locals from and nearby villages caught crabs on the beach. Since then, a deluge of development has hit the area, with six megaresorts cropping up in recent years. Still, its small-scale nature is the draw: It's not as insanely jam-packed with tourists like
There’s not much in the town itself, but it’s a good outpost for access to the beaches, caves, and dive sites of Parque Nacional del Este. Plus, the beaches are calm and beautiful. A 10-minute drive from the resort takes you to the gorgeous, an exact replica of a 16th-century Italian village with beautiful views of the Chavon River.
Though most guests fly into La Romana airport (which doesn’t have direct, international flights) only 30 minutes away, the resort is 1.5 hours from Punta Cana International Airport and about two hours from Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo. Either raxi ride will be expensive.
This stretch ofhas beautifully clear water that’s ideal for snorkeling.Only a bit of sediment gets stirred up when the waves hit the shore – there's no debris or algae anywhere. Guests enjoy the opportunity to snorkel right off the shore and look at the fish between the enormous underwater vases the resort planted to encourage aquatic life.
The beach stretches far back to include a volleyball court and mini soccer field, but the sands are kept trash-free. Lounge chairs are a little hard to come by around the beach, and there could have been a few more bathrooms nearby. The one beach bar doesn’t have toilets, nor does the snack bar on the beach. For the nearest bathroom, guests have to leave the beach area and walk past the , a few minutes away.
Water sports are handled through the on-site Pro Marine Diving Center. All nonmotorized sports are included, like a one-hour catamaran rental if a guest knows how to use it (it's a $20 lesson if he doesn't), a one-hour kayak rental, and a one-hour rental of snorkeling gear. Thanks to a cool setup at one part of the beach (the underground vases for fish to swim in and around), there actually is a bit to see right off the beach. Scuba-diving lessons are given for free by the pool throughout the day; they last about 10 to 20 minutes.
Optional trips are available at an additional cost, including a half -day excursion to Catalina Island and a half-day trip to the River Chavon. Guests can also participate in sports such as banana-boating, deep-sea fishing, parasailing, and waterskiing. Diving lessons and PADI certification are also available; prices vary depending on experience, number of dives, and whether the guest has his own equipment or needs to rent.
The Catalonia Gran Dominicus has 400 standard, six basic , and five honeymoon suites. The standard rooms, all with king-size or a pair of full-size beds, are separated into 16 villas named after provinces and islands in the Dominican Republic. Suites offer a separate living area and have a garden view from the top floor, but this is pretty much the only difference; upgrades aren’t worth the extra cash.
The real separation at Gran Dominicus is between the recently renovated rooms in the Romana villa and the rest of the rooms that haven’t been renovated in a while. If booking a stay here, request a room in the most recently redone Romana villa, which doesn’t cost extra. Romana's new marble bathrooms with enormous standing showers make a big difference. Older rooms in the other 15 villas have chipped paint in the bathrooms and grout in need of redoing.
The rooms are well-sized, with a huge bed and ample closet space, but the bathrooms are in need of renovation. The king-size beds are fitted with basic white sheets and pillowcases and a thin cotton blanket. This is not the world's thickest mattress -- it felt just a few inches thick versus the hefty pillowtop-plus-Serta combo one has come to expect in upscale domestic hotels -- but it's adequate. For a better bed, check out Dreams.
The room can feel a little muggy, and the lack of windows in the bathroom area probably doesn't help. The air conditioner cools the room well, but the thermostat setting doesn't seem to matter; it pretty much has three settings (low, medium, and high), regardless of what temperature it is set to.
Sizable Panasonic flat-screen TVs have been added to every room. They sit on the large white desk, which still has plenty of room left to spread out travel gear and a laptop. While most of the channels tend to look grainy on the satellite service, some English-speaking channels do get decent reception: BBC World News, Fox News, and CBS. The Spanish Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and MTV also come in nicely, a plus for kids. There are no pay-per-view movies.
The bathrooms are cute, but in most of them there’s chipped paint behind the sink and the grout around the toilet has almost completely worn away. Each has a sink that’s hand-painted with blue flowers and green leaves -- a design echoed in the individually hand-painted tiles that line the bathroom walls. Bright kelly-green tile work in the sink countertop contrasts the blue-flowered sink. A semi-circle-shaped wall partition encloses the circular shower. The part of the shower that is not enclosed by a wall is fitted with a wraparound shower curtain. Unlike most resorts, leakage is minimal.
Beyond the sliding glass doors, all rooms have a view of the resort’s manicured . are only in half the rooms and the ones on the second floors of the villas. Sturdy wooden lounge chairs, painted a forest green, sit on light-blue tiled floors. A very cute royal-blue fence separates guests from their neighbors next door, giving an air of privacy (but not much).
The resort has only one big pool, and it's full of kids. Wi-Fi doesn't work in the rooms, and the lobby has a poor (but sometimes functional) connection. The offers a host of activities, and the is reasonably priced for a resort.
Gran Dominicus has only one pool, and it's filled with children. But it's sizable and clearly meant to serve the needs of three smaller pools. On one end, there’s a net for water polo, and from here the pool extends to a central bar area (where there is table and poolside service, but no swim-up bar). Beyond this is the shallow end (most popular with families). The is very well-maintained, but it gets a lot of use and kids are usually splashing about in half of it. Located in a raised section next to the pool, the Jacuzzi doesn’t see much action. Like many Dominican resorts, the Catalina doesn’t turn the heater on during the day.
Guests make use of the Internet center, which shares a building with the photo center; it's centrally located near the main bar. Use of one of the four, well-maintained computer stations for a charge.
Theoffers a full run of services, with a particularly broad array of massages. The massage with four hands, for example, almost seems like too much of a good thing. Unlike many resorts, they’ll also wax your entire body (and for a reasonable price!).
To the left of the fitness center, an , a soccer field, a basketball court, and two tennis courts. The soccer field is made of dirt, but the benches that run along the side of the field are a nice addition (especially considering the highly European crowd). This field sees considerably less use, however, than the makeshift soccer field on the beach. The name-brand tennis equipment is in good shape, meaning that unlike most resorts, the racquets aren’t rusted., the sports center at Gran Dominicus includes a
There’s no air conditioning (or even a fan) in the average-size, thatched-roof weight equipment is a little worn, but still very usable. There's not very much cardio equipment, just three bikes, one stair stepper, and one .. The
The spacious standard rooms here can easily fit a rollaway or crib, and come with either a king bed or two double beds. Also, 49 of them are triple rooms with an additional double bed.
There are also 40 connecting rooms in the hotel. But there’s no real advantage to getting a suite here over a standard room -- the couches in the suites don’t pull out. All bathrooms unfortunately come with showers and not bathtubs, and just a single sink.
While the Catalonia Gran Dominicus lacks the extra frills available at larger resorts, families here seem perfectly satisfied with the standard kids' club and the shallow kiddie extension tacked onto the adult pool. The lunchtime pizza parlor helps too.
The kids' miniclub is just a one-room building near the beach with a sand floor and an enclosed playground that closes in the early afternoon every day. For older children (8 to 12 years old), the entertainment staff organizes tennis, archery, and soccer games. A kid's minidisco takes place every night as well.
High chairs are available at all restaurants, and the food is fairly kid-friendly at each, including chicken fingers, nachos, and several varieties of pizza fresh from a wood-burning stove.
Housekeeping keeps the rooms tidy, but they're still very old and worn.
Room are pretty clean. There is no dust or dirt on the tables or TV, and the shower is one of the cleanest in the DR. But the long outdated rooms have worn-away grout around the toilet, chipped paint, and tiles yellowed with age.
Dishes and glasses are all swiftly picked up from the bars and restaurants, and the tables are regularly wiped clean. The pool, which sees a fair amount of use, is free of debris.
With one of the best restaurants offer other cuisines such as Mexican or seafood, but be sure to reserve early.in the D.R., the buffet menu at this resort has a strong Italian focus. The à la carte
Though Gran Dominicus management is no longer Italian, nods to its still-largely Italian clientele are everywhere -- and most notably, with the resort's cuisine. Every day is Italian day at El Taino, the international buffet, which features its own focaccia station and a selection of sandwich fillings to make a grilled panini. The selection of cold meats and salads includes sardines, an olive selection, and sopressata. At lunch, there are usually at least two to three types of grilled Mediterranean fish. Catalonia Gran Dominicus also has by far one of the best pasta stations in the D.R. resorts. Eggplant marinara, penne arrabiata, and a daily clam spaghetti are all a nice change from the usual, basic meat-or-no-meat sauces at other resorts. But the fruit selection is pretty limited (basically just pineapple).
installations that represent the culture of the respective country. A Mexican flag hanging up in the entrance, outside the restaurant, and a group of animation staff recreating a mariachi-band scene signal the arrival of Mexican night.really plays up its themed dinner nights with frequent cocktail stations and
In addition to the La Toscano becomes pizzeria El Patio during lunchtime and late at night, serving up pies fresh from the wood-burning oven and topped with a variety of meat or veggies. Jacaranda restaurant, where guests can enjoy à la carte lobster dinners on the beach, is the beach snack bar during the day with made-to-order grilled sandwiches. It's amazing what white linen tablecloths and candlelight by the beach can do., Gran Dominicus boasts six restaurants: one pizzeria, one snack bar, and four à la cartes (Italian, Mexican, steak, and seafood). Restaurant and bar spaces in this smaller resort do double duty. An à la carte Italian dinner restaurant
Bartenders expertly turn out classic Name-brand booze costs extra.as well as fresh , but all the free is generic.
All drinks are made with well liquor, but top-shelf booze like Johnny Walker, Absolut, and Remy Martin extra and can be purchased at the cigar bar El Gato Borracho.
Several infused homemade rums rest on top of the bar at El Merenguero -- in case anyone wants to try a shot. It's a nice extra touch -- the sweet but potent coconut and vanilla liqueur, made with white rum, liquid sugar, and crème de cacao is delicious.
This 406-room Italian resort entices couples and families with quality beach, and some of the best pizza and in the D.R. Rooms are clean, generally, but the worn bathrooms certainly show their age. Still, it's a great pick for the price., excellent off a clear-water