Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Gutted, renovated, and reopened in the spring of 2008, the Dreams Resort attracts a wide range of vacationers -- from the pizza-crazed 11-year-old video gamer to the American bride after a cheap destination wedding to the English mum vying for extra time with her hardworking hubby. Though visibly a family resort -- with kids frolicking in the prized infinity pool and large families enjoying a dinner on the beach -- couples still seem to find room for a little romance.
The Dreams Resort brand -- which has properties in the D.R. and Mexico - promises “unlimited luxury.” This resort seems to be delivering the goods -- there were Gilchrist and Soames toiletries in the bathroom, fresh shrimp still in the shell at the buffet, and bikes beckoning for guests to go for a spin.
The lobby and the main pool are the center of life. In the afternoon, pop hits like "Sweet Child 'O Mine" and "Is This Love?" play softly in the lobby. Families enjoy cookies and espresso from Coco Café or an afternoon tropical beverage. The alcohol may have been name-brand (a rare commodity in the D.R.), but the coffee bar was equally if not more crowded than the beach bar during the day.
In the evening, guests wear their vacation finery (though the resort doesn’t have a formal dress code), drink cocktail favorites -- like brown and Malibu martinis, and Negronis -- and dance to a live band that performs near the main pool several nights a week. They play resort staples such as "I Will Survive", "Stand By Me", "Killing Me Softly", and "Macarena". An entertainment staffer dressed as a mime lured guests to the dance floor.
Less-developed vacation area, only 15 minutes from La Romana Airport.
La Romana Airport is only 15 minutes away. The next closest international airport is in Punta Cana, about 80 minutes away (a rather expensive cab ride). It is therefore best to spring for that connecting puddle jumper and go straight to La Romana Airport.
The resort is situated in Bayahibe, a village 25 minutes east of La Romana, on the Caribbean Sea. A mere 15 years ago Bayahibe was just a fishing village, until several high-end resorts started cropping up to get close to Casa de Campo, the D.R.’s most famous luxury resort.
The beach at Dreams La Romana isn't exactly a dream, but it's nice enough. The section of sand and surf is on a strip of the Bayahibe shore that borders a coral barrier reef, which means the waters are the expected iconic turquoise and incredibly calm -- a great thing for young children. But the sand is riddled with tiny twigs and rocks, and the ground is a bit hard, leading some guests to suspect imported sand.
The Dreams section of the beach is also a bit smaller than at most resorts -- you could walk from one end to the other in about five minutes -- and it’s next to a fairly rowdy public beach, where locals were having cookouts and selling cheap souvenirs. The border is watched carefully by a resort security guard. If you’re looking for long walks on the beach and clean, flour-like sand, consider the nearby Viva Wyndham.
Like most resorts, non-motorized water-sports equipment like kayaks, windsurfing boards, snorkeling gear, boogie boards, catamarans, and life jackets are all included. The on-site marina offers fishing and scuba trips for an additional charge.
With a king-size four-post-style bed (guests can also ask for rooms with two double beds), pristine white sheets, and a textured coverlet with muted earth tones, these rooms are a big step up from the dingy floral comforters at the Viva Wyndham Palace down the street. Unlike at most all-inclusives, there’s also a free pillow menu for guests who want a horseshoe, hypoallergenic, or goose feather pillow. All rooms have the same general look, but the one-bedroom suites come with a separate living room and private bedroom. All rooms have a balcony with a table and two chairs, and all come with a view of the ocean.
In the standard rooms, bathrooms are clean but basic, with a nice marble countertop and a modern sink. The hotel provides Gilchrist and Soames toiletries -- a conditioning shampoo, nicely scented body lotion, SPF 15 sunblock, a shoe shiner, a sewing kit, and a vanity kit. That's much more than most resorts offer. Suites feature a Jacuzzi and separate shower in the bathroom.
Here's an insider tip: Request a room on the third floor, which features high, steepled ceilings (about 15 feet at its highest point). It has exposed wooden beams and one of the quietest ceiling fans ever. It's the same size as the standard rooms, but feels much bigger.
There is a fitness center, but it lacks many treadmills and elliptical machines. It’s better equipped for weight lifting than a cardio workout. Adjacent to the fitness center is the resort's spa, which is a "teaching spa" -- but the attentive students are anything but amateurs. Dreams La Romana also has a second wellness facility at the Ecological Spa.
There are four soft-surface tennis courts as well as a bike center (something few Caribbean resorts have). The tennis courts don't seem to get a whole lot of action, but guests are very enthusiastic about the bikes. Several guests can be seen biking the long entrance into the property. Guests of all ages may take bikes out freely, and the staff has organized excursions at least once a day.
The Spa offers a complete menu of hydrotherapies and body treatments, as well as a full service salon.
Guest services are happy to arrange for a car rental or a visit to the nearby world-famous Diente de Perro (Teeth of the Dog) golf course at Casa de Campo.
Dreams La Romana has three swimming pools. The main pool is the center of life at the resort, and there is a Jacuzzi and a kid’s pool in the same area. The real draw, however, is the infinity pool. The edge around the pool slopes toward the edge like a zero-entry pool, which is perfect for young swimmers. The third pool, the Preferred Pool, is reserved for guests who pay an additional per night.
By day, the resort's entertainment or “animation” team puts on a full schedule of activities -- everything from morning aerobics and egg tossing on the beach to Spanish lessons. Guests happily participate.
The nightly entertainment at Dreams isn't the best, but the live music and staged dance performances still manage to get guests moving. After the staged performance stops, a lounge singer takes over in the lobby bar with a keyboardist.
There is a smallish casino and a disco, but neither draw huge crowds.
The entrance to the kids' club, called the Explorer's Club, reads "No Adults Allowed" (with a strikethrough to emphasize the point). This resort is serious about kiddie fun. The Explorer's Club organizes clever activities, including cooking lessons, camping nights, and boat excursions for children ages 4 to 12. Activities go on from morning to evening, considerably later than most resorts. Late-night events, like camping, see kids roasting marshmallows past many usual bedtimes.
The teen zone, called the Core Zone, is a program designed for ages 13 to 17. This hangout spot has several video game stations and pool and Ping-Pong tables, where many happy young lads wile away the hours. The Core Zone holds organized activities such as disco mixers, bonfires on the beach, and basketball games.
The infinity pool was certainly designed with fun-seeking families in mind. On one side, where the lounge chairs are situated, it is super-shallow (like a zero-entry pool) for kids. The pool feeds into the center, which is regular depth -- meaning that the little ones and their parents can swim at the same time. The other end runs off the side of the pool deck, as with an infinity pool.
For food, kids usually can not get enough of the well-prepared burgers, hot dogs, pizza, french fries, fried fish, and chicken nuggets.
Dreams La Romana is a mostly flat resort, which should be easy to navigate with a stroller. If parents would like to leave the kids behind while they embark to the pier for a romantic dinner, guest services will arrange baby-sitting and nanny services for an additional fee.
Rollaways and cribs are also availalble upon request.
Renovated in 2008, the resort is still very clean. Staff members are busy making sure it stays that way.
There’s no mold on the bathroom tiles or any signs of wear, unlike most all-inclusives in the D.R. The staff was cleaning, pruning, fixing, dusting, and tidying at all hours. Even the flamingo pen was as tidy as they come.
High quality, good variety, and clean conditions make the food here far better than at most all-inclusives.
The food is generally of higher quality than at most Dominican all-inclusives. At World Café, the buffet restaurant, meals are an event, with some higher-end and often unexpected delicacies. At dinner, for example, you can find fresh shrimp still in their shell on ice, and crepes with more than five choices of fillings. Snazzy details make all the difference. At breakfast, a refrigerator kept empty glasses cold. There are several pitchers of freshly squeezed juice (including melon and papaya), both salted and unsalted butter, and a huge platter of fresh smoked salmon. The light and fluffy pancakes had a subtle hint of citrus zest.
The eight a la carte restaurants -- which include regional cuisine from Mexico, pan-Asian countries, Italy, France, the Dominican Republic, and also fresh seafood dishes--are even more impressive. Dishes are beautifully presented and well prepared. Unlike at most all-inclusives, guests do not need to make a reservation for dinner (meaning you don’t have to line up at 9 a.m. to get a solid meal). Even better, when the restaurants are especially busy, the hosts give the waiting parties coaster pagers so that they can get paged when the table is ready. This very convenient feature isn’t available anywhere else.
There are also two additional "special" options for dinner. These restaurants require a reservation and come at an additional cost. Grilled lobster is prepared and served on the beach for an al fresco dinner; the average crustacean comes in at around two pounds. There is also the Romantic Dinner. This three-course meal is served at a far-removed section of the pier by a very attentive waiter who only handles one table. The resort limits this dinner to just a few couples a night.
Additionally, guests can also grab coffee, tea and pastries at Coco Cafe, and light snacks at Pizzeria.
Though some guests on TripAdvisor complained that the food made them ill, there seemed to be few cases, if any, during Oyster's visit. But the water in the D.R. is unsafe to drink, so guests should always be careful.
Martini Rose, Jack Daniels, Bombay Sapphire, Absolut, and Smirnoff are on every shelf. Guests enjoyed their drinks with gusto.
Reopened in 2008, this 751-room mega-resort has immaculate pools, beautiful rooms, an excellent kids' club, a great cocktail menu with name-brand liquor, and some of the D.R.’s best all-inclusive food -- from fine French cuisine to fish and chips. It's a great pick, though the beach is fairly small and unimpressive.