Grand Bahia Principe El PortilloSamana, Dominican Republic
- Isolated location, with no nearby restaurants, shops, or banks
- No elevators on-site (difficult wheelchair accessibility)
- Small, poorly equipped gym
- 90-minute taxi ride from Samana airport
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Things get animated but not too raucous with this international crowd.
The guests -- mainly couples, judging by the tables in the restaurants – hail largely from Europe and North America. There are also a few large groups of friends that come to party, as well as young families. Given the predominantly European crowd, there can also be topless sunbathing by the pool.
The lobby bar is a center of activity. Throughout the day, raucous laughter echoes from the billiards table, across the long bar, and all the way to the specialty coffee station in the back. Couples and groups of friends smoke cigars and drink cocktails long into the night. Some guests plant themselves under the wrought-iron chandelier just to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi.
A remote locale in one of the D.R.’s least developed regions -- hit the ATM beforehand.
Stashed in the middle of a remote, heavily wooded area of the Samana Peninsula -- one of the D.R.’s least developed tourist regions – the Gran Bahia is a luxury hotel on the forefront of an up-and-coming region. But the Samana Airport, which opened in 2006, is a 90-minute cab ride from the hotel. The nearest ATM is 10 or 15 minutes away in the quaint town of Las Terrenas.
Other than the long El Portillo beach, there is virtually nothing to do in the hotel's immediate vicinity. Surrounded by trees and greenery rather than development, the hotel is built for a remote vacation. Those seeking nightlife, food, or even noise could head to Los Terrenas.
Located in the Samana Peninsula, where the beaches are known to be among the best in the D.R., the beach at the Gran Bahia does not disappoint. The beach is huge and rife with blue lounge chairs -- for watching waves, building sand castles, napping, and reading. Many visitors find the beach to be among the best in the Caribbean -- you can walk for miles on soft sand beside perfectly clear water. Guests also seem extremely pleased with the beach's cleanliness and chair surplus.
Large and comfortable, especially the Jacuzzi suites
All of the rooms are in detached one- and two-story structures strewn all about the property. The suites, called "villas" by the staff, are closest to the beach, although select standard rooms are still near the sand. Groups of standard rooms line the road leading from reception to the main entrance. But there are no elevators anywhere on-site; guests with mobility challenges should request a room on the ground floor.
The junior suites are extremely roomy. Light pink tiles and heavy balcony drapes keep the room cool (even without air conditioning). But the best features are in the bathroom. Namely, the Jacuzzi tub. The powerful Jacuzzi is an enormous asset, as are sweet-smelling bath products, separate shower and bathroom stalls, marble floors, and plentiful towels. Even the soap smells like strawberry candy.
All suites come with a balcony that, by itself, is nothing to write home about – just a narrow strip with a plastic table and chairs.
All beds are extremely comfortable. And, unlike in most of the D.R., the blankets are heavy enough to combat the strong A.C. In-room electronics include a 21-inch Philips TV, a small black jWIN clock radio, and a Hamilton Beach coffeemaker, as well as a safe (which is charged for use) and a minibar.
The Bahia Spa provides massages, facial treatments, manicures/pedicures, and various services in its treatment rooms and hair salon. Soft lounge music and an affectionate staff give the spa -- which had its own Jacuzzi -- a thoroughly relaxed vibe. There’s also a massage hut between the pool and beach.
Internet in the lobby is charged per 30 minutes, but wireless (for those with laptops) is free. The rooms, however, do not get a wireless signal.
The gym, housed within a red wooden villa, holds virtually no equipment. Its three rooms contains just a few free weights, a couple of stationary bicycles, one treadmill, and one lifting machine. But the radio plays classics like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” -- that's got to count for something.
Entertainment wise, with an array of crafts stands by the pool, a large al fresco dining plaza, and quiet music over the P.A., the word "party" is not the first that comes to mind. But the scene is certainly relaxing – something hard to come by among Dominican all-inclusives. The after-hours scene in the lobby bar is a bit more boisterous, but far calmer than the booze-induced mayhem at the Bahia Principe San Juan Resort.
Very clean, both in the rooms and on the grounds.
The rooms and bathrooms are spotless. Except for some water that leaked from the Jacuzzi into the entrance hallway, the resort’s rooms are flawless. Likewise, the grounds are well tended and tidy. Indoor areas like the lobby bar and restaurants are just as clean.
Mediocre buffet, but things pick up with the a la carte options.
Lunch and dinner at the Las Dalias buffet were pretty mediocre for the price – about on par with most Dominican resorts. But the breakfast spread included fresh pancakes and donuts. Service was especially friendly, and staff members even come around at breakfast and kiss familiar customers on the cheek.
The a la carte restaurants are a big improvement. El Pescador, the seafood restaurant, serves grilled fish, fried squid, salmon filet, and beef tenderloin. Orquidea Restaurant offers a “mystical surf and turf” as well as salmon, beef, duck, and pork. The Oriental Restaurant generates the most buzz among guests. To most folks, it’s the best – but that means snagging a reservation can be tricky. Portofino, serving Italian fare, also pulls many diners.
There are also four on-site bars.
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Things You Should Know About Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo
AddressCarretera las Terrenas, El Limon Km. 4, Las Terrenas, Samana Province, Caribbean
Also Known As
- El Portillo
- El Portillo Beach Resort
- Junior Suite
- Junior Suite Club Golden
- Standard Room