Bars stocked only with generic liquor -- even the rum
Fee for safe
Pricey fee for Wi-Fi, and it is only available in
Kitchenettes in the suites don't come with
cookware, plates, or utensils
Salespeople and brochures pitching apartment sales
Located in the safe mini-tourist city of Playa Dorada, this family-friendly upper-middle-range resort has an above-average buffet, 425 clean rooms that are among the most modern you'll find for this category, and one of the best beaches on the north coast. It’s a great value, if you ignore the cheap booze and a pool that's less awe-inspiring than others. The atmosphere tends to be quieter than at many other mega-resorts; partiers may prefer the Iberostar Costa Dorada, though its rooms are more dated.
Quiet, aging hotel with a fresh splash of paint and a relaxed, older group of guests
This small all-inclusive resort just outside of Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic first opened in the late '80s, making it one of the older options in the area. It was renovated in 2008 and 2009, and has had minor spruce-ups since then. It's popular with Canadians,
Americans, and on the weekends especially, Dominicans (who can take advantage of special offers for
locals). Guests are mostly families with older parents and kids in their
teens, with the occasional group of younger adults thrown in.
The hotel's hulking residential buildings are painted in bright pastels, and despite renovations, the ghosts of a scruffy beachfront motel still seem to linger. With a sea-green and lavender color scheme, the soaring, fluorescent-lit lobby is reminiscent of a 1980s shopping mall. It feels like a budget all-inclusive that, surprisingly, has modern rooms.
Though the Grand Paradise is known for having a quieter atmosphere than at some other resorts, the casino (the only one in Playa Dorada) attracts even non-guests to the property. Still, the atmosphere might not suit partiers. The pool is smaller than at other comparable resorts, and despite having a swim-up bar, can sometimes feel empty. The animation team does sometimes host activities such as water aerobics and dancing when there are enough interested guests.
The star of the show is easily the beach, unusually long by D.R. resort standards, and offering a variety of terrain, from rocky to golden and sandy. Here guests can relax under the shade of palm trees while watching the kite surfers and catamarans -- and fending off the offers of persistent local hawkers.
Inside a safe mini-tourist city that's a 15-minute cab ride from the Puerto Plata Airport
The Grand Paradise is inside the gated Playa Dorada complex, outside the traffic chaos of Puerto Plata (seriously, be careful of those suicidal motorcyclists). Playa Dorada (“golden beach”) is about a 15-minute drive west of the Puerto Plata Airport. Pre-set cab fares to various hotels within the complex range from $30 to $35. The bustling, blue-collar town of Puerto Plata is about a 10-minute drive.
Guests will have to go first through the Playa Dorada entrance and then make a left at the dusty Playa Dorada mall before turning into the small parking lot. The hotel's sits on an outward curve in the shoreline, which essentially doubles its share of sand and surf. And though its neighboring resort is next door, it feels far enough away that guests don't feel crowded -- though the length of the beach still doesn't stop the trinket peddlers.
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. Though it has seen better days, it’s extremely safe and walkable, even at night -- it feels like a gated golf community in the United States. The hotels in the complex range from Casa Colonial at the luxury end to a plethora of budget all-inclusives and time-shares geared toward families and young partiers, such as the Barcelo 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 couple of 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.
Modern, decent-size rooms with adequate light but some signs
The 2009 renovations to the rooms (and subsequent sprucing up) in this resort is
obvious -- during our late 2015 visit the walls had fresh-looking paint, the floor tiles
were shiny and not cracked, and the dark-wood furniture showed only minor signs of wear and tear.
(The large bed frames in the Suites are guaranteed to painfully snag unwary
shins and toes, however.) The decent-size rooms have adequate light, and
balconies range from reasonably large to small. In our Suite on the first floor, the living-room curtains didn't close, allowing for no privacy there.
The hotel's rooms may be due for another combover soon: The
ceiling tiles in the bathroom of our Suite were in disarray, the
range in the kitchenette was rusting, and the fan was loud. The closet door in one
of the rooms we toured was swollen shut from moisture.
details betraying the resort's budget-conscious priorities are telling. Though our
suite came with a kitchenette, it didn't have any cookware, plates,
or eating utensils. When we brushed up against the
curtains in another room, they came clattering to the ground, to
reveal that they were held up with a cut length of PVC piping instead
of an actual curtain rod. And though Wi-Fi access in rooms is
typically sold at a daily fee in most Dominican
resorts (usually around $10), during our visit the Grand Paradise sold its Wi-Fi access at a rate of $10
per hour -- and even then it's only available in the lobby, restaurants, and the pool area. To cap it off, maid service also seemed off its
game -- during a tour of a room that had been made up before our
inspection, we found a man's bathing trunks in one of the living-room
drawers. Decor, at least, is modern -- no cheesy colorful patterned bedspreads here. Expect contemporary bedding with accents in blue and brown.
A terrific beach, a casino, a basic pool with a swim-up bar and plenty of chairs, and an open-air game room
hotel's long, pretty beach is the draw here, and it comes with a
water sports facility that allows guests to get the most out of it. There are catamaran rentals, kitesurfing, and the like. Kids can also spend time behind the brightly colored picket fence of
the kids' club, which has a ball pit, or in the game room, allowing mom and dad to take time off and
relax -- perhaps in the massage hut by the pool.
The main pool is nothing special. It has a swim-up bar and a separate hot tub, but it’s far less flashy than the massive pools at the nearby Iberostar or Gran Oasis Marien resorts. There’s also a children's pool that’s decently sized but quiet. The pool area rarely feels crowded. Plenty of lounge chairs are available throughout the day and there are some umbrellas for shade.
Golf lovers can take advantage of the Playa Dorada's course, shared by all the resorts in the complex -- the hotel can arrange a tee time. At night, adults can
boogie in the disco, which sits next to the game room, which has foosball and table tennis. The animation team and nightly shows get mostly positive reviews.
Above-average buffet with fresh-baked bread, two a la cartes, and a late-night snack bar
The open-air Hibiscus Buffet is right on the beach, making for great views. Variety is excellent and there is usually at least one cooked-to-order station (some stations close during low season), as well as nightly themes, such as seafood. The two a la cartes, Michaelangelo (serving Italian) and Edens Grill require reservations and get mixed reviews, and aren't necessarily better than the buffet. The Italian restaurant is in the basement of the disco building, and Eden's Grill has a more appealing location along the water. The resort offers a midnight snack but no 24-hour options -- but the midnight snack is still more than what some all-inclusives offer.
The liquor here is a letdown -- all of the brands are generic.
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