Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Quiet, aging hotel with snazzy new rooms and a relaxed, older group of guests.
Grand Paradise Playa Dorada was renovated in fall 2008, but 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 (especially with elevator music blaring through the speakers and a large fountain gushing in the background). It feels like a budget all-inclusive that, weirdly, has modern rooms. Not that guests are complaining -- a clean, comfortable bed and a flat-screen TV are much preferable to a flashy lobby.
Like at virtually every all-inclusive resort on the north coast, the majority of guests are Canadian. The crowd seems to skew older compared with other resorts -- the evening entertainment during Oyster's stay was a jazz band that encouraged dancing -- but there are also 20-somethings and a fair number of kids playing foosball in the game room.
The Grand Paradise has a lot of amenities with which to please guests, particularly the large beach, the food, and the entertainment. Though known for having a quieter atmosphere than at some other resorts, the reopening of the casino attracts even non-guests come to the property.
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. Playa Dorada (“golden beach”) is about 15 minutes west of the Puerto Plata Airport. Pre-set cab fares to various hotels within the complex range from $30 to $35.
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. The neatly manicured mini-city has horse-drawn carriages that promenade up and down the main street at all hours. 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, like Viva Wyndham and, at the bottom of the list, 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.
Grand Paradise sits between the Gran Ventana resort and an empty plot of land. Because of this, it has a larger, more open beachfront than any other resort in Playa Dorada. It also offers stunning views of Mount Isabel de Torres and downtown Puerto Plata, both during the day and at night.
A conveniently located water-sports shack offers a good selection of boogie boards, kayaks, and snorkel gear in addition to windsurfing boards and Sunfish sailboats. All are available to guests, free of charge.
The rooms faintly resemble an Ikea showroom. They even smell like an Ikea! After being closed for renovations from May to October of 2008, the remodeled rooms are a huge improvement from the string of worn-out, musty resorts at nearly every other all-inclusive resort in the D.R. From the platform bed to the cubed (but flimsy) nightstands to the off-brand flat-screen TV, the rooms are shockingly modern. The beds are wonderfully soft, and the sheets smell fresh and clean.
The bathrooms are equally clean, bright, and modern. It comes stocked with a nice selection of toiletries, although there is no blowdryer. You can get them from the front desk. The large tub, which had ample space for storage or seating at its rear, is wonderful. Water pressure and temperature seemed to work fine.
Most rooms come with a balcony, which includes two chairs and a table made from a plastic-wicker material. The clean marble floor matches the bedrooms, and the railings are made of a modern glass. The resort also has so-called “attic rooms,” which apparently offer more space but don't have balconies. The oceanview suites, naturally, have great views of the water.
The main pool is nothing special. It has a swim-up bar and a separate Jacuzzi, 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 central building, which houses the game room, disco, indoor stage, and Italian restaurant, also houses a gym. The main building once housed the casino, but in order to curtail the flow of non-guests around the property, a new casino was constructed near the entrance.
The open-air game room, which includes two pool tables, two foosball tables, and a Ping-Pong table, is frequently buzzing with guests. There's also a bar area, conveniently across the hall from the disco. The resort also has a tennis court.
Like all the other nearby resorts, Grand Paradise affords easy access to the Playa Dorada golf course.
Like many resorts, Grand Paradise had a colorful, gated kids' club area. It includes a PlayStation 3, more foosball tables, and a flat-screen TV for watching DVDs. There’s also a decent-size children's pool. It's a fun resort for kids.
By the beach there's a basketball court, shuffleboard, mini-golf, and a horseshoe pit. Board games are adjacent to the swimming pool and buffet restaurant. The rainy-day selection is impressive -- Battleship, Scrabble, Monopoly, and Connect Four.
As at every Dominican resort, the staff puts on nightly shows. Most often, these are laid back at the Grand Paradise, consisting more of getting the guests dancing than putting on Michael Jackson impersonations.
The 2008 renovated resort is still spotless. Let's hope it stays that way.
The rooms at Grand Paradise were quite clean directly after the 2008 renovation, but housekeeping doesn't seem to be a huge priority at the resort so things might have changed since then.
The grounds, on the other hand, are very well kept. In fact, the beach is spotless. Groundskeepers can be seen raking the entire beach in the early mornings. Staff members are also quick to switch ashtrays and the common areas are kept clean. (There is also a separate smoking area to keep the smoky smell in check -- a rarity in the D.R.)
Great buffet with fresh-baked bread, average a la cartes, and a late-night snack bar.
The Hibiscus Buffet is impressive. Chefs cook rib-eye steaks to order, and both the salad bar and meats look fresh and surprisingly appetizing. There is also an attractive cheese plate set up in the middle of the room. In the mornings, the made-to-order omelets are delicious. The coffee service is prompt and attentive (this is rare in most all-inclusives). Fresh pizza made for lunch at the beach bar is a solid find as well. The dessert selection includes not only an ice-cream bar but also delicious pastries like churros and chocolate kisses.
For dinner, a la carte restaurant reservations need to be made between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. There are two options: Michelangelo, an Italian restaurant in the basement of the disco building, and Eden's Grill, set much more appealingly along the water. Menus for both restaurants are fairly standard -- pasta at the former, grilled meats and seafood at the latter.
The resort also offers a midnight snack, a feature missing from many all-inclusives.
A step beneath the cheapest all-inclusives, even the rum at this resort is the generic, "Classic" brand -- a shocker since the national brand, Brugal, is offered pretty much everywhere. Fortunately there is plenty of Presidente beer flowing at the four on-site bars. At one point, a bartender pulled out a special bottle of mama juana from below the bar to offer guests a shot.
Bartenders are known for their "Cocktail"-esque moves behind the counter, delighting guests just at much as the drinks they serve.
Located in the safe mini-tourist city of Playa Dorada, this family-friendly resort has an excellent buffet, some of the newest, cleanest rooms in the D.R. (all were renovated in 2008), and one of the best beaches on the north coast. It’s an incredible bargain, if you ignore the cheap booze, the lingering service kinks, and a pool that's less awe-inspiring than others.