Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Sprawling, all-inclusive resort with a lively, party-like scene
The massive, Grand Paradise Samana offers all the accoutrements of a resort in a lively, sometimes raucous, atmosphere. The beach and nearby bars combine to create a loud, frenetic environment. Loudspeakers along the sand blast soca and party music and activity directors often walk the main pool area, boisterously encouraging guests to sing and dance. Family travelers should note that the resort’s vibe leans more toward spring break than relaxing holiday, especially on nights and weekends.
The decor is typical of many cookie-cutter Caribbean/Mexican resorts with each building painted a separate, island-inspired pastel color. Unfortunately, there are no noteworthy architectural or design flourishes to speak of, which creates a bland, uninspired atmosphere indoors. The grounds are much more appealing with palm trees, tropical flowers, and tended hedges.
On a large, private beach five minutes from the center of Las Galeras
Grand Paradise Samana is located minutes off the Route 5 highway near the center of Las Galeras. While the road is moderately-trafficked, the hotel is set back to minimize traffic noise and provide a more secluded atmosphere. Popular Playa Grande Beach, along with numerous restaurants, bars, and other resorts are all roughly five minutes from the hotel by car.
For guests renting a car, the hotel is a 90-minute drive from El Catey International Airport in Samana. Alternatively, the resort offers a private (though expensive) shuttle service to and from the airport. With larger groups, this can prove to be a more affordable option as rates are frequently determined on a per-vehicle basis. Private taxi service is readily available between the airport and hotel, but rates run high.
From Santo Domingo’s Las Americas International Airport, the only affordable transportation option to Las Galeras is via rental car. The drive to Grand Paradise Samana requires more than three hour's drive via a clean, modern tourist highway with numerous gas and service stations along the way. However, it’s worth noting that tolls will cost more than 50 U.S. dollars roundtrip and must be paid in pesos.
Clean, dated rooms with mini-fridges, air-conditioning, and private terraces
Rooms at the Grand Paradise Samana are divided into three categories: Superior, Deluxe, and Bungalow. Decor in the first two entry-level categories is dated with polished white tile floors and copious brown furniture throughout. Save for the occasional shell artwork or pastel throw and pillows on the bed, however, there’s little to remind you that you’re staying in a beachfront hotel. It collectively feels too basic -- just one step removed from a typical, chain hotel for business travelers.
Superior and Deluxe Rooms are virtually identical, except that the latter offers a slightly updated decor and more modern furniture. Both entry level categories are similar in size and layout and are furnished with either two double beds or a single king.
Bungalow units are larger, two-story, family-friendly suites with dedicated living and sleeping areas. The primary sleeping space offers a single queen bed while a small, basic, upstairs mezzanine holds two twin beds. Unlike the entry-level rooms, Bungalow decor is decidedly more beach-centric with exposed-beam, cottage-style architecture, and Caribbean-inspired wicker and rattan furniture.
All bathrooms are average-size for a hotel of this category, with standard, up-to-date fixtures. The design aesthetic is equally basic to what's found in the rooms, with a simple, monochromatic white-on-beige color scheme. All provide hairdryers, shower/tub combinations, and generic soaps and shower products.
The list of amenities in all rooms includes a mini-fridge, air-conditioning, TV, and private terrace or balcony (with optional ocean views). The minibar advertised on the hotel’s website is actually a liquor- and snack-free mini-fridge, stocked daily with bottled water and soft drinks.
Free Wi-Fi is only available in the lobby. For an additional fee, guests can receive service in their rooms, however, the fee is charged at a per-day rate for each connected device, and it gets expensive quickly. Guests are also charged for access to the in-room safe.
Large beach with warm, calm waters and rows of palm trees
The large, white sand beach at the back of the property provides lovely views of the Caribbean Sea. Long rows of lounge chairs are set back from the water amid tall palm trees that provide on-and-off shade throughout the day. The beach itself is not particularly deep, measuring only 20 feet or so from the grass to the water in some spots. The water is clear, calm, and warm throughout much of the year, providing excellent swimming opportunities. The resort provides free equipment for a number of water based activities, like snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, catamaran rides, and a basic, half-hour SCUBA lesson for each guest. Do note, Dominican Republic beaches have a notorious reputation for relentless hawkers, and the Grand Paradise has its share.
Multiple al fresco restaurants and bars with a wide variety of cuisine
The resort is serviced by a total of three open-air restaurants -- two a la carte and one buffet-style, which is included in the hotel’s all-inclusive packages.
The Sea Scape and Michelangelo restaurants offer a la carte seafood and Italian cuisine respectively in virtually identical settings. A vaulted, thatched roof covers both large, open-air spaces furnished with clean, if dated, rattan and wicker tables and chairs. Linen tablecloths and formal place settings lend a hint of sophistication, however, the atmosphere never quite rises to luxurious. Main menu entrees in both restaurants are included in the resort’s all-inclusive package, however speciality dishes garner an additional charge. Unfortunately, reservations are required for both a la carte restaurants and if guests don’t confirm their dinner plans before breakfast each day, they may be out of luck, particularly on weekends.
The Aserradero restaurant offers included, buffet-style dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a clean and more casual space with a slight Caribbean-inspired decor. Exact menu options change daily, but typically include a wide variety of both American dishes like burgers, pasta, and grilled vegetables and Caribbean cuisine of rice and beans, barbecue, and local seafood.
A small, additional food shack called The Beach Grill is open for lunch daily. It serves barbecue plates, sandwiches, and other basic options. The resort's food is widely reviewed as high quality, with a diverse selection. A bar in each restaurant offers a decent drink menu of domestic beer, wine, and liquor included in the all-inclusive rates. Tipping is also included. Tea time is served in the afternoon, and there's a midnight snack, too.
Three clean, manicured pools with seating
The three outdoor pools are clean, yet feel on the small side, particularly for a massive, 420-room hotel. Ample seating is provided around all three though there aren't any umbrellas available for shade. A ring of palm trees around the two main pools (appropriately named Pool #1 and Pool #2) does provide on-and-off shade throughout the day for guests looking to escape the harsh Dominican sun. Both pools’ central location adjacent to the El Burén Bar is ideal for guests looking to grab a poolside cocktail.
A third pool has a lovely waterfall feature and an elevated dining and relaxation area. As this pool is not as centrally located as the other two, it tends to be quieter and less frequently used. An adjacent full-service bar provides a cocktail menu of domestic beer, wine, and liquor.
Free lobby Wi-Fi, bikes, and parking
Unfortunately, the resort lacks some additional features that most guests would expect from a full-service property of this size. Most notably, there is no fitness center or dedicated spa. Spotty Wi-Fi is available in the lobby for free, and there's a secure parking lot for guests' cars. Entertainment is provided in the resort's theater, and there's a kids' club free of charge. Bikes and kayaks are free to borrow.
The mid-range Grand Paradise Samana is an all-inclusive, beachfront hotel with three outdoor pools, multiple on-site restaurants and bars, evening entertainment, and fun extras like bikes and kayaks to borrow. Its 420 guest rooms are definitely dated with tube-style TV and ugly striped bedspreads. Some rooms have kitchenettes and beautiful ocean views from private balconies. It's a five-minute drive to the resort area of Las Galeras and a slew of restaurants. Wi-Fi is pricey and there's an extra charge for use of the in-room safe, though tips, buffet meals, alcohol, and access to the kids' club are included with the all-inclusive rate. This is a family-friendly resort with a raucous and party vibe. For a more luxurious beach resort, check out the nearby Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo.
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