Two restaurants require an up-charge and reservations
Additional fee for use of in-room safe
Can be loud and raucous, particularly on nights and weekends (a pro for some)
With two infinity pools, access to a large beach, a modern spa, round-the-clock dining, and an on-site casino, Be Live Experience Hamaca Garden offers all-inclusive value and a spring break vibe. Technically, this is part of a three-resort complex, with shared amenities. The 355-room property appears to be in a perpetual state of renovation, rooms can be hit or miss, though each comes with a free minibar and private balcony. There's a definite party atmosphere happening at the pools and on the beautiful beach across the street. Many guests tout the dirt cheap, all-inclusive pricing as its biggest selling point, especially considering the low quality of food on offer at five restaurants. For an alternative beachfront resort, check rates at the nearby Coral Costa Caribe Hotel.
As part of a large, three-resort complex, the Be Live Experience Hamaca Garden offers 355 rooms and all the expected amenities of a beachfront resort in a boisterous, sometimes raucous, atmosphere. As with many Boca Chica area hotels, the scene can feel a bit schizophrenic as it changes dramatically based on the day of the week. During the weekends, locals and college-age American singles descend on the resort for a bargain-priced, all-you-can-drink vacation. Weekdays, the vibe slows down considerably but is never quite quiet or serene. Family travelers should note that the resort’s vibe almost always leans more toward spring break than relaxing holiday. However, of the complex’s three hotels, the atmosphere at Hamaca Garden is typically the quietest and most family-friendly.
The entire complex is in a state of ongoing renovation. It’s clear the property is desperately trying to provide the illusion of luxury, however, it’s failing on many fronts. Much of the property -- from the common areas to the rooms -- is designed in a stark, white, minimalist design that’s attempting to inspire a sense of crisp, cool luxury. Outside, the tropical vibe is on point. Palm trees, water fountains, and flowering bushes look lush. However, years of regular wear and tear have left much of the interior and exterior faded, cracked, and in obvious disrepair.
Along a heavily-trafficked tourist road in the notorious Boca Chica resort area
Be Live Experience Hamaca Garden is located along a heavily trafficked road in the famous Boca Chica resort district, 70 minutes east of downtown Santo Domingo. The property is staffed with security guards which provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere inside. However, the resort complex is bisected by a public road that runs through what is largely considered the Dominican Republic’s most notorious sex tourism area. Past guests have frequently complained of harassment by local touts, hawkers, and unlicensed tour guides who cruise the complex on motorbikes at all hours. On the plus side, there are numerous restaurants, bars, and other resort facilities within a 10-minute walk.
Santo Domingo’s Las Americas International Airport is 20 minutes away by car and, like many similar area hotels, Be Live Experience Hamaca Garden does not provide guests with a dedicated airport shuttle. Taxi service is typically the most affordable transportation option and cabs are readily available at the airport.
Generic rooms with minibars, flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, and private terraces
Rooms are divided into two similar categories -- Standard Garden View and Standard Pool View. As of 2016, the hotel is still in the process of renovating all rooms. The older room style is awash in a monochromatic brown-on-white color scheme that looks bland and uninspiring. The flooring consists of simple, brown tile while the furniture is done in varying shades of brown wood without a cohesive design. Save for the towel animals on the bed and copious flower petals strewn about, there's nothing to immediately indicate that guests are in the Caribbean.
Revamped rooms also feature a monochromatic color scheme, but with a fresh, bold blue-on-white palette. While the intent is to appear hip and modern, the end result is stark, crisp, and cold. The ubiquitous white furniture is Ikea-inspired, flat-box quality.
As the Hamaca Garden is located away from the ocean, none of its rooms offer ocean views (for that, guests should check out the Be Live Collection Hamaca across the street). Garden View and Pool View rooms are virtually identical, except that the latter offers a view of the hotel pool. Both categories are similar in size and layout and offer either two double beds or a single king.
The bathrooms in both non-renovated and renovated rooms are best described as serviceable -- with generic, mostly functional fixtures. From our own experience, along with those of past guests, there are leaky faucets, lights that stay either on or off all the time, broken door handles, and extremely low water pressure. The design aesthetic is just as basic as the sleeping quarters, with a simple, uninspiring, monochromatic color scheme -- either brown-on-white or blue-on-white. All bathrooms offer a hairdryer, a shower/tub combination, and generic soaps and shower products. Tap water, as is the case throughout the Dominican Republic, is non-potable.
The list of amenities in all rooms includes mainly the essentials expected in a three-pearl resort -- air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, and ceiling fans. One additional nicety is the in-room minibar which is stocked daily with free bottled water, soft drinks, and beer. All rooms offer a private terrace or balcony with two wicker and rattan chairs and a table large enough for two people to dine.
Unfortunately, there is no free Wi-Fi available anywhere on the property. Guests can buy in-room Internet service, however, the pricey daily rate gets expensive quickly. Somewhat surprisingly, the resort also charges an additional fee for use of its in-room safes -- an all-but-necessary security feature given the surrounding area.
While the Be Live Experience Hamaca Garden offers no beach of its own, guests are welcome to use the private beach across the street at the Be Live Collection Hamaca. The large, clean beach at the back of this adjacent sister property provides great views of the Caribbean Sea. While much of the view is picture-perfect, the resort does overlook a nearby cargo port and large piles of shipping containers to the west.
On the plus side, an ample selection of lounge chairs is set back from the water amid rows of thatched umbrellas that provide sufficient shade. Seating is rarely an issue, however, some areas of the beach feel a bit claustrophobic as might be expected of a 670-room resort complex that shares one beach.
Fortunately, the water is clear and warm throughout much of the year. A coral reef just offshore acts as a breakwater, ensuring the water is also consistently calm, giving excellent swimming conditions, even for small children. The resort provides equipment for a number of water-centric activities, including snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, and sailing. Additional options like Jet skis and full diving trips are available for an additional fee.
Dominican Republic beaches have a notorious reputation for relentless hawkers. However, the private beach at Be Live Collection Hamaca is fenced off from an adjacent public beach which curbs this issue entirely.
Five restaurants and a 24-hour snack bar provide diverse, round-the-clock dining options
Be Live Experience Hamaca Garden is serviced by a total of five full restaurants -- four a la carte restaurants, one buffet, and a snack bar to boot. The overall menu options are diverse, however, the food quality is subpar.
The buffet provides the primary dining space, as it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The large, open-air space lacks any discernible style and feels much like any generic American cafeteria. Breakfast includes a wide variety of typical hot and cold options, including eggs, sausage, French toast, pancakes, cereal, fruit, juices, pastries, and coffee. Themed lunch and dinner options change daily, but typically include both American (burgers, pasta, and grilled vegetables) and Caribbean cuisine (rice and beans, barbecue, and local seafood). The buffet food, in particular, receives the most mixed reviews, with some guests describing it as “hot slop” and others dubbing it “amazing.”
Dining at the resort’s three main a la carte restaurants is included in its all-inclusive package. The Orale restaurant serves Mexican cuisine in a medium-size space near the hotel’s pool room and bar. The single, sparsely decorated room is bedecked in basic wood and wicker tables and chairs that provide a vague hint of Mexican decor. Likewise, the La Piazza restaurant serves straightforward Italian cuisine (mostly pasta favorites) in a large, open-air space that feels as though it was decorated for a generic, Italian-theme wedding. The third a la carte option, Dominican Gourmet, serves traditional Dominican cuisine that consists primarily of local seafood. Like the newly designed guest rooms, the black-on-white, monochromatic dining room is clearly attempting to be hip and modern but instead feels cold and stark.
Two of the resort’s a la carte restaurants garner an additional upcharge. The first, Rodizio, provides authentic, meat-based Brazilian entrees in an open-air space with Brazilian flags and the country’s colors (blue, yellow, and green) covering every conceivable surface. The second, Pelicano, is the finest and most intimate of the resort’s restaurants and arguably the nicest space on the entire complex. The large, open-air space is tastefully decorated with modern furniture under a series of thatched huts built directly over the water. The upscale atmosphere and decor is reminiscent of similar overwater restaurants in Fiji. The menu is contemporary and largely Dominican-inspired with mostly meat and seafood entrees.
A small, additional snack shack simply dubbed the Snack Bar, is open 24 hours daily for pizza, sandwiches, burgers, and other simple options. Cocktails and booze are included with the all-inclusive package. Some of the restaurants require a reservation 24-hours in advance, and have a dress code.
Three lovely, well-maintained pools, a hot tub, and a swim-up bar
Given the mixed reviews on almost every aspect of the hotel, the three pools are surprisingly clean and well-maintained. Ample seating is provided around the large, main pool, however, the infinity pool and swimming pool (both at the adjacent Be Live Collection Hamaca) provided woefully inadequate loungers given the size of the hotel complex. Families traveling with small children should note that umbrellas and palm trees around all three pools are relatively sparse and provide little shade throughout the day.
The main pool is serviced by a swim-up pool bar, with a complete menu of beer, wine, and cocktails. The remaining two pools are likewise immediately adjacent to a busy, full-service bar that services both pools and most of the beachfront.
Small, outdated gym, insecure parking, and expensive Wi-Fi
While Be Live Experience Hamaca Garden offers additional features and amenities, many are not up-to-date. The on-site gym is quite small, especially for an amenity that’s shared amongst 670 rooms. The selection of LifeFitness equipment is outdated, limited, and in desperate need of repair. On the plus side, the space is awash in natural light during the day and provides excellent views of the beach and the Caribbean Sea. Bay Spa offers a respite from the otherwise party scene at the resort, with a hydrotherapy circuit, massages, steam and sauna rooms, and a hot tub. Salon services are also available.
Valet parking is free and technically secure courtesy of the on-site guards, however, we found the security lax to the point of being non-existent.
For such a large, all-inclusive resort, it’s surprising that there's no free Wi-Fi available anywhere on the property. A small business center provides a handful of modern workstations with sky-high Internet access fees.
Although many past guests criticize the casino for its small size and even smaller payouts, it does provide clean, on-site gaming with slot machines and table games.
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