Occidental Caribbean Village Playa DoradaPuerto Plata, Dominican Republic
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Dark rooms, no direct beach access, and an aggressive time-share sales team
According to a Lifestyle Hacienda employee, the time-share chain was in the process of taking over a percentage of the Puerto Plata Village in 2010. Their $6 million U.S. investment was going towards building members-only villas with full kitchens, big-screen TVs, and Jacuzzis. But he had less flattering things to say about the hotel, and there really is no arguing with his comments. The rooms are dark and dirty and the property doesn't have direct access to the beach. To make matters more uncomfortable, the SWAT force of Lifestyle Hacienda employees wearing white VIP polo shirts can be insistent on selling their luxury villas next door. For the price of the resort, you can do better.
A short walk off of the beach, inside the safe, gated Playa Dorada resort complex
Playa Dorada is a gated complex of 15 hotels, a golf course, a convention center, two casinos, and a shopping mall just east of downtown Puerto Plata. The neatly manicured minicity has horse-drawn carriages that promenade up and down main street at all hours. It's extremely safe and walkable, even at night -- it sort of feels like a gated golf community in the United States. The hotels in the complex range from Casa Colonial, a luxury five-star hotel (one of the nicest resorts in the D.R.), to a plethora of budget all-inclusives and time-shares geared toward families and young partiers; these include the Viva Wyndham, Grand Paradise, 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. It features 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.
Playa Dorada is located about 15 minutes west of the Puerto Plata International Airport.
Calm and shallow (and often crowded), the large beach is paradise for snorkelers. It's also easy to participate in a variety of water sports.
The beach is large and there's a sandy walk out into the water. Sharing the space with 14 other resorts on the Playa Dorada complex, the beach can get a bit crowded. On the north coast, waves are harsher and the water is far less clear than it is on the south coast of the Dominican Republic, near Punta Cana. But comparatively, in Playa Dorada, the shallow water is fairly calm (it's protected by a reef). It's very popular with snorkelers.
The Sea Pro Divers gazebo, stationed near the pool, arranges banana-boating, Jet-Skiing, parasailing, water-skiing, and water-tubing excursions.
- Old floral bedspreads and chipped furnishings; The balcony door in my room was badly scuffed and did not open (requests for assistance went unanswered).
- Poor lighting; just one working lamp in the entire room
- Old, low-quality electronics -- 21-inch RCA tube TV, no radio or even a clock
- Generally comfortable beds, fresh-smelling sheets and soft mattresses
- Empty minifridge (no beer, soda, and water, as found at other all-inclusive resorts)
- Excellent water pressure in the shower; In lieu of bath soap, shampoo, and conditioner, the shower only comes with a soap dispenser mounted to the wall.
- Large outdoor pool; small childrens' pool beside it
- Games at the Guananico Bar, including billiards and foosball
- No gym on-site, but tennis courts are available; two can be lit up at night for a fee.
- The Playa Dorada Golf Course surrounds the hotel; greens fees cost extra
- Massive conference room (with a 500-person capacity)
The Guananico Bar hosts the evening entertainment, which generally consists of a red-shirt-clad entertainment staff sweating and smiling through a rendition of "YMCA" before starting an elaborate series of choreographed merengue dances. Each night also hosts a more interactive competition, such as the game "Whiskey" in which guests switch dance partners every few seconds. When the music stops, the person without a partner gets kicked out.
Most guests seem satisfied with lunch and dinner, but breakfast -- with a small selection of hard bread and overripe fruit -- is a problem.
- The Altamira buffet serves typical all-inclusive buffet fare: vegetables, chicken, meat, rice, and potatoes. The cuisine is not as good as it is at other low-price resorts, such as the Riu Mambo's, but is certainly better than the horrid spread at the Celuisma Tropical Playa Dorada next door.
- La Pinata serves decent pizza through the afternoon.
- Rigoletto Restaurante serves average à la carte Italian (it's not great, but better than the buffet).
- Criollo serves à la carte Caribbean fare.
For a simple, low-key wedding, you can do worse -- disco, private receptions, no steep extra fees -- but it's not a first-pick resort.
- Wedding Size: Up to 500 people (up to three weddings held per day); must book at least three rooms at double occupancy (six people)
- Wedding Packages: The standard wedding package covers six people (there's an additional fee for each extra person) and it includes a wedding coordinator, a guitar trio for the ceremony, a bouquet and a boutonniere, some floral decorations, hors d'oeuvres, a bottle of sparkling wine, a decorated golf cart to carry the bride to the ceremony, a photo album 14 shots, a horse-and-carriage ride around the resort, and a wedding certificate. For guests staying at the resort, all of the food and drinks (national brands only) are included as part of the all-inclusive package, but the Italian restaurant is limited to 20 people.
- Reception Locations: The convention room (fits 500 people), the Rigoletto (90 people max), or the Criollo (60 people max)
- Food: No special menus (just what the hotel offers to all its guests); only salad for vegetarians
- Drinks: National brands only, all included as part of the all-inclusive package for resort guests
- Photographers: No in-house photographer and no fee for bringing in an outside photographer; the resort often works with Foto Memories, an independent company that has packages that start at reasonable prices.
- Music: A guitar trio is included in the standard wedding package, but the trio only plays for the ceremony (about 20 to 30 minutes). For the reception, guests can rent out the disco for a cost per hour or hire an outside band (for an extra cost).
- Spa Treatments: No full-scale spa on-site, but the hotel does have access to a beauty parlor for hair, nails, and makeup
- Freebies: One free night for the bride and groom if 30 members of the wedding party book a room
- Honeymoon Suite: One special honeymoon suite; three nights required for booking
- Airport Transportation: No transportation provided by the resort; a taxi from Puerto Plata International Airport takes about 15 minutes
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AddressPlaya Dorada, PO Box 653, Puerto Plata, Puerto Plata Province 57000, Caribbean
Also Known As
- Puerto Plata Village
- Puerto Plata Village Caribbean
- Puerto Plata Village Hotel
- Puerto Plata Village Resort
- Puerto Plata Village Resort and Spa
- Sun Village Resort & Spa
- Family Suite
- Master Suite
- Standard Room
- Superior Room