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Playa Esmeralda Beach Resort 3.5

Juan Dolio, San Pedro de Macoris Province, Dominican Republic

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Review Summary

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  • Five-minute drive to dining, beaches, and other resorts in the popular Juan Dolio area
  • Small, clean pool immediately adjacent to beach, bar, and rooms
  • Beautiful, clean, white sand beach with good snorkeling conditions
  • Beachfront Al Mare restaurant and bar is steps from the Caribbean Sea
  • Free full breakfast with special order items available on request
  • All rooms feature a mini-fridge, flat-screen TV, and air-conditioning
  • Sea View rooms offer private balconies with lovely pool and sea views
  • Free self-parking in a secure, staffed lot
  • Free bottled water


  • Rooms are small and basic with dated furniture
  • Maintenance issues in some bathrooms
  • Limited all-inclusive menu receives mixed reviews
  • Wi-Fi available only in lobby

Bottom Line

On well-trafficked Route 3, the small, three-and-a-half-pearl Playa Esmeralda Beach Resort also sits on a lovely, white sand beach with sweeping views of the Caribbean Sea. Along with a clean, ample pool, meticulously cared-for grounds, and two on-site restaurants with all-inclusive packages, the hotel ticks many of the essential boxes for a waterfront hotel getaway. While the 42 rooms are small and dated, they all offer free, must-have amenities like air-conditioning, mini-fridges, bottled water, and optional ocean view balconies. For those looking for a more full-featured resort, check rates at the nearby Coral Costa Caribe Hotel.

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Intimate, beachfront hotel with resort-like amenities

The Playa Esmeralda Beach Resort offers many of the same amenities and features of other larger area resorts, but on a much smaller scale. With just 42 rooms, two restaurants, one pool, and a small, private beach, it's much more intimate than a typical resort, too. The minimalist decor in many of the common areas is only a step above basic, but the upscale, waterfront Al Mare restaurant and stunning beach may be more than enough for most guests. The simple lobby has white walls and tile floors. Mismatched wooden chairs topped with palm tree patterned cushions in front of a green area rug and brown wicker coffee table. A painting of an apple placed next to a jar seems out of place with the otherwise tropical theme and look of the hotel. While the hotel is certainly kid-friendly, the vibe is more relaxed and low key than the area’s other notoriously rowdy resorts. Guests are far more likely to find honeymooning couples than vacationing families.


On a beautiful white sand beach in the popular Juan Dolio resort district

Playa Esmeralda Beach Resort is located immediately off Route 3 in the popular Juan Dolio resort district, approximately one hour east of downtown Santo Domingo. While the road is heavily-trafficked, the hotel is set back enough to minimize road noise and provide a serene resort atmosphere. There are numerous restaurants, bars, and other resorts less than a 15-minute walk from the property. However, the connecting roads are better traversed by car than on foot.

Santo Domingo’s Las Américas International Airport is 38 minutes away by car and, like many hotels in the area, Playa Esmeralda does not offer a dedicated airport shuttle. Larger groups may find cost effective transportation via private shuttle transfer to and from the airport as rates are typically determined on a per vehicle basis. Alternatively, taxi service is readily available between the hotel and airport, however, rates are often high and should always be negotiated in advance.


Small, basic rooms with mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs, and air-conditioning

Room decor at Playa Esmeralda is stripped down to the point of almost being non-existent. Cheap, flat-box furniture and a monochromatic color palette are surrounded by bare white walls devoid almost entirely of artwork or ornamentation. While the rooms are largely clean, the result is a cold, uninviting atmosphere, though each does have ceiling fans, air-conditioning, and a mini-fridge. It’s worth noting that the minibar advertised on the hotel’s website is actually a liquor- and snack-free mini-fridge, though it is stocked daily with bottled water. Wi-Fi isn't available in rooms, though there's a free connection to the Internet available in the lobby.

Rooms are divided into one of two categories -- Standard and Sea View. All rooms offer either a single king or two full beds and are similar in size, layout, and amenities. Standard Rooms offer limited views of either the hotel’s well-manicured garden or a nondescript hallway. Sea View Rooms make excellent use of the hotel’s beachfront location with a private water view balcony or patio. Though the property is located along a busy road, rooms are still quiet, especially at night.

Bathrooms are average-size for a hotel of this category and slightly more modern than the rooms themselves. The design aesthetic is simple, with dated fixtures and materials that look in need of an update. During our stay, we noted fixtures nearly falling off the walls and substantial salt corrosion on many of the metal surfaces. All bathrooms offer bidets, basic hairdryers, stand-up shower stalls, and generic soaps and shower products.


Pristine white sand beach, a waterfront restaurant and bar, and all-inclusive meal packages

The resort is serviced by two restaurants and bars -- a basic, all-inclusive restaurant in the middle of the property and a second beachfront restaurant, The Al Mare. The former is a spacious, clean, and relatively modern space designed in a muted beige-on-brown color palette. Free hot breakfast is served here daily, with special food items (omelets, pancakes, and other hot items) available upon request. Unfortunately, the lunch and dinner menus are uninspiring with low to average food quality. The Al Mare beachfront restaurant offers an a la carte menu (not included in the resort’s all-inclusive package) in open-air and al fresco dining spaces that are both just steps from the water. A bar in each restaurant also offers a full drink menu of beer, wine, and liquor.

The pristine, white sand beach at the back of the property provides lovely views of the Caribbean Sea. Rows of lounge chairs are set back from the water -- some in a shaded area -- providing a sense of seclusion and intimacy, even though the sand is technically public property. While the beaches of Juan Dolio have a reputation for relentless hawkers, the beach at Playa Esmeralda are known for being quiet and relaxing. A reef just offshore provides good snorkeling opportunities but the hotel doesn't provide snorkel gear.

The kidney-shaped pool is clean and ample, with a line of white plastic lounge chairs behind it. A row of palm trees along the pool’s eastern edge provides sufficient shade in the morning for guests looking to escape the direct sun. The pool’s central location adjacent to the Al Mare restaurant and bar is also ideal for guests looking to grab a poolside cocktail.

Free self-parking is available in a secure, on-site lot staffed with a security guard. Wi-Fi is also free but limited only to the lobby.

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