Staying at the Mambo had been an easy choice, based on the staggering number of positive reviews on Trip Advisor. Within 24 hours of our one-week vacation, I had to ask - are you people all drunk? Maybe the reviews are written by hotel employees? I am shocked at the misrepresentation by Sunwing/Signature vacations - this hotel is a 3-star, at best (although I've stayed in better 3-stars) We have traveled extensively in the Caribbean and abroad, and this is the worst resort I have ever encountered. My digestive system is only just recovering. Thank goodness I have positive experiences in Punta Cana to compare it to!
The reception at the Mambo was small and lackluster (truly the 'ugly sister' of the Merengue and Bachata!) but check-in was completed with professional efficiency. I particularly appreciated the safe key being included at no extra charge.
The buffet was open late - which was fabulous for our late check in - until we realized "open late" meant the salmon was chewy and tasteless, the fresh veggies were already turning wilted and brown, half the buffet stations were empty or closed, and there was no fruit. At first we weren't overly deterred - it was 9pm! We resolved to give it another try.
Breakfast at the Mambo buffet was revolting. We ate there the first morning, and then never again (opting instead to make the trek to either Bachata's or Merengue's breakfast buffet). Again, there was no fresh fruit (unless you count the strange sugary 'fruit salad') which I don't understand - it literally grows on trees!! The eggs were cold by the time they reached my plate, the hot veggies were all pureed and unrecognizable, and the ham tasted as though it were from a can. Initially excited about my papaya smoothie from the fresh smoothie station, I quickly found out the milk had already soured and it was undrinkable (unless I wanted to spoon out the curdles perhaps?) My partner had the unfortunate circumstance of already spoiled milk in his coffee.
Not to be deterred - we decided to book the a la carte for that night, to set our trip off to a good start! How silly we were being, apparently. The 'steakhouse' is nothing more than a fast-fry station serving undrinkable wine (tasted as though it were half water?). We both ordered the rib-eye steak, which arrived on a bed of french fries ('Aromatic Potatoes' they were called on the menu) and veggies that had been steamed so much as to be nearly mush. The steaks were so tough, and fried on the same surface as the hot dogs and hamburgers earlier in the day. My partner joked that it was "the closest thing to Beef Jerky we were going to find in the Dominican". Funny, yes, but edible? No. We walked out of the restaurant without finishing, and instead had a few buns from the buffet.
Our Sunwing Rep, Jeremiah, was fairly useless. Although our meeting was at 9am, he shooed us away and claimed the English briefing was in an hour, despite being told otherwise the night before. It was difficult to get a meeting with him, as he was only at the resort at a specific time in the afternoon and the volume of people that wanted to meet with him meant we waited for nearly an hour in the smoky, crowded little lobby. He acted mostly as a salesman, and didn't have pertinent information about our departure from the Dominican.
Another thing: the smoking. We couldn't go inside any of the buildings on our resort without feeling as though we were being fumigated. The buffet, theatre, bar areas, pool and lobby were all havens for smokers. It was extremely unpleasant, though we did notice the smoking was just as bad at the Merengue, but quite lessened at the Bachata (different demographic perhaps?) I wish we had been informed of this before our vacation.
The rooms were acceptable, functional, and somewhat clean. Ours smelled like mold, and the linens weren't changed during our stay. The shower had ample hot water, but was uncomfortable to use because of poor maintenance and a grimy old shower curtain (we did wonder whether the splotches were dried blood?). There were always a half dozen mosquitos in our room upon returning at the end of the day, we think they must come in with the maid. Beds were very hard, but we were too tired to care. Despite advertising a king bed, it was really two doubles pushed together that slid apart whenever we moved. Bright side: the air conditioning worked well, and was very quiet.
The staff on our resort clearly did not enjoy their jobs - it was difficult to get a drink, much less a smile. In years of travel I have never seen such a downtrodden group of individuals. There were exceptions, of course, but the overall feeling was that working at the Mambo is a chore for them, and they clearly despised most of the guests. The atmosphere was quite improved at the Merengue and Bachata - though the other resorts were clearly not 5-star material, they were certainly a few steps up from the Mambo.
After the first day, we were so frustrated with the quality (or lack thereof) that we exclusively ate at the Merengue and Bachata (you aren't allowed to use the dinner buffet at these two restaurants, but we snuck in anyway) and spent time at their bars and facilities.
The beach doesn't hold a candle to beaches in Punta Cana. The sand was coarse and rocky, and the swimming was crowded because only a small section of water was free of rocks, coral and seaweed. The beach did have quite a lot of shade because of all the palm trees, which was nice, however along the three resorts there was only one beach bar, which served nothing but beer and soft drinks. Bring snorkel gear, the underwater views are fantastic, however don't expect to actually 'swim'. The ocean dirty, and there was frequently garbage floating past us as we swam.
We went on two excursions - Puerto Plata City Tour with Cable Car, and the Paradise Island excursion. P.O.P. tour was nothing more than a shopping trip, with the bus stopping at multiple local vendors. It was fine, but not what we wanted from the trip.
The Paradise Island excursion was worth every penny. The hour and a half bus ride was made quick and entertaining with our guide Alberto, who talked about the history, culture and economics of the area (switching back and forth from English, Spanish and German). When we arrived in Punta Rusia (the kick-off spot for the island excursion) we found their mini-resort to be clean, well appointed, with very friendly and helpful staff. The boat ride to the island was choppy and exciting, and the island itself was gorgeous. The snorkelling was spectacular, and the excursion staff take very good care of you on the island (with fresh fruit, sandwiches, drinks). The boat ride back included a trip through Montecristi National park, which was beautiful and informative. Once on shore, the staff prepared a barbeque which, though simple, was the best food we ate all week. The return bus ride included a stop at a local cigar factory, which also sold jewelry, sculptures and paintings.
This resort has a great location, but is sadly lacking in everything else. Bring bug spray, you will get eaten. Bring Immodium or Pepto Bismol, we used both (repeatedly, often) and still had the runs. Better still - Do not go to this resort. Go to Punta Cana. Go to another island, but stay away from the Riu Mambo. I will never stay at a Riu resort again - this was supposed to be a 4.5 star resort, and was so grossly misrepresented.
Do not stay here! Stay somewhere else!
See more room tips
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC