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Reviewed 19 May 2004

hi i went to gran ventana last year in march, the place was excellent. everybody is so friendly the entertainment staff were good, the food was of a very good standard. the poolside entertainment was very good the entertainment team were very funny and got everyone envolved. the drinks are great, pool very clean, we are going again in march 2005

3  Thank Inspire35093
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 May 2004

Gran Ventana Beach Resort Review (Puerto Plata)

First of all I should say "Thank you very much" to all travellers that sent their reviews. They were very helpful and useful. Try to read them back until January 2004 and you will see the whole picture of what you should expect at the resort and how to be prepared. I used some quotes from their reviews in my review as I can't say better. I created some kind of review structure to put the information in order. This structure can be used by future travelers.

Tour Operator - Signature Vacations
Airline - Skyservice
Airport, departure - Pearson, Toronto, Canada(YYZ)
Airport, destination - Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (POP)
Flight departure - in time
Flight arrival - a few minutes early
Flight conditions - very smooth
Flight services - good
Aircraft type - Boeing B757-300, 280 economy class seats
Aircraft conditions - There is not a lot of legroom and bodyroom, only 4 washrooms, i.e. 1 washroom for 70 passengers
Receiving bags at airport - fairly quickly
Taking bags to the bus - to the bus by myself, but was ordered to use loader to put bag into the bus luggage compartment
Paying for service - Was ordered by a loader to pay a tip. Had to pay $1.

At bus from airport - The tour guide on our bus gave us a review of the weather, the poverty of the country, the dollar value of the Pecos and anything that we should know about our check in

Line up speed - Very quickly because they had 3-4 register clerks at that time.
Entering the room - We were asked to wait for a porter who showed us our room and delivered the luggage. We waited for him for only 5 minutes.
Paying for service - We paid $2 to a porter voluntarily.
Checking the room - We checked the room (it was the room facing the pool) and found water on the washroom floor. I left my wife there and went to the lobby to ask for another room, preferably opposite to the pool.
Negotiation - I asked the clerk to give me another room. He gave me a key from another room and asked me to check the room by myself. I checked this room and found that air conditioner was not working. So I returned back and asked for another room again. This time I was followed by a manager who showed me a few rooms and I selected one of them with the view on a quiet green yard opposite to the pool. Manager was very friendly and explained that some rooms are not ready for us yet because we arrived earlier. I noticed later that all rooms I saw during negotiation were filled and all issues were fixed.
Safe key - Were told to come back in 30 minutes, got it without a problem. We paid $10US for it at the end of our vacation (the actual cost is $355RD or ~ $8US but we let them to keep the change - they desrved that)
Extra room key - Didn't ask for it as I found a piece of cupboard in the plug of our room that did the same job as extra room key. I saw manager
using his pen for the same purposes.
TV remote - Didn't ask for it as we found it in our room.
Bags delivery - Manager asked our porter to deliver our bags to our new room and he did it with pleasure (remember, we gave him a tip). Plus he arranged all corrections with the check-in clerk so we didn't need to go to lobby again.
Towel delivery - We didn't need to ask for more towels as everything was in place.
Staff - The service at the front desk was excellent.

Room Quality and Location
Number of buildings - 3 3-story buildings (4 floors at the side with ocean view)
Buildings' names - Saona (1), Catalina (2), Beata (3)
Saona - In front of the lobby looking at the beach, rooms 1100-1499, quiet, view of the ocean, ideal location, far enough from the entertainment, but close enough to the ocean
Catalina - To the right of the lobby, rooms 2100-2499, a slight view of the beach/ocean, one side is close to entertainment
Beata - On way back to the plaza, rooms 3100-3499, newest, U-shaped w/quiet pool, facing the road - noisy sometimes, too far away from the activities but close to the plaza, no view of the ocean
My building - Saona
Included in the room - Hairdryer, mini-bar
Air condition - worked well, was off sometimes during the day for economical reason which was OK as the room stayed cool enough anyway
TV - worked well, only few English channels - all others are Spanish. I preferred AXN channel with a lot of movies in the evening.
Facecloths - We were supplied with two per day which was enough as we had also two leg cloths and two bath towels that maids replaced during the day 2 times sometimes.
Toilet rolls - Had one full toilet roll plus one extra that was enough for us.
Cleaning staff - very friendly and kept the room very clean all week. We voluntarily left them $1 plus some candies every day to be sure the service is OK. And we got little flowers tucked in around the room and had our towels folded into swans. Once my wife forgot her night gown on the bed jammed and maid fold it up nicely into a flower. It was like an art. We've never seen anything like that before. If you want good service just show them your appreciation of their work.

Restaurants and Bars
Buffet near the lobby - Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
a la carte Restaurants - Sapore di Mare (Italian), Octopus (Caribbean), and the Ocean Grill (Fish and meats)
Sapore di Mare (Italian) - Near the Beata building. I liked Lasagna there.
Octopus (Caribbean) - On the 2nd floor above the buffet. The best dishes - chicken breast stuffed with shrimps and spinach with Roquefort cheese sauce.
Ocean Grill (Fish and meats) - Was convenient if you didn't want to put a shirt on over your swimsuit or if the swimming is wet (during the day it works like a buffet). In the evening they had great pizza, chicken, fries, chips and salsa, grilled chicken and steak, both delicious and fantastic
Restaurant reservations - One day ahead of time between 3:30 and 6:30, only one ticket for each restaurant once a week
Bars - by the quiet pool (Beata), beach and lobby and a swim up bar in the main pool
Bar by the quiet pool - the best bar for drinks
Beach bar - the beach bar located just off the side of the Ocean Grill restaurant was open from 10am to 3pm
Lobby bar - the lobby bar was open from 10 am to midnight
Swim up bar - if you want a "real" Banana Mama this is the place to go
Drinks quality - most of the drinks were good, especially rum and cokes, "Gran Ventana Special", "Pina Colada", 'Sex on the Beach", "Cuba
Libra", "Gazebo", "Samy Sosa", "Strawberry Daiquiri", "Cascada" and "Sammy Sosa". We didn't like the local wine, we ordered it just once. Imported wines cost about $10.00 to $15.00US a bottle. There is no problem with the water or the ice as the Resort has its own water purification system.
Rum drinks - They put more rum then mix (151 white rum, which is 75% alcohol), better use dark rum in rum and cokes but I didn't do that. "Pina coladas" have coconut milk (a natural laxative) in them. If you don’t like strong drinks let them know. We were warned ahead of time and had no problems
Drinks at night - I didn't try that.
Mugs - We took large insulated mugs for our drinks as were advised in previous reviews (drinks get warm pretty quick in the small plastic cups provided) but we didn't use them as we drank cups
fast enough to keep them cool.

General - Food was good, no complaints. We used the recommendation of our Signature rep to drink a lot of drinks with alcohol to be always hydrated enough and to kill germs by alcohol
Breakfast choice - Omelet, eggs, Belgian waffle, sausages, bacon, ham, potatoes, scrambled eggs, buns, bread, croissants, yogurt, fruits, etc
Lunch choice - Salad, chicken, rice, potatoes, hamburgers and dessert
Dinner choice - Chicken, beef, pork, ham, potatoes, rice, veggies, salad, and seafood, grills for pasta, veggies, fish, etc.
Snack (beach) bar menu - Pizza, french fries, hamburgers, hotdogs, chili, salad and tortilla chips and salsa.
Desert - Good, fruits, ice cream and goodies, pastries and cakes were not very sweet but still good. Chocolate.

Show - Every night at 9:30 on the stage near the main pool. Karaoke, Magic, Live Music, Dances etc.
Fun team - Good. They take part in different events during the day like pool volleyball, aerobics, dance teaching, games, etc.
Disco - Not available, but can go to the "Crazy Moon" disco located at the "Paradise" resort right by the plaza
Music bar - Not available, but can go to the bar 'Hemingway's" in the plaza
Casino - There is a casino at Jack Tar Village. Free booze all night long also and transportation to and from if you want it. Afterwards you can stay and gamble if you want at the casino. We didn't do that.

General - Yoga, Aerobics, Volleyball, Darts, Water polo, Swimming
Gym - At the 2nd floor of Catalina building, close to entertainment
Billiard, table tennis - At the 2nd floor of the lobby
Snorkeling - I took my equipment with me and snorkeled right off the beach, preferably when the sun is shining.
Scuba diving - Lessons in the main pool once a day

Overview Signature Tour Rep had a 30 minute information session on our first morning. We had a choice: 1) to book tours with Signature or 2) with other Tour Agencies at the plaza. Tours from other agencies were less expensive so we took 2 tours from "Mary Soul". I selected this agency mostly because of its rep from Germany - Dieter. He was very pretty. Plus we had free Internet. Originally we selected 3 tours but we had to cancel our last tour "Jeep Safari Outback" because of the rain only 1 hour before the tour and we received money back without any problem.
Tour names - Catamaran tour, City tour

Catamaran tour - 1) trip to Sosua by sea, 2) snorkeling, 3) lunch, 4) trip back
Catamaran - It was the largest in this area. The name was "Banana…". It was painted in blue and yellow colour.
1) trip to Sosua by sea - Sea was stormy - about 2-3 by scale so half of us became sick. Crew was friendly and did the best to support us in this trip. It lasted about 1.5 hours.
2) snorkeling - We stopped about 100m before the reef, received equipment and went snorkeling closer to the reef. It was amazing. Probably it is the best place to snorkel. The guy from the crew had scuba diving equipment and made pictures of travelers under the water. I didn't use this service for which I should have paid extra. I used my own one time underwater camera which I bought in Black's store in Toronto for $14.99CAD.
3) lunch - I didn't have a lunch on board because I got sick during the trip to Sosua. My wife tried something but told me that she was afraid to be sick as well. So I can't tell anything about lunch.
4) trip back - Trip back was easier mostly because the weather became better, waves were lower than in the morning, we used balloons and turned the engine off. All people that got sick paid some money to get to the Sosua beach and left the boat before we went back. Trip back was quiet and lasted only 1.2 hours.
Conclusion - This tour was good but it depends on good sea weather to be enjoyable. Plus it lacks visit to Sosua beach.
Payment for the tour - Paid $54 to "Mary Soul" rep for one person 3 days before the tour. The crew was waiting for tips after the tour. So take some $1US bills or pesos with you.

City tour - Air-conditioned taxi travel including: 1) a visit to a "Brugal rum" bottling plant, 2) a stop at a gift shop, 3 )the fort, 4) amber museum, 5) church
1) a visit to a bottling plant - We saw how bottles were filled with rum and packed. Then we visit plant rum store where prices were $3 and $4 US for 1 bottle of "Brugal dark rum" which is better then white rum.
2) a stop at a gift shop - the La Canoa gift shop, where they explained how amber and Larimar are produced, how to tell the difference between real amber and fake and what mamajuana is - natural viagra (we tried a small sample). We didn't buy anything in the store as we found prices too high.
3) the fort - was interesting, worth taking pictures
4) amber museum - we skipped this visit because we didn't have intention to buy anything there
5) church - Our driver Fabio told us that we can look at the church from the car and there is no need to visit it. But the guy from the church was already near our car and we decided to go with him thinking it wouldn't harm us. We were wrong. This guy was very friendly and showed us not only the church but some streets and buildings nearby. He was a little bit annoying and finally he asked for tips. We gave him $50RD first and he said "More". Then we gave him $100RD and he said, "What are you giving to me?". So we gave him $1US and some candies. Only after that he left us. The lesson is clear: don't give them pesos. We gave him more pesos than $3.5US and he was angry but became quiet only after $1US bill. But this occasion was exclusive - all other times people were pleased by any tip we had given to them
Conclusion - This tour was good and informative but we would better have taken tour "Northern Highlights" from Signature that had also visit to restaurant and Sosua beach and costs only $36.
Payment for the tour - Paid $25 to "Mary Soul" rep a few days before the tour. We also paid $3US to our driver as he did everything we wanted.

Resort, Beach & Weather
Resort - No Bugs at all.
Beach condition - The nicest beach, brown sand kept fairly clean of seaweed. The beach was swept daily with a big beach cleaning tractor
Beach lounges - We usually reserved lounges under the pulm hut before the breakfast. But this lasted only till 10 am when we could easily find the place under the pulm hut because people were moving from under the pulm hut into the open area under the sun.
Shadow - lots of shady areas beyond the pulm huts
Ocean - Water was clean and quiet, as you look at the ocean you can easily see which areas are sandy and which have seaweed or reef. I didn't find any areas that were "rocky and mossy".
Reef - There are two lines of reefs in front of the resort that makes it attractive and unique for the whole Playa Dorada. These reefs kill all waves so the water in front of the beach is quiet and you can snorkel right from the beach. There are also small spot reefs near the beach where you can snorkel and see a lot of fish. At a low tide I walked along the spot reefs and saw many sea animals.
Weather - Was good. It was partially cloudy most of the time but it only rained very heavily on one day and not for long. Usually the light rain was at night or in the morning. It was brief and followed by the sun. The humidity is high over there so don't be surprised to have a rain during your vacation.

Shopping plaza - Only a 5-minute walk from the resort, a lot of stores that sell the typical souvenirs and cigars. Upstairs stores definitely have better prices.
Food - Cheese, bread, chocolates - at plaza
Dining - Pizza Hut
Currency exchange - Western Union and two currency exchange booths (banks)
Currency exchange rates - the best rate at the Western Union (passport required) but the booths (banks) also offered a better exchange rate than the hotel (no need for passport).
Orange Market - A 30 minute walk west on the beach past all of the other resorts, including Jack Tar, to buy typical souvenirs. You can buy some things cheaper than at the plaza only if you know the plaza prices and know how to negotiate. Otherwise you can find yourself fooled and can lose some dollars. For example, I bought a figure of a parrot (white wood, looks like stone) for $13US after terrific negotiation - we started from $40US. And one day later I found the same parrot at the plaza for $400RD ~ $9.5US! I found this market useful only to buy large seashells. They are a lot cheaper than at the plaza. I bought one for $5US that I saw at the plaza for $30US.
Beach Market - Lots of vendors on the beach all day long. You need to know the prices before bargaining with them. They usually agree to sell $1-$2US more than at the plaza. So if you know that T-shirt costs $10US at the plaza and vendor asks for $15US then reply with $6US and finish bargaining at $11US. I think you'd better pay them their $1-$2US as they don't have other profit beyond commissions.
Money - I agree that negotiating prices is a way of life there. We found it was helpful to have US cash as well as pesos as sometimes you got a better price paying in pesos and sometimes - in US cash.
The exchange rate went from $1 US = 48 pesos when we first arrived to $1 US = 44 pesos when we left. We didn't use Canadian money as the rate was very low $1.5-$1.55CAD for $1US (28-32 pesos for $1 CAD). I bought US dollars in Toronto before the travel at the rate $1.34CAD for $1USD.
Weight limit - You can take with you only 20 Kg for each person without extra fee. For each additional Kg you should pay $5US at airport. So be careful.

Resort - security staff at all entrance points and only guests with Gran Ventana wristbands are allowed into the complex
Playa Dorada area - The entire Playa Dorada beach area is safe and walking to the nearby plaza even at night is not a concern

Resort - wonderful, unique quiet ocean, recommend it to others
Location - great, only 15 or 20 minutes from the airport, 5 or 10 minutes into Puerto Plata and 15 minutes to Sosua. It is part of the Playa Dorada complex, as this meant you could walk around quite safely, and it also has it’s own plaza.

Clothes - bathing suits, shorts, tops, and some dress clothes and a jacket in event of rain
Skin care - Definitely sun block (we used 30 spf) and don’t forget your ears and nose
Beach towels - We did not sign up for the pool towels, so we were not charged. We had brought our own towels from home so we would be able to find our lounges that we had saved earlier in the morning
Shoes - Beach shoes are good for swimming in the ocean and also in the waterfall (if you take a tour).
Gifts for the maids - We left a package every day for our room maid consisting of $1US bill and candy for children and adults. I also agree with travelers who left toiletries, hair accessories, flip-flops, rain ponchos. toothbrushes, razors, slippers, etc.-they really appreciated the gifts. You can buy gifts at $1 store and bring other items, such as t-shirts, ball caps, from home and left each day on the bed. At the end of our vacation we left a bag of gifts with our remaining pesos. Most of the maids have children and anything for them, especially school supplies is appreciated
Gifts for children - If you take the Jeep Safari Outback tour take lots of inexpensive candies, (or pens, toothbrushes, etc). We brought them but had to put into the bag at the end of our vacation as we missed the tour because of the bad weather.
Waterproof disposable camera - We bought it at Black's store in Toronto for photos from the water at the tour (waterfall) and for snorkeling
Pillows - I wasn't fussy about pillows and enjoyed theirs
Snorkeling gear - I brought my own snorkeling gear so I could snorkel right off the beach whenever I wanted although they provide the equipment at the beach for limited time. It can be used in the tour to Sosua, for example.
Float - I agree that it's good to have your own float, so you can float around the pool but it's all about the weight that you can bring with you. I didn't bring it with me and didn't feel bad about that.

36  Thank Inspire32950
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 May 2004

Just got back from a week long stay at the Gran Ventana Beach Resort. May 8 - 15'04. Unfortunately, our flight from Mirabel was delayed for 6 hours. Signature Vacations did not make a point of trying to contact passengers to advise them of the delay. Received a $15 food voucher, free headphones for in-flight movie and complimentary drinks however this really didn't make up for the loss of a full day in the DR. We didn't run into any problems at the airport and our bus ride to the resort was pretty uneventful. Beware of DR drivers. No speed limit, passing permitted on the right and left and pot holes the size of the great lakes!!! Check-in went well. Asked for in-room safe key. Room was nice, with a view of the beach thru palm trees. The floor in our room was really sticky and we found pieces of shattered beer bottle all over the place. Advised front desk and the room was promptly cleaned. The resort does not supply irons so make sure to bring along a travel iron. Drinks are potent! 75% liquor, 25% mix!!! Pina Coladas are great but beware of the after effects of the coconut milk. Rum punch is pretty tasty too! My boyfriend enjoyed the food. I ran into stomach problems a couple of days into the visit so my food intake was somewhat limited. Meat was sometimes overcooked. Meals improved over the week. Fresh fruit was good. Make sure to have the salsa from the Grill at lunch time. Surprised at negative comments about their coffee. I loved it! Entertainment was fun! A little cheesy at times but fun. The entertainment crew were great with kids! Decided to take bikes out for a ride one afternoon. Yikes!!! Fun but the bikes are barely operational! I think the locals got a kick out of watching us struggle along. Booked a day trip to the falls. Great fun! Be prepared to work hard! These guys will do whatever it takes to get you up the falls. Beach was great. Some reviewers have complained about the coral reef. We loved it. Hand fed tropical fish just feet away from the shore. Pool is nice, has swim up bar. Some rain and partly cloudy most everyday which made it comfortable. All in all, we had a good time! Would probably try another resort next time round.

5  Thank Adventurer32999
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 May 2004

The Gran Ventana Beach Resort was so perfect i found no flaws, it was one of the best vacations i have ever been on. Not only was the resort beautiful, the staff and people were very nice and made sure you were 100% comfortable. There was a huge pool and footsteps away was the Beach. The night life was awsome there was always so much to do swimming, snorkeling aerobics in the pool.The food was absolutly wonderful. When i was leaving i didn't want to thats how much fun i had. I rated this vacation as Excellent. I can't wait to go back.

2  Thank Tour25809
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 May 2004

Me and 3 girlfriends spent a week at the Gran Ventana in January 2004 for a birthday treat for one of us. It weather was terrific. The hotel was very nice, clean and welcoming. We had no problem checking in and our cases were taken to our rooms immediately. The food was above average, lots of fresh food being cooked as you wanted as well as the ready prepared food but in the mornings the queue for the omelettes did get a bit long. There was plenty to choose from and if there wasnt anything you liked then i'm afraid you should have gone to a self catering hotel. The rooms were clean and pool area spotless though we went to the beach everyday and then to the pool late in the afternoon. The maids were very pleasant and we left them some goodies. The beach was clean and tidy. We snorkelled and kayaked and just chilled out. The sellers on the beach didnt pester you and we loved Joeseph, the jewellery man. Nothing was too much trouble. I enjoyed a massage on the beach and my friends had a manicure and pedicure. Do barter with them though because you can get the price down. Our £ is very strong and some will take £'s instead of $'s. Exchange your money at the plaza, you get a better rate and book your excursions on the beach.....see Elvis. We did a helicopter trip and got a very good deal. We went to the Ocean World and swam with the dolphins.... excellent. The hotel entertainment wasnt our cup of tea so i'm not going to say it was bad. We went to the plaza to Hemmingways. That place is really buzzing. The hotel staff were efficient but sometimes looked a little down..perhaps not good pay so the odd tip brings a smile. Don't post any postcards cos they took a month to arrive back in the uk!!! We had a thoroughly brilliant time and would go back but want to try another island next year. i'll definately go back one day. Our age range was 32 to 40. A very enjoyable holiday.

1  Thank LightPacker4486
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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