I stayed with my girlfriend and friend at the Esmeralda from June 10th - 17th and we had an amazing time. This was my 6th all inclusive resort vacation and my 1st in the Dominican. This was by far the highest quality resort I've stayed at with only the Iberostar Varadero in Cuba (#1 for Varadero on here), where i stayed a few years ago, being a close second. Most resorts I've been to claim to be 5 star resorts and they aren't, but this is one of the few that actually lives up to that rating. This resort is beautiful, huge, and there's something for everybody whether you're a married couple with your children or a young group of friends looking to meet people and have a good time.
After a 30-40 minute ride from the Airport, we were dropped off at the Punta Cana Lobby by our bus then picked up by a trolley to be taken to the Esmeralda within a few minutes. Upon arrival at the Esmeralda, we had the smoothest and easiest check in ever. Every resort I’ve ever been to in the past makes you stand in line to check in, sometimes serving you a drink in line, not here. Here, they made us leave our luggage at the reception, brought and sat us at the lobby bar so they could serve us drinks while they took care of our check ins 1 by 1. Once we filled the necessary papers and got our room cards, they had a bell boy show us to our room. We were changed into our swim wear and on the beach within an hour or so of being dropped off at the Punta Cana lobby. Very laid back, quick, and headache free check in.
Best room I’ve ever had had at a resort. We were put in building 90 as we asked previously, thanks to tips here. (Our friend wasn't however and was placed in 93; he was moved to 91 a couple days later thanks to the very helpful reception staff). The room was spotless and our bed was decorated with balloons which was a nice touch. The bathroom is huge with a Jacuzzi tub, standup shower and 2 sinks. Robes and slippers were in the closets. Lots of closet and drawer space. Contrary to what I read prior to going, using the in room digital safe was free. Fridge was restocked with water and booze daily and the maids kept the place spotless. AC is so good it can get too cold if cranked.
Random warning : One day my gf opened a full bottle of water from the fridge which didn't appear to be sealed, I’m sure I didn’t open it, and she's sure she didn't. Whether we forgot we opened it, which is possible, or it really was unsealed, just be careful.
Pool & Beach
The Pool at the Esmeralda is fairly big but very quiet and mostly attended by families and kids, but don't let that scare you away if you're looking to party. There's a smaller "adult only" Jacuzzi pool on the grounds, and as a guest at the Esmeralda, you can walk 2-5 minutes to the "Main Pool" which is HUGE or the also large Ambar Pool, both of which are much busier with a more mature party crowd. You really do get the best of both worlds here as you can quietly relax at the Esmeralda when you want, or go party it up at the other pools. There are other pools around the massive GBP grounds but we never found a need to go to them.
The beach was steps from building 90 and the pool and just beautiful. The same principle applies as the Pools. The Esmeralda stretch of the beach is laid back and quiet and as you walk towards the Ambar, you find bigger crowds of people having a good time.
While busy, there was never a shortage of recliners at the Pool or Beach, however it can be tough to find one in the shade, so either lotion up well and often or go early if you're scared of getting sun burn.
Considering what you pay to go here, the food at this resort is nothing short of amazing. The buffet has a very decent selection but what really makes this resort great is you get a 3 course a la carte dinner every night unlike most resorts that give you at most 3. You only need to eat at the buffet for breakfast and lunch. There are 14 restaurants, so unless you stay for 2 weeks, you unfortunately won't get to try them all. The La Gourmet one was incredible and I highly recommend you book that as one of your choices. The Steakhouse and Japanese were great too. A 3 course meal like the ones provided in these restaurants in Toronto would probably cost at least $60 per person, if not more. See pictures attached to this review for what you can expect.
Room service was also available free of charge (we of course tipped) 24 hours. The menu isn't amazing, but it’s not bad either. A snack bar is always open as well including the one at the main pool which is pretty busy even at 3AM after the club closes. You'll find burgers, fries, wings, hotdogs and such at the snack bars.
The drink situation was more or less the same as any resort. Ask for a drink and they'll make it. The only thing they didn't have that i wanted was cranberry, but there was such an abundance of other drink choices it didn’t matter. Liquor, wine, champagne, beer, pop, coffee, etc., they have it all for the most part.
Entertainment & Nightlife
There are shows every night at the Tropicana theater and the Peublo Principe plaza square, but they're the same old song and dance, Mr./Mrs./Couples contest shows from every other resort I’ve ever been to. The live bands were cool and if this is your first time at an all-inclusive resort, you will love the shows; otherwise it’s the same old thing you've seen before and gets boring fast.
There's a little Casino you can blow your money at, although for some reason they expect you to buy drinks in there. There's a pretty busy Karaoke bar that serves drinks and shows sporting events. The night club opens from Midnight-2am and was hit and miss. The DJ's tend to play the same loop of songs every night, rarely ever mixing it up. We had a few great nights there and a few lame ones. It is what you make of it with the people you’re with so YMMV. We heard about an off resort club called "Mangu" (sp?) that was apparently really good but it was $35 cover with 2 drinks and we didn't really care to go as we were having a great time on the resort with the people we met.
The staff at this resort seems to just be there to do their job and go home, and for the most part they do their job well even if they come off as a little cold at times. Unlike other resorts I've been to, they don't really go out of their way to be extra nice or get to know you. I think this is the first vacation I’ve been on where I didn’t learn the names or get somewhat acquainted with at least a couple staff members. They do an adequate job and I didn't have any problems with any to mention here.
This is just nitpicking here and these had no real impact on our overall great experience
- The resort is HUGE. Staying at the Esmeralda near the beach means you need to take a trolley to go to where things are happening at night. The trolley can be slow at times and if you forget something at your room, you're looking at anywhere from 20-40 minutes to get back to your room then back to the plaza depending on how the trolley is running. You need to factor this in if you have a dinner booked at a restraint away from the Esmeralda.
- The Pools can get ridiculously warm, literally bathwater warm. I don’t know if it's the Sun doing it or the maintenance, but I’ve never been in pools that warm in my life. It’s not bad by any means, but can feel a little weird when it already feels like 30-40 degrees outside.
- Some restaurants require jeans or as they call it "trousers" in the dress code. I don’t have a problem dressing up, but at this time of year, it’s so hot and humid that it’s beyond uncomfortable to wear jeans all night. We had to go back to our room to change after a couple dinners so we could party comfortably for the rest of the night.
- Ruthless mosquitoes at night. Bring "Off" and use it. They bite even with repellent on, if you're wearing none, you get eaten alive.
- We ran into a couple wearing wristbands from another part of the GBP the small adult pool at the Esmeralda. We're pretty laid back and didn't care since we were using everything else at the other resorts too, but if it starts to get busy, you may want to look out for this.
Overall - 4.5/5
Amazing resort, beach, weather and food. The staff could be a little friendlier and the nightlife could be a bit better, but it was still an overall great time. We met lots of fun people and had an excellent relaxing vacation. Out of 6 resorts I’ve been to in the Caribbean, this is easily my #1 pick for a return visit. We're probably going back next year for a wedding, I look forward to going back and would go back wedding or not. If you're up in the air about booking here, just do it. You'll get what you paid for and then some. I hope this review was helpful.
Ciao Ciao Ciao, Bye Bye Bye - Once you go to the GBP, you’ll get it :)
Twitter - @TheRealReeG
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Facilities and services 2 Pools Sun terrace 4 Jacuzzis Sun umbrellas and loungers Beach and pool towel service BAHIA SPA (additional charge) Sports facilities: gym, 3 tennis courts, 1 padel tennis court (additional charge), multi-sports court Water activity centre Motorised water sports (additional charge) WiFi access in the lobby (free) and in rooms (free of charge) Entertainment amphitheatre 2 buffet restaurants 3 speciality restaurants 3 Bars 1 Snack- bar Wedding gazebo Punta Blanca Golf Club: 18 hole Punta Blanca Golf Club, designed by Nick Price (additional charge) Pueblo Principe: Shopping and Leisure Mall with local craft stores, live music, shows, stores, bars, karaoke, disco and casino. Rooms, 570 Deluxe Junior Suite Room facilities: King size bed or two full size beds Air conditioning Ceiling fan Sitting area with sofa Terrace Fully-equipped bathroom with hydromassage bath tub and separate shower, hair dryer and magnifying mirror Bathrobe and slippers VIP amenities Radio-alarm clock Flat screen satellite TV Coffee-making facilities Ironing set Pillow menu Umbrella 24 hour room service Minibar WiFi (free of charge) Other services Medical service (additional charge) Pharmacy (additional charge) Specialised service for organising weddings, incentive trips, events and anniversaries Personalised menus (for celiacs, diabetics, etc.) Available on request ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gran Bahia Principe Esmeralda Hotel Punta Cana