I am going to offer a number of practical tips for travelers considering a stay at Palace at Playa Grande (or Balaji Palace). First, book now. Don't hesitate. Just do it. You won't regret it. I traveled to this place alone for a relaxing getaway and had a total blast. Here is what you need to know:
- The building is unbelievable. The owner, from India, took eight years to custom build this home-away-from home. It looks like you're stepping into an Indian palace. Every detail is perfection. The grounds should be billed as a botanical garden, lush with local and exotic plants, flowers, and wildlife.
- The staff is unparalleled. Cynthia, Javier, Charlie, Felipe...they will treat you like royalty and cater to your every need from the minute you wake up until the moment you fall asleep. They can arrange for tours and escorts into town (don't go into town alone) and a fellow guest who wanted to snorkel was offered companionship with a staff's brother and sister (the guest reported having an amazing time and she was grateful she didn't have to snorkel alone). The support staff (grounds and maids) speak no English at all, but all are very friendly. They even do your laundry!!! Just be sure to bring lots of cash and tip them well. They deserve every penny and more.
- The private beach is exquisite if you want a quiet place to listen to the ocean and take a small dip. The water is filled with rocks and coral, so for the heavy swimmer or snorkeler, ask to go to the nearby Calabrone beach (a 3 minute drive).
- Fly into Puerto Plata, no matter what. The taxi drive is just over an hour through small villages where you will see amazing things like families of four on a tiny motorcycle, locals carrying sharks and branches of crabs, trucks exploding with pineapple, bananas, papaya, and mango...If you fly into Santiago, it's a 2 hour drive through harrowing mountain roads (other guests made this mistake and got sick on the ride to the Palace).
- It's the tropics. You will need more sunscreen and bugspray than you could possibly imagine. The sun here is much hotter than the sun in the U.S., so every single guest burned on their first day regardless of the warnings. Apply, re-apply, and repeat OFTEN. The mosquitoes are pretty thick, though they only bothered about half of the visitors. Bug spray helps, but one couple brought citronella candles and that really saved us night after night.
- The rooms are enormous, even the smallest in the building. Ceilings range from 20 to 40 feet high, depending on the room. With a single air conditioner in each room, the larger rooms get very hot because the A/C just can't cool the space on sweltering days. Someone recommended that I keep my bathroom door closed (the bathroom and closet are HUGE). As soon as I made a habit of keeping that door closed, my room stayed much cooler.
- The food is delicious. GET THE ORANGE JUICE. Your life will never be the same. Your mind will be blown. Probably the best thing I've ever tasted. You have several options to choose from at each meal and they were very kind in accommodating my vegetarianism.
- A couple that stayed during my visit had a small wedding and it went over beautifully. The hotel decorated the gazebo beautifully, local musicians were brought in to sing to us all night, and it was a festive and communal affair.
- Don't be scared of the bugs. Yes...there are tarantulas in the jungle, but not near the hotel. There are small lizards everywhere, but they are very cute and dart away as soon as you walk by. Plus, they help eat the pesky mosquitoes.
- Peacocks and chickens roam the property. If you're lucky, you can catch the male with his 5-foot long plume open in the morning. He does a proud strut for about 5 minutes, though he is a little shy.
- Fellow guests become your family. As I was booking my vacation here, I never in the million years imagined getting so close with my fellow travelers. Something about the intimacy of the property (it only sleeps about 20 at maximum capacity) brings everyone together.
- Beware of Felix. Felix is a local guy that comes to the property once a day to try and sell his services (glass bottom boat tours, snorkeling, jungle tours, horseback riding, etc). Several of the couples had horrible experiences with him. The on-site staff can help arrange just about anything you're looking for. If you do deal with Felix, just be assertive and clear about what you want.
- This place is ideal for those looking to relax. There isn't much nearby, so your days will be filled with beach, pool, eating, and hanging out. The property does have board games, a pool table, ping pong, and a TV, but the natural beauty draws everyone outside.
- Best massage of my life. Get one.
You will have a magical time here. All of us were visiting using a Groupon/Living Social deal, so keep you eye out for them. They run new deals every few months and the rate is like a third of what you'll be charged if you book directly.
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- The Palace At Playa Grande Hotel Rio San Juan