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“Absolutely fantastic”

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The Palace at Playa Grande
Ranked #3 of 3 Hotels in Rio San Juan
Washington, DC
Level Contributor
47 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
“Absolutely fantastic”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 30 May 2012

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.

Room Tip: The larger rooms are much warmer since there's more space to try and cool. You will spend almost...
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  • Stayed May 2012, travelled solo
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
7 Thank DawnSerra
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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88 reviews from our community

Traveller rating
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (45)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Ladera Ranch, California
Level Contributor
8 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 May 2012

We purchased this trip (6 days) on GroupOn and thought the value for the money was excellent. The Balaji Palace (this is a rarely used name for the "resort" but it is the only way to locate it on the road when trying to find it!) is a BEAUTIFUL place. The grounds and location high atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean are almost magical. The staff was beyond superb, so accomodating and friendly. Kudos to Juan Carlos, Javier and Charlie who made us feel like family by the time our vacation came to an end. However, I would categorize The Palace as really more of a bed and breakfast than a resort...it is owned by a doctor in upstate NY and was built so his family from India had a place to vacation.

The food - very good. We were concerned about eating the produce but were told by other Americans staying their that it was ok. And they were right. The salads everday were delicious, as was most of the other items on the menu. The soups were to die for as well. Don't expect "over the top" presentations as you are on an island that is essentially a 3rd world country. Although, I was surprised at the lack of seafood on the menu during our stay even after making requests prior to our trip.

If you plan to stay here know this: you will be 45 minutes outside of the nearest tourist town (Cabarete). There is not much to do (we are not group excursion people) if you are very active. The Monkey Ziplining was awesome, a must try experience and all proceeds go to fund a medical center for the extremely poor. We opted not to do the horseback riding after seeing how malnourished these poor animals are (or are extremeley parasitic, one). We did learn from another guest that one of the resort workers has a horse ranch, with very well-cared for horses, and you can do a private tour with him. I wish we had known earlier....

We rented a car to get back and forth and to have the feeling of freedom while on vacation. I'm not sure I would do that again....there seem to be no driving laws and it is a traffic free-for-all. However, we were able to go to parts of the country we might not have seen otherwise. So...drive at your own risk if you do rent a car. NOTE: make sure you under stand the insurance policy!

The all inclusive plan without alcohol - please note: the drinks aren't cheap. We rdrove to the closest store that sold booze/beer (again, scary driving) and bought our own which the staff kept seperate from the rest of the alcohol and we drank for "free". This came in handy with the frozen banana rum drinks we concocted. We were also able to pack a cooler (provided to us) to take to the beach everyday with cold water and cervesas.

The Beaches: 1) Playa Grande - A lot of vendors trying to get you to buy their wares and the best grilled lobster for a good price right on the beach. The pina colada in fresh pineapple wasnt bad either Hint: bring your own rum. 2) Cabarete - this is the town 45 min. away and is the most tourist-y we saw. There were far too many vendors so it was hard to relax. But, you can rent stand-up paddle boards, which we did since the surf is non-existant during the spring and summer months (which was a bummer if you planned to suf as we did). There is an Irish-Mexican pub called Jose McShay's which was awesome - on the sand, great music, decent pub food. Two doors down is a great restaurant with AMAZING seafood. The ceviche was the best! 3) The Balaji Palace's private beach - in one word: INSANE. So beautiful and easy to access. Again, pack a cooler so you dont have to go up and down the stairs several times. You can also ask for a lunch to be packed up and sent to you while you lounge.

The peacocks - Let's just say I wondered what peacock would taste like for Thanksgiving dinner. As regal as these creatures are they must be one of God's most annoying. Make sure you ask for a room - PRIOR TO YOUR ARRIVAL - away from the poolside of the hotel. Otherwise you will not only hear the peacocks throughout the night while trying to sleep but also the rooster who begins his crowing at around 4AM. Needless to say, until we asked for our room to be moved we got no sleep. Hence, why I have marked the sleep quality as "poor". The beds, however, were quite comfortble.

Mosquitos - Lots of them. What saved us was bringing citronella candles (two giant ones) with us. We ended up sharing with the other guests since everyone was getting bitten. Make sure you pack your own OFF or deet-based spray, as well as those candles. Also, we definitely took advantage of the mosquito netting around the bed, even though our doors and windows remained shut. Somehow those little buggers find their way into the rooms anyway.

Helpful tips: bring a pack of cards, backgammon, games, ect as you will have lots of down time. The Wi-Fi is intermittent at best (I found the terminal the day we left on the 3rd floor - FYI.) Bring a small umbrella.

Last comment: we befriended another couple who had an ocean view room. They were nice enough to let us see the room and view. If you can afford to upgrade DO IT. Their room was a little efficiency apartment with amazing views, had a kitchenette and just a few steps down to the beach.

I hope this review was helpful. Enjoy your stay in The D.R.!

Room Tip: See comments above about peacocks and ocean veiw room.
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  • Stayed May 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
11 Thank MendiB123
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Miami, Florida
Level Contributor
38 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 15 May 2012

If you want rest, relaxation and feel like a king in a palace, this the right place. The whole staff go above and beyond to please you. Juan Carlos and the entire staff are spectacular. Excellent private beach. You feel like you are in your own private villa with Hotel Service. The peacocks are loud but beautiful...We did not even care. The sunsets are breathtaking. We will definately go back. They provide rides to and from the airports for a fee. You may want to rent a car. From Puerto Plata Airport it is a very easy drive. You can get a great deal on Groupon.

Room Tip: Suite further from the peacocks. The ocean view ones are magnificent and spacious. Worth the upgra...
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  • Stayed May 2012, travelled as a couple
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    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Cristiane D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 4 May 2012 via mobile

Resort provides a hollistic getaway for romance and adventure. The palace is made up of 13 beautiful suites for anyone's desire and taste. Make sure to go on all outside adventure activities.

  • Stayed April 2012
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank deborela
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Countryside, Illinois, United States
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 30 April 2012

We found this place on Groupon and thought we'd take the chance. We were MORE than impressed with our 6 night-7 day stay at the Palace.

We were greeted at the airport by our pre-arranged (by the Palace) taxi driver and Presidente beers! The taxi driver was knowledgeable about the country and answered countless questions. Upon arrival at The Palace, Juan Carlos, the concierge, greeted us with homemade fruit punch and a tour of the grounds. He explained everything they offered from different dining choices - private in the gazebo, on the patios overlooking the ocean and sunset, room service - to different amenities - ocean fun (snorkeling, kayaking, beach chairs), small pools on different balcony levels, the private pool...

The staff there was overly accommodating and always friendly. They greet you every time they see you as if you have been friends for years! Anything you can think of, they find a way to get for you. They suggested a fried local cheese to complement the plantains with one of the meals so we tried it. It was so good that I asked for it again for another meal although it wasn't on the menu. They obliged happily.

While we were there, there were some rather obnoxious local guests who dampened everything that The Palace was about - quiet, relaxing, romantic, private. For a small place, only 13 rooms, we hadn't been bothered by other people; everyone was friendly and amicable but quiet and stayed together on their own. This group that joined us was the exact opposite.

Although obnoxious, they couldn't ruin a stay at The Palace because it is just too beautiful and the staff is so amazing. Juan Carlos felt bad for us having to deal with the other guests during our stay so he upgraded our room from the middle level room to the oceanfront suite for our last night. (Again, superbly accommodating!) There was a jacuzzi on the balcony and ample space for the two of us. It was absolutely gorgeous. We were disappointed we hadn't chosen this room from the beginning!

We also got a couples' massage from the spa - which was excellent. The tables were set up on the balcony so the waves crashing on the rocks was a soothing background noise.

The excursions are fun - we did the glass-bottomed boat, the jeep excursion (which tours different beaches) and we went to the zip line course - but unnecessary. The Palace is the perfect setting for relaxing in the sun and hanging out with your partner - whether spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, friend...

The Palace is an unbelievable place with an even more unbelievable staff. Though I like to travel to new places, I'm already counting on my next trip to The Palace!

Room Tip: Though the oceanfront suites cost more, they are WELL-WORTH the extra money. Spare no expense for th...
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  • Stayed April 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
5 Thank Lainie N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about The Palace at Playa Grande

Property: The Palace at Playa Grande
Address: Calle Rio San Juan | Playa Grande, Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic
Region: Caribbean > Dominican Republic > Maria Trinidad Sanchez Province > Rio San Juan
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 3 Hotels in Rio San Juan
Price range (per night): ₹ 10,568 - ₹ 18,946
Hotel Class:4 star — The Palace at Playa Grande 4*
Number of rooms: 13
Reservation Options:
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Also Known As:
The Palace At Playa Grande Hotel Rio San Juan

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