- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
Unique Hotel Fior di Loto (Calle Central 517, Juan Dolio, tel. 809/526-1146, fax 809/526-3332, www.fiordilotohotel.com, hotelfiordiloto [at] hotmail [dot] com or hotelfiordiloto [at] yahoo [dot] com, US$15–40 d depending on the season) is by far the best value in the area. It is gay-friendly and has been the little darling of Juan Dolio since 1996 when the very hospitable owner Mara Sandri opened it as a cultural center. Since then she has changed it into a 25-room hotel (13 have kitchenettes) with a noticeably Indian flare that caters to the independent traveler seeking solace.
There are classes in women’s hatha yoga (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), meditation, psychology, and healing. The rooms are very simple but cozy; some have cooking facilities. Safety boxes are US$1 extra. Laundry service is available and there is a generator, plus a big deck for private sunbathing. The restaurant serves vegetarian food only to those staying in the hotel. Wireless Internet is free. There is a bar on-site.
Staff can help organize tours for you via Faenza Tours at a special reduced rate for Fior di Loto guests. Transportation is close by, and staff can help you arrange some should you need it, even from Las Américas airport. Banks and shopping are near and the beach is 50 meters away.
Playa Esmeralda Beach Resort (Guayacanes, Paseo Vicini, tel. 809/526-3434, fax 809/526-1744, www.hotel-playaesmeralda.com, playa.esmeralda [at] verizon [dot] net [dot] do, US$75 d). This small, 44-room all-inclusive hotel is popular with local and European tourists. The rooms are spacious and very comfortable with air-conditioning, ceiling fans, mini-fridge, TV, and terraces. There is no phone or Internet in the room, so you can really get that disconnected-from-the-world-on-vacation feel.
There is a pool, a bar, and a restaurant serving Dominican and Italian dishes. Diving lessons are available in the pool, and the front desk can help with excursion offers. Massages are available in the spa, as are aerobics by the pool. This all-inclusive is a major bargain and very tranquil. The beach along this stretch is quite lovely, as is the hotel’s poolside, with little competition for loungers.
Embassy Suites Hotel at Los Marlins Grand Resort (Juan Dolio, tel. 809/688-9999, fax 809/526-1130, www.embassysuites.com, US$109 d) is a true golfer’s hotel—greens fees to the Los Marlins golf course are included in your price, and although this hotel is not on the beach, it is overlooking the tropical golf course. All 126 rooms are two-room suites. This hotel is suited for the business traveler (complete with secretarial service, including translations) and is a good place for families since kids under 18 staying with an adult stay free (unless you want the all-inclusive option—then it is US$15 extra per child!).
There are three restaurants and three bars. Every morning you can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, and complimentary cocktails are served nightly 5:30–7:30 p.m. Amenities include two pools (one with a swim-up bar), a Jacuzzi, a children’s area, a pro shop, spa, fitness center, and beauty salon. Car rental on-site and to-and-from airport shuttles (available on request) make transportation a breeze. All rooms have private balconies, high-speed Internet access, wet bars, cable TV, air-conditioning, and safety deposit boxes.
US$100 and Up
Coral Costa Caribe (Juan Dolio, tel. 809/540-2008, www.coralcostacaribe.com, starting at US$240 d) is a big all-inclusive near both Los Marlins and Guavaberry golf courses and has the best casino in the area. The 534-room resort is simply gigantic, filled with stuff to do for every type of visitor but mostly popular with the traveler who wants mostly to hang in the resort. There is guaranteed food 24 hours a day here, so gorge away. It’s what vacations are for! You can work it off dancing in the disco. After all, there is a lively nightlife in this resort, with a disco that attracts people from other resorts, three pools, a kids’ club, tennis, basketball, beach volleyball, minigolf, and various water sports, and you can get your PADI scuba certification. It’s like a small town.
Barceló Capella (Villas del Mar, Juan Dolio, tel. 809/526-1080, www.barcelo.com, US$160 d) resort, with its Victorian-esque architecture, is a complete vacation package on its own. Again, this is a venue where many vacationers enjoy themselves without ever leaving the grounds. It boasts a great location, right on the beach, but bring some shoes; there is a great deal of coral, which makes it great for snorkeling but murder on your feet. As with most large all-inclusive resorts, the grounds are impeccably kept lush gardens, and the rooms are spacious and have all the regular amenities like minifridges, hair dryers, and irons. There is a disco, two pools, and a spa. It is a popular destination for honeymooners, who book special suites containing a Jacuzzi and king-size bed, as well as for families, whose children will be well occupied by the many child-specific activities available.
The best thing about all-inclusive Barceló Talenquer (Juan Dolio, Carretera Las Americas, www.barcelo.com, tel. 809/526-1510, US$60) is the seafood restaurant L’Ecrevisse. Otherwise, it is a rather standard all-inclusive that doesn’t stand out as exceptional in service or design. On the weekend, the beach can get quite full with locals making the hunt for lounge chairs and buffet lines a competitive sport.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition