We stayed at this hotel for 2 weeks from 18th May 2009, for our honeymoon, and booked through Thomas Cook, paid a bargain price of £1700 for the 2 of us.
First of all I will just apologise for the length of this review, but it should cover all aspects of this hotel, and resort.
We flew from Gatwick, and we were concerned about baggage allowance, which for us was a very measely 15kg hold luggage and 5kg hand luggage, and apparently they are really strict now on hand luggage sizes, but to be honest, nobody sticks to these rules as we saw loads of travellers with oversized hand luggage, and most getting away with about 17-18kg hold luggage. Our hand luggage wasn't even weighed, but whether this is the norm i'm not sure?
Any Smoker's now is the best time to buy cigs in the duty free shops as they are about 25% more expensive in Dominican, they are £35 for 400 on the plane.
Anyway after our 9 hour flight from Gatwick to Puerto Plata, which by the way was a decent flight, decent legroom, good movies and entertainment to choose from and even more if you pay the extra £5 for an upgrade as you can play games etc, by the way all earphones / headphones work on the plane without any adaptors, so don't pay the £2.50 for the rubbish ones they try and get you to buy!
When we landed at the airport it was the usual affair, queing up to pay the tourist tax of $10 each, and you also need $20 each for when you depart!, some people don't read thier booking details and so were complaining and didn't have the correct money, Then you need to be carefull when you collect your luggage, and leave the terminal, as the usual baggage porters try to take your luggage and take it usually about 20 yards to the bus or taxi for your transfer and expect $2 per case!
Upon getting onto our transfer coach to Iberostar Costa Dorada, we were given a nice ice cold bottle of water each, and onto an air conditioned bus, the checking in was done on the coach, you were given your all inclusive bracelet, your room keycard, and 2 towel cards that you exchange for towels by the pool. 30 minutes later we were at the hotel, greeted with a cocktail, and a porter took our room number and arrived at our room 5 mins later, a tip of $2 is welcomed.
On first apperances, the hotel is definately a 5 star hotel, and after seeing other hotels on the transfer stops, it is certainly one of the best in the Dominican.
Our room was fantastic ( No. 1110), a very large room, with a massive (American style) comfy bed, air conditioned, ceiling fan, a nice balcony with stunning sea view, and very quiet, A fully stocked (Free) mini bar, with beer, branded soft drinks and water,
A decent sized tv, with satelite, a few American channels / German but mainly Spanish.
Bathroom was a decent size with fantastic hot showers, full size bath, the toilets are really low though.
Safety deposit box is located in the wardrobe, and is FREE, which was a suprise!
The decor is not the most upto date, and yes, was a little tired in some parts, but it is bright, very clean and to a good standard.
This hotel in my opinion, is one of the best i've stayed at, given the price we paid. I've stayed at the Belagio in Las Vegas which yes is very luxurious, but i paid the same there for a weekend, as i did for a fortnight here! so it's all relative.
But really, this hotel should suit the majority of people, It is a large hotel with large grounds, that are immaculatly kept, loads of lovely palm trees, fountains, ponds etc. but the icing on the cake are the Flamingo's / Turtles and Peacocks that live in the hotel grounds.
The hotel, has loads of comfy seating throughout, and if you want a quiet place to sit with a drink, you will always be able to find one,
On the whole, very very good. The waiters in the buffet areas are lightning quick to clear away dishes, fill up your water, or get you drinks. The bar staff, again very quick and efficient, albeit one time when my wife went to the bar and was ignored by barman, probably because he was to busy to serve an American who was tipping him with every drink he ordered. He was repremanded by the manager who saw him ignore my wife and he went off in a huff?
The Maids, were fantastic, our room was imacculate, and you are greeted each day with a towel arrangement in the form of an elephant one day, swan another, really clever, and decorated with fresh flowers. also our mini bar was restocked everyday, with fresh towels. We left the maid a tip of $1 each day.
Pool / Beach:
The pool is a very good size, not too big, but big enough to not get crowded, it is well laid out and suitable for kids, swimmers and those playing games.
It was always lovely and warm, even at 8:00 in the morning, Yes it was in need of a repaint in some areas but the water was clean and the pool was constantly being cleaned and maintained by staff. The only downside i would say is that it's quite hard to get in and out of with high steps which could be tricky for the elderly.
The loungers around the pool, are plenyfull but they get grabbed up quickly, and even though there are signs saying do not reserve the loungers, it seems that the selfish ones go down at 7am and earlier and put towels on them, then go to breakfast!
The beach is lovely, and is kind of split in two, with one side having loads of parasols and the other is just open allowing you to put the lounger where you want.
The sand is very nice, but be warned it gets red hot!, the seaweed is not an issue and is cleaned up all the time.
The sea, being on the atlantic side, can be choppy at times, but still safe to swim, and you can walk out for miles before it gets too deep, just watch out for the few reefs that are dotted about, but the water is clear enough to see coral quite clearly without standing on it. It's great for snorkelers!
Come mid day the wind can be an issue near the beach, whipping up sand, but to be honest, we stuck near the beach as it was nice to have the breeze.
You do get loads of touts / vendors trying to sell you hats made out of palm leaves / photographers / and loads of women trying to sell hair braiding. They are all friendly and don't hassle you that much, but there are loads of them.
The watersports for the Hotel are a bit sparce, you can either use the kayaks, single or double or the hobby catarmarangs, however you need to sign your life away for them to let you go on them, but I suppose they have to.
There are no powered watersports such as jetski's or bananna boats, but just at the next hotel, directly on the same beach, you can do all of them, parasailing, jetski, donuts ( Which was lethal, when we went on, and not for the feint hearted!!) also prices are not cheap around $50 for 15mins Jetski
The food at this hotel is top notch, and certainly deserve it's 5 star rating. If anyone complains about the food at this hotel, then I would love to hear of any better for the price. It really does cater for everyone.
There are 2 main buffet restaurant, the main one where you can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you wanted, and then one by the pool, which is smaller and is part of the pool bar, and most use this for late breakfasts and lunch. Both have loads to offer, from fresh fish, salads, carvery, soups, loads of local dishes, down to simple pizza and chips and burgers, and the desserts are amazing, all fresh and cooked to perfection.
Then you have three al-a-carte restaraunts, which you book in the morning near the reception area, these include Brazilian, which is I think the best one, offering loads of skewered meats served at your table, then theres a Mexican, with tortillas, fajitas etc, and then a seafood one with you've guessed it seafood. These al-a-carte offer something a bit more special and romantic, with candelite and they have a 3 piece mariachi band come round and you can request songs, which is really nice.
I would reccomend booking at all these al-a-cartes, and again could not fault them one bit.
If you want a quick snack during the day, the main place to go is the pool bar/ buffet which has self service ice cream , pop corn, also in an evening by the bar in the main lobby, you can get sandwiches and deserts, and at the pool bar burgers and kebabs.
All drinks were top quality, all soft drinks are famous brands, self service at pool bars / buffets, Beer was a local brand called President and was good and was the main thing i drank . As for spirits, which i don't drink much of, so couldn't really comment on, but they had local brands and international such as smirnoff, grants, gordon's, etc and you just had to request these brands to get them at no extra cost, the only thing they didn't do was Red Bull, even though they sold it in the shop at about £2.50 a can!
Oh and cocktails were very good as well including margaritas // tequilla sunrises the usual and champagne aswell.
This depends on really what your cup of tea is?
In the daytime, the entertainment team ( star friends ) do try their very hardest to keep people entertained if you want to be, and those such as ourselves who just wanted to chill out, they left well alone, it's not like an 18-30's where you are badgered into doing stupid games.
The daytime activities are: water polo, volleyball, beach football, archery, shooting, horse shoes, darts, tennis, water aerobics, beach aerobics / pilates, salsa / mirenge dancing classes, bingo.
There are also 2 table tennis tables near the pool, 2 american sized pool tables near the reception, and some tennis courts.
Every evening, they have themed nights,which range from movies, theater, musicals, Mr & Mrs, and the usual karaoke.
These events take place in the auditorium, which is part of the main hotel, its open aired, but not air conditioned so it still gets hot! There are plenty of seats and a huge bar.
The waiters / waitresses will serve you at your seat, but they are far and few, and its quicker to go to the bar.
The entertainment usually starts about 8:30pm starting with a kids show, and disco, then its dancing time, where you can show off your merenge skills with the proffessional dancers who will teach you. Then it's time to award all the people who have won the days activities, which is the same everynight and can be a bit repetative, and is usually the same people who won stuff the day before!
Then it's showtime at about 9:30pm, this is when it can start to get busy. The shows are quite professional, in my opinion with good sets and lighting. The actors / dancers are very good, and overall very entertaining, Its not West End but its100 times better than Butlins!!
There's also a small disco called Route 66, which plays a mix of Chart music and merenge, but is air conditioned which is good, and by all accounts stays open till 6am!
Shops / services
There are a few small shops within the hotel, one selling general holiday stuff, such as beach wear, bags, solveniers and you can get photos developed, another which mainly sold food/drinks crisps, chocolate, newspapers ( expensive!! the Sun cost about £4.50 )
Then one that sold stuff like towels, and shirts, a jewelers with some lovely gold and diamond jewelery.
There is an internet room, with about 6 computers in it, Its $5.00 per half hour, and if you dont use the full half hour you just keep your ticket and can get the remainder back next time you visit.
There are 2 spa / treatment rooms, near the pool area. One specialises in massages, which are quite reasonable about $30 for 30mins session, for a full back massage.
The other speciallises in beauty treatments such as manicures, hair dressing etc and again quite reasonable prices.
A nice touch is the shower rooms, which are really handy when you are to depart, we had 5 hours wait from, leaving our room at 12:00 to 5:00 when the bus came, so a change of clothes and a shower was great, with fresh clean towels to use, and you are still all inclusive upto getting on the bus home.
Attractions / Out and About
First of all, we were on our honeymoon, so we were there to chill out and relax, but as is the case with most all inclusive you feel a bit confined to the hotel. We went to the welcome reception on the first day, and was met by Bev our Thomas Cook tour rep, who was very good, and sat through the usual do's and don'ts, and then were being sold the numerous trips that were on offer.
It soon becomes apparent that he trips are in my opinion very expensive, considering simalar trips in say Greece or Turkey.
We had budgeted for such trips and for a fortnight I would reccomend that unless you really are a sun worshiper, or love getting involved with every activity within the hotel, then at least 3-4 trips is recommended.
IMPORTANT, you can get all the trips a lot cheaper (maybe half price) if you book outside of the hotel. You are told by the rep that you take your chances as some companies don't exist, I would say thats true and DO NOT book with vendors selling trips on the beach, but if you take a stroll LEFT out the hotel, you soon see some shops offering all the trips you want, I would recommend going about a mile up the road to a place called The PLAZA, which is a very big gated complex housing loads of hotels and villas, but it has the nearest shopping type center, it's mainly just soulvenier shops, an few bars including a propper british pub, and a few shops selling trips, I just wish we had visited before we booked, and I would have saved about £150, but thats sods law!!
The trips we went on were:
Monster Truck Safari:
This was our favorite trip, its a full day affair, picking up about 8:30ish you get on board a huge ex-military open roofed truck, which takes you firstly to a ranch, of which you then get the chance to go horseriding, for about 45 mins which was good. You then get back on the truck and it takes you through the jungle, you get to visit all the locals who live in tiny wooden huts and seem to have nothing, it's a real eyeopener, you also get to visit a school funded by the monster truck company, i felt a bit of an intruder at times, and it is all very touristy, but i suppose it is their major income and their livleyhoods depend on tourism. We then went to a place that did stone carved ornaments, which of course you can buy, and were actually very reasonable, and than onto a coffee making hut, then to a cigar making hut. Then onto a secluded beach for some swimming. All in all a very good trip, which included as much drink as you wanted, a nice hot buffet lunch included.
The catamaran trip was ok, but not worth the price paid ( about £50 each ) generally its just a large catamaran you board about 9ish and spend all day on it, and it makes about 3 stops so you can go snorkelling (included) Fantastic snorkelling and loads of great fish and coral. Very simple cold buffet lunch, unlimited drinks included, but nothing special really.
Again, very expensive for what it is (paid about £65 each ) very early start about 7:00 start drives you to a beach which takes around 2 hours!! then onto a speedboat for another 45mins to a so called island! It is in fact a fairly small sand bank with about 4 wooden huts on it! A bit dissapointed, but the sea was deadly calm and crystal clear, perfect for snorkelling of which you get a guided swim around the island (sand bank!) amazing coral and fish, then you have a sandwich, and an obligitory photo taken. You are here for about 2 hours but it gets crowded very quickly, not the paradise we were expecting! You then get back on the speedboat, go see some mangroves and then to another beach to have a very nice hot buffet lunch, here you can buy more trinkets and your photo £15 if wanted? Then you get back onto bus to be taken yet again to more tourist shops, another cigar factory! A very long day, and to be honest only worth it if you like snorkelling.
So on the whole the trips are ok, not fantastic value for money, but it does break up the fortnight from your hotel, and you do get to see a bit of the local countryside and the culture. It is obviously all geared towards parting you with your money, even though you have paid a fortune on the trip in the first place, but again you can't blame them!
Out of the Hotel:
Not a lot really, on our 3rd day, we ventured Left along the beach, there were no other hotels at all, and we kept walking for about 45mins, thinking there must be civilisation somewhere ahead, we carried on and came to some beach cafe's which to be honest didn't seem to be aimed at tourists as the shop owner spoke no English, we carried on walking and in the end grabbed a taxi, and asked to go to the town. We were taken to the middle of Peurta Plata where we were the only tourist around, and felt very uncomfortable. We were like fish out of water, It wasn't like any other holiday town, yes there were loads of soulvienier shops, but thats it, no supermarkets, bars, restaurants, nothing. We were then luckilly approached by one of the security guards from our hotel who's day off it was, and was out with his partner, and quite catagorically told us that, this was not a good place to be out wondering alone, without a guide! and he told us to remove the gold jewelery that we were nievely showing off, as he said loads of tourists get mugged usually by the local mafia. By this point we were terrified, and the security guard got us a taxi and we went back to the hotel.
So to be honest i would really try and stick to the hotel, if you want to take a stroll then i would, if going along the beach take a right turn from the hotel, or left if going along the road from the hotel, and the only real place to visit is the Plaza shopping centre.
If you are wondering what currency to use, and what form to take, I would recommend just taking about £100 of US Dollars, and £100 of Dominican Pasos to start with, and if you can just use your credit / debit card to get money when you are there, or just use your card for purchases. If getting cash out the rate in the hotel is ok, but if you want better then just walk upto the Plaza as mentioned earlier, alternitavely, you can go to the cash machine (ATM) next door to the hotel, it's just behind the Casino. If using Cash Machines, take out as much as possible in one go, as you get charged £3.50ish each transaction, you can always keep it in your safe!
The majority of places accept US Dollar$ or Dom Pasos, However stupidly, the Thomas cook trips are priced in US Dollars but are then converted and charged in Euro's?
Don't make costly mistake we did, and get a pre paid Visa card from the Post Office in US Dollars, we did this primarily to pay for trips, but found out Thomas Cook couldn't accept it? and so was useless, We ended up not using it and so had to get stung with high conversion rate back home so ended up loosing about £80 in cashing it back into Pounds.
Don't bother bringing towels, they give you them at the hotel by the pool, and you get plenty in your rooms, and you can take them out if going on trips. They will only give you less room in your case and weigh more.
Haggle with everyone, especially jewellery, paintings and cigars, i usually got stuff 50% less than the starting price.
Take loads of suncream, its not cheap here, a cheap underwater camera is a must if you are going snorkelling, and insect repelent especially at night.
Tips, I would tip the maids by leaving $1 a day for them, i think this is why our mini bar was restocked daily, and tip hotel porters. Also on trips such as bus driver etc. and anyone else you feel gives you great service, but it's not really expected and i never felt a cheapskate for not tipping barmen or waitressess who didn't expect it anyway.
My only gripe during our stay, which was unavoidable, was that on our second week we we're inundated with loads of mainly British tourists who had, had there holiday canceled as they were supposed to be going to Mexico! and were given this hotel and resort as an alternative.
Now i'm not a snob i'm born and bread from Barnsley Yorkshire, but it seemed that a large number of these people who had brought along their darling kids, had barely learned how to eat with knives and forks! They were loud mouthed, drunken, smoking tattooed chavs.
They were the ones who would reserve the loungers with towels in the morning so they could get as sunburnt as possible, spend most of the day eating and drinking, whilst jumping onto the ever growing number of inflatables in the pool.
Then at night not bothering to adhere to any dress code in the dinning room, turning up in the same clothes worn by the pool, so all you could see is a mass of swim shorts, vest tops and flip flops, whilst the civilised ones looked vey over dressed.
I can't believe some people though, i saw many times people picking buffet food up with their fingers and not with the tongs provided, and once someone dropped the tongs on the floor and she just put them back in the dish of food for everyone else to use! Unbelievable! no wonder Mexico has swine flu!!!
But what really got my back up was, that I overheared loads of them saying, that it was a rubbish hotel and not half as good as the one they should be staying at in Cancun, saying that in cancun you get served drinks at your sun lounger by waiters! well if thats the only thing, and they can't be bothered to get there lazy behinds up to get a drink from the numerous bars around well god help them. And by the sounds of it they had all only paid about £600 for a fortnight!!!
I can't believe such people can complain, it must be paradise for them, being able to eat and drink as much as they like, smoke where they like, and let there darling offspring (who should be at school) run around like idiots and let someone else look after them or not as the case usually is!
Well that's my rant over and has nothing to do with the Hotel, it just makes me embarrassed sometimes to be a tourist from the same country.
So overall, The Hotel, was fantastic, very clean, great food and drink, decent entertainment, lovely rooms, great beach, and very good service. The trips were good, but overpriced, however found out later could have got a lot cheaper! (live & learn) The resort itself is very limited, personally i wouldn't venture off track without a guide, however all staff and local people met were extreamly friendly, the weather was great even with a few thunderstorms thrown in which only last 30mins but then its glorious sunshine again! But in all honesty this hotel does deserves its 5 star award, I would recommend it to anyone apart from Chavs!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The IBEROSTAR Costa Dorada hotel is located in front of the large golden sand beach of Costa Dorada, 10 minutes from the city of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic's north coast. This wonderful 5-star All Inclusive resort is a wonderful haven for aquatic sports lovers. Renovated in 2011, the IBEROSTAR Costa Dorada hotel has 498 Double Rooms and 18 spacious Junior Suites. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Costa Dorado
- Iberostar Puerto Plata
- Iberostar Costa Dorada Dominican Republic
- Iberostar Costa Dorada Puerto Plata
- Iberostar Hotel Costa Dorada
- Iberostar Costa Dorada Hotel
- Costa Dorado
- Puerto Plata Iberostar
- Iberostar Hotel Puerto Plata