Gran Ventana Beach Resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (Photo Tour)

The Gran Ventana Beach Resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
The Gran Ventana Beach Resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. | Source
4 stars for Gran Ventana Resort

My Impulse Vacation

In January 2009, I decided to take my real first vacation as an adult. Being recently divorced and uncertain of where to go, I popped into the local travel agent to explore options. I decided on a fair priced all-inclusive pack to the Dominican Republic that covered airfare, fees, taxes, 7 day/6 night resort stay, all meals and drinks. Booking the trip during their "off season" (aka their winter months) helped bring down the cost and assured that the temperatures were more to my comfort level at 22-24 °C (approximately 71-75 °F).

Ready to go!
Ready to go! | Source

Travel

I wasn't thrilled with the 4 AM departure from Ottawa (with check in two hours in advance ... plus a 2 hour drive to the airport from my place). A friendly family who was familiar with resort vacationing, assured me this was normal; the resort wants to make sure guests arrive at a decent hour, so we can enjoy our first day.

Sample of a customs declaration.
Sample of a customs declaration. | Source



The flight was comfortable and, being part of a package trip, I didn't have to worry about red-tape upon arrival. (Whew!) The only paper work we had to fill out was a customs declaration which was fairly easy to handle.

Satellite View of the Dominican Republic

Puerto Plata, where the Gran Ventana Resort is located.
Puerto Plata, where the Gran Ventana Resort is located. | Source

The Resort

From the airport, we were transported by bus to the resort. The Gran Ventana was bright, colourful, and very well kept. I expected beautiful scenery, but the simple splendour of the 506-room resort itself was a pleasant surprise.

Spanish Flare

The gorgeous balconies and colours of the resort.
The gorgeous balconies and colours of the resort. | Source
Beautiful architecture!
Beautiful architecture! | Source

Unexpected Welcoming

Arrival was probably the thing I disliked most about the whole experience. We arrived at noon. I was exhausted and eager to get to my room. Staff greeted us warmly with complimentary drinks, but our rooms would not be ready until 2 PM and we could not check in until then.

The main lobby with its grand chandelier.
The main lobby with its grand chandelier. | Source

Our luggage was placed on the front steps of the resort and we were invited to make ourselves comfortable by the pool-side or at the beach until our rooms were available. Unfortunately, I had a hard time getting comfortable. More experienced guests had dressed in layers or traveled from Canada in summer clothes, so they were ready to get to the pool, bar, beach, and/or cafeteria. I, however, was still dressed for a Canadian winter, because I thought I'd be able to change the moment I arrived.

Plus, I disliked the thought of walking away from my luggage, even with security keeping an eye on it. They didn't know who owned what, so any one could have opened my suitcase and walked off with things. In the end, I pawed through my luggage on the front steps to find a more appropriate outfit, changed in the public washroom, and spent 2 hours sitting in the lobby, watching my luggage.

Gran Ventana Map

The map provided to guests upon check-in.  I stayed in the Beata Building (on the left side).
The map provided to guests upon check-in. I stayed in the Beata Building (on the left side). | Source

Check-In

Finally 2 PM arrived and we were able to check in. It was long process because there were so many people, but eventually it was my turn. I got my room card-key, welcome package with map, and resort bracelet to identify me as a current guest.

I was dismayed to discover that my room was in the Beata Building to the left of the main building (see map). Tired, hungry and frustrated, I dragged my luggage down the road to the Beata and then nearly cried when I had to haul it up 3 flights of stairs by myself. Thankfully, I'd packed light, but I was so exhausted by this point that I didn't even see how lovely everything was or how nicely decorated the room was.

Once alone in my room, I collapsed on the bed and slept until hunger woke me a few hours later.

Lobby of the Beata Building

This is the lovely lobby of the Beata Building.  It was a quiet place since most of the activities happened at the main building, so I enjoyed some quality time to myself here.
This is the lovely lobby of the Beata Building. It was a quiet place since most of the activities happened at the main building, so I enjoyed some quality time to myself here. | Source
Clean and spacious rooms.
Clean and spacious rooms. | Source
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My Room

My room was spacious, comfortable, and clean. The bed was large and inviting. The staff provided plenty of towels, usually made up as swans and hearts around the room.

I appreciated the air conditioning which turned itself off when the balcony door opens (how cool is that?) and made use of the ceiling fan at night. I was thrilled to discover that the staff placed a 1 gallon (sealed) jug of bottled water in my room each day, and because I drink a lot of water, was extremely grateful that I could have a second jug whenever I wanted.

There were the expected basics; hair dryer, a terrace or balcony, telephone with voice mail, and cable television. The rooms also have a minibar (restocked daily) and in-room safes that could be rented. Although they offered the typical wake-up service, I had no need of it as I will explain in a moment.


A swan made out of towels and face clothes.
A swan made out of towels and face clothes. | Source

The View from My Room

The view from my balcony wasn't as pretty as I'd hoped.  I was apparently on the wrong side of the building to enjoy the lovely resort grounds or ocean vistas.
The view from my balcony wasn't as pretty as I'd hoped. I was apparently on the wrong side of the building to enjoy the lovely resort grounds or ocean vistas. | Source

I didn't spend a lot of time on the balcony of my room, because it faced the Playa Dorada Commercial Center about a block away and overlooked the staff parking lot. This was a detriment at 6 AM when the staff arrived in groups, clapping and singing at the top of their lungs. While it's nice that they're pleased to work at the resort, it was earlier than I liked to be woken up on my vacation.

The buildings on the other side have views of the peaceful grounds or ocean ...

Behind the resort is the Playa Dorada Commercial Center (white building on the left) that is jam-packed with bustling businesses.
Behind the resort is the Playa Dorada Commercial Center (white building on the left) that is jam-packed with bustling businesses. | Source

Staff and Service

Room service was fast and friendly.

The staff was amazing, friendly, and accommodating - even when I asked them to pose with my "travel moose" for funny holiday pics :-)

Fun and Friendly Staff

The front desk staff posing with my travel companion, Maurice Moose.
The front desk staff posing with my travel companion, Maurice Moose. | Source

When I had questions, there was always someone to help. When I needed something, there was someone with what I needed - and a little extra to make sure I was comfortable. For example. I needed a pool towel. They made sure I had two.

Tag and Release

Relaxing on beach with my resort bracelet which identifies me as a current guest.
Relaxing on beach with my resort bracelet which identifies me as a current guest. | Source

Keep the Tip

I was told by the travel agent that tipping isn't welcome at the resort, but gifting is acceptable. She suggested small Dollar Store items that can easily packed are best. Because the Dominican Republic is mostly lower income (read as: exceedingly poor), there are things we take for granted that they consider a luxury:

Oh no!  My travel companion has a run-in with security!!
Oh no! My travel companion has a run-in with security!! | Source
  • Clothing: pantyhose, socks (especially for children);
  • Toiletries: soap, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, bobby pins, elastics and other hair decorations;
  • Educational Tools: Children's books (especially with lots of pictures), colours, shapes, and numbers learning books;
  • Writing Tools: pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, notebooks;
  • Child Related: stickers, toy cars, balls, colouring books, crayons, colouring pencils;
  • Pastime Items: playing cards, puzzles;
  • Baby/Child Items: bibs, socks, sun hats


While I was there, the most popular item gifted to staff was a light-up coaster given to a bartender. It entertained everyone for hours!

I wasn't really clear on the etiquette of gifting. Since I almost never saw the cleaning staff, I left the gifts for them on the foot of my bed with a note that read:

Gracias por su buen trabajo!

(Thank you for your good work!)

And, for the wonderful hostess that looked out for me at meal times in the cafeteria, I personally handed her a beautiful scarf and thanked her.

Food

The food ... What word tops "amazing"??? Their all you can eat restaurant for every day meals featured some of the most delicious foods I've eaten, including some of my favourites that I rarely see; such as rabbit, lamb, and goat. Despite my restrictive diet (due to food allergies), I was able to find plenty to eat.

 The beach side snack shack.
The beach side snack shack. | Source

The themed restaurants, which needed to be booked in advance, were classy with a menu selection that was just right. Even the little beach side snack shack had fabulous casual food.

So Much to Do!

Various flyers with so many fun and exciting  (and even some relaxing) things to choose from!
Various flyers with so many fun and exciting (and even some relaxing) things to choose from! | Source
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Activities: Off-Site

There was the option to leave the resort for day excursions or to go to the market. While I did go for a horseback ride (see photos to the right) and visited the market with new friends, I could have happily spent the entire time within the boundaries of the resort without getting bored.



Everywhere I went, the scenery was beautiful and the elegant architecture drew the eye.


Activities: On Location

I LOVE the fact that this place is family-friendly!! They had games and activities for the kids, fun shows in the evening and 2 pools; a "quiet" one where I could lounge and a "family one" where things could get rowdy.

The Beach

The pristine beach.
The pristine beach. | Source
A nice shady spot.
A nice shady spot. | Source
The moon at night.
The moon at night. | Source

Tips

Here are some tips to remember:

  • Travel dressed in layers, so you can adjust your wardrobe according to the weather between departure and arrival points.
  • While the staff is very good at making sure your water is pure, there is always the chance when you're on vacation in another country of getting ill. To reduce this chance, make sure you get your HEP A and B shots before travelling.
  • Drink only bottled water and always make sure the seal is unbroken.
  • Don't leave valuables in your room.
  • Try to avoid rooms with a window facing the parking lot. The staff arrives VERY early and they're always singing and happy!
  • Some countries experience civil unrest that doesn't make it into mainstream media. These places often have a high poverty rate and unsuspecting tourists can sometimes get caught in the middle of local disputes. Don't go off the resort alone, even with a staff member to "see the sights" unless it's part of an approved tour.


Worth Repeating!

I went alone in 2009, because I was single and wanted to do something special for me. Now that I'm married and have kids, I want to take the whole family back to enjoy the "fun" with me.

In the entrance of the Gran Ventana Beach Resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
In the entrance of the Gran Ventana Beach Resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic | Source

© 2016 Rosa Marchisella

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