Stayed at GBP El Portillo Dec. 27/06 - Jan 3/ 07 with my wife & 3 teenagers had a fabulous time. But let's get a few negatives out of the way first. The Bus ride from the airport which Nolitours quotes as being 30 mins. and Transat ( the tour company we booked with ) quotes as being 60 mins was actually 95 mins. This was fine on the way home as it was day light with spectacular scenery but on arrival at night it made for a very long trip after being on the plane for close to 10 hours. On arrival we were at the back of the check in line of about 15 groups. This process took over 90 mins. What held this up was that we were all booked with Transat and were all promised Junior Suites closest to the beach. Out of the 15 ( or so ) groups only 4 got Junior suites. The rest were put in regular rooms far from the beach and we had to listen to each one complain about the room being inferior to what they had been promised by Transat. I would be livid if we had been put in one of these rooms after paying extra for a Junior suite but by some stroke of good luck we were given two Junior Suites ( even though we were at the back of the line).One with a spectacular ocean view just steps to the beach and the other in the building next to it .We finally got to our rooms just before midnight ( 8:00 pm Vancouver time), so for those of you that have booked from Vancouver with 7:00 am flight, expect about 13 hours of travel and waiting in line before getting to your room.The other promises given by Transat which didn't come true were a private lounge with internet access and newspapers, bathrobes in the rooms ( one of our room had the robes and the other one didn't ).
Transat's on site rep Robert was just great at trying to sort out all of the bugs for us but there was very little he could do in some instances.
Please realize you are in a tropical country that has people who move at a more relaxed pace and speak very little English. I've never met anyone visiting Vancouver expecting me to speak Spanish so knowing a bit of their language would be helpful. The people were very friendly and for the most part will go out of their way to make your stay enjoyable.
We took advantage of 3 out of the 4 al la carte restaurant meals. All of them had great food but slow service. The Buffet had a wonderful assortment of food. Being a seafood lover I was in heaven.
If you like a nice wine you won't be pleased with the red or white wine included with the all inclusive but you can order better quality wines for an extra charge.
One of my favorite spots in the entire resort was the snack bar on the beach. Yes, the service can be painfully slow, tables and chairs are plastic, drinks served in plastic cups, but with a view overlooking the beach, palm trees and the Caribbean who cares!!
The entertainment at night was both good and bad. There live bands ( 2 out of the 6 nights we were able to be see the shows) were marvelous with great dancing, however the other shows ( Cher impersonator, raunchy skits etc ) were not so good.
There are guards on both ends of the beach controlling the number of vendors allowed in the area at any one time. the vendors are quite nice, are very willing to negotiate and will leave you alone if you don't want to buy anything.
The whole reason for the trip for us was to get some sunshine and frolic on the beach.......... we were not disappointed. The beautiful beach was spectacular. The water was the perfect temperature,great snorkeling right in front of you with several small reefs that have lots of fish, the weather was great ( expect a few very short showers each day). lots of water sports to keep us busy. I was one of the 1st ones on the beach each morning ( day light starts at about 6:40 ) and usually the last one to leave ( sun is gone by about 5:45).
With 3 teenagers we were always doing something, beach volleyball, archery, learning to dance the merengue, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing. Walking on the beach to the town of las Torrenes takes about 75 mins and a short cab ride back. I brought 2 books and only had time to read them during my morning solitude on the beach while waiting for the breakfast buffet to open at 8:00 am.
As I shoveled the snow off my walk this morning ( Jan 5th/ 07 ) I was wishing I was still there. You'll Love it too !!!!