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“beautiful but not what it claims to be”

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The Palace at Playa Grande
Ranked #3 of 3 Hotels in Rio San Juan
Reviewed 2 February 2011

We really can't say enough about how beautiful the place was or how genuinely kind the staff was at this hotel. But it stops there. The "palace" is exactly that, a private Taj Mahal style mansion built around ten years ago and only in the last year has it been rented out as a "Hotel" They really sold it as a luxury resort with an executive chef that could cater to any special dietary needs. We are Vegetarian and Vegan so this was a major draw for us to stay here. I wrote a very detailed email explaining our needs and were told that it would be no problem and taken care of. Our first meal was full of cheese... and the comical dishes they tried to feed us at times were in no way considered in the 4 star range. They were unimaginative and in no way prevailing of the bounty of vegetables available in the area. Despite this, the staff did try their hardest to please us and really went away from their usual offerings:/ The chef could actually cook! He had a good sense of balance and everything was perfectly al dente so it was strange he didn't let his talent show at all.

The first room we had was facing the water and really pretty but we couldn't see at night because the lighting was so dim, the hot water would run out before one person could shower quickly, the wall socket would come out of the wall in the bathroom when you'd go to unplug, etc. They upgraded us to a nicer room with a private "hot tub" but there was never enough hot water to fill it so it was a jetted cold tub:) They say "luxurious toiletries" if you consider a Cosco bottle of watery used Pert 2 in 1 shampoo and a large bar of glycerin soap from the local bodega "luxurious" then your set:) Also they don't have TV in the rooms which was fine with us but they also couldn't get the internet working in our room until the last day we were there. They did make an effort by bringing in the" wireless guy" who only made it worse however.
We had one of the two nicest rooms in the palace and the other similar "hot tub" room next door apparently you couldn't flush toilet paper in the toilet! All of this is expected in a remote place in a country that doesn't have any major tourist infrastructure but then don't charge $1,000 dollars a night for a room that doesn't have hot water or a toilet paper flushing toilet. That's all I'm saying. They need to update everything including the mattresses and bedding... Ouch! and get a real food and beverage director in there to sort out the "All inclusive, executive chef" situation. Or just lower their prices to about $300 dollars a night and one would feel ok with it. I might go back. even after giving it that review, just because it was so relaxing and beautiful.

  • Stayed: January 2011, travelled as a couple
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7  Thank coachTia
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
ahs01, Manager at The Palace at Playa Grande, responded to this reviewResponded 17 February 2011

Thank you for your feedback and your recent stay at The Palace at Playa Grande. We strive to make sure everything is in working order in all of our guestrooms & Suites and we have made sure that all items you mentioned have been rectified. I am sorry that there was confusion regarding your meal requests,
The experience at The Palace is unlike many are accustomed to. We only have a maximum of 26 guests when we are full and more often it is around 10 to 20. This allows us to customize the dining experience for our guests. Some guests prefer an elaborate menu with many choices. We only offer a few set choices each meal period and allow the Chef to be available to create special selections according to our guests preferences. We encourage our Guests to tell the staff things like- we would love Lobster tomorrow or a great tropical fruit salad for lunch would make me happy! The response we have received to this approach has been great.

Thank you again for your feedback and we hope that you will come back and see us again soon!

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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80 - 86 of 90 reviews

Reviewed 31 January 2011

We returned home yesterday from 6 nights at the Palace. Our stay there exceeded all expectations and we hope to return. There were three additional couples during our stay and we greatly enjoyed their company.

The Palace - in and out - beautiful and well cared for. It felt cosy and comfortable and became a home away from home. The wi-fi was in and out during our stay but the lobby computer worked each time - slow but got the job done when needed.

The beach - They do advertise as a 3 season beach. We had one day that the water was rough and high which made the beach off limits. The rest of the time, a good portion of sand was open. We swam and snorkeled off the beach several days towards the end of the week once the waves calmed down. There were a few days that the gate was locked - one only needed to ask and a staff member would sprint to open it for you. On our last day, we enjoyed a lovely lunch on the beach - table with linens and great food.

We stayed in one of the royal ocean front suites and enjoyed breakfast served on our balcony most mornings. The view is spectacular! They offer several options for breakfast - omelets, french toast, pancakes, sausage and bacon, etc , you can view a menu downstairs and they will serve you anywhere on the grounds. We mixed and matched items every day depending on what we wanted and they made everything to order. I highly recommend the fresh squeezed orange juice.

The lighting in the bathroom was quite poor but as we were on vacation at the beach - we had little need for primping. Blow dryers are available, as usual, simply ask.

The staff is exceptional and will go out of their way to do whatever necessary to make your stay enjoyable.

They only heat 1 of the 2 'hot' tubs on site. As they are heated with propane, they don't run all the time. After a few days of cool water, we asked and they made sure it was running properly and the water was blazing hot that evening.

We asked and they provided for taxi service to/from the hotel. The cost of the taxi was simply added to our bill which reduced the amount of cash we needed to have on hand, all we needed was a tip for the driver. On a day we ventured into Cabrete (about 1 hour away) they arranged for a taxi to drive us. He stayed with us through the day, watched our things and took us back that evening. This wasn't outrageously priced and was a great service.

The beach at Playa Grande is very long and mostly clean. There was minimal garbage on the day we went, mostly near the parking area. We found that the hawkers were respectful and didn't bother you once you got through the first round of no thank you's.

Our only other outing was a mountain and beach ride through Rancho Paraiso (www.drhorses.com) which was phenominal. They tailored the ride to our abilities and time requested. We spent three hours along back country roads, touring small communities, wide pastures and the most beautiful beach you've ever seen. If you do nothing else outside the Palace grounds, go and enjoy the country side on horseback.

Don't hesitate - book your trip now. Let me know if you have questions.

  • Stayed: January 2011, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank Msturte
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 January 2011

It has taken me a while to write this review and so some of the issues may now be rectified.
Firstly, on the whole, my husband and I enjoyed our seven night stay here. The service was fantastic. Every member of staff went out of their way to make sure that we had a good time. We were on the 'all-inclusive' package and the drinks never stopped flowing. Every member of staff was genuinly very friendly and made us feel very special.
The hotel is small and so you get to know the other guests. Something that we enjoyed very much and added to our vacation.
Other good things about the 'Palace' include the building itself. It is a fantastic Indian style villa. It is luxuriously furnished with objects and silks from India. Everywhere is exceptionally clean and the views are sensational. The outdoor areas include lovely gardens and lots of private places to sit and wander around.
The rooms differ enormously in style and size and range from the vast and sumptuous ocean view Royal Suites to the garden view Deluxe. We stayed in a garden view Deluxe room which was nicely furnished with a comfortable bed. We had plenty of wardrobe space and a very small balcony overlooking the swimming pool. There were things about our room, however, which we thought could be improved. The bathroom was very, very small and very, very dark. The shower provided intermittent hot water with good pressure but you had to manouevre yourself around the door to gain access. Sitting on the toilet was another challenge regarding the door. There was no way I could apply make-up or dry my hair in such a dark bathroom. The hotel advertises that the 'fabulous' bathrooms are an indulgent oasis equipped with slippers, bathrobes and toiletries. Ours did not have, or indeed have room for the slippers and bathrobes and the toiletries consisted of a large bar of household soap and a bottle of 'Pert' shampoo. Still, we did not go all the way to the DR to spend time in the bathroom and we were given plenty of clean towels.
The balcony was very pleasant but not large enough to sit on. The doors could not be wedged open and so needed to be closed the whole time to prevent them banging in the wind. The room had a very efficient AC unit but we would have preferred a fan with the windows open as the evening air was a lovely temperature in November.
There was a shortage of electrical sockets in the room. The one in the bathroom was unusable as the lighting was so bad and the other socket was right next to the door. There was no safe, hairdryer or full length mirror in the room.
The private beach unfortunately had disappeared. Apparently, it is a seasonal beach and whilst there we could not even go down and see where it should have been as the gates were locked. We particularly like to spend time on the beach and so this was a big disappointment to us. The staff do lay on a shuttle bus to the nearby beaches of Playa Caleton (calm and pretty) and Playa Grande (vast with large waves). They were lovely beaches but we were approached again and again by beach vendors and Playa Caleton was full of trash on the Monday after the weekend. Also, you have to arrange your pick-up time in advance. This worked well until one day all the of the guests were expecting a pick-up at 1215 but the driver mistook this for 1250 and so we all (including a couple with a very young baby) waited in the hot sun not knowing if we were to be collected or not.
Other issues we had were that there was a fair amount of building work going on around the pool area. Very noisy machines were being used all day long. We had not been notified of this in advance and if we had we would probably have reconsidered our stay there at that time. We also had builders working right outside our bathroom window which menat that we had to keep the blind closed for decency resulting in the bathroom becoming a little musty.
The pool bar was not finished and some of the pool beds had seen better days but other than that the pool area is delightful and with so few guests there was never any problems of finding our own space. We never used the jacuzzis which are located throughout the gardens as the water in them was cold and we never saw them working.
The food we found a little disappointing. For our first breakfast we were asked what we would like. There was no menu or buffet. We asked for yogurt, fruit and pastries. Only one yogurt could be found, the pastries consisted of white toast but the fruit was good. So, for breakfast every morning we ate fruit and an omelette, which was good. After about four days some croissants appeared but they were straight out of the fridge and very unappetizing. We noticed that none of the other guests ate them.
Lunch consisted of a salad appetizer followed by either a local dish of meat, rice and beans, including goat stew one day, or the option of something lighter like a sandwich, burger etc.
During the afternoon snacks including nachos, canapes and pizza slices were served. Dinner was again a choice of usually fish/ meat and a vegetarian/pasta dish. The menu was a little restricted and the portions small but the food was freshly made by the chef.
My only other negative comments are that the internet connection was abysmal, the fitness centre was housed in a flooded basement and there is no scuba diving within an hour of the hotel.
To sum up, our stay was made memorable by the staff and their excellent service and the wonderful cocktails that they made.
During our time there the hotel entertained a maximum of eight guests and on one night we were there by ourselves. So, we had a whole palace to ourselves, what could be better.
Apart from the service and the spectacular villa everything else was a bit mediocre. When the building work is complete the pool area will be delightful and when the beach reappears the setting will be divine. The food needs to improved and the smaller deluxe room in which we stayed needs better lighting in the bathroom.Ladies need to bring their own hairdryer and toiletries.
Lastly, we left with happy memories of the lovley Dominican people. They are so friendly and full of fun and were the highlight of our stay. To all the staff at the 'Palace' a big THANK YOU.

  • Stayed: November 2010, travelled as a couple
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8  Thank heb999
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 January 2011

We just returned 2 days ago from the Palace. We went with 8 couples to celebrate my husbands and his friends 50th birthday. We booked the villa through Luxury Retreats which was a great choice because they took care of all the arrangements and made sure everything went smoothly, and it did. We were picked up at the airport by the Villa mgr. Juan Carlos. He is fantastic and took care of our every need. He recommended outstanding entertainment for the evenings, trust his advice he is totally knowledgeable. The staff, especially Cynthia who was second in command when Juan Carlos was not around, literally bent over backwards to make our trip a success. They were willing to cook anything we asked, and believe me we are a picky bunch with 2 vegetarians among us. This place worked perfect for a large group. The spa is fantastic and Rosa the manager managed to keep all our bookings straight. After the first massages, everyone was so happy they kept booking more and more. My husband had 3 massages, I had one and a manicure/pedicure, there were facials and most treatments can be done on the spa balcony overlooking the oceanfront. The water in front of the villa is very rough and even the most experienced swimmers among us were not comfortable taking a dip at the villa beach. We went every morning to the local beach a few minutes away and there was always a car available to take us. There are 6 fantastic, I mean really fantastic rooms. 4 in the main villa and 2 on the hillside. The rest are nice but really can not compare to the main suites. The pool is beautiful and has a swim up bar, but most of the time we just ordered drinks and they were brought right to us where ever we were. Dinner was set up in a different place daily. The grounds and villa are magnificent. We have traveled all over the world and consider ourselves pretty hard to please but we were totally pleased with the Palace. We rented the whole Villa, I'm not sure what it would be like to just rent one of the rooms. I think it works better for a big group. There was no Verizon cell service al all but a few with ATT were able to get cell service. Always had internet access. They need a gym and it might just be perfect! There are a few glitches but nothing worth ruining a great review. Email me if you want more details. Overall..... a real winner. Last thing, do not under any circumstances bother going to Gri Gri Lagoon and the snorkeling was not too good either. Just stay at your villa and live like a king

  • Stayed: January 2011, travelled with friends
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Thank hillbills
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 December 2010

My wife and I went to The Palace at Playa Grande last month for a getaway and had a wonderful time. I wanted to write a review because we have never received personal attention like this before and we have stayed a lot of luxury resorts. The Palace has a team of employees that get to know your every need. After the first day, they knew what we liked, and when we liked it (our specific drink preferences and food types, time we like to leave our room, when to leave us alone and when to interact with us, the time we like to eat lunch). It was like a completely personalized vacation catering to our every want. It was amazing. So was their private beach, accomodations, views, lush grounds and private "estate" feel. The best two aspects of the resort were the completely personalized service and the gourmet food. We went on their food and alcohol plan, thinking we were going to get a good All-Inclusive experience, instead we eat incredible gourmet food at EVERY meal. We really could not believe it. We highly reccomend this hideaway resort for romantics. We will be back to visit our new friends in the D.R.

  • Stayed: November 2010, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Beenaroundtheblock
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 December 2010

There are so many beautiful places in this world to see, why to stay in one twice? Right? That what me and my husband thought before we saw THIS place. Magnificent, amazing, gorgeous…that’s just few words that came to my mind when I first saw the property and this feeling did not leave me till the end of our stay. The architect of the palace was a true artist. The way it is incorporated in the nature and landscape is beautiful. The Palace itself has oriental flavor that mixes wonderfully with tropical surrounding. Your feel like a princess from Arabian nights in there.
And very attentive staff certainly helps you feel like that too. We felt so pampered! Manager Juan Carlos and all the helpers make you feel so welcomed, so like at home. I can’t say much enough of them; if I could I would give the service 6 stars.
Rooms. Beautifully decorated, very clean, candles, pillows and absolutely gorgeous windows views.
Food. You can have your breakfast, lunch and dinner anywhere in the territory of the hotel or in your room. Think breakfast in bed, lunch by the pool and candlelight dinner in the oceanfront terrace. Food was tasty and portion size was perfect for me. For my American husband a little too small, but he never had problems receiving seconds and even thirds.
Beach. It was always driver available to drive us to the nearest beach. One is 3 minutes away, and another one is less then 5 minutes too. One is smaller and better for swimming another is bigger and great for windsurfing.
Overall. Amazing place! Perfect for honeymoons, weddings, romantic getaways and just for busy, overstresses people who need to recharge. The little personal paradise we will be coming back year after year.

  • Stayed: December 2010, travelled as a couple
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Thank alenataft
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 December 2010

My wife and I travelled to the Palace after learning about it via Travel & Leisure magazine. The Palace is an very private mansion/estate on the beach in the Dominican Republic. It reminded us of a Relais Chateaux experiance. It has personalised butler service and resides on a cliff facing the ocean. The food was wonderful. The Palace is not for people looking for your typical Big Box resort experiance. It is a very intimate personalised experiance. We went horseback riding and to the village of Rio San Juan for a fishing trip. Both of these activities were awesome and made better by the very friendly locals. We did not have an opportunity to golf at the oceanfront course ajacent to the property, but drove by it and it looked beautiful. The room we stayed in was huge, and made us feel like we were truly staying at a Kings Palace. The Palace is perfect for couples looking for a romantic luxury retreat, if you are looking for nightlife and tons of activity, maybe not the best choice.

  • Stayed: November 2010, travelled as a couple
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Thank jtbsam
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

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: £172 - £243 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — The Palace at Playa Grande 4*
Number of rooms: 13
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Also Known As:
The Palace At Playa Grande Hotel Rio San Juan

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