It’s a truly beautiful setting, and after visiting Las Galeras and other hotel sites, where there is a lot of noise from loud music, and vehicles, we were extra-glad we chose Villa Serena.
The hotel is extraordinarily well-maintained and cleaned. The little beach is lovely, at all hours, even when subsumed by the tide. The handsome grounds are a treat. While at least one reviewer complained that they don’t remove the seaweeds from the water in front of their beach, they do have a guy who harvests all the coconuts so they don’t fall on people’s heads. (And if you're lucky they may hand you one, opened and with a straw).
Most meals, we ate in their restaurant. The food was, each time, as good as at any top-quality restaurant at home or other travel destinations.
This is not a hostel-budget accommodation, but overall the prices were reasonable. For example, the hotel arranged driver transfer from the airport, and we later saw a sign board at a competing all-inclusive resort nearby that suggested theirs was a much heavier markup.
The staff were universally pleasant, and most were warm; not overly-familiar like U.S. service workers are, but pleasant in conversation and in the ordinary exchanges of hotel stay. It probably helped a little that one of us is a native Spanish speaker.
We loved the fact there are no TVs and internet in the rooms, and no music in the public areas either. This made for a very peaceful, tranquil, and refreshing vacation; and a better night's sleep as well. When guests want internet they sit quietly in the hotel lobby, absorbed in their devices.
Las Galeras is small, so we couldn’t help but encounter the other lodging options. For us, Villa Serena seems the best place to stay here. The others appeared not quite as well maintained (cleaned and painted and kept in good repair), and are too proximate to public beach – like the handsome Hotel Todo Blanco -- and roadways -- like Plaza Lusitania -- where it’s clear that many Dominicans, we learned in our first trip here, apparently love noise and are in a continual competition for who can have the loudest and most earth-shaking car stereo systems. Villa Serena is a good enough distance from the public beach that even when the music is blasting, it isn’t unpleasant.
There were only two negatives. First, the hotel's web site represents “Villa Serena has twenty-one spacious and comfortable rooms, all with a large private terrace and a stunning ocean view.” In fact, the room we received did not have an ocean view, but a recessed view of the main front of the hotel and the garden, and there was a small balcony big enough for a single upright chair, not a terrace. The only way to see the ocean was to go onto the balcony, and stand in its very far corner. (So, ask for room #15 if you want extreme privacy, I guess, where you can stand nude on the little balcony without much risk of exposure).
That leads to the second negative: the female manager is mostly absent, has a smile like the cat that ate the canary, and is as warm as her Russian homeland in winter. We arrived in the night, so in the morning asked if a room with the advertised ocean view could be available. No one but her, evidently, had authority to answer, because we had asked two others at the desk before she finally appeared on the scene. When she arrived, she put a book on the counter, threw it open dramatically, raised each arm high with open palms upward, and with a hard little laugh of derision pronounced, “People are booking a year in advance for this.” Okay, so they’re full.
But, on our very last day, I encountered her coming out of what was evidently her own room at the very center of the building, with a bag over her shoulder, freshly dressed and headed out. The manager herself, I saw then, occupies one of those advertised rooms with the ocean view and large terrace, which meant that this pair of guests couldn’t have one.
Hotel managers often get a room or even a suite, and sometimes these are among the very best rooms, but I have also traveled the world enough to have experienced that when a hotel is truly full – especially a self-described boutique hotel with only twenty-one rooms -- a manager will sometimes cede the room to a paying guest. Not this manager. In that moment I saw that the negative comments about her on Trip Advisor are right on target. If it weren't for the negative experience of her, I would rate the hotel "Excellent."
The manager may be a piece of work, but we'll be back.
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- Also Known As:
- Villa Serena Hotel Samana, Dominican Republic