Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo
11 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
Good and Bad
"We have just returned from El Portillo and i have to say that the Hotel and staff are beyond compare. the place was spotless and the staff could not do enough to help even with the language barrier (English is my only language). however the holiday was somewhat spoiled not by the staff but sadly the clientele who descended on the hotel at weekends. they treated the place like a personal fraternity house by smoking and drinking in the pools (not supposed to) and treating the staff as if they were personal servants and slaves. sadly it was local Dominicans who had money and were from the city who spoilt this holiday for me. also being a Brit we tend to know what queues are but the other nationalities do not. i actually had a spoon ripped out of my hand by another "guest" so she could get at the food before me. the disappointment was that the staff did nothing to reprimand them or advise that the behaviour was unacceptable in both instances. however do not let this detract from the beauty of the area and the country as a whole as the scenery is spectacular."
- Travel date: 14th July 2012
great beach, nice pool, golden club junior suites is the way to go
"We ( me , wife and three children, 12, 10 and 7) just returned from the El Portillo. It was a good a good vacation. I hate overly large clubs and crowded beaches. El Portillo is just the right size, not too small, not too large, with a beautiful beach not crowded with multiple hotels and huge crowds. The water was warm, shallow, sandy and dotted with coral reefs that added to the overall charm. We went snorkelling and kayaking. The hotel offered windsurfing and sailing as well. You do not need to bring snorkelling gear as they have gear at the scuba shack for hotel guests. The pool was clean and refreshing, and also never overcrowded. We stayed in the golden club, jr. suites and our room was in villa number one right on the ocean. Golden club is the way to go, as the additional services such as a stocked fridge, bathrobes, towel service and night time turn down make it a care free experience. The jr. suites are spacious and well appointed. If I was staying in the standard rooms, I have a feeling my reveiw would be very different. I do not know what the price difference is, but I am sure it is worth it. While there are three a la carte restaurants we never ate there, as it was way beyond our organiztional level to stand in line to reserve. The buffet, like most of these places was mediocore at best, but no worse then most other places. If you are in a pinch, go to the snack bar on the beach, they serve a great roast chicken. The kids club was not open so I cannot comment, and the royal golden spa was not open either meaning the only internet was one station in the lobby that was always busy so I never bothered (probably more relaxing anyway, as I totally neglected the work I had to do). The service was friendly but generally not good. Most of the staff including front desk know little English. Check in was awful, but that should get better once they have the golden service up and running fully. Only one tennis court, so if that is your passion, go elsewhere. Summary: If you like beautiful sandy unspoilt beach and a relaxing quiet laid back ambiance the El Portillo is an excellent choice, but take the golden service!!! As far as the disco and night life, I can't tell you much as I never went. The theatre/disco is in a cramped location and did not look so appealing, but as I never went I am hardly the last word. Again, go now , as in ten years, this section of Samana will be covered with wall to wall hotels, right now its a bit of a paradise. Enjoy."
- Travel date: 8th January 2007
"I just returned from a week-long stay at Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo. Rather than detailing all of the inadequacies of the resort, I will provide a brief warning: this place has a great deal of potential but it is simply unfinished in many aspects, particularly in terms of accomodations. I was lucky- after the first night, I was moved to a nice room and I enjoyed my holiday. Most people, however, were not so fortunate. Most of those who payed for this 5-star resort had about a 2.5- 3 star experience. My adivce? It is going to be a great place when it is finished. I would wait a good year or two before booking a vacation there."
- Travel date: 7th January 2007
Had a 5 star time in this 4 star resort
"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 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 meringue, 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 4th/ 07 ) I was wishing I was still there. You'll Love it too !!!!"
- Travel date: 5th January 2007
Had major problems
"We just came back from El Portillo (Dec. 25-Jan 1). The hotel is still under construction and was overbooked when we arrived. We did not get the Royal Golden room and service we paid for, although we were eventually offered a compensation. They also made us change rooms three times in the middle of the night after we arrived... More importantly, the regular room they finally gave us at 2:00 in the morning was a hellhole: water infiltration, washroom unusable (water all over the floor and toilet did not work), mold, rat and rat droppings, holes in the wall with electrical wiring sticking out, no working phone, no working tv, sewer odour, etc. We had allergic reactions to the mold and did not sleep for the entire night. The next morning, workers walked into our room without knocking (even though we had locked it with the bolt... which also did not work!). We finally obtained another regular room, after hours of negotiation, and this one was OK. On a positive note, the beach is beautiful and the food is very good. The common areas (those that are completed) are also beautiful and pleasant. Water sports were good. This hotel has potential, but it may be a good idea to give it a few months before booking your vacation there, to make sure that enough rooms are completed to accomodate their bookings. We are not the type of people who complain easily, but we were clearly part of the unlucky ones during that week!"
- Travel date: 3rd January 2007
If you're a beach lover...stay away!
"Stayed from Dec 25 to Jan 1, 07. The drive from the airport takes approximately 75 to 90 minutes depending on how many people the bus driver avoids running over along the way. Check-in: Only two clerks that work at half the speed of slow. Make sure youâre the first one to the desk or youâll be there for an hour. Room: Our room was a junior suite in building 18. The room was fairly large, very clean, but we had minor problems, like the AC and telephone didnât work, which was fixed the following day. The major problem was the roof leaking when it rained, and it rained quite a few times. I guess the leaky roof wouldnât have bothered me, except it leaked directly over our bed. We complained to the front desk and they tried hard to find us another room, but the hotel was booked solid, so we didnât have much of a choice. The comforter made a good tent. Beach: The beach is caramel colored sand and does stretch for a good distance, but the hotel section is probably only one football field long. I didnât venture walking too much further, because I wasnât sure how safe it was. The water is the biggest disappointment. Coral takes up 80 percent of the swimming area, which may be great for snorkeling, but not very appealing for swimming. You always find yourself trying to avoid stepping on the coral. Honestly, itâs the first time I saw less than a dozen people in the water at the same time. Restaurants: The buffet is good, but not great. There are three a la carte restaurants, Oriental (donât go), Fish (donât go) and gourmet, which serves meat and seafood (Go). Remember you have to reserve these restaurants from the guest services counter near the front desk. Again make sure your first, because youâll be there for a while. Entertainment: I have to say the staff tries very hard to please and theyâre very friendly, but the shows were not very good. Overall the hotel itself is very nice, the staff tries very hard to please, but the fact of the matter is that they are definitely going through some growing pains. We heard numerous guests complaining about the rooms. My biggest problem with El Portillo was the beach. Just not appealing! I kept thinking to myself what makes this resort stand out from any other down south and I couldnât think of one. My recommendation is that if you already booked El Portillo, youâll enjoy it and have a good time. If you havenât and are thinking of booking I would look elsewhere."
- Travel date: 3rd January 2007
New owners - needs help
"Hello - I just returned from a week at El Portillo. I had the Transat distinction package which updated the room to a jr suite. Please do not get excited about what is included in the package because half do not exist. The suite was lovely - the villas are in levels of three and there is no elevator, so if you are travelling with an elderly person, there is going to be a problem. Concierge service? No! 24 hour room service? No! Separate check in/out with full acces to club house and private lounge? Absolutely not! Newspapers? No. Daily stock of mini bar? No! The trip from the airport is a good 1.5 hours away - very pretty part of DR. There were 2 buses of people arriving at the hotel at the same time, and all of 2 people behind the desk to check us in- it was the most unorganized check in I have ever seen. After waiting in line for a long time, you were given your bracelet and told to get lunch and come back at 3 to get the room keys (check in is 3pm) That's fine and dandy, but you have then reline up with all those people which took another 45 minutes. They could have easily given us the package at one time. At check out time, please double check the bill - there were a few of us that were charged for something we didn't buy - and if you asked for proof of signature, it was no where to be found. If you have a chance on your return, there is the big bus and a little mini van - take the van because it takes you on a route that the big bus can't do, and it's spectacular scenery - also 45 minutes quicker! The hotel itself is very pretty. One buffet and 3 separate restaurants. I found the food to be superb - there was something for everyone. The separate restaurants we booked for 4 nights, but cancelled the remaining 2 nights as the service was appalling - minimum 2 hours to get the meals. Better to do self serve at buffet! There is a beach bar with unbelievable service - Some people would place an order of eg: hamburger and after 1.5 hours it was still not served, while others could walk up and place a take out order, and it would be ready in 10 minutes. Often people would place an order and go back to the beach for 1/2 hour. The beach was lovely. Lots of cabanas to hide under. The staff, well it is not essential that they know English so that was a big problem. Trying to communicate with the maids was next to impossible. The bar staff - they have booklets with all the fancy drinks written in Spanish and English, and they have no idea what they are making - it was fun to see how many variations of one drink you could get! And very very slow so big line ups. Also, there are some brands of liquor you have to pay for - not everything is all included. The entertainment staff during the day tried hard - at night the entertainment was pathetic. Looking around I was very interested to see there was not a lot of tipping, as there would be in Cuba. The manager at the front desk advised to bring lots of ones because they don't always have change. Please bring Off or similar stuff - the bugs are brutal at night - as our Rep said, you won't feel them bite you but the next day you will certainly feel them! Unfortunately there were tons of problems with the rooms - we were lucky that we were on the 3rd floor with no one above us. There were rooms that were not finished and had construction people going through, there were alot of rooms that had sewer coming up the drains. So alot of unhappy people - quite a few had to be shipped to another hotel. We had 2 electrical wires that were not capped so everytime you opened the curtains they would spark big time - was the management concerned? Not in the least - someone came to look, shook his head and said he would be back in 3 minutes. Needless to say, they are still uncapped! All in all I would not return to this resort."
- Travel date: 2nd January 2007
"Just returned after spending Christmas week at the resort. We have booked the Royal Golden Club Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo through Air Transat, departing from Toronto, Canada. Our flight landed at the new airport in Samana, went through Customs/Immigration in less than Â½ hour (the new terminal is bare with freezing cold air conditioning). We then took a 90 minutes bus ride to the resort, which sits on the north side of the Samana peninsula, right on the Atlantic Ocean. I think the distance was only 50 km but the bus could not travel too fast on a two lane secondary highway. According to the Air Transat Rep (Robert), the resort has only opened for less than 2 months. The property is supposed to be â5-starâ and has used 1st class building materials, with all rooms in the form of 2 or 3 stories villas. We were lucky as our room was pretty well perfect. However, a few people in our group had lots of issues with their rooms and chose to move to a different resort in Samana City. Check in took a while as the counter people were only fluent in Spanish and ended up getting the manager for assistance on almost every cases. There was one buffet and 3 specialty restaurants (Gourmet, Fish and Oriental). With Golden Club, you were allowed 4 specialty restaurant sittings and had to be pre-booked. The booking of these sittings took a while as there was only one Guest Service lady with limited office hours. Buffet served good food but not 24 hours. They didnât really sticks to any time table and only opened for business when they were ready. From our experience, breakfast was from 7 to 10, lunch was 1 to 3, while dinner was 7 to 10. Most waiter/waitress were new, spoke very little English, trained but lacked experiences. The Specialty restaurants served good food but service was terrible. Terrible meant they tried hard but just incapable. Itâs like a water torture sitting through the slow and disorganized ordeal (3 hour dinner). Thereâs also a snack bar, with table service, where you could get food and drinks all day. There were 3 bars in total with the main bar having lots of chairs and table service. The other 2 bars were situated between the pool and the beach. The beach and the pool have lots of lounges and shades most of the time. The beach has fine but not white sand. The water was clean and shallow to almost 30 feet out. Free kayaks, catamaran and wind surfing were available. The hotel offered 4 excursions; the Â½ day El Limon Waterfall, full day Catermaran, Jeep Safari and a speed boat ride that went to the National Park. The closest town was Las Terrenas, a nice 90 minutes walk from the resort (either along the beach or on a palm lined road) or a one way US$10 cab ride. Itâs really tiny with some European flavor where they closed between 1 and 4 pm. Something I would do once as it was not overly exciting. Nightly activities was nothing to speak off. Three were nice live music where you could dance to but the shows, or lack of, sucked. Overall, the resort is still under construction/expansion. Food, sun and the beach were above service. People that worked there were mostly friendly. You could tell they were trying but lacked experience. Good value for the money."
- Travel date: 1st January 2007
Wonder Trip to the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo
"Vancouver, BC - Canada December 20 - 27, 2006 Just back from a fabulous 1 week vacation to Samana, Dominican Republic. We stayed at the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo Royal Golden. It is a beautiful resort. As we have stayed at this chain of resorts several times before, both in Punta Cana and the Mayan Rivera, it was like coming home for us. The hotel is smaller than most Gran Bahia Principe Hotels that we have visited, but it has everything you could possibly need or want. Because of it's size, it makes for easy access to front reception, the pool, the lobby bar, the buffet and the beach. No trams needed at this resort. Immaculately clean, beautiful lobby, large buffet with outside seating available, 3 a la cartes, one large pool and one separate Jacuzzi pool area, lobby bar, pool bar and beach bar. Very tropical and plenty of palm trees. We had a welcoming dance by the animation staff and a welcoming drink of champagne and tropical juice. As the resort just opened November 6, 2006 with guests from Spain and Germany, we were the first plane to arrive from Vancouver, Canada to the new Samana airport on December 20th. The hotel was not nearly full. We expect it was so they can get their staff used to their jobs and the routine, and throughout the week, more rooms opened up as more planes arrived from Toronto and Montreal. They are still building more suites and have not yet opened the Pueblo Principe shopping area, just inside the front entrance of the resort. It is scheduled to be competed by January 1, 2007. If it's like the other Bahia Principe resorts we have visited, there will be ample shopping at a good price without having to venture off the resort. The location is on a endless stretch of beach, light caramel in colour and if you wander far enough west, it becomes almost white. The sand is soft and clean and since this is the only resort built so far, you can walk endlessly in either direction and feel as if you have been dropped off on your own private peninsula. Very impressive. The water is clean and clear and Caribbean turquoise in colour. There is a large coral reef out front, which makes for the best snorkeling we've seen right out of your resort. Endless varieties of fish. The morning sea was a bit murky, so we would recommend snorkeling in the late afternoon, when the sun is shining. Visibility was amazing. You can use the hotel's gear or bring your own. Point of note: snorkeling gear (fins, mask,snorkel), if packed separately does not get included with your weight of 20 kg per person with Air Transat. We did have mosquitoes bitting us at night, not in our room, but some where outside, perhaps while watching the nightly entertainment. We never did see them. Off Skintastic spray didn't seem to work. Others have recommended Deet. It might have been the time of year. Check-in was seamless and we were assigned villa # 1, second floor. We went first to the buffet for dinner, as we arrived at 10:00 p.m. Samana time from Vancouver and the buffet closes at 10:30 p.m. After that, the bell boys escorted us with our luggage to our room. We must say, the Club Golden section is the way to go if you travel with Air Transat Holidays. You get junior-sized suites (as this resort does have regular-size hotel rooms as well), you get the villas closest to the beach and robes and slippers to use in your room.. Villa #1 is closest to the beach, you just have to look out the balcony and there it was, with palm trees and the ocean staring right back at you. Amazing! The buffet was delicious, always so much to choose from and different each day, ie: vegetables, pasta, seafood, pizza. The salad bar is much the same each day but has a very large selection of toppings. There was always a type of fresh fish, chicken or pork to choose from. Each day they have a different hot meat carved up for you, ie roast chicken, roast pork, ham, and turkey on Dec 24th. The holiday buffet included all the grilled lobster tails you could eat (tail sections cut into three), shrimp sauteed in garlic butter and one of the best chocolate buffet we've seen. The three a la carte restaurants were as follows: The Gourmet - our favourite. You could order lobster and steak and their mushroom and vine cream soup is delicious. The rich chocolate dessert is also very good. The Oriental - our next favorite. The sushi was good (comes as a shared plate for two), so we also ordered the chicken egg rolls as an appetizer and shared them as well. The curried shrimp dish was good (I know, curry in an Oriental restaurant is a little different, but it was very good). My husband ordered the beef stir fry and found it too salty, they quickly exchanged it for the shrimp dish. The Oriental restaurant is seating at a dining table. We missed the typical venue where you have a chief chopping everything up and cooking in front of you. The fried ice cream was pretty good with brown sugar and cinnamon. The Seafood - our least favourite. Slower than the others, seafood chowder was fishy, although the salmon was good. It seems that one kitchen services all, so service can be slow, but I think they are just getting used to the new routine and that will improve in time. Snack Bar - one of the best views in the resort, looks straight out to the ocean. Some mentioned the service was slow, but we never went for food during the day, we went just for the view. We ordered twice at night and the roast chicken is delicious. Bar Service: We found you can get Smirnoff vodka, amber Anejo or Carta Dorada rum instead of white rum, you just have to ask. So far, there is no Clamato juice at this resort for you Caesar lovers' (I'm one of them), but with a little coaching I had a mighty fine Bloody Mary mixed up with salted rim and celery stalk. It's the next best thing. I'm sure it's just a matter of time, as they now have Clamato at the Bahia Principe Punta Cana and Tulum, Akumal, Coba in Mayan Riviera. Once the bartender knows what you like, he remembers for your next drink order. Be sure to tip. We took lots of US $1.00 bills. We found out from one of the staff that they are not paid for the first month they are in training, so it's a great idea and kindness to tip as their average wage is $6.00 US per day as per our tour representative. Hilaro at the pool bar makes the best Coco Loco we've tasted. We recommend bringing along insulated cups or mugs, they are handy at the beach or pool area. The animation staff was the friendliest we've seen. Perhaps because it's a smaller resort and more intimate, you see them more and they get to know you. Very friendly, not pushy and happy to make you smile, as they are always smiling. The shows were okay, they need more dancing routines and less 'pull the audience out of the crowd' shows. Shows starts at 10 pm and the disco (dancing) is at 11 pm all in the same theatre. Hats off to Sugeily (pronounced Suhaily), Gendry, Albert, Diego and Fabio. They also had a wonderful three member band pay music in the open court yard where tables are set up and you can dance. Once the Pueblo Principe shopping opens up, I'm sure there will be lots. Right now they have a lobby shop with a limited number of items. We did buy our Brugal amber rum there, as the new Samana Airport does not yet have any services set up there. Speaking of the airport, it is very clean, new and air conditioned! with clean spacious stainless bathrooms stalls. Some ventured into Las Terrenas (a small fishing village) for shopping. It's about a 1 1/2 hour walk down the beach and about a 15 minute taxi cab ride for $20.00 return trip. We shopped on the beach with the licensed vendors who wandered by. Very friendly and not pushy and you were able to barter. We used US cash. Speaking of cash, American Express US travellers cheques are almost impossible to cash. It took several trips to the front desk, a word to Tony, the front desk manager and some help from Ailia in guest services to get the hotel to change a few travellers cheques into US dollars. Remember, you need $20 US cash for each person to pay the airport tax on departure. We recommend you bring cash and visa for shopping and forget the travellers cheques. Overview: We loved the resort and are anxious to read other reviews from the Gran Bahia Principe Samana and the Gran Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado on the Island. We would definitely go back to Samana. Next trip though will be Bahia Principe Jamaica. Looking forward to reading those reviews as well. Cheers and enjoy your vacation and don't sweat the small stuff. Just remind yourself that you are in the Tropics!"
- Travel date: 1st January 2007
"It was my first trip to the caraibes and i loved it ! The only bad experience was at the check-in - nothing was prepared ... We arrived at Puerto Plata from Paris after a 6 hours flight - and almost 4 hours later we were at the Portillo Beach Resort * we stayed for one hour more at the front desk waiting for check in ... I work in 4 **** in Paris and i was really mad to see how slow they are ... none organisation ! It was the only thing that i thing they can work on ! The staff is helpfull - i did not have problems makings new friends - I'll be back next year that for sure ..."
- Travel date: 7th November 2005
Would Never go Back!
"Stayed for a week the beginning of March. El portillo arranged our flight from SDQ to Las terrenas....they did a horrible job arranging it and making sure they communicated the confirmation to us. Food was lousy, mostly German food.....your best bet is the asain restaurant thats also included in your stay. Rooms are cute and pretty clean....however TV's don't work, and the phones cost an absolute fortune to use. Beaches and resort is beautiful. Staff is very rude and not helpful at all. If you only speak English....your OUT OF LUCK since all the staff speaks only spanish and ALL the other guests speak German. Two Tips... 1. Don;t drink the water....you'll be sick for weeks 2. Watch out for the Bats in the dining room."
- Travel date: 3rd June 2005
Top traveller tips for Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo
"visit other sites outside the hotel"
Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo is also called
- El Portillo Beach Resort Hotel
- gran bahia principe el portillo
- el portillo beach resort