Lifestyle Hacienda Villas Del Mar
20 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
Lies, Lies, Lies!!!!
"My family just got back from a week in this miserable resort. We had bought our vacation on EBay, from a member of the Lifestyle Haciendas Vacation Club, expecting very comfortable accommodations, great food, and the spectacular service that should have come with our "VIP" package. We discovered that the one and only purpose of this place is to sell you an exorbitantly expensive (high six digits) membership in the Vacation Club.
Everything is designed to impress you upon arrival. Many of the facilities look good, particularly the VIP Beach, where you can lie on a queen-size four-poster bed, shaded by curtains, drinking your fill of tropical beverages. If you arrive at the beginning of the week (we were there Wed to Wed), you are greeted by the big VIP Welcome Party, and taken around to see the resort the next morning by one of the membership salespeople. What you might not know when they ask you to sign up and pay is that the resort is insufferably bureaucratic, the facilities don't hold up to the first impression, the staff is incapable of or unwilling to solve problems, and the food is abominable.
We were scheduled to spend the first two days in a three-bedroom suite, and the balance of the week in a three-bedroom villa. Upon arrival, we were informed that no large suites were available, and that we would be put in two one-bedroom suites. We had to put an extra bed in the living room of one of the suites for our child. We were given no information about the resort, probably so that we would have no choice but to listen to one of the salespeople who accosted us poolside within an hour of arrival with promises of "welcome gifts" and an orientation tour. Our move to the villa became an all-day ordeal, since no part of the resort has any idea whatsoever what is going on in another part of the resort. Our villa, once we got into it, turned out to be an aging structure that had air-conditioning, but only in the bedrooms. The beds in both suites and villas were like stone slabs, and the pillows like boulders. The furniture in the common areas was so uncomfortable it was practically unusable. All the chairs assumed you were at least six feet high.
The all-inclusive package allows you to eat at the hotel buffet, as well as at one of a number of quieter, more private restaurants. The buffet is crowded and loud, and the food served there is inedible. Roving musicians bother you with supposedly entertaining musical numbers, which includes Gypsy Kings covers and, of all things, the "Chicken Dance." The specialty restaurants are only a slight improvement over the buffet. You have to reserve a spot in them the day beforehand, and you'll only manage to get one if you're high enough on the pecking order that starts with the members. None of these restaurants have air-conditioning, so expect to sweat and to be bitten by mosquitos.
If you have a villa and a VIP package, as we did, you can have breakfast prepared for you in the villa, and can make reservations at the VIP Gourmet restaurant. The villa breakfast consists of food trucked over from the buffet, as well as eggs prepared to order by an employee who sets the table and cleans up. It is the exact same food every day, and the eggs are invariably over-cooked. Some of the only good food served anywhere in the resort is at the VIP Gourmet, but God help you get in there if you're not a member. We simply were not told about it upon our arrival, and once we learned about it from people at the beach, we had trouble getting reservations. The restaurant was closed on the weekend, and then again for the VIP welcome party. We finally got in there on our last night, enjoyed the moderately air-conditioned environment, feasted on lobster and chateubriand, and endured the endless loop of Kenny G schlock that passed for elegant background music. Other good meals can be had at the Trapiche Paradise, a paying restaurant on the grounds of the resort. It is not included in the "all-inclusive" meal plan.
We never got a clear answer to what services we were entitled as "Guest members" with a VIP package in comparison to what was available to "Members," the real VIP's. Our questions about this matter produced either equivocations or outright lies.
On various occasions, we had the displeasure of dealing with so-called "customer service." The people there were invariably uncooperative, giving the impression that they did not care one iota about providing service to customers. While we were having dinner at the VIP Gourmet, for example, our rental car was hit by one of the golf carts that are given to members, but denied to others, even supposed "VIP's" like ourselves. The accident took the front bumper off at one end. Although security was quite good about sending someone by our villa to secure the bumper to the car "so that no one could tell what had happened," customer service later denied us a copy of the incident report. Their behavior was par for the course: full of half-truths and lies, as well as attempts to deflect us onto other employees equally incapable of helping us.
The rental car was crucial, because it allowed us to leave this miserable place and enjoy the Dominican Republic. We soon realized that the beach at Hacienda Lifestyles is completely mediocre. The water is not very clear, and the sand is grey. There is litter scattered around it. I have better beaches within an afternoon's drive of my home in Virginia, and would never get on a plane to spend time at Playa CofresÃ. The beaches east of Puerto Plata, like SosÃºa and Cabarete, are wonderful, with clear water, soft sand, really good snorkelling, and ample opportunities to eat well. If I ever go back to the DR, I will stay in a hotel in one of those towns (although not the ones that belong to the Lifestyles Haciendas franchise). I will never return to Lifestyle Haciendas Crown Villas ever again, and I think the people who are buying memberships there are being suckered into a very foolish bargain."
- Travel date: Tue 12th of August 2008
What a nightmare!
"Lodgings: Horrendous. Our first two nights we were in two one bedroom suites (we had booked a two bedroom suite but then were told there were none available). The suites were air conditioned but very uncomfortable with hard pillows and narrow, concrete benches with pads on them as sofas. After two days we moved to a three bedroom villa with no air conditioning in the living spaces. They lied and said we did, if we'd leave the bedroom doors open it would cool the whole villa. There was no cooling the master bedroom at all. The two downstairs bedrooms cooled fine although the living areas were hot, humid and sounded like Apocalypse Now due to the need to have the fans on high all the time.
The furniture was extremely uncomfortable. The beds were thin pads on a rattan frame, and the rattan furniture was painful to sit on. The "couch" was just a concrete ledge with a pad on it, too high to be comfortable and hard as, well, concrete.
The bathrooms were dank and not terribly clean. Towels were refreshed most days, but not all. The toiletries were lowest possible quality, nothing like the "luxury" they advertise.
Food: the food was absolutely inedible at points and other days made us quite sick to our stomachs. They required us to pay the all-inclusive, but then made it impossible to eat at any of the restaurants there. We subsequently found out by being pushy that despite the need for "reservations" most of these places were empty and you could walk right in and eat. They tried to make it seem like you couldn't but we did, several times. One night we ate at the Blue Lagoon, only to find when we went to the buffet for ice cream that everything we'd eaten there was from the buffet. The only two places we found where the food was fresh was Indochine and the VIP Gourmet. Indochine was passable, VIP Gourment was quite good.
Beach: Very mediocre beach. We rented a car and it wasn't until we traveled to Sosua and Cabarete that we realized the beaches in the north were gorgeous, sandy and clear. The beach of the hotel was rough, rocky, and full of seaweed. It was also not very clean, full of rusted bottle caps, and I even picked up a rusted can lid at one point.
Service: This is where the place became a sheer horror show for us. We had been told we were entitled to the amenities of the VIP member we rented from. But it turns out that not all privileges are available to guest members. We were lied to on several occasions by staff. First we were told we were allowed to have a golf cart, then told we couldn't, then told that there were too many members coming so we couldn't. We were promised a two bedroom suite, given two one bedrooms, promised a four bedroom villa and given a three. We were told we could move from the suites to the villas at four, then told we needed to leave all our things in one because they needed the other. When we asked if we could move to the villa at 11, they said fine and then said we couldn't. Then we could. We moved over there and then were told we had air conditioning, only we didn't. We were charged 20 pesos for a phone call but they couldn't make change so they were going to charge a dollar (about 33 pesos). Then we were told they would put it on a tab. Then told they couldn't and we couldn't check in until our 60Â¢ was paid for. Back and forth all the time. When we finally got to the villa, and found it wasn't air conditioned we were told we cold move. Then they said we couldn't because there were too many members coming on Saturday. Then told that all of the villas had air conditioning like ours. All the villas were the same. The next day when we spoke to a member on the beach, we found that some are renovated with marble and granite and a/c. But customer service insisted they were all like ours. We were told we couldn't get eggs and a hot breakfast in our villa, and then told we could and told we were never told we couldn't. Since my husband is Ecuadorean and a professor of Spanish, it wasn't a language barrier issue. The policy seems to be to lie to people there and tell them different stories all the time.
The piece de resistance was on our last couple nights. The second to last night we had a reservation at the VIP Gourmet which people had said was good. We got there for our 6:30 reservation only to find that it was closed because of the party for the VIP members. But no one had told us about it in advance and we were told to simply go to the buffet. But that is how we found out you didn't need a reservation for the restaurants.
On our last night we took our rental car to dinner (we hadn't gotten a golf cart and the shuttle bus was really slow to come get us at our villa). We ate a delicious meal and then came out to find that the bumper of our car was hanging off. Two different families came up to us to tell us that a group of kids in a golf cart had hit the car and ripped the bumper off. Security came and took notes for the report. As it was a tinny little Kia, the plastic bumper was wedged back in place and we were told we could get a copy of the report the next day.
The next day, my husband called security to ask for the report. He did this a 9 am and was told it would be delivered to the villa. Then at 11 my mother called costumer service to ask where it was. We were told we couldn't have it. Then we were told they would "rush" a copy so we could take it to the rental car company to show it was not our fault. We drove up to security on our way out and were told there was no report. Then at customer service we were told we couldn't have the report. Then they said they were getting it. Then it was that they would fax it to the company. When we got to the car rental agency, of course they had done nothing to get a copy of the report to them. This was completely typical of the service we had from beginning to end. Lying the whole time, different stories, and no information. Not only would I never, ever go back to this place, I would urge people not to go and certainly not to become members."
- Travel date: Mon 11th of August 2008
Worst Vacation Experience of My Life
"I have been a VIP member of this resort for about 5 years. During this time I have visited 3-4 times. My first visit was amazing, which is why we purchased a time share. We were put in a georgeous house, had amazing weather, had great service. Every time I have gone back since has been progressively worse. I was completely disgusted with my last visit and wouldn't go back if someone paid me to.
The house we were put in was small, the electricity went off every 10 seconds throughout the night, there were many leaks, and there was broken glass on our patio area. I requested to be moved to another house and was finally after the employees made me feel foolish. The 2nd house was better but still in need of repairs. Our pool light kept floating out of the wall and into the pool.
The staff was not nearly as friendly. Once you buy a time share it seems as though they don't care about the service they provide anymore as they already have your money. I have never been treated so badly.
They say it's all inclusive but refused to bring more beer to the house when we requested it. It rained almost every day while we were there, which is not their fault but we did not want to leave the house. We even went down to the office and requested the beer to bring back to our house and they would not let us.
They have made many improvements to their VIP areas but they were done inexpensively and will probably be as run down as some of the villas within a few years.
I would not suggest this resort to my worst enemy. In the future I will be trading all of my time shares to visit nicer areas and different resorts that understand customer service and offer quality accomodations."
- Travel date: Thu 17th of April 2008
"Hacienda Villas, not what we expected from website. Mosquito invasion, flooded out of villa, food not good. Bothered by time-share salesman, to the point we needed to be rude. The biggest problem, we were told a set fee for the week and it turned out it was per night. We would never go back, felt were being scamed the whole time."
- Travel date: Mon 14th of May 2007
"We stayed here for our honeymoon in Sept 05. We absolutely loved our experience, it was our first all-inclusive trip. What a wonderful time we had! The food and service was excellent! Rooms were clean and comfortable! We couldn't ask for more! My hubby was born and raised in Puerto Plata so we visited the town and his family. This was his first time back in 20 yrs! He showed me the school he want to and we visited an old friend. We went to the Amber museum. It was very interesting to see what was preserved in the Amber. We also took the cable car to the top of the mt! Very cool! Beautiful view of the area and ocean! Must do! This resort is perfect for kicking back and relaxing!!"
- Travel date: Tue 17th of April 2007
Lifestyles Vaction club villas (new name)
"We are VIP members for the last 4 years, and were amazed at our recent 1 week vacation (March 10-17, 2007) how much all has progressed in this resort. The new VIP beach area, spa, Gormet restaurant now, with the VIP pool area is wonderful and luxurious! Two familes (4 adults and 2 teens) stayed in Villa 51 and could have just hung out there and been happy. We had 3 large bedrooms all with ensuite baths, and separate entrances to pool area, own pool, daily maid service (who brought fresh fruits, meats/cheese, bread etc. along with offering to make eggs etc. each am; also stocked well DAILY with beach towels, bath towels, water, beer soft drinks etc.; cleaned the villa to a shine DAILY). We ended up keeping the fruit etc. for later and going to the buffet breakfast as we never could organize all of us in the ams! The guys played 3 golf days (total package for 3 days of 18 holes under 200.00 at Playa Dorada), while the gals relaxed, went to spa (1 hour massages under 50.00), or tried
to choose between the VIP Pool, beach or own our villa..Drinks were a plenty all types of premium liquor (comos, Grand Marnier, champagne
etc.), many restaurants to also choose from (Italian, Seafood, Mexican, 3 buffets, included with Gorment). Great show at the beach with full outdoor dinner (including lobster tails), excellent band (danced til we dropped), took us to Casino in Ocean World one evening, met many new faces from all over the world. Walked all over like a little village, with friendly security posted in same areas 24/7. They would be so grateful with bottled water that we gave them every day. Tipping was never expected, and always under the table (NOT obvious). A 5-10 dollars the first day from the group and another the last day, was NOt expected, but certainly appreciated by our smiling bartender. Our maid got $5/ day plus many goodies from Canada, and she was YOURS! Also, notes for them in Spanish gets you along way. I bring my Spanish book and always try to do my best in meeting THEIR language (slowly learning Spanish!).
Overall we are so happy that we bought into this place 4 years ago when there was nothing but a 3-star hotel, and now see that they have improved each year, and gone done beyond what we expected. (Ignore reviews from before 2005/2006). Hot water showers, air conditioning all worked in villa but last day air conditioning leaked on master bedroom floor (they fixed right away). We figured out that some of the taps were installed backwards , so hot was cold and cold was hot (so no biggy).
If you want an economical VIP stay, look up the villas or suites, and you will get a relaxed (not too wild , but fun), vacation that is safe, clean and great food. If you don't want to walk and staying in the villas, you can always ask ahead of time for a golf cart, but walking saved us in the end on the "scale "at our return! What else do you want? Next year we'll stay 10 days-2 weeks, as we are sad to be back in the cold! Call up and ask in customer service for Theresa,
Dorca or Wendy, as they will make sure that all your needs are taken care of from beginning to end! (We will be sending them a thank you package form Canada soon). Their customer service has imporved dramatically over the years, and will itegtrate any feedback into coninuously imporving their resort (it was always with a smile). Hola!"
- Travel date: Sat 24th of March 2007
Vacation in paradise
"We stayed at Hacienda Resorts in Feb of 2006. What a fabulous experience we had. We booked our vacation thru a Vacation Rental company, renting resorts. When we arrived we were greeted with warm welcome. Our first night there was a small welcome party for guest of the VIP world. Fortunatley we had booked with Resort Rentals, otherwise as non-members we would not have had the privelage of enjoying the added Ammenities of VIP World. Lifestyles offers several different resturants for dinner, they range from Mexican to American Buffett, to a private resturant in the VIP world with white glove service. Excellent food and Excellent Service. Sunday night is a HUGE welcome party with a band and fireworks. This evening is started with a good old fashion American Barbeque., Followed by dancing to great music. I highly recommend this resort to anyone that is looking for a romantic getaway or a family vacation. Another well kept secret is that apparently if you stay at least 5nights and book with Resort Rentals you get a free admission to Ocean World. Very similar to that of SeaWorld in the states.
Kudos to Lifestyles Hacienda Resorts and Kudos to ---"
- Travel date: Tue 15th of August 2006
We liked it!!!
"My husband and I travel to Hacienda and stayed in a villa. If you do not have VIP memebership you should not go there. As VIP holder you receive access to amenities that make your vacation A VACATION. we stayed at the villa, it was nice. Fresh cut fruits were delivered at night and in the morning, maid cooked breakfast when we asked, fresh juice was also delivered; soda, beer, water....was always there.
We liked it enough to buy a timeshare, which we let other people use as well. We were not approached, but we instead seek the sales person to find out about the possibility of buying....so far so good
- Travel date: Sun 7th of May 2006
Security Break In
"My friend and his fiance had visited the Hacienda Resort on a vacation and decided to get married there. My fiance and I went down with a group of friends for a week and stayed in the villas. The accomodations in the villas were ok. Notable drawbacks were the lack of hot water, the electricity going out hourly, and very uncomfortable beds. Housekeeping made a game attempt to serve breakfast each morning, but just as with the restaurants and buffet, the food was awful. The low point of the week came during the wedding reception itself. Our friend's fiance was ill and could not attend the reception. She fell asleep on the couch in her villa and upon waking up decided to make her way to her room. It was there that she found a member of the security staff rummaging through her belongings. Upon seeing her he fled (via the window). Long story short the resort did absolutely nothing about the situation despite an admission of guilt by the security guard. It was unbelievable. The resort itself was generally run down. The fitness area looks like something out of an inner city prison. It took us over an hour to get our room when we arrived. From start to finish, the week was an awful one. I have heard great things about the DR. Unfortunatley I can assure you that I will never be back."
- Travel date: Tue 31st of January 2006
Hacienda Villas is not what it seems
"If you're looking for a top-notch hotel with great, PROMPT service, top shelf alcohol and food that doesn't give you Montezuma's Revenge, then the Hacienda Villas are NOT for you. Besides that, it is a beautiful hotel right on the beach with pleanty of pools. The resort seems to take up a majority of the town, but for some mysterious reason only about 1/3 of it was occupied. And even with that said, we couldn't get into our room until a full 24+ hours after we arrived. So if you are looking for a place to just relax at the beach and your not partial to being semi-anorexic, then this is the place for you. The staff was really nice too, just not enough!"
- Travel date: Sun 14th of August 2005
We read the bad reviews, but I'm so glad we went anyway!
"We exchanged through RCI and were quite nervous after reading the horrible reviews. I have to say that our trip was wonderful. (April 17-24, 2004)It was a rainy week but the accomodations were spectacular. The marble spiral staircase leading to the enormous patio overlooking our own pool.The lush foliage surrounding our villa looked like Jurassic Park. We were waiting for Robin Leach to show up because we felt like we were on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
The RCI rep Cathy was the sweetest and most accomodating, checking daily to see that everything was ok. The daily breakfast prepared in our villa was delicious.The furnishings were not as great as the villa and the view, but still comfortable. And the villa and all of the resort facilities were clean.
A beautiful, relaxing vacation."
- Travel date: Wed 1st of September 2004
I'm going back to Villas del Mar!
"Do you want to have a villa with full service, pampering 24 hours a day? If so, this is the place to go.
Staff is great, they call you everyday to make sure you are taken care of.
The villas are private, secluded and not far away from the beach.
Breakfast is served at the time you prefer, the staff even takes care of your restaurant reservations.
It is really worth the price you pay for the trip.
You can relax the whole day with no one bugging you, all the villas have a private pool, Well, we loved it!"
- Travel date: Sun 27th of June 2004