Relaxing at the Grand Bahia Principe, an all inclusive resort in Rio San Juan Dominican Republic

After travelling and being go-go-go throughout Europe in the summer, we decided to relax in the sun at the Grand Bahia Principe for New Years, an all inclusive resort in Rio San Juan Dominican Republic

all inclusive resort in Rio San Juan Dominican Republic

While the people were friendly, the food delicious and the country beautiful – the resort was average at best. Issues began when we got to the resort in the early morning. The front staff was rude (not in the “Get lost way” but in the “one second sir” that becomes “10 minutes” – repeatedly). For example, we paid for a suite, but they gave us a downgraded room.

our room in grand Bahia all inclusive resort in Rio San Juan Dominican Republic

another shot of our room at Grand Bahia Principe

In these situations, remember to always speak up! The last thing you want is to have your vacation ruined or have some sort of cloud over you because you didn’t bother asking for something, especially when you’ve gone ahead and paid for it in advance. We also had a few other issues (i.e. room refills, lack of towels, etc…) and these were only resolved after we got the manager involved. Front desk issues aside, the rest of the staff was wonderful, as they were both courteous and friendly.

The bartenders had some issues with basic drinks – like a rum and coke, or a pina colada (which here was “Welch’s Pineapple Juice” with rum). However, soon I realized that the issue lied with my inability to communicate in Spanish, and after learning a few key words and phrases to the point where I could ask for the precise amounts of alcohol and mix into our drinks, things got better.

Grand Bahia Principe drinks!

Always look for what’s on the wall for liquor brands! By default they will give you the cheaper brands, but you can ask for the more expensive stuff like BRUGAL (it’s included – at least at this resort).

The food was amazing and better than what we had last year at our Cuban resort. There is a regular buffet that you can go for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which serves everything from customized omelettes to interesting and different pastries to try each evening. The only downside for early risers (may be different after New Year’s) is that breakfast time isn’t until about 7:30am. As a 4-star resort, it at least lived up to its star rating for “food”.

buffet at Grand Bahia Principe

delicious desserts at Grand Bahia Principe

The A la carte restaurants at this resort were exceptional. There were three – Italian, Japanese, and Caribbean. All were very good – so good in fact, that you should be BOOKING your spot upon your arrival (as soon as you’ve gotten your room and checked-in). While their computer system is quite slow, they write down the reservation and give you a slip to present on the night of your special dinner.

a la carte at Grand Bahia Principe

There was also a special 4th A la carte for New Year’s Eve, but it had to be pre-booked.

new years celebrations at Grand Bahia Principe

That night was well presented, as you can see below, and we wished it had been this way every night (although I don’t think our bodies could have taken all that food and calories!!!).

 

new years party at grand bahia principe in san juan

The location of the resort was O.K. The sun faced away from the beach so to get a tan you have to position your chair away from the water. Which is good – because the water is murky. It’s the type of murky that when you’re there you tell yourself it’s not that bad, and it looks nice, but the reality is that it had a dark shade of misty-blue that was murky enough that we couldn’t see our feet even in the shallow areas. With the exposure of sand fleas and constant rain, it left us feeling disappointed.

beaches of grand bahia principe an all inclusive resort in Rio San Juan Dominican Republic

The resort itself had some very nice pools however, and the grounds were very clean.

Below is a video from Grand Bahia Principe Hotel and Resorts with an overview of the grounds.

 

poolside at the resort

Making the most of the resort, we found ourselves playing basketball and mini-golf a few times, and relaxed at the spa (we were given a free 30-minute massage for our room issues).

tennis courts of grand bahia principe

mini golf was fun at the resort

Every night there was a fairly entertaining show followed by activities on the main strip leading to the resort (our own little downtown strip so to speak). This strip was one of the cooler things about Grand Bahia Principe San Juan. The main strip outside of the resort was actually part of it, and featured colorful shops, a disco, a casino (more of a room with a couple of slot machines and a blackjack table), and more.

the little "town" in grand bahia principe

All of this was part of the resort’s grounds. It really made you feel like you were off the resort. The nights overall were lively,  and there was always something to do.

We decided to do two excursions.

The first was to take a day-trip to visit Puerto Plata. We joined a European tour because none of the North American guests wanted to do this trip. We spent the day visiting the city, took a lift to sight see it, visited some eccentric museums, had a nice lunch, and even ended up grabbing some alcohol at a local superstore.

cablecar in san juan

excursion to puerto plata

excursion to puerto plata

visiting puerto plata

daytrips from grand bahia principe

If you ever want to buy CHEAP bottles to take home, grocery stores are the way to go!

 

The second excursion was an active adventure day planned, but we weren’t really sure what that meant until we arrived and found a group of people getting into a truck.

second excursion from grand bahia principe

We were then told that our day would include the following:

      • Horseback riding in the morning

    horseback riding excursion from grand bahia principe

    • A trip to San Juan downtown with a lunch break

lunch during an excursion from grand bahia principe

    • A boat ride in the Mangrove Swamp

excursion to Mangrove Swamp

trip to Mangrove Swamps

    • Free time at the beach

beautiful Dominican Republic waters!

beachside views in Dominican Republic

I had to get the wild horse that seemed to bolt off every two seconds! AS this was my first time on a horse, I found it both terrifying and exhilarating. I would do it again, but maybe on a safer horse! Throughout the day, our guide made sure we had lots of Mama Juana shots – a mix of wine, honey and rum soaked in a bottle of tree bark and herbs. It’s fantastic stuff!

You need to try Mama Juana!

Despite some poor weather (given it rained 4 out of 7 days), and our resort being average, we still made the most of it.

In fact, one of the best nights we had was at the resort’s New Years party.

new years was fantastic at the grand bahia principe

new years at the all inclusive resort of grand bahia principe It was pouring rain all night, but we had one of the best nights ever – we made tons of friends, drank in the rain, sang, danced and had a blast!

great new years at the all inclusive resort of grand bahia principe

party time with new friends at the resort!

While the Grand Bahia Principe all inclusive resort in Rio San Juan Dominican Republic was o.k. as far as resorts go, we will have to make another trip to the Dominican Republic. There’s so much more of this beautiful island we still want to explore!

Dominican Republic was so beautiful!

Hi, I’m Jason Wingate and I caught the travel bug a few years ago with my wife Sophia Bello. Together, we’ve been travelling the world and sharing our experiences here on our blog, hoping to inspire and help you on your own journey!

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