Last week we spent a week at the Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa. It’s an all-inclusive resort in Samana, Dominican Republic.
Confession time : this was a holiday that involved zero planning or research.
Needed: A Last Minute Holiday!
We were actually due to fly to LA on Saturday morning. Then we realised at 6pm on Friday there was a problem with Flea’s ESTA.
We can’t go to the US until it’s resolved, and we had to wait 2 weeks for an appointment at the embassy.
I spent most of Saturday having a complete meltdown. I spent Sunday trying to rearrange our US trip, which involved trying to rearrange flights, accommodation and activities.
On Monday I decided that I couldn’t spend another minute looking at our still-packed suitcase. I opened my laptop like a woman on a mission. We needed a holiday, STAT.
I felt like all-inclusive would be a good option because I could set a budget and know it would cover everything. We took an all-inclusive to Mexico last year, and it was super relaxing.
This time, we settled on the Dominican Republic. The Caribbean is still hot in July, but it’s the start of the rainy season. This means prices are pretty low, and there are some last-minute bargains to be found. We found a trip to Bahia Principe departing 36 hours later at £800 each, flights included.
Flea gave the Bahia Principe Cayacoa her seal of approval. It’s a 5* resort with three swimming pools, five restaurants, a spa, beach and included watersports. It’s situated on a headland, with gorgeous views over the ocean.
Bahia Principe Samana First Impressions
If you’re considering this resort, here’s what we think you need to know: it’s pretty remote. Actually the Bahia Principe is a three hour drive from Gregorio Luperon airport, and a four hour trip from Punta Cana. But it’s beautiful with lush forests along the coastline, and clear, turquoise waters.
We ditched the tour company’s transfer, booking a private car for the trip to/from the airport. This cost $180, and meant Flea could use WiFi for three hours, while I snoozed on the back seat.
When we landed at the hotel, I had a bit of a panic. The bedroom was honestly a little dated, and I had THE FEAR that I’d booked a dud hotel.
Fortunately, Flea’s a lot more sensible than me. She reminded me that we never judge a hotel until daylight. This is a good thing. The Bahia Principe Samana is a little quaint, but it’s got a faded glamour and a lovely, laid-back vibe. It’s spotlessly clean, and the food is excellent.
Why I’m Not a Fashion Blogger
Day One I got up determined to be more positive about our situation. This lasted until I realised that I had somehow managed to unpack EVERY SINGLE PAIR of shorts from my suitcase while re-organising it.
I think I deserve a medal for wearing the one pair of hotel gift shop shorts for seven days straight. Not everyone can carry off a pair of Bermuda shorts with tropical fish all over the butt. #OOTD
Tragically, I can’t seem to find any photos of me wearing the shorts. And I seem to have accidentally forgotten to pack them and bring them home. But here I am modelling my sunburned shoulders, with Flea looking effortlessly cool and golden brown.
What to do at Bahia Principe Cayacoa
Usually before we travel, I’m all over Viator, checking out trips, tours and classes. The last-minute nature of this trip meant there was no time to do that. Once we arrived, I realised Samana is remote with few “attractions” beyond the country itself.
Maybe it was the stress of the ESTA disaster, but I found I didn’t have any energy to do too much. Luckily the Bahia Principe Samana is a perfect place to chill. The entire vibe of the hotel is laid back and very peaceful during the day.
One of my favourite things about the resort is that there are three different pools.
The main pool is on the same level as the lobby and restaurant. It’s got sun loungers and a swim-up bar, with amazing views over the ocean. There’s not a lot of shade, so I did wind up with sunburned shoulders. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Never trust a 12-year-old who tells you they’ve rubbed sunscreen on your back!
This main pool has some low-key entertainment during the day but if you want something quieter, you can take steps down to the second pool. This pool is at sea-level, and has three whirlpools, sun loungers, and a large sun deck overlooking the sea.
There are double bed sun loungers, and a snack bar serving drinks and snacks throughut the day. It’s a little shadier here, and it’s a lovely thing to sit in the shade of the snack bar and enjoy a cup of coffee and some coconut ice cream when it gets too hot.
If you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to make the climb back up to the hotel there are regular golf buggies that shuttle guests between the various parts of the resort throughout the day.
Apart from sunbathing and reading, we took the shuttle down into the little town of Samana. We explored the port and toured the local shops. There’s also a supermarket in town, which I sort of wish I’d known before I spent $20 (seriously!) on a box of Tampax at the Bahia Principe Cayacoa shop.
Within the Bahia Principe resort grounds, there’s also a mini market and souvenir stand, so you can pick up your cigars, or rum, or local artworks.
Changes to All Inclusive at Bahia Principe Cayacoa
Before we’d flown, I’d taken a quick look at the Bahia Principe Cayacoa Samana website and noticed it used to be an adults-only all-inclusive resort. Clearly, it’s no longer the case. There were quite a few families, mostly Canadian, Spanish and British.
It’s worth knowing that some of the things the website says are offered to all-inclusive guests are not part of the package currently. Also, the restaurants listed on the website are completely different to the ones we saw during our visit.
The main differences seem to be:
- No room service is offered. It’s not a big deal, as we prefer to eat by the beach, or the pool. The dining hours are fairly relaxed, and in between meals there are snacks and pastries avaialble in the bar. Each room also has a mini bar, stocked daily with soft drinks and beer.
- The WiFi isn’t free, as stated on the website. You can get an hour’s free WiFi in the lobby, or pay $79 for a week’s access for up to four devices. I will say it’s well worth it – this was the fastest WiFi I’ve ever had in a hotel. It covered most of the hotel including the pools, and was easily fast enough for Flea to stream Netflix.
- The website mentions restaurants that we didn’t see on site. There’s currently an Italian restaurant, a seafood restaurant and a French restaurant. Dining isn’t unlimited (as stated on the website) but you can eat in these restaurants 3 times a week, with the buffet the rest of the week.
You’ll get a wristband at check-in to prove your all-inclusive status, along with a towel card for each member of the family. You’ll need to show these to get towels for the pool, and if you lose a towel, there’s a $10 fee.
Exploring Samana and Beyond
The Grand Bahia Principe Samana is on a headland and one side of the hotel overlooks the little port of Samana. There are boats and colourful buildings lining the seafront. To the other side are steep cliffs, with gorgeous views over the ocean. There’s an elevator that takes you down the steep cliffs to the small, pretty beach below.
Mid-way through our trip, we took the speedboat shuttle across the water to Cayo Leventado. This tiny island in Samana Bay is famous for its picture-perfect tropical beaches – apparently it was used to film some famous Bacardi ads.
The ride across takes around 30 minutes, and you can spend the day here sunbathing. You can sip a Mojito at the Hibiscus Beach Bar, and the waters here are just… spectacular.
The beach at Principe Bahia is small, but really very pretty. The hotel has an elevator that takes guests down to the beach so you don’t have to scramble down the path.
On the beach there’s a small water sports centre, and guests can use paddle boards, kayaks and pedal boats. For an additional charge you can also take scuba trips, and ride on one of those inflatable bananas behind a speedboat!
There’s also a beach bar and bathrooms for guests, so you don’t have to leave the beach to get a fresh drink!
If we’d had a longer trip, I might also have tried to get to the famous Limon waterfalls, and Rincon Beach, which is regularly named one of the top ten beaches in the world.
Overall Review of Grand Bahia Principe Samana
The Grand Bahia Principe in Samana is a bit of a grand old lady. The decor is a little quaint in places, but if you’re looking for a beautiful, scenic hotel to relax, then it’s a great option.
Younger children might get bored here. The resorts further North in Punta Cana have more to offer, I think, in terms of water sports, activities and day trips. But for a last-minute trip for some much needed R&R, it was pretty perfect.