NOT ALWAYS FIVE STAR Finding a cheap and cheerful resort

About San Felipe de Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

NOT ALWAYS FIVE STAR Finding a cheap and cheerful resort

You’ve been asking me about good budget properties. You tell me you prefer to sell a 5-star because there are less complaints. But you know a lot of your clients can’t afford a five, and some frankly would be more comfortable in a cheap and cheerful property.

Years and years ago, I was doing a story on All Inclusives and visited a number of agencies giving myself a limit of ten minutes to take up their valuable time. I had a budget. First one said, “Well you can’t afford Sandals,” and then flipped through the book till she found one she thought “would do”. The one that “would do” happened to be one I had stayed at and disliked. I’ve never forgotten that travel agent. The next agent asked me what I needed in a resort, I wrote about her.

More recently a very successful agent said, “I don’t sell 3-4 star properties, there isn’t enough money in it for me, they can book on line.”   Okay. So, here are a few of my favourites.

Casa Marina Beach Resort is in the little town of Sosua, Puerto Plata, and has been around for awhile. There have been many upgrades from the first time I saw it, and the manager has just announced the rooms are being renovated. Guests have access to its sister hotel: Casa Marina Reef. I love the reef pools, surrounded by shade trees. Years ago the general manager was showing me around and he said, “Look what God gave us.” A hurricane had delivered a better beach than they’d ever had. A happy Canadian family wrote on Trip Advisor: “We stayed here April 5-12 2016. For the price we paid it was an excellent holiday... Only 10 minutes from the airport, check-in was a breeze, room was ready when we arrived at 2:30 pm. Rooms, although very simple, were clean and reasonably maintained. Water all the time, hot water always, good beds, sliding door that locked, brand new flat screen TV. Cleaned every day and always-fresh towels. Also, AC was good but the control knob was broken so you could not adjust temp and you had to keep the fan on low as it was way too noisy on high. Food was good. There is shade on the terraces around the reef pools and this area is excellent and a highlight of the resort.”

Another happy family: “Casa Marina is a great resort, located right in the heart of the town of Sosua. Travelled this year in early April, this was our second time here, we stayed here last year as well. Rooms are basic, but large, clean and comfortable. Our maid provided great service. Food is good, lots of variety, we ate mainly at the buffet and snack bars, good variety at buffet, great pizza, chicken and fries at lunchtime snack bar. We did not try any al a carte restaurants either year as we enjoy trying the local restaurants in the town ... And definitely check out Jolly Roger Bar and Mike's Finish Line Bar, our favourite two places to hang out both years we have been to Sosua (both bars owned by Canadians). You can access two beaches from the resort, both have great waves that we enjoy playing in. There are three reef pools overlooking the ocean with lots of shade. This is a very laid back, easy going resort. Staff we met were great. If you are looking for a relaxed vacation on a resort with a fun atmosphere, close to the town, this is it.” Are there any negatives? Yes of course. There are hookers outside the gates, and yes, sometimes on the property. If your clients are upset about this, they should choose another property. The 617 room Crown Paradise Club in Cancun has a great kid’s club AND a baby club. There is an adult’s only pool off the main floor, which I love, and an adults-only floor and restaurant.

They are very serious about adults only. But kids don’t need to feel left out, there’s an exciting waterpark with slides, castles, and a pirate ship and spacious suites that can accommodates families of five or more. This is a lively resort. The 3-star Club Amigo Marea del Portillo Resort is tucked away in the southeast province of Cuba. It is a resort that people come back to over and over again. They have in fact a 43 percent return record, with many seniors of a certain age. The scenery is stunning, and if your clients want to explore Cuba and meet the locals who might be teachers, farmers, or social workers - people who work in industries other than tourism - this is a good choice. We go back for our own holidays. The place is very clean, the staff is very friendly and the properties are well run. Yes, the toaster is still broken, but the regulars put their bread on the grill. Off-season you’ll find hookers here as well, although not nearly as many as at the Crown Paradise.

Yes, there are cheerful, budget properties out there. Do you know any?

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