It has been close to one year since I first wrote about the power of grief travel. Unfortunately, I have found myself seeking solace in grief travel once again. This time the term grief travel has a much more profound meaning to me than it did the last time.
This is not a sponsored post, and as always, all opinions expressed are my own.
It has been two months since I have suffered the most devastating loss that any parent can experience. The unexpected loss of my son.
Knowing the healing power that grief travel can provide, I immediately turned to my travel agent to find me the perfect place to seek solace and reflect on the short 35 year life of my child.
Out of the various options provided by my travel agent, I chose the solo package (no single supplement! Yippee!) with Air Transat to the Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa in Samana, Dominican Republic. The small, quiet, and intimate size of the resort sounded and looked perfect for the solace that I was seeking at this time in my life.
For those who know me, know that I am very much an adventure traveller, and that I am not at all a fan of all-inclusive resorts. Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa has changed that for me. This is the only resort in my many years of travelling that I would definitely return to over and over again. For what I needed at this time in my life, it was perfect for me in every way.
Prior to Arrival
I realized after booking my getaway with Air Transat, that I hadn’t made any special requests with respect to my room location other than I would like to be in the main building (see Room Location for more on this). Stupid me….I don’t know what i was thinking (or not thinking)! Being a solo female traveller, the room location is always something that I take into consideration, mainly for safety reasons. I always request that my room not be on the ground floor.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to contact the resort directly prior to your arrival
I emailed Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa directly to explain the purpose of my visit and to make my request. Within a very short period of time I received a response to my request confirming that if at all possible, my request would be granted. Given the quick response to my inquiry, I knew that customer service was just as important to Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa as it was to me.
It is true that the majority of people don’t spend a lot of time in their room, but room location is especially important to take into consideration for various reasons (safety for solo travellers and access for people with disabilities).
Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa is a small resort with only 295 rooms. The resort is built on a seaside cliff and consists of a 5 story main building and several 3 story villas. From what I understand, it is in the villas where the suites are located.
The lobby, buffet restaurant, most specialty restaurants, spa, gym, lobby bar, main pool, and beach are all easily accessible from the main building.
If you have a disability or have trouble climbing stairs. I recommend that you make a request for the main building.
The villas are located further down the cliff, closer to sea level, whereas the main building is located at the top of the cliff, making the villas not quite as accessible for everyone.
It is fairly easy to reach the villas on the descent, but not so easy coming up (especially after a few drinks). I consider myself fairly fit but I still found the stairs difficult, especially during the heat of the day.
If you are looking for an extremely quiet area, then the villas are perfect. There are shuttles that will take you to and from the main building if you have difficulties with the stairs.
Whether you choose the main building or the villas, you sure wont be disappointed with the views.
Rooms and Room Amenities
The Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa offers rooms with a king bed, two double beds, and suites, each stocked daily with the local beer (Presidente), bottles of pop, and tonnes of water.
The maid service was exceptional and I never had to wait or ask for anything. They anticipated my every need. The room was spotlessly clean every day when I returned from my outings, stocked with towels, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and coffee. A hairdryer, iron, ironing board, and umbrella were also provided.
TIP: Please leave a tip for these ladies. They work hard and go over and beyond the call of duty, and take obvious pride in their work.
The room and the views from the balcony in the room offered the perfect place to seek solace at the end of a busy day after being out and touring the island.
One of the reasons that I am not a fan of all-inclusive resorts is the mediocrity of the food. I can say without hesitation that the food at Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa exceeded my expectations.
I will admit that I don’t consider myself a foodie, and I’m certainly not a picky eater. But even if you are the Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa offers several dining options and will have something for you. For those of you who are intimidated by the thought of eating alone, don’t be. This resort seemed to cater to solo travellers and I was NEVER made to feel uneasy or unwelcome.
Buffet Las Dalias
The buffet restaurant is large with ample seating. I was always able to have my choice of seating whenever I ate here.
There is a large enough selection for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for even picky eaters to enjoy. The dinner theme changed nightly so you shouldn’t get bored of the food.
I did find the service at the buffet hit and miss and was difficult at times to get a coffee or drink of water.
La Casita Pool Restaurant
This restaurant is located at the bottom of the cliff by the villas and the quiet pool. It is difficult to access for those with mobility issues, but I do recommend eating here for lunch if you are at the pool.
La Casita offers a very small buffet, consisting mainly of salads, with hot dogs, chicken fingers, and soup.
TIP: Dining at the specialty dining restaurants is permitted three times a week. Make reservations on arrival.
The Orquidea Restaurant is located on the edge of the cliff, and in addition to offering endless views of the town of Samana and the sea, you will be treated to four courses of delectable French cuisine.
Reservations are required and I recommend reserving the first seating at 6:00 p.m. in order to secure a table offering the best views.
Dolce Vita Restaurant
I visited Dolce Vita on Valentine’s Day and was presented with a red rose and a glass of champagne upon arrival.
For those preferring Italian cuisine, this restaurant offers four courses of your choice of soup, salads, pasta, meat, seafood, and of course various yummy desserts.
The Dolce Vita Restaurant is located directly across from the main entrance to the lobby, making it easily accessible to anyone who experiences mobility issues.
Reservations are also required at Dolce Vita and again, I would recommend a 6:00 p.m. seating to get a table overlooking the town of Samana.
El Pescador Restaurant
El Pescador serves Mediterranean cuisine, and is located at the base of the cliff, making it difficult for those with mobility disabilities to access.
Reservations are also required at this restaurant beginning at 6:00 p.m. I did not eat at this restaurant, so I am unable to opine on the food or the views.
The Lobby Bar is located directly off of the lobby in the main building on the second floor. It is large and provides indoor, as well as outdoor seating which overlooks the Town of Samana.
If you are looking for a spot for your morning coffee, this is where you will find it. It is self-serve and the outdoor patio is the perfect spot to start your day before the entertainment crew arrives.
In the evenings, this is where you will find the entertainment for singing and dancing.
Bars can be found at both pools. The main pool provides a swim-up bar, and the bar at the villas can be accessed in the restaurant. Both bars close at 7:00 p.m.
The beach also provides a bar, but does not serve food. It remains open until 7:00 p.m.
Pools and Beaches
The Bahia Principe Caycoa offers a variety of swimming options all of which will provide you with the fun in the sun that you are seeking. Whether you are looking for peace and tranquility or entertainment and dancing, you will find it all.
The main pool is the busiest and the loudest and provides the most entertainment. For the partier, this is the place that you will want to be.
Slide up to the swim-up bar for your cocktail of choice, play a game of water volleyball, join the entertainment crew for some fun and lots of laughs, or just sit back and do some good old fashion people watching. If you consume to many fruity drinks, you are just a short stagger away from the main building.
Other than the beach, this was my favourite place to be. As mentioned earlier, there are a TONNE of stairs to take to get to this pool. Once you are there, it is well worth it especially if it is peace and quiet you are seeking.
The water in this pool is extremely shallow and is not meant to be swam in. There is seating scattered throughout the pool area which makes it the perfect spot to chat with friends and to make new friends. For complete solitude, arrive early to grab a cabana overlooking the sea.
The beach was my absolute favourite place to spend my days. It is not large, but the resort provides lots of seating, both in the sun and the shade. I could have stayed for hours sitting under a palm tree, reading a book. If it is peace and solitude that you are seeking, the beach is the perfect place to be.
If you are more adventurous, water toys such as kayaks, snorkel equipment and paddle boards were provided free of charge, for up to one hour per day.
Front Desk and Customer Service
I have to start by saying that the employees at Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa exemplify the meaning of customer service. From maintenance to bartenders and wait staff, you will always get a smile and an hola. It is apparent that they all want to provide their guests with the best vacation experience ever.
I read several reviews on Trip Advisor that the front desk staff were lacking in customer service. I experienced the complete opposite.
For the first three days of my stay I continually experienced issues with my room key, resulting in multiple daily visits to front desk to have my key re-programmed. Was this frustrating? Absolutely it was, but it wasn’t their fault – so be nice! After day three, I was given a second key to be used to operate the lights leaving the other key for entry into my room. Problem solved! Actually I think that they just got sick of seeing me lol.
TIP: When visiting the Bahia Principe Cayacoa be sure to give Jose at front desk a big hug for me.
The bottom line is you are on vacation and it costs nothing to be nice. The employees are just doing their job, and they are doing a darn good job.
The Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa also provided additional amenities which I did not use, but were included in the all-inclusive package:
- free shuttle to and from Samana
- bridge to nowhere
- tour desk
- wedding gazebo and services
- gym (which I actually did use)
- kids club
- shuttle around the resort
Know Before You Go
Just like any place new you travel to, there are some things that are handy to know before you go.
- There are a lot of stairs. I mean A LOT of stairs!
- Bring larger travel cups with you. The drinks from the beach and pool bars are quite small.
- Use the bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. The water served in the restaurants is fine for drinking.
- Bring water shoes just in case you want to swim in the small beach. The main beach is fine. You may also need them for some tours.
- Bring a pair of socks. You will need them for certain tours.
- Men, bring long pants. The specialty restaurants do not allow shorts. This is enforced. I saw a gentleman sent to change before he was allowed entry.
- Water pressure is VERY low at all times of the day.
- There is little, if any, hot water. I don’t know if this was just my room or throughout the resort. I didn’t ask as I adapted. Many islands use colder water to bath unlike in North America.
- You are allowed to reserve at 3 specialty restaurants during a one week stay.
- If you are a solo traveller and are uncomfortable dining alone, book specialty restaurants for 6:00 or go to the buffet when it opens at 6:30. These are the least busiest times AND you will get a table with the best views. Be sure to check out these 10 tips to make eating alone easier
- This resort is on the quieter side. If you are a party animal, this resort might not be for you.
- People with mobility issues may have difficulty accessing many areas of the resort.
- Samana is not a huge tourist destination like Punta Cana is. A lot of the staff are not fluent in speaking English. While this may bother some, I LOVED it! It gave me an opportunity to continue to learn Spanish.
- TIP the staff! They work long hours and many days without a break. They go out of their way to cater to you, so show your gratitude.
- HAVE FUN and RELAX!
As I lay here on the beach on my last day before leaving for home, I can’t help but to reflect on how short life really is. While I continue to shed tears everyday over the loss of my son, I do not let that stop me from observing and reveling in the beauty that surrounds me. This my friends is the beauty of grief travel!
Thank you Bahia Principe Grand Cayacoa for providing me with the solace that I needed and more importantly for reminding me that through grief we can still find beauty.
Hasta que nos encontremos de nuevo!
Lots of Love & Safe Travels