Hotel Review: Occidental Caribe, Punta Cana - Dominican Republic
So this was a family trip / birthday celebration with a couple of friends from Canada. Since I'm meticulous about how I choose a resort, reviewed this one carefully online and chose this for the price and the layout of the hotel. The layout is super-important to me because if laid out correctly, the resort is more conducive to social gatherings and meeting people.
We stayed for eight days. Our flight arrived quite late in the night, past midnight. Check-in was quick, and we were given an awesome room, in the middle between the two wings, on the third floor (there are only four floors anyway), with an awesome ocean view. And yes, I did pay a bit extra for the ocean view when booking, which was totally worth it since this hotel didn't charge much more for it on Expedia (I think less than $20/night).
Room: Nice, spacious, clean. Bed was comfortable and actually while we were there they were replacing all of the mattresses in all of the rooms. They are pillow-top mattresses btw. The TV has almost 100 channels! Having stated all of that, the rooms could use some refreshing and are starting to look a bit tired, but not overly-so. I would still stay here as it still gives the rooms a nice Caribbean feel.
Food: The buffet is huge with beautiful views and is quite spacious. For me the food here was quite bland and repetitive. The A La Carte restaurants on the other hand were awesome. I highly recommend trying the Dominican one as the food there was my favorite.
After 10pm though, the food is not good. There is only one place open, which is the snack bar outside near the beach. While the atmosphere is nice, the food in my opinion is gross. It looks quite aged and unsanitary, and sure doesn't taste good. They really need to fix food quality and availability after 10pm.
Activities: PLENTY. From rock-climbing to trapeze lessons, and even non-motorized water sports which includes a catamaran, windsailing, boogie boards and snorkels.
Night Life: There is a huge theater that usually has some sort of show, but most of the action takes place at one of the lobby bars which are located on either end of the property. There is live music and there's also a super-loud disco underneath the hotel. The people were fairly social and it was easy to talk with people. Because it was the playoffs, me and my friends spent a lot of time at the sports bar in the night located on the hotel property where we met a bunch of new people. While the sports bar looks fairly drab, it's actually fairly lively in the night and worth checking out if you want to meet some other guests.
Twice during the week they also had a beach party on the beach with a DJ, lights, and extra bar. Pretty cool and good turnout!
My friends met some guy from Canada who had brought a lot of cocaine with him. Seemed like bad news and he ended up getting punched in the face by a girl at the resort because he insulted her. Other than that the people ranged from high school age to elderly, along with the families that brought their babies. There was a gigantic contingency of high school kids from Peru wearing "Peruvian Snowflake" hats. I still have no idea what the means so if anyone reading this has any idea, please let me know!
Casino: Stay the HELL away from this place. Let me state upfront, and this is according to the hotel itself: The Casino is NOT part of the hotel and has nothing to do with the hotel. Even though the hotel actively promotes the casino, is openly connected to it (meaning you can walk from inside the hotel to inside the casino directly), and they have casino staff handing out wrist-bands to come play for free at the casino, it is NOT part of the hotel. Make sense?
I state this upfront because when you go there, they will charge you for drinks. Granted, the drinks are only $1, but better liquor is $5. That's not even the problem. My friend decided he would try his hand at a "game". Half an hour later, and him being in debt $20,000 USD later, he discovered he got completely ripped off. It was some ridiculous game in which they pull numbered balls and make it seem like you have a legitimate chance of winning. The trick however is that they refuse to show you the real number of some of the balls which likely have numbers which would either make you lose bad or win big so you get scammed. Fortunately the casino was dumb enough to let him play on credit but when his credit cards got declined, the owner wanted to drive him around town in a car, getting him to drain his ATM and credit cards through other means.
My friend was in a panic and his fear for his life that they would come and break his legs haunted the rest of his trip. Even though one of the casino reps was very nice, they acknowledged the game was a scam when he defended himself about the payment, yet they still insisted and approached him for a few days while he would be walking in the hotel. When we approached the hotel management about the issue, they didn't want to touch it, claiming the casino had nothing to do with the hotel. When we researched the issue, turned out that this game is a common scam in Dominican which many tourists fall prey to every week. Shame on Occidental / Barcelo for letting a scam operation be associated with this "casino" which commits fraud on the hotel guests.
Ultimately my friend didn't leave the hotel for the rest of the vacation because he was afraid someone would kidnap him, but fortunately he never paid them all of that money the casino tried to rip him off of. Score one of the good-buys.
All in all, I was happy with this property. The biggest improvements in my opinion are the food as well as the availability of decent food options late at night. It would be AWESOME if there were even little snacky things like chips and peanuts. I would also recommend the hotel offer some better quality alcohol as most of what I drank was from labels I didn't recognize (ie. the cheap stuff), and definitely did not have the same kick.
Other than that, the hotel staff was kind, took care of us, and we had a great time! The beach on which this hotel is situated is awesome and the weather was fantastic for us. If you have kids this is a great place and if you don't, this is still a great place. You may be wondering why I only gave it three stars instead of four: we asked for towels multiple times (about 6 times) and they never brought us the wash-cloths we requested, the lack of food in the night was an issue, and the rooms could use a bit of updating.
Other than those small items, I recommend if you're on a bit of a budget. If you can spend a couple hundred more, I would stay somewhere that had better food.
Read my review on TripAdvisor! Just click here.