If you want an amazing vacation outside of the corporate resort compounds, book a trip to Hotel Playa Esmeralda today. Now.
My boyfriend and I visited Hotel Playa Esmeralda in April 2005. This was my first trip to the Dominican Republic. There was not much info about it online, so here are some of my tips.
The experience was wonderful. It looks just like the photos on the web site (actually they were doing renovations when I left, so it will probably look different soon). The price has also gone up since I visited, but it is still a great deal. Below are some details (they may be "pro" or "con" depending on your taste).
*If you enjoy getting away from the hotel and experiencing local culture, P.E. is for you. The hotel is in a fishing village, and I mean a fishing village. You are right in a little roadside town where people actually live. Want to check out Santo Domingo, Boca Chica, Juan Dolio, San Pedro, or go farther down the road? Just walk to the highway, stand by the road, and wait for a gua gua to pick you up. It is cheap and sooo easy. Check with the hotel staff to make sure they charge you fairly.
*If you speak only English and mistreat those who don't, P.E. is not for you. Only one staff member that I met spoke English. Almost all the guests spoke German. But even if your Espanol is sketchy like mine, everyone is very helpful and understanding.
*If you want a beautiful, quiet beach, this is the hotel for you. Check out Paul Gerace's photos of the area or those on the hotel web site. It is not Punta Cana with the white sand and turquoise water. The sand is a very pale tan, and the water is a clear and sparkling blue. Not too shabby. Some fallen trees lie in the water make the horizon not as pretty (in my opinion), but they make the water calm. Also, two cute dogs live on the beach and two cats live in the hotel area. I guess they belong to the owner (?).
*If you are looking for raging nightlife, you are in the wrong place. Who needs bars and clubs when you have free (I mean included) drinks all day long? This is not the place for singles to come meet other singles. This small hotel is in the country. You can't see any other hotels from the P.E. beach. At night before the moon is up, it is pitch black behind a million stars. Wow, I wish I was back there.
*As a young couple unaware of what to expect, we were constantly impressed. Get the all-inclusive option--the food is completely respectable, there are not a lot of places within walking distance, and the hotel is cheap enough that you do not feel ripped off if you eat off-site once a day. The room was nice and clean, the food was tasty if not too exciting (hey, it's small), and the staff were very nice. Don't freak out if you see a cangrejo on the wall or the water is brown one morning (it was fixed immediately). You definitely want to take some day or half-day trips to see the area.
If you have any other questions, feel free to e-mail.