Hola! I've been back a little over two weeks now and I am still missing it. We met some brilliant people and had some amazing experie...

Clubhotel Riu Bachata Review - Dominican Republic


I've been back a little over two weeks now and I am still missing it. We met some brilliant people and had some amazing experiences. We booked it in January and at a cost of just below £800 per person, I was ready for a wonderful all inclusive holiday to the Dominican Republic! It's a hotel I have been to before back in 2002 and then went back twice in 2004, again in 2006, and again in 2011 to it's sister hotel. After finding out you could no longer stay in that sister hotel, what was Clubhotel Riu Mambo, I decided to go back to the Bachata, where it all began.

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The Clubhotel Riu Bachata was the first Riu hotel we stayed at and haven't looked back since, so much so that now, if I'm choosing to stay at an all inclusive resort, I would always choose Riu. I practically grew up in the Dominican Republic Riu hotels before venturing off to Mexico to stay at the Riu Playacar and then the Clubhotel Riu Tequila three times! Riu Hotels provide everything you could ever want on holiday, and you definitely get what you pay for.

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Here's a picture of me on a tree from back in 2004!

The Riu Bachata, and generally the Dominican Republic, is a lot cheaper than say somewhere in Mexico because unfortunately their tourism is reducing, most likely due to their wavering laws about who can stay in the hotel. In particular, very often at the weekends, locals are allowed in which would normally be completely fine, however they very often come in the masses and are very impolite. Fair enough, in their way of life this may be the norm but to the rest of the world, it is down right rude. We had troubles back in 2011 at the Riu Mambo. All the locals were allowed in and some had even parked their jeep up at the bottom of the beach and broken through the fence to use the facilities the hotel offers. Their kids were peeing in the pool and in the bushes when the toilet was close by and they would always push in front of you when getting food. Rude! Police and medics were on site everyday but there wasn't much they could do. We vowed not to go back unless it got sorted. This time round I had seen lots of mixed reviews but, because of the price, we took the risk!

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Here's a photo of me up by the viewpoint. As far as I know, it was made for weddings but since it is too windy up there it simply became a piece of architecture to go and see. It's high enough to see all of the beach along the hotels too. Yes, I know, what a bad fashion choice - this was back in 2011.  

Clubhotel Riu Bachata Review

Check In - 
There were an awful lot of Brits that had arrived from the same flight to the same hotel so I was surprised at how smoothly check in was. When we arrived, we were already the third coach full but we weren't waiting around long at all. We were welcomed with a delicious cocktail and shown to a desk where many members of staff we handing out our keys and towel cards and before we knew it, we were off to our room. Unfortunately, due to the amount of people, it took nearly an hour before our bags arrived at our room so for future notice, I will just take them myself. Saves me the tip money too.

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Room -
I was really impressed by the room! The only problem we had was that our safe key got stuck but all took was a phone call to reception and it got sorted! Oh, and we got a room upgrade! Thanks to my post from last year about the Riu Tequila, Riu got in touch and said they would see what they could do for my next holiday, but it depending on availability. Well, they had the availability and I was able to get and upgrade and was welcomed with a VIP Riu Class mug and real Santo Domingo coffee, known for being one of the world's best coffees! It was such a lovely surprise so, yeah, I was very impressed with our room! It was very open and spacious with the most amazing views I have ever seen from a balcony! There are two double beds which are pushed together that some people complain about but it's what you get at most Riu hotels, and personally, I quite like them! If you're wondering whether to book a suite, I would say it's best to decide what exactly you are looking for in the holiday. If you want a gorgeous view and will probably spend a bit of time in your room then it is worth the money! Otherwise, the normal rooms are still nice enough. All rooms come with a safe, mini bar and fridge with get refilled every two days! Always good to have rum basically on tap in the Caribbean!

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The best way to capture the view from our balcony was to do a panorama!

Grounds - 

Just from the view above you can see how gorgeous the grounds are. There are palm trees everywhere and beautiful colourful flowers all around! The gardeners do very well to keep them looking as good as they do considering the amount of guests and you know what some people can be like. The hotel is right on the beach too and, although it can get quite windy, it is such a lovely place. It's not very often I will go lie on the beach when I'm on holiday but it became the perfect spot for us to chill out whilst I read some of my book!

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dominican republic, dom rep, holiday, travel, all inclusive, thomsons, riu, riu hotels, amber cove, puerto plata

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Food and Drink - 
A lot of people tend to complain about the food as it can get quite samey. On the contrary though, the chefs prepare a wide variety of cuisines and each night in the main buffet there is a different theme. The downside is that the food is often reheated or refried and used for a second day, which I understand why but that's what makes the food very similar each day. At night you do also have a choice between the Steak House, Italian or Caribbean restaurant depending which is open. We only tried the Steak House but it was delicious, I wish we had gone more times! The system for booking has changed now. Instead of having to book first thing in the morning, you can simply queue up at 6 o'clock and get your name down, which is a lot more convenient for people like me that often struggle to wake up in the morning. If you don't make it into the half 6 sitting then you can put your name down for the 8 o'clock sitting and you'll be given a buzzer to let you know when your table is ready! Lunch time is much more simple. You go to the main buffet restaurant where you have breakfast and dinner and there's plenty to choose from! I'd suggest the 'cream of' soups, they are always delicious! Breakfast was my favourite. As soon as you walk in, there are freshly made smoothies and milkshakes and a little further down the line is an entire area full of donuts. I didn't get much further, except to get pancakes, a banana and some yoghurt on the odd occasion.

In the first week, I always looked forward to lunch or dinner as there was something different each day but after that I was starting to get bored of it. I found myself eating the same pasta, rice and pork each day. I tried to mix it up with some soup but they didn't always have something I'd like. In Mexico, although the food system is similar, I usually have salad at lunches but in Dom Rep, I was a bit disappointed with the salads. One day there was a plate full of lettuce, that was it, yet the sign said caesar salad. On Mexican night they didn't have guacamole either. It's the little things that you notice. One thing I remember from all the previous times I've been to the complex is that lunch was normally served at the snack bar, which then turns into the Steak House at night. I was a bit gutted because I like that change of scenery but not using it meant it looked desolate during the day. It was a bit eerie  to walk through when going to the toilet since no one else would be in there at all. Unfortunately, towards the end of the holiday I did get food poisoning too but even though it wasn't nice, it's just one of those things you put up with when you're in a country like that.

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Entertainment - 
Always my favourite part of the Riu hotels. We always book to stay for two weeks and only plan around three days out but that's usually all we need because the entertainment team never let us get bored. I still miss all the friends we made in the Riu Tequila team which kind of made us sad going somewhere with a team who we didn't know. That said, I didn't doubt that they'd become our friends too. Unlike normal, we didn't really get involved in the activities for the first week and we did get a little bored so we became determined to win a certificate and some new Riu merchandise to add to our collection. After countless games of boccia, mini golf, horse shoes, crazy games and of course, bingo, we weren't so lucky. Ed came home with a neon orange bandanna but that was it, despite trying our best to bring home a t-shirt. It's quite sad actually because it's the first time I've been to a Riu hotel and not managed to get a t-shirt or even a cap. I have some t-shirts from when I was very little so it's always funny to see how much I've grown! The entertainment team were always full of energy (I really don't know how they do that everyday) and kept us smiling no matter what. Sounds daft but the only thing I disliked was having to play boccia and horseshoes in pairs everyday. I'm used to the games changing from doubling the scores and throwing a dart with your eyes closed to spinning five times then throwing the horseshoe. Playing in pairs made it more difficult to get to know people and a lot more difficult to win as people began choosing their partners based on who was better. It was a good laugh in the end. Just disappointed we didn't win. (Yeah, I know, I can be a sore loser sometimes - although to be fair, there was a few times where we had to play 2 semi-finals because of an odd number and yet both teams that got into the final only played once! Now that's not fair!)

I will say that there was one particular female member of the animation team who was very bitchy. She'd often make very sarcastic comments but it wasn't until our final night when she came over to us after having a few beers and started mouthing off about one of the guests. I thought that was downright rude and I hope she isn't a part of the team for much longer.

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This is one of the shows in Mexico. You pay the extra money to see much bigger shows and there's a bit more going on!

I can't help but compare the hotel to the Riu Tequila in Mexico. We tried not to as they both have things they could teach each other but night times are one thing the Tequila does brilliantly. Night times at the Bachata consisted of mini disco time for the kids to dance on stage, then dancing in the patio with the entertainment team, then the show, club dance and finally more dancing in the patio with the entertainment team. It got very repetitive! Whereas at the Tequila, it changes each night, with Mexican games, audience participation games as a pre-show, a rock band would come in, etc. There was always something different on each night. I'll admit the shows weren't quite as good either. The in-house dance team were good, but never quite on it. Some of the choreography was alright but you could tell it was all very similar no matter which style dance they were supposed to be doing. I loved some of the variation in shows though. The Chicago/Burlesque night was new and Burlesque is one of my favourite movies so I was most definitely singing along. I also really appreciated how the in-house team did the Michael Jackson show instead of bringing another group in. The shows that did have other dancers come in were very poor. For what I thought were supposed to be professional dance troops, they were off-beat, not confident and made a lot of mistakes! (This is turning into a bit of a rant - I'm a drama student though so I can't help it, oops!) Finally, what really annoyed me was the Rock Station show. To most, it wouldn't have bothered them and they probably enjoyed singing along but it really got on my nerves. Throughout the day I had seen the Rock of Ages logo as part of the set and got myself extremely excited as Rock of Ages is my favourite musical. However, when it came to the show, it began with I Wish I was a Punk Rocker. It wasn't Rock of Ages at all. I stuck around though hoping there would be a few songs in there but I counted two, and they didn't even use the original White Snake version of Here I Go Again. Edmond can vouch at how annoyed I was. I spoke to a few people later and I wasn't the only one. We both said it was like they wrote 'guitar' into Spotify and choose the top 20 songs. I'd suggest that they either do Rock of Ages songs or change the set and simply make it a rock show! (I've always wanted the Riu hotels to do a proper Rock of Ages show, like they usually do with Grease and Mamma Mia, so you can imagine how disappointed I was!)

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Caribbean Street at night - even in this picture you can see we were being watched by the shopkeepers. I know this happens in a lot of countries but you don't expect it when you are still inside your hotel complex. I don't remember it being so bad the past few times I've been.

I was gutted that we didn't see the African show that I remember. As far as I know, they still do it (from pictures I've seen on Facebook) but it might have been pushed back because of the Caribbean Street Party. In between the Riu Bachata and Riu Merengue there is a street full of shops known as Caribbean Street and when the party was on (supposedly once a month, yet it's been on every time we've been) all the hotels come together to have what I remember to be a traditional Caribbean party. As a kid we used to spend the day making costumes in the kids club and then wear them to mini disco time at the party. I used to really enjoy myself so this time, I made sure we had eaten early enough to get seats and see what was going on. We may have been a little too early but still headed out to get some pictures before it got dark. Bad decision. The shops all stayed open and some locals had come to sell their souvenirs on the street so straight away we got called over to have a look. One guy gave me a free ankle bracelet which I thought was lovely. I didn't have any money on me so we promised to come back and have a proper look later. Whether we would or not was another matter but it was nice of him let us have a wander. Walking further down the street we kept getting called over so persistently we kept saying we had no money, most gave up calling. Except one guy who physically came out of the shop, asked where we were from and what are names were. Usually I try give a false name but Ed got there with his before me, which made me panic and say Kira. He invited us into his shop to look around and quickly we said no. We still didn't have any money. But of course, it's ok for us to look around and then we can come back and pay later. To get him off our backs we just went inside. After showing us a few t-shirts and giving me a free bracelet, he left us alone. Just as we were planning on making our escape he came back in and handed us a basket, asked if we like rum and put a bottle straight in the basket. Constantly he kept saying how he wasn't pushy and he was letting us look around, whilst Ed and I were thinking the complete opposite. Eventually I put a few things in the basket, told him we'd come back and pay for it later so he could wrap it up. That was a lie. When asking for the price, at supposedly 50% off, he was charging me nearly £4 for a key ring. You don't even want to know how much the small bongo drum I liked cost. We walked out and never went anywhere near that place again. It ruined the night for me. We ended up going back to our room whilst I tried to calm down for an hour, before heading back out to see what was actually going on at the party. We avoided walking past the shops by walking all the way around the hotel to get to either end of the street. Safe to say I didn't enjoy myself that night.

Moving on...

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What was the Riu Mambo
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Sister hotels - 
It's not really part of this hotel but I thought it was worth mentioning. Since you are easily able to walk along the path or the beach to visit the other two (or now one) hotels it's only fair I write a little bit about them. The Riu Merengue is the oldest of the three and it has that older feel. The pool is rectangular with a bridge across the middle and it's definitely a part of it's charm. Further down is what was the Riu Mambo and it still looks as lovely as ever. However, we only noticed the beach bar and, what was, the lunch restaurant bar open. There wasn't many people around the pool as, for the most of it, the hotel is closed. I took Ed through to the rooms to see the hill I remember seeing from our balcony when we used to stay there. You'd often see a random horse walk by or perhaps a cow which gave it some character. Walking beyond the bar though made us feel like we'd stepped into a different world, almost horror movie like. All the curtains to the rooms were still open with most of the furniture piled high. I then took him to see the stage area but all of the reception, stage, and main restaurant were closed off by a simple piece of rope. There was no furniture or decorations to be seen. It was empty. Completely empty. Very eerie indeed. I found it quite sad. I did nearly cry because of all the childhood memories I had that I wanted to share with Ed but it's now like they've gone forever. That hotel was so beautiful and I do hope that one day it is reopened in its full glory with it's own entertainment team like it once was!

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On another visit to the Riu Merengue to do a little shopping (they have the best and cheapest shops of the complex with souvenir Christmas decorations!!) I was amazed at how full it was. I then remembered it was Saturday and typically at the weekend, the locals are welcomed into the hotels. There has been warnings that this happened the most at the Riu Bachata but I didn't have a problem with it at all. The Riu Merengue however, was completely packed out. There was no space in the pool and I noticed the animation team were only speaking in Spanish. I did see some British people staying there but they didn't look too happy. I suppose this is a solution to letting them come in to the hotels, by putting them all in one hotel, however last time there was that many, everything kicked off. That was back in 2011. Makes you wonder if things really have changed.

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Both of the photos above were taken around a similar time in the day. The top one was the day we arrived, a Sunday. You can't see much but you can definitely tell that it is a lot quieter than the photo below, take the day before we left, on a Saturday!

Check Out - 
Our check out was simple. We had to be out of the room by 12 o'clock or we could pay $10 per hour if we wanted a later check out. We didn't bother as we had packed and were ready to go. That was until we found out that our flight had been delayed for two hours so instead of getting picked up at 1pm, the coaches arrived at 3pm. If we had all know sooner then us and the friends we made could have pitched in to have late check out on one of our rooms. It was more Thomsons fault for not letting us know. We ended up sat by the pool bar playing Uno. There is a room to store your luggage until the coaches arrived so there was no worrying about that. We were able to keep our wristbands on to there was no fuss when getting lunch and we could continue getting drinks until we left.

Final note:
Before I conclude, I just want to mention about what was the sports beach. The Riu Bachata has it's own little quiet beach hidden away at the other end of the resort. It's perfect if you want to get away from the music and there is a lot less wind. It used to be the place you'd go to, to go on peddle boats or jet skis, etc. They've now moved that to the middle of the main beach where it can be accessed by all. Instead, there are signs up advertising a nature area. We followed the signs just before sunset not expecting it to be open but the second we stepped on to the beach a man came straight over offering to show it to us, pointing out the monkeys over in the corner. The monkeys that were tied up by a piece of rope or a small chain. They were going insane, unable to move far. The man took us out to a new build area that had apparently only been there for three years to show us a cage. The cage was full of various birds, again unable to move far inside the cage. The worst of it was the iguana inside a smaller cage, on the floor, not much bigger than the length of it's body. It was horrible to look at. Animals should not be kept like that at all and I think it's the duty of Riu and Thomson to shut that place down as it is animal cruelty! Of course the guy only wanted to show us around so he could show us to his little shop as well, which as soon as we walked in another guy came in being quite intimidating! They always expect I like jewellery when I really don't...

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Ratings - 
Room: *****
Grounds: *****
Food: ***
Entertainment: ***
Cleanliness: ****

Overall - 
Overall, despite my rants, I really enjoyed the holiday and I'm definitely glad I got to go back to somewhere I had fond memories of as a kid. It was lovely taking Ed to somewhere I remembered so vividly and yet hadn't been to in such a long time. There were of course lots of ups and downs but overall, if the price was right, I'd probably go back with Ed and some family and friends. However, there are a few things that I would like to be a bit better, for example, the nightly entertainment, and perhaps the food could have a little more variation, but other than that, I would definitely recommend staying there. For the price, it is most definitely worth it! If in doubt, the drinks are always amazing! There is enough to do outside of the hotel, if you have the money, for the two weeks as well.

Myself and Edmond are now looking into more back packing trips. He's going to Canada next week and in four weeks time I'm heading to Tanzania so after that, once we've saved up the money, we'll be looking into trips to go to Asia or Central America. I would love to come back to the Dominican Republic one day and visit the south coast so perhaps we'll do that when island hopping the Caribbean.

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It's more the people that make the holiday so I thank all the entertainment team and our lovely new British and Canadian friends we made, because without them, the holiday wouldn't have been what it was.

If you want a cheaper all inclusive long haul holiday to the Caribbean then I would definitely suggest the Riu Bachata, otherwise, if you can afford it, I'd say go to the Riu Tequila. They are similar but I feel like for that bit extra money, you do get that little bit more and I can never stop singing it's praises. We're hoping that when we eventually do get to backpack across Mexico, we can make sure that we spend at least a week, at the end, at the Riu Tequila before flying home. That's the dream anyway. Now let's work to make that happen!

Sorry this post has been so long, I genuinely think it's the longest post I've ever done, and it has taken ages to write, but I had a lot to say! I have a few more Dom Rep related posts on their way so keep your eyes peeled for them! Also, Tanzania posts! In the meantime, I shall leave you with three photos of me at the same bar (Riu Mambo beach bar).

- KC xx


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