Sun Spa, Dong Hoi

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This is the ideal base from which to explore Phong Nha caves and Bak Ma National Park – indeed, the owners of the caves also own this hotel. It is a large, sprawling resort complex on a pleasant stretch of beach. But its location well away from any other tourist centres is also its downfall in many respects, with service levels, general maintenance and the restaurant letting down what otherwise is an ambitious and well-designed resort hotel. Be assured, it is the best option in Dong Hoi by some margin and a stay here is certainly not a hardship.

Lets start with the positive – the rooms in the main buildings are conventional and spacious, and the higher category rooms in the free-standing bungalows could justifiably be described as luxurious. The swimming pool is massive and a pleasant place to lounge, the beach is right out front and the service is invariably friendly. Satellite TVs, safety boxes, mini-bars, private balconies all feature. However, you should arrive prepared for the negative also. On our last visit, the air-conditioning lacked any effectiveness, the plumbing was temperamental, an enthusiastic karaoke session in the bar made eating in the restaurant an ordeal – as did the food – and being understood by the ever-willing staff was a hit and, more often, miss experience.

The Sun Spa is an acceptable option for one night, as long as one arrives in good humour and is prepared to put a positive spin on any shortcomings.

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