Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Families, couples, and spring breakers come to this 457-room, mellow all-inclusive for the cheap rates -- not the subpar entertainment schedule, the minimal options for kids, or the disappointing nightlife.
A large, nice lobby, pool, beach, and bountiful buffet make this 700+ room resort appear tip-top on the surface, but it's not aiming high with amenities. As the resort's own website puts it, it has "all the fittings appropriate for an establishment in this category" -- but with so many all-inclusive resorts in the area, guests can find more.
In 2012, the hotel joined completely with its sister property and next door neighbor, Be Live Grand Bavaro. The two hotels are now one under the name Be Live Grand Punta Cana. Despite the obvious expansion (the hotel gained another 457 rooms), few actual changes have taken place. Rooms and commual spaces retain largely the same design as they did when the properties were seperate (though some suites at the Bavaro did receive minor changes to better fit in with Punta Cana rooms). They also suffer the same pitfalls they did as seperate properties. Rooms have been unevenly renovated, so that some are quite modern and stylish while others are worn and outdated. Amenities still lack in abundance.
Unlike most all-inclusives, this property feels pretty sleepy -- guests linger around the beach and pools without many activities or enthusiastic staff members to keep them entertained. Families visit, but there are few family-oriented activities beyond tennis lessons or poolside lounging. Couples visit, but there's no overwhelmingly romantic vibe, just optional beachfront dinners. Spring breakers visit, but past 11 p.m., they're alone at the bar. To most guests, the experience of staying here goes like this: Wait in line for the beach grill and buffet, ogle the entertainment without much cheer, and sip a nightcap at the bar with friends. Even the pool, the main social scene, is pretty quiet. Families and middle-aged couples relax in the lounge chairs, play cards and read. There's a bar open during the day, but the most action you'll see here is the bartender singing along to his tiny boom box.
Most guests seem to come simply because they spotted a great, last-minute package deal. "Sure, the resort isn't that great, but we came for the sun, and we got a good deal, so we're happy" is a popular refrain. Cheap rates rather than standout amenities are the main draw, so families, couples, and groups commingle with little to do but enjoy their cheap dose of sun and unlimited food and liquor. Dreams Punta Cana and Majestic Colonial Punta Cana offer far better amenities, food, and pools (without sacrificing a great beachfront) at similar prices.
The clientele is heavily French, so much so that the Dominicans selling necklaces, cigars and paintings speak to tourists on the beach do so in French first, not Spanish or English. Staffers do speak English though, unlike at some D.R. resorts, so English speakers should have no problems.
A 20- to 25-minute taxi from Punta Cana International Airport, on a resort-dominated stretch of beach. Guests rarely leave the resort.
The Be Live Grand Punta Cana is in Bavaro, an area that is commonly considered part of Punta Cana. Bavaro is also home to a smattering of restaurants and nightclubs, mostly in and around the town of Friusa. These offer locals and tourists a change of pace from the dominant resorts and poorly maintained roads, but guests rarely opt to leave the resort.
In Bavaro, the beaches generally see stronger waves and have a steeper drop-off than those to the south in Punta Cana proper. But the soft, white sand and clear water still make this among the best beaches in the D.R.
The Be Live Grand Punta Cana's stretch of beach has plenty of room to play and lounge. A healthy number of chairs and shady palapa umbrellas are spread along the beach. The swimming area, however, is fairly small. Only a small area of the beach has a sandy bottom.
There's a beach bar not too far away and there's also ping-pong tables right on the beach. A small watersports hut has plastic canoes and kayaks as well as snorkeling gear, and can arrange for windsurfing and catamaran trips. It's shared, along with the rest of the beach and facilities, with Be Live Grand Marien.
Although the beach lies directly next to that of neighboring Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa, friendly security guards monitor the border between the resorts. Where some resort beaches seem to allow a free flow of guests from surrounding areas, the borders around this beach were clear and monitored, so it felt safe and exclusive.
Some rooms are freshly renovated and modern, while others are outdated and drab -- pure luck of the draw.
The rooms are the most variable part of this hotel. Though some of the rooms have been recently renovated, hotel management was unable to say when renovations will be complete on the other rooms. Oyster's room failed to impress, but other guests' digs were much nicer, brighter, and more modern.
Room location also varies greatly: Depending on which building the room is in, the rooms can feel calm and private or noisy and exposed, depending on whether they face the pools, walkways, or restaurants and bars that make up the evening entertainment.
In the standard rooms of the unrenovated buildings, the furnishings are functional but outdated and far less stylish than in the newly renovated units. The rooms are generally clean, aside from a couple of rusty lampshades, but the dated, brightly colored coverlet on the bed and the furniture's cheesy, dinged-up finish paled in comparison to the simple, modern design of the renovated rooms. Ask for a room in one of those buildings or test your luck -- standard rooms and suites are both spread among the buildings.
Standard bathrooms have a single-sink vanity separate from the toilet and shower. In my room, the bathroom was generally clean, save some signs of wear on the counter and mirror. The shower and toilet worked without any glitches, a vast improvement over the Barcelo Bavaro Palace. A very basic set of hotel brand bath products are provided -- just some shampoo, soap, and lotion.
The rooms on the Bavaro side of the property, however, were all renovated in 2008. As a result, they feel clean and modern, quite like they came pre-fabricated from an Ikea magazine. The white and beige decor has brightened the space considerably, and the partial canopied beds add a sense of luxury. Flat-screen TVs are new, but the room lacks in other electronics (there is no iPod dock or DVD player). These bathrooms are also top-notch, comparatively. They feature a Jacuzzi tub, seperate shower room, big bowl sink, and private toilet. Try requesting one of these rooms during booking.
All rooms come with a mini-bar, but unlike at most resorts, the contents aren't included in the all-inclusive package. Still, they are stocked with a far more extensive collection of sodas, juices, water, beer, and snacks than at other all-inclusives. A single-liter bottle of water is provided, along with a coffee machine and tea, but even the small bottles of water in the mini-fridge cost extra.
The small, tiled balcony (available in all rooms) comes with plastic deck furniture. Many, especially those that were on the Bavaro side before the hotels joined, lack screen doors and cannot be left open at night to let in the sea breezes. Some balconies are quiet and pleasant, just a few feet from the pool (if you're lucky enough to get a room facing the adults-only pool), while others are not terribly inviting, especially when located a few feet from the hotel's main pathway. Neighboring buildings also keep them from receiving much light.
The resort features a total of seven pools: a main pool that is centrally located and two adults-only pools. One of these is on the far side of the resort, sandwiched between two guest villas, and the other is closer to the Bavaro. Topless sunbathing is to be expected here; it's also closer to the beach, has its own bar, and has a hot tub built into it. Four other pools that previously belonged to Be Live Grand Bavaro before the hotels joined are quieter than the others, tucked in closely to guestrooms.
The large, amoeba-shaped main pool is by far the most popular spot during the day. The swim-up bar and thick border of beach chairs lining the edge of the pool make it an easy place to hang all day, and many guests do. Many of the standard rooms have ground-floor balconies that open onto the edge of the Punta Cana's adults-only pool, so many guests choose to quietly lounge on their deck furniture.
The tennis center featured lessons, equipment for rent, and two dirt courts. An odd assortment of posters outside the center specified rules on the court (no swimsuits; reservations expire after 10 minutes?) and advertised tennis pro Gregory Rivera (the instructor).
The gym is equipped with a handful of machines in poor condition. The air conditioning works and the facilities are fairly clean, but the carpets, machines, and free weights are no less updated than the '80s workout posters framed on the wall.
Be Live Grand Punta Cana Spa offers a long menu of expensive spa services. The facilities are clean, and the spa itself is relaxing. A steam room, a sauna, hot tubs, and pools are also available for use.
A strip of on-site shops sells a variety of snacks, sunscreen, gifts, and resort-themed clothing. The same variety of paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and mamajuana liquor bottles are sold at the stands set up along the beach and near the pool on the resort.
Above the lobby, a small tour center houses a cluster of tables and notebooks where salespeople pitch the various safaris and activities that guests can sign up for. None of these tours is included in the all-inclusive packages.
The casino and entertainment theater are conveniently located next to each other at the far side of the resort. Few guests ventured inside. Likewise, the night entertainment was OK, but the audience seemed disinterested and tapered off as the show continued. A disco is also located on the second floor of the lobby building, but the nightlife there, too, was drowsy.
Though there are family-centric amenities like a kids' club, the resort doesn’t specifically cater to children.
Some families visited the resort, but there wasn't a distinct family vibe. Cribs are available for a fee -- many different answers from the hotel on this. The buffet has plenty of kid-friendly options but no kids' corner or table with designated food. Though teens seem to get by just fine, the resort doesn't go to great pains to accommodate small children. The lack of children's entertainment and activities certainly doesn't compare with expressly family-friendly resorts like the Holiday Village.
The pools were cleaned daily, paths were kept clear of garbage, and the landscaping was well maintained during my visit. However, the Caribbean climate tends to tarnish metal hardware and shiny surfaces pretty fast. Rooms, have clean terra-cotta tiled floors and furniture, but there were a couple of rusty lampshades.
Six restaurants, two bars and a nightclub
Be Live Grand Punta Cana's beautiful beach and large pools satisfy most guests, but amenities are otherwise very basic for an all-inclusive. In 2012, the hotel fully incorporated it's sister property, Be Live Grand Bavaro, into the fold. The two properties -- now one under Be Live Punta Cana -- suffer the same shortcomings, namely uneven renovations (some rooms are incredibly modern, others are incredibly worn) and lack of impressive amenities. Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa is located on the same beach and has more consistent room quality and better amenities, though it can be a bit more expensive.
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