Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The Catalonia Bavaro Beach resort is a sprawling, 770-room resort -- that's about as big as a single resort can get in the D.R. The big rooms are divided among squat, two-story buildings. Fish ponds surround the lobby, with the intention of providing a natural vibe. But the fish ponds have on them and the rarely used in the lobby area are dirty, so it's not all that inviting. It's not all bad, though -- the streams and ponds attract wildlife and the grounds appear lush and natural, at least more so than at resorts like the Majestic Elegance.
The pool scene is pretty lively (read: noisy). It's typical for games or other activities to be going on, such as the race Oyster saw during its stay that began with and ended in a rigorous lap. The activities staff member, speaking through a microphone, joked that the winner would receive his sister. The sunburned guests roared with laughter -- it's a pretty lighthearted place. Likewise, indoor spaces become havens for partygoers, such as at El Palmeral bar. One woman casually leaned over the bar during our visit and refilled her own beer glass about five times in a row from the Presidente tap while the bartender casually looked on. "Serve yourself some fun," she said. This kind of no-frills self-sufficiency is extremely rare at an , but it bodes well for the laid-back nature of things. Guests treat the place like they own it, and the staff seems to play along, responding only when called upon.
Alternatively, the beach is peaceful and calm. No loud music, just a bunch of people reading and occasionally heading for the beach bar for beverages. There's no drink service on the beach, but the beach bar just steps away. The beach is topless, like many resorts in the D.R., but expect to see lots of mothers wading with their children -- this is not the Playboy Mansion.
Still, while the Catalonia lacks the full-on party vibe of the Excellence Punta Cana. Sanctuary Cap Cana may be a better option. The Riu Palace Macao is a similar price and vibe as the Catalonia Bavaro Beach., it isn't nearly as tranquil as, say, the
Catalonia Bavaro is in Bavaro, a neighboring village to Punta Cana. Over time Bavaro has come to be considered a part of Punta Cana, at least for the sake of tourism.
At the beach, the water is calm and clear, and the is pretty shallow. Some guests snorkel around the swimming area, but there isn't that much to see -- a few fish, but no coral. In the morning, staff members come by to rake up what little seaweed washes up on the beach, and the area is generally well kept.
The beach is private and only guests from the neighboring sister property Royal Catalonia Bavaro are allowed to use the beach. There's also a standard water-sports shack with boats and toys.
The suites are relatively clean and spacious, withand . There were no noticeable odors, and the air conditioner worked great. The safe was new, free, and easy to use.
There are two kinds of rooms at Catalonia, junior suites and presidential suites. The junior suite is right on the beach, in Building 1. Buildings 11-18 and 29-32 are near the , the furthest from the beach. All the other buildings are in the middle of the , an equal distance from the to the . Buildings 1-6 or 18-20 are the quietest, if merely because of their distance from the all-day jams.
In all rooms, "two twin beds pushed together, each with separate sheets. Sleeping with a wedge in the center of the bed is a bit odd but is actually fairly common in the Caribbean, and common practice at such resorts as the . The mattresses are firm, but they sag a little. The is basic: two pillows and clean linens that don't come with a high thread count." are actually
Rooms have Panasonic flat-screen TVs, which get a good number of English-speaking stations. Of the 80 total channels, the sound faltered on a few of them, but most, especially the Spanish-speaking channels, worked fine.
Bathrooms get the full honeymoon treatment -- complete with a pair of kissing towel swans and flowers placed around the Jacuzzi, which is big enough for two. Sounds fancy, but this is fairly common at any resort. What's not common, however, are the . The shower is fairly small, and because the floor is flat, it doesn't drain completely. You'll end up with some puddles -- a minor annoyance. Bath products are a basic generic brand.
The minibar comes stocked with the basics: Brahma beer, 7-Up, and Pepsi. There were more water bottles than what's offered at most all-inclusives -- three bottles in the fridge and two more next to the coffeemaker. Even better, all the contents are free.
The pool is large, with an island in the middle. Lounge chairs around its edge get snatched up quickly, so most guests wake up early and reserve their place by the pool for the day. At the pool, you're likely to find guests drinking as soon as the bar opens, and by early afternoon there's a lot of action going on -- aqua aerobics class, organized pool sports, and lots of loud music. Not a very relaxing space, but it's fun. There's also a swim-up bar.
In the fitness center, the equipment is old, and the space is tucked in behind the area -- so much for ocean views. Instead it has big glass windows, allowing everyone who walks by a glimpse of you sweating.
Two nearby golf courses, but neither is very impressive.
Two golf courses are available for guests, neither of which is world-class. One is right on the property, and another is a five-minute drive away. On site is a nine-hole course. The 18-hole course's green fees includes the cost of a golf cart. Clubs can also be rented. The courses are not stellar, and the prices reflect that. If a cheap round on the links, just for fun, is your thing, either are decent options. But for golf enthusiaists, hotels with better golf include Punta Cana Hotel or Casa de Campo (home to the Pete Dye course, Teeth of the Dog).
Tons of activities for kids -- as at most mega-resorts.
The hotel has a kids club, babysitting services, and cribs.
There are daily supervised activities that attract kids and and their parents -- like archery lessons on the beach. The activities staff is very active and good at getting guests involved in various games. There are also tennis courts and golf, and of course there's the beach and a kids pool.
The main buffet and the beachside buffet have a lot of kid-friendly options, like hot dogs and fries.
Clean rooms, but the rest of the resort could use some attention.
The rooms are kept clean, and housekeeping comes by promptly in the morning. But the rest of the hotel is not as well kept. The daybeds by the lobby have stains and look dirty and poorly maintained. are strewn about as well.
Around the pool, after the major activity (like drinking) winds down, there are usually a lot of cups and towels left scattered around. But by morning, the place is cleaned up.
Typical D.R. all-inclusive fare, which is to say, not great.
Like most Dominican, the food isn't great. Rice and salad are staples at the buffet because everything else looks slightly questionable. The cooked hamburger patties -- sitting on a platter for who knows how long -- aren't appetizing. At least the fries are good. The one bright spot of the is the , available at lunch and dinner. There's also a so you can make yourself a sandwich.
During the day, in addition to the La Palapa, which serves the same offerings as the buffet, plus snacks like hot dogs or chicken nuggets., guests also have a few poolside options like
For dinner, guests can reserve a table at one of seven different a la carte restaurants, including the Japanese Rodeo steak house, La Toscana, serving Italian fare, and , a Mexican restaurant. All are probably better options than the buffet, which, like most D.R. buffets, is worth avoiding., the
At the buffet, it's important to let your server know that you're sitting down. Otherwise, you can end up waiting for some time for silverware or drinks.
Free bar doesn't run out of it.-- assuming the
bartender, who spins and juggles bottles in the air. Avoid ordering anything too specific, though -- it's best just to go with the drink of the day.like J&B scotch is included in the all-inclusive package, but some bars might not always have the good stuff handy as the bars can run out. This is slightly made up for by the amusing
This all-inclusive resort offers standard wedding package fare, but with fewer options (though less hassle) than some of its neighbors.
At 700 rooms, the Catalonia is one of the D.R.'s largest mega-resorts. It's fun, and roomy enough that guests can party at the big pool or lounge quietly at the beach. Rooms are big, too, each with a Jacuzzi tub, but food options, as at so many , are not great.