Beware of sales people and their excursion pitches
This lively 658-room resort, not to be confused with the more romantic adults-only Royal property, is situated on a pretty section of Bavaro Beach. It appeals to a mix of families, spring breakers, and wedding groups, as well as to a mix of Canadians, Europeans, and Russians of all ages. No guest shall go hungry or thirsty with the wide range of bars, a la carte restaurants, and even a 24-hour pizzeria for those needing a late-night fix. The resort is more walkable that other mega-resorts in the area (it's shuttle-free). Rooms have modern tropical style, whirlpool tubs, and balconies, but they are not the highlight here. Golf fans will love having easy access to the 18- and 9-hole golf courses, and other activities include biking, tennis, archery and a range of free non-motorized water sports (wind surfing, too!. Plenty of people are around to sell extra excursions -- start practicing "no, gracias."
A fun, lively atmosphere for families and groups of all ages
This resort surely wins points for first impressions. Guests pass a picturesque tree-lined golf course and a series of international flags before reaching the lovely lobby with pillars, high ceilings, and welcome fruit punch. Straight ahead is a large fountain that looks spectacular at night, providing a photo-worthy background in changing colors. To the right is a man-made pond with lily pads, statues, and individual pathways that lead toward a la carte restaurants and the casino. On the other side is the main bar and lounge -- El Palmeral -- a lively spot for drinks and sporting events on televisions throughout the afternoon and evening.
Behind the lobby is a wide pedestrian path that leads to the main buffet and outdoor theater, and toward a garden with a white wedding gazebo. A short walk through this garden takes guests to the the pool and beach. The pool -- especially in the presence of the animation team -- is likely to have a party scene, and many lounge chairs, especially in the shade, are snatched early.
At night, guests tend to dress up and have a drink in the lobby, then head to the buffet or a la carte restaurants. Early risers can get up and check out the sunrise from the beach, and many use this opportunity to reserve the best seats. Also beware of salespeople, especially at the beach and pool, who are looking to fill the excursions.
A prime beach location, 30 minutes from Punta Cana International Airport
The area of Bavaro is about a 30-minute drive from Punta Cana airport. The resort, like all neighboring resorts along the coast here, faces east for spectacular sunrises. Visitors typically stay put on the premises from vacation start to finish, as there isn't much else in the immediate area. Resorts are at least a 30-minute taxi ride from the small village of Punta Cana and the larger land-locked Higuey, where few restaurants and nightclubs allow locals and tourists a change of pace from the dominant presence of all-inclusive resorts. One notable thing about this resort, given the number of rooms, is that it is pretty easy walking distance around the property -- a tram is not needed.
Some rooms feel dark and show signs of age, but continuous updates help keep things fresh.
Rooms here have modern tropical decor: color accents in green and orange, dark wicker furniture, and terra-cotta tile floors (that could use fresh grout). There are four room types that include the basic Junior Suite and the three upgraded Privilege Suites (for a small per person fee).
Junior Suites come with either one king or two twin beds and have updated linens and furnishings, but due a few factors, feel darker and are starting to show age. They have ceiling fans, coffeemakers, mini-fridges, whirlpool tubs, and separate showers that are a little small in size and can be awkward for bigger guests. Terraces or balconies have hammocks, and free Wi-Fi is available but spotty.
Privileged Junior Suites are closer to the seafront and have additional amenities such as a private lounge for check-in and concierge services, 24-hour room service, welcome cocktails, and discounts on spa treatments, golfing, and romantic beach dinners. Rooms also come with iPod docks, bathrobes, and slippers.
Privileged Honeymoon Suites -- with all the amenities of the other Privileged Junior Suites -- feel brighter compared to the previous two types, with a neutral color scheme and canopy king beds.
The Privileged Suites are the largest of the bunch and are closest to the beach. Each has a separate living area, two bathrooms, and two balconies.
A selection of bars, restaurant and activities to keep families and groups happy
This all-inclusive resort appeals to families and groups of all ages, whether it be spring breakers, wedding parties, or Russian group tours. Because of this crowd -- and the animation team, which is often present at the pool or on stage providing evening entertainment -- honeymooners might want to consider the next door adults-only Royal property for a more romantic ambiance.
Restaurants run the usual all-inclusive gamut and are mostly found close to the lobby area, but a few other options exist on the other side of the property, closer to the golf course. Reservations can be made for Mexican, Asian, Italian, or American (a steakhouse). Snack bars include a pizzeria and creperie.
The beach buffet is open for breakfast and lunch (a great spot during sunrise, especially). Once a week, the resort puts on a beach barbecue for dinner with live music. Though there isn't beach drink service, there is a beach bar so guests can get up to order beer and cocktails. The swim-up pool bar also stays busy with daytime drinkers.
The main buffet, Gran Caribe, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in a large outdoor dining area overlooking the main pathway, fountain, and gardens. For activities, there are two golf courses (for a fee), tennis courts, archery, soccer, bikes, a fitness center and non-motorized water sports (boogie boards, kayaks, cataramans, windsurfing, and snorkel gear). Other excursions for an extra fee are available and there are salespeople who will approach guests to sell, sometimes more than once per day. The animation team is active during the day providing fun games on the beach and pool, as well as merengue lessons.
Evening entertainment changes nightly. During our visit, a Michael Jackson show could be enjoyed in the outdoor theater close to the the El Palmeral bar. Partiers can continue with domestic beer and liquor at the casino and disco later at night.
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