ClubHotel Riu Bambu Rating: 3.0 Pearls
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

  • Gorgeous, large beach
  • Shares facilities with Riu Taino and Riu Naiboa
  • Spacious rooms

Cons

  • Bland, stale food and few dining options
  • Awkward beds -- "king beds" are really two doubles pushed together
  • Dark rooms, often with little privacy
  • Limited pathways make it hard to access facilities at the sister resort

Bottom Line

A massive, 550-room resort on a five-resort Riu complex, the Bambu offers mediocre rooms, poor food, and basic features -- but the beach is great. Nearby, either the Barcelo Bavaro Palace or Casino resorts offer a similar package at competitive rates, but their amenities and nightlife best the Riu's across the board.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

Part of a giant, 2,510-room, all-inclusive resort complex that includes four other Riu properties, the Bambu is crowded and busy by day, mellow by night.

The swim-up bar
The swim-up bar

Riu Bambu, in keeping with several Spanish all-inclusive resort chains (Iberostar, Grand Palladium, and Barcelo are all in that club), is a vacation machine. The lobby is like a swiftly moving turnstile: pasty guests in, sunburned, buffet-fattened vacationers out.

The Bambu is smack in the middle of a five-resort, all-inclusive complex that runs along one long stretch of beach and shares some facilities. The Bambu sadly sags between the two highest-end Rius on the property: the Riu Palace Macao and the Riu Palace Punta Cana. Those buildings are grander and have nicer restaurants and more amenities. The beach is shared between all of the Rius, but Bambu guests are not technically allowed to use the facilities located on the more royal Riu properties. They can use anything at the lower-end Riu Taino and the Riu Naiboa on the other end of the property, though they may as well be separated by a corn maze -- it's completely inconvenient to get to them from Riu Bambu (walking down the beach to get to them is probably the best and most direct route).

Teens and adults frequent the swim-up bar, follow poolside activities, and crowd the beach. While the Bambu is slightly mellower than the Barcelo Bavaro Palace, which has a great spring break and party scene, this is still an active resort. There wasn't much of a nightlife during Oyster's visit -- just a sad disco shared by all five Rius has an awkward scene of mostly resort staff dancing with a smattering of die-hard guests. But the property opened a 24-hour sports bar in 2010, which may have helped liven things up.

 Location

About a 30-minute drive from Punta Cana International Airport, and part of a five-resort Riu complex.

Located in in Bavaro, the Riu's five-resort complex is technically in an area that stretches north of Punta Cana International Airport, though Punta Cana is commonly used to refer to the entire peninsula. Bavaro is home to a limited smattering of local restaurants and nightclubs, mostly in and around the town of Friusa, which offer both locals and tourists a change of pace from the dominant presence of resorts.

 Beach

A crowded, active beach with clear waters and plenty of water sports, but some harsher waves compared to the south of Punta Cana.

The beach
The beach

The beach is quite nice, like anywhere in Punta Cana. The sand is soft and fine, and the water is clear. Unlike the south of Punta Cana, the waves are a bit stronger here -- evidenced by the clusters of guests bodysurfing.

The beach is long and wide, but with people from five different resorts, it gets packed. It's still possible to find scattered lounge chairs and a few feet of privacy, but you'll have to search for it. Volleyball games ensue, and there are always plenty of activities. Typical water-sport activities, like kayaking and sailing, are available on the beach for all Riu guests.

Unlike the beaches at some of the resorts just north of the Riu Palace Macao, which are more characteristically Atlantic (darker waters and even harsher waves), the Riu's beach feels more like the Caribbean, with clear, calm water and palm trees swaying over the sand for shade.

 Rooms

Rooms are big, but with outdated furniture, limited privacy, and king beds that are really two double mattresses pushed together. Most guests spend as much time outside the room as possible.

The Standard Room
The Standard Room

Standard rooms are large, reasonably comfortable, and function best as a base camp for a vacation spent outdoors. Housekeeping prepares a rose-colored towel swan and places it on the coffee table to greet guests. Rooms received soft renovations in 2010 (new fabrics, for example), and so are likely a bit improved -- though many of the essentials remain unchanged.

Leading to the patio, the room's large sliding glass doors let in some sun. With curtains drawn, the room feels pretty dark.

The bed -- or "beds," as the case may be -- is one of the less comfortable quirks of the Riu resorts. Instead of an actual king-size bed, they push double-size mattresses together under a single, king-size headboard. The mattresses are firm -- no pillowtops or high-thread-count sheets to luxuriate in -- and couples seeking a romantic vacation together might find the big crease down the bed's center less than sexy.

The bathroom is conveniently laid out and has plenty of space. The vanity's long marble counter with twin sinks is open to the rest of the room, outside the bathroom proper. Inside the bathroom, the shower and bath are in their own tiled alcove on one end. The frosted glass door makes the shower look nice, but the loosey-goosey detachable showerhead can make for some frustrating mornings. Opposite the shower, the toilet also had its own small room. A tray of single-use Riu brand toiletry packets and thin soap bars is provided.

Rooms have patios or balconies; mine was a small and very public patio that opened off the room, next to the bed. A couple of loungers with dingy, cloth-covered cushions were squeezed side by side onto the fenced-off patio area.

A small television was provided in the room, with limited Spanish and English channels available.

Hallmark Riu minibars offer free sodas and Presidente beer, but the real highlight is the wall unit holding leaky bottles of bottom-shelf liquor, ready to mix with the sodas provided. An unceremonious gallon jug of water is next to the fridge, to keep guests free of stomach bugs.

 Features

After the beach, the large pool is the best place to hang. But skimpy amenities and lame nightlife make this resort feel a bit behind the other mega-resorts.

Watersports
Watersports

Any place that's near water and sun is a popular spot here, and this applies to the pool. The pool is large, has a pool bar, and features a big staircase that descends from lobby level straight into the pool. The area is vast, but chairs are usually occupied, and pool space is spare.

Guests can pose for photo ops on the staircase while others linger at the pool bar or eat at the nearby Mama Juana Cafe. Posses of teenage guests swing their feet off the edge of the pool and flirt while their parents linger at the swim-up bar.

At intermittent hours, the pool is overtaken by the entertainment schedule. A bubbly staff member dances at the side of the pool to the pulse of his boom box while buoyant guests mimic his motions just feet away from the swim-up bar.

A small gym on the Bambu property has a skimpy selection of equipment and is somewhat cramped. Most guests seem to opt for the slightly better gym located on Caribbean Street.

Wi-Fi is available on neighboring properties, but no business center is located on the premise. This is definitely not a place for business travel, but guests addicted to real-time Facebook updates and photosharing may feel frustrated by the end of their vacation.

The kids club is located near the beach and looks like it came straight out of Candy Cane Lane. The giant soft-serve ice cream cone topping the roof and the large candy canes sticking out of the sign seem like they'd be enticing for kids, but it was rarely in use.

Guests also have access to the facilities at the lower end Riu Taino and Riu Naiboa, as well as Caribbean Street -- the shopping, spa, and nightlife center for the entire resort. Caribbean Street is easily accessible from the beach and is reasonably close to Riu Bambu, but the two lower-end properties may as well be separated from Bambu by a corn maze. They are far away and difficult to access, without clear signs and pathways to connect them to the rest of the resort.

 Family

Activities and amenities are kid-friendly and cribs/rollaway beds are available free of charge, but kid-specific amenities are skimpy.

A kids club as well as children's activities scheduled around the clock make this an easy place to keep kids occupied, but the loud, crowded atmosphere and the large property area seem better suited to teenagers than to small children. There wasn't a disco or nightlife targeted specifically to teenagers, but teens seemed occupied and happy to hang out in the sun together.

The rooms are spacious and generally quiet, and cribs and rollaway beds are available free of charge.

 Cleanliness

Rooms have a surprisingly neutral odor for the Riu chain, where most rooms tend to reek of cigarette smoke. Otherwise, it was clean enough but not sparkling.

Cushions on the patio lounger were worn
Cushions on the patio lounger were worn

The Riu chain has a penchant for smoke-odored rooms, and Bambu didn't seem to be an exception. While some rooms are surprisingly inoffensive, many guests have complained about the stench..

The cleanliness of my bathroom, bed linens, and furniture was OK, but details pointed to poor general maintenance. A leaky rum bottle dripped into a small pool of liquor on top of the minibar, and the cushions on the patio loungers were worn and sullied.

Throughout the resort, essentials like the pool and beach are clean, but the property is by no means immaculate. The buffets could have used more staff to clear dishes and keep the presentation clean.

 Food

Inconsistent hours at the main buffet and iffy food options are far worse than the neighboring Riu Palace Punta Cana and the Riu Palace Palace Macao.

Colonial buffet
Colonial buffet

Pepto Bismol, anyone? Meals at Colonial, the main buffet, are definitely not a vacation highlight, and for an unlucky few, it could be a vacation disaster -- the occasional stomach upset is standard issue here. Fried foods and reconstituted frozen entrees are the most unassuming options, with mysterious meats, fish, and seafood on offer for more adventurous eaters. The food is comparable to other all-inclusives in the area, such as the Barcelo properties and the Catalonia.

The a la carte restaurants serve dinner and require guests to make reservations ahead of time with guest services in the lobby. San Angelo opened in 2010, and Hibachi serves Asian cuisine. There are also Italian and grill restaurants on-site. Guests may also eat at the Riu Palace Macao's Internacional restaurant, which offers Caribbean dinners a la carte.

Snacks are also available at Mama Juana Cafe, next to the pool. Unlike many resorts that provide freshly grilled food and snacks in the afternoon, this is basically just a repackaged handful of plates from the regular buffet. It's enough to satisfy a desperate appetite but nothing to get excited for.

 Drinks

Generic-brand liquor at several bars.

Generic liquor is used in the mixed drinks here, and Presidente beer is on tap. All drinks come in the same small cups that American elementary students drink their milk out of. It's obnoxious, and some guests opt to bring their own tumbler cups. But free-flowing alcohol, whatever the vessel, is one of the perks of staying at an all-inclusive resort, and enough small plastic cups still get the job done.

 Bottom Line

A massive, 550-room resort on a five-resort Riu complex, the Bambu offers mediocre rooms, poor food, and basic features -- but the beach is great. Nearby, either the Barcelo Bavaro Palace or Casino resorts offer a similar package at competitive rates, but their amenities and nightlife best the Riu's across the board.

Things You Should Know About ClubHotel Riu Bambu

Address

  • Playa Arena Gorda, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Riu Bambu Dominican Republic
  • Riu Bambu Punta Cana

Room Types

  • Family Room
  • Junior Suite
  • Standard Room

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 550
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Spa: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Kids Club: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Address: Playa Arena Gorda, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
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