Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & Spa Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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Pros

Cons

Bottom Line

All rooms at the 451-room Punta Cana, part of an 1,825-room mega-resort complex, feature in-room Jacuzzis, but the real draws are the clean white-sand beach, access to four free-form pools, and eight reservation-free restaurants with some of the D.R.'s best all-inclusive fare -- a good value, if you don't mind scrounging for a rogue lounge chair.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

Part of the 1,825-room Grand Palladium complex, this is one of the biggest resorts in the D.R. Spontaneous dance parties, discos and chasing children -- it's fun, but this isn’t the place for peace and quiet.

The beach scene
The beach scene

This 1,825-room resort is one of four resorts inside the Grand Palladium complex. It's one of the largest resorts in the D.R. -- meaning that while kids run around the pool and 50 Cent’sIn Da Club” blasts from the swim-up bar, the place is big enough for couples to find a relatively quiet spot on the beach. The Grand Palladium attracts all kinds -- couples young and old, families, bachelor parties, and guests from around the world, though most are Canadian, German, or French.

The Punta Cana resort shares 15 restaurants, a casino, a spa, and an enormous sports complex with the other three resorts. The adults-only, more exclusive Grand Palladium Royal Suites is smaller, quieter, and more expensive, but it has access to all of the amenities on the other properties. A shuttle bus made to look like a train connects the four properties every 15 to 20 minutes. However, many guests specifically choose the Palace because of its proximity to the beach, no more than a five-minute away.

There's a lot to do here, and the major facilities, especially the sports complex, are a notch above most all-inclusives in the D.R. At the beach alone, guests can hop into a skiff, jump into a sailboat, strap on their scuba gear, or watch a mean game of beach volleyball. There's water aerobics at the pool, where I spotted more than one spontaneous dance party erupt. After 11 p.m., partiers head to the disco, which can stay bumping until the wee hours.

Though there is some space for quiet, this is still a mega-resort with constant activity. For more serenity, check out the slightly more expensive Sanctuary Cap Cana boutique hotel.

 Location

A 30-minute, $38 taxi from Punta Cana International Airport, among 50-plus resorts. But there’s not much to do outside the resorts.

The Grand Palladium Palace is one of four resorts on a single complex that consists of 1,825 rooms. The complex is a bit like its own city, with four large pools, 15 restaurants, a casino, a spa, and an enormous sports complex, but there’s not much to do elsewhere in Punta Cana – just some cockfighting rings and local restaurants.

 Beach

Clean, flour-like sand, but the area is narrower than other stretches of Bavaro Beach. And with a resort complex this big, it can be pretty crowded.

Launching a boat from shore
Launching a boat from shore

The clean, flour-like sand and clear, turquoise waters make for an all-around excellent beach, but it's a bit narrower than other stretches of Bavaro Beach, which means loungers tend to be packed closely together. Given the perpetual crowds, it can be very hard to secure a chair after 10 a.m. A common complaint is that guests often plant their towels down to reserve a chair early in the morning, even when they’re not there the bulk of the day.

Plenty of bar-type kiosks line the beach, so getting a drink is never an issue, but you may have to sneak past the occasional sales guy trying to hawk his spa services, jewelry, or glass-bottom boat rides.

Catamarans, kayaks, and boats for windsurfing are available from the resort at no extra cost, like at most resorts. There's an extra charge for scuba diving or deep-sea fishing excursions. However, given all the boat traffic, guests can’t snorkel from the beach here. Snorkeling opportunities are much better on the southern coast, around Bayahibe. Check out Viva Wyndham or Dreams La Romana.

The Punta Cana is a five-to 10-minute walk from the beach, though some rooms in Buildings 2000, 3000, and 4000 have oceanfront views. The Grand Palladium Palace resort is the closest to the beach within the complex, and though it tends to be more expensive, it can be worth the upgrade as long as you request a room brighter than this one.

 Rooms

All rooms have Jacuzzis and iPod docks. But they're not exactly spacious, and the furniture is showing wear and tear.

All rooms feature Jacuzzis
All rooms feature Jacuzzis

The Jacuzzi is located smack in the middle of the room -- these rooms are designed for couples and are not for the modest. According to the Grand Palladium's management, the hotel was last renovated in 2007. By the looks of its well-worn furniture, nearly every piece has some kind of blemish. It seems that either the furnishings are especially cheap, the guests are fairly abusive, or the '07 renovation date was a bit of an exaggeration.

Deluxe Rooms, the cheapest rooms, feature Jacuzzis with king beds or two queens but no pull-out couch like in the junior suites. The drawers in the desk didn’t slide open properly, nor did those in the TV cabinet, where the coffee machine and mini-bar are located. (The mini-bar likely hadn't been restocked from the previous guest -- all it had was two bottles of Coke, a Sprite, and two bottles of water.) There were also bubbles forming beneath the paint on some of the walls, giving the room a somewhat dingy look. The room felt a little damp overall, but the air-conditioning unit worked perfectly. Overall, the rooms are in slightly better condition than at many resorts in the D.R.

The bed, however, felt old and flat, the sheets institutional, and the pillows were lumpy. The thin bedspread is reminiscent of colors you might find in New Mexico -- orange and yellow, with an Aztec-like pattern. The whole setup was about on par with what you might find at the Riu.

For the bathroom, there's a cramped shower with a cheap plastic door opposite the toilet (in a separate nook). The soap dish inside was broken, which I learned when all of my toiletries slid onto the floor. There was a splash of toothpaste on the sink’s backsplash, and the mirror could’ve used a swipe.

The balcony faces the well-manicured lawn around one of the property's two pools, but there was no way to turn off the balcony light at night.

The 24-inch Zenith tube TV comes with a wide variety of English-speaking channels, including Cinemax, HBO+, and CBS. (No channel guide, though.) Rooms are also outfitted with an iPod dock and a safe that's large enough to fit a laptop, both of which are fairly uncommon among Dominican all-inclusives. Rooms come with plenty of outlets, but they're all recessed, so bring an adapter for your cell phone charger.

 Features

A city's worth of amenities packed into the resort -- large, clean pools, a spa, a huge sports center, and a casino -- and most are a cut above many D.R. all-inclusives.

The mini golf course
The mini golf course

Grand Palladium Punta Cana shares all of its features with the Palace, Bavaro, and Royal Suites resorts. A shuttle bus -- made to look like a train -- runs every 20 to 30 minutes among them, but otherwise getting from the Punta Cana to the Bavaro is a pleasant 10- to 20-minute walk, depending on where you need to go and how fast.

Grand Palladium has four large, clean pools, two of which are on the Punta Cana property and all of which feature swim-up bars and shallow kids' sections.

The fitness center is bright, spacious, and air conditioned, unlike at many Caribbean resorts, and a personal trainer is always on duty for an extra fee. Cardio equipment includes three treadmills, two stair climbers, two bikes, and two ellipticals, plus there's a huge variety of multipurpose weight machines and free weights, all in great shape. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily, though there’s no trainer available on weekends.

Punta Cana's huge sports center includes six tennis courts, a soccer field, an archery and rifle shooting range, a badminton court, a basketball court, and a mini-golf course.

The spa, an outpost of the Renova Spa, which is also common at most of the Riu resorts, is large, airy, and super relaxing. It has a full menu ranging from manis and pedis to massages and exfoliation packages, but some of its best general features include its own private pool, steam room, and sauna, all of which are free for guests to use. Massages cost $5 less in a palapa on the beach, but this space is far less relaxing.

A medium-size casino is located on the Palace's property with slot machines as well as Texas hold'em, blackjack, and roulette tables. It’s packed by 11 p.m. but pretty dead during the day.

There's free Wi-Fi in all of the resorts' lobbies, but the signal is weak. For those without laptops, there are four PCs located in each lobby where you can purchase a one-hour pass.

 Family

Very kid-friendly, with free baby sitting available from 7 p.m. until midnight, and even a separate club for tweens and teenagers with Xbox, Wii, and PlayStation 3 video game systems.

The kid's club
The kid's club

The resort is popular among everyone from young, honeymooning couples to retirees, but families are particularly drawn to Grand Palladium resorts. Family features are shared among the Palace, Bavaro, and Punta Cana resorts, and a shuttle bus -- which looks like a cute, old-time train -- connects all the properties.

The spacious rooms feature king beds or two queens and can accomodate up to four people. Cots and cribs are free. By comparison, the Grand Palladium Bavaro features 51 “Family Suites,” which are really just a Junior Suite connected to a Deluxe Room, accommodating about six in all. Pay-per-view kids' movies are available in all rooms, and there’s parental control options for the TVs and Nintendo 64 games.

Grand Palladium features four separate kids' clubs to accommodate four different age groups: the Baby Club (ages 1-3), Mini Club (3-5), Maxi Club (6-11), and Juniors Club (12-18) – though not many 18-year-olds need supervision. It's good to know that the 12-year-old tweens will never get stuck at an ice cream party with 5-year-olds.

The Baby Club, open from 7 p.m. to midnight, is a godsend for parents needing a quiet, romantic dinner alone. Four cribs in the naptime room can accommodate infants. Overnight baby sitting is also available at an additional charge and can be reserved through the concierge.

Only the Mini Club and Baby Club really use Fiesta Fort, the clubhouse at Grand Palladium Punta Cana instantly recognizable by its stand-up cutouts of Disney princesses out front. Actually, I noticed very few kids here, period. Most parents prefer to bring their kids along with them during the day for family sailing, windsurfing, and island excursions.

The video games are a big draw at the Black and White Junior Clubs for 15-year-olds. Teenagers borrow video games from the decent-size collection (mostly for Xbox 360), hit the pool or foosball tables, or gather for group outings. Eight Panasonic flat-screens, hooked up to Xbox 360s, PlayStation 3s, and Nintendo Wiis, sit behind 16 black and white vinyl armchairs. A separate computer room features seven consoles with free Internet connections. The activities team plans a full day of events like archery and group dinners, but the video games are the true magnet.

Though everyone under 12 seems to gravitate toward the soft-serve ice cream machine, there is never any shortage of kid-friendly foods. Lunch buffets include a grill with burgers and hot dogs, an abundant pan of French fries, and meat and cheese pizzas. High chairs are available at every restaurant. Also, the Benihana-style Tapanyake Grill features fun, spatula-juggling, tableside chefs.

 Cleanliness

The rooms, pool, and grounds are generally clean but not perfect.

The lobby
The lobby

Rooms are clean but not spotless. There was a splash of toothpaste on the sink’s backsplash, and the mirrors and counters looked like they needed a swipe. However, the Jacuzzi was bright white, whereas the water jets in our Jacuzzi at Palace were yellowed.

Drink cups were picked up promptly, but the tables at both the Palace and Punta Cana resorts had a few ants crawling up their legs and the ashtrays don’t get emptied too often. By the pool, plates and cups occasionally stack up around the lounge chairs. Generally speaking, the Grand Palladium's grounds are well manicured, but it's hard to keep up with the hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of guests.

 Food

Fifteen restaurants serve some of the D.R.'s best all-inclusive food (meaning that it's good, not amazing).

The Behique Restaurant
The Behique Restaurant

Guests of the Punta Cana have access to 15 restaurants, including six buffets, across the four Grand Palladium properties. The eight a la cartes offer ample variety -- Mexican, pan-Asian, Japanese, Spanish, Brazilian, Italian, Dominican, and surf and turf -- and the food at the Grand Palladium is generally better than at most Dominican all-inclusives. Some would argue it's better than at the very popular Iberostar resorts.)

At the main buffet, features like the crepe bar and roasted vegetable station at dinner make the Grand Palladium’s buffets a cut above most resorts, but the salad bar at lunch scored pretty low on our scale -- it was basically iceberg lettuce and canned veggies. The fruit -- fresh pineapple, mango, and watermelon -- was pretty reliable, as it is at most Caribbean resorts. On the complex, the two best buffets are El Behique, located on Punta Cana’s property, and Las Torres, on Palace’s property, but the latter is only open for breakfast and dinner. This means El Behique can get pretty crowded during peak hours.

The eight a la cartes offer ample variety and do not require reservations, so guests don’t have to line up at 9 a.m. like they do at the Iberostar resorts and most other resorts in the D.R. Instead, guests show up to the restaurant at 6:30 p.m. and hope a table is still available for that evening. Cantina Mariachi, the Mexican restaurant, is a personal favorite -- the fresh guacamole and the chicken enchilada appetizer are better here than at any other D.R. resort. Kids love the spatula-juggling chefs at Suptuori, the Asian-themed Japanese grill.

Service is good at most of the restaurants, especially at the buffets, where waiters circle the areas diligently with coffee, wine, and bottled water, which they always make a point of opening in front of you.

 Drinks

Cocktails are made from scratch, but they might not contain much liquor -- and it's all generic-brand booze.

Coconut drink
Coconut drink

Bartenders here have a light hand with the well liquor, but the tropical cocktails are some of the best. Unlike at most all-inclusives, the margaritas are concocted from triple sec and fresh citrus juice rather than sour mix. Mojitos are made with fresh mint. Pina coladas come topped with a fresh slice of pineapple and don’t taste like super-sweet slushies (as they do virtually everywhere else).

Grand Palladium boasts a considerable variety of bars, from beachside kiosks to poolside swim-ups to relaxed lounges with garden seating and the occasional Nespresso espresso machine. Punta Cana’s lobby bar is a pretty happening place at all hours, with a sleeker and more pleasant atmosphere than most of the other bars in the resort. The Bavaro also boasts a 24-hour sports bar grill.

 Bottom Line

All rooms at the 451-room Punta Cana, part of an 1,825-room mega-resort complex, feature in-room Jacuzzis, but the real draws are the clean white-sand beach, access to four free-form pools, and eight reservation-free restaurants with some of the D.R.'s best all-inclusive fare -- a good value, if you don't mind scrounging for a rogue lounge chair.

Things You Should Know About Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & Spa

Address

  • Bavaro, Punta Cana, Higuey, Punta Cana, 1

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Grand Palladium Punta Cana
  • Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort
  • Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort Spa

Room Types

  • Deluxe Room
  • Junior Suite
  • Loft Suite

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 451
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Kids Club: Yes
Jacuzzi (in room): Some
Casino: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Address: Bavaro, Punta Cana, Higuey, Punta Cana, 1
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