Huge and impersonal; part of a 2,000-room mega-resort complex
Public areas can be a bit grimy and full of litter
Lots of smokers; smoking allowed in open-air beach buffets (pro for some)
Can be up to a 10-minute walk to the beach from some rooms
Wi-Fi in rooms does not always work
Some complaints of AC not working well
Long lines for dinner
Vendors on the beach can be a nuisance
The oldest of the four resorts that
make up the 2,000-plus-room Palladium mega-resort in Bavaro, the upscale, 537-room Palladium Punta Cana is also the most affordable, attracting an
active and party-friendly crowd of younger, mostly North American
adults. Every room has a big jetted tub, and the main 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 the impersonal size and lines at dinner. Those who like the variety but want a place that feels less crowded and rowdy might look at the
Melia Caribe Tropical.
A party-hearty resort that's part of a mega-resort with over 2,000 rooms; this isn't the place for peace and quiet
This resort is one of four resorts inside the 2,000-plus-room Grand Palladium complex, one of the largest mega-resorts in the D.R. Though it's technically only a 537-room
slice of the greater property, the Palladium Punta Cana
feels in many ways like the heart of it all. During our visit, we found blot-shaped pools filled with active bro-tastic 20-somethings playing volleyball, grooving to a DJ-led set, and guests forming long, long
lines for the Italian restaurant and steakhouse well before the doors
open. (The younger crowd was overwhelmingly American -- you'll see a lot of baseball caps bearing the logos of Southern state schools.) Outnumbered older couples, on the other hand, slumbered on poolside loungers or grumbled to
each other about said restaurant lines. At night, the large groups dispersed into younger couples dolled up for a night out, mostly at one of the
larger property's 13 different restaurants, or the casino on the
Palladium Palace grounds. The mix of guests can change depending on the week and season, and The Grand Palladium can attract all kinds -- couples young and old, families, bachelor parties, and guests from around the world.
Stylistically, the Palladium Punta Cana favors
large, pastel-colored buildings for its guest rooms (you could be in
the Florida Panhandle), but its lobby is a grand, open-air affair of
vaulted wood. The Punta Cana guests have access to the full range of all the Palladium amenities except those earmarked for the exclusive Royal Suites, so it's kind of like staying at three of the resorts at once -- which is convenient but also can contribute to a more impersonal feel. Even during our visit in low season the resort was nearly fully booked. The adults-only, more exclusive Grand Palladium Royal Suites is smaller, quieter, and more expensive.
The Palladium Punta Cana is in the middle of a conglomerate of three adjacent Palladium properties, about a 30-minute drive from Punta Cana International Airport. It's in the Bavaro resort area, about a five-minute drive to the
public entry to El Cortecito beach. Since the Palladium
Punta Cana is flanked on either side by a sister Palladium property,
guests have access to a longer-than-usual stretch of shoreline,
at least compared to the short stretches many other Bavaro resorts
make do with.
Smallish modern rooms with whirlpool tubs in the bedrooms but cramped bathrooms
The standard Deluxe Rooms at the Grand Palladium are on the small side, partly because of the space taken up by the big whirlpool tubs by the beds (these rooms are designed for couples and are not for the modest). They have tile floors, and in most cases mustard-yellow and gray-green fabric accents on the beds. The one we visited had a small sliver of patio overlooking some grass and a bit of a path. All have balconies and views are of the garden, pools, or the beach. Other amenities include iPod docks, safes, coffeemakers, minibars stocked with water, soda, and beer (though some complain they're not restocked regularly), and flat-screen satellite TVs. The bathrooms tend to be small, with cramped showers. Upgrading to a Junior Suite gets guests a larger bathroom and a sofa bed.
The Loft Suites are the largest and nicest accommodation. They have a duplex layout with the bedroom upstairs -- though the loft-style setup doesn't provide much privacy between bedroom and living room.
Despite renovations, rooms are showing some wear, and there are occasional maintenance issues such as AC that doesn't work well and broken mini-fridges.
A sports complex, a great spa, and access to four pools
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. 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 is large, airy, and super relaxing. Some of its best general features include its own private pool, hot tubs, steam room, and sauna, but access requires a fee (except for Royal Suites guests).
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 are is also live theater entertainment every evening.
There's free Wi-Fi in the lobbies and rooms, but the signal is weak and many guests report the signal doesn't work in the rooms at all (it may depend on where your room is located).
Very kid-friendly, with a free kids' club and even a separate club for tweens and teenagers with Xbox, Wii, and PlayStation 3 video game systems.
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.
For sleeping arrangements, the Deluxe Rooms fit only three, but the spacious Junior Suites come with sofa beds and can accommodate up to four people.
There are two kids' clubs, and the main one is on the premises here. It comes in the form of a faux castle, with a large outdoor play area (complete with trampoline) and an indoor theater. There's a kiddy pool with a small pirate-ship water park play area. Tweens and teens go to the teens club, located on another Palladium hotel's grounds.
The video games are a big draw at the Black and White Junior Clubs for ages 13 to 19. Teenagers borrow video games from the decent-size collection (mostly for Xbox 360), hit the pool or foosball tables, or gather for group outings. Panasonic flat-screens, hooked up to Xbox 360s, PlayStation 3s, and Nintendo Wiis, sit behind 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.
There is never any shortage of kid-friendly foods. Lunch buffets typically 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.
The 13 restaurants serve some of the D.R.'s best all-inclusive food (meaning that it's good, not amazing).
Guests of the Punta Cana have access to 13 restaurants, including five buffets, across three of the four Grand Palladium properties. The eight a la cartes offer ample variety -- Mexican, tapas, Japanese, Brazilian, Italian, Mediterranean, pan-Asian, 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.) The a la carte restaurants do no require reservations, so guests don't have to line up at 9 a.m. to make them as they do at many other D.R. resorts -- but they do often need to line up before dinner seating to ensure a spot.
There are 14 bars around the resort, and cocktails generally have generic-brand booze.
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