Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
An all-inclusive resort with some modern areas that draws an international crowd
While many resorts in Punta Cana are owned by Spain-based companies, IFA’s main shareholder is Kuwait-based, with properties in Lebanon, Dubai, Singapore, Portugal, and New York City (Yotel). The chain isn't familiar to many Americans, and the European crowd here is mostly Spanish, French and German.
Many areas of the resort definitely have a contemporary flair. Case in point, a cool terrace facing the modern open-air theater, which features slightly racier shows than the typical family-friendly all-inclusive version. Across the way from the theater is a bar called Chill Out with lounge music and low lighting. There are more bars than dining options here -- even the late-night disco, which can be a joke at some resorts, seems to get it right.
This is a spacious resort that requires a lot of walking along manicured grounds and some cobblestoned paths. A free golf cart shuttle delivers guests to key points like the beach and lobby. The lobby itself is bustling during the day with a line of people at the front desk during check-in and check-out, and an attached area for guest services and excursions. There is some seating here, but no welcome drink or attached bar, so for lounging guests should head for the expansive Café Dominicano, which seems to be an extension of the lobby with fewer crowds. This area is quiet during the day and gets more of a crowd before dinner (the three a la carte restaurants are nearby).
The beach is perhaps the highlight of the resort, with a long path dividing the grounds from the sand. There is a beach spa here (the impressive main spa and fitness center is more inland) with second floor massage tables overlooking the sea. Those who want to drink with their toes in the sand, however, will have to trek across the path to the buffet area to order. Despite a few flaws, the wide beach area never seems crowded, and there are ample water sports as well as boats anchored for viewing in the distance.
A prime spot along Bavaro Beach, with views of boats and water sports
The area of Bavaro is about a 30-minute drive from Punta Cana airport. Visitors here typically stay within the resort premises, as there isn't much else in the immediate area. The resort, like all neighboring resorts along the coast here, faces east for spectacular sunrises. The beaches along this northern stretch of the coast generally see stronger waves and have steeper drop-off than those to the south in Punta Cana. The resort is split into two areas, and it takes up a nice stretch of wide sand, making it uncrowded. Regular tram services picks up and drops off guests around key points, including the beach, theater, spa, and lobby area, where many of the restaurants and disco are situated. Guests who don't want to rely on this mode of transportation can expect to do some walking, but not as much as at other resorts, given the absence of a mangrove area between the lobby and beach (common elsewhere).
Two specific areas of the resort with differences in quality
The newer and more contemporary Superior Rooms (there are 390) come in two- to three-story buildings around the main pool and beach. The downfall with these rooms is that they have French balconies sans seating areas. Those who picture themselves sitting on a private patio drinking coffee might be disappointed. That being said, these rooms are closer to the beach and have fewer maintenance issues. Guests can choose either one king or two queen beds, and all of these rooms come with mini-fridges, bottled water, coffee machines with local Santo Domingo coffee, flat-screen TVs, and a safe for a fee. Across from the bed is an accent wall against the white desk area, luggage rack, and dresser. Bathrooms have an open layout with one large sink, counter space, a separate toilet room, and a stand-up shower that is divided from the room with a glass cube wall.
On the other side of the resort are 262 Standard Rooms that are more basic and cottage-y in feel. These are located on the first floor, and spread out on grounds that often have peacocks roaming about. Rooms come with either one king or two queen beds, mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs, and a safe with a charge. Room decor is not quite as modern here -– though there are fresh linens and the updated bathrooms (though smaller than the villas) have stand-up showers. These rooms do have small but private patios for sitting outside.
Excellent water sports, chic bar areas, and a stand-out spa and fitness center
The dining options are not the highlight at IFA. They are typical of neighboring resorts, and include two buffets -- one closer to the lobby for all three meals, and one closer to the beach which serves breakfast and dinner. During lunch, guests will order their beach drinks here and can grab a snack from the grill. The a la carte restaurants for dinner include Asian, Mexican, and seafood, and bookings are required for all, via phone call. Reservations can be hard to solidify though, considering the few options for the number of guests staying here. The pizzeria snack bar, Pikalo, is open until 2 a.m.
Bars on the other hand are more plentiful. There are seven spread out over the property, and that does not count the late-night disco, which boasts an above-average lighting, sound and fog system, making it popular with young guests.
There are two main pool areas, one closer to the theater which has a swim-up bar, music, and activities from the animation team; and one closer to the lobby area for a quieter scene. Whirlpool-lovers will appreciate a separate bar that is surrounded by several identical jacuzzi pools. Since none of the pools are very deep, swimmers will want to make use of the long stretch of beach, waves, and water sports available to them.
Non-motorized water sports include kayaking, paddle-boarding, sailing, boogie boards and windsurfing. Land activities include basketball, bocce ball, soccer, tennis, and beach volleyball. For a fee, guests can sign up for scuba diving lessons. The naturally lit fitness center is attached to an impressive spa with unique services and dermatology treatments from a professional staff, including a doctor.
This 652-room property offers some amenities that stand out from other all-inclusives in Punta Cana, including a top-notch spa and dermatology program, a wide beach that stays relatively uncrowded, and some modern (almost chic) lounge areas to enjoy a drink. There are two buffets as well as three a la carte restaurants requiring reservations; dining is not a strong point here. Rooms are divided into two areas: the garden-view, bungalow-style Standard Rooms, and the newer Superior Rooms with more contemporary furnishings. Expect an upgrade pitch upon arrival, but know that this more expensive option lacks a walk-out balcony. Families and couples -- mostly from Europe -- can use the shuttle service to get around to the two main pools, outdoor whirlpool area, theater, bar, and the peaceful Cafe Dominicano. Beware of pesky sales people wandering around selling extras.