Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
This 562-room resort attracts young couples who want to party. There's loud music, dirty dancing, and lots of spots to grab drinks.
Late-night noise and impromptu dirty dancing by the pool -- this is a resort for partiers. The $20 million renovation in 2008 seems to have gone a long way. But it's not all modern -- live chickens and wild roosters loiter near the Pikalo snack bar. Unthreatened by the beer chugging, they pick up discarded pizza crusts.
With 562 rooms, IFA is on par with most Dominican resorts, and it isn't any less crowded. The small lobby is packed with incoming and outgoing guests.
IFA is a German chain, and they are also the owners of Lopesan hotels. Accordingly, 90 percent of the books on the communal "take a book, leave a book" shelf are in German. However, a sales representative for the resort said that the majority of visitors at this Punta Cana location come from France and Canada (like most resorts in the D.R.). Most visitors are young couples, some with kids, many without, and the party-heavy atmosphere makes weddings very rare events at IFA.
For the money, you could do a lot worse. For a decent patch of one of the D.R.’s best beaches, a great pool, and a clean room, most guests will tolerate the higher-than-desired music volumes late into the night or meals that are, at best, serviceable. For not that much more money, guests who would like to avoid the party scene but still get pretty good value might want to consider the Iberostar Punta Cana or the Grand Palladium.
The entire IFA resort complex is in Bavaro, a neighboring village of Punta Cana. With the rise of tourism in the area, Bavaro has come to be considered a part of Punta Cana. IFA is one of several resorts on the nearly 10-mile stretch of Bavaro Beach.
The IFA section of the beach is sandwiched between the mega-size Barceló Bavaro Resort and a public section. With a public section next door, plan on sharing the calm waters with some fun local kids and plenty of boats for motorized water-sports. There are also salesmen from the Sol Melia Vacation Club wandering the area, eager to sell package deals for vacation adventures.
There can be a lot of seaweed on the shore, at least more than at most Dominican resorts.
There is a bar on the beach, but no waitstaff making the rounds (like at most Dominican resorts). The resort has plenty of beach chairs, and many are still up for grabs in the early afternoon. This, perhaps, is because the main lake-style pool is a bit more popular than the beach.
The beach is about an eight-minute walk from the main grounds of the resort, but the resort does offer a free shuttle to and from the hotel.
Rooms are all very clean and modern -- thanks to an '08 renovation. Guests can choose between the standard rooms or the individual bungalows on the Villa section of the resort. Both have about the same look and features, but the slightly smaller bungalows are a bit quieter, and each come with a small private terrace. But the general rule of thumb is to request a room that is far away from the swimming pools so as to avoid hearing the sounds of late night partying that continue poolside into the wee hours.
Rooms have a smart layout, with a built-in shelf or bench space along with a dresser, and a desk against the long wall, opposite the bed. A flat-screen TV hangs on the wall above, though most of the channels don’t come in so well. The beds (either two full-size or one king) come with soft, high-quality sheets, a body pillow, and two regular-size pillows on each bed. They’re a considerable improvement from the skimpy pillows and low-grade sheets at most Dominican resorts.
Room keys operated the light switch and air conditioner for the entire room, which is a very smart way to save the place some electricity. But this also means guests can’t run the AC while they’re out of the room. Also, as one couple complained, even with all the lights on, it’s still a little too dark in the room to read in bed at night.
The bathroom appears to have been designed for friends sharing a room during spring break rather than a couple. The toilet and shower are each in their own independent stalls with doors, and the sink is directly in the middle. A useful feature for friends getting drunk together -- one person can bathe while the other uses the loo.
The gym is within the new Renova Spa. The mid-size but well-equipped room comes with modern cardio and weight-training equipment. The spa itself offers all the treatments typical to resort spas in the Punta Cana area -- massages, nail services, and skin treatments. Use of the sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi use included, but the facilities are not some of the nicest in the Punta Cana. For that, you need to go to the The Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana, which is still within the same price point as IFA.
The basketball and tennis courts are about a 10-minute walk from the main resort area to a little residential street with condos. It appears that the resort's renovation hasn’t made it over to this ball area. The two tennis courts and one basketball court are quite run down.
Evening entertainment at IFA consists of staged, full-scale, upbeat shows (typical of the D.R.). Energetic and fully costumed performers eking out well-choreographed dances to contemporary pop favorites by artists such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, and J. Lo occur nightly. Fantasy, a disco that's heavy on the strobe lights is a popular late night stop.
There are places to shop for local souvenirs -- paintings, clothing, coffee, and cigars. There is a small strip of shops near the hotel's coffee spot, Café Dominicano, which includes a small supermarket, a pharmacy, a health clinic, and an Internet and call center.
Wi-Fi is available in the lobby and rooms. Guests simply need to obtain a code at guest services and are charged per day.
Swimming pools take center stage at IFA. Guests go nuts for the impeccably maintained lake-style pool, the center of life at this resort, and one of the best pools in the D.R. There are two other swimming pools on the resort, one that is slightly smaller and a little closer to the beach, and another that is near the theater. There is also small pool for kids.
The main pool, with its central fountain and large boulders for resting swimmers, attracts more attention than the beach. This is mostly because the beach is about an eight-minute walk away from the main grounds, along a palm tree-lined path. Young kids, wet and shiny as seals, perch on the giant boulders in the pool or climb atop the fountain at the center, while adults enjoy a drink at the swim-up bar. Reggaeton beats alternate between sing-along songs, like the Stevie Wonder classic “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”
The High Beach Jacuzzi bar, a novel addition to the resort since its ’08 renovation, has a bar in the center and several fairly sizable Jacuzzi tubs surrounding it. A drink and warm dip is easy, and very fun.
A number of kids can be seen frolicking about, and they all appeared to be having a great time. What child wouldn't want to jump atop an active water fountain inside a huge swimming pool or follow a duck around?
The kids' club (for ages 4-12) holds activities throughout the day, including painting, games, and song sessions. The small but cheerful building has a playground area, and inside are two TVs set up for video games.
Each evening, the theater becomes a mini-disco starting at 8 p.m. An enthusiastic staffer dressed as a clown dances and sings with some of the smaller vacationers. They even did the Caribbean classic, "Hands Up", by the West Indies group, Ottawan D.I.S.C.O. Kids love it.
Kids will certainly be happy with the fare at IFA, which is heavy on hamburgers, French fries, and some fairly decent pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.
Dining at IFA is all about options, though those options don’t often look very different from one another. For buffet-style meals there are two main choices -- Las Vegas Grill, specializing in seafood and located on the beach, and Colibri -- though they are mostly identical and do not have the most varied selection, compared with the Iberostar Punta Cana or Gran Bahia, where the selection is at times exhaustive.
At Pikalo's, guests line up before lunch for crowd-pleasing finger food -- burgers, fries, and pizza. Lots and lots of pizza. There is also a full bar here that serves beer, soda, and other drinks, including espresso and cappuccino.
Reservations for the five à la carte restaurants -- Caribe for Caribbean, Jalisco for Mexican, Bambu for Japanese and two others -- must be made before 3 p.m. There is a dress code that prohibits beachwear in the restaurants, but other than that, dinner is a casual affair.
IFA serves generic liquor at all bars. Guests may select the mid-shelf rail for their cocktails though they will need to pay an extra fee per drink. In the order of priority, bars follow a close second after pools at IFA. This resort has nearly every theme covered on the drink front -- from the El Mojaito swim-up bar to the High Beach Jacuzzi bar, to the lounge bar and coffee spot, Café Dominicano. There are seven bars in all.
The drinks menu has classic Caribbean concoctions like Sex on the Beach, Planter's Punch, and Tequila Sunrise, as well as variations of the same theme, with unique-to-the-resort names like the Gri-Gri and the Colibri (named after the places at the resort where guests can, well, drink a lot).
Since its 2008 renovation, the IFA has brought a Jacuzzi bar, a huge lake-style pool, clean rooms, and the best pizza this side of Punta Cana to one of the greatest coasts in the D.R. There is a shuttle to the beach, but otherwise it is a 10-minute walk from the resort. Plus, the resort does all this at an uncommonly fair price.