Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
One of the largest all-inclusives in Punta Cana, the Occidental caters to families with kids and plays music constantly.
At 877 rooms, the Occidental is one of the largest all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana. There are some elderly and 20-something couples that happen by the resort, but families are the focus here. Kids are everywhere -- running around the lobby, waiting while their parents are at the bars, and playing on the beach and in the pools. For those without kids, there's a much quieter adults-only pool, but day-long serenity is hard to come by.
Out on the beach, guests and staff get down with dance aerobics or volleyball. Music is everywhere, all the time. Ordinarily this might be annoying, but it's ambient enough to be consistently pleasant. Like the nearby Iberostar Bavaro, there's a predominance of Spanish tunes, which is a welcomed shift from the blaring '80s pop hits found at most resorts. Other guests appreciate this as well, "I go to another country because I want to feel like I'm in another country," said a Canadian I quizzed. This general joviality was definitely not observed at the Occidental Aruba, so I was very happily surprised here in Punta Cana. But, for a little quieter atmosphere, check out the similarly priced Gran Bahia Ambar nearby.
A 25-minute cab ride from the airport
A 25-minute cab ride from Punta Cana International Airport, the Occidental is near the Princess Bavaro resort, but nothing else.
The Occidental's white-sand beach isn't quite as broad as the beaches at Natura Park, the Iberostar or the Gran Bahia, but it's considerable. Still, what it lacks in girth it makes up for in length, skirting up the coast to the Princess Bavaro, the Caribe Club Princess, and the Princess Punta Cana. With all the young children at the Occidental, and the traffic up and down the beach between resorts, it's a pretty active spot. There's a stage for a dance aerobics class right next to a Holey board set which was a step away from a volleyball net. There's also a water-sports center at the far end of the Occidental's beach right next to a strip of stores selling all sorts of colorful handicrafts.
The beach is pretty broad, though you wouldn't know it from the amount of thoroughfare it gets from its own guests, and from the neighboring Princess resorts. But the white sand is powdery, the waves are gentle, and the water clear, as always in Punta Cana.
As active as the beach is, there are still lots of people lounging about, basking in the sun. Most guests just spread themselves out on the chairs in the middle of the beach, but Royal Club and Preferred Club guests have special sections cordoned off for them. But the Preferred Club section, squeezed in right by the water-sports center with a few lounge-chairs behind a rope, doesn't seem so exclusive, and is hardly worth the extra charge. The Royal Club section is as big a step up as it comes, with a bar all to itself and cabanas with gauzy, billowing curtains. If you're going to upgrade, upgrade big!
Guest-rooms all share the same floor plan and are scattered in three-story clusters that sort of look like apartment buildings. The rooms are arranged around open, rectangular spaces with potted plants cascading from the stairwell into the courtyards below. Like most Dominican resorts, there are no elevators in these buildings. If you prefer quiet, ask the front desk if they can check you in to buildings 12 or 14, away from the main pool and theater, or buildings 24, 25, or 26, overlooking the adults-only pool.
In 2011, rooms were updated with fresh decor, new bathroom fixtures, new TVs, and new air-conditioning units. All rooms basically look the same and come with a decently sized balcony looking out over the property. But prices differ according to the amenities included. The Grand Concierge deluxe room was a step above the regular deluxe room as it included fluffy bathrobes (really, the Occidental has some of the best robes), a fruit basket, turndown service, a free bottle of wine, and a 15 percent discount on spa services. (All rooms receive the robes, spa discount, turndown service, and fruit basket). The Grand Romance deluxe rooms offer a complimentary bottle of champagne, a bowl of chocolate-covered strawberries, the first morning's breakfast in bed, one couple's massage, and a bunch of other goodies.
Like other Occidentals, including the Occidental Aruba, the rooms are thoughtfully designed with terra-cotta-colored tile floors and wooden shutters with a warm, relaxing finish. A great detail is a translucent curtain that looks like it's merely decorative, but can slide across half the room to partially separate the bed from the sitting area. This sitting area has two very comfortable wicker chairs and a large flat-screen Toshiba TV. Beds are very comfortable, and have some of the best linens of any Dominican resort -- barring, the über-classy Sanctuary Cap Cana.
Every room comes with a decently sized balcony.
Bathrooms are large, well-lit, and have deep, scalloped tubs. Unlike most all-inclusives, the resort includes slippers and a plush bathrobe. The soap and shampoo dispensers by the shower are less impressive, but common among all-inclusives. Remember to pack moisturizer, though -- despite the array of toiletries, there wasn't any lotion up for grabs!
There are three pools. The main pool is a sprawling lagoon with a bridge and a restaurant in the middle. It's completely enormous, possibly even larger than the huge pool at the Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana, and bigger than the Occidental's two other pools combined. It spills all the way from the steps of the lobby, past the theater, to the first couple of guest-room buildings. There are plenty of shallow areas for small children, but do keep an eye on your tots as the imaginative, tropical layout means that the floor opens up to unexpected depths at times when you'd least expect it. Most of the kids congregate around the fountain in the corner.
The adults-only pool, on the far-side of the property, is much calmer than the main lagoon, but that's partially because most guests prefer to bask on the deck rather than actually swim in the water. Great news for swimmers, though -- the pool is all yours! The Occidental's final pool, out by the entrance to the beach, is predominantly adult, though there is a smattering of children too. Still, there's nowhere near as much splashing, squealing, and shouting as there is at the lagoon.
Two tennis courts and one basketball court orbit around the gym and adjoining Metamorphosis spa. The gym is a pretty humble room with a mirrored wall and a mix of cardio and weight training equipment, but the machines are fairly modern and well-maintained. But on a busy day, there simply isn't enough equipment for more than a handful of people, and at an 877 room resort, you might get stuck waiting for a treadmill.
Like the Princess Bavaro, Natura Park, and many other Dominican resorts, the Occidental's spa is part of the Metamorphosis chain. Larger than the outpost at Natura Park, it is still dwarfed by the Princess Bavaro's facilities.
Though it's open throughout the day, the tiny casino by the lobby is far more popular at night. Then again, it's only a room filled with slot machines, so you shouldn't have to rush over to the nearby business center -- a small cluster of tables with computers that have Internet for a charge -- to check your bank account balance online.
The hotel also has a complimentary shuttle to the Punta Blanca Golf Course, which comes with a free lunch.
Costumed staffers regale the crowd with dance routines.
The theater is a large, outdoor space with entertainment staffers coming out in full costume to regale the crowd. There is also Mangu Night Club, open to the wee hours. Entrance is free but there is a charge for drinks.
The Occidental is a major family destination. Kids are everywhere but -- most importantly -- they all seem to have a good time. They immediately zoned in on the massive, kid-friendly lagoon pool and the broad beach, but the colorful kids' club (for 4- to 12-year-olds) with its slides and jungle gyms seemed relatively abandoned. If you don't want to drop your kids off at the club, you can also request babysitting for an hourly rate per child.
Cribs and roll-away beds are complimentary -- and the rooms are certainly large enough to fit both at once. However, there's a maximum occupancy of four people/room, so larger families will have to book an extra room.
Three bars, a buffet, and six à la carte restaurants that are included in the all-inclusive package.
Quench your thirst at La Bodeguita, and then head down the stairs to the Le Buffet the (surprise) resort's main buffet restaurant, open for all three meals. There's as much of a selection as I saw at the Iberostar Bavaro, though food wasn't as varied or plentiful as at Natura Park. Still, the buffet options far outclassed the Melia Tropical Club -- you're not stuck eating burgers and pizza the whole time!
The Occidental has six à la carte restaurants that are included in the all-inclusive package, but tables have to be reserved in advance. The Mexican restaurant La Hacienda and Las Reses seem to be the most popular with guests. The pizzeria, however, proved to be the biggest hit, what with playful waiters happy to spin a pizza for the camera and serve up fresh slices all night long. Yup, that's right -- all night!!
Only local Dominican liquor is available.
The Occidental only serves local Dominican liquor. If you're looking for Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, or even Sam Adams, you'll be sorely disappointed. But there are three bars to choose from and a nightclub that stays open til the wee hours of the morning. Drinks there, however, require an extra charge.
Options are minimal here, and there aren't many newlywed-catered perks (no special spa treatments, no honeymoon suite, and no transportation from the airport for resort guests)
An 877-room all-inclusive, the Occidental draws mostly young families with its massive, lagoon-shaped pool (one of Punta Cana's best), popular beachside activities, lively entertainment, many restaurants, and all-night pizzeria. Rooms are well-decorated, and even include spa robes and slippers. Reasonably priced, this all-inclusive has bang for the buck.
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