Paradisus Palma Real Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

Cons

  • Embarrassing bathrooms (everything is audible in the room)
  • Some rooms are 10 minutes from the beach
  • Some pools, cabanas, and bars are reserved for select guests

Bottom Line

The D.R.’s fanciest and most expensive all-inclusive, Palma Real has quality restaurants, a less-crowded beach, an enormous pool, free horseback riding, personalized service, beautiful grounds, and in-room Jacuzzis. You get a lot more for your money. But it’s still a 554-room mega-resort. Expect a crowd, albeit a well-behaved, mature one.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

This luxurious mega-resort by the turquoise sea draws mature guests and families, not partiers.

Guests in the resort's club
Guests in the resort's club

Though it might look good in photos, this resort has the soul of an all-inclusive mega-resort. Take, for instance, the second-floor marble lobby. Decorated in muted tones and offering gorgeous views of the turquoise sea, the lobby definitely looks nice, but the elevator muzak, crowds, and gushing of a nearby fountain create a somewhat hectic atmosphere. Likewise, the courtyard gardens have beautiful flowers, a gurgling brook, a precious little bridge, and even live flamingos, but there are also plastic rocks with built-in speakers playing Michael Bolton and late-era Madonna.

The luxurious rooms, high-quality restaurants, and endless amenities all make the Paradisus one of the best all-inclusives in Punta Cana, but it’s still an all-inclusive, which means buffet dining and lip-synched Michael Jackson performances nightly. Guests in search of a more exclusive experience can book one of the adults-only Royal Service Suites, which are more luxurious and come with a higher level of service.

Though guests primarily hail from Canada, the Paradisus draws mature guests from all over the world, along with young families. It’s not really a resort for partiers (certainly not spring breakers on a budget), but it's definitely large enough to appeal to a wide range of people.

 Service

Despite the long wait to check-in/out, the staff is very friendly and welcoming. Plus, guests get their own travel concierge.

Chefs double as entertainers
Chefs double as entertainers

The front desk staff is pretty limited here, with only two clerks at any given time to handle a resort with 554 rooms. This means significant lines for both check-in and check-out. But, unlike many resorts, guests are assigned a "travel concierge” at check-in that are responsible for explaining the resort's various features on the map and taking any dinner reservation requests. This is a welcome improvement from most all-inclusive resorts, which require guests to queue up first thing in the morning for that evening’s dinner reservations. (Alternatively, some of the pricier resorts have a no-reservations policy, but this means that guests sometimes have to wait several hours for a table each night). Just be wary of time share offers.

Guests in the adults-only Royal Service Suites receive -- as the name suggests -- a higher level of service. Extras include free drinks and cool towels upon arrival at Punta Cana Airport, airport transfers, a separate oceanfront lounge for check-in, and butler service (there is one butler for every six suites). Only Royal Service Suites guests get access to Royal Service ECO Spa and the Italian restaurant, Il Palazzo.

Families can get an equivalent experience when they book the Family Concierge Suites, within The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, dubbed "a boutique resort within a resort". Only Family Concierge Suite guests get access to the Kid Zone pool area.

  • Rooms are cleaned twice daily
  • 24-hour room service
  • Free high-speed Internet is all rooms

 Location

In a giant golf resort complex just outside Punta Cana, about a 20-minute taxi north of Punta Cana International Airport.

There are more amenities available close by to Paradisus Palma Real than perhaps any other all-inclusive in Punta Cana. About 20 minutes north of Punta Cana International Airport, the hotel anchors the Palma Real complex, a sprawling gated property that includes the Melia Caribe Tropical Resort, Cocotal Golf Course and Country Club, golf condos, and the brand-new Palma Real Shopping Village, which features American mall-style shopping and restaurants (A Puma store! Geox! Tony Roma’s!).

 Beach

Punta Cana is renowned for having the best beaches in the D.R., and the Paradisus has a long stretch that's not crowded. However, the water is murky.

The beach
The beach

Punta Cana is known for having the best beaches in the D.R., and the Paradisus' stretch of sand is certainly lovely and less crowded than the typical beach, but the water also has a tendency to be murky. On the bright side, the waves are extremely small and gentle, and the beach sand is impressively clean and sugary.

 Rooms

The resort consists of 554 luxurious suites, set across 18 villa buildings that span the edge of a 125-acre property.

The One Bedroom Garden Suite
The One Bedroom Garden Suite

Rooms are tastefully decorated in beige and orange tones, with taupe marble floors and walls, and dark wood accents. There’s a large combined dresser/desk that also includes a stereo and the mini-bar filled to the brim with cans of Pepsi, 7-Up, Presidente beer, Presidente Light, and water (all the contents are free). The counter also contains bottles of liquor (Absolut vodka and Barcelo dark rum), but to save costs, the hotel has been known to not replace these bottles after each guest, so wary of half-filled bottles.

There is also a separate seating area near the ground-floor balcony that includes a small table with two chairs, a silk loveseat, and a nice wood coffee table. Some of the furniture is a bit musty. Surrounded by lush landscaping, the garden view rooms have a nice view of the Monet-esque gardens. Each living area also houses a sofa bed.

On face, the bathrooms are excellent -- there’s a Jacuzzi, a multi-head shower, a separate toilet stall, and a large marble sink. Unfortunately, there are only wooden louvered slats separating the bathroom from the bedroom, and the toilet area is sealed off only by a stall door. An unfortunate design flaw, because if there’s so much marble, even the tiniest noises in the bathroom echoed throughout the rest of the suite. Prepare to reach a new level of intimacy with your partner. The walls are also fairly thin between rooms, and particularly between terraces. Fortunately, in the one-bedroom suites the sound doesn’t carry the same weight, and the rooms at the newer Reserve section of the resort seem to have corrected this flaw.

  • All rooms have a snazzy Philips flat-screen TV that receives a ton of channels, including the N.Y.C. network affiliates, HBO, Showtime, ESPN and BBC America.
  • CD and DVD player
  • Coffeemaker
  • Free high-speed Internet access
  • Jacuzzi tub and seperate shower
  • Thin walls means getting to know your neighbors very well.
  • Adults-only Royal Service Suites have extras such as Espresso machines, power adaptors, and butler service.
  • 24-hour room service.

 Features

More high-quality activities -- horseback riding, pottery painting, exotic animal petting, wine tasting, and so on -- than at any other Punta Cana all-inclusive.

The resort has ATVs for guests use
The resort has ATVs for guests use

At nearly 38,000 square-feet, the main pool is the “largest beachfront free-form” pool in the D.R. With a swim-up bar, built-in loungers, and ample poolside palapa umbrellas for shade, it is the hub of activity during the day. Poolside guests can even swap stories with a Spanish-speaking parrot or a spider monkey named Mario. But the pool is actually relaxing (hard to come by in all-inclusives). The resort technically has four pools, but the other three are only available to guests who sign-up for the Family Concierge or Royal Service upgrades (both of which are hardly worth it).

  • Horseback riding excursions are free for guests, who have the option of a either a morning or an afternoon trip (but getting to the horses is a journey in and of itself).
  • The YHI spa, adjacent to the main swimming pool and the gym, features range of treatments from massage to manicures to body scrubs. They all include free use of the “water ritual center” (essentially, the spa’s outdoor Jacuzzi room).
  • A large gym with a wide variety of modern equipment (not to mention great views of the pool and ocean). It also offers yoga and Pilates classes, and personal trainers are available.
  • An upscale mall, the Palma Real Shopping Village is on-site. The resort offers free golf cart rides to and from the mall around the clock, even in the wee hours (a popular service for guests visiting one of the mall’s two discos, one of which is Webster Hall -- a sister property to the club and concert venue in New York --). The mall also includes restaurants like the Hard Rock Café and ubiquitous American ribs chain Tony Roma's, so guests yearning to escape resort food have plenty of viable options. There's even a movie theater on site. For a complete directory, check out its Web site.
  • Daily and nightly entertainment befitting a Caribbean all-inclusive, including the ubiquitous "Michael Jackson night"

 Golf

Excellent, pro-quality golf course on site, with very affordable greens and cart fees.

The resort is adjacent to the nearby Cocotal Golf and Country Club, designed by Spanish golfer, Jose Gancedo. The course is in great condition, but it doesn't front the ocean.

 Family

Between its Family Concierge program and its new upscale resort-within-a-resort, The Reserve, Paradisus Palma Real is as good as it gets for families that can afford it.

Kids activities
Kids activities

The Family Concierge program ensures that families have spacious rooms with pull-out couches, provides a hassle-free family check-in, gives parents and kids walkie-talkies to stay in touch, and grants kids access to special beaches and pools. Special in-room amenities include kids’ bathrobes and slippers, and milk-and-cookies turndown service. There are also special family bonding-style sailing excursions, swimming lessons, and horseback-riding trips. Of course, nannies and camp counselors are also available to take the kids off Mom and Dad’s hands.

Opened in December 2008 in the Family Concierge headquarters, The Reserve offers tasteful, modern apartment-style suites, newly manicured grounds, and higher-class cuisine, all geared toward families. The multi-room units are impressive, each of which included chic and comfortable furnishings, a Jacuzzi in the bathroom and on every balcony, a kitchenette, and a direct entrance to the pool from every building.

The Reserve’s kids' club would make even the most staid adult inclined toward a bit of regression. Beanbag chairs and cartoons are the main orders of business here. There are also plenty of games and toys, as well as healthy snacks that included fruit-flavored yogurt and crudite in teacups, perfect for little fingers.

This section of the resort serves a buffet breakfast; restaurants include Gabi Club, Continental cuisine and Aqua, which has Mediterranean specialties.

The facility also includes a fully equipped gym and a spa so pretty and serene other guests are bound to be jealous if they get a peak.

 Cleanliness

For a large resort, Paradisus Palma Real is sparkling clean. Rooms are cleaned twice daily, and the beach is one of the cleanest in the D.R.

The moden, plush rooms, lush, landscaped grounds, and top-notch features here are all in perfect condition.

 Food

Although the buffet restaurant is average, the à la carte restaurants provide a high-quality, restaurant-like experience -- something otherwise unheard of in the all-inclusive world.

Seafood at Bana restaurant
Seafood at Bana restaurant

There are eight restaurants at the Paradisus Palma Real, offering typical D.R. buffet fare and some upscale dining options. There are three buffet options and five à la carte restaurants. Unlike most resorts, the concierge arranges dinner reservations for each guest upon arrival, meaning that guests never have to rise at the crack of dawn and wait in line for a reservation. The resort also offers 24-hour room service. The menu isn't terribly extensive, but pizza at 2 a.m. satisfies late-night cravings pretty well.

  • Naos, the main buffet, is pretty average with typical pasta, grill, and sandwich stations. The salad bar is underwhelming, and it's a hard time finding meats that look both cooked and appetizing. Again it's no worse than any other Dominican buffet, but considering how good the à la carte restaurants are, it might be better to steer clear.
  • There are two other buffet restaurants: a beachside lunch grill and a Mexican buffet serving dinner.
  • Bana, the Asian fusion restaurant, features seats that surround a hibachi grill and a table chef that entertains to the level of some of Benihana's best.
  • The menu at Passions (the "romantic" restaurant) is the brainchild of Michelin-rated chef Martin Berasategui, serving Spanish-inspired cuisine. It is not included in the all-inclusive plan.
  • The Mediterranean restaurant, Vento, is also among the resort’s most popular restaurants. The pasta and salad are solid, but nothing is mind-blowing.
  • The "continental fusion" restaurant Gabi Beach is included for guests with royal service. Surrounded by gauzy white curtains and touting its motto ("Beat. Drink. Groove." -- whatever that means) the oceanfront space very clearly yearns to be South Beach. The fairly standard menu of meat and seafood is good, but no better than at the included restaurants.
  • Guests of the Royal Suites get exclusive access to the Italian restaurant, Il Palazzo.

 Drinks

The resort offers guests a wide range of top-shelf liquor, and even has dedicated martini and Bellini bars.

A guest gets a round at the pool bar
A guest gets a round at the pool bar

Among the name brands available at the resort's eight bars are Johnnie Walker Red, Dewar’s, multiple flavors of Absolut, Cutty Sark scotch, Jack Daniels, Remy Martin, Hennessy, Kahlua, Malibu, Frangelico, and of course, Brugal Rum (the D.R.’s national rum). At dinner, I even received a free bottle of Chilean cabernet sauvignon -- it wasn't swill, which is actually saying a lot for a D.R. all-inclusive.

 Bottom Line

The D.R.’s fanciest and most expensive all-inclusive, Palma Real has quality restaurants, a less-crowded beach, an enormous pool, free horseback riding, personalized service, beautiful grounds, and in-room Jacuzzis. You get a lot more for your money. But it’s still a 554-room mega-resort. Expect a crowd, albeit a well-behaved, mature one.

Things You Should Know About Paradisus Palma Real

Address

  • Playa de Bavaro, Punta Cana, DR

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Paradisus Palma Real Punta Cana
  • Paradisus Palma Real Resort

Room Types

  • Garden View Junior Suite
  • Luxury Garden View Junior Suite
  • One Bedroom Garden View Master Suite with Jacuzzi
  • Regal Ocean View Jacuzzi Suite
  • Royal Service Deluxe Garden View Suite Jacuzzi Suite
  • Royal Service Imperial Romance Ocean Front Jacuzzi Suite
  • Royal Service Regal Ocean View Jacuzzi Suite
  • The Reserve Family Concierge One Bedroom Master Suite
  • The Reserve Family Concierge One Bedroom Suite
  • The Reserve One Bedroom Master Suite
  • The Reserve One Bedroom Master Suite with private Patio and Garden
  • The Reserve One Bedroom Master Swim Up Suite
  • The Reserve One Bedroom Suite
  • The Reserve One Bedroom Suite with private Patio and Garden
  • The Reserve One Bedroom Swim Up Suite
  • Two Bedroom Garden View Master Suite with Jacuzzi

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 554
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Spa: 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: Playa de Bavaro, Punta Cana, DR
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