Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Couples, spring breakers, and families rub shoulders at this crowded, 684-room all-inclusive mega-resort.
A little techno beat -- unst unst unst -- plays through the lobby speakers, and potent incense blows through the air, while a line of 14 guests wait to check in. At 684 rooms, this is one of the largest resorts in the D.R., and it can get packed.
It's a mixed bag. Couples young and old, families, and college kids on spring break commingle over dance contests and cocktails. At the main pool, college kids (and some high schoolers) line the pool bar drinking heavily to celebrate spring break. (Drinking age in the D.R. is 18, drawing a number of college and even high school spring breakers in March and April.)
For many, the Reserve, a VIP section of Paradisus, is a much-needed upgrade here. The staff in the standard section is scarcely equipped to handle the thousand-plus guests. But in the Reserve, there are simply fewer people to oversee, meaning someone's actually on hand to answer questions or make a cocktail. Elsewhere, the service can make you feel like herded cattle.
But even with the quieter VIP-section upgrades, the hotel is typically pretty loud and extremely crowded, especially at the mediocre main buffet. For an equally lively resort with similar features (and less fighting for a lounge chair), check out the Grand Palladium or Majestic Colonial mega-resorts.
A 30-minute taxi from Punta Cana International Airport, among 50-plus resorts piled on top of one another on a giant strip of white-sand beach. But there’s not much here outside the resorts.
The Paradisus Punta Cana is a bit like its own neighborhood, with two massive pools, 11 restaurants, a , and a great , but there's not much to do elsewhere in Punta Cana -- just some and local restaurants.
The beach is divided into three sections, theof which is for guests at the main resort, and then two smaller for the Reserve and Royal Suites. The latter have and drinks service, but otherwise the beach is the same.
Boogie boarding is popular among the younger guests, but the waves are really too intense for very young children.
Some guests complain of buffets have Styrofoam takeout containers so you can grab food on the go and eat on the beach.on the beach and a lack of convenient bars. To solve the latter issue, all of the
Standard rooms like this one come with king beds or two queens and a sunken living room, and most have courtyard views. Bathrooms are small, the decor is tired, and the rooms are generally in need of maintenance. Design is generic, in gold, terracotta, and off-white tones. Flat-screen TVs in standard rooms come with CNN, BBC, ESPN, Fox, and Nickelodeon, among many other English-speaking channels, but no pay-per-view movie channels.
The 180 rooms in Royal Service and the Reserve, the VIP sections of the resort, are located inside their own, private sections. The Royal Service suites are located a minute or two from the beach, but the Reserve is about a 15-minute walk (or a few minutes via an unreliable).
Guests at the Reserve and Royal Suites have access to their own pool, which has a fountain and several in-water beds that look pretty but are made of concrete and, predictably, not that comfortable. There's also name-brand liquor available and a separate restaurant for VIP guests only, which is considerably less crowded than the main buffet. The suites in this section are much cleaner and have better electronics in every room. The multiroom suites also have private bedrooms, which can be great for families. But most guests don't feel the upgrades are really worth the extra costs. Check out the rooms at the Majestic Colonial, which are also spacious.
The Reserve opened in 2007, and its junior suites (the smallest rooms, which are more than 600 square feet) are significantly better appointed than the ones in the standard section and include a full kitchenette, a pull-out couch, spacious his and hers sinks in the bathroom, a Jacuzzi, and a very comfortable bed with crisp sateen sheets, firm pillows, and a soft duvet. (It was synthetic but felt like down.) Plus, the 112 suites were fully renovated in 2012, showing off modern design and amenities. Bathrooms are spacious and clean, with some rooms featuring Jacuzzi tubs. The downside to the Reserve is that it's a 15-minute walk to the beach. There's also scant soundproofing between rooms at the Reserve, so be prepared to get to know your neighbors.
The bedrooms in the Reserve are divided from the common area by frosted sliding-glass doors, and there's a separate section for an in-room Jacuzzi. The lighting is soft, thanks to quality lamps and the sliding-glass doors that lead out to the balcony. All suites have a kitchenette with a two-burner , an , and a four-cup stainless steel -- but no pots, pans, or silverware. (There's not much sense in cooking at an all-inclusive, anyway).
The Reserve rooms come with 32-inch flat-screen TVs and Samsung DVD players (even though you have to bring your own DVDs) as well as JVC stereo CD stereo systems, an iPod dock, full minibar and espresso coffee machines.
The Royal Services Suites are a further step up the VIP chain. Featuring huge balconies, walk-in closets, luxury bathroom amenities and Jacuzzis (in some rooms), free Internet access, seperate living and dining room areas, an espresso coffee machine, and butler service, the Royal Services Suites are richly designed for those with deeper pockets. Design-wise, most of them resemble the newly renovated Reserve rooms, though some have a more romantic vibe, featuring canopy beds and more traditional decor.
The property is huge -- it takes a good 10 to 15 minutes just to walk from the main lobby to the beach.
Unlike any other Dominican resort, the Paradisus has its own "adventure park" with its own batting cages, Ping-Pong tables, foosball, bikes to rent, and even a climbing wall.
There's only one pool on the main property, but it's gigantic and clean, and because of its layout, it feels like four smaller pools. The perpetual problem, however, is securing lounge chairs. (This is a common problem at most all-inclusive mega-resorts.) One of the pool areas is zero-entry, meaning that the water tapers off at the ends, making it especially shallow and great for small children.
Theis separated into two sections, one for and the other for and other workouts. The spinning side has 15 and a spacious area lined with mirrors for yoga and stretching. The other wing includes three LifeCycle treadmills, three ellipticals, and one StairMaster, plus an assortment of free weights and multipurpose weight machines. There are three large, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs but no personal video monitors. A personal trainer is also on hand every day (for an additional fee). Free yoga and spinning classes are held every day in the gym, while other free classes -- aerobics, merengue, salsa, and bachata -- are held on the beach.
Theis clean (though it goes a bit too heavy on the patchouli incense). It offers a full range of spa services, but they're all considerably more expensive than at most resorts. The spa has a private pool and several outdoor, enclosed cabanas for massages, but it's not the quietest or most relaxing of places.
One round of golf at the Cocotel Golf Course is included in the price of the room. Cart fees apply per person per day. The course is in good shape, but serious golfers may want to venture to some of the D.R.'s better courses.
Cots and cribs are free -- and fit into rooms of any size -- but there's a fee for each additional person.
Unlike at most of Punta Cana, waves are pretty intense here -- good for boogie boarding, bad for young children -- but the intensity can vary seasonally. The water is much calmer on the southern coast around La Romana; check out Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus and Viva Wyndham for kid-friendlier beaches.
There's a big, beautiful kids' zone with a great kiddie pool, an , a , a game room with a Wii video game system, and an indoor reading room and sitting area for parents. But a lack of scheduled activities irks some parents.
Kid-friendly foods, especially at the a la carte restaurants, are hard to come by at the resort. There's a kid-friendly grill with burgers and hot dogs at La Palapa during lunch, but otherwise parents have to scrounge up pasta and fries during odd times of the day.
The grounds are well kept, but the lobby and most common areas have seen better days -- stained upholstery, drink rings on the coffee tables, and broken or moldy lounge chairs. The Reserve rooms, renovated in 2012, and the Royal Services rooms are in the best condition.
Maintenance problems and mildew are common complaints.
Like the movie "Groundhog Day," dining at Paradisus Punta Cana is like eating "the same thing every single day," according to one guest. Even with 11 restaurants on-site, most of the food looks and tastes the same each day. Six of the restaurants require reservations, which can be a major hassle. You can only book them between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the day of, which usually means standing in line for upward of an hour just to put your name on the list -- or to be told they're already fully booked. Several guests said they were told just this, only to show up later and find half-empty restaurants. There truly doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to the system, and every day feels like some kind of mass chaos.
Ciel, the main buffet, has a decent quality and selection (compared with most all-inclusives), but during peak hours, the lines get especially long and no one has anywhere to stand. The bread is located in its own walled-off area, where even more people congregate. There's no fresh-squeezed juice anywhere, unlike at the Grand Palladium resorts, but you can at least get some crisp lettuce (iceberg), cucumbers, carrots, and buckets of olives. There's a safe, semi-reliable pasta station. The desserts are also pretty poor, unlike at the Iberostar and Grand Palladium Punta Cana resorts.
Brunch at the Gabi Restaurant at the Reserve (not available to all guests) includes fresh eggs, trays of camembert and brie, and fresh juices (though the orange came from a can). The rest of the food, like waffles and pancakes, is the same as at the standard buffet, but there are far fewer people to battle in line.
Luna is a buffet lunch by day and a seafood restaurant by night. It has a nice grill at lunch where kids can line up for burgers and hot dogs, and then take the food back to the beach or pool in Styrofoam containers.
The service is prompt at, the Italian-themed a la carte restaurant, but food is anything but desirable. Similar situations prevail at most of the restaurants, which include Romantico (serving "fine cuisine"), Terra steakhouse, Qi (serving Chinese fare), Fuego (a tapas bar from Martin Berasategui, not included in all-inclusive package), Rodizio Brazilian steakhouse, Vita Italian trattoria, and Sakura (serving Japanese cuisine).
Generic-brand liquor, like at most resorts, and plan on long lines at the bars.
Other than the sometimes excruciating long lines at the 8 bars, the drinks are fine, though they're all made with generic-brand liquor. Bartenders can handle basic requests for gin and tonics or vodka and cranberries, but my request for a Manhattan got some puzzled looks.
Beware of the free house wine served at the a la cartes -- it's horrible, even by all-inclusive standards -- and it's definitely worth paying for wine off the list.
Name-brand liquor like Absolut, Johnnie Walker, and Dewar's is included at the Reserve.
A loud, 684-room mega-resort, the Paradisus comes with a massive zero-entry pool, an excellent , its own , a rock climbing wall, and a beautiful beach -- but most rooms are in poor condition. Expect buffet lines, sub-par food, and inattentive service, not luxury. For the price, check out the Grand Palladium or Majestic Colonial.