Family-friendly atmosphere with a kids' club and a tame crowd
Massive size means getting around can take some time (the resort provides a shuttle)
Long lines for check-in and check-out (except for Club Premium guests)
Fee for Wi-Fi (free for Club Premium guests)
The 1,600-room Palace Deluxe is the main resort at the Barcelo Bavaro complex, and features tons of on-site features including an attractive spa, a 24-hour casino, four pools, and 11 restaurants. But aside from substantial lines at the front desk, the guest capacity of the resort rarely shows: Guests do not have to search for spots at the pools and beach, and reservation requirements keep restaurants well organized. Couples, families, and partiers all mingle seamlessly at the property. Though the adults-only sister property has a slightly more romantic vibe, plenty of couples opt to stay here as it is where most of the features are located. The hotel's rooms feature iPod docks, flat-screen TVs, and attractive, sleek decor.
Families, couples, and partiers all mingle seamlessly at this megaresort
With 1,600 rooms, the Barcelo Bavaro Palace could feel overwhelming -- but plenty of space, an open, airy design, and a well-organized restaurant scene help minimize crowding issues. One downside, however, is that while guests from the adjacent 400-room Barcelo Bavaro Beach can access the facilities here, the reverse is not true; guests in search of a slightly more intimate atmosphere should consider the resort's sister property.
With size comes broad appeal, and the resort draws couples, partiers, and families: There's a high-end spa, an adults-only pool, a disco, a swim-up bar (that is more dignified than your average Punta Cana pool scene), a kids' club, and tons of other on-site features.
The resort is part of the Spanish Barcelo chain, and attracts numerous European travelers as well as Americans. Pool and beachside activities such as volleyball and dancing take place daily, but unlike at some resorts that line the beach, the music isn't too loud here and the hotel staff doesn't pressure guests to join. Those who do participate did seem to having a good time, however, and the pool bar scene is lively.
The resort seemed extremely well-maintained. When I woke up early one morning, I saw an army of staff members cleaning up the property, including the beach area; some seaweed wash does collect during the day, but thorough raking helped keep the sand pristine. The beach here is a real highlight and is considered one of the nicest in the area.
Located in Bavaro, the northern area of Punta Cana
The Barcelo complex is in Bavaro, the area north of Punta Cana airport. It is about a 30-minute ride from the airport. The beaches along this northern stretch of the coast generally see much stronger waves and have steeper drop off than those to the south in Punta Cana. Bavaro is also home to a limited smattering of restaurants and nightclubs, mostly in and around the town of Friusa, that offer locals and tourists a change of pace from the dominant presence of resorts.
Clean, soft white sand, somewhat choppy waters, and crowds of vacationers bodysurfing, playing volleyball, and tanning
This beach is one of the most beautiful in Bavaro and Punta Cana. The water and sand are clean and inviting, and though seaweed debris can accumulate during the day, an army of rakers clears the sand early in the morning to maintain the pristine setting. Guests shouldn't expect to swim far from shore or find large secluded swaths of sand, as the waves can get rough and the beach is certainly crowded.
Most non-motorized sports, such as kayaking, windsurfing, and snorkeling, are covered in the all-inclusive package.
Rooms feature simple, beachy decor and modern technology
The Palace Deluxe is a massive resort and has 1,600 rooms grouped in sections. Most are in the main resort area by the beach, restaurants, and pools, but some are clustered around the Pete Dye golf course. The color scheme varies depending on the section of the hotel the room is located in, but all rooms are spacious and feature iPod docks, large flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi access (which requires an additional fee except in Club Premium rooms).
Open floor plans keep the rooms feeling airy and beachy, and all rooms have balconies or patios. While the shower and toilet are behind frosted glass doors, the vanity in all rooms is open to the rest of the room. Many rooms (aside from Standard Deluxe Rooms, Deluxe Golf Rooms, and Family Golf Duplexes) feature large Jacuzzis on the balcony. Upgrading to a Club Premium Room means receiving extra perks including free Wi-Fi, free 24-hour room service, champagne, fruits, and chocolates upon arrival, access to the Club Premium lounge (with a separate check-in and check-out area), and access to La Comedie restaurant, the nicest restaurant on the property.
Flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and speedy Wi-Fi access (for a fee fee, except in Club Premium Rooms)
Minibars with free sodas, water, and beer restocked daily
Four pools, including a kids' water park, an adults-only pool, and a main pool with swim-up bar
The pools (aside from the spa pool) at the Palace Deluxe are clustered by the beach in the central area of the resort. They are kept in pristine condition (they close in the evening for cleaning) and are very large (which is important at a resort of this size).
The main pool features a swim-up bar, pretty water features, and tiled loungers for sunbathers looking to get tan while keeping cool in the water. Palm trees surrounding the pool add to the relaxing atmosphere and the pool has a direct view of the beach. A kiddy pool is nearby, as is an adults-only pool with a secluded feel, extra greenery, sexy cabanas, and its own bar. About a five-minute walk away, guests can find the kid-friendly water park, which is complete with slides, bridges, and colorful sea creatures for climbing. It also has a bar for parents looking to take the edge off.
Well-equipped fitness center features a pilates studio and a cycling studio
The big fitness center is located just off of the spa and features not only a Pilates studio -- stocked with mats and balls -- but a spinning studio. The main area includes plenty of cardio machines as well as weight-lifting machines and free weights, and guests should never have to wait for the use of a machine. The only downside is that machines do not have personal TVs, but there are three large flat-screen TVs.
A small boutique sells exercise clothes, tennis shoes, and even sports bathing suits for guests who forget their gear.
The spa at the Palace Deluxe has an intimate feel with several indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, a pretty infinity pool, and a salon. After treatments, guests can relax in the lounge area where gentle music plays and staff brings fruit, water, and tea.
The Palace Deluxe has 11 on-site restaurants and offers nearly every type of cuisine: There are French, Mexican, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, and seafood options, among others. While these restaurants are a la carte and only open for dinner, two buffet restaurants -- one serving international fare, the other Dominican -- are open for all three meals. Reservations are required at all of the a la carte options, and La Comedie, the French restaurant, is only for Club Premium guests. There is also a 24-hour sports bar.
Not surprisingly, I had my best meal at La Comedie. Food elsewhere is somewhat average, although the buffet restaurants offer enough variety that guests should be able to find something to their liking.
Almost everything is included, and Club Premium guests receive additional perks
As at most all-inclusive properties in Punta Cana, almost all services at the hotel are covered, including all meals, alcohol, and non-motorized water sports. Amenities that require an additional fee include a round at the golf course and treatments at the spa.
Club Premium guests receive additional freebies such as Wi-Fi, 24-hour room service, and dinner at La Comedie. All other guests must pay extra for these services.
A theater features daily and nightly shows for kids and adults.
The resort features a massive theater, where there are several shows daily -- some geared towards families and some towards adults. The theater's balcony features a bar where attendees can order a drink. The on-site casino and disco are also popular spots for adults.
The 18-hole Pete Dye course at the resort is a major draw for golfers and features well-kept greens and challenging holes. Though most would argue that it can't compare to the Jack Nicklaus course at Eden Roc in Cap Cana or Dye's Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo in La Romana, its one of the best courses in Punta Cana. There's also an 18-hole mini-golf course.
At the Palace Deluxe, guests can try their luck at the slots or blackjack any time of the day or night. Even the casino at the Hard Rock isn't open 24 hours (although its facilities are much larger and up-to-date).
The resort shares a massive convention center with its sister hotel next door.
The Barcelo Bavaro complex features one of the largest convention centers in Punta Cana, complete with a helipad. It includes a large conference center as well as 12 meeting rooms. It's located next to the Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort, about a five-minute shuttle ride from the Palace Deluxe property.
The Palace Deluxe hosts many weddings throughout the year, and I even saw one taking place at the wedding gazebo during my stay. Wedding packages include decorations, flowers, a wedding cake, and spa treatments for the bride and groom, and the help of an on-site wedding planner.
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