Privilege upgrade (for a minor fee), offers more amenities
Some rooms are dark and have maintenance issues like broken air-conditioning
Extra fee for name-brand liquors
Lounge chairs -- especially shaded areas -- get snatched early
Pushy sales people patrol beach, pool, and lobby areas
Incessant loud music at Pearl nightclub
Not the most romantic ambiance -- honeymooners, beware!
This lively 658-room resort is situated on pretty Bavaro Beach and draws a mix of families, spring breakers, and wedding groups. The grounds are a highlight, with tropical birds and palm trees all around, and there's are a wide range of bars and restaurants -- even a 24-hour pizzeria for those needing a late-night fix. This three-and-a-half-pearl resort is more walkable that other mega-resorts in the area, and rooms have homey, tropical style plus whirlpool tubs and balconies. There are plenty of activities like biking, tennis, archery, and a range of free non-motorized water sports. However, staff are always around to sell extra excursions and timeshare packages, so start practicing: "No, gracias." As an alternative, the Grand Palladium Punta Cana is a bit more pricey, but rooms have more personality.
A pleasant mega-resort with a fun, lively atmosphere for families and groups of all ages
This resort surely wins points for first impressions. Guests pass a picturesque tree-lined golf course before reaching the lovely lobby, with its polished marble floors, high ceilings, and welcome fruit punch. Straight ahead is a large fountain that looks spectacular at night, providing a photo-worthy background in changing colors. To the right is a man-made pond with lily pads, statues, and individual pathways that lead toward a la carte restaurants, the spa and casino. On the other side is the main bar and lounge -- El Palmeral -- a lively spot for drinks and sporting events on televisions throughout the afternoon and evening.
The grounds win points with most guests here, and they are lovely. Behind the lobby is a wide pedestrian path that leads to the main buffet and outdoor theater, and toward a garden with a small iguana enclosure. A short walk through this garden takes guests to the the pool and beach. The pool -- especially in the presence of the animation team -- is likely to have a party scene, and many lounge chairs are snatched early, especially those in the shade.
At night, guests tend to dress up and have a drink in the lobby, then head to the buffet or a la carte restaurants. Early risers can get up and check out the sunrise from the beach, and many use this opportunity to reserve the best seats on the sand. This all-inclusive resort appeals to families and groups of all ages, whether it be spring breakers, wedding parties, or Russian group tours. Because of this crowd -- and the animation team, which is often present at the pool or on stage providing evening entertainment -- honeymooners might want to look elsewhere.
A prime beachfront location, a 30-minute drive from Punta Cana International Airport
Bavaro Beach is about a 30-minute drive from Punta Cana's airport, and the resort sits right on the area's well-known sandy beach. Like all neighboring resorts along the coast here, the property faces east for spectacular sunrises. Visitors typically don't leave the resort for the duration of their vacations, as there isn't much else in the immediate area. It's a pricey 30-minute taxi ride from the small village of Punta Cana and the larger land-locked Higuey, where some restaurants and nightclubs provide a change of pace from the all-inclusive atmosphere for locals and resort-goers alike. One notable thing about this resort, given the number of rooms, is that it's pretty easy to navigate the property on foot, which isn't always the case at the Punta Cana region's all-inclusive properties -- traveling via tram or golf cart is more comfortable, but not necessary here.
Reasonably modern rooms with air-conditioning, balconies, and spacious bathrooms with whirlpool tubs
Rooms here are pleasant, if homey and a bit worn, despite the relatively modern color schemes and furniture. Expect to see accents in burnt orange and pale green, wicker seating, and gray and white tiled floors, plus an abundance of dark wood-veneer furniture. The tasteful tropical patterns in soft features like bed runners bring a bit of beachy character, as do the terra-cotta tile floors, but otherwise there's little to nothing in the way of wall art. We also spotted chips and nicks in lots of the furniture, sagging cushions in seating, and the grout in the flooring is a bit discolored.
There are four room types that include the basic Junior Suite and the three upgraded Privilege Suites. All offer massive flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, and coffeemakers. Junior Suites come with either one king or two twin beds and have updated linens and furnishings -- these are the darkest rooms of the bunch. A few guests have reported minor maintenance issues, like low water pressure, iffy hot water, and broken air-conditioners. Rooms also come with ceiling fans, mini-fridges, and terraces or balconies with private hammocks. Free Wi-Fi is available, but spotty. Bathrooms are pleasant, if slightly dated, with older marble countertops plus whirlpool tubs and separate showers that are a little compact.
Privileged Junior Suites are closer to the seafront and have additional amenities like iPod docks, bathrobes, and slippers. Privileged Honeymoon Suites -- with all the amenities of the other Privileged Junior Suites -- feel brighter than the previous two types, with a neutral color scheme and canopy king beds. Each of these has a separate living area, two bathrooms, and two balconies. There are some major trade-offs when it comes to location here. Those rooms that are close to the pool and beach are also close to Pearl -- the beach club that often bumps loud music late into the night. Light sleepers might get annoyed at the incessant music here.
A selection of bars, restaurants, and activities to keep families and groups happy
Like nearly every resort in the Punta Cana region, the features here are almost limitless. The number of restaurants is impressive, if not always inspiring, and most are found close to the lobby area. Other options exist on the other side of the property, closer to the golf course, as well. Reservations can be made for Mexican, Asian, Italian, or American (a steak house), and snack bars include a 24-hour pizzeria and beach-front creperie. Food is generally hit-or-miss (especially at the buffet bars), though the wide range of restaurants helps to add much-needed variety.
The main buffet, Gran Caribe, offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a large outdoor dining area overlooking the main pathway, fountain, and gardens. It's worth noting that all-inclusive rates don't include premium liquors. Foodies might want to upgrade to the Privilege category of rooms: Guests get exclusive access to PURE beach bar and the Terrace tapas lounge -- considered one of the best restaurants at the resort. Privilege guests are also entitled to extras such as a private lounge for check-in and concierge services, 24-hour room service, welcome cocktails, and discounts on spa treatments, golfing, and romantic beach dinners.
The beach buffet is open for breakfast and lunch (a great spot during sunrise, especially). Once a week, the resort puts on a beach barbecue for dinner with live music. Though there isn't beach drink service, there is a beach bar so guests can get up to order beer and cocktails. Like many other beaches in the Dominican Republic, the beach here is plagued by smelly gulfweed, an unfortunate result of climate change. Staff are efficient about cleaning it daily, though, and the water is otherwise crystal-clear, shallow, and calm enough for little kids to splash around. The swim-up pool bar also stays busy with daytime drinkers. The animation team is active during the day providing fun games on the beach and pool, as well as merengue lessons. Seats are often snatched on the beach and pool by early risers.
For activities, there are two golf courses (for a fee), tennis courts, archery, soccer, bikes, a small fitness center and non-motorized water sports (boogie boards, kayaks, catamarans, windsurfing, and snorkel gear). Other excursions are available for an extra fee and there are salespeople who will approach guests to sell them sometimes more than once per day. Timeshare sales people can also be a bit aggressive. Evening entertainment changes nightly. During our visit, there was a Michael Jackson show in the outdoor theater close to the the Like nearly every. Partiers can continue with domestic beer and liquor at the casino and disco later at night.
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