20-minute taxi from Punta Cana International Airport
Getting to the beach requires a 10-minute walk (or a ride in the hotel's free shuttle)
Loud, late-night party scene that's audible from many rooms
Main pool can get loud and rowdy, and loungers can be scarce
Next to a public beach, and therefore vendors
Name-brand liquor costs extra
Fees for Wi-Fi and room safe
Tiny parking area
Can feel overrun with partiers and screaming tweens
Food gets repetitive and quality is no better than mediocre
No bathtubs, just showers
This 652-room, upper-middle-range all-inclusive offers solid value in tourist-heavy Bavaro. Clean, modern rooms, a huge, lively lake-style pool (popular with partiers), quieter pool by the villas, and a bar surrounded by several hot tubs are all points in the hotel's favor. A prime section of beach is a 10-minute walk (or short shuttle ride) away. But maintenance issues, an incredibly busy, crowded atmosphere, and thumping music at night from the theater and disco will be downsides for some. It's worth comparing rates with the Iberostar Bavaro Suites and Majestic Colonial, both better options in this category.
A crowded, noisy resort attracting both partiers and screaming kids, with loud music, dirty dancing, and lots of spots to grab drinks
For the most part, the IFA Villas Bavaro is not a resort for those seeking peace and quiet. With all the overexcited tweens running from the pizzeria to the pool and back again in the main plaza of the hotel, it can feel like you've taken a flight to the Caribbean only to somehow end up in the food court of your local mall. And there are also partiers crowding by the swim-up bar at the main pool, loud music and an animation team that sometimes sings along to the songs, and impromptu dirty dancing. At night, there's throbbing dance music from the theater shows, often audible in the rooms.
However, the villas section of the resort, located on the other end of the property from the beach, has an entirely different -- and almost suburban -- feel. This area, with freestanding homes, exists off a fenced-in street, and has its own pool area that's much more placid than the main pool. Older couples and quieter families tend to congregate here.
IFA is a German chain, and they are also the owners of Lopesan hotels. Accordingly, many of the books on the communal "take a book, leave a book" shelf are in German. Most visitors are young couples, some with kids, many without, and are mostly Puerto Rican, German, or British, according to staff. The party-heavy atmosphere makes weddings very rare events at IFA.
The flamingos and peacocks roaming the grounds are a nice touch, but guests might also spot live chickens and wild roosters loiter near the Pikalo snack bar.
For the money, you could do a lot worse. For a decent patch of one of the D.R.’s best beaches, a great pool, and a clean room, most guests will tolerate the higher-than-desired music volumes late into the night or meals that are, at best, serviceable. For not that much more money, guests who would like to avoid the party scene but still get pretty good value might want to consider the Iberostar Punta Cana or the Grand Palladium.
IFA is in Bavaro, just north of Punta Cana and a 20-minute taxi from Punta Cana International Airport.
The entire IFA resort complex is in Bavaro, a neighboring village of Punta Cana. With the rise of tourism in the area, Bavaro has come to be considered a part of Punta Cana. IFA is one of several resorts on the nearly 10-mile stretch of Bavaro Beach.
To get to the resort, guests have to travel past the posh (read: rather overpriced) Palma Real shopping mall (home to Hard Rock Cafe, Swarovski, and Crocs) right in the center of tourist-heavy Bavaro, through a gate, and into a residential community of pastel-colored homes before finally making it to the hotel itself. The resort is split into the serene villas area on one end and the raucous main area on the other, with a small shopping area as a bridge. The resort is on a beautiful stretch of Bavaro Beach, and a 10-minute drive to Punta Cana's main public beach, El Cortecito.
Spacious and clean, with modern furniture, but poorly lit and with occasional maintenance issues
Rooms are all very clean and modern. Guests can choose between the standard rooms or the individual bungalows in the villa section of the resort. Both have about the same look and features, but the slightly smaller bungalows are a bit quieter, and each comes with a small private terrace. Decor in the rooms has a rust red and sandstone palette, while villas are done up in cool black and whites for a spare, streamlined look. The general rule of thumb is to request a room that is far away from the swimming pools so as to avoid hearing the sounds of late night partying that continue poolside into the wee hours.
Rooms have a smart layout, with a built-in shelf or bench space along with a dresser, and a desk against the long wall, opposite the bed. A flat-screen TV hangs on the wall above, though most of the channels don’t come in so well. The beds (either two full-size or one king) come with soft, high-quality sheets, a body pillow, and two regular-size pillows on each bed. They’re a considerable improvement from the skimpy pillows and low-grade sheets at most Dominican resorts. Every room also comes with a free minibar stocked with water, soda, and beer, as well as a coffee machine. Room keys operated the light switch and air conditioner for the entire room, which is a very smart way to save the place some electricity. But this also means guests can’t run the AC while they’re out of the room. Also, as one couple complained, even with all the lights on, it’s still a little too dark in the room to read in bed at night. Unfortunately, guests must pay for certain basic amenities that would be gratis elsewhere, such as Wi-Fi and a key for the room safe. Though that's not unusual for the D.R., the sign in the bathroom warning that the hotel will count all the towels after you leave reminds you that this is an operation that counts every penny.
The bathroom appears to have been designed for friends sharing a room during spring break rather than a couple. The toilet and shower are each in their own independent stalls with doors, and the sink is directly in the middle. A useful feature for friends getting drunk together -- one person can bathe while the other uses the loo. There are no tubs.
The last major renovation was in 2008, so guests can expect the occasional maintenance issue. During our visit, management reassigned us to a new room because the air-conditioning was broken and couldn't be fixed. There were some small bits of litter (a corner of a wrapper, a loose screw, a hair tie) in the hallway of our first room, but the second building was cleaner. Our first room also didn't come with soap in the bathroom (there was a wall dispenser in the shower), but our second room did.
Note that the hotel plans on adding many more rooms with coming expansions.
Two-mile beach protected by a coral reef -- it would be one of the best in the D.R. if not for the vendors and seaweed.
The IFA section of the beach is sandwiched between the mega-size Barcelo Bavaro Resort and a public section. With a public section next door, plan on sharing the calm waters with some fun local kids and plenty of boats for motorized water sports. There are also vendors wandering the area, eager to sell package deals for vacation adventures.
There is a bar on the beach, but no waitstaff making the rounds (like at most Dominican resorts). The resort has plenty of beach chairs, and many are still up for grabs in the early afternoon. This, perhaps, is because the main lake-style pool is a bit more popular than the beach.
The beach is about an eight-minute walk from the main grounds of the resort, but the resort does offer a free shuttle to and from the hotel.
A well-equipped gym, a decent spa, and upbeat nightly theater shows
The mid-size but well-equipped gym, located in the spa building, comes with modern cardio and weight-training equipment. The spa itself offers all the treatments typical to resort spas in the Punta Cana area -- massages, nail services, and skin treatments. Use of the sauna, steam room, and whirlpool are included, but the facilities are not some of the nicest in the Punta Cana. For that, you need to go to the The Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana, which is still within the same price point as IFA.
The tennis courts and ping-pong tables are about a 10-minute walk from the main resort area. Evening entertainment at IFA consists of staged, full-scale, upbeat shows (typical of the D.R.). Energetic and fully costumed performers eking out well-choreographed dances to contemporary pop favorites by artists such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, and J. Lo occur nightly. Fantasy, a disco that's heavy on the strobe lights, is a popular late-night stop.
There are places to shop for local souvenirs -- paintings, clothing, coffee, and cigars. There is a small strip of shops near the hotel's coffee spot, Café Dominicano, which includes a small supermarket, a pharmacy, a health clinic, and an Internet and call center.
Wi-Fi is available in the lobby and rooms. Guests simply need to obtain a code at guest services and are charged per day.
A lake-style pool with large boulders and a fountain, plus several whirlpools surrounding a central bar. This pool is one of the D.R.'s best!
Swimming pools take center stage at IFA. Guests go nuts for the impeccably maintained lake-style pool, the center of life at this resort, and one of the best pools in the The second pool is quieter and closer to the villas section.
The main pool, with its central fountain and large boulders for resting swimmers, attracts more attention than the beach. This is mostly because the beach is about an eight-minute walk away from the main grounds, along a palm-tree lined path. Young kids, wet and shiny as seals, perch on the giant boulders in the pool or climb atop the fountain at the center, while adults enjoy a drink at the swim-up bar. Music can be loud, and may include sing-alongs to songs like the Stevie Wonder classic “I Just Called to Say I Love You."
The High Beach Jacuzzi bar, a novel addition to the resort during its ’08 renovation, has a bar in the center and several fairly sizable whirlpool surrounding it. A drink and warm dip is easy, and very fun.
The resort’s spectacular pool, kiddy pools, and kid-friendly entertainment make it suited for families.
A number of kids can be seen frolicking about, and they all appeared to be having a great time. What child wouldn't want to jump atop an active water fountain inside a huge swimming pool or follow a duck around?
The kids' club (for ages 4 to 12) holds activities throughout the day, including painting, games, and song sessions. The cheerful, high-ceilinged space has a sand area, and two TVs set up for video games.
Each evening, the theater becomes a mini-disco (starting at 8 p.m. during our visit). An enthusiastic staffer dances and sings with some of the smaller vacationers. Kids will probably be happy with the food at IFA, which is heavy on hamburgers, French fries, and some fairly decent pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.
Snack foods -- especially pizza -- reign. The buffets could use more variety, and there are four a la cartes.
Dining at IFA is all about options, though those options don’t often look very different from one another. For buffet-style meals there are two main choices -- Las Velas Grill, specializing in seafood and located on the beach, and Colibri -- though they are mostly identical and do not have the most varied selection, compared with the Iberostar Punta Cana or Gran Bahia, where the selection is at times exhaustive.
At Pikalo's (also a buffet), guests line up before lunch for crowd-pleasing finger food -- burgers, fries, and pizza. Lots and lots of pizza. There is also a full bar here that serves beer, soda, and other drinks, including espresso and cappuccino.
Reservations are required for the la carte restaurants -- Caribe for Caribbean, Jalisco for Mexican, Bambu for Japanese, and Bella Serata for Italian -- and it's a good idea to make them in the morning to ensure a spot. There is a dress code that prohibits beachwear in these restaurants (it's allowed in the buffets, though), but other than that, dinner is a casual affair.
Generic booze rules, but there's great variety in the bars -- from party time at the swim-up to lounging at the cafe.
IFA serves generic liquor at all bars. Guests may select the mid-shelf rail for their cocktails though they will need to pay an extra fee per drink. In the order of priority, bars follow a close second after pools at IFA. This resort has nearly every theme covered on the drink front -- from the swim-up bar to the High Beach Jacuzzi bar, to the lounge bar and coffee spot, Café Dominicano.
The drinks menu has classic Caribbean concoctions like Sex on the Beach, Planter's Punch, and Tequila Sunrise, as well as variations of the same theme, with unique-to-the-resort names like the Gri-Gri and the Colibri (named after the places at the resort where guests can, well, drink a lot).
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