Occidental CaribePunta Cana, Dominican Republic
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A healthy mix of young and old, but there's enough room for everyone.
When spring breaks (in Canada, especially), the hotel tends to be overrun by young, rowdy groups of 20-somethings. But ignoring the frat boys, kids love the Barcy waterpark. Older couples, honeymooners, and groups traveling without children (and even a few topless bathers) also find their way to this resort. Mainly, though, the Barcelo Punta Cana caters to families and couples throughout the year, with spring breakers in February and March and a lot of Caribbean college students during the summer.
The spring break atmosphere translates to crowded bars late at night (rousing late night renditions of "O, Canada" are possible and a jumping disco with a fairly packed dance floor). It's impressive, though, that the resort is able to stay clean and fairly relaxed in the midst of this.
The majority clientele is Canadian, followed by Americans and occasional Europeans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominican weekenders. The resort even hosted the Miss Latin America Pageant in May 2009.
The Barcelo is not a part of the nearby five-hotel Barcelo Bavaro complex, which has a wider variety of restaurants and amenities, but it's also so spread out that guests need a mini-train shuttle to get around the property. Here, at Barcelo Premium Punta Cana, everything is centrally located and walkable, and the resort is particularly family-friendly, with a sparkling new waterpark and the large mini club. The Barcelo Premium brand is also more upscale than every resort in the Bavaro complex (except for Barcelo Bavaro Palace).
Like many resorts in Punta Cana, Barcelo Premium is both massive and buffered by a lot of land, so it's virtually impossible for guests to leave. The resort is approached by an access road that's nearly a mile long, and is bordered only by palm groves and a pond, with other developments off in the distance. The resort is laid out in a single continuous building that stretches along the beach, though it's set back a bit to make room for the pools and other daytime amusements. The resort is easy enough to navigate -- there are even elevators in buildings -- but more signs to point guests in the right direction wouldn't be a bad idea. Constantly having to ask for directions can be a hassle..
Unless you like golf, there's not a whole lot in the vicinity.
The resort is located in the area of Macao, just outside Punta Cana. It's about 40 minutes from the Punta Cana airport, down a very long access road set back from the street. Nearby properties include Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana and Grand Paradise Punta Cana, and the Punta Blanca golf course is also close by.
Spectacular (and crowded), with great waves and tons to do.
Punta Cana is famous for its white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water, and the resort's long stretch along the Caribbean Sea does not disappoint. Though the beach is fairly packed through the morning and midday, it stretches long enough to include a beach volleyball court, a sizable watersports facility, and a massage hut. From afar, the water is a gorgeous shade of cerulean; up close it’s clear and fairly shallow, especially at low tide, and the temperature is absolutely perfect. The waves are sizable enough to be fun, though they’re less ideal for young children. There are also few vendors around.
Noisy but pretty nice. If you can, be sure to spring for the Deluxe Rooms.
Deluxe Rooms are in Buildings 1-3. Each of these buildings includes white marble floors, flat-screen TVs, pillow-top mattresses, chic wooden furniture and closets, and airy marble bathrooms. Superior Rooms in Buildings 4-7 aren't so luchy. The most common complaints are about faulty plumbing and musty bathrooms, but these rooms also lack the newer TVs and furniture. Management has no immediate plans to renovate Buildings 4-7. The new Deluxe Rooms have a slightly higher base price per night, but are well worth the extra cash. Just be warned: If you’re using a booking Web site like Expedia or Hotels.com, you’re likely going to get a Superior Room.
The Deluxe Rooms are well ventilated, with both an air conditioner and a ceiling fan. The king-size beds feature a stylish rattan headboard and clean white linens, and the orange throw pillow matches the gauzy, sunset-hued curtains. Though initially excited about the large Philips flat-screen TV, none of the channels matched up with those listed by the remote (in fact, there were only about five English-language channels total) and nearly every channel had a fuzzy picture. Deluxe Rooms also came with a nice new electronic safe and a little CD player. Like at most resorts, every room comes with a free mini-bar, which is restocked daily with water, Presidente beer, Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite.
The bright, modern bathroom, particularly the semi-open shower, which had great water pressure and hot water, is wonderful. Tiny ants can be seen crawling across the floor at times, though, and the critters even find their way to the bed sometimes. While bugs are common in the D.R., this was a little much.
Every room in the hotel has a balcony. Most include the standard small table and two chairs -- there wasn't room for much else. All rooms are extremely close to one another, and even the Deluxe Rooms can overlook a vacant lot, so the balconies are not a major attraction.
Plenty to do (especially for kids), and Internet, too!
The resort has three pools, two of which were built in 2008. The original main pool features the swim-up bar and is the site for daily activities like water aerobics and Latin dance lessons. There's even an afternoon fruit-carving class.
The second pool, on the western end of the property, is known as the quiet pool because there aren't any activities there and it's adjacent to the quiet end of the beach. With edges that slope gradually into the water, this zero-entry pool has plenty of space for swimming or lounging (and, occasionally, topless sunbathing).
The third pool is the kiddie pool, which is fairly shallow as it's part of the compact Barcy Waterpark. The kids (and their accompanying squeals) seemed more than delighted by its waterslides and large cartoon-character obstacles. But these aren't the most intense waterslides. Kids over 10 would probably prefer one of the larger pools or the giant trampoline, rock climbing wall, and trapeze net adjacent to the waterpark, by the beach.
The resort has a modern Internet cafe filled with Dell PCs; Internet rates are pricey. Guests can also purchase Wi-Fi for their rooms at the rate on a per day, three day, or week basis. The connection is spotty.
The clean, modern Metamorphosis Spa offers a full menu of spa and salon services. The fitness center next door features a few bikes, a single treadmill, and a decent number of free weights and weight machines. The dark space definitely smelled like a gym.
Surreal even by all-inclusive standards. Stick around for the merengue band.
The resort has a large amphitheater set off in a separate building at the front of the property. The building is impressive, but the entertainment is the same as at any other all-inclusive mega-resort. One evening show, "Poison," includes ballet dancing to the Def Leppard anthem "Pour Some Sugar on Me”, multiple instances of people emerging from coffins to spooky music, and lots of sparkly Spandex body suits. Bizarre.
On the bright side, a large house band and three singers perform for about half an hour before the main show commences each night. The band plays everything from Muzak versions of "My Way" and "The Girl From Ipanema" to a heavily accented version of that song from Ghost. But the band was at its best playing some rousing merengue music, which highlighted the considerable talents of the brass and percussion sections. When the show finished, the band took the stage again so the crowd could dance until it closed.
A disco located underneath the lobby stays open late. The dance floor is packed, playing remixes of popular techno and dance tunes in both Spanish and English.
Spotless, as long as you can ignore the ants.
Nearly every inch of the property features an impressive level of cleanliness throughout. The resort was beautifully landscaped (save for some obnoxiously noisy geese on the front lawn), and there are fewer discarded cups and plates lying around than at other comparably large resorts. The only slip-up is on the beach, where a lot of cigarette butts in the sand can be seen (not exactly a fun thing to feel between your toes).
Overall rooms are very clean, though they seem to smell faintly of a mixture of ammonia and cigarette smoke. (Nonsmoking rooms are not an option at most Spanish resort chains.) Lots of ants can be seen crawling across the bathroom floor, and in the bed as well, but this seemed more a function of the Caribbean setting than a cleanliness issue. The bed linens were fresh and clean, though, and housekeeping mopped the floor and tidied my bathroom nicely.
However, most guests feel the Superior Rooms are filthy. Among their complaints: grit on the floor, stained sheets, hair in the bathtub, and no pillowcases on the bed. Be sure to book Deluxe.
Lots of choices, but the reservation system can be infuriating.
Occidental Caribe has a whopping seven restaurants, including one buffet and another that becomes an a la carte surf-and-turf grill at night. The other restaurants are Japanese, Dominican, Tex-Mex, French, and Italian. Going by guest feedback, the Japanese restaurant, which is set up like a hibachi grill, is the most popular. But as with all Barcelo resorts, the food gets little more than indifferent shrugs.
It’s virtually impossible to secure a reservation to the restaurants. Guests are assigned reservations to at least three restaurants during their stay. Preference doesn't matter; it's purely a function of availability. Anyone who wants to change their reservations must wake up early to stand in line in the lobby and haggle with the front desk. Many leave unsuccessful, only to find restaurants half empty at night...but still with long lines.
The main buffet restaurant, Alcazar, is large and not remarkably different from any other all-inclusive buffet, though the salad bar is fresh and more appetizing than most. El Marlin, the other buffet, is open for brunch and afternoon snacks. There are plenty of outdoor tables, so guests can catch a nice morning breeze with a great view of the beach. An outdoor omelet and pancake station are the highlights. In addition to typical buffet staples like cereal, French toast, and fruit, the coffee and tea stations are entirely self-serve -- a welcome alternative to waiting for coffee that never comes.
The a la cartes do well on presentation, but flavors and service often come away lacking.
The resort also offers a "midnight" snack at the theater bar until the wee hours. Fried wontons and fried chicken are tasty enough to rival KFC. Hot dogs are also available.
Finally, a limited room-service menu is available 24 hours a day. It offers sandwiches and a couple desserts at an extra cost per item.
Have you ever seen those T-shirts about meeting the three wise men -- Jack, Jim, and Jose? Well, Occidental Caribe gets you two-thirds of the way there. Considering how bad the liquor can be at most all-inclusives, that’s just fine. In addition to Jose Cuervo tequila and Jim Beam whiskey, the hotel offers Canadian Club, Frangelico, Tanqueray, Drambuie and Barcelo (of course) rum. Only the vodka seemed to be generic. Rooms come with bottles of Presidente beer, which also flow freely at the resort's eight bars.
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Things You Should Know About Occidental Caribe
AddressCarretera Macao - Arena Gorda, s/n, Punta Cana 23301, Caribbean
Also Known As
- Barcelo Dominican Punta Cana
- Barcelo Premium Punta Cana
- Barcelo Punta Cana
- Barcelo Punta Cana Resort
- Breezes Punta Cana
- Punta Cana Barcelo
- Deluxe Room
- Deluxe Sea(Ocean) View Room
- Presidential Suite
- Suite Club Premium Room
- Superior (Ocean)Sea/Swimming Pool View Room
- Superior Room