Our family of four with 2 daughters (17 & 19) stayed at the Bavaro Palace Deluxe (BPD) from March 13-20 and had a great time. We stayed at the Barcelo Rivera Maya in Mexico in 2008 and really like that property and so we went with Barcelo again and think that the BPD may be an even better property. In general, I don't see how people can give this place anything less than a 4 unless they had some extremely terrible event take place during their stay. Yes, everything was not perfect, but hey we were on vacation so it's not that big of a deal. If you are looking for perfection, you probably need to spend a considerable amount more money. I'll try to give a complete summary of our experiences; the excellent, the good and not so good, along with some recommendations.
Arrival/transfer to the Hotel/check-in - You have probably read the reviews where people waited in long lines to get checked in. We arrived into Punta Cana on a Wednesday afternoon and instead of getting a transfer in a bus with where we booked (JetBlue Getaways) I booked a taxi ride with Felix <email@example.com> as I found another traveler recommended him in another review. Felix speaks decent English and during the 10 minute ride to the resort he was giving us information about DR and giving us tips on what to do, where to go eat, shop, etc. His rates are very reasonable and were clearly cheaper than any other taxi service I had found or the transfer bus from the travel company. We got to the hotel about 2pm and there was NO ONE waiting at the check in desk. We were each given a cold fruity drink and were all checked in in 10 MINUTES. I attribute this to us arriving on a Wednesday afternoon and getting a taxi to get us ahead of the bus load of people. I also witnessed large masses of people coming in during the mid to late evening hours and there had to be 50 or more people waiting to check in as bus after bus dropped people off. Also, when you go to pick up your bags at the airport there are going to be a number of DR men looking to help you with getting your bags putting them on a cart and taking them to your bus or taxi. Your inclination may be to not let them - let them. The gentleman that helped us was able to find all of our bags very quickly and he escorted us right by the customs agent. Have a couple of bucks in your pocket for a tip. Now, back to Felix, there are 2 exits to the PC airport, and he was stationed at 1 door with a sign with our names and a "partner" with a sign, so that he wouldn't miss us. That's how professional he is. Just email him the date you are arriving and the airline and flight #, and you should be all set. I highly recommend Felix’s service. Also we had Camilo drive us to and from an excursion and he was quite good as well and speaks even more fluent English <firstname.lastname@example.org>, and would recommend him for any travels.
The first thing you want to do after you get settled into your room is to go to one of the many guest services desk and make your reservations for the al a carte restaurants. We were able to get reservations at all 6 of the free al a carte restaurants (Seafood, Mexican, Spanish, Steak, Italian, and Japanese). Note that dinner at these restaurants usually lasts 1.5 to 2 hours, so consider that if you have young kids or you want to watch the evening show that starts at 10 pm each evening. The next thing you want to do is schedule or plan any excursions during your stay as some are only offered during certain days. The office to do that is just to the left of where you checked in.
Food - Buffet: Overall the buffets were good to above average. We found the breakfast buffet to have the best food. If you like omelets, they have 4-6 guys just to make your own for you. There is also a very friendly gentleman who makes the greatest blended fruit drinks out of any fruit he has available (melon, papaya, banana, pineapple, etc.) during breakfast. We only ate lunch a couple of times as we usually filled up at breakfast and that kept us tied over until dinner. But the times that we did go in for lunch, the food was hit-or-miss. For example, some of the meats looked dried out and many of the cold dishes or salads weren’t of my liking so I didn’t get any of that. But I always found something that I liked that was of decent quality and one day they just finished grilling large long fish fillets and it was so tender and flakey, and better than the fish that I had at the Seafood a la carte restaurant. Lastly, they always had great desserts to choose from. The wait staff did a nice job of cleaning tables in a timely manner and offering water or coffee to drink. We also ate at Strikers sports bar which had some decent ribs, fries, o-rings, pizza, etc. available in a buffet style. Strikers is open 24 hours and always has at least 3 sporting events on TV at any given time. We didn’t get to the restaurant that was at the golf club house, but wished we did as we heard it was good.
Food - a la Carte:
Here are some general observations. Men are required to wear pants and closed-toed shoes, but there were some men that wore blue jeans and sport shoes to comply, which for me takes away from the experience, but to each their own. The Seafood and Sante Fe (steak) restaurants are the only ones to offer outdoor seating. We had good weather so we chose to eat outside and we liked it better than eating inside. You have to ask for an outside table when making your reservations. We missed our 7:45 reservation one night due to an excursion that ran late, arrived at 9:00 and asked the hostess if she could try to fit us in, and while it took a while, she got us in at 10:00. The next night when we went to dinner at a different restaurant, a gentleman and his date were just ahead of us and were 1.5 hours late for their dinner, and the hostess said “sorry”, he crumpled his ticket and threw it across the room, but he never tried to work with her. So my take away is if you ask nicely and are patient they’ll try to fit you in. The quality of service varies from fair to very good, and when we got what I thought was only fair service I saw other tables getting better, so again it’s hit-and-miss, and when we got fair service it wasn’t terrible, just not really great. Like the buffets you could always find a very top-notch dessert on the menu to finish your meal. Lastly, the house wine they offer is drinkable, but not very good. So if you are a wine connoisseur they have many wines that you can buy, but their prices are high. For example, a bottle of Yellow Tail goes for about $20-25. Here is how we found the individual restaurants:
Seafood – The entrees here we OK, but we didn’t find them to be that special. We found the offerings at the salad bar to uninviting for our tastes, but maybe someone else would find them tasty.
Sante Fe (Steak) – Arguably the best meal of the week. We all got a different cut of steak, but the 8 oz filet was clearly the most tender cut. The offerings at the salad bar we thought we the best of any of the restaurants.
Mexican – The food here was good.
Japanese – They offer hibachi or regular table. Make sure that when you are making your reservations you specifically asked to be seated at a hibachi grill. We didn’t do this, but again we came earlier than our reservation time and worked with the hostess who got us a seat at the hibachi. This restaurant is quite loud due to the excitement around all of the hibachi’s, so having a conversation is difficult. Food quality was good. The quality of the hibachi cooks varied greatly; some were very talented and skilled in the “tricks” that they would do, while others were more focused on cooking a good meal.
Italian – This restaurant is probably the smallest. The salad bar was way below average and none of our family were particularly excited with our entrees.
Spanish – This restaurant is small, but had possibly the most food offerings of any of the restaurants. Food quality was good.
Bars: There are more bars in this place than you can shake a stick at. You are never far from one. If you order a drink with rum I almost always saw them using top shelf rum and they had other top shelf liquors. Some bartenders would automatically use the top shelf stuff while with other bartenders you had to ask for it. The quality of the tropical and sweet drinks can vary greatly from bartender to bartender. Most were very good, some were excellent, but on a few occasions they were borderline not drinkable.
The facilities and grounds: The grounds are immaculate. You will not find better anywhere. We saw the maintenance team re-painting in a number of areas, which is one reason why the place looks so nice. The floors in public areas are constantly being swept and mopped. The public bathrooms are like those of a top rate hotel even given the possibility of people with sandy feet walking in them. The word is that this property went through major renovations 3-5 years ago and it shows. Very impressive.
The beach and activities: Best beach we have ever been on. The sand is very fine and cool to the touch even in the sun. Seaweed does wash up frequently during the day, but they clean the beach off in the morning. If you are thinking about snorkeling in front of the hotel, forget it, there is absolutely nothing to see. Take a tour to another part of the island if you want to do snorkeling. Plenty of beach chairs and clean towels to be had. I took out a Hobie Cat, but needed to be “trained” for a $50 fee. I paid it. My trainer spoke very little English and had very little patience for me. It was not a great experience.
Housing Accommodations: Again we had a family deluxe room (8835) that was located near the Barcy park. We asked for the garden side as opposed to the gold course side, and I would recommend that. Our housekeeper came every day. Nothing terrible or outstanding. We found our king size bed to be very comfortable and not hard at all. They provided a variety of pillow sizes from small to body sizes. Also the air conditioning combined with the overhead fan made sleeping very nice and mostly quiet. We did have a couple of electrical issues during our stay and one night we apparently blew an electrical circuit (not a fuse) when someone turned on the bathroom light. But we called maintenance in the morning and they sent someone over in 5 minutes and the problem was fixed soon after. Some people have written in reviews that you had to walk a long ways to get from your hotel room to other parts of the resort. We did not find this to be an issue or problem at all. Where our room was located, we were no more than a 5 minute walk to any of the restaurants, the pools, the beach or the golf course. C’mon people get a grip and get a little exercise.
Excursions: We sent our girls on an Eco-tour and they really like it a lot. Highly recommended. We booked this through the hotel.
Nightly Show: The nightly show starts at 10pm every night with a different theme each night. The show quality was very good with professional-like dancers and singers. We only went to a couple of shows, but wished we would have gone to more. The theater that they have at BPD is top notch and considerably better than the one at the Barcelo property in Rivera Maya.
Security: There was a presence of security guards around the property. There was 1 night when we heard loud partying at 2:30, but it didn’t last too long, and one night when there was some type of ruckus between 2 parties in the room below us at 4am. We called security and in a matter of 5 minutes things quieted down. One night, I accidently left my waist bag at a restaurant as I was taking pictures for another family. Inside was my iPhone and a small camera. I realized my mistake about 15 minutes after we left the restaurant. I quickly returned to the restaurant where the hostess informed me that they had already taken it to the front desk and called our room to attempt to notify me. When I opened my bag EVERYTHING was there. Needless to say, I gave the group back at the restaurant a nice tip.
Internet: they offer Wi-Fi and I found it to be pretty strong in most parts of the resort and in our room. The fees are $12 for one day, $20 for 2 days, and an additional $5 per day after that. Highly recommended if you need to do email, texting, or researching for excursions outside of the Barcelo property.
Phone: Calling back to the US is $1/minute, not bad compared to the $2/minute that Verizon charged me. Also, if you go to one of the guest services desk with a local number, they will work through the resort’s main operator and connect you so that you don’t have to pay for those calls.
ATM: There are several ATM’s in the main building. They charge about $4 per transaction no matter how much money you withdraw. The one ATM that I used limits to about $400/transaction, and my bank would only limit me to $500 per day using my debit card.
Casino: Nothing great. I played some blackjack but got my but kicked.
Weather: The weather is mid-March was very nice. Typically low-mid 80s, sunny to partly cloudy everyday. I would have preferred it to be a little warmer, but that’s just me. In the 8 days we were there, it rained really only 1 day and at that it was off and on drizzles. And the humidity was relatively low and again not an issue. We found Cancun to be quite humid, but this was definitely not the case. There was always a breeze of 10-15 mph blowing and there were absolutely zero bugs to found. Near perfect conditions.
People: Overall we found the Dominican people to be very friendly, happy, and hard working. Did we come across a couple who may be weren’t as friendly as most? Yes. But they were few and far between. Given their economic condition, I thought they seemed quite happy and productive. We frequently saw supervisors and managers pitching in to help out when staff was getting a little overwhelmed in the restaurants. Yes, most of them didn’t know a lot of English, but they all knew some basic English and if you just try to use a little Spanish (Hola=Hello, Por Forvor=Please, and Gracias) it really goes a long ways in developing a repoire with the people.
Spa: My wife got one of those $320 complete spa treatments that included a message, facial, rocks, manicure, petticure, etc. as we had a coupon for $80 off due to Barcelo’s current promotion. It was originally suppose to take 3 hours, and I won’t tell you how much more time she got, be she received well more than 3 hours of attention. Her attendant was a gal named Leiky. My wife thoroughly enjoyed her time there.
Gym: They have a nice gym connected to the spa. I used the treadmills (not enough though) and they had some elipticals and 1 stair-stepping machine. They had about a dozen Life Fitness machines that were showing their age a bit as they were about 10 years old, but still functionable. They also had a set of dumbbells and a nice room to do pilates and abdominals. Your gym at home probably has nicer equipment, but I'd give it an 8 out of 10.
Other observations: On Saturday (3/16) we saw a huge influx of college kids to the resort and things got louder and more raunchy. For example, my wife and I rented a cabana at the adults-only pool for $10 (note: I would highly recommend this for couples as it made for a shady, quiet day, but you have to reserve them at least 1 day in advance). In the middle of the pool is a whirlpool where a group of about 10 college kids gathered in the afternoon. They had the whirlpool bubbling and several “couples” had or attempted to have intercourse (yes you read correctly) while the others were cheering them on at about 2pm in the afternoon! Needlessly to say, these kids were intoxicated and my advice is if you can avoid the last 2 weeks of March if you want to avoid the college kids. Lastly, I saw some people take the bartenders for granted by frequently ordering large #’s of mixed or specialty drinks and then not tipping or even thanking the bartenders for their service. C’mon people these Dominicans make about $200/month and you just spent $1500/person to go and stay there. A couple of bucks to show your appreciation goes a long ways.
Overall we had a great time at the BPD and would definitely consider going back. While there were a few things that we were less than impressed with, overall it was 90% positive and fun, which is why we give it a 5-star rating.
I would recommend getting a room above the 1st or ground floor to give yourselves more privacy. We...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.