Myself and my boyfriend (we were 21 and 24 when we visited) stayed at the Riu Palace Bavaro from the 7 - 21 September 2012.
We were originally booked to stay at the Riu Bambu hotel just next door but upgraded (paid quite a lot) at the last minute as the Bavaro looked 100 times nicer.
After a long flight (and a 5 hour delay) we arrived around 7:30pm and check in was pretty quick and our bags were taken to our room. Maybe it was because we were so tired but at first glance the hotel layout seemed pretty confusing. We were told we were not allowed any access to the VIP section (which was fine) or the 'Sensimar' section which was strictly for the Germans. We found this rather odd, that there was a section reserved for German's but ok we didn't ask questions.
Finding the room was also quite challenging but once we got there we were very impressed with it, very modern, clean and spacious. It was all pinks and purple which I LOVED! We booked a double room but were given two small doubles pushed together, this wasn't really a problem for us but I'm sure it would irritate some people.
Beds were comfortable, shower was big and always had hot water, had a sunken jacuzzi bath next to the sinks which was nice but we never actually used it.
Was a nice touch having a optics in the room! Never experienced this before however we didn't drink much of it (god knows why!!) fridge was always stocked with drinks and if we ran out room serivce would bring some up within minutes.
Whilst I was there I came down with a cold so we spent a few days in the room and ordered room service. There wasn't the biggest selection available which was quite disappointing but the food was delivered in rapid time and was always hot. We had a view over the outdoor relaxation area with the hammocks and day beds and we could just about see the sea - if we stood on our tip toes! Some nights we decided to stay in the room and chill out and we found the music from the hotel next to us was pretty loud - but can't really complain about that.
The pool area was lovely, we spent the whole 2 weeks in the small pool with the bar - making the most of the all inclusive drinks - the drinks are ok, unfortunately they don't use premium brand spirits unless you ask - or tip heavy - so the drinks were a bit hit and miss - the bar staff were nice, remembered our names and appreciated a bit of Spanish and the odd tip.
We met some really nice people around the pool - mainly Americans - some of which we are still in contact with. I noticed a few comments on here saying the Americans were too loud and sometimes yes they were - and so were other nationalities as well!! - but with constant supply of Mamajuana and very strong cocktails everyone is going to get a bit loud. The American couples we spent the holiday with were just having a good time like us and we didn't cause any harm to anyone.
The downside we found were how damn right rude the Europeans were, there were a group of older German people round the pool a few times who were so unbelieveably rude - barged past us, walked through the middle of our conversations, treading on our feet in the pool - no apologies or recognition. They had 'Sensimar' wristbands on and we wished they had stayed in their own section to be truefully honest. Other Eastern Europeans in and around the hotel were also very rude, pushing in queues at the buffet and just no manners what so ever. This type of thing really grates on me and my boyfriend as it doesn't cost anything to have some manners.
The resaurants at the hotel were nice. The Montecristo restaurant was huge and had a massive selection of food. The people on here who complained that there was no selection must be blind because I have never seen such a huge spread of food. Of course there was traditional Dominican food which is different to what we are used to but you have to try these things when your in a different country. You won't run out of things to eat - unless you afraid to try something new. The Mexican night and the Dominican nights at the Montecristo are FAB! They really make an effort with this and they were by far the best nights at the Montecristo.
The al a carte restaurants are ok, its just a shame you have to book for all of them and they only give you 2 time options, either quite early or late. The Italian is quite an odd experience, you are seated and told to help yourself to the buffet which was full of salads pizza, pasta dishes etc so we assumed this was the dinner so we filled our plates. After sitting back down we were asked what we wanted to order off the menu - oh dear! That's just a warning as we weren't aware of this!!
The Japanese is nice, the food is lovely and its very authentic, The Krystal is a nice restaurant, with some weird and wonderful creations that must be tried!! The steakhouse was fab too, you get a massive seafood platter to start and the steaks are huge!! Its safe to say you won't go hungry at this hotel and there is always sooo much food!
The cappuchino bar in the lobby is lovely, the lattes are to die for, you can also get sandwiches and cakes which looked nice but we didn't try any.
The daiquiri bar in the lobby was eerr rather strange as it didn't make daiquiri's it made cosmopolitons. Are they the same? Anyways, they were served in beautiful glasses but oh my goodness they were STRONG! I couldn't drink mine it was just too much!
The staff at the hotel are amazing, they work sooo many hours its unreal, especially the waiters/waitresses and the grounds staff. They look so tired but always say hello and are soo polite, we literally felt so sorry for them as they seemed to work every day for more than 13-14 hours.
The entertainment team - well - they are on another level - its quite bizzare how much energy they have. They also work ridiculous hours every day in the heat around the pool and then on stage at night. By the end of the holiday we were convinced they were on something, because it cannot be natural to have so much energy. But fair play to them they were really friendly and never pushed you to get involved with activities etc. The night time entertainment was ok, some good shows put on but it was very samey. That's my only complaint.
The beach area was amazing, it was like paradise, the sand was soft and white and the sea was blue, some days it was a bit choppy, we arrived just after the hurricane that hit a few weeks before so some nights it stormed as well. We aren't beach people so didnt spend much time down there. Took a walk about 15 mins down to the beach hut shops which all sold the same things and the pestering of the locals was a bit too much. We didn;t buy anything and headed back after a while, however I got a few freebies from them as they tried to get us in their shops! Its worth a visit to see some local produce.
Next to the hotel is Carribean Street which had proper little colonial looking shops and nice souvoniers etc. The locals aren't as pestering which is nice and we spent some time down there and bought a few things.
We were told we could also visit the neighbouring Riu hotels but we didn't, although it would have been nice to see what the others were like.
We did the excursion to Saona Island through First Choice which we were really looking forward to but we really disappointed with.
We were told to be at reception by 7am (very early for us!) so we had no breakfast - it dont open until 7 - and waited for the bus. We got down to reception about 6:50 and believe it or not the bus didn't turn up until 8am. We were fuming. As we boarded the bus we were told that the reps of the trip had a meeting the night before and decided to change the time. Thanks for letting us know...
We drove for around 10 mins to a coach park where we sat for about 30 mins surrounded by about 3 other coaches, we were then told to all board one coach, there was literally just enough seats for everyone, where we had over an hours journey to where we got on the catermaran. After about an hour on the catamaran and a group of very drunk and loud spanish teenagers later we arrived at Soana island which was absolutly beautiful. There was a beach bbq and drinks but this was ruined by being swamped with mosquitos. There were hundreds of them, we were contantly batting them away and we got bitten alive and came up in some nasty large purple lumps. Thank god we had taken our course of maleria tablets.
After about 2 hours on the island we got into speed boats and stopped at a natural lagoon in near the coast. We were told there would be an abundance of star fish, but we couldnt find any and the tour guide managed to dig up one and the poor thing was passed around about 200 people. After that we got back in the speedboat and it was back to shore for another hour journey back to the coach park, and then another minibus to the hotel. We got back just after 7pm so it was a very long day in the sun and even though we enjoyed it, I don't think it was worth the $200 we paid for it. Most of the day was spent travelling.
One day with the american couple we met we faniced going to the local shopping mall, we boarded the free bus that the hotel puts on and went to another hotel to pick another passenger up. Unfortunatly we ended up in another coach park and ushered into a strange looking room with some other tourists which turned out to be the local cigar making factory. I was NOT impressed!! The strong stence of them rolling cigars gave me an instant headache and the man from the other hotel was a total chatterbox and decided to follow us around WITH his hence cigar blowing it all in our faces. We demanded to be taken back to the hotel after about an hour of being there and the whole history of cigars later....
We didn't make it to the mall...
Its a shame you can't go out on your own - this is NOT recommended as its too dangerous - you see locals carrying around machettes and the driving is just unbelievable. Numerous times in the taxis/minibuses we didnt think we would make it out alive. There are hitchhikers in the middle of the motorway and gangs on motorbikes, hookers on the streets etc. It did make me feel uneasy whenever we was out even with tour guides etc. That is the only downside for me.
All in all the holiday was fab and the hotel was lovely. We had a great time there and the weather was great, few days of rain but this should be expected in rainy/hurricane season. Other than that the weather was HOT HOT HOT and humid most days which was a delight from the cold summer we had in the UK this year.
We were sad to leave but most of our US friends headed home after a week - they are so lucky to live to close!! - so our second week was a lot quieter yet we still didn't want to leave the sun and paradise of the Dominican Republic.
I would recommend this hotel to younger couples and maybe families and there is lots to do, its a lovely modern hotel with great food drinks and staff.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.