Upon arriving at the resort, our luggage was retrieved from the shuttle and we headed to the front desk . . . where we waited. Nobody was at check-in even though in was early afternoon and I would have expected this to be a common time for people to check in. Someone was assisting a gentleman at check-out, so eventually he made his way over to us. It wasn't a terribly long wait, but was just a bit deflating to arrive at your resort after a long day of travel and not have anyone to acknowledge you. Once the check-in actually started however, it was very quick and we were also given arrival drinks. Overall, it wasn't an ideal first impression but not a big issue either. This was the last point where I felt anyone was less than enthusiastic to assist us as everyone else we encountered through the week was wonderful. I even passed a gentleman one morning who was working with the grounds crew, in long pants in the heat, dragging a large palm fronds along the trail and as soon as he saw me, he offered a very friendly smile and warm greeting - the same type of interaction we had with the room attendants, room service delivery, etc. WONDERFUL staff!
Our room was a nice location for us in the 250 building. It was close to the pool, but not overlooking it (probably a 2 minute walk). The walk up to the main building for dinner was a bit more, but still not cumbersome and quite easy to navigate. *** I will say that you need to look out for people driving on the sidewalks at night. The golf carts and mopeds travel quite quickly and don't seem to be overly cautious when passing guests. *** We were also in good proximity to the Dominicana where we visited the Casino, sports bar, etc. I think that the side of the property we were on would be more desirable than the side close to the Grand as we didn't have exchange privileges with that portion of the resort.
The room itself was nice. There were lots of little ants in the bathroom near the sink, but nothing concerning. The A/C worked great and it was nice to also have a ceiling fan. The in-room safe was convenient and worked with your own designated code so you didn't have to worry about keeping a card on you to access is like some safes on cruise ships. The refrigerator was restocked daily and there were always large bottles of water left near the coffee maker which we actually took into the bathroom and used for brushing our teeth. The water at the resort was safe to drink in all of the restaurants (and they actually didn't have bottled water as an option anywhere but in your room), but there was a sign in the rooms that the water wasn't safe from those sinks. We had no problems with any stomach issues the entire trip - neither from water or food preparation.
The pools were awesome. Zero entry is definitely the way to go! It was perfect for our family where our 4 year old daughter could go in and out of the pool without our assistance and she had plenty of space to play where she could touch or swim in the deeper areas with our supervision. There are no lifeguards anywhere. The pool was never crowded, no issues getting lawn chairs either in the sun or shade, and yet there were activities offered throughout the day if you chose to participate. It seemed that mid afternoon is when things usually picked up . . . bikini contest, water mat (one day was used by adults for a contest to run to the end and pop a balloon and another day just rolled out for the kids to run on and have fun), water aerobics, etc. I will say that after water aerobics one day, they had everyone do a conga line around the side of the pool and "tricked" us into participating in a dance session. It was fun but I know some people didn't like that they were lead away from the pool without knowing what was going on. The Star Friends were great though - left you alone if you weren't into participating in activities yet always full of energy and happy to have you join in the festivities. We did an egg toss contest on the beach one day and a tabletop game similar to shuffle board. The activities were at the pool, near the beach bar, and in the open area of sand just outside the pool area. The kiddie pool was great - about two feet deep, lots of slides and a large bucket that dumped water. It was also just next to the large pools, so it didn't feel secluded and you could easily go back and forth to each. The pools were also convenient to a poolside restaurant that did a late breakfast and right into lunch service, restrooms, and a pool bar (as well as swim-up bar). The "jacuzzi" at the center of all of the pools was not a hot tub as the water was the same temp as the other pools.
The beach had great palapas to offer shade and a place for your belongings. There was also plenty of open space to be in the direct sun, build sand castles, and play on the beach. The sand was very soft and interesting to note - no sea shells could be found. It made walking on the sand comfortable, but disappointed our daughter a bit. I think we found two shells the entire week. We did take a small kite with us and had plenty of space to even fly it on the beach without bothering anyone.
The water was a bit rough. Fine for most adults, but too much to let our young daughter play in alone and elderly people also got knocked down multiple times. It was still better than some beaches like Cancun but nowhere near as calm as someplace like Grand Caymans.
I'd recommend taking your own insulated mugs. We had "bubba" travel mugs and they worked great. The bartenders happily filled them up for us with whatever we ordered. I drank mimosas all week, but they had several other mixed drink offerings and Presidente beer. ***If you want different beer in your room, the attendant also has another type if you ask nicely (and tip). *** The mugs were handy on the beach as service at the actual palapas was a bit spotty. It also kept your drinks much cooler than their basic cups. Very handy if you wanted to take a walk down the beach.
When walking along the beach, it seemed that Iberostar did one of the best jobs of keeping everything clean. Once or twice a day, they would come through and rake all of the seaweed and even have tractors out early to clean it - never something that was bothersome. Other resorts weren't as diligent. The coverage offered by the palapas and the style of lounge chairs also seemed better at Iberostar than some other nearby resorts.
Just on the other side of the Grand, right on the beach, were a section of huts where you could walk to and do souvenir shopping. This is where you want to haggle and get a better deal than the first quoted price. They can get a bit pushy, but overall were perfectly polite. We had a great experience with Miguel at the henna tatto booth. While getting some temporary tattoos, he was great with our daughter and explained that he had two young daughters at home as well. At the end of our trip, we took him a bag that contained some sun dresses our daughter was about to out grow and wouldn't have a chance to wear again after that trip, the kite I mentioned above, some stickers and play doh our daughter had packed to play with in the room, and a few of our leftover snacks from home (packaged peanut butter and crackers, m&m's, etc). This was quite a hit!
We thought the food was just ok. The steak restaurant on the beach was the best food and experience of the specialty restaurants. The buffet was decent with the made to order pasta being a favorite for our group. Room service was quite good as well and always very fast. We did have a poor experience at the seafood/Mediterranean restaurant where we finally walked out as the service was so slow and the food wasn't worth the wait.
The nightly entertainment was usually pretty good. Sometimes it was a bit risqué to have little ones watching, but they had separate shows for kids at an earlier time. Usually, it was good for a laugh but maybe not enough to hold your attention for the entire time unless you were just wanting to sit back, relax, and enjoy a drink or two. The casino at Dominicana was fun for a bit in the evening, but was rather small. Some slots and table games (3 card poker, caribbean stud, blackjack, and roulette) as well as a live poker table if enough people were interested in hold 'em and such. We did take a cab one night to the Hard Rock - $18 each way. You get a visitor band at the front desk and then are only allowed at the casino. This place is like what you'd expect in Vegas though - worth the trip to see if you like to gamble while still having $5 limit tables.
For the first time ever, we didn't do any type of excursions. We were at the property for 9 days and had enough to enjoy right there just with the pools and beach.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Directly on the beautiful, kilometre-long beach of Bavaro. Tropical gardens. Elegant Caribbean flair. Top 5-star luxury. 11 restaurants. First–Class international shows. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Punta Cana
- Iberostar Bavaro Punta Cana
- Bavaro Punta Cana
- Dominican Republic Bavaro
- Bavaro Cana Punta
- Iberostar Bavaro Dominican Republic
- Punta Cana Bavaro
- Iberostar Hotel Punta Cana
- Iberostar Dominican Republic