This was our first time to Dominican Republic, we have gone to Mexico several times. We picked Iberostar because they were in the top 12 on tripadvisor. We went with another couple Dec 1 - 10 through Westjet vacations. Don't forget the $10 visitor card Westjet gives you while in flight because when you arrive at the airport, if you don't have it, you pay $10. RIght after that, go straight thru the airport to your designated representative with signs. Their are tons of locals that are aggressive and try to grab your luggage, just to have any reason for a tip. Our bus ride was about 30 mins to the resort. The weather was around 28-29 C with one day of heavy rain, a few cloudy days but still hot and wonderful.
The lobby was large and very clean, we were welcomed with these amazing fruit punch drinks and almost no lineup. Goofy was our concierge and showed us to our rooms, he was very informative and speaks 5 languages! There were lots of shops within the hotel you can purchase souvenirs and a casino, drugstore, etc. We had a meeting with our WestJet rep (Hola Tours) the next morning to discuss the departure details and excursions you might want to do. Carlos was the best rep we've ever had during our all inclusive vacations. He provided excellent service, went out of his way to make us happy and gave us pointers while in DR. We could not have had a better rep than Carlos.
Our room was on the ground floor and we had a king size bed. And wow the bed was very comfortable. You can turn on A/C if you wanted, which we had on every night. The safe you have to pay $2/day which I thought was inexpensive. The bathroom has a hair dryer. All the plugs are compatible with North American plugs so we didn't have to use an adaptor.
We bought 60 internet minutes for $10 where you went into an Internet Cafe.
You get a towel card when you check in and redeem for a towel between 9 - 6 by the pool. You can always keep the towel for a couple days and/or swap it for a clean one.
One of my favourite things about the resort was the music. They usually played latin music - mostly merengue and bachata but salsa too! It really makes your stay feel exotic.
The food was great, lots of variety. I don't know how some reviewers said they could not find anything they liked - there were 7 different restaurants!! You're only allowed 3 a la carte bookings per 7 days, so since we stayed for 10 days, we were allowed 4 reservations. Most of the a la cartes had a appetizer buffet bar too. What was great about going with 3 other people, we all chose different dishes so we could split them and share amongst all.
Some days they had paella parties between the pool and ocean. And everyday they had a table with real squeezed juice (pineapple, watermelon, etc) with a selection of alcohol to add into it, so thirst quenching!
Buffet - there were always a couple choices open at the same time so you could food hop and get the best of both worlds. Lots of american foods like burgers, pasta, pizza, rice, etc.
Seafood - the salmon was delicious. And order the caramel creme desert, it's just like Creme Brûlée, soo good! Buffet during the day, reserved at night, right along the beach.
Oriental - the sushi was good, my sweet & sour dish was different from what I'm used to back home. My husband who is a picky eater (meat & potatoes man) enjoyed his Duck ragout. Located in the Bavaro side of the resort, took us a few extra minutes to find this place.
Steakhouse - is a buffet at lunch, reserved for dinner, beautiful location outside on the beach. Three of us ordered Medium Rare, but they were all differently cooked. The food was good but the least favourite out of all of the other restaurants.
Gourmet - The steak here was better than at the Steakhouse. I had the lobster which was good, followed by a cold dessert soup which tasted like vanilla, very good
Star Rock Cafe - the only a la carte restaurant that you don't need reservations for, and you can go as many times as you want. I think they were much inspired by Hard Rock Cafe with a large TV Screen for watching sports. The nachos with guacamole was great.
The only down side was that there was no swim up bar for us lazy people, but it was still very close to the pool. You could try out Scuba for free for 15 minutes which I enjoyed since I've never done it before. Lots of daily activities including aerobics, salsa lessons, spanish lessons, bingo, etc. But my husband and I love the ocean so we spent most of our time there.
The resort has huts which was a big plus for us, we did not want to burn like we have in the past. Whenever we went to the beach, we always found a lounge chair. The hotel does not allow people to save chairs by putting towels down but I don't think they checked up on it.
Everyday we saw topless women...most of them should not have been topless.
There is seaweed, you can't escape it but the staff is always raking to maintain it. The sand felt like silk and the water was a beautiful turquoise colour. There were waves but not enough to go boogie boarding. I did get a bad case of sand bug bites, and even after I got back home, new bites were coming up all over my legs and it was torture not to scratch them. You can't avoid them if you like the beach and ocean, you don't notice until later in the evening when it starts to itch, which is why they're called No See Ums. Bring after bite or hydrocortesoid cream.
You can take out a kayak for free, and if you pay for Catamaran lessons at the beginning of the trip, you can take it out for free every day.
Resort was always clean, restaurants scrubbed the grills each night, pools were clean. Service was top notch. We never encountered a rude or unhappy employee. No mosquitoes, saw a cockroach and a snail, both outside while walking on the grounds. But as my husband and I are non-smokers, we did not enjoy all the smokers throughout the resort, we could not escape walking through someone's smoke whenever we were in the lobby.
The evening shows were different every day and changed every week. It starts at 8:15 for kids, then 9:45 for adults which does contain sexual content so you may not want to take your kids. We enjoyed all the shows, the Latin show was my favourite, felt very Vegas like. The resort could improve on their pre-show which included various screenings of cartoons like Ice Age right before showgirl entertainment.
The Disco DC-6 was not happening at all! The night we went in, there was only a few people, playing pop music and the space was small. Atmosphere was not there.
There also was a Teenie Club for 13- 18 year olds to hang out and play video games or whatever.
They do not recommend leaving the resort on your own for safety and security reasons other than with group tours. We did not like this because we like to have the freedom to go wherever we want to go whenever but not in Punta Cana.
We brought professional bodyboards (boogie boards) with us, cost extra to bring a 2nd baggage item $75 going there, but $20 coming back (explain that?). We were disappointed that the waves were too small. But we did research back home and it said that Macao beach has great waves, even a surf school. Fortunately we were able to go one day. Unfortunately for us, we went the next day after the heavy rain, which meant the waves were insanely strong and too powerful. But this was our only day to go out of the resort so we attempted to swim up to the waves. Well I must say, the waves kicked our butts, we would progress a couple feet then the waves would push us back 5 feet and on and on this went. Eventually we rode on the little waves and got in around 2-3 good rides.
Booked a trip to Saona Island thru Carlos for $99 US- it is claimed to be the best beach in DR. We took a catamaran which was paradise, then arrived at a secluded beach where they only let a certain amount of tourists go at one time. The domestic drinks were free and there was a free BBQ lunch. I recommend shopping here because it was way cheaper than the Beach Market by Iberostar (I'll get to that soon). The water was clear and calm, no waves here. We also bought a coconut to drink from a hawker there, it was so refreshing! After a couple hours relaxing here, we took a speedboat to what they say is a 'natural swimming pool out in the middle of the ocean' which was really only 50 feet from the shore. And the picture in the brochure made it look like there was gonna be tons of fish and when we got there, it was as clear as a pool and not ONE fish. Eventually someone found a starfish, but I think it was planted there so they could say there was something to see. So we continued on the speedboat back to starting point dock and bus to resort.
Imagine Disco - Just a little fact: In DR, Nightclubs are strip clubs and Discos are night clubs to us. Anyways, we booked a night excursion with Carlos (for $40 includes transportation and 2 drinks, $60 includes transportation and unlimited drinks.) The bus picked us up at 11 pm, Imagine looks like a castle from the outside, then you walk down to a natural cave where the disco is, very cool! There were a couple 'rooms' that played different music but I loved the latin room. We were to be picked up at 4 am (no choice) to be taken back to the resort.
It's about 5 minute walk from the resort, probably about 30 vendors crammed into this market. Be warned: they are SHARKS. The vendors are very aggressive and fight for you to see their merchandise first. They give you free gifts like necklaces, bracelets, or key chains to make you feel guilty and buy something. Their prices are so ridiculous you can't help but laugh. I managed to buy a necklace for a quarter of their starting price. And they shake your hands, welcome you as 'family' and show you their kids pictures in their wallets. Larimar is their national stone, so they sell lots of larimar and amber jewelry.
Overall: I highly recommend this hotel, I have never felt safer on the resort. The staff are amazing and friendly. We were in the ocean every day I loved it! Great for couples and families. Lots of things to do and shows to watch, places to shop, gamble and drink!