I found it to be a really nice experience. Reading some of the reviews seems like some folks I complained about the facilities, the food, etc, but I thought it was all great. I haven't visited other resorts in Punta Cana, but I was really happy with our time here. I've broken down our visit in sections below and rated them individually.
STAFF- The staff are very nice here. Friendly and seem to enjoy working there. Many of them live on site for a period of 10-12 days and then go back to their home town, so it is likely that you'll see the same people over and over again while you are there.
It seems like people really enjoy their work and are happy to be there.
Because I was noticeably pregnant during our stay, staff were extra nice and went out of their way to help us.
Language -- people are cool with you practicing Spanish even if you butcher it. I found that the staff would speak Spanish with you first, and would wait for you to reply to figure out which language you needed them to speak back to you. I personally liked that. All the wait staff and bartenders can manage basic English to get you taken care of if you don't speak Spanish(and it seemed to be they were also speaking in French and possibly Russian as well).
If you need someone who speaks your language (English, French, Russian) the best place is to start at the front desk or customer service. Don't expect the gardeners and baggage guys to be able to speak your language. I heard people complaining about this, and was surprised--- come on people--- it is a Spanish speaking country! You can't expect all the staff to have fluent English. The front desk and customer service people are all good communicators, so they are the ones to go to if you have any requests or issues. With everyone else, I recommend practicing your Spanish.
My advice--- pick up a few basic Spanish phrases and courtesies and you'll feel empowered -- how to ask for drinks, food and other basic necessities since that is where you mostly interact with people.
After a day or two, I wondered "where are the bugs?" For a tropical climate, I saw almost no bugs, and only a few mosquitoes. I expected a lot more, but just didn't see them. Either IFA keeps stuff VERY clean or they just aren't around here.
I have to say, this place is more beautiful than they show on the website. It is VERY clean, and the buildings and gardening are beautiful. They have a variety of different pools and areas to hang out for people who want more activities or more relaxation. Something for everyone and whatever mood you're in.
However, a lot of walking is required if you aren't in one of the rooms right by the main eating area and reception. If you're in a standard room, you'll most likely have to walk about .5 to .75 mile to the reception and dining area.
ROOMS- We started off in the standard rooms which were really far from the beach and dining halls. The rooms themselves were fine. Clean, with basic necessities and lovely gardening all around. We upgraded to a "superior" room the last few days which was closer to the dining hall because I'm pregnant and got pretty tired from walking back and forth for food, drinks, entertainment, the beach, and the pool.
One thing about the superior rooms-- if you're not a couple just note that the showers have a glass wall so other people in your room can see you bathing. So if you're coming with friends or parents or something, just note that you might want to ask about that while you are booking to be sure you have the private shower wall.
I saw complaints about the beds on some reviews. I thought the beds were very comfortable. We sleep on a firm mattress at home, and this one was slightly softer than a standard firm mattress in the US.
FOOD---The theme restaurants are fun--- and a neat experience to mix up the variety. The food is not drastically different in any of them, but the ambiance is varied. These provide a nice quiet break from the busy dining hall environment.
If you're a vegetarian, there is stuff here for you, although you might get a little tired of the food because most of the variety is in the fish, chicken, and egg cuisines. I feel like there was a lot of European food in the dining hall. I think they do a good job of appealing to the European crowd. (But I'm an American, so it could just be my perception. For a more accurate review about European preferences, check a European's review.)
If you're a spicy lover, you might want to bring a hot sauce of your choice, because the food is not all that spicy overall, and the hot sauces aren't all that varied. A minor point, but if you can't live without your hot food, this would help.
We went during the busy season in late January and the place was pretty busy. Short waits for food, tables, pool chairs and things like that. But if you live in a big city or are used to having a lot of people around you, I don't think you'll be bothered by this one bit. As an American, it took me 2 days before I met any other Americans. When we went it was mostly Canadians (English and French speaking), French, Russians, and Germans.
When we went there were a LOT of smokers, so for Americans who aren't used to people smoking in restaurants and all over the place, just be aware of where you're sitting so you're not stuck next to a chain smoker at breakfast.
We heard some people complaining about other rude guess, but I wasn't bothered by it at all. We mostly kept to ourselves, were polite to other guests, didn't mess with people's stuff on the beach or pool chairs, waited in line like civilized people, and just practiced basic courtesies. We had no problems whatsoever.
OVERALL - we really enjoyed our experience and would go back here.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- IFA Villas Bavaro Resort & SPA is situated on the fine, white sands of Playa Bavaro. Bordered by a fabulous coral reef and surrounded by turquoise-colored waters this extraordinary vacation complex offers its guests a friendly, luxurious environment for sports & cuisine with its 6 charming restaurants and 7 spectacular bars, colorful tropical shows, a wide range of facilities and services especially designed to ensure an unforgettable stay right in heart of the Caribbean. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Ifa Hotel Punta Cana
- Ifa Hotel Bavaro
- Ifa Bavaro Villas
- Ifa Villas Bavaro Beach Resort & Spa
- Villas Bavaro
- Ifa Villas Bavaro Punta Cana