My wife and I, along with two other couples, spent a glorious week at the Royal Catalonia Bavaro (12Feb-19Feb, 2011). It was more than a nice transition from the -44° (yes, I said negative 44°) clutches of the northern Montana winter in which we were mired…..
We chose this place, mostly based on the number of positive reviews we read on Trip Advisor. The few negative comments we read seemed to have a few common themes: 1) musty room, 2) power interruptions, 3) loss of hot water, 4) communication issues. While these all of these thee issues occurred while we stayed there, they had NO impact on how wonderful this resort was. The rooms are musty? Duh….it’s the tropics. Damp Rid and AC worked very well to remedy this problem. Even if it would’ve remained musty, it’s not that big of a deal, and definitely something that you can get used to. Good luck finding any hotel in the Caribbean that isn’t musty…. Yes, the power went out once or twice a day or night for no more than a half hour at a time. Minor inconvenience at most. So if you’re vacationing goal is to enjoy consistent electricity 100% of the time, as opposed to the 99.5% consistency here, then you may want to vacation somewhere else. Hot water issues occurred once or twice while we were there, but again….we were there for the weather, the beaches, and the recreation, not the utilities. We had our share of communication difficulties, but we were VISITORS in a Spanish-speaking country. We English-speaking, Italian-speaking, etc) are the ones that present a communication barrier. It was fun to learn a few new words in Spanish, and the staff worked hard to make sure that you were understood. That being said, let’s move on…..
Food: None of the people in our group could say we had a bad meal. We had some meals that were better than others, but all were quite tasty. My personal favorite was Sea Blue. Very good food for lunch and for supper, and home to the most charismatic and friendly staff at the resort. Get to know Reuben, Armstrong (he was all over the resort), and Francisco. The club sandwich, the cheeseburger, the spring rolls, and the grilled lobster (beach party night) were consistently wonderful. The Japanese restaurant was excellent, but a little hot….dress as if you’ll be cooking over the grill; which I actually did. The Mexican restaurant was also quite good, although more of a combination of Caribbean-Mexican, which was great. Cata Tapas was a lot of fun, and was an excellent opportunity to sample a variety of unique appetizer-type entrees. We actually ate at Cata Tapas as a pre-supper, because we had heard the portions were not that substantial. This was a beautiful facility. Thalassa was consistently good as well, with very friendly and accommodating staff. We ate breakfast at the Thalassa 3-4 times, and it was a nice, fresh, buffet style breakfast with made-to-order omelettes. They also have a do-it-yourself Bloody Mary station, which is the breakfast of champions in the Dominican Republic, I’m told. The Rodeo Steak house had excellent steak (try the Rodeo Steak), but very unpleasant service. Maybe it was the fact that they were forced to wear the lamest “cowboy” uniforms in history…I don’t know….The buffets were, well….buffets, and did the trick, but weren’t to die for. Your time is much better spent at the restaurants, rather than the buffets. The brick-oven pizza was pretty good, but stay away from what is being touted as a burger at this little place, because it is awful; the only thing at the whole resort that I would consider bad at all.
Bars: We spent a vast majority of our time being served drinks on the beach by our new friends Roberto and Adelso. Get to know these fellas and tip them often, because they will treat you right. They are wonderful people, and will take the time to get to know you, and I would recommend getting to know them, as well. These guys were two of our group’s favorites, and will be missed. I was truly impressed when in saw Adelso take the tip money we had just given him, and hand it to the guy that was raking up the beach and picking up garbage. Royal Catalonia Bavaro manager: if you’re reading this, give these two a raise, as they are an important factor in our decision to schedule another trip to your resort in a couple years. If you want better alcohol than what is being served, just ask, and you’ll get it if they have it. Our time spent on the beach with these guys will be remembered fondly, and we can only hope they’ll be there when we make our return to “The Dom.” The swim-up bar on the royal side was great, and Carlos and Hector are friendly and skilled bartenders. The bar next to the Japanese restaurant was nice, and Candy treated us very well, although she helped produce what was a pretty astounding headache the “day after,” by mixing us her “Candy Especial.” We didn’t hit many other bars, as we spent most of our time on the beach.
Beach: At least one of us got to the beach semi-early (somewhere between 7:30 and 9:00 AM) every day to reserve us a good spot every day. There really aren’t any bad spots except by the juice bar, where the wasps seemed to be buzzing about pretty good. We wanted a spot close to the bar, and to the water, and we stayed in the same general area every day. I didn’t feel bad about reserving a spot with a towel, as we spent literally all day on the beach. The sea grass on the beach was consistent, but a non-factor, and they were constantly cleaning/removing this. There are abundant palapas for shade, if desired. There were a fair amount of topless ladies, which did not detract from our general enjoyment of the beach….
Rooms: We stayed in junior deluxe suites in Villa # 36 on the third floor. I would highly recommend staying in this villa, as it is the closest to the beach, and the quietest. We had a beautiful huge tub in our suite, as well. The third floor is nice, as you have no upstairs ruckus to disturb you. Rooms were beautiful and were very clean. There were no real drawers to speak of, but plenty of shelving for clothes, and ample room to hang items. The safe was easy to use, and secure, but bring a little flashlight to see inside it; otherwise you’ll be navigating by feel to find your cameras, credit cards, etc. It’s a good idea to pack a flashlight in case of power outages, anyways. The floors are quite slick when wet, especially when you come in from the balcony after a rainstorm, so be careful. Shower was beautiful, but quite revealing when your room door was opened. Beds are very firm, and we loved them. After a little adjustment via utilization of the “pillow menu,” I was able to find a comfortable pillow. My only complaint is that the door to the bathroom is fogged glass, and there is no lock, and the top of the glass door is open, so the bathroom is not fully enclosed. A little awkward, but again….not a big deal.
Recreation/Excursions: While briefly snorkeling at our beach, we saw many species of fish, including rays, urchins (look out), needlefish, and a Lionfish. Look closely at the sand as you’re snorkeling, as there is as species of fish that is perfectly camouflaged to match the color of the sand. This fish has both of its eyes on one side of its body and they move independently like a Chameleon’s does. Very hard to spot unless they are moving, but very cool. I had read on TripAdvisor a suggestion that you should take a roll from one of the restaurants to feed the fish, which worked quite well, as I was swarmed by fish when I began to put out pieces of bread. We took the sea kayaks out to the breakers (about 200 meters or so) and surfed in the waves a bit. We felt very safe doing this, as the water never seemed to be deeper than 4 or 5 feet at any point. If you’re thinking about taking the sea kayaks out, make sure you don’t wait around. If you need three, and you see three available, grab them, because they don’t last long. We reserved a spot on the Tropical Storm excursion a few weeks prior to our arrival, but in hindsight, reservation is probably not necessary. Our reservation proved to be a bit to our detriment, as our Hotel Beds (the company that arranged our shuttles) representative, Gavin, failed to schedule a shuttle for us. Actually, Gavin failed to do a lot of stuff for us, so avoid him if you can. He’s not affiliated with this resort, so it’s not their fault that he was inconsistent. We would recommend just scheduling your excursion at the concierge desk when you arrive. The excursion itself was a good time, and the crew does everything possible to make sure you are having a good time. If you are not a drinker, then this is probably not the excursion for you. My wife had a bit of a sour stomach, and ordered a Diet Coke a couple times, and each time received a Rum and Diet Coke. However, it turns out that the Rum and Diet Coke calmed her stomach nicely, especially after a dozen of them or so. The snorkeling was okay, probably not as good as the hotel beach for fish. There was a lot more coral to see on the excursion, than our beach however. The food on the Tropical Storm for lunch was wonderful. Take a minute or two to get to know Frenchie. He’s got some great stories to share (ask him about a night spent in Shelby, Montana). The entire crew seemed to have a great time right along side the guests. Looking back, I think we would probably do a half-day excursion the next time we go. Not because the excursions aren’t fun, but more because we just enjoyed our time at the resort so much, and a full day away from our beach was hard to take. We heard the dune buggy tour was fun, as well.
Miscellaneous: The juice bar on the south end of the beach makes amazing non-alcoholic fruit drink concoctions. My only regret is that I didn’t visit this juice bar every day. Security at the hotel was adequate and consistent. We only had hotel approved people on the beach trying to sell us excursions, but this was no big deal as they were all pretty friendly, and not that frequent. When we went on our excursion, we sailed past a bunch of other resorts on Punta Cana’s beaches, and we were all quite relieved to return to the relative calmness of our beach area. Granted, the other resorts may have had less sea grass and better snorkeling, but they also had hundreds of little kids selling coffee beans, aggressive vendors, trash, flying boats (yes, you read that correctly), and the ever-present “speed-boat tour,” which, basically was a bunch of people that have never driven a boat before following a guide around the water at 30-40 mph while darting in and out of sailboats, catamarans, etc. In short, the other resort beaches appeared to be much louder, and very, very busy. Coming “home” to our beach was a nice feeling. The little market just past the southern end of the property is basically a bunch of little huts all selling the same stuff. They are aggressive with their sales approach, but are open for negotiations on price, obviously. Staying on the Royal side (adults only) is the way to go, if you don’t have kids. This way you can use all of the services/establishments on the Royal side as well as the Bavaro side. The pool area at the Bavaro side was very cool, and had a swim up bar, but was always very busy and noisy. The grounds, especially on the Bavaro side, are unbelievable, and immaculately maintained. The entire resort is very clean, and there is always someone working to keep the grounds well-manicured.
One final tip: TIP. Tip these people. They work HARD for their money, and a dollar here or there goes a long ways in helping them out, and helping you out. Each couple in our group took about $150 in ones and fives, and I know for a fact that we were treated better because of our “dollar-a-round” (at least) philosophy. We also tipped a couple bucks a day to the housekeepers, which ensured that we had a stocked fridge and fresh towels.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Enjoy the authentic Caribbean at an exclusive, adults-only resort. Its small details make big your stay and the personalized service you receive will make you feel as if you were in heaven. Exclusive suites, innovative restaurants, dreamlike swimming pools…relax in this tropical paradise and enjoy the best vacation you’ve ever had. Have an extraordinary experience, and leave the worrying to us; we’ll take care of you. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Catalonia Royal Bavaro Hotel Punta Cana
- Catalonia Royal Bavaro Punta Cana
- Royal Catalonia Bavaro