The last week of September I visited the beautiful 5 star Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe in the Punta Cana region of the Dominican Republic (affectionately known as the DR) as part of my participation in a company retreat. So I guess you could call this a work trip but it certainly didn’t feel like it! Despite visiting during hurricane season, we were fortunate to have had perfect weather the entire 5 days we were there…just missing Hurricane Matthew, which sadly wrought havoc on the DR and even more so neighboring Haiti. My prayers and well wishes go out to all of those affected by this horrendous storm. If you are going to travel to Punta Cana or anywhere in the Caribbean for that matter, just note hurricane season is from June through November so you are always at risk of getting tricky weather during that time.
Nearly 2,000 of my partners from across the globe converged upon this expansive resort, which boasts 1600 rooms, 11 restaurants, and a luxury spa, which was my absolute favorite part of the resort. The resort also sits on a 1.2 mile long beach, one of the best in Punta Cana, which is on the top 10 list of the best beaches in the world. In addition to the water being the most beautiful shades of blue and green on Earth and the soft, white powdery sand feeling like a massage between your toes, the coral reef keeps the ocean calm and the sun keeps it warm, which makes for just about the perfect beach experience there is…well at least for a beach bum like me.
The accommodations were one of my favorite parts about this resort. Even the standard rooms, which they call superior, are spacious and have Jacuzzi adorned balconies with views of the golf course. I opted for the Junior Suite Deluxe Premium Level Oceanfront View and I’m so glad I did! If you’re wondering if premium status makes that big of a difference, the answer is a resounding YES! Where it made the most difference for me was the restaurants, which I’ll talk about in just a moment, but you also have the best ocean views (see photo below), free access to the hydrotherapy area of the spa (simply amazing) and 10% off spa services, private check-in and check-out and exclusive use of the premium level lounge, and complimentary Wi-Fi. [Something to note, we received complimentary Wi-Fi as part of our group amenities but if I had been traveling on an individual trip, this would be something I would definitely want included.]
Now onto my favorite thing to talk about from my travel adventures…food. I have to say, it was hit or miss for me. But, this is also where the premium status came through for me. I was not impressed with the main dining options. I’m not going to down buffets because all are not created equal, not even on this property. The only buffet option that was consistently good for me was La Brisa, which was on the secluded adults-only section of the property. I get it though; it’s pretty hard to stay true to “gourmet” when you’ve got 3,000 humans to feed on one property. But if that’s what you’re expecting, in my opinion, you’re not going to get that in the main dining buffet halls. When you have premium status, you have first dibs to the reservations for the specialty restaurants, which go really fast, so you want to make sure you schedule your reservations when you first arrive, especially if the resort is near or at capacity. If you have premium level, you get to schedule those reservations with your concierge upon arrival. Winning! [Side note, I think this was a function of coming in as part of a big group, but they didn’t do a good job of explaining all of the benefits of what you get for being at premium status. Make sure you review the web site and your package carefully so you don’t miss out on any sweet amenities.]
I really enjoyed the Spanish restaurant La Fuente, which makes sense because Barceló is a Spanish owned company. Even the house red wine there was superior to many of the wines we experienced at other bars and restaurants on the property. Sadly I did not get a chance to visit the French restaurant La Comedie, which is exclusive to premium level guests, but I heard from my partners it was delicious and the service was excellent. The Sante Fe Steakhouse was decent and I enjoyed my ribeye but where I found the most disappointment was in the seafood restaurant El Coral. I really wanted to love it because it is my favorite type of food but it was very inconsistent and I found myself warning my partners when they went there more about what they should NOT get than about what they should get. Stay away from the lobster bisque and clam chowder, oh and the lobster ravioli, oh and that shrimp dish, I found myself saying. I will say the crab legs were good…once we got our hands on them. They could not replenish them fast enough because they were on the seafood and salad bar and clearly everyone else thought it was the best thing in the restaurant as well. I also heard reports that the salmon was good. The grilled lobster was decent and once I had them make my own shrimp dish on the grill, it was delicious. But come on, if they qualify themselves as a gourmet restaurant, I shouldn’t have to tell them how to make a delicious dish. Yes I’m a foodie and I can be a little hard at times on restaurants but I’m just saying…
I will end on a positive note. Once I visited the spa on my fourth day there (how did that happen?), I did not want to leave so that’s where I spent the majority of the remainder of my stay. The massage itself, the relaxation room, the hydrotherapy rooms and pools…all 5 star! I would recommend spending a day there. The only critique I have is they should have a bar and a restaurant in the spa so you don’t ever have to leave!
I would have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Barceló Bávaro Palace and I would recommend it to my clients, especially those who are looking to do group functions like family reunions, company retreats and larger weddings. I know it’s hard to please everyone when you have a resort that accommodates more than 3,000 men, women and children, but in my opinion Barceló made one of the best attempts I’ve seen for a large scale all-inclusive property.
Tip: Make sure you wake up early enough one morning to catch the sunrise…it was glorious!