The Dominican Republic’s Punta Cana peninsula is the up-and-coming riviera of the Caribbean, reminiscent of some of the resort strips that were developed in Mexico (Acapulco, Riviera Maya) and the Bahamas. Increasingly, the Caribbean is also becoming a favorite getaway spot not just for North Americans, but for Europeans as well — both those who are escaping the cold of the winter months and those who are looking to spend their long summer vacation in a location cheaper than the pricey Eurozone. To supply this growing demand comes the Spanish-chain Barcelo, known for its classy hotels in key cities worldwide, and more recently, its resorts in the booming tourist markets of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
The Barcelo Bavaro Beach is now one of six Barcelo properties in the Dominican Republic, half of which are in the Punta Cana-Bavaro resort zone alone. In fact, the Bavaro is a dual property in and of itself: the Bavaro Beach and the adjacent Bavaro Palace Deluxe; the former is reserved for adults only, while the latter accommodates families with children as well. Naturally, Bavaro Beach guests can patronize all the restaurants and facilities of the Palace Deluxe as well (with the exception of two Palace Deluxe restaurants requiring a modest supplement or membership in Club Premium, which provides an array of additional perks).
And the combined property complex offers a wide variety of dining options, from lavish buffets to gourmet a la carte restaurants with dress codes. The Bavaro Beach boasts the El Caribe buffet restaurant, offering huge spreads for breakfast, lunch and dinner; La Brisa seaside restaurant, open for buffet lunch and a la carte dinner specializing in Mediterranean cuisine; and Chez Gourmet, the most elegant of the three open for dinner only. The choices at the Palace Deluxe extend to a total of 11 restaurants, including two buffets (international and Dominican) a sports bar and wine bar, plus dinner dining options offering French, Spanish, Mexican, Italian and Japanese cuisines, as well as a seafood restaurant and a steakhouse. Barcelo will also set up a cabana on the beach in the evening for couples desiring a private, romantic candlelit dinner.
It is hard to walk anywhere in the complex without finding a bar close at hand. There are three at the Bavaro Beach, including a swim-up bar, and many more within the confines of the Palace Deluxe, which also offers a coffee, rum and cigar bar, featuring Cuban, Dominican and Honduran cigars, as well as Barcelo’s own brand of premium rum. And these do not include the bars at the entertainment venues, which are also plentiful: theaters with nightly performances and revues in both parts of the resort, a disco for late-night dancing, and even an on-site casino.
There is, of course, a plethora of daytime activities: a water sports center with equipment for a variety of motorized and non-motorized pursuits (some requiring an additional fee); tennis and basketball courts; soccer and baseball fields (the Dominican Republic has produced some of Major League Baseball greatest stars; beach and water aerobics; even an 18-hole miniature golf course (illuminated in the evening). In addition, there are two outstanding attractions: The Barcelo “The Lakes” championship golf course, designed by P. D. Dye; and a terrific indoor and outdoor children’s play center, where parents can drop their kids off for an entire day’s activities under the watchful eye of professionals, from morning til night, while the adults indulge in their own leisurely pursuits.
Ranking high on that list is relaxing on Bavaro Beach, ranked by National Geographic as one of the world’s top 10 beaches. Or, there is the sumptuous U-Spa, offering indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy circuits, hot and cold whirlpools, Turkish baths and saunas. Massages and facials may be booked separately or combined in a menu of signature Barcelo treatments.
With all this going on, guests may end up spending little time in their rooms. But nights will certainly be restful in the Bavaro Beach’s 589 rooms and suites, since there are no children to make any noise. The largest bloc of accommodations at the Bavaro Palace Deluxe consists of 800 recently refurbished deluxe junior suites, with sea views, balconies and jacuzzis. But there also hundreds of rooms, suites and even duplexes that sleep families of up to six. All rooms are equipped with 32″ flat-screen LCD TV’s with USB and DVD connections, digital clock radios with iPod docking stations, wireless Internet access (free for Club Premium members), coffeemakers and minibars.
The Bavaro complex has been awarded coveted Blue Flag status by the Europe-based Foundation for Environmental Education, for its commitment to sustainable practices.
Published rates: Bavaro Beach: $133-$306; Bavaro Palace Deluxe: $148-$340. Golf and wedding packages are also available.