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Iberostar Bavaro Review

I stayed at the Iberostar Bavaro, in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, in January 2014. I had travelled to Punta Cana once before in 2008 and remembered the amazing beach, crystal clear water, friendly people and beautiful weather, which was what made me interested in returning. There were a few reasons we decided on this 4.5 star resort in this location, including the beautiful beach, the fairly reasonable price (between $1500-$1700/person), and the reviews on Trip Advisor that rated it a 4.5 star.

Check In: We arrived to the resort around 9:00pm after about a 20 minute drive from the airport. There were 3 staff manning the front desk and check in went pretty fast. We didn’t receive any welcome cocktails or cool towels (or maybe they were warm towels? I didn’t get to feel them!), but we did observe others who arrived at different times in the week receive these things so it may have been because of our evening arrival. We had someone drive us and our bags to our room and carry up our luggage.

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There were Peacocks and Flamingos wandering the resort which was lovely

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Filtered Flamingo 😉

Room: This resort consists of 596 “junior suites”. The room we had was on the second floor, which I requested. It was spacious, with a King sized bed (also requested), and a small sitting area. It also had a balcony with a sitting area and a drying rack for bathing suits etc., which I had not seen in a resort before and found very useful. The bathroom was spacious and provided as much privacy as a frosted glass door can provide. It had a large glass shower and a small bathtub, but the bathtub looked stained and quite old, so we did not use it. There was a full sized hair dryer which was a nice surprise, not just one of those mini ones that always sucks your hair in through the back (does this happen to other people?!). There is a mini fridge that is stocked every other day with some water, pop, and beer. There is a flat screen TV that had about 10 English channels. The room was always very clean with plenty of clean towels. We received turndown service also so the room was basically cleaned twice daily, with fresh towels every time. The only exception to this was on our last night when they left our dirty dishes from room service, which isn’t a huge deal, except you don’t want ants etc.

Overall the room was comfortable, if not a little dated. The curtains and furniture could be more modern as could the bathtub. Apologies for lack of photos.

Food and Restaurants: For breakfast there is the large buffet by the lobby open until 10:00, which I only made it to once as I was on vacation…. 🙂 The one time I did make it the selection seemed wide, but I stuck to potatoes, fruit and bacon. Either way there is a lot of food so I don’t think you will go hungry. I’m not a super picky eater, but I found the food was lacking in the appetizing department at all meals. There is also a “continental” breakfast, which is just a smaller version of the main buffet, at the pool buffet and it had the same type of stuff. It was open until 11:00 or so.

For lunch we always ate at the pool buffet and pretty much ate the same foods every day, as we figured out what we liked, and stuck with it. They have a grill going there with steaks and pork chops and I tried the steaks a couple times. They were thin and contained a lot of fat, but had a nice flavour from the grill. I loved the roast chicken and ate it daily with no side effects.

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My lunch everyday

For dinner you can eat at the main lobby buffet, or reserve at the a la carte restaurants. Because guests at the Bavaro can use the restaurants and bars at the two adjacent Iberostar resorts (Dominicana and Punta Cana) there are lots of a la cartes to choose from including: Mexican, Mediterranean, Japanese, Cajun, Steakhouse, Gourmet, and “American style diner”. You can book as many reservations as you want (we had reservations every day), but only 3 at a time, which is probably so everyone has a chance to book. The food at these restaurants was better than at the buffet (OPINION ALERT!) with the best meals being at the Cajun Jambalaya restaurant.

There is also room service provided 24 hours with a small but different menu than you see at the restaurants. The chicken fingers were really good off this menu.

Overall I say the food is “hit and miss”. I definitely ate something that made me sick, as did my travel partner, so I feel like being cautious (or more cautious than I already was surviving only on French fries, pizza and bread the first couple days) is a must.

Drinks were easily accessible at the several bars and in restaurants, but we were only asked if we wanted anything by the pool twice the week we stayed. There is a beach bar with a full drink menu as well as snacks (hot dogs on a stick) but no service on the beach. The only note about the drinks themselves is you really don’t know what you’re getting. You can order the same thing several times and get a different tasting drink every time. Variety…?!

Pool and Beach: There is one large pool that is sort of sectioned into areas, as well as a great looking splash pad area for kids. In the large pool there was a shallow section with a gradual entry, and a deep end. There is also a swim up bar in another section. We never had a problem getting chairs at the pool. The animation team is often trying to get people who are sitting around the pool involved in things, so it does get loud.

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Pool

The beach is beautiful, clean and large. You can walk for a long time and check out the other resorts and there are some shops with souvenirs that you can shop/barter in, but there aren’t a lot of people bugging you to buy things on the beach. Also, if you snorkel, there are some reefs in the swimming area in front of this resort and some great fish to look at! Nice to not have to pay to go somewhere to see some fish. We brought our own snorkel gear, but you can use some for free for one hour a day from the dive shop by the beach. The water can be pretty wavy here but there were lots of people in the water all the time. It’s crystal clear and very warm.

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Beach

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Filtered Beach 😉

Entertainment & Activities: Besides the awesome and hilarious people watching, there is a disco that’s kind of neat and decorated with a giant plane (the cockpit is the DJ booth and the wing the bar top), there is also a sports bar that does Karaoke after 10:00. The lobby bars and shows are always busy…but we didn’t watch the shows. Sorry! There is also a casino that has slot machines, blackjack, roulette, and poker.

During the day there is always a game or activity by the pool and beach, as well as archery, aerobics, beach volleyball nets and soccer nets.

The only excursion we did was an awesome day of Surfing…. more to come on that in another post 🙂

Service: I don’t know if I can keep my opinions out of this one… Maybe I should say that I don’t feel like they are wanting repeat customers at this resort. Often asking a question lead to being cut off by a staff person who didn’t seem to be having a good day. One waiter at the Mexican restaurant actually didn’t speak or smile, he just handed a menu then came back and pointed to said menu as to say “what do you want” (and yes I did hear him speak so he was able). We ordered room service one night and after an hour hadn’t received it so we called and were told they had come to our room and had called us a bunch of times (we were sitting there starving and anxiously awaiting…). When we suggested they may have gone to the wrong room we were dismissed. They said another ten minutes, which came and went. I called to cancel it and the man on the phone did not apologize for any of this. Then about 20 mins later it showed up and was clearly the food that would have been ready the hour and a half before, cold and not edible. That same night we had a reservation for the steakhouse but then arrived to a “welcome dinner” (farewell I suppose as it was our last night) and we were not allowed to order off the delicious looking a la carte menu as it was just a normal buffet for the dinner. I was hungry that night….

Our last impression was during check out when we asked if our bags could be locked up in the storage room since we didn’t leave until 4:00. We were told no, but others we saw later had been able to store theirs.

Overall these are a lot of little things that just left us feeling frustrated at the end of the week. I will say that I am aware others we spoke to told us in no uncertain terms they would be returning, so they obviously had a different impression/experience.

So.. Pros and Cons???

Pros: The beach, weather, pool and fact that you can get chairs at the pool (although the pool isn’t fancy), and being able to use the restaurants and bars in the other 2 resorts.

Cons: The food, service, and overall dated feeling of the resort.

I would not return to this resort in the future.

Have any questions? Let me know!!
Have a Fabulous Trip 🙂

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Azul Fives Hotel Review

I travelled to the Azul Fives hotel by Karisma, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, in December 2013. It was my first time to Mexico and was travelling with a group for a wedding. This resort is considered a “boutique hotel” so it is not a huge resort. It should be noted that we were staying with the “gourmet inclusive” package.

Check-In: We arrived at the resort after about a 45min-1 hour drive from the airport. As we were with a group, the check in was probably a bit different than if you are just one party, but it went quickly regardless. They actually take your photo and give you a card with your photo on it as your room key. This card also serves in place of the traditional wrist band you often receive at all inclusive resorts (you have to show it at restaurants etc.). Our rooms were not ready as we arrived around noon, so they kept our bags and asked us to come back in a couple hours. Our rooms were ready quickly and we returned in about an hour and we’re taken by golf cart to our room with our bags.

Room: The room was a standard room with two double beds. The bathroom was an “open concept” as it had a large open area with two sinks and then the toilet was in one frosted glass “box” and the shower was in another. The shower and toilet shared a frosted glass wall which felt a bit odd as you could see the shadow and outline of the person on the toilet while showering and vice versa. The shower had a waterfall shower head. There was a flat screen TV with some English channels; maybe ten. The balcony had a nice sitting area as well. There was a mini fridge that was restocked daily with water, pop, beer and snacks (which were two bags of plantain chips), and also a complimentary bottle of champagne on ice. The rooms were cleaned daily and fresh towels were provided, we never had an issue with the cleaning services.

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The Room

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The bathroom. Behind the glass is the toilet and shower.

Restaurants and Bars: For breakfast there is the main buffet that had all the basics, lots of breads, bacon, French toast, omelettes, as well as some Mexican dishes like fresh made tacos, guacamole, and tostadas. It was open until noon, so you didn’t have to rush there in the morning if you slept in.

For lunch there is the “sea olive” restaurant that is a sit down, menu order, full service restaurant, or the “Oriola” beach grill that has a long list of different burgers, as well as salads and wraps, which is also a full service restaurant. I personally am used to buffet lunches in AI’s so this was new. I will say I loved the food here (OPINION alert!), but I also sometimes wished I could just grab something to eat at my own pace and not wait for service. A couple of people in our party ended up waiting for about an hour for lunch on more than one occasion. (Note: the hotel website actually provides menus online so you can see what they have which is nice).

For Dinner the buffet is open some days, or you can go to the Sea Olive without reservations. Otherwise you can reserve at the a la cartes, which are Italian or Japanese. We ate at all of the options for dinner and were very satisfied with the meals. The portions are very small (the chicken gnocchi was about 12 pieces of gnocchi and 3 little strips of chicken breast, about an two inches long). We always ordered appetizers, soups and desserts at dinner and that did the trick. The Italian restaurant did have one night that was adults only, but otherwise the restaurants all seemed family and kid friendly with toys available for children to use while in the restaurant.

There is also a couple of snack bars by the pools that have very quick service of things like fresh tacos and pizzas. Room service is also provided 24 hours and has an extensive menu (filet minion!)

Overall I loved the food here. There was a lot of variety and I felt safe eating everything and no one got sick. The drinks were very sweet and we ordered Mojitos with no sugar or “not very sweet” all week. There is plenty of drink service at the pools as well as at swim up bars.

Pools and Beach: There are two pools at this resort. The main pool is an infinity pool overlooking the beach. It’s not very deep, about up to my shoulders (I am 5’7″ FYI), but has shallow areas for kids as well. The other pool winds through the villas where rooms are located. It was less busy, but had some great loungers that sat right in the water which was a nice touch. Swim up bars at both pools as well as drink service. We never had a problem finding chairs at either pool, but the Resort was not even close to capacity while we were there.

The beach was very nice, clean and private so people weren’t bugging you to buy things etc. The water was often very wavy with a “red flag”, but people were swimming every day. They have chairs and beds for people to lounge on, on the beach.

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The infinity pool and swim up bar!

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The beach…and my attempt to blur out the volleyball players 😉

Entertainment and Activities: We booked a snorkelling excursion through the hotel (the guy has a little shack on the beach beside the infinity pool), and were really happy with it. You get to rent the boat for 3 hours with your group and the guide took us to Puerto Morelos reef, which is amazing (in my OPINION)! We saw sting rays, a giant eel, a sea horse, and tons of tropical fish. We also stopped to take some pictures with amazing star fish…ensuring to get them back in the water right away of course.

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There were evening shows, such as the standard Michael Jackson themed show, as well as a beach party, fire show, and a casino themed night where they give you fake money to play games with and provide prizes. The Skybar is a beautiful lounge/nightclub on the third floor that has a large patio overlooking the ocean and pool. It has nightclub music and dancing until 1:00am. During the day there is archery, pool games, beach volleyball and a table where you can paint pottery and do crafts (lots of kids doing this).

Service: I thought the service here was great (OPINION alert). There were a few times the service in the restaurants was slow, but the staff were always very friendly and helpful. I found the animation team to be refreshingly calm. By this I mean they would only ask once if you wanted to join an activity and if you said no they would leave you be, which I personally prefer. Also they would just be around to chat, get to know you, or play a game of beach volleyball without it being a scheduled activity. They also provide a personal concierge service for reserving a la carts, booking excursions etc. which makes these things quick and easy.

So…pros and cons???

Pros: The food, service, modern look and feel of the hotel, infinity pool, beach and ocean.

Cons: Drinks are very sweet, not a big energetic resort if that’s what you want.

I would return to this resort for sure.

Have a fabulous trip!