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Macao Surf Camp Review

While I was planning the trip to Punta Cana I was trying to find something fun and a bit different to do while we were there. I had been once before and had done a snorkelling and catamaran excursion, and we had just done a lot of great snorkelling in Mexico, so I really wanted to do something different. I remembered that when I had been in Puerta Plata years ago, we had gone to Cabarete which had a big windsurfing community. I looked into it a bit more and found that there is a large surf community and culture in Dominican Republic and a surf camp with outstanding reviews near our resort in Punta Cana – Macao Surf Camp. I corresponded with them via email before we went down and set up private lessons one morning during our trip. They confirmed the reservation, let me know we would pay when we arrived and asked me to email them when we got to our resort to confirm.

The day of our lesson the van arrived to pick us up from our resort just a few minutes late, and we joined a group of people who had been picked up from different resorts on the way to the beach. There are four options for pick up times and they depend on where your resort is. Ours was close to the beach so we were picked up at 10:30am, but there was also an earlier pick up time and two afternoon times. The trip from our resort, the Iberostar Bavaro, was pretty quick; I would say 20-30 minutes max. The beach is an absolute gorgeous sight to pull up to. Beautiful water, clean sand, and waves! It is a local, public beach which was kind of neat, but a lot of tours stop there so it does have a touristy vibe as well. When we arrived to the surf school shack there were a lot of instructors and people sitting around, looking at us, and we really didn’t know what to do or where to go. Eventually it was figured out and we were given rash guards and a place to put our stuff. Just a note, we weren’t actually given lockers like it says in the Trip Advisor reviews, which wasn’t a big deal because if they stole my money they wouldn’t be getting paid for the lesson, but it may make some people feel uneasy. After a few minutes of standing around we were told to come to the sand for the first part of the lesson.

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Macao Beach

The beach lesson was taught by an older gentleman who spoke english well and was able to explain very clearly what we needed to do. He seemed to really know his stuff and I would bet he was a seasoned pro. After about 15 minutes of the sand instruction we were ready for the water and a group of instructors walked us down the beach to the spot we would be surfing. Note: for any avid surfers out there, this is a beach break so it is a nice sandy bottom, no reef to worry about crashing into. Now, the surf instructors did not really speak English, which made me think they were making fun of me because I couldn’t understand them… lol…I wish I spoke more Spanish!! Even though there was a language barrier, they had every single person in the water up on their boards, surfing the waves. If they wanted you to move back on your board they would just gently tug on your ankle or show you what your body should be doing (it’s like surfing charades!!) There were 5 of us in the group and probably 6-7 instructors in the water with us, plus the photographers….that’s right! Probably the best part of this was that they took professional photographs the entire time!! They took some of my boyfriend and I on the beach, posing with the surfboards and coconuts, and tons of us in the water. We bought the CD of about 400 photos for $50.00 which was awesome. Such a great keepsake!

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Sand Surfing

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This guy watched the whole time 🙂

Overall this was a great day. We were in the water for about 2 hours, with about a 15-20 minute coconut water break in the middle…which I desperately needed. I honestly headed in about 10 minutes before the others as my body was exhausted!! I caught lots of waves and also have photographic evidence of many wipe outs 🙂 While we walked back to the Surf Shack after the lesson the instructors broke their English out to ask us if we would be tipping them well, so we gave our instructors each $10.00. Total cost for the day was about $150.00 per person for transportation to and from the resort, surf lesson, rash guard and board rental, and photos. I would go back to this beach and surf again for sure, but since I’m so experienced now (ha!) I would probably just rent a board and skip the lesson 😉

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Have a fabulous trip! 🙂

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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 🙂