4:00 am and my phone alarm goes off. It’s pitch black and cold outside in New Jersey as Andrew and I Uber to JFK Airport with heavy eyes. The airport is empty and we have about 2 hours until our flight boards, you can say we overestimated a bit. We eventually board onto Delta Flight 482 for a smooth and pleasant 3 hour and 45 minute flight to the Dominican Republic. Getting off the plane, it was was 80 degrees, sunny and I am already in full blown vacation mode. Olympus Tours transports us from PUJ to The Barcelo Bavaro Grand Palace where we will spend an entire week.
Pulling into the resort, a bright green and perfectly manicured 18 hole golf course lines the road to the main lobby. A bellboy helped us bring our suitcases to the Premium Level Lounge where we would check in and get our cute premium level coconut shell wrist bands.
I am happy that we went for the Premium Level because we had an air-conditioned lobby with computers, couches, food, drinks and champagne accessible at all times. Since we arrived early and our Junior Suite wasn’t quite ready so we left our suitcases in the lounge and explored the resort. Andrew was starving which made the Miramar Buffet our first stop. I decided to experiment and try a few things I never had before, like quail and goat! The quail was good but I didn't like goat too much. My favorite thing quickly became my daily soft serve strawberry ice cream cone I would get after lunch and guava juice with my breakfast. I am not a breakfast person but I looked forward to it everyday. My favorite spot for breakfast was El Coral which is only available to premium level guests in the morning. It is less crowded, the food is awesome and you can sit on the balcony overlooking the resort and beach. It is the most serene way to start off the day.
Staying at Barcelo Bavaro Palace, you will have access to 11 restaurants, including 2 buffet style restaurants, a tapas bar open 24 hours a day and 6 gourmet a la carte restaurants. International cuisine options are also available, including Japanese specialties at Kyoto restaurant (MUST GO!), traditional Mexican dishes at Mexico Lindo, Italian delicacies at Dolce Vita, local meat & fish dishes at the Steak House & El Coral, as well as Spanish delicacies at La Fuente. The cocktails are unlimited at any of the 13 bars, including the club, the pool's numerous facilities and a sports bar open 24 hours a day. Guests have access to the white sandy beach & crystal clear waters of the Caribbean, as well as complimentary use of the motorized kayaks, windsurf boards, sailing boats & catamarans. Other privileges for guests includes the use of complimentary towels & sun loungers, as well as 4 pools. Guests have access to the Barcy waterpark, mini club, evening babysitting service & teen club, the casino & club (18+), performances in the Gran Teatro; including drinks, and free Merengue, Bachata, Salsa & Flamenco classes. In addition, Guests are invited to enjoy the spa that offers a full range of services, massages, and rejuvenation's treatments. At night, I loved watching the sunset, listening to the ocean waves and the distant music playing in the background. There are endless amounts of fun and activities to keep you busy all day but the nights at this resort will take your breath away.
Andrew and I spent the next few days exploring the property and relaxing on the beach and in the pool. Make sure to get up early to claim a beach chair or it gets rather difficult to find one, especially in the shade and trust me, you want one in the shade. Around noon as we are wading through the warm ocean water trying to grab the fish, we hear music start to pump and a man in a hot pink outfit starts gathering people towards beach. It was time for Aqua Aerobics and never have I ever seen it done like this before. I jumped right in and joined because everyone looked like they were having a blast. Soon enough, I was doing all the moves with a huge smile on my face. The instructor was hilarious and makes you completely forget you are exercising. From the water to a conga line onto the sand we danced, laughed and worked off our delicious buffet breakfasts. I encourage everyone that visits to take part in the Aqua Aerobics class, you are truly missing out on an amazing experience if you pass it up.
With all of that working out, you deserve a drink to two…or three at the swim up bar in the main pool, if you can even get the bartender to notice you. I felt very ignored as the bartenders helped other guests even through I had been waiting there for much longer. I have to say I was thoroughly excited about the swim up bar since we booked this trip but I was disappointed with the service. The entire week we spent at the resort, we only went to the swim up bar twice because it’s too long of a wait and people tended to be very rowdy.
Now if you want an AWESOME pool day…El Cielo is where it’s at. They have cabanas, lounge chairs in the pool, the bar isn’t packed and the bartenders serve you quickly. To reserve a cabana is only $15.00 for the day which fills up fast so book all the days you plan to spend by the pool as soon as you check in. I loved hanging out at El Cielo, having a big shaded bed was very relaxing and a huge relief from the sun. That night we attended Circus Night at Gran Teatro Bavaro right by where you check in. The performers were beautiful and highly skilled. The show had us captivated and on the edge of our seats the whole time. If Circus Night is available during your stay, it is another big recommendation from me.
Monday came around all too quickly but it was probably my favorite day in Punta Cana and it’s all because of Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures. This was an adventure that blew my expectations out of the water. You MUST MUST MUST book this excursion. It is $99.00 a person and if anything was ever worth my money in my life, it was this. It includes transportation, all the snorkeling equipment, unlimited alcohol, lunch and all the activities. The shuttle picked us up at 8:45am and brought us to their property. (Side note: What we didn’t find out until we got there was that their property begins were our resort ends so at the end of the trip we just walked back to our hotel and hung out in the adults only part of the resort for the day.) Once you get signed in and pay your remaining balance, it’s a short walk through a market and onto the transfer boat. We rode the boat to our catamaran, the Santa Maria, where we were introduced to the crew and handed our welcome drinks (alcohol optional).
Our first stop was snorkeling where we saw sea turtles, all kinds of amazing fish and beautiful coral reefs. If you are afraid of snorkeling, this is the place to try it. The guides are very alert, some stay on board and some come in the water with you. There are other boats around with people snorkeling also so it feels good to have company. We were given food to feed the fish, I have to say it was an amazing idea because the fish came right up to us and they even ate out of my hand!
After snorkeling we climbed back up into the boat and set off to the shore where they made us fresh coco loco’s. The coconut man chopped off the top of a coconut with a machete and then added rum & sugar. We hung out here enjoying the drinks, walking through the water and enjoying each others company.
While we were relaxing, on board of the Santa Maria they were cooking up what had to be the best food of my entire trip and quite possibly my life. The aromas were making my belly growl and my mouth salivate. Once it was all ready we got back on the boat and were served a plate of juicy Caribbean lobster, the freshest calamari, seasoned shrimp skewers and mahi mahi that takes your tastes buds to another level.
After stuffing ourselves like turkeys, we sailed over to the sand bar to join all the other excursions. Pulling up to a party of boats, people, music and drinks made me feel like I was in a movie. We all hopped off the boat, the water was only around 3 feet high and partied it up.
They handed us a floating raft with a bottle of rum, vodka, juice and ice. The spot in the raft was just big enough that I knew I could fit in so Andrew helped me into it. I put all the stuff on my lap and became the floating bartender.
We had such a blast at the sand bar that we didn’t want to leave. We would have been okay with them leaving us there and getting us the next day. After arriving back at the drop off point you have time to shop around the market. If you are staying at Barcelo Bavaro, you have all the time in the world because the resort is one step over the property line. We tipped our guide and let them know we were going to walk back to the resort.
Back on the resort grounds we come across a tiki hut called La Pina where I got a drink in a pineapple. It’s $5.00 but you can charge it to your room. If you get a coconut with no alcohol, it is only $1.00 and you can keep it with you the whole day and just have the bartenders fill it up with whatever drink you want instead of the usual plastic cup.
Another reason I loved being a premium level customer is that you have access to both sides of the resort, adults only and family. It’s nice spending the day over at the adults side by the pool because it isn’t as crowded but the beach on the family side is much better. After a long, exciting day we went back to the room to shower and get ready for dinner. Out of all the the places to eat at Barcelo Bavaro Palace, I have to say that Kyoto's hibachi dinner was my favorite. I was not expecting the food to be as good as it was, it was seriously the best hibachi I’ve tasted. The cook was fantastic keeping us entertained and the food was bursting with flavor. We thought about that dinner so many times afterwards. After dinner we stopped at the casino where Andrew won a couple hundred dollars and we enjoyed a few drinks while digesting our big dinner. We planned to go out that night after a quick nap that turned into not waking up until the next day. It was great too because after the day at Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures, we really needed the rest.
We took a day to relax in the cabanas on the adults only side of the resort before Wednesday came around which was our trip to La Hacienda Park! Now if you want a thrill, this is an excursion you will have to take. This is a park that will have all your senses tingling. The experience is $99.00 a person and you cannot believe the amount of things you get to do. There is horseback riding, a buggy adventure, a safari ride, zip lining, a quick jump, chairlift ride, swimming and an authentic, Dominican lunch buffet included. Not to worry, if anything on that list does not appeal to you then you can easily skip it. We got on a huge air-conditioned bus and it took about an hour and a half to get to the park because of all the stops at the other hotels which was kind of a bummer. The bus ride itself was an absolutely amazing experience. It took you through the real Dominican Republic, not all the fluff the resorts make it out to be. You go through the towns where barbershops are just a stand on a rundown piece of property, homes are just shacks with tin roofs and there are little kids riding around on dirt bikes. It really makes you appreciate how much you have in your life and what you take for granted.
Not only do you get to see real life but also the sprawling mountains, plantations with huge cattle and the beauty of untouched nature.
Once you reach La Hacienda Park you check in, get your helmets and put your stuff in the lockers. First up is a chairlift to the zip-line course which consisted of 5 different zip-lines.
To be honest I was terrified to go zip lining because I have a fear of heights. I knew I had to overcome it and La Hacienda is where I overcame my fear, took the leap and now know that I am still terrified of heights. I had a great time and I am so proud to say I went through with it. After that was over with you have an option to do a controlled jump off the tower or you can take the stairs. Still knowing my fear of heights was very much present, I did the jump, it was super easy and fun.
A short walk back to the main area leads you to the safari ride. You climb up into a military vehicle and take a bumpy ride through the park with people zip lining overhead and to a little town they created to teach you about their foods, farming and life. It was extremely educational and you even get to milk a cow!
Lunch was under a giant hut with a spread of Dominican dishes buffet style. We devoured our food and got right back to the action because horseback riding was next!
There was about 30 people in the trail ride which led us through the forest, down hills and provided you with some really amazing scenery. We stopped on the side where one of the guides picked fresh guavas off a tree and tossed them to people who wanted them (guava is now my new favorite fruit).
Dismounted from our horses and sweating from the heat, we climbed into our buggies and raced down the dirt roads, through the mud and to a natural pool where we got to cool down and rinse off all that mud.
Make sure to bring a complete change of clothes for afterwards if you want to be comfortable on the ride back, we made the mistake of not doing that. The ride back to the the hotel was long and we were completely drained which proves to me that it was just another fun filled day. That night I filled up the bathtub on our balcony, poured in the bubble bath and bath salts that were provided and soaked all my aches away while Andrew lasted about 2 minutes before passing out on the bed.
I love Barcelo Bavaro Resort because it is impossible to not have something to do there. Make sure to look over the schedule and check out as much as you can, even Bingo was exciting! Whether you want to come to relax or come to play, this resort has it all. I highly recommend going with the Premium Level just because the perks are great and make the stay that much more enjoyable.
Links & Info
Liberty Travel - Englewood, New Jersey
Travel Consultant: Bridget Kenney
Phone #: (201) 541-0104
"I loved using Liberty Travel. Bridget booked our room from 4/21/18-427/18, our Delta Airlines round trip/non-stop flights and even set up our transfer with Olympic Tours to and from the hotel. Having everything taken care of really took a lot of pressure off of me and made the trip easy and smooth. The total price we paid was $2400.00 for the both of us which included everything listed above. If you are looking to take this trip, I recommend getting in touch with Bridget to set up your vacation also"
Barcelo Bavaro Palace- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
"I recommend Barcelo Bavaro Palace as your hotel, everything about this resort was perfect. I loved having an all-inclusive resort because you never have to carry money and you don't worry about over spending. Plus who doesn't love unlimited food and drinks?! The hotel is built on on the the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world which makes this an ideal location. Everything you forget, the hotel sells and they are very attentive to your needs. I do recommend going with the Premium Level option when booking which provides you with exclusive services like access to the Premium Level Lounge, preferred restaurant for breakfast & lunch, 24 hour VIP Room service, unlimited dinner reservations, a complimentary bottle of rum and refillable mini bar, free entrance to Pirates Island Water Park & much much more. I feel like if you are going on vacation you should go all out because you won't get the full experience otherwise. This resort met all of my expectations and then more. I encourage you to let loose, enjoy all their actives and services and take in the amazing experiences this resort has to offer you."
Hispaniola Aquatic Adventures:
"They are continuously rated #1 water activity in Bavaro/Punta Cana on Trip Advisor and I absolutely see why. If you're looking for a water adventure that has it all, look no further. It is only $99.00 a person and includes everything you need. If you pass up on this excursion then I have to say you never experienced Punta Cana at it's fullest."
La Hacienda Park:
"Looking for an adrenaline rush? La Hacienda has it. Fly through trees and breathtaking landscape on 5 zip line courses, horseback ride through the forest, go full throttle on your buggy through the dirt roads and learn all about the village life on a real military safari truck. Be bold and experience the Dominican Republic in a whole new way."