The Punta Cana resort and its graceful staff send the message early on that you are not to lift a finger once you step foot in the magnificent lobby (designed by Majorcan artist Jose Deudero). The staff does all the pampering for you, starting with 24-hour-a-day personal butler service.
Other than tipping our driver to the resort and back to the airport four days later, our wallet never left our hotel room safe at this excellent all-inclusive resort.
The elegant decor in the guest suites is matched with attentive housekeeping service and a (nearly) complete array of amenities. Beds are plush and comfortable, and you can select from a custom pillow menu to arrange your bed to best suit your sleeping style. All bathrooms feature jetted tubs with a view, and each room has an outdoor deck. Closet space was average, and one serious drawback is that Internet access is not available in rooms (there is a 24-hour business center with Internet access, however).
There are four a la carte restaurants conveniently lined up in a row. We enjoyed outstanding three-course dinners at the Japanese (don’t miss the Teppanyaki) and Surf and Turf.
Also featured are Gourmet and Italian restaurants. Although jackets are not required, shorts and beach wear are not allowed at the a la cartes. Since Grand clients have privileges at all of Iberostar’s restaurants in Punta Cana, we indulged in the Cajun culinary experience next door at the Bavaro. (Yes, it’s confusing: adjacent to the Grand Hotel Bavaro are three family-friendly Iberostar resorts –- the Bavaro, the Dominicana and the Punta Cana).
There are also two options on the Grand property for buffet serving three meals a day: one open-air beachside space and the larger and even more diverse Restaurant Buffet. We dined at both and enjoyed a wide array of international food and -– just as important -– first-class service.
Led by Iberostar’s team of hosts, called Starfriends, fun activities from beach volleyball to yoga, Thai-Chi to Ping Pong, and even lessons in everything from Spanish to meringue are scheduled hourly. For the golf-obsessed, the Grand’s P.B. Dye-designed championship golf course will be open later this year. In the meantime, the resort will make arrangements at your pick of Punta Cana’s best courses. Well-maintained tennis courts also line the property.
There is a lake pool with a swim-up bar that’s destined to be a late-afternoon favorite. For some, there’s no better way to enjoy a sunrise than by hanging out in the pool with their favorite drink. The lake pool -– just steps away from the beach -– also includes lounge chairs on the watery edges of the pool and is surrounded by a wonderful array of shaded beds for the ultimate relaxation. There is a second pool used for activities such as water polo, volleyball and other games.
Iberostar’s typically high standards for music and live shows are exceeded at the Grand. The signature location is The Ship -– yes, an actual ship docked in a faux canal in the middle of the property that features bars and a dance floor and serves as a stage for concerts. On a beautiful evening, there may be no better spot in all of Punta Cana.
A special standing ovation goes to the three men who make up Trio Musicale, who play their gorgeous versions of Merengue, Bolero and romantic songs at the Grand Hotel Bavaro and other Iberostar resorts in Punta Cana.
As you travel the Caribbean, you see plenty of these musical groups, but Trio Musicale is hardly a dime-a-dozen act. My hat is off to guitarists Roberto Reyes and Luis Antonio Rijo. And also to lead singer Reynaldo Rijo, who shared with me his secret to never losing his voice despite gigs that could extend beyond four hours a night. “Tequila.”
While the Grand gets exceptionally high marks for being at the top of their game during our visit -– just five weeks after opening -– the Spa/Fitness Center was the only location where major construction was still being performed and where you sensed a partial disconnect with the rest of the resort. When fully efficient, the Spa’s beachfront locale and couples-oriented treatments will make it a popular destination.
I can’t say enough about the staff at the Grand -– everyone from Maria the manager to Drago, who directed my butler service, to Danis, who always found me a Diet Coke even when it was obvious there wasn’t always one nearby.
Don’t be turned off by the concept of the 24-hour butler, imagining someone will always be in your face. The Grand staff finds the perfect balance of service without being too much. Best of all, they are passionate about what they do.
The “adults-only” atmosphere is a bigger deal than anticipated.
In my first day at the Grand Hotel Bavaro, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I loved my time at the pool and the beach so much. I thought maybe it was because a few hours earlier, I was in frigid New York. It wasn’t until the next morning when an Iberostar representative spoke of their decision to make the Grand a no-children zone that it hit me. Don’t get me wrong: I love my children. But I actually said out loud, “That’s why I love this place so much”! If you’re on a getaway without your children, who wants to lounge at the pool next to other people’s children?