October 19 – 26, 2003
Location: Grand Paradise Bavaro is about a 35 minute drive from Punta Cana Airport, being one of the northernmost hotels on the Punta Cana strip. This is a relatively new hotel, opened in July 2001 by Amhsa Marina Hotels. The hotel is located directly next to Superclubs Breezes hotel, and there are no other hotels in the immediate area. The next closest hotels are the Riu hotels, which are about a 25 minute walk down the beach to the south. A new Bahia Principe hotel scheduled to open next summer, is currently under construction about midway between Grand Paradise and the Riu Hotels.
The occupancy rate at Grand Paradise when we were there was around 75 – 80%, with 45% of the guests being from France, 26% from North America, and the rest from Germany, the U.K., and other European countries. There seemed to be lots of younger people around, and towards the end of the week there were lots of children.
Checkin: Checkin is at 3 p.m., checkout is 1 p.m. If you have an early flight into Punta Cana, you may have to wait a while for your room to be ready. Late checkouts may be available (at an extra charge) if you have a late flight going home. Otherwise a courtesy room will be available where you can shower and change.
On checkin you are given a wristband, 2 electronic key cards (note that one card has to be put in the slot inside the room to operate the lights and air-conditioning), towel cards, a remote for the TV, and an information sheet about the hotel. A key for the in-room safe is available at an extra charge of $19 U.S. per week. (I highly recommend this). The front desk staff speak good English.
Grounds and Beach: The lobby area is very large, with comfortable seating, and two staircases leading up to the Piano Bar and some shops. From the lobby, you go down more stairs to the grounds of the resort. The buildings are kind of in a horseshoe shape, with the lobby at the top, buildings on the sides, and lots of open space in the middle, and then you have the two swimming pools in the centre, closest to the beach. From the lobby you have an unobstructed view of the whole resort. There is a large natural pond near the lobby filled with fish, turtles, and frequented by the resident ducks. Even the turtles will stick their heads up and take food from your hand. (A review submitted recently talked about a duck with a “tuft” on its head that she named Priscilla, I spotted Priscilla right away). There are a couple of fountains in the pond to keep the water circulating, but I still found that it smelled a bit once in a while. You walk across a wooden bridge over the pond (in the middle there are benches where you can sit) and then there are concrete walkways throughout the resort. There are lots of beautiful tall palm trees.
There are two large pools, and a couple of smaller round pools. I think one was actually a Jacuzzi, but there were quite a few kids there and they were both being used as kids’ pools. There are lots of comfortable lounge chairs around the pool. There are some tall palm trees, but they don’t give off much shade, it would be nice if they added some umbrellas or thatched palapas around the pool area. The majority of the people seemed to favour going to the beach. There are dozens of thatched palapas at the beach and we had no problem finding one any time of the day. The beach is very nice, but not as wide as further south, and the sand is a little less white and a little less soft. But still very beautiful and dotted with lots of palm trees. Walking into the water it is a sandy bottom for the most part, but there are occasional rocks so you have to watch where you’re stepping. There were always waves, they were higher towards the end of the week. Great for boogie boarding, but they were sometimes strong enough to knock you down. There was no seaweed at all on the beach most of the week, but after it rained all day Thursday, there was a tiny bit that washed up. There is a roped off swimming area, the beach isn’t as busy as further south, not as many motorboats going by. Both the ocean and pool water were fairly warm.
Rooms: This resort has 504 rooms, in six colourful 3-storey buildings (no elevators). Some rooms have a partial ocean view, but only a few rooms at the ends of the buildings have a full oceanfront view. We were in room 6325 and had a partial ocean view. All the rooms are the same. Rooms are a good size and nicely decorated, and have two double or 1 king-size bed. There is a mini fridge stocked with water and soft drinks (Sprite and Coke), telephone, full bathroom with hairdryer, and a basket containing shampoo, conditioner, lotion, a shower cap, and a sewing kit. There are no coffeemakers yet as listed in the tour books. They will be added in the future. I always take my own kettle and tea and coffee, anyway, and pick up some milk in the hotel store. Water in the mini-fridge is in a large bottle – 1500 ml (50.7 oz), so you might want to take smaller bottles of water to refill. Sometimes some of the bars have small bottles of water available. They do have water coolers at the bars so you can refill the bottles. The mini-fridge is restocked daily, they will leave extra water if you ask them. Some rooms have an ironing board in them, and an iron is available on request from housekeeping. I have a travel iron I always take with me, that way I don’t have to worry about tracking down an iron if I need one. With the humidity down there, things don’t get that wrinkled. Electricity in the DR is the same as North America, and our plugs fit the outlets just fine. There is satellite TV in the rooms, but not many English stations, no HBO or American Network channels. Maximum occupancy in the rooms is 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children. Rooms with connecting doors to the next room are available (20). The hotel does have future plans to convert some of their rooms into suites, containing a jacuzzi, but this won’t be completed until next summer sometime. While we didn’t hear any noise from adjoining rooms, the hallways are somewhat noisy. Doors closing, footsteps, etc. seem to echo in the wide hallways.
They have 4 handicap-equipped rooms available, and there are also ramps and an elevator in the main building to the various levels.
Bars and Drinks: There are 4 bars – Las Arenas Bar at the pool, open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., La Cana Beach Bar, open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., the Terrace Bar open from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., and the Sportsbar, which is open 24 hours. Only national brand liquor and beer is included in the all-inclusive packages, except for liqueurs served in the a la carte restaurants. Premium liquor and beer (Miller’s, Heineken) is available at extra cost of $2 to $5 US per drink.
At the Sports Bar, located on the lower level of the main building and fully enclosed and air-conditioned, you can get popcorn or nachos and cheese during the day, and from midnight on there are sandwiches available. There are a couple of pool tables, 2 foosball tables, a big screen TV, and tables and chairs. Adjacent to this bar is the Vacation Club area, where the timeshare guys hang out, I didn’t find them to be much of a bother, even had an interesting conversation with one of them.
Restaurants: The main buffet restaurant (La Laguna) is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with every night being a theme night – Italian, Asian, BBQ, German, Dominican, etc. They have a sign outside the restaurant telling you what the theme night is for that night and also for the next night. Very helpful in planning what restaurant you want to go to. The buffet restaurant is very large, enclosed, and air-conditioned. There is a good selection of food, always a pasta bar, and service was usually pretty good. At breakfast they will cook you omelettes, they also have a crepe and waffle station, cereals, fruit, etc. Pat usually has the scrambled eggs from the buffet, but they were only hot a couple of days, the rest of the time they were cold. I took a thermal mug to breakfast with me every day and got my second cup of coffee on the way out. Tea, coffee and cookies are served outside the buffet restaurant around 4 p.m. every day.
Re the Dress Code: Long pants are required for the Italian and Chinese restaurants. Men can wear Bermuda shorts or dress shorts to the buffet and La Cana Grill, but no tank tops or beach sandals.
There are 3 a la carte restaurants – Michelangelo (Italian), Chinese Restaurant Asia (Asian), and La Cana Grill (steak, chops, seafood). Also, every Tuesday they have a lobster dinner at La Cana Grill Restaurant, including champagne, which is not included in the all-inclusive. It costs $30 US per person. We don’t eat seafood, so didn’t sign up for this. You can make reservations for this at the front desk. You no longer make reservations for the a la carte restaurants, you just show up when you want to eat. (unless you’re a group of 15 to 20, then they’ll make a reservation for you). They take a group of people (25 to 30) in every half hour. That is why you may show up for the first sitting and be told you have to wait, yet see empty tables. They stagger the number of people so they can handle the orders and serving, etc. If you cannot get in at the time you go, they will tell you what time to come back, and write down your room number. The first night there we ate at the Italian restaurant, which opens at 6:30 p.m. This restaurant is located right next to the Buffet restaurant and is enclosed and air-conditioned, and very nicely decorated. They have a help yourself antipasto bar, which was quite good. While Pat really enjoyed his meal, I didn’t particularly like mine, and I thought the house white wine in that restaurant was terrible. The house wine in the other restaurants and at the bars was okay. They do have a wine list available at extra cost. They bring around a dessert cart (great desserts) and also offer you coffee and a choice of liqueurs. The next a la carte we tried was La Cana Grill, which is located at the beach. It is a huge, thatched roof, open-air restaurant, definitely my favourite restaurant – we ate there twice. They are open for lunch from 12 to 3 p.m., and dinner from 7 to 10 p.m. You might not want to wait until 8 p.m. to go to the restaurant, as it is very popular and you may not get in until after 9 p.m.
At lunchtime they have pizza, chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, porkchops, steak, salads, French fries, sandwich stuff, etc. Lots of choice and lots of room to sit. You can go in with your bathing suit and a coverup. They also serve snacks here from 3 to 5 p.m.