Arrival: We’ve booked the vacation via Apple Vacations(including airport transfers). The flight arrived to Punta Cana on time at 4:30PM. We were met by the Apple representatives outside the airport exit door(just ignore the annoying people trying to pick you up inside the airport building).
Hint: when filling the immigration form on the flight to Punta Cana or upon arrival to the airport, fill two identical forms for every person: one copy they will take upon the arrival and another one you would be asked to fill when you going home/leave Punta Cana during the check-in. Also, be prepared to pay $10 for a Tourist Card upon arrival to PC. The mini-van delivered us to the hotel in about 30 minutes. We were given the room key right away- Room #3624 in the Village section of the hotel. The hotel itself consists of three sections(as many other reviews already mentioned). The Village section we’ve stayed in is located in the middle of the territory right where the main swimming pool/towels/reception area are.
Room: I can’t say about the rooms in other sections, but our room #3624 was very depressing-looking: very old rundown furniture, broken lock on the balcony door, old corroded refrigerator with two bottles of water…no other drinks are given…), bed covers with wholes in them, dim lights and peeling paint on the walls. Everything was very old and needed replacement/repairs. The bathroom looked even worse: corroded bathtub(never seen one like that even in cheap motels), weak water pressure, no hot water on many days.
The air-conditioner was producing more noise than cool air. You are only given one room key…so you would have to plan your activities correspondingly if more than one person is staying in the room. We’ve talked to few people in other 3xxx buildings in the Village section – they were all very pretty unhappy about the room conditions. The rooms in the Beach section(4xxx) looked slightly better than in Village or Villas sections.
Beach: it takes appr. 15-20 minutes of fast(I mean fast..) walking from the Village section to the beach. The hotel is NOT located on the beach!!! Other hotel on both sides(Barcello and Melia) do have some sections right on the beach. IFA doesn’t have any buildings near the beach. There is a little shuttle truck that runs from the reception area to the beach(it takes 5-7 minutes to get to the beach). The beach itself has very nice white powder sand, the ocean is very nice and calm; due to the reefs, you would hardly see any significant waves most of the time.
Shade on the beach: don’t be fooled by the pictures on the IFA website: despite the large number of palm trees, there were almost NO shade areas on the beach; there were some areas away from the beach, most of the trees were too tall or too small to create a consistent shade during the day. We had to wake up at 7AM to go and put the towels in those few spots with the shade. I am not sure why the hotel can’t build something like Melia did to provide more shade. In addition to not having shades, there were not enough sun-beds in general on the beach. If you come after 9AM – you would NOT find any available ones at all. We’ve seen on multiple occasions people fighting over the space on the beach. Also, for some unexplained reason, the grill and the bar with drinks are located only on one side of the beach….so if you are on the other side(closer to Melia) – you would have to walk a good 500m to get a drink or food during lunch.
Food: do NOT believe when you read that there are 4 buffet restaurants at IFA resort. During breakfast, there are only two buffet restaurant open: one near the reception area(usually very crowded) and the other one near the sports bar in the Ocean section. For lunch, there is one buffet place near the reception and a grill on the beach(serving only hamburgers, sausages, salads, hot-dogs, rice or pasta). The grill doesn’t have enough tables so usually people waiting for a long time to get a table.
Another buffet place is always closed for lunch. There is also a bar near the swimming pool that serves pizza during lunch time. So, to call it "4 buffet restaurants" would be really pushing it. There are also 3 a-la-carte restaurants in the Villas section open for dinner only(Japanese, Mexican and international). Breakfast: pretty good selection of cold cuts, tomatoes, cucumbers, hot dogs, mashed potatoes, beans. There is a omelet station with one cook …usually gets pretty crowded… Watered-down orange juice, milk, selection of cereals, fresh fruits(bananas, mango, papaya, pineapple, melon, watermelon). Lunch and dinner: at least one fish dish, grilled pork or beef, rice, pasta station, potatoes, few salads, two soups, lots of breads, veggies. Most of the dishes are not very tasty…some look and taste really scary. But I have to admit we never felt/got sick during our stay – so the sanitary conditions looked pretty good. Japanese place – nothing special…average food(avoid Marinated Fish Dish with Fish), good service. Mexican place…again nothing spectacular. International place-nothing special as well. Make sure you reserve them as soon as you arrive….usually they were booked pretty early. We’ve stayed for 10 days – there were no ‘Manager’s parties/receptions’ that are usually pretty common in most of the resorts. Sport activities: there are some games being played near the pool(darts, water volleyball), there was some beach volleyball at the beach and some dance classes as well). I have not found the promised ping-pong tables, there were no basketball. Tennis courts were in the Villas section and your would need to reserve them ahead of time. Overall, not much organized activities compare to other resorts.
Entertainment: the entertainment teams consists of about 12-13 young people….they produce the evening shows every day. Some shows are better than others; pretty good dancers and couple of average singers. The themes are mostly Dominican/Carribean. Don’t get me wrong -we do have a sense of humor…but many of the jokes/comments/acts were really indecent considering there were lots of kids present during the shows. For some reason, most of the jokes and action were associated with imitation of sexual acts(TACA-TACA using the entertainment team jargon) and discussions about sexual powers of the entertainment team. The "Mister Bavaro" show was really over-board with respect to its indecent content.
Disco: it starts at 11:30PM on the beach(where the grill is during the day). They play live music until about 1:30AM-2:00AM mostly Dominican…then some other tunes..nothing to be excited about…pretty lame. They do serve hamburgers/hot-dogs all the way until 3AM…
Bars: the drinks they serve were really bad! All watered-down, only local beer(Presidente), don’t know how to make some drinks at all…and most of them really tasted bad…The best bar was in the Villas section. Also, they all expect to get tips..otherwise you would be ignored for long periods of time..
Shopping: There were several little stores at the resort that sell everyday items, sun block, drinks, candies, souvenirs, clothes, paintings, vases, etc. Most of the items were 3-4 time more expensive than you would buy at home. There were no newspapers sold/provided anywhere at the resort on any day.
Service overall: I would give a 2-3 stars at best; a lot of them look not interested unless you tip them. Some are just rude(reception area would be a good example).
Touristas: most of the people were from France, Germany, Canada(French portion), Portugal and Italy. There were very few people from US.
Overall: There are much better choices in Punta Cana. This hotel need major renovation of most of the rooms, improvements at the beach and in the restaurants. It is 3-star at best….go to Barcelo, Riu or other similar places; you would be glad that you spend a little bit more since you would have a much better time