Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much research you do before booking a trip. You may find yourself at a hotel or resort that initially doesn’t meet your needs or expectations; but with a few trusty hacks from families who’ve been there before, you can turn a good vacation into a great one. Such was the case when we visited the IBEROSTAR Selection Bávaro Suites in Punta Cana.
Sitting on arguably one of the Caribbean’s best beaches, and certainly the best in the Dominican Republic, it has all of the ingredients required to make your stay a happy one — as long as you know what to expect and how to make those ingredients work for you.
And after a nine-day visit to the IBEROSTAR Bávaro awhile back, I’ve got plenty of tried and true travel tricks to keep you comfortable, hydrated and sheltered from the hot Dominican sun (only when you need it, of course).
IBEROSTAR Selection Bávaro Suites: accomodations
When you’re booking, be sure to specify which room arrangement you want. The rooms are clean and nicely appointed, but there are are only two types at this resort: one with two double beds and one with a king bed. There are no adjoining rooms nor are there any suites with separate master bedrooms. Don’t confuse the described sofabed with a pullout sofa; it is simply a very small sofa on which you could put sheets and add a pillow for one child under age six (or so) to use as a cot. Just be forewarned that it’s small and uncomfortable.
Unless you’re a family of four that’s OK with sharing two double beds, the IBEROSTAR Bávaro suites will probably need to be adjusted to accommodate your brood. So don’t be afraid to McGyver your room a little. If you have a suite with two double beds, there’s room in the living room to bring in one extra rollaway bed; we had a king bed, and a very nice manager on duty who agreed to our request for two rollaways in our room. You may just not want to count on the latter.
IBEROSTAR Selection Bávaro Suites: food
If you love eating at à la carte restaurants, make all of your reservations the day you arrive. Each opens at 6:30 p.m. for first seatings, except the steak house, which starts taking guests at 7 p.m. We found that by midweek it was more challenging to get reservations early enough to feed our kids who are ravenous by 6:30 p.m. Not that it mattered, though, because the buffets were so (so, so) exceptional. Food is always where an IBEROSTAR property shines!
Be sure to find the ice cream hut! It’s behind the poolside buffet and easy to miss unless you’re looking for it.
Watch for the guy wandering the IBEROSTAR Bávaro Suites grounds with the coconut wagon, who will gladly slice open a fresh coconut for you. The first chop with his machete gets you an opening and a straw; we tossed a dollar into his basket and asked for a second chop to get to the meat. There’s no schedule for this, so keep your eyes peeled!
If your shuttle back to reality leaves at noon, you won’t be able to get food from the buffets after the breakfast rush, so hit up Star Café for sandwiches and drinks that you can eat in the lobby or take with you.
IBEROSTAR Selection Bávaro Suites: beverages
Although the café con leche (coffee with warm milk) at the breakfast buffet is fine, it doesn’t hold a candle to the hand-crafted specialty coffees from Star Café. There’s no Baileys on-hand, but I often made a pit stop at the lobby bar for a little splash.
We loved the awesome, sugar-free drinks at the breakfast buffet thanks to a gorgeous fresh juice bar. But if your kids are smoothie freaks like mine, you’ll find it challenging the rest of the day since all of the “virgin” drinks are pre-mixed with simple syrup.
You can order a banana con leche (banana with milk) milkshake that’ll be made from scratch at just about any bar; depending on the bartender, you may also need to request “no sugar, por favor.” The only ingredients here are a freshly peeled banana, milk and ice. For some flavour infusion with sugar you can better control, ask for strawberry or chocolate syrup in the milkshake. It’s also delicious with Baileys or Malibu Rum for the grownups!
It took us a couple of days to figure out that the swim-up bar is just beyond the little bridge in the pool. There’s a walk-up bar beside the waterpark as well.
IBEROSTAR Selection Bávaro Suites: activities
Pick up a map and daily activity sheet from the concierge desk to the left of the check-in counter. There are always different things happening all day, every day, across the resort — including the sister resorts. This will help you plan efficiently.
Use your towels to save your preferred palapa before you have breakfast. We liked those on the backside of the waterpark; they boast all-day shade, sit beside a bar, offer a 30-second walk to the outdoor buffet and only seconds more to the beach and ocean.
The waterpark’s big bucket — which fills up so quickly that it dumps down on the excited kids below every 50 seconds or so throughout the day — doesn’t start up until at least 11 a.m. My kids were pretty nervous about being dumped on when we first arrived, so we started by going to the waterpark directly from breakfast. Within two days they were begging for it to be turned on!
There’s a toddler-sized pool with only about a foot of water located near the pool that sits between the IBEROSTAR Dominicana and IBEROSTAR Punta Cana properties, which are both part of the expansive IBEROSTAR complex and only a five-minute walk from the IBEROSTAR Selection Bávaro Suites grounds.
If you’re travelling with toddlers or kids just learning how to swim, bring water wings or a Puddlejumper along. The IBEROSTAR Bávaro has a wonderful zero-depth entry swimming pool that’s perfect for littles, but that’s not a safety net. If you don’t think you can stay within arm’s reach at all times, then be sure to practise good pool safety.
I wish we’d brought a pack of cards. We had several days of rain days and we wouldn’t have needed to sign anything in or out of the kids’ club — walking to and from it in the rain.
Although my kids didn’t enjoy the kids’ club, it does offer onsite archery several days a week, which is fun, and a kids’ disco once a week — definitely worth the short shuttle ride to the IBEROSTAR Dominicana. Even if your kids don’t participate in most of the kids’ club activities, the pool-time fun is always a hit and you can watch your kids as they run across the water carpet or climb the huge inflatable obstacle course.
IBEROSTAR Selection Bávaro Suites: 5 more tips & tricks
At the end of each day, don’t trade your towels for towel cards. Unless there are fresh towels to trade, keep your wet ones and hang them in your room lest you have nothing with which to save those palapas each day before the towel kiosk opens.
If you have kids who go to sleep before 9:30 p.m., cancel the evening turndown service. And don’t forget to put your “do not disturb” card in your key slot before hitting the hay. Housekeeping tried to come into our room one night at 10 p.m.!
Need a sanctuary for a little me-time? Hit the spa. It’s bright and modern and oh-so-quiet — and the services aren’t overpriced. Or find the gazebo located in the orchid garden and read a book. Alone.
Remember that you’re in the tropics and “island time” is alive and well. If an activity is supposed to start at 2 p.m., don’t be alarmed when it casually begins later. Go with the flow and enjoy a life that’s a little less Type A.
Take a good camera to the stunning Playa Bávaro (the beach!), which is literally at your doorstep, and let your kids run and play and jump on the waves and write in the sand. Capture every moment.
Now that you’re armed with the inside scoop about the IBEROSTAR Selection Bávaro Suites, all you have left to do is start counting down the days until you get there.
DISCLAIMER: I partnered with a tour operator to facilitate a review about our stay at the IBEROSTAR Selection Bávaro Suites. All opinions are my own.