Early in 2012, the resort completed $330 million in upgrades, expanding its activities for kids, and upgrading the 18-hole golf course with a new design by P.B. Dye. Golfers also got a new clubhouse with a bar and restaurant, and new hotel rooms with views of the greens. The resort has been refreshed and updated everywhere, from new deep-blue tiles for the pools to trendy rain-style showerheads in the rooms.
Barcelo, based in Spain, operates resorts around the world, and draws an international clientele. U.S. visitors are still in the minority here, so the Barcelo experience provides the added attraction of global flair, with a mix of visitors from Europe, Canada, Russia, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. But U.S. visitors are increasing. The privately operated Punta Cana airport, just 20 minutes away, added a new runway and facilities in 2011 to accommodate growing traffic to the region, and more U.S. airlines are offering nonstop flights, especially during the peak seasons.
Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort Rooms and Accommodations
Four older buildings, at the far western edge of the resort, got a makeover in the resort's recent overhaul, and have been re-branded as the Adults-Only area of the resort. Don't go there expecting a roster of X-rated entertainment, however -- the only difference between the Adults-Only area and the rest of the resort is you're assured there won't be a noisy bunch of children next door to you. The rooms in this section are smaller, but still roomy enough for two, and the recent upgrade brought a bit of boutique style, with plush bathrobes, premium mattresses, iPod docks, and wi-fi. My room was in this section, with a balcony overlooking the beach, a minibar and coffeemaker, and a comfortable desk for my MacBook -- although, in an oversight that never fails to surprise me, there was no convenient place to plug it in.
For those in search of pure privacy and luxury, two "grand master" one-bedroom suites offer more than 2,000 square feet of living space. Two presidential suites are each over 10,000 square feet, with three bedrooms, a private infinity pool on the terrace, and a butler on request.
Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort Dining and Restaurants
Italian, Spanish, and Mexican cuisines are offered, along with a steak house and a seafood restaurant, plus French and Japanese, exclusive to Premium guests. That Premium status also grants access to a private breakfast nook in the Adults-Only area, where you can get excellent coffee and light snacks anytime of the day.
Personally, my favorite eatery was the casual Bohio Dominicano buffet, open for three meals a day, where we could sit outside in the shade and gaze out upon the ocean, feel the breeze, and watch the clouds roll by. The food there was abundant, varied, and tasty, and although the espresso came from a vending machine, it was strong and flavorful nonetheless. Fruit smoothies made to order were a great way to start the day.
Fresh, local food is hard to come by in Dominican resorts -- many of their edibles are imported from the U.S. -- but the buffet featured plantains, seafood, local cheese, and ice cream that lent a rich Caribbean flavor to these relaxed meals. One dining experience I didn't try, but looked wonderful, was a private dinner for two served on the beach beneath the palm trees and the stars, complete with white tablecloth, a bucket full of champagne, and serenading musicians.
Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort Activities and Amenities
A spacious gym and workout space is available for those who can stand to be indoors, and a spa offers massage, scrubs, and facials. At night, two theaters, a disco, 14 bars, and a casino provide entertainment. Child care is available 24 hours, with two water parks to keep the kids wet and happy. Teenagers have their own game room to hang out in, and at night, they can go dancing at their own alcohol-free disco.
Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort Information
Phone: 809.686.5797, 809.552.1000, 800.227.2356
Rates: $133 to $340 per person per day, all inclusive