by Diana Lambdin Meyer
Iberostar is a Spanish-owned company based in Mallorca with more than 50 properties around the world and six located in the Dominican Republic. This complex in Punta Cana includes four Iberostar resorts. They are the Punta Cana, Dominicana, Bavaro and the adult-only Grand Hotel. Punta Cana is a traditional hotel property with 347 standard rooms and 80 junior suites that were all renovated in November 2008. In addition to flat screen TVs in each room and more modern decor throughout, Punta Cana has also just added Wi-Fi access throughout, although an additional fee is charged.
At check-in, each guest, including children, receive a plastic bracelet affixed to each right wrist. Similar to hospital admission bracelets, these wristbands are removed upon checkout and help identify guests between various properties and allow access to all amenities without further identification requirements.
Of the six Iberostar properties in the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana and Dominicana are the most economical.
To learn more, visit IBEROSTAR Hotels & Resorts.
Our Editor Loves
- Photo ops with parrots
- Friday night Dominican night
- Outdoor trampoline
- All Inclusive Rates
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
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Punta Cana offers two- and three-story buildings with doors that open to an open-air walkway.
Flat-screen TVs receive a satellite package that includes Nickelodeon and Disney. DVD players are available in the suites, but not in the standard rooms. DVDs are available to check out at the front desk.
There's no additional charge for cribs, but bedrails are not available.
None of the rooms come with microwaves if you need to heat a bottle, and none are available, even for an extra charge. However, the mini-fridge is freshly stocked every day with bottled water, soft drinks and juice, all at no additional charge. There's a little extra room to tuck away your own preferred treats.
Make use of the complimentary bottled water in the mini-fridge and the bathrooms. The water from the faucets here is not safe to drink. And along that line, be sure to pack plenty of anti-diarrheal medication, just in case.
All bathrooms have a shower/tub combo, but the wall-mounted hair dryer is pretty weak. Bring your own if getting a good style from your hair dryer is important to you or teenage daughters.
Other room amenities include the basic iron/ironing board, a digital safe, and a clothes line in the bathroom to hang wet swimsuits. Hanging wet swimsuits on the balconies is really frowned upon.
The guestrooms are about 400 square feet and feature two double beds or a king bed. Ocean views are offered in some of the guestrooms. The standard rooms do not have balconies or terraces, but the junior suites do.
Both room arrangements offer two double beds, but the junior suites include a step down to a small "living area" that includes a sofa, an extra table and considerably more space for moving around. However, if you have a toddler, that little step may be a concern. The floors are marble and a little tumble could result in a big owie.
I've been to many all inclusive resorts and this resort does not compare to the others! Take warning!
One of my favorite resorts is Iberostar Lindo/Maya in the Mayan Riviera. I believed that as a resort chain, Iberostar had a set of high standards. This is why I felt confident choosing Iberostar Punta Cana. Unfortunately, these standards were not met.
Overall: Beautiful landscaped grounds and the beach is beautiful, but that does not make up for the poor service, very bad food, dirty and outdated rooms.
Breakfast: Every morning the breakfast buffet staff runs out of glasses, coffee cups, silverware and bowls quickly! This happened every day! No one working was ever proactive to help with anything. There are more dirty tables than clean tables. Good luck getting someone to care and help you! If you want coffee good luck since they are usually out of coffee cups and the lack of proactivivity.
Food overall: boring, bland and repurposed from the previous buffet.
Staff: most act like they are being bothered and don't want to be there. A huge shout out to Olga and Damien for being unlike the others! You both deserve a lot of credit for going above and beyond, especially since you could easily blend in with the unhappy and unhelpful staff.
Never disapointed of this Hotel.
ONCE again we hay the best Time in paradise
We arrived and was all ready, the People Welcome us very nice with Good Cocktails and Good Environment
In the evening the Animation team was very Entertained
Thank You BRUNO MARS from the Entertainment Team for the Great Time and for being profesional
Beaches and Pools
By choosing the Dominican Republic as a vacation destination, it is assumed that your family will enjoy spending time together in the sun at the pool and/or at the beach. The Iberostar Punta Cana Complex is situated on five miles of sandy beach on the northwest side of the Island of Hispaniola overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore the ocean waters are slightly more turbulent and the sand a bit more gritty.
The swimming pools are a focal point of the property and include a 10-feet diameter round children's pool that is about 18 inches deep. Children of all ages are also welcomed in the two meandering pools that range from three to four feet deep. While pool toys are allowed, rafts are not.
Sailing, windsurfing and kayaking enthusiasts excel in the ocean waves, although a one-hour time limit per guest per day is imposed on those accessing kayaks. If your family is interested in learning more about these sports, instruction is available. No motorized sports are available.
You can snorkel in the water around the property or pay a little extra and go out with the family on a snorkeling trip. If the kids want to go horseback riding that too is off property, but the concierge can help you make arrangements.
Gardens and Entertainment
The beautifully manicured grounds are family entertainment in themselves that includes a parakeet cage, free roaming flamingoes and peacocks, and a small pond filled with turtles. Dancing lessons for those of all ages are offered throughout the day at a gazebo on Punta Cana, in preparation for the family talent night at the performance theatre at Dominicana. Before most of the shows, kids are invited up on the stage for dance lessons or some other entertaining activity.
Billiards & Games
Just off of the Dominicana's lobby, there is a sports bar called the Star Rock Cafe. In the evening, it becomes very adult-oriented with dancing, but during the daytime or early evening hours, families with teenagers may enjoy some time on the billiards tables and other games.
Caribe Street separates the Punta Cana/Dominicana properties from the rest of the Iberostar complex, but a delightful separation it is. Almost like stepping off of the Iberostar Property, the street is a bright, friendly row of little shops and boutiques painted the bright colors of the Caribbean -- pink, yellow, blue, orange. It is here where little girls can get their hair braided, where adults can shop for jewelry made from the beautiful blue larimar stones, and where the spa and salon are located for additional pampering. The minimum age to use spa services is 18, but OPI polish in Shrek colors is available for sale at the salon.
Although bicycles are not available on the Punta Cana property, Segways are available for rent from an independent vendor located on Caribe Street. And not far away is the scuba diving center where children as young as 8 years old can begin experimenting with blowing bubbles underwater.
Just off Caribe Street is the children's center for Iberostar. The program and signs for the center identify the program as both the mini-club and Lucy's Club. As it turns out, Lucy is not a person, but is a reflection of the Spanish-heritage of Iberostar. The company logo is a beautiful yellow starfish. The Spanish word for "shine" or "starlight" is "lucir." Therefore the place where kids shine at Iberostar resorts is Lucy's Club.
Lucy's Club is for children 4 to 12 years old with all toilet training issues behind them. There are always two staff people on duty for up to 15 children. More staff is brought in if the number of kids rises above that. We watched as older kids bounced on an outdoor trampoline and shot hoops, while indoors younger children colored, played with toys and watched videos. There were a few of the larger Little Tykes play items outside as well.
Each day, the kids have pool time and time to play in the sand at the beach. Plus, coordinated activities from scavenger hunts to sand castle building to the occasional cooking class for kids.
The Lucy's Club staff seemed moderately fluent in English and a number of the children were from non-English speaking European countries.
Guests at Punta Cana and Dominican share five a la carte restaurants and a massive international buffet. If you're thinking about dining at one of the other restaurants in the evening, you'll need to make reservations by about 2 p.m. And ask about the dress code for your children. Shorts and T-shirts for kids at dinner may not be appropriate. Even at the buffet, we noticed most children dressed a little nicer. Some little girls were wearing fancy dresses and little boys wearing long pants. Just in case, pack something a little nicer for the kids at night.
A La Carte Restaurants
The choices include Mexican, Asian, Italian, seafood, gourmet and a steakhouse at the a la carte restaurants. None of these restaurants have a designated children's menu, but small plates and a variety of choices at each restaurant should offer something for the kids.
The buffet is huge and each night offers a variety for people from most regions of the world. The dining room staff will bring drinks to the table and high chairs if needed, but otherwise, you are free to peruse the offerings on your own and return with a clean plate as many times as you like. Your kids will want to explore on their own, but accompanying them is a wise choice. Because it's an international buffet, this may be the opportunity to get the kids to sample something just a little out of their comfort level. It will help to see children from other parts of the world begging their parents for something other than hamburgers, pizza and hot dogs.
Please be on the lookout for the hand-sanitizing stations at the entrance to the buffet and in several locations throughout the dining room.
Friday night is Dominican night when the staff dresses in traditional costume and the buffet includes a number of traditional Dominican foods.
Kids might also enjoy the cooking demonstrations and "show cooking" offered at some of the restaurants. The times and locations will be posted on the daily schedule of activities.
Snack Bars and Room Service
There are also a number of snack bars and even a small grocery in one of the hotel shops. Room service is available 24/7 at no additional charge.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
In room babysitting is available with advance notice.
Beach towels are all available at the pool, so you don't have to worry about carrying those with you to the pool or beach.
The gym, located on Caribe Street, has a fabulous ocean view and is reserved for those 16 and older. Here you'll find a plentiful number of cardio and weight machines, as well as free weights. And when finished with your work out, a nice soak in a semi-private hot tub is a great treat. Instructor-led aerobics and yoga classes are scheduled throughout the day, usually around the pool area.
An additional fee is charged for Wi-Fi. An Internet cafe is another option for those needing to be in touch with the world, but at $20 for 15 minutes, it adds up to a hefty tab really fast. If you have a laptop, consider bringing it because the wireless rates are less expensive.
This is a nice little feature: if your children require naps at a certain time of day, you can schedule housekeeping services so that there's no chance they will interrupt during nap time.
For moms traveling alone with kids, it's important to note that the room doors do not have peepholes for additional safety. Although security personnel patrol the grounds, be alert when opening the door.
While playing on the beach, you and your family may be photographed by a staff photographer wearing bright red shorts and a top. Without a lot of commotion, they make use of the light and create some fairly nice photos that you probably can't get with your own camera, unless you, too, are a professional. Check these out in the lobby each evening because some really are pretty good and for $10, a worthwhile souvenir.
If you like, you can schedule time for a photograph on the beach that includes your kids holding live parrots, iguanas or monkeys. It costs a little more and you are committed to buy those, so if you think the kids will freak out with the animals, just go with the cameos from the staff photographer who happens along.
Be on the lookout each day for the new and creative animals shapes made from the towels and washcloths. The housekeeping staff has a lot of fun with this, often including some flowers or greenery, and the kids will love it. Take notes and lots of pictures because you'll be expected to do the same at home.
Smoking laws are non-existent in the Dominican Republic. However, Iberostar Resorts prohibit smoking in enclosed, air-conditioned restaurants. Open-air restaurants provide non-smoking sections. Smoking is allowed in guestrooms.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season in the Caribbean is obviously when it's cold in other parts of the world. Therefore, December through March or April (depending on Holy Week celebrations) is the busiest. The "off" season when prices are that their best and crowds are at there least is September, October and November. That, unfortunately, is also hurricane season, which is a gamble best prepared for with a little trip insurance. However, Iberostar is always prepared for the possibility of rain and schedule numerous indoor activities, even providing umbrellas in most rooms (pack another one just in case). And you know kids -- unless you drag them kicking and screaming from the water, a little light rain is not going to impede their fun.
The Punta Cana Airport (PUJ) is about a 30 minute taxi ride away. The Iberostar properties do not provide shuttle service. Therefore, if you book through a travel agent, ask about taxi vouchers. If you choose to wing it, a taxi ride for a family of four should cost about US$40.
The resort is easy to walk around as a family, but if you have small children a stroller may be a good idea.
For Mom and Dad
The Iberostar complex includes an 18-hole golf course. Four of those holes are right on the ocean. There's also an adults-only disco and casino. The Iberostar Grand Hotel, located in the same complex, is an adults-only hotel with five restaurants to choose from. Adults at the Punta Cana/Dominicana can enjoy a dinner at any of these restaurants for a slight up-charge.
The minimum age to use the spa services is 18 years old; the Jacuzzi at the spa can be used by kids over 8 years, only when they are with an adult.
Note: The beach areas at all Iberostar resorts are designated topless and the large number of European travelers who visit the Dominican Republic make the likelihood very high for your children witnessing topless sunbathing. The pool areas require swimsuits, but occasionally an enthusiastic sunbather may overlook the signs (If that happens, simply notify guest services and they will communicate appropriately with the topless guest).