We spend 9 days in September in the Dominican Republic to enjoy the sun and the caribbean beaches. For this we have chosen the Catalonia Bavaro Beach, Golf & Casino Resort – a beautiful all-inclusive hotel on the east coast of the country in Punta Cana.
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Why did we choose Dominican Republic as our travel destination?
Our big dream was actually to travel through the USA and Australia for a longer period of time during our joint parental leave. Corona has unfortunately not made this possible, because the borders are still closed to tourists. We were all the more pleased that Canada has reopened its borders to vaccinated tourists since 07.09.2021. We only knew Canada from a short stopover in Vancouver and Calgary. And since we always wanted to travel a little longer in Canada, it quickly became clear to us that we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity in September.
But now we have been looking for a good way to start our journey before the official opening of the border in Canada and at least to fly “in the direction”. On the one hand we wanted to soak up a little sun and on the other hand it was the first really big long-haul flight with our little mouse. Since we had no idea how a 1-year-old toddler could cope with the long flight and, above all, the time difference, it was important to us to have a destination where we could relax and adapt to the new circumstances.
So we came to the Dominican Republic relatively quickly. Why?
– Good and cheap direct flights from Germany
– Nice and affordable all-inclusive hotels
– Fantastic beaches and pure sun
– There is no longer a time difference if you fly from there to Montreal or Toronto.
Our flight with Condor to Punta Cana
Lufthansa, Condor and Eurowings fly non-stop from Frankfurt to Punta Cana. We opted for a direct flight with Condor. In Premium Economy Class, we paid a one-way 409 EUR per person. A ticket in Economy Class Light would have cost only 289 EUR. However, we deliberately paid the surcharge for Premium Economy Class, as there is a little more space to the front seat. So our little one could stand during the flight without any problems, without having to walk around in the aisle. Other benefits of Premium Economy Class include: 25kg baggage allowance, free seat reservation, stronger backrest tilt, adjustable headrests, premium entertainment program, an amenity kit with useful accessories, a wide range of magazines and priority baggage.
We found it a bit strange that we still had to pay another 100 EUR for our baby “on our lap” without an extra seat. We always thought that children under 2 years travel for free. However, the fact that extra fees are charged here is probably the case with almost all airlines in the meantime. For what exactly this service fee is charged, we do not know, because there is then not even a separate food or the like for the child. A good overview of the price for babies and toddlers can be read in an article on Travelbook.
The flight took just over 9 hours and we landed punctually at the airport in Punta Cana.
The Catalonia Bavaro Beach, Golf & Casino Resort
The Catalonia Bavaro Beach Golf and Casino Resort hotel is located directly on the beautiful white sandy beach of Playa Bavaro, one of the best beach areas in the Dominican Republic. The distance to the international airport in Punta Cana is only 20 km and the main city of the province, Higüey, is about 45 km away. This 5-star all-inclusive hotel comprises a total of 711 rooms, a spacious pool area and is located on a kilometre-long, fine sandy white beach with many palm trees. Especially the resort complex we liked extremely well. Here you will find many plants and palm trees, small artificial lakes and one or the other animal inhabitants (ducks and herons). Otherwise, the hotel offers a beach bar, a tennis court, a golf course, a kids’ club and a casino. Throughout the hotel complex we had free Wi-Fi everywhere.
What absolutely annoyed all guests extremely was the time at check-in and check-out at the reception. It forms eternally long beatings and yet not all switches are occupied. When you finally arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon after a 9 hour flight + transfer with a one-year-old child, then you just want to get to your room quickly. But we had to wait a total of 1.5 hours in line in tropical temperatures at the reception. It’s just extremely poorly organized. The check-in process takes super long – why we don’t know. This was not only the case on our arrival day, but also on everyone else. Our little one was extremely tired and quenching after her first long-haul flight – on which she had almost not slept. We were so happy to be at the hotel quite quickly with our transfer from the airport – and then had to queue at the reception for 1.5 hours with crying child. At check-out, the queue was similarly long. A good service unfortunately looks different!
The hotel complex
If you read the reviews about the hotel on Booking.com everyone agrees on one point: the hotel complex is really beautiful. The open reception, the tropical gardens, the lakes and palm trees… it really all feels like being in a little Caribbean paradise.
Privileged Deluxe Junior Suite
When booking over Booking.com we chose a room of the category “Privileged Deluxe Junior Suite”. These rooms are all completely renovated and we liked a little better than the normal junior suites. In addition to the slightly nicer rooms, you can enjoy other advantages as a “privileged guest”: 10% discount on massages or treatments in the spa, access to an exclusive beach section, premium drinks in the Pure Bar, bathrobes and bath towels in the room on the day of arrival as well as early check-in and late check-out until 3 pm, subject to availability.
Overall, we liked our room very much. Especially the big bathroom with the huge shower area was really great 🙂 There is a free safe and also the Minbar is replenished daily and free of charge. What we didn’t like was the cleanliness of the room. Visually, it all looked ok, but when our little one crawled across the floor, she was completely dirty afterwards! We then asked for a proper wet wipe – but unfortunately this was not really implemented. So in the end we cleaned our room ourselves.
The large pool
The huge pool area of the hotel is great. The pool offers several areas, which are visually beautifully separated by palm trees. Directly by the pool is the pool bar, where you can even order from the water. In addition to the large pool, there is a slightly smaller children’s pool. In general, it is really good and equipped with a small slide and water fountains. What we did not like so much, however, is that the pool was 65 cm deep throughout. So there was no area where small children could crawl or play in the water.
What really shocked us: you were allowed to smoke by the pool. There were even many guests who smoked their fat cigar directly IN THE POOL. We have never experienced anything like this in a hotel. On the one hand, this is quite disgusting and in addition, if you just want to relax in the sun, you can not protect yourself from all the stench. From the Guest Service we only got the answer that this is generally allowed. Really sad for a 5 star hotel.
There is also a small pizza station right by the pool. As soon as it has opened, the ducks living on the site also know this. It’s nice to see how they run around everywhere – but of course they also leave their excretions everywhere. That’s anything but nice. Also, the music at the pool with DJ is sometimes turned up extremely loud over several hours. In any case, a Caribbean feeling did not come up with us.
The beach itself – next to the beautiful hotel complex – would be the highlight of the resort. A wide beach, white fine sand, palm trees and the Caribbean Sea. It could be so beautiful – if there wasn’t a huge plague of algae there. Instead of turquoise-blue sea and white beach, one is currently unfortunately looking at huge amounts of washed-up smelly brown algae. These brown algae are not only a problem of the Dominican Republic – for several years now, the washed-up brown mountains have been part of a huge algae carpet that stretches from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico with a length of 8,850 kilometers. This means that southern Florida, the dream beaches in Mexico and almost all Caribbean islands such as Guadeloupe, Martinique or Barbados are also affected by the algae problem.
The hotel is trying to eliminate the algae on the beach, but the next day it looks the same again. The water is also anything but beautiful and is rather a brown shimmering soup instead of turquoise-blue. Unfortunately, we have not been to the sea once. Apart from the algae, the beach with its white sand and Caribbean palm trees is really beautiful.
The hotel has several restaurants, such as.B the Yuca (Caribbean food), the Rodeo Steak House or the Mikado (Asian cuisine). To visit these restaurants you have to register in advance. We always went to one of the buffet restaurants, like the Gran Caribe or La Palapa on the beach. Here we always had breakfast or lunch. The choice is quite large, but also repeats itself if you are in the hotel for several days. There are various live cooking stations, pasta, pizza, local dishes or salad and antipasti.
You will always find a free place in the buffet restaurant. Due to the many birds, great egrets and ducks, these can sometimes be quite dirty.
Overall, it was a nice stay at catalonia Bavaro Beach Resort, but it also had some downsides. The dirty floor in the room, the smoking at and in the pool, the dirt from the birds in the dining area, the smelly brown algae on the beach and the extremely long check-in and check-out process at the reception have somewhat clouded our holiday mood. We would have expected more from a 5-star resort in the Dominican Republic! But the holiday was ideal to get used to the time difference of 6 hours together before continuing our journey to Canada.