Written by Diane Webster.
Cabin fever is real – I live in Michigan, I know it firsthand. So, after a particularly long winter, I was beside myself with anticipation when Helen, my Mother in-law, offered to take her children to the sunny, beautiful, Dominican Republic in February. We were going to Punta Cana at the perfect time – the holidays are over, winter seems like it’s been going on forever, and spring seems too far away. We really needed a cure for ‘the fever’ – talk about Doctor Mom to the rescue!
We flew direct to the DR via Apple Vacations. That was a treat in itself as most other flights require making connections. Negotiating the thatched roof airport and customs was a breeze. After we exited customs, we simply found our Apple rep who directed us to our awaiting bus for our destination. The Iberostar Bavaro is only about ½ hour from the airport. An open air, beautifully appointed lobby greeted us, complete with fountains, welcome cocktails and real flamingos in the surrounding pounds. It was like a dream!
Guests of the Iberostar Bavaro never need leave this little slice of heaven, but if you want to, you have access to the properties, restaurants, and facilities of Iberostar Punta Cana and Iberostar Dominicana, but, those hotels cannot access the facilities of your hotel. The Iberostar Punta Cana has a small casino so we did make regular trips over there. Even when we didn’t go to the casino, we found the walk so lovely, we did it for the sheer pleasure of seeing the beautiful grounds or walking the beach. And, if your stroll tired you or it started raining, you can just hop on a golf cart and in a couple of minutes the friendly drivers will deliver you to your hotel lobby, casino or directly to your room.
We didn’t refer to our accommodations as “rooms”, we called them “our house”. The Iberostar Bavaro is in the ‘cabana style’, there are no shared elevators or hallways, and only one other room will share the staircase if you’re on the second level. It’s like having your own home. Each room had a nice balcony with seating and the rooms themselves were beautifully furnished with a sunken living room, stocked fridge, separate showers and tubs and everywhere the friendly staff and incredibly beautiful grounds. A nice touch is that your balcony is private from anyone else in the unit, lending to the comfort and feeling of privacy that made this hotel so enjoyable.
I’ve been to a lot of beaches in the world, but I have never seen, or felt, any more beautiful than this. The sand is so soft you can walk for hours and not feel the slightest bit of roughness on bare feet– it’s like satin. The water is a beautiful turquoise and yet this stunning gem, is not overcrowded. It’s pleasant to walk about the beach, and it stretches, uninterrupted, for miles. After a nice walk or swim, stop in some of the beach shops that sell local crafts, or head to the pool and get some snacks. The pool bar became one of our gathering spots. Under the thatched roof by the pool, you could participate in activities, like daily bingo, nearby scuba lessons, or broche ball tournaments and enjoy an unlimited array of food and drink, brought to you by the always very friendly staff.
If you’ve never done an all-inclusive hotel– this one has my recommendation. It’s crazy wonderful! They have bountiful and delicious buffets and many gourmet restaurants. We would typically try the buffet for breakfast and lunch and go to the restaurants for dinner. Shortly after arriving at the hotel, my sister-in-law, made our dinner reservations for the week. Thank you Kitty! We ate at a different restaurant every night, and we weren’t able to go to all of the ones available to us. And the choices were diverse and fun – Japanese, Steakhouse, Caribbean, Cajun, French/Gourmet, and Mexican. We tried and enjoyed all of these. On Friday night we took the buffet for dinner, which is their Lobster/Dominican night. They serve lobster tails – and tons of other delicacies, plus, Dominican food and have Dominican crafts displayed for purchase. It’s a Friday tradition and worth doing.
There are many beautiful, and reasonable items you can purchase in Punta Cana. Our resident shopper was my sister-in-law, Patty, who found great buys of local crafts and specialties, plus resort wear and island accessories. I couldn’t resist the beautiful Larimar and Blue Amber. Blue Amber is darker and if held up to a blue bulb, it glows blue where the traditional amber remains clear. Not only are the stones beautiful, the settings are stunning and very creative. These gems only come from the DR. You can buy them anywhere in the world, but they all come from the Dominican Republic, so don’t miss the opportunity to cut out the middle man and get some great buys.
We were so happy at our hotel, that we didn’t feel the need to venture out much. We did take a side trip to the newer shopping area. It wasn’t the size of our mega malls, but it was a nice assortment of shops, some we’d find in America (like Pumas and OP), and others featured DR products or crafts. You could easily cover the whole mall in a couple of hours, so it’s the perfect size if you’re bringing some nonprofessional-shoppers (i.e., our husbands) along. One night we also took a cab to the Tower Casino. It was much bigger than the casino at the Iberostar Punta Cana, yet a pleasant enough size that you couldn’t lose anyone. We had a couple of big winners there, but even those that didn’t win (like me) enjoyed the atmosphere.
It was a wonderful time – and we all want to go back. Another thing we should mention is that our plane was delayed three hours. Now, this can happen anywhere and has happened to us on several occasions. But, our Apple rep found us and told us about the delay and told us when to come back to the bus. So, rather than being whisked off to the airport and delayed there, we stayed at the beautiful Iberostar Bavaro with access to all the food and drink we could imagine for an extra three hours. Instead of feeling inconvenienced, we felt lucky! Thank you Apple!
While we were waiting for our bus we met a couple from Ann Arbor. This was their 10th visit to Punta Cana, their 3rd to this hotel. Punta Cana is that kind of place, you want to go back; you want to bask in the sun of the island and the warmth of its people. It’ll cure your cabin fever. In fact, you may start looking forward to winter so that you can plan an escape to this wonderful slice of paradise.
Diane, Classic Travel’s President Joy Thrun’s sister, retired from the State of Michigan where she worked in the area of information technology and served on the original e-Michigan team that launched the Michigan.gov website. Travel is a family passion and, like her parents and siblings, Diane has delighted in traveling the world. She has enjoyed Hawaii, Alaska, and many destinations throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. She has also had the pleasure of traveling to China, Japan, France, Spain, Italy, England, Monaco, and Malta.