When we arrived in the Dominican Republic, the weather was warm and sunny with some occasional wind and light sprinkles of rain. The first thing on our agenda was to check out the pool area and beach scene of our hotel - the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro in Punta Cana. The ocean was fairly warm with small, lapping waves of turquoise water and the sand was soft and lined with many palapas to sit under, while the pool was set up with different areas for laying out under covered cabanas or enjoying an afternoon group game hosted by the hotel’s vast entertainment team.
We walked around the grounds and discovered different lounges for hanging out during those times between daylight and dinner, and each of these areas looked clean and polished with nice decorative touches which made the ambiance more formal than flip-flops and shorts. Breakfast and lunch were more casual occasions: both of these meals were hosted buffet-style, which is normally not my favorite way to dine, though Iberostar did a good job of mixing up the food offerings each day. In general, most of the dishes were on the bland side, though there was a few items which were pretty tasty (so it was a little unfortunate when these things weren’t offered the next day).
Breakfast was spent on the nice outdoor patio of the dining area, and the food options consisted of various pastries, quiches, an omelette and crepe station, and healthier options such as a yogurt bar or various tropical fruits and juices. The rotating lunch offerings were small dishes such as crab cakes and lobster legs, various meats and fish, rice pilafs, grilled vegetables, and an expansive salad bar. There were a lot of interestingly colored, small dessert bites to try out without feeling super guilty about indulging a little!
As the days went on, the wind picked up substantially and we got hit by scattered rainstorms. The sun would be shining bright and then a sudden downpour would send us scurrying for cover! There was one afternoon where we were getting some work done by the pool and tried to ride out a strong shower under a few thick towels - didn’t last long but it was pretty funny seeing how long we could hang in there for!
The Iberostar Grand has a ship which sits in some shallow water within the courtyard of the hotel. It was a pretty interesting choice design-wise, though we learned that there was a secret bar below deck (which we checked out when it was unoccupied). We filmed a workout on this ship a few days into our stay when there were a few hours of weaker wind, and then got another couple workouts done by the pool before we left.
I hosted a Fit Camp on the beach which had an awesome turnout! It was fun to see the other guests getting exercise with the great backdrop of ocean and palm trees. Most people were wearing bathing suits or pool attire, and a lot of participants hung in with me for the whole routine! Working out on the sand definitely engages some different muscle groups so I was really feeling the burn the next day. People of all ages showed up for my fitness session, and I even met a #Ralphie who happened to be staying at Iberostar at the same time as us!
We tried most of the on-site restaurants for our dinner dining experience, which included Surf & Turf, Japanese, French, and Mediterranean cuisine. All of the options require a reservation in advance, which gave us something to look forward to at the end of the day. Food was fresh and tasty across the board, and we got to try different kinds of meals every night. One of our favorite dishes was a hot brie appetizer with tomato jam and pesto oil (not the healthiest but the portion was small and filling). We also enjoyed meals like salt-baked fish, classic hibachi, and gourmet salads. My assistant did a good job of trying out most of the dessert options, though the first and main courses outshone the sweet bites.
We had an afternoon of exploring some of the natural sites at Scape Park - one of the adventure outings coordinated by Iberostar. The activities offered include sunset boat trips to a pristine isolated beach, zip lining, horseback riding, waterfall hikes, and more. We had time to fit in a visit two different cenotes within the vast eco park; our guide was fantastic and told us about the wildlife and plants found on the ground, and he let us visit both cenotes before the group tours showed up (so we had the place all to ourselves). Hoyo Azul was a gorgeous sight with unbelievably blue, deep water and towering cave walls which curved over our heads. My assistant had a swim before we set off for the next cave, which was a dark descent down into a smaller cenote beneath surface level - it was so quiet and peaceful in there! All in all it was nice to see more natural features of Punta Cana, and if we had more time then doing more of tours definitely would have been fun.
Fit & Fun is Iberostar’s brand-new featured program, which offers a range of many classes and activities for guests to participate in every day including bootcamp, yoga, boxing, spinning, zumba, pilates, and more. This gym space has top of the line equipment and exercise machines, as well as several fitness rooms. The building is incredibly clean and well-organized with a water and snack station, and each time we visited there were many people engaging with the different machines. I was happily surprised to see that so many people were staying active while on vacation!
The entertainment got better every night, and it ranged from crowd-pleasing trivia games to karaoke and choreographed dances. On our last night we visited the theater and watched a Las Vegas-themed show which featured amazing costumes and a fantastic Michael Jackson impersonator. We also fit in a visit to the spa, which was bright, clean, and aesthetically pleasing with nice touches of scented decorative oils and flowers. This space also had some of the best views of ocean scenery on the property.
It was a pleasant stay in Punta Cana and we departed feeling un-bloated and tanned a bit by the occasional sunshine, as well as pretty shaped up from my Fit Camp and walking around all over the place!
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