Hotel Review: Paradisus Punta Cana
The Paradisus Punta Cana is an all inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. It's part of the Melia chain, which is a hotel/resort brand based in Spain. They have several resorts in Punta Cana, and several others in Mexico. In terms of all inclusive resorts, this one is fairly well priced.
The resort sits on acres of ecological gardens. The grounds crews do a great job. The main lobby is about a ten minute walk from the rooms and the beach. There are shuttles that loop the resort so if you don't want to walk you can hop on for the ride.
The Paradisus Punta Cana is a AAA Four Diamond hotel, but as I've mentioned in past reviews, the requirements to achieve 4 Diamond status are not as stringent as I would like. I put this resort at a solid 3.9 out of 5. I'll explain this rating in detail below, but the bottom line is this resort has a lack of consistency in customer service and there will be moments when things (some minor, some not) may annoy you.
- The resort has a nice and large beach, much bigger than the neighboring resorts
- Buffet restaurants seemed to offer ample seating, even during busy meal times
- A la carte restaurants are not large and have limited seating, reservations strongly recommended
- This review will focus on the Royal Service rooms since that is where we stayed
- The resort seemed like a good fit for couples as well as families, the main pool is large
- If you are traveling as a couple spring for the Royal Service rooms
- Brush up on your Spanish, there is definitely a bit of a language barrier, although they will understand most English
- Don't drink the water! Bottled water is provided, even for brushing your teeth
I made my reservation on Melia.com. The resort features standard rooms and Royal Service rooms. The initial price jump from a standard room to Royal Service wasn't bad. If I recall, about $30-40 more per night for a garden view room. I was in an ocean front room, which was about $100 more per night.
Royal Service includes a few room categories, all of them are adults only. The Royal Service buildings are the closest to the beach. About 30% of the resort is Royal Service. (The Reserve is considered a separate resort. It's buildings are closer to the main lobby.)
Guests in the Royal Service portion of the resort get access to a few perks including:
- The Royal Service adults only beach
- Royal Service adults only pool
- Royal Service Lounge (more on this below)
- Royal Service Butler (Concierge, more on this below)
- La Palapa Restaurant (Royal Service exclusive restaurant)
- Access to the YHI Spa's facilities including whirlpool tubs, sauna and steam room (Treatments are extra)
The Check-In Process
Upon arriving at the resort, the airport shuttle drops you off at the main lobby. The bellman asked my name. It wasn't on his list and he asked if I was at the correct resort. After saying yes, he asked if I was Royal Service. I said yes. At that point he called for a golf cart to pick me up and pretty much walked away. Royal Service guests are whisked away to another part of the resort for a private check-in process. My experience with the bellman at the main lobby were not great, including my departure. More on that in a moment.
We were given claim tickets for our bags, which we gave to the Royal Service checkin agents and the bags appeared at our roon, so that was a plus. We got in the golf cart and we were driven to the Royal Service lounge where we were promptly greeted and escorted to a couch to relax. A lounge attendant showed up with glasses of champagne and offered to show us the Royal Service snack buffet. We were left to enjoy our drinks while the staff completed our check in process.
After a few minutes a check in agent came over to give us our wrist bands (they are a piece of coconut shell and a string, nice touch) and introduce us to our room butler, Patricia. She was quick to ask us questions to help her customize our mini bar in the room. In addition to soft drinks and beer, Royal Service guests also receive 1-2 bottles of spirits, bottles of house wine and sparkling water or Gatorade. We requested a bottle of tequila, a bottle of sparkling wine, and a bottle of red. We also received a bottle of white wine. Don't expect top shelf liquor. In fact, we received a brand of tequila I've never heard of before. The resort's bars and restaurants serve two house white wines (a chardonnay and sauvignon blanc) and two reds (a merlot and a cabernet). The sauvignon blanc and cabernet were decent table wines.
Overall the check-in process was relaxing. The staff in the Royal Service lounge work hard and focus on the guests. We found this was consistent throughout our stay. It would have been great if this level of service carried over to the rest of the resort.
Following check in our butler gave us a tour of the Royal Service areas of the resort, including the lounge, beach and pool. She then showed us to our building and our room. She ensured everything was ok and asked if we had any questions.
While the Paradisus website touts the butler as part of the Royal Service experience, a better English translation for this position is concierge. Don't get me wrong, Patricia was excellent. We couldn't have asked for a better butler, but the tasks they take care of are more on the concierge level. For example, about a week before our stay the Royal Service team emailed me asking if they could be of service. I sent them a request for dinner reservations for all four nights of our stay. Patricia, our butler, took care of all of them for us. Each day she would leave a card in our room with each night's restaurant reservation. She also arranged our departure airport transportation. The butler can also make spa reservations and help with excursions. While we did see Patricia daily, it was mostly in passing, although she always made time to say hello and see how our trip was going. Oddly enough, the only request the Royal Service team wasn't able to accommodate was restocking the Nespresso coffee pods in our room! It took a note to house keeping to finally get more pods and all they gave us was decaf! I found this odd since they tout a "personalized in-room coffee service" as one of the perks of Royal Service butler. We also called for ice after returning to our room after dinner the first night. It never came. (There are no guest accessible ice machines)
Royal Service Beach and Pool
If you want to avoid the families and kids the Royal Service beach and pool are great. The beach isn't very private and is not too far removed from the normal beach. Don't expect a secluded escape. This is just a beach for adults and there are a couple of attendants who are solely there for the Royal Service guests. The Royal Service beach does feature sun beds that aren't on the other part of the beach. This is a nice touch.
The pool was great. It's behind the beach, but fairly hidden from the rest of the resort. It's surrounded by three sides on sun beds and cabanas. These were extremely comfortable. The pool also features a swim up bar that is exclusively for Royal Service guests. (There is a swim up bar at the main pool as well) One minor complaint, the resort touts the Royal Service pool and beach experience includes:
- Fresh fruit and juice service
- Aromatic cold towels
- Pool concierge
- Cooling water spray
We didn't see any of these services. There was a pool attendant who would come by every few hours to take drink orders and bring bottled water. This was great. But there was no pool menu for snacks or food, no cold towels, no fresh fruit, at least not that we saw. In the resorts defense, I find most resorts fall short when it comes to pool and beach service. This is what separates a 3-4 star resort from a true 5 star property.
Now for a major complain about this resort. If you don't claim a beach chair or pool cabana early, and I mean by 8-8:30am each morning you may not find a place to sit. The resort allows you to just throw a towel down and claim your spot for the day. At the pool most of the cabanas were claimed by breakfast and we hardly ever saw people use them. This is unbelievably annoying. At other resorts I've been to they normally give you an hour and then clear away your stuff so other guests can use it. Not at Paradisus Punta Cana. If you claimed it in the morning it was yours all day. (Our butler even told us this is what we should do) There were tiny signs by the pool cabanas that read they would clear your stuff after an hour, but we never saw this happen.
Royal Service Lounge
The Royal Service lounge is open daily from about 7:00am-11:00pm. The main reason for visiting the lounge is the buffet of snacks, which were constantly changing throughout the day, but were pretty much the same from day to day. They included everything from finger sandwiches to chocolates. The lounge also features a self service bar with top shelf spirits. (Such as Grey Goose, Hendricks, etc) This is the only bar at the resort for Royal Service guests where top shelf liquor is free. The attendants who worked the Royal Service snack/bar area were amazing and their guest service skills were impeccable.
We had an ocean front room. All of the rooms at the Paradisus Punta Cana are in two story buildings scattered over the property. Only a handful of buildings are beach front. Our room was beachfront and had a pretty good view, granted you do look out at all of the beach chairs.
Our room featured a king sized bed, a sitting area, bathroom with two-person shower and a balcony with a jetted tub (more on that in a moment). The room was a decent size. My only complaint was the bathroom. It was tight. The sink area is across from the closet which had to heavy doors that were difficult to move and were always in the way. This made getting items in and out of the closet difficult. There is a safe in the closet, but when it was open this made it even more difficult to open the closet doors.
The toilet and shower share a small separate room. The shower was actually quite large and had two independent rain shower heads. Two people could easily shower in here at the same time.
Our balcony featured a jetted tub for two. It was surrounded by glass block, so it was blocked from the view of anyone passing by. We didn't use it during our stay, but I guess it's a good feature?
The bed was comfortable and they give you about a dozen pillows. You can select which ones you want to use. WiFi was good in the room, and in fact was great throughout the resort. There is no problem staying connected. I was impressed with how well their WiFi worked.
The housekeeping staff was incredibly friendly, but service was inconsistent. It took us a day to figure out why the shampoo wasn't lathering, it was conditioner! They had stocked our room with three bottles of conditioner, and no shampoo. We hoped after the first day housekeeping would provide new toiletries, like in most hotels, but they didn't! In fact, we didn't get new hand towels, but they took the old ones. As I mentioned earlier, our Nespresso coffee pods also didn't get refreshed daily. After two days we hid all of the bottles of conditioner and finally we got shampoo. In hindsight we probably should have called housekeeping.
The room itself was clean, but the bathroom was not. Our floor only got mopped once. How do I know? I spilled conditioner on the floor outside the shower and it was there until the last day of our stay. The bottom of the shower glass was covered in mildew. Anything with chrome, including the faucets, were not cleaned well. I understand how difficult it is to maintain and clean buildings in tropical environments, but I have never seen this during my travels to Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Turks and Caicos. (The Regent Grand in Turks and Caicos keeps their beach front rooms spotless!) I think the issue at the Paradisus is a lack of training and resources for the housekeepers. I never saw a house keeping cart. They have small baskets with minimal cleaning supplies.
With that said, the housekeepers were consistent with turndown service, which is a big plus. They also left us fresh flowers each day in the bathroom and on the bed. These are nice touches, but I'd rather have a fully cleaned room.
One item that was consistent was bottled water. You shouldn't drink the water in the Dominican Republic, so they are good at leaving two bottles of water in the bathroom and a few more bottles by the mini bar each day. Bottled water was also available at all of the bars and restaurants.
While wandering the grounds I found the spa and decided to stop in to make a massage appointment. (Check out our previous review of the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas) The spa is in a tranquil setting on the grounds, nestled among several buildings of rooms. With that said, once inside you feel like you are far removed from the crowds. Royal Service guests have complimentary access to the spa's locker rooms, sauna, steam room and hot tubs. I enjoyed an 80 minute signature hot stone massage. If you are looking for a break from the pool and beach I recommend checking out the spa.
Now for one of the most important areas of any all inclusive resort, the restaurants. The resort features the following restaurants:
- Mole, Mexican (Lunch and Dinner)
- Passion by Martin Berasategui (Extra charge, Dinner, Fine Dining)
- Naos, Buffet (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
- Fuego, Latin Fusion (Dinner)
- Aqua, Italian (Dinner)
- Bana, Asian (Dinner)
- Gabi Beach, Buffet (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
- The Grill, Steakhouse (Dinner)
- La Palapa, Royal Service Exclusive Restaurant (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
First I want to rave about Passion. Yum! We were traveling with four other adults and we had Patricia, our butler, make us a reservation for the second night of our stay. They seated us in a very private space at a large round table. It felt very exclusive. Passion is the only restaurant that is not included with the all inclusive, but we didn't complain. Dinner was $70 per person, plus drinks. I just ordered a couple of bottles for the table (a nice champagne and a pinot noir). Passion is a tasting menu, at least it was the night we were there (Valentines Day). It featured 10 courses, and a bonus course at the end. (I believe there's an a la carte menu, but it wasn't offered the night we were there)
The service was impeccable and the presentation of the foot was five star all the way. I've been to several great restaurants that feature tasting menus and this ranked up there as one of the best. I thought it was a deal at $70. The menu varied from pork to seafood, to foie gras.
Passion is resort elegant attire. We were told several times long pants, a collared shirt and closed shoes for men. There didn't seem to be a dress code for women, but everyone we saw was in evening dresses or elegant resort attire. A jacket and tie are not required, but you wouldn't appear to be out of place.
The two buffets, Naos and Gabi Beach were decent. They are open for all three meals of the day and have adequate seating. The two buffets were pretty much the same, so you can't go wrong with either choice. For breakfast you'll find all of the normal American and European breakfast foods. There was an omlett bar, although communicating with the chefs in English was a bit difficult. There was also a station making crepes, French toast and pancakes to order. As far as healthy options there was plenty of fruit and a decent salad bar at all meals. At Naos the salad bar featured spinach and mixed greens, not just iceberg lettuce. This was much appreciated.
The buffets seemed like typical resort buffets. The selection didn't change much from day to day, but there were ample choices that you could find something new. We only ate at the buffets for some of the breakfasts and a couple of lunches.
La Palapa is the sit down restaurant exclusively for Royal Service guests. Its near the Royal Service beach and pool. For breakfast they offered a small buffet or an a la carte menu. The food was decent. We ate dinner at La Palapa our first night. The menu was good, the execution was just ok. I started with an tuna appetizer, which I thought was very good. My entree steak was like rubber and dessert was just ok. The setting for this restaurant is elegant, I would just try different items on the menu if I went back.
Fuego, Mole and The Grill
We only ate at Mole for lunch. The food was decent, just somewhat bland for "Mexican" food. Fuego wasn't bad, although they could stand to turn the lights down just a bit. Fuego is off of the main lobby, about a ten minute walk from our room.
The Grill was our choice for dinner the last night of our stay. Two members of our group appear to have gotten food poisoning from this dinner. The restaurant features a "help yourself" appetizer bar and an a la carte entree. It's a steak house. You pretty much come her to get meat. However, the appetizer bar featured tuna, salad and other cold seafood items. This may have been the food poisoning culprit. I did not get sick and I ate the tuna and flank steak. I thought the steak was decent.
I can't stress how important reservations were for dinner. Each night I was able to show up with a slip of paper Patricia, our butler, left in our room. It read Royal Service VIP with our reservation details. We were always seated promptly. At The Grill we saw several guests turned away or offered very long wait times who "walked" in without a reservation. The resort advertises that "preferential" reservations are given to Royal Service guests and I believe it. We got into every restaurant we asked for and at the time we wanted.
Dining Final Thoughts
Overall, with the exception of Passion, the food at the resort was decent, just not extraordinary. We did try room service once and that was almost comical. It was for breakfast and instead of just brining us what we ordered, they brought us one of everything on the menu. We never really figured out what their definition of "oatmeal" is, because it didn't look or taste like oatmeal.
Now for my one big food complaint. Snacks. In between meal service I want to be able to grab snacks, healthy or otherwise. Other than the Royal Service lounge, the only other all day snack bar is at the main pool. They had "grab and go" snacks which included hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken nuggets. (Think school cafeteria food) According to the dining sheet we were given by our butler that states Naos was open all day, we found it closed around 3p each day before it reopened around 5 for dinner. Gabi Beach closes around 3 and reopened around 6:30pm. Yes, there is an all day room service menu, but who wants to go back to their room and wait an hour for food to show up? My recommendation is a snacks at the pool bar in the Royal Service pool. Some fresh fruit, breads, etc.
The Bottom Line
The Paradisus Punta Cana is a well priced all inclusive resort just a short hop from the Midwest and east coast. The resort grounds are beautiful and well kept. I can't speak for the normal rooms, but the Royal Service areas of the resort were nice and the rooms comfortable. The beach and pools were excellent. The one thing to remember is that this is a large all inclusive resort, it is not a small, quiet adults only retreat. For the price this resort was a good deal.
My complaints were mainly about the resort's "soft product" such as service and food. I hope the resort can address some of these areas. My other complaint about the bellman, on our departure day we checked out at the Royal Service lounge and were driven back to the main lobby. The bellman did not help with anyones bags. He only assisted the non Royal Service guests. When an airport shuttle arrived I asked him if it was ours and he said no, it was for his guests, but offered no assistance with our transportation. When our shuttle finally arrived, the driver came to me to ask my name and confirm it was ours. We then carried our own bags to the shuttle. The bellman watched. This isn't a huge thing, but come on. This is why I can't call this a true 4 star property.
If the Royal Service level of service was consistent across the entire resort I would call this a true 4 Diamond property. Don't get me wrong, some of the staff are extremely friendly, but the Royal Service staff seemed to be a step above.
Check out some of our other reviews from the Caribbean
- Turks and Caicos Sailing Adventure
- Condado Hilton, Puerto Rico
- Regent Grand, Turks and Caicos
- Trip Guide, Turks and Caicos
- Old San Juan, Puerto Rico