Something that annoys me: Jaded travel journalists talking nonsense about resorts and their respective towns.
As travel writers, we are naturally drawn to exploration and adventure – that’s why we’re in the business. A lot of people say they want to be a travel writer, but in the end very few can handle the lifestyle (which is why everyone doesn’t do it).
We’re explorers, but most people are vacationers.
In America, where a week or two of vacation a year is typical, most people won’t choose to spend it hiking through a remote section of Asia, stopping in a different village each night, communicating via handsignals for food and a place to sleep.
There are some people that would, but most would not.
Which means that travel writers need to back off a little bit. Sure, we can crack jokes amongst ourselves if we feel the need – if we feel the need to massage the ego – but to write off all resorts and slap them with the overused verdict of being “too touristy” is a big mistake – it shows a complete misunderstanding about how the typical person wants to spend their money. That’s why there are McDonald’s all over the world, kids – most people tend to avoid the unknown when it comes to their hard-earned dollar.
So let’s drop the charade – it’s all right if you had a good time in the Dominican Republic without leaving the resort. Life should be fun, not a competition. It’s all right that you chose to sit around a table and converse and drink the free beer.
In life, I think you have to really focus on seperating the things you desire to do for yourself, and the things you desire to do so you can tell people you did them. The whole point of travel is to return home with good memories, memories that a person will carry with them as a source of hope until the next opportunity to travel comes along.
Speaking of good memories, my final thoughts on the Barcelo Bavara in Punta Cana:
As you probably gathered from my little rant, visiting Punta Cana is far from visiting the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is sort of a honeymooner’s desintation – three out of every four groups I met had recently been married.
There are a ton of international travelers, too. Languages I heard: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, German, and French (I heard a French couple arguing – which was pretty interesting considering I don’t speak a lick of it. It’s amazing how even when you can’t understand, you can read the body language and voice inflection to get an idea of what’s going on).
The melting pot of languages and visitors gives the Barcelo a lot of culture – my California board shorts definitely stood out amongst the European Speedos and the bare-chested women – you are certainly a long way from America. You don’t necessarily feel the Dominican culture – unless of course you attempt to reach out to the staff.
The group and I came to the conclusion that it’s like a cruise ship that doesn’t move. Plenty of food and booze, a show at night, a casino, a dance club, pools, beach activities, and an emphasis on relaxation. It’s the sort of place you go when you don’t want to go anywhere, when you want to go from the beach to the pool to the bar, then back to the beach and over to the other pool bar, then to the restaurant and for a sail and then read a book on the beach. The emphasis is on togetherness, whether you’re a hot-off-the-press couple or a group of friends looking to escape the nine-to-five grind for a few days. Bavara Beach is absolutely beautiful – a perfect setting for leisure.
All-inclusive restaurants can be hit or miss when it comes to food – and I saw examples of this at Barcelo – but for the most part the food was enjoyable, especially considering it’s all “free.”
Something I did not expect: Kyoto, the Japenese restaurant, was my favorite meal of the trip.
I’ve got to be honest: It was strange to have a Dominican man cooking for us at a Japenese restaurant (hibachi style), and it was even more foreign to not drink a Japenese beer with the meal (we had bad sake, though). I must say – all the dishes were delicious.
I had the salmon, which was cooked perfectly to my taste – seared with a tender, slightly warm center (think seared ahi tuna). I sampled the tuna, steak, chicken, and shrimp as well, and they were all well received.
Perhaps the most impressive dish was the Miso soup – it was presented in a large, tall bowl that was narrow at the bottom and wide at the top. Two or three of us ordered it, and when the others saw it they followed suit. (I forgot my camera that evening, but I’m working on getting a photo for you.)
Another tip: I’d avoid the food at Striker’s Sports Bar unless it’s after 2 a.m. and you’ve drank a lot (I mean a lot) of Barcelo rum. We ordered a bunch of food (munchies) early one morning (aka late one evening), and it was obviously microwaved – it was literally 2-4 minutes from the time we ordered til the food was placed on the table.
My tendancy to wander rewarded me one evening – I stumbled across a unadvertised lounge that overlooks the casino. Wake and Wander is not big on dancing, it’s a very rare occurrence (although I enjoy watching others), and this lounge provided a place to go to get away from the loud music without leaving my friends behind at the disco.
Barcelo is family friendly, for sure – they offer special family lodging and a kiddie pool (FYI the kiddie pool is pretty amazing – very enticing, even for adults on a hot day. See photo below).
Look – there’s no reinvention of the wheel when it comes to Barcelo Bavara, but they have done a nice job of putting together a resort that is truly a one-stop shop, where anyone in the family or group can find something they enjoy. They are in the process of building two new areas of the resort: quarters solely for golfers and one for adults only (my favorite kind).
It’s affordable, too, if you dig around a little bit, or go during the offseason (summer). One couple from Los Angeles got a nine-day deal, including airfare, for $1400/each. My plane ticket from the West Coast was around $600 – so essentially that couple paid $800/person for nine nights of lodging and all-inclusive food and drink amenities. That’s not a bad deal.
Adios Barcelo Bavara – I had an awfully nice time in the Caribbean last week, and the hotel played a large role in creating that atmosphere.
To see all the photos from my trip, visit Wake and Wander on Facebook, or click here to read the stories from when I was on the ground in Punta Cana.
Remember, you can always write me if you’d like any additional information (prices, recommendations, etc.) on the places I visit.