Situated on a sizeable narrow campus with five hotels the Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana is an impressive all-inclusive resort. If you upgrade to the Golden status, you will have access to its sister resort a mirror image of the Punta Cana the Gran Bahia Principe Bavaro. The Bavaro has its elite status giving access to the Punta Cana section which is called Diamond. Near the Beach to the north is the Gran Bahia Principe Ambar and to the South the Gran Bahia Principe Esmerelda to Premier Gran Bahia hotels in their Don Pablo Collection. Confused yet? I know I was.
Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana Resort
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
This confusion is where the resort fails a little at the start of your vacation. There are four resorts and one north resort (which I believe is timeshare or condos not sure we never went there). Most of the guests are guests of the Punta Cana or Bavaro sections. They have access to each other’s services which are identical.
It takes a bit of time at the start of your vacation to realise which areas of the resort are part of Punta Cana and which are part of the Bavaro, but once you figure this out it is smooth sailing. As a Golden Club or Diamond Club guest, it does not matter as you can hang out at either side of the resort. Ambar has a gated section close to the beach, so outside guests cannot cross.
Gran Bahai Principe Hotel Registration Hiccups
We had some confusion at the airport and check-in as to where are booking was. At the airport, they did not have us on the list, and then upon arrival, they seemed to take forever to find our reservation. We waited in the seating area for someone to help us, and one of the ladies came over with packages and started calling out names. None were ours. Mild inside panic. Finally, she returned with our registration package and wristbands. We told her we wanted a safe and paid her $28 for the week and she took our hotel cards and programmed the safe on them. She then took us over to the buffet and told us that the room should be ready when we were done eating lunch.
After lunch, the trolly took us to our rooms. Both keys did not work. The bellman let us into our room with a master key and told us he would get new keys for us. In about 15 minutes he returned with a new round of keys, of which only one worked in the door, and the other did not. We waited again, and a new set of keys arrived. Using the room key and following the instructions on the safe we tried to program the safe so we could put our valuables in and hit the beach for the remaining hours of the afternoon. It did not work.
Reception Staff Upon Checking in and Dealing with Room Issues
We called reception, and they said we had to purchase the safe and we explained that we did this already when we checked in. They sent a technician, and he could not program the safe either. The tech asked us the same questions, and I showed him the receipt for the safe. He called reception, and another set of keys arrived. It took over 4 hours for them to sort out the keys to the room and safe for us to get the safe programmed so we could leave our rooms. We lost the first day of our vacation, as it was now after 6:00 PM and there was no point in sitting on the beach so late in the day.
Despite the hiccups – they did eventually get things right
The only other hiccup to start our vacation was that our air conditioner conked out the first night making a terrible sound. We both woke up at 5:00 AM and called the Service desk to wake up some poor soul. We decided to go to the beach and watched the most amazing sunrise.
Before breakfast, we went to reception, and they were happy to help us out, told us they would send someone to fix it ASAP this was around 7:30 AM. We had breakfast and went back to the beach. Around 9:30 I went into the room for something, and the air conditioning unit was purring quietly.
Tips for Booking Your Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana Vacation
If you are looking to book a deal at the Gran Bahia Principe hotel, be sure to check out tripcentral.ca as they can put you in touch with agents who have been to the resort themselves and answered all your questions. I found their Trip Matchmaker feature was an excellent way to find the right hotel at the best price. Check out reviews and prices on the Gran Bahia Principe Hotel on tripcentral here.
The Golden Section Room
- 2 Twin size beds (pretty comfortable compared to other places we’ve been in the Caribbean)
- Sitting area – glass table, two chairs and a day bed.
- Small balcony – 2 chairs and a table we had a view of the Ambar resort from our room nothing special, but we didn’t spend a lot of time sitting on the balcony.
- Main Dresser – sits in front of the beds has a large mirror, a small television, the refrigerator is at the base on the right side and to the left were four drawers for clothes.
Great Room Service
The refrigerator was stocked daily with beer, pop and water. The housekeeper clued in quickly that we only drank the diet Pepsi and water, so she just restocked those. There was a coffee maker on a dresser as well. We started just taking the coffee pouches and putting in our luggage and were pleasantly surprised that she gave us two new bags of coffee each day.
- Large Closet – two main areas one for hanging clothes (usual minimal hangers available) and one with the safe and some more shelves for clothes. Between two of us, we had more than enough room for our clothes.
- Bathroom included a shower/tub (it was a dated jacuzzi style – we did not start it up). One sink. Towels replaced daily. We received face clothes on three days of the week and the rest of the time just regular towels. However, we also had turn-down service a couple of the nights where they refreshed our towels. Turn-Down service was not every night we didn’t care really.
Overall comments about the rooms – they were spotless and often decorated with towel art and flowers. The rooms were very dark at night, even with all the lights turned on. We had no issues with hot water in the shower; the shower head was, however, old, and there was not much water stream or pressure.
Our room located on the second floor of the second building from the beach was the perfect location as it next to the main trolley line and a short walk to the beach. The window in our room faced the street with one of the less used roads, and we did not hear anything while in the room.
See more reviews on the Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana on TripAdvisor.
Yes, as mentioned in TripAdvisor reviews, the beach area is narrower than the beaches of the neighbouring resorts like the Majestic and RIU. Personally, I preferred it. We were sitting under a hut very close to the water, and we liked that. The rumours of reserving chairs early at the resort are true. Particularly on the weekend when the resort appeared to be at capacity. Many of the chairs were broken so be sure to check yours before you put the towel on it.
Packing for this trip you may want to bring an insulated mug with you:
- See our post on the Stojo Collapsable travel mug
- Our post on the List of Best Travel Friendly Sun Shades might also be of interest.
Seaweed on the Beach is a Minor Issue
One note, the beach is on the Atlantic Ocean, I’m not sure if this affects it all year round, but we noticed it was very breezy and the water was rough. There is also seaweed in the water, and all along the beach, it varies where each day. The current is high, and the waves bring in batches of seaweed each day.
RIU and Majestic’s beaches also had areas with it. There is a tractor that goes by each morning with staff raking up the seaweed and putting into the truck but more just comes in. It is slightly icky at first when you go in, but once you are into the water, you pass the seaweed and are in the clear blue water.
Overall Service was Fantastic!
I don’t understand how anyone can complain about service at this resort. It didn’t matter where we went, buffet, lobby bar even the trolley/tram drivers were smiling and happy to see us. We got coffee almost the instant we sat down. It didn’t matter if we tipped or not always smiles and glad to help. I was very impressed, and except for one waiter in the Mediterranean restaurant, I thought everyone was awesome!
Photographers on site
The hotel has several photographers going around the resort with a monkey, snake, parrots or an iguana. They put the animals on the tourists and then take a picture. They also walked around with two models dressed as Dominican Natives who were fun and flirty with the tourists. It is a beautiful touch. Just a note about the photographers which in the Dominican which they call the paparazzi. Excursions also have photographers taking pictures and video of your experiences you will be asked everywhere even when you exit the Dominican Republic at the airport to check out the photos, but it is your option to buy or not to buy.
Excursions from the Resort
We took two-day trips during our vacation for more information visit these posts:
- Marinarium – Swim with the Sharks & Stingrays Catamaran Excursion – Punta Cana
- Saona Island, Dominican Republic – Transat Holidays Motorboat/Catamaran Excursion
I had a rough time finding a drink that wasn’t super sweet or too strong. Especially at the beach bars. At one point I filled up my insulated cup with diet Pepsi and just told them to put a little rum. That was the only way I could handle it. I found the lobby bar was more professional and made drinks well. Every night there was a special drink served at a bar, and my favourite was Coco Loco night where the beverage came in coconuts.
See more reviews on the Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana on TripAdvisor.
Shows in Theatre
These ran at 9:00 and 10:15 nightly there were a variety of shows very professionally run, with professional dancers and performers. The Michael Jackson show was a real treat as was the circus night. The theatre fills up rather quickly, so I suggest you hit it early to get a good seat.
Lobby Bar also had nightly entertainment – some nights it was loud and echoed through the open area. There are two more bars located in the Pablo Principe shopping mall, but we did not hang out there, mostly younger crowd. The shopping mall also had an open theatre, and they had some local bands playing there when we went which were also a nice change.
The Pueblo Principe Shops
This a small outdoor shopping mall located in the front of the resort just a 1-minute walk from either the Punta Cana or Bavaro lobbies. It is set up in a square, with small boutique like shops, there is not much bartering in the stores although their prices were quite reasonable and we found them to be better than the vendors on the beach or the vendors in the mall. Note a lot of the vendors were selling their “silver” larimar jewellery, but they were not silver. Buyer beware.
The Lobby Shops
There is one lobby store in Punta Cana side and one in the Bavaro side; they are very similar, and I found they had the best prices all around. I bought coffee and a mask in the lobby shop cheaper than anywhere else. The coffee in the hotel lobby stores was also less expensive than at the airport Duty-free, so I was glad I bought it there. These shops have snacks, rum, coffee, souvenirs, some clothing and travel necessities, like sunscreen, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, etc.
Hotel Merchant Night
There was one night where the merchant vendors were on the hotel site in front of the theatre. I bought a painting for $60. I’m not upset about it because I was not able to find another one like it, but there were similar paintings in the shopping mall for $50, and at the Airport Duty-Free, there were also pictures available for $35-$50. Again the best prices are in the Hotel Lobby shops and the actual shops in the shopping mall. I feel like the vendors ripped us off. If you are going to bargain with them be sure you know what the items are worth in the shops before you play.
Stores included Perfume, alcohol, jewellery, paintings, Dominican souvenirs, snacks and cosmetics. There were lots of shops selling the tourist drink Mamajuana as well, again buyer beware on these, for more information on it see our post Mamajuana: Dominican Viagara or Tourist scam. Since we had a 4-hour wait for the plane at the airport (more on this later), it was nice to have a lot of stores to browse through to kill some time. The Airport also had a small food court which included Wendy’s, Baskin&Robbins and a bunch of other options.
Bahia Principe Punta Cana Resort Restaurants
By far my favourite restaurant on the resort was the most casual and most convenient. The Olas Beach B.B.Q. Located right on the beach the restaurant is split into two sides which mirror each other. They are both the same, and for some reason, everyone seemed to gather more at the Punta Cana side of the restaurant, while we tended to go to the area facing the Ambar which was the same and less crowded. Each of these has its bar as well as Pepsi machine, bartenders and water. They also have a breakfast buffet from 8:00 AM – 10:00 Am and a lunch buffet follow. I believe this place is open at night as well if you are looking for snacks although we were not late night eaters.
Mikado Japanese Restaurant or Maiko Japanese Restaurant – A la Carte
The Mikado resides on the Punta Cana side of the resort, and the Maiko is part of the Bavaro. Since most a la carte is available to all guests of either resort, the duplication seems somewhat unnecessary to me. We went to the Mikado which has 4 Tepanyaki stations that seat 10-12 people. The seating at the station is about an hour, and then you are moved into the central dining area for dessert. The menu is pretty set; each station has a Tepanyaki chef and server. You start with some sushi while the chef started cooking. For dessert, I had the fried ice cream. Overall the meal was ok. The food was a bit salty and lacked flavour. The Saki was bitter and horrible; we couldn’t drink it.
Il Capriccio Italian Restaurant – A la Carte
We had a lovely night at this restaurant, but it was mediocre at best. There is an appetiser buffet which was very good and included prosciutto, bread with various types of olive oils. The service at the restaurant was excellent, and there was right timing between meals. My friend had the seafood spaghetti, which was a light tomato sauce with lots of shrimp and calamari. I had the Pasta Bolognese which was a meat pasta fettuccine. Nothing to write home about in my opinion. The desserts were buffet style; I had a slice of Opera cake and fruit profiteroles.
Le Gourmet French Restaurant – A la Carte
There was a service survey going on in the restaurant. This usually means extra special treatment by the staff. We found the menu was hard to understand. They were trying too hard to present a fancy meal with fancy names that didn’t translate well in English.
I ordered the Salmon and Shrimp appetiser which was a cylinder of salmon, fruit, tomatoes, pineapple and shrimp it was lovely. One thing I loved about this restaurant was the pace between courses. Things seemed to flow very smoothly. For a main I had the lamb medallions which was tasty, my friend had the lobster pieces in a cream sauce. For dessert, she ordered the cheesecake which she said was nothing special and I ordered a Marble cylinder and got a fantastic white chocolate cylinder filled with an almond/chocolate mouse with chocolate pieces sticking out.
El Pescador Mediterranean Restaurant – A la Carte
It looks like from the decor this used to be a seafood restaurant, lots of blue, fish and shells decorating the restaurant. There is a buffet appetiser section, one main dish and then deserts at the buffet. The service here was horrible. The head waiter did not even want to talk to us (maybe because we were two women at the table with no man?) we couldn’t figure it out. The buffet items were cold; the lobster casserole was a fishy stew, and the desserts were not extraordinary. We ended up leaving the restaurant very disappointed and quite irritated by the head waiter.
See more reviews on the Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana on TripAdvisor.
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