Planning a trip to Punta Cana? Looking for a tropical luxury resort? If you’re trying to decide between the Paradisus Punta Cana and Paradisus Palma Real, how the heck do you choose? And then, once you’ve decided, what section suits your needs?
News for 2019: Major update at Paradisus Palma Real. The new Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real has officially opened. When I asked how it differs from the regular upscale reserve, the reply was that “this is the luxe of the luxe.” It’s not directly beachside, but has all the beach access of the Paradisus Palma Real, plus its own snazzy beach club. Its inclusive circular design, a symbol of ‘perfection and wholeness’ is aiming to be the most luxurious experience in Punta Cana.
There are 288 rooms and suites ranging from 800 to over 3,000 square feet. Suites have soaking tubs, walk-in showers, and private balconies with whirlpool tubs. For the luxe of the luxe of the luxe, (that’s a lot of luxes), the Grand Reserve’s Swim-Up Suites have direct access to an exclusive pool, complete with lush garden areas and a solarium. Hey, that all sounds pretty luxe to me. The Grand Reserve also has fourteen restaurants and bars including a gourmet market, modern steakhouse, ceviche bar, cigar bar and sushi bar – I can’t wait to check it out.
Paradisus Palma Real or Paradisus Punta Cana
It’s taken me four days on the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic just to figure out which designer cocktail to order, much less sort out the difference between the Standard section, Royal Service, Family Concierge and the Reserve at the two Paradisus Punta Cana resorts. But now that I’ve got it straight, let me guide you.
Because it’s hard to know where to go until you’ve already been there, right?
Let’s start with the basics. Where is Punta Cana?
Punta Cana is in the Dominican Republic. Yes, yes, I know you’re snorting dismissively but let me tell you how many travel ads I’ve seen that speak glowingly of luxury resorts and coconuts and palm trees, but don’t mention where Punta Cana actually is. Let me also tell you there are a lot of people out there googling “What country is Punta Cana in?”
Bávaro Beach, recognized by UNESCO
So now you know (and probably knew before). Punta Cana is on the east coast of the Dominican Republic and both the Paradisus Palma Real and Paradisus Punta Cana are located here, in the popular beach area of Bávaro, recognized as one of the best beaches in the world by UNESCO.
Both resorts are less than 30 minutes from the Punta Cana International Airport. Yet the tone of the two resorts are as different as an emerald-cut diamond and a radiant one.
What is the difference between the Paradisus Punta Cana and Paradisus Palma Real?
So glad you asked. The Paradisus Palma Real is sleek, sexy, upbeat and lively. The Paradisus Punta Cana feels a little more laid back, more garden-y, a little more in touch with nature.
You can see the difference in the art: At the Paradisus Palma Real the sculptures tend towards bold and contemporary while the art at the Paradisus Punta Cana has a more indigenous local feel (excluding that crazy herd of sheep by the lounge).
Extremely important: Both the Paradisus Punta Cana and Paradisus Palma Real have resident pink flamingos. I just thought you should know.
Which is better, the Paradisus Punta Cana or Paradisus Palma Real?
Both have their fans, and they’re split pretty evenly. While the Paradisus Punta Cana and Paradisus Palma Real have similar concepts, the Paradisus Palma Real is newer, with a centrepiece lobby courtyard transformed by coloured lights at night, while the Paradisus Punta Cana has a more nestled-in feel as if it grew naturally out of the tropical forest.
The beach at the Paradisus Punta Cana
The Paradisus Punta Cana resort’s beach is narrower than the Palma Real’s, the sand is divine, the waves look bigger and the water so translucent it looks like a big vat of turquoise jelly.
The beach at the Paradisus Palma Real
The Paradisus Palma Real’s beach is wide as wide can be, with the softest soft sand, and I whiled away as many hours in a deck chair here as I could. (I also kayaked, as non-motorized sports are included, but not for long because I’m lazy.)
That said, the water at the Paradisus Palma Real didn’t seem as clear as at the Paradisus Punta Cana and there seemed to be more seaweed washing up on shore.
Paradisus Punta Cana and Paradisus Palma Real: What section do you choose?
I’ll focus on Paradisus Palma Real in particular, though both resorts have Standard, Royal, Family Concierge and Reserve sections. In the Paradisus Punta Cana the Family Concierge is located within the Reserve, while it’s separate at the Palma Real.
But let’s get this straight. You could choose the standard section at either resort and be perfectly happy because both of these Dominican Republic resorts are 5-star all-inclusives – Paradisus is the luxury brand of Meliá Hotels International.
However, if you want to bump up your Caribbean luxury vacation with … more luxury, you need to choose between Royal, Family Concierge and the Reserve.
Family Concierge section at the Paradisus Palma Real is now part of the Reserve and is called the Reserve Beach Rooms
Update: The former Family Concierge Suites by the beach were rebranded/ renamed and are now called The Reserve Beach Rooms. They are the same rooms but have become part of The Reserve inventory with full access to The Reserve and the main property in Paradisus Palma Real. The rooms can be personalized for adults or families according to the guests.
I stayed in the Family Concierge section (now the Reserve Beach Rooms) – and yes, I’m aware I don’t have any children. Call me an interloper. What the Family Concierge at the Paradisus Palma Real has – besides VIP check-in, private pool, exclusive restaurant, butlers that will run you rose petal baths and a lounge with a nonstop selection of snacks and juices (loved the fresh green juice) – is, and this to me is the top draw, the most beautiful design-ery white, sand and smoke-hued suites you may ever see in a luxury Caribbean resort.
A $12 million renovation – the new Family Concierge at the Paradisus Palma Real
The Family Concierge area at the Paradisus Palma Real is brand spanking new. Its 42 deluxe suites are huge, with ocean or partial ocean views and can hold up to 2 adults and 2 children, or 1 adult and 3 children.
You’ll find clean lines, plenty of marble and an elegant bathtub separated from the room by a white diaphanous curtain, and it’s so haute and chic you’ll feel as if you’re Marilyn Monroe or some other glam star as you lounge around on the bed. (Or was that just me?)
Valuable tip for the self-obsessed: There is a large mirror with a white leather frame on the wall beside the bed so you can actually see how glamorous you look as you lounge – bring satin nightwear befitting of being a star.
The Family Concierge section has special kid’s amenities (Johnson’s baby shampoo, anyone?), and some of the suites have Jacuzzi’s on the balcony. I didn’t have one but I should have because I would have used it more than anyone in the world, although it would have cut into my beach time so maybe it was for the best.
Both the Paradisus Punta Cana and Paradisus Palma Real are extremely family-friendly. There is a Kids Zone, activities for teens and a Kids Pool complete with hippo slide. It’s hard to go wrong with a hippo slide.
The Royal Service – Adults Only
The reason I’d choose the Royal Service section is not just because it’s an exclusive adults-only section with a to-die for lounge and luxe facilities similar to the Family Concierge, but because guests in the Royal Service section have free access to the water facilities at the Yhi Spa, a top-notch spa with cabanas, lots of bamboo, ferns and a nice hydrotherapy circuit.
The Reserve at the Paradisus Punta Cana and Paradisus Palma Real – luxury residential suites
The Reserve is the most tranquil section of the hotel. It’s a little boutique world unto itself, and while it’s not directly on the beach, it still gets rave reviews. In fact the Reserve at the Paradisus Punta Cana Resort is currently rated the top Punta Cana hotel on TripAdvisor.
Dining at the two Paradisus Punta Cana resorts
Both the Paradisus Punta Cana and Paradisus Palma Real have excellent cuisine – the lobster, avocado and passionfruit salad I had at the Paradisus Punta Cana will forever be imbedded in my tastebuds.
Celebrity chef alert: Martin Berasategui, the renowned Spanish chef behind Passion at the Paradisus Palma Real has seven Michelin stars to his name. Seven!
Dining tip: To eat at Passion, and you will want to at least once, it’s a $60 additional fee for a 7-course tasting menu and $40 for wine pairing. There is also an à la carte menu.
Dining tip #2: Make dining reservations for all the à la carte restaurants (and there are many, as well as cocktail bars, swim-up bars, beachside lounges and nightly entertainment) as soon you as you arrive. Even better, get your butler to do it.
So there you have it. A tale of two paradises. What more can I say, besides eat, drink and be suntanning (with plenty of sunscreen, of course)?
For more information on Paradisus Resorts visit Paradisus.com
PS: I was a guest of the Melia hotel group (and wish I still was).