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Planning a trip to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic? 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?
Just FYI: This post was first written in 2015 and updated in 2019 with tons of new info.
The new Grand Reserve
New for 2019: There’s a major update at Paradisus Palma Real. The new Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real has officially opened. When I asked the peeps at Paradisus how it differs from the regular upscale Reserve, the reply was that “this is the luxe of the luxe.”
The Grand Reserve is 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. You can read more about the Grand Reserve below.
Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I’ll make a small commission (like really small) if you click through and purchase anything – at no additional cost to you.
Paradisus Palma Real or Paradisus Punta Cana?
Note: I was a guest of the Melia Hotel Group.
It took 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
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, which is 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. The new Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real has definitely upped its game.
You can see the difference between the two luxury DR resorts 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 very stylish, with a centrepiece lobby courtyard transformed by coloured lights at night.
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. The staff at both of the top all-inclusive resorts work hard to keep the seaweed at bay.
Worried about seaweed? Check out Punta Cana seaweed conditions.
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, Reserve sections, while the Palma Real has the addition of the Grand Reserve. 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, the Reserve and the Grand Reserve. Decisions, decisions.
The Reserve Beach Rooms at Paradisus Palma Real
The Reserve Beach Rooms are part of The Reserve inventory with full access to The Reserve and the main property in Paradisus Palma Real. The difference is that they’re closer to the beach.
I stayed in one of The Reserve Beach Luxury Category rooms and enjoyed the VIP check-in, private pool, exclusive restaurant and butlers that will run you rose petal baths. My favourite aspect of these beachside rooms was the interior decor. My room was a beautiful mix of white, sand and smoke-hued tones, an elegant interpretation of a luxury Caribbean resort.
The Reserve Beach Rooms section at Paradisus Palma Real consists of 42 deluxe suites with ocean or partial ocean views and can accommodate up to 2 adults and 2 children, or 1 adult and 3 children.
There were clean lines, plenty of marble and an elegant bathtub separated from the room by a white diaphanous curtain, and it was all so haute and chic I felt like Marilyn Monroe or some other glam star as I lounged around on the bed.
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.
There were special kid’s amenities (Johnson’s baby shampoo, anyone?) and some of the suites had 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 at the Palma Real is not just because it’s an exclusive adults-only section with a to-die for lounge and luxe facilities, but because guests in Royal Service have free access to the water facilities at the resort’s Yhi Spa, a full-service spa with cabanas, lots of bamboo, ferns and a hydrotherapy circuit.
Paradisus Punta Cana also has an adult-only all-inclusive Royal Service section.
The Reserve at the Paradisus Punta Cana and Paradisus Palma Real – luxury residential suites
The Reserve is a 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 was rated the top Punta Cana hotel on TripAdvisor when I went.
The Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real
The Grand Reserve is set above the other levels, and people who want to check out the latest in 5-star Caribbean hotels and resorts $110 million resort should have it on their horizon. This $110-million new resort-within-a-resort has 288 large guest rooms.
When I say large, I mean large. They range between 800 and 3,000 square feet. Suites have either one or two bedrooms and have 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.
In addition, the Palma Real Grand Reserve has fourteen restaurants and bars, including a gourmet market, modern steakhouse, ceviche bar, cigar bar and sushi bar.
The Grand Reserve caters to families with their Blast! AquaFun Park. For adults, there is a MAIA Signature Spa by Natura Bissé, which features relaxation areas and an outdoor pool. (Note: It’s more expensive than the other Paradisus Dominican Republic resort spas such as the Yhi Spa.)
Guests at the Grand Reserve also have access to all the other restaurants and facilities of the regular Reserve and the Paradisus Palma Real.
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 eight Michelin stars to his name. Eight! To eat at Passion, there is a substantial additional fee.
Dining tip: 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. Restaurants fill up fast, so I’d put this first on your list.
So there you have it. A tale of two paradises. I hope I’ve helped you sort out the differences between the Paradisus Punta Cana and the Paradisus Palma Real, and the various levels within these two popular luxury resorts in the Dominican Republic. What more can I say, besides eat, drink and be suntanning (with plenty of sunscreen, of course)?
Melia has 12 hotels in the DR. You can check below for prices and availability for these and other Dominican Republic hotels.