Thursday, January 19, 2017

Vacationing in Punta Cana: Now Larimar Resort Review & Travel Guide

Every winter many Canadians ditch their winter jackets in favor of swimsuits and escape to warm, tropical climates. While planning my recent vacation I considered Madrid, Budapest and Amsterdam but decided on a sunny Caribbean destination popular with travelers from all over the world. Punta Cana is situated at the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic and is known for its white sandy beaches and beautiful blue water. Although I have been to Samana before, it was my first visit to this part of the island and the warm sea breeze and swaying palm trees was a welcome retreat from Toronto’s snow storms.

January is a wonderful season to visit. The average temperature during my stay was 27˚C or 80˚F with very little humidity. After a 4 hour flight (with jaw-clenching turbulence) I touched down in the small airport and headed to baggage claim. The first thing I noticed was a sea of porters randomly taking luggage off the conveyor, piling them up and watching over them with odd possessiveness. When the owner of the bag approached to retrieve it, the porter would insist on carrying it for a tip. I understand the need to make money but I’m not big on pushiness and while exiting the airport sales people also tried to persuade us to visit their resorts by offering discounted excursion rates. Needless to say I was in no mood for a sales pitch after getting one hour of sleep and feeling jet lagged.

As you exit the airport there is a board which conveniently lists most major resorts and the price it costs to get there which prevents swindling by sneaky cab drivers. The Now Larimar resort is 30 minutes from the airport and the cab ride cost $35.00 U.S. (each way).

Resort Overview
The Now Larimar is a 5 star all-inclusive beach resort featuring 540 rooms and suites, 7 restaurants (specialty cuisines and buffet) 11 bars and lounges (including a swim-up pool bar), expansive gardens and many fun activities.

Pricing for this resort may vary by season and booking website. During our stay the price for a garden view room started at $422.00 per night (based on double occupancy via When you check-in they might also ask if you’d like a room upgrade to the members only area for $40 per person, per day. 

Here’s what’s included:
*All meals and snacks at the restaurants (no reservations required) + access to the restaurants at Now Garden Resort. (Dress code is casual elegant at most restaurants)
*All drinks + alcoholic beverages (top-shelf spirits and cocktails)
*All day entertainment and activities
*24 hour room service
*Daily replenishment of your mini bar with alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, juice and water
(The tap water is not safe to drink. I also chose to brush my teeth with bottled water)
*Daily maid service
*Teens and kids clubs
*Pool and beach waiter service
*Themed parties and ocean front bars
*All taxes and gratuities
Not included:
*Spa services and treatments
*Bowling alley ($10.00 U.S. per game)
*There is no shuttle service to the airport, shopping centers or city which is inconvenient
*No access to members only areas

After the 30 min ride to the resort, our baggage was promptly tagged to be taken to our room and we were welcomed with sparkling champagne. The front desk and concierge staff were courteous and while our room was prepared we had lunch at the Carnival Buffet.

The biggest downside to this resort is the pestering sales people. After lunch a staff member told us that our room was not ready (when in fact it was) and then proceeded to persuade us into attending a breakfast meeting so he could try to sell us membership to the resort’s club. The place is crawling with sales people who constantly asked us to attend the sales meeting in order to gain commission (similar to a timeshare). They popped out at us after lunch and even bothered us while we were trying to relax on the beach. I expected 5 star service and found this behavior downright annoying! I was also surprised at how much of the staff didn’t speak English. Some of the baggage handlers also seemed to latch on to us and consistently inquired about our departure time in an effort to get tips when we left (although gratuity is included we did tip some staff which is probably why they bothered us).

Our room was quite spacious with a king size bed, walk-out terrace and a large bathroom with jacuzzi tub and glass enclosed shower. The bed was a bit too hard and the pillows weren’t very comfortable. I also found out the shower head was broken with it fell on me the first night and I had to ask the maid to clean the jacuzzi properly since I found traces of hair. Other than that our stay was enjoyable.

Resort Layout
This resort has one of the nicest layouts I’ve seen. All walkways to public areas and guest rooms are open to the elements on either side but still covered to provide shade and let in the wonderful Caribbean breeze. 

You can get anywhere rain or shine while being totally covered and not having to walk outside although the garden paths are lush with greenery, very well manicured and brimming with flowers so I suggest exploring.

The main plaza is a large open space with plenty of seating shaded by palms trees and surrounded by restaurants, bars, boutiques and lounges. This area is a popular guest hangout in the evening. Workers clean, mop and tidy the public areas all day so they are always immaculate.

The resort shares its facilities and beach area with its sister property called Now Garden. Despite this there was no overcrowding or noise issues during my stay.

The pools are very expansive with lots of deck space and lounge chairs. The beach is located at the back of the property and there are thrilling water sports and equipment available.

Shows and Entertainment
I was very impressed with the resort's effort to keep guests entertained and having fun. A nightly schedule/newsletter was delivered to our room at turn-down service outlining the events planned for the following day. The night of our arrival they hosted a Golden Globe Party with red carpet, photo area, big screen, champagne, snacks and seating. They also screened movies in the theater and had a magic show, belly dancing and a Multinational show featuring beautiful carnival costumes and acrobatics. On Dominican night a talented Latin singer performed in the plaza while local vendors set up booths selling handmade souvenirs, jewelry and paintings – similar to an outdoor craft fair. They also had a foam party in the pool, a beach party and a many games, trivia and group activities like beach volleyball. The Moments Lobby Bar also featured live entertainment so there is never a dull moment and no reason to leave the resort.

Other Amenities
I’ve already mentioned a few amenities but the resort also has a roof top night club with pool. The sports bar has games like fuse ball, pool, PS3 and Xbox along with a popcorn machine and the bowling alley.
There is also:
*An excursions desk if you want to plan a day off the resort
*Gym/fitness center
*Tennis court (lessons are free)

Food, Dining & Restaurants
As mentioned there are several restaurants on the property including:
*Barefoot Grill (located by the pool) ~ burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, fries etc
*Blue Water Grill Seafood & Steakhouse (American Cuisine)
*Carnival International Cafe/ Buffet (open for breakfast, lunch, dinner & late night bites from 11 pm - 6 am). If you like hot or even warm food I recommend getting to the buffet early as everything gets cold very quickly. There is a pasta station, pizza bar, coffee area, salad bar, bread area, dessert and hot dishes that vary each day. Overall I found the food at Carnival rather bland (which is quite typical of resort buffets) but there were always a few good dishes.
*Castaways Beachside Restaurant
*Coco Cafe – a great place to enjoy delicious iced coffees and specialty brews with pastries or cake.
*Mercure French Restaurant
*Spice (Japanese Cuisine)
*Tamarindo (Mexican Cuisine) - I recommend the fried chicken tacos and fajitas. The restaurant also has its own margarita bar!
*Capers (Italian Restaurant located at Now Garden) - At the front entrance you can take a golf cart shuttle or walk to the Italian restaurant at the other resort. I highly recommend the salad bar and tiramisu, they also have a selection of pasta and pizza.
*24 hour room service (included)

Swim-up pool bar

Overall the food at the resort was good with many options including gluten-free meals but I found most dishes very under seasoned and even the cultural specific restaurants seemed to share a very monotone flavor palette throughout. Almost all of the chicken I had on and off the resort was very overcooked. 

Things to do off the resort
The sightseeing tours and activities in Punta Cana are typical of many Caribbean islands.
*Zip lining
*Snorkeling & scuba diving
*Whale watching 
*Swim with the dolphins
*Water sports
*Various tours including: jeeps, buggies, jungle/wildlife expeditions, party cruises, horseback riding and more.
These activities are offered in many places so shop around online before you travel, check prices with your resort and read customer reviews on Trip Advisor.

Playa Blanca Beach (close to the airport)
If you spend time away from the resort I highly recommend a trip to Playa Blanca aka White Beach. The crystal clear water is warm, shallow and calm. You can walk for quite a distance before the water even reaches your waist and the sparkling white sand and swaying palm trees is picture perfect!

We missed our flight and ended up staying an extra day which was fabulous! We booked a room last minute at Four Points by Sheraton in Punta Cana Village which is just minutes away from the airport. Across the street from the hotel there is a great selection of restaurants so we had a chance to enjoy some Dominican food at La Casita de YeYa.

Mofungo (seen below) is a dish made with crushed seasoned plantain (a type of cooking banana) served with your choice of meat and a delicious garlic sauce. I first had this dish in Puerto Rico (where it originated) and trying the local food is always a must!

I had a fabulous time in Punta Cana and will definitely be back again!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I love hearing from all of my amazing readers. Have a wonderful day!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...