I’m taking an evening walk through a winding, palm-lined avenue.
I walk by a cinema and a French brasserie, a luxury goods shop, a cigar and rum lounge and an artisanal coffee shop. Families and couples stroll by as a DJ spins Latin music for the evening.
This could be the Bal Harbour Shops, or a Spanish village, or a high-end shopping plaza in Palm Beach or California.
But it’s not. It’s in the heart of an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana.
They call it The Boulevard, and it’s rather unlike anything I’ve ever encountered at a resort in the Caribbean, all-inclusive or otherwise.
And it’s just one of the things that makes the Lopesan Costa Bavaro so unique.
Our SUV driver, Nickeas, pulls into the vast entrance to the 1,042-room resort.
“This is the most beautiful resort in Bavaro,” he says, speaking of the original, traditional tourism stronghold of Punta Cana. And at the beginning of the trip, it seems hyperbole. But after a few days, we realized he was right.
The Costa Bavaro is the first-ever Caribbean resort for Lopesan, a Spanish company with a broad portfolio of resorts across Europe (the name comes from two families: Lopez and Sanchez) in places like Gran Canaria and Austria, among others.
That made it a rather tall order to compete in Bavaro and greater Punta Cana, where mostly Spanish companies like Melia and Barcelo have dominated with large resorts for decades.
And then the company opened its doors just before the onset of the pandemic, making things even more difficult.
But the result has been extraordinary: this place just looks good.
The resort, set on a prime stretch of Playa Bavaro, is a stunner, from the sweeping lobby to the multi-tiered pool to a pervasive, ubiquitous attention to detail and style and impressive-looking build quality.
That ranges from bigger touches like a seemingly endless fountain installation that runs from the lobby all the way to the pool to creative, inspired restaurant design that you almost never see at an all-inclusive.
The lobby opens out to a broad town-square style space, one that wouldn’t be out of place in the middle of a Spanish town, where live music plays each night and people gather for relaxed evenings in the plaza.
And then there’s the Boulevard, set at the back of the property, filled with restaurants, shops and activities, more than one would ever be able to enjoy in a single vacation.
There’s just something lovely about it, something organic; whether you come here for a morning Dominican espresso or an evening film, being here is a pleasure.
The coffee shop is right on the level of a top-quality cafe in a major European or American city, focused on locally-sourced Dominican coffee with a range of fresh juices and smoothies.
But it’s all-inclusive, so you don’t have to reach for your wallet.
The food in general is excellent, particularly in the Unique Club, the premium concept that comprises 127 rooms of the resort (and boasts one of the best all-inclusive buffets you’ll encounter, with an emphasis on local food like wonderfully fresh snapper, mahi maki and grouper.
There are seven themed restaurants, from a hibachi and sushi eatery to a Mediterranean to a particularly good French brasserie in the Boulevard (that’s along with two buffets).
The activities are vast, including a kids’ club, a teens; club, a bowling alley, and, so important for the younger kids, a full-fledged waterpark just past the Boulevard.
While the resort is perfectly great for endless pool and beach days (the main pool is a hub of activity during the afternoon)
The rooms are terrific, whether you’re in a traditional room, a junior suite facing the pool or the beach, a one-bedroom suite or one of the host of ultra-private, lushly landscaped swim-up rooms.
And the service that Punta Cana has become known for, warm and friendly, with a uniform desire to make guests happy.
When the resort opened its doors, it coined the term Costa Bavaro, something this area had never before been called.
It was a “new” place to visit, placing it on the level of destinations like the Costa del Sol, and that was almost certainly purposeful, rebranding Bavaro and putting it in a new light.
That’s because this resort is something different, and it’s not the Bavaro you’ve been to before.
It’s the Costa Bavaro — and it’s a completely new destination.
For more, visit the Lopesan Costa Bavaro.