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What the DR ordered

As I traveled to the Dominican Republic from Asheville, NC last month, I pondered what lay ahead. Did I pack everything I’d need? The right clothes? Meds for any possible situation? Was it safe, especially considering recent immigration issues? Was the resort for “beautiful people” only? Would I mesh with others on this media trip?

And the biggest question: Why in the world was I included when my writing focus is mostly the southeast region of the United States? Granted, I’ve combined my travel site (which still needs refining after the shift) with my culinary site, but still . . .

When I travel, especially to a country I’ve never seen first hand, I do a few things you might think are overkill, but are essential for my peace of mind. Whether or not I take all these steps depends on where I’m traveling.

  • First, I file my itinerary with the in-country US Consulate office closest to where I’m staying in case there is a coup, disaster, or whatever while I’m there.
  • Second, I take out a short-term MedjetAssist policy that will fly me to my home-hospital of choice from anywhere in the world that’s 150 or more miles from my home.
  • Third, I verify with my health insurance carrier that I will be covered where I’m going, and what that coverage includes.


The centerpiece of this trip was the Michelin-Starred Chef Dinner hosted by IBEROSTAR Grand Bavaro in Punta Cana. Star, rather 5 Michelin Star, Chef Jordi Cruz flew in from Spain that afternoon, sat for an interview, and then orchestrated the most incredible dining experience of my life to date.

Chef Jordi Cruz

“Through this ambitious initiative we are taking the flavours and creativity of some of the most renowned Spanish chefs, through exclusive dinners to IBEROSTAR hotels in the Caribbean (Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico) and Spain. The objective is to export the haute cuisine of our country by the hand of sixteen prestigious chefs, who together hold more than twenty Michelin stars and will be offering their best creations in a unique dining experience.” ~ IberostarChef on Tour, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts

Read more about the October 2014 – October 2015 IberostarChef on Tour, including the 2015 schedule here.

Dinner began with the most amazing Bloody Mary served in a tumbler! It was made not with tomato juice, rather essence (or water) of tomato. The appearance was “cloudy-clear” and flavor was concentrated and intense. Paired with the Bloody Mary is the first dish in the gallery below: Bloody Mary Foam with Seafood.

Someone recently asked me what was so special about this dinner. It was hard to put it into words, exactly, but I told them I came away with a new appreciation of what it means to win a Michelin Star. Every single dish – no matter how basic or un-managed the ingredients – had intense flavor, surprising textures, or both. Some were so surprising at first bite, conversation stopped and people around the table just looked at each other.


Bloody Mary on the Rocks & Bloody Mary Foam with Seafood

Parmesan Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms and Acidulate Juice
Paired with Vino Tinto Alma de Tobia Tinto de Autor/Tempranillo/Rioja, Espana

Ceviche of Lulo and Sea Bass and Oysters
Paired with Cava Juve & Camps Millesime/Chardonnay/Cava, Espana

Lobster with Seafood and Thai Coral Juice
Paired with Vino Blanco Ossian 2012/Verdejo/Castilla Leon, Espana

Beef Fillet with Foie Gras and Vanilla Garlic Confit
Paired with Vino Pago de Carraovejas Tinto El Anejon de la Cuesta de las Liebres/Tinto Fino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot/Ribera del Duero, Espana

Coconut with Yogurt and Green Apple
Paired with Vino Dulce Tokaji Oremus 5 Puttonyos 2005/Furmint, Harslevelu, Muscat Lunel/Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungria

Belgian Ale “Textures of Chocolate”
Paired with Cerveza Negra Premium

IBEROSTAR Grand Bavaro

Is an “All Inclusive” Resort right for you? The idea is that once you arrive, most resort amenities are included at no additional cost. Per person pricing (not per room) at the 5 star, adults only IBEROSTAR Grand Bavaro includes:

  • All you can eat and drink: includes top shelf liquors, at 5 on-site restaurants and bars, at the Swim Up Bar, Lobby Bar, etc. You may have heard about or experienced less than wonderful food at “all-inclusive” resorts, but I’m here to tell you, I ate at 4 of the 5 restaurants and the food was top notch. Some times the staff knew I was media and some times they didn’t. No difference in service or food quality was noticed.
  • 24/7 room service: they’re fast. I timed them.
  • Service throughout the day: re-stocking the mini bar, cleaning, turn down service.
  • Fully stocked Mini Bar: water, beer, wine, liquor, juice, soda.
  • Fitness room overlooking the ocean: How much better can it get? Cool ocean breeze while you work out.
  • Activities throughout the day: Yoga, Bingo, Dance Lessons, Volleyball, Card Games. There are a couple other Iberostar properties next door, one of which has a Casino. Anyone staying at the Grand Bavaro can use the amenities at any of their other properties. They are just a short walk on the beach away.
  • Nightly live theater shows: think good cruise ship entertainment

The on-site SPA is pay per service.


Epicurean Notes:

  • Turns out I was a perfect choice for inclusion on this trip. The Dominican Republic is easy to get to from the Carolinas, I’m the demographic that visits the Iberostar Grand Bavaro, and the food (beyond the Chef Dinner) is most definitely Epicurean recommended.
  • As far as the “beautiful people” go, all kinds of people stay at this resort, including “real people” like me. I felt perfectly comfortable at the pool, restaurants, and bars throughout my stay.
  • Staff are exceptionally friendly.
  • Rooms and facilities are clean.
  • Most materials, including furniture at the Grand Bavaro, were custom-made by local artisans in the Dominican Republic
  • The Dominican Republic is a country on the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. It shares the island with the country of Haiti.