For many, all-inclusive is more about quantity of food than quality but I think it should be the other way around. The trick is finding a resort that believes in quality too. Knowing that food is important to my family when traveling, the folks at Sunwing Vacations suggested the Riu Hotel and Resorts for foodie families, including the Riu Palace Bavaro in Punta Cana.
You won’t be wanting for food and drink with the two buffets and 4 themed al-a-carte restaurants along with the Sports Bar, a lobby bar and a café coffee shop.
The main buffet, the Montecristo, is the largest of all the dining options and the only one offering both indoor and outdoor dining. We started most mornings here with a selection of hot and cold dishes. From eggs with a spicy salsa and grilled cheese fingers to waffles and an omelet station, each morning we were able to try something different.
My youngest loved the large fresh fruit selection and I always started my day with blended fruit. We were always greeted by our server and developed a fun rapport with her and her team.
For lunch we alternated between the Montecristo and the Taino buffet. If we had a morning pool day planned, the Taino was a perfect pick. Located right off the pool deck you can just toss on a cover-up and grab a table. Sometimes we would just grab a plate of fruit or chips and salsa to bring out to our pool lounges.
When it comes to dinner time more dining options become available and we took advantage of booking a table at one of the Riu Palace Bavaro’s four themed restaurants. I say four since the fifth restaurant, the Kullinarium, is reserved for adults only staying in a selection section of the resort.
I’ve outlined the four themed restaurants below in older of my family’s foodie preference:
La Bambola (Italian)
One of our favourite features about dining here was the starter. Instead of a shared appetizer, La Bambola offers a great antipasto salad bar before your meal. The trick is not filling up before your main course. If you happen to have a picky eater in your group that isn’t persuaded by any of the main dishes, the salad bar can be a perfect substitute.
When it came to choosing our main dishes we all found something we to enjoy, like crepe lasagna, braised calamari, even rack of lamb. No surprise, dessert was our favourite including tiramisu, limoncello tart, and Nutella calzone.
La Bambola was indeed our favourite, so much so that we booked a second night.
Unlike the other restaurants we visited, the Krystal is designed to be more experimental, opening your taste buds to new dishes. The shared tapas to start certainly lived up to the “nouvelle cuisine” idea with stuffed briouat (a Morraccan based sweet puff pastry), foie gras (a product that I’m not a fan of due to its questionable background) and marinated salmon (the last one being my favourite).
The starter and main dishes didn’t seem that experimental to me but they were very well done. We tried squash soup, lobster risotto, curry lamb, beef tenderloin and even grilled duck to name just a few dishes.
The desserts were a nice treat, especially the pineapple done three ways and the cinnamon coffee crème anglais with chocolate. If we had more nights to book, we would have planned a second dinner at the Krystal.
After experiencing the Royalton Riviera Maya’s Japanese dining (the sushi bar was a favourite), the Geisha was the most anticipated restaurant on our list by my family.
We loved the sushi platter offered at the start of the meal, giving everyone a taste of sushi and sashimi (a great way to introduce the kids to this type of food if they hadn’t tried it before). To be honest, we could have made a meal out of just the sushi platter.
From the starter and main dishes we tried the ramen noodle bowl, Dashi soup (fish broth based), spring rolls, chicken satay, even tempura seafood and vegetables. Most dishes we enjoyed though the ramen noodles felt more like packed noodles and the tempura was a fried fish batter than traditional tempura, two easy changes that would have elevated the meal. I did like that sake was a beverage option, a nice meal addition.
We were too full to sample any of the desserts.
Steakhouses never rate high on our list whenever we travel, often finding the meat very salty and fatty, so we didn’t have high expectations for the Taino when we booked our meal.
I was pleasantly surprised by the meal though only two people order steak. We tried shrimp and chicken skewers, lobster tail and of course steak. The meat and seafood dishes were cooked well, not over cooked at all. The only disappointment was that the side in all cases came with fried potato wedges.
The assortment of a small dessert tray was a nice way to round out our meal. Add to that the view since this restaurant is located by the pool unlike all the other restaurants that are closer to the main building.
Although we enjoyed the buffet dining at the Riu Palace Bavaro, it was a nice experience sitting down in a quieter, smaller space and being served. I share some tips for families opting to take advantage of the al-a-cart dining (a must) as well as a walkthrough of the various restaurants in the following video.
Along with the dining options mentioned above, you can also enjoy cocktails in the lobby bar and swim-up pool bar (pool drink service is amazing). The Sports Bar and room service operate 24-hours should you need something plus the café, across from the lobby bar, is a nice place to grab a specialty coffee and pastry.
Sunwing’s Riu Palace Bavaro certainly delivers on the 24-hour all-inclusive service when it comes to food and drink. The quality of food in the buffet and the al-a-carte restaurants was better quality than my expectations at all-inclusive resorts. I would certainly recommend foodie families book a night at the Krstal and La Bambola during their stay.
Are you a fan of all-inclusive resorts? Have you stayed a resort that really impressed you food quality wise?