Food is bad, and the la carte restaurant isn’t included in the room rate
Hotel doesn’t have many amenities or entertainment options
Walls are paper thin
Not directly on the beach
Fee for Wi-Fi
Young party scene may not be attractive for all travelers
A dirt-cheap all-inclusive not far from the beach, whala!bavaro attracts a young, international crowd who’s ready to party. Though the hotel itself isn’t particularly rowdy, guests take advantage of whala!’s all-inclusive alcohol, three pool areas, and fun beach club. whala!’s proximity to downtown Bavaro’s restaurants and bars is another plus, but the hotel seriously lacks on-site entertainment options — unless of course, one considers watching the masses viscously overtake the buffet a form of entertainment. Rooms are clean, but pretty bare bones, with humdrum decor and few amenities. The nearby Barcelo Dominican Beach might be a better pick for travelers looking for more amenities and on-site entertainment, but rates are typically higher.
A dirt cheap all-inclusive with an international crowd
As crazy as the name whala!bavaro looks and sounds, it seems pretty fitting for this cheap Punta Cana all-inclusive. There really aren’t any words, except perhaps for a made up one like whala!, to describe the utterly bizarre atmosphere that pervades this place. During our visit, we encountered Russian men in speedos screaming at hotel managers about dry cleaning, packs of German teenagers headed for sightseeing tours, selfie-stick wielding British girls conducting poolside photoshoots, and burley Americans viciously pushing anyone in their path to be first on the buffet line.
Besides the sometimes wild clientele, whala!bavaro’s layout also gives it a disjointed feel. The property, which was probably once three separate hotels or apartment buildings, is connected by winding alleyways and strange hallways. The only benefit to this layout is that all three pool areas are completely separated, giving each a different vibe.
whala!’s lobby is a thatched roof open-air building that sits close to the street. The round room has stone floors, dark wood furniture, and billowy white curtains that separate the inside from the outside. Walls are painted in a Tuscan orange hue, which brings a little color into the otherwise dark space. Though the area is safe for tourists, there is a security guard who patrols the lobby and the small front parking lot 24/7.
As its strange name suggests, whala!bavaro is located in downtown Bavaro, a lively section of Punta Cana with great bars and restaurants — most of which are within walking distance of the hotel. Though it’s not located directly on the beach, whala!bavaro is about a two-minute walk from the sand. Bavaro Beach isn’t the prettiest in Punta Cana — it’s narrow, windy, and ravaged by seaweed — but is known for its fun, party vibe and beachy activities like kite surfing and scuba diving. The hotel is about 25 minutes from Punta Cana Airport.
Rooms at whala!bavaro are bare bones -- but what else can you expect from a hotel where the website lists a bathroom sink and a ceiling fan as in-room amenities? There are three room categories at whala!: Standard Rooms, Superior Rooms, and Suites. Standard and Superior Rooms are nearly identical, so the only upgrade worth paying for is the Suite. Standard and Superior rooms have one queen or two double beds, a small mirrored vanity with a mini-fridge, tiny flat-screen TVs, and in-room safes that look like they’ve been around since the Stone Age. Bathrooms are nicely tiled, and have shower stalls but no tubs. Hot water can sometimes be an iffy situation. Rooms have cheap tile floors, bland butter yellow walls, and light wood furniture. Though they’re not racking up style points, rooms are clean and well-kept.
Suites are equipped with a small living room, one bedroom with a king-size four-poster bed, and a bathroom with a whirlpool tub. They’re larger than the Standard and Superior Rooms, but have the same decor. All room types have spacious balconies, and most have pool views.
Rooms are housed in three-story buildings that do not have elevators. Guests with mobility limitations should request a room on the ground level. No matter where rooms are located throughout the hotel, walls are paper thin, and are subject to near constant noise from the pool areas or neighboring rooms.
Three pools, a beach club, and two on-site restaurants
whala!bavaro isn’t exactly known for its incredible on-site amenities, but for the price, the hotel does have several nice features. There are three pools, literally named Pool 1, Pool 2, and Pool 3. Located between the lobby and the buffet restaurant, square-shaped Pool 1 is the property’s smallest, and is surrounded by a few umbrella-covered plastic cafe tables and some lounge chairs. Pool 2 is in the courtyard directly next to Pool 1. It’s larger in size and has its own hot tub, bar, covered lounge area, and an outdoor stage where the hotel hosts weekly performances. Shaped like a dumbbell, Pool 3 is the property’s largest and most secluded. Unlike the other two, Pool 3 is set back from the street, and has a quieter atmosphere.
Though it’s not directly on the beach, whala!bavaro has its own beach club that’s about a two-minute walk from the hotel. The beach club has tons of lounge chairs, a volleyball net, and a bar that serves snacks and drinks. There’s even a tiny public restroom reserved for guest use.
Most all-inclusives aren’t known for their food, but whala!bavaro sets a new standard for bad hotel dining. whala! has two restaurants, a buffet and an a la carte option. The buffet serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, but the a la carte restaurant is only open on select nights for dinner. The a la carte restaurant isn’t included in the all-inclusive plan, so guests are better off venturing to nearby restaurants if they want a non-buffet restaurant experience. Watching guests line up outside of the buffet restaurant before meal times is a sight to be seen. At breakfast, we watched one man push past waiting guests in order to be first in line for the omelet station. We saw another man sprint to the buffet table, only to fill his plate with heaping piles of onions and tomatoes. Maybe he felt raw vegetables were the only thing he could eat, considering much of the buffet looked sorely unappetizing that morning. Another pitfall is the machine-produced coffee, and the hordes of people who are always lined up to get some. Dinner usually has a theme, like Mexican, Italian, or Dominican, and the restaurant is typically decorated accordingly.
The hotel’s on-site mini-market is a convenient shop for vacation necessities like snacks, drinks, and souvenirs. The hotel offers free parking in its small front lot, but Wi-Fi incurs an extra charge.