The Sweetness of Doing Nothing: Le Sivory Punta Cana

Le Sivory beach resort, Punta Cana

Nearing the end of each winter, our pallid Canadian bodies plea for an overdose of sun, our eyes for endless blue horizons, our ears for the rhythm of surf on a fine sandy shore, our taste buds for great food, our stressed and tired brains for alcoholic concoctions with provocative names, and our boomer bodies for overall comfort. We heard from someone in the travel industry that Le Sivory Punta Cana by PortBlue Boutique, a small adults-only boutique beach resort about 20 miles from the Punta Cana Airport, had just undergone a major renovation and might have the ingredients we were looking for.

We took a quick look at the reviews on Expedia (4.3/5), Trip Advisor (4.5/5), Booking.Com (8.1/10) and Travelocity (78%) – but the key sales point for us was the resort’s advertorial which highlighted that Rafa Sanchez, Michelin Star Chef, designed the menus at the resort’s three restaurants. We decided to pay heed to our bodies’ whiney pleas and spend five days at Le Sivory.

Le Sivory is for those who want to engage in the Italian art of Dolce fa Niente – the sweetness of doing nothing. It’s a place where an extrovert has to face their innermost introvert demon and an introvert is on high power recharge. Le Sivory is not for those who want to party or meet people. It is not in any way high octane or for lovers of nightlife. One goes there to read, get a sunburn beside or in the waist deep pool or hot tubs, sleep and reboot.

To make a long story short, we had a lovely time and returned home recharged. Mission Relaxation was accomplished. Overall we would rate our experience as a solid 3.5/5 (not the ratings noted above, but excellent for the price). Highlights: the lovely locale, complete tranquility, great service. Lowlights: the breakfast and lunch buffets, the wine and mixed “tropical” drinks, and a number of trivial but mildly irritating deficiencies.

The breakfast and lunch buffets were uninspired
The breakfast and lunch buffets were uninspired

Now to make a short story long…

We flew down on a nearly empty direct flight that we had bought using points on Air Canada. We had pre-ordered our airport transfer with the resort. The flight landed a half hour early and to our surprise the driver was already waiting for us. The slow ride over some fairly impressive speed bumps took about 45 minutes and cost US $92.

Le Sivory is located literally at the end of the road of the sprawling resorts of Bávaro beach. At the end of the road there is land for sale, covered in dense tropical foliage and garbage, that in the future will probably become yet another resort.

When we arrived at the Le Sivory we were greeted with a cold scented towel to wipe our humid brows and a blue sparkling alcoholic beverage. Walking to our suite we were impressed at how beautifully the grounds are kept, how bird song fills the air, and above all the uncrowded and relaxed atmosphere.

The gardens are immaculate, cared for by an army of groundskeepers
The gardens are immaculate, cared for by an army of groundskeepers

Our deluxe junior suite was quite spacious and decorated in a Caribbean-inspired dark wood and white/cream décor with touches of blue. The bed had a very good mattress and we particularly enjoyed using the daybeds on the porch where our eyes could consume the blue of the sky and ocean. Despite the online reviews, while the room is very nice it is not as luxurious as say, the Grand Residences in Puerto Morelos, though certainly a step up from some other resorts we have visited.

The room was lovely with a comfy King bed, a living area, a small outdoor sitting area, and an open concept bathroom
The room was lovely with a comfy King bed, a living area, a small outdoor sitting area, and an open concept bathroom

Overall we rate the room 3.5/5 (see details below).

While there are only 55 suites, Le Sivory has five different dining venues (plus room service) and two bars. While we recognize that most people are not extreme foodies, we are. It is one of the key reasons we travel, and why we selected this resort. Overall the service was exceptional and the venues themselves were very nice. Unfortunately the breakfast and lunch buffets were at best somewhat uninspired. The low numbers of guests probably make it harder to put on a great buffet; perhaps it is better when the resort is closer to capacity and they can put out more variety without too much being wasted.

The dinner restaurants were much better than the buffets but certainly not of Michelin standard. The wine that came with the all-inclusive was simply dreadful – the very cheapest of Spanish plonk.

Le Sivory has two bars, but only is open at any given time - the pool bar during the day, and the covered bar in the evening
Le Sivory has two bars, but only is open at any given time – the pool bar during the day, and the covered bar in the evening

The mixed drinks were decently alcoholic, but the bar was stocked with sickly sweet syrups instead of juices, which were used with far too much abandon… we ended up forgoing the diabetes-inducing umbrella-bearing beach drinks and stuck with more traditional drinks (gin and tonic, Aperol spritz etc.), which were fine.

Overall meal rating 3/5 (see below for detailed critique).

The main reason to go to Le Sivory is the almost deafening quiet. During our visit the resort was half empty. On a few occasions we were the only people at the pool, on the beach or in the restaurants. The teeny tiny gym and the tennis court (which had enough coconuts on it to suggest it was not much used) are tucked away behind tropical foliage, and the volleyball net on the beach is placed on an upwards sloping dune surrounded by beach daybeds – all gentle reminders that exercise is a thing to be contemplated only in the abstract. We spent our days gently stretching in the pool or the ocean, burning in the glorious sunshine, walking on the near-empty beach, reading junk novels, listening to the sweet sounds of the surf and the ever present bird song, and dining.

The beach is lovely, though the volley-ball net seems mainly decorative
The beach is lovely, though the volley-ball net seems mainly decorative

THE DETAILS

OVERALL RATING OF ROOM – 3.5/5

Mini-bar: Coffee, plonky red and white wine, beer, bottled water (tap water is a no-no), mugs, ice-bucket (never had ice in it).
Bedroom: King-size bed (super comfortable) side table, TV, lights, sockets, chocolate on bed at end of the day (although only on 3 of our 5 days).
Sitting area: Two sofas with a coffee table.

Bathroom: Open concept.

  • Bath: huge, big enough for two or even three traditionally sized people. We used it on our first day following which it would not drain, so housekeeping removed (but did not fix) the plug. We did not use it again.
  • Shower: for two, good water pressure but the design ensured the bathroom floor got soaked.
  • Sink: large counter but only one small sink.
  • Toilet: we are not great fans of open concept loos (even if it did have a frosted glass swinging door).
  • Product: Pascal Morabito bathroom products, toothbrush, sewing kit, comb, Raid, Off.
  • Two large and comfy housecoats.
  • Hair dryer was low end but it had an on/off button, unlike what seems to be the increasingly standard and rather disagreeable hotel hair dryer, which has a button that you have to continuously press down to use.

Outdoor Balcony: two daybeds, chairs and table overlooking the ocean

Housekeeping: Decent

  • The room was well cleaned in the morning, but in a sandy environment the floors require a sweeping before bed or the sand gets tracked everywhere, and since we had to use our towels to mop up the floor after the shower, it would have been nice to have the towels replaced so we could have dry towels for an evening/morning shower.
  • The shower had mould growing around the base which was never removed during our stay.
  • Every day we had a lovely flower bedecked towel animal (possibly a thank you for the tip we left each morning for the cleaning staff)
  • Water and other mini-bar stocks were replenished daily.

Other:

Even though we were in a garden suite, we could still see a thin slice of ocean from our room
Even though we were in a garden suite, we could still see a thin slice of ocean from our room
  • Lovely view, lots of windows to let sun and view in. Even though ours was a “garden view” unit, we nevertheless could see a slice of ocean. It would appear that almost all the units get at least that much.
  • Good air-conditioning.
  • With the exception of the bed, the furnishings were rather utilitarian.
  • Only one towel hook in entire room (not enough for wet bathing suits let alone towels).
  • Inadequate clothes storage space – no chest of drawers, just the closet with not enough hangers and shelves.
  • Umbrella and safe provided, but no iron & board.
  • Higher end units get their own private mini-pool or whirlpool on the porch.

OVERALL RATING OF FOOD – 3/5

All venues
Great service, nice décor, and clean. But the House wine (red, rose, and white) is simply undrinkable… Le Sivory should be ashamed to be offering such low level plonk.

La Veranda (breakfast venue)

  • Terrace view overlooking the pool and the Atlantic Ocean, tropical foliage and the free entertainment of hotel staff having an ongoing shooing battle with the clever gangs of thieving birds.
  • Chairs: uncomfortable plastic lawn chairs
  • Buffet offerings – sub-standard
    • Examples: eggs to order; the oatmeal was liquid with the occasional solid floater, no dried fruit or berries available to add to the glutinous gel; fresh fruit looked rather aged; ordinary bread that did even tempt this die hard carboholic; crepes and French toast looked forlorn and rather embarrassed to be there (and we went to breakfast at 7:30 AM); churros were teeth shatteringly hard stale oil bombs…

Palapa Beach Restaurant (lunch venue)

  • Terrace view overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, tropical foliage and the free entertainment of hotel staff having an ongoing shooing battle with the clever gangs of thieving birds.
  • Buffet offerings – generally sub-standard but a bit better than breakfast.
    • Examples: Burgers, seafood cooked to order; seriously uninspired salads; anemic cheese offering; fruit and bread – as above; desserts – simply dreadful.
    • Other resorts we have been to had buffets with a chef carving a joint of meat on demand (beef, or lamb, or ham – something), but not here. Others have lots of fresh salads to choose from; here you can assemble your own, but the dressings are unlabelled, and the veggie selection is pedestrian.
  • The off-hour menu has a better selection than the buffet, but does not seem to be available during buffet hours.

ÖMI Restaurant (dinner venue)

The Asian-inspired Omi restaurant
The Asian-inspired Omi restaurant
  • Reservations required in the morning although the two times we went it was empty.
  • Asian-inspired buffet and menu
  • Well presented
  • Excellent service, with a mix of self-serve (e.g. sushi, soup) and a la carte.
  • Food quality – good
    • Examples: generous servings of lobster, duck and tuna in Asian inspired sauces; the deserts however were not worth the calories.

GastroAtelier Restaurant (dinner venue)

The GastroAtelier is the top food offering, but requires advance reservation
The GastroAtelier is the top food offering, but requires advance reservation
  • Reservations required in the morning although the three times we went it was mostly empty.
  • Mediterranean inspired.
  • Well presented.
  • Food quality – good, reasonably inventive.
  • The restaurant alternates a standard menu with a chef’s menu.
  • This is the best venue and food at Le Sivory, but the menu is limited.
    • Examples: steak, black squid risotto; the deserts were not worth the calories
  • As mentioned above, the house wines suck. That is the technical term for it. They are cheap Spanish plonk, and the restaurant does not even distinguish between the varieties – one evening the “House red” was poured from two different bottles, one a rioja and the other a tempranillo. Our glasses were topped off with a different red than was already in them (the blend may have improved it).

Note – while we were not impressed, others at the resort were pleased with the food offerings. Are we just too picky? Perhaps. But if you’re going to advertise a Michelin star chef, foodies gonna critique.

OVERALL RATING OF BEACH AND FACILITIES – 3.8/5

Beach: lovey, clean of debris and seaweed, an almost complete absence of shells, and very low density of people. The second nicest beach we have ever been to after Turks and Caicos.

  • Beach facilities: lots of seating including daybeds and hammocks, but many poorly placed. For instance, we could not use the two person swing or the volleyball net due to placement.
  • No resort services (beverages, food) were offered on the beach. There were also no umbrellas on the beach.
  • Although the beach is public and guests can walk for miles along it, guards are posted at either end of the beach and in the evening one could see flashlight assisted patrols, presumably keeping out the local vendors, thieves and other riff-raff. With Le Sivory sitting at the end of resort row, our segment of beach was the least crowded.

OVERALL RATING OF POOL AND FACILITIES – 2.5/5

  • Awkward to get in and out of – inadequate steps and ladders.
  • Pool was too shallow, only four foot 3 inches at its deepest. No area was deep enough to tread water.
  • While the surrounding deck was very clean, the water itself had areas that were covered with mostly dead bugs.
  • Staff were attentive, asking if drinks were required.
  • Lots of comfortable seating of various types, sun umbrellas, and tables. However, the staff never set up the umbrellas, and some of the older guests were seen struggling with the strength required to raise them.
  • There was a rack of beach towels for the taking, but they seemed to have difficulty keeping it stocked.
They had a hard time keeping the bugs out of the pool
They had a hard time keeping the bugs out of the pool

Spa

There is a lovely spa that seemed not to get a lot of use, though the hot-pool is free
There is a lovely spa that seemed not to get a lot of use, though the hot-pool is free
  • Other than a pedicure we did not use the personal services, as the prices were rather exorbitant (as resort spas tend to be).
  • The hot tub is guarded by rather aggressive birds that kept trying to dive-bomb users away; we suspect their nest is in the overhanging thatch roof.

Just Rude

In advance of our stay we e-mailed the resort twice, phoned once and asked in person twice at the reception desk to get stock photos and a behind-the-scenes visit with Chef Sanchez so we could provide a more interesting review for BoomerTraveller. We never got a response.

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