Gluten Free Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Following our success with gluten free in Jamaica, my boyfriend and I decided to try a new Caribbean island…This time we took our passports to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic! I did a quick google search ahead of time to see gluten free restaurants in Punta Cana (in our price range–we are graduate students after all!).

Bahia Principe resorts popped up in my search. Clicking to their official website, I was pleased to find that they claimed to offer “Celiac Friendly” menus!  That sealed the deal but I had to figure out which of the Bahia Principes to stay at. I went with Esmeralda the cheaper of the two “luxury” resorts–the other being adults only.  The reason we chose a luxury resort was that we were allowed a sit down a la carte restaurant every single evening for dinner at any restaurant on any of the Bahia resort properties and we could make reservations in advance.  With buffets, I always worry about cross contamination so I try to avoid them if I can.

I e-mailed the resort upon booking to inform them of my Celiac Disease—to my surprise, they responded in less than 24 hours and were incredibly reassuring, noting my allergy on my reservation. I followed up with e-mailing requests for our room and our dinner reservation requests. Every e-mail I sent was responded to in a very prompt and friendly manner—best interaction I have had with resort guest services and if you couldn’t gather, I travel quite a bit! I received every a la carte request.
As for the buffets, upon checkin I received a letter, written in Spanish, explaining Celiac disease. When I went to the buffet and even to the sit down meals, the server would read my letter and bring out a chef or manager who would also read the letter then walk me around the buffet and pointed out what I could and could not have. When they were not sure if something was gluten free, they double checked with the kitchen. I can speak Spanish with near fluency so I was able to communicate my concerns about cross contamination of the steak with the buns (same tongs)—although Spanish fluency is not necessary on this resort, it would be a good idea if you have a food allergy or medical condition to be able to communicate your needs and restrictions in spanish as spanish is the first language of almost everyone. Writing down a few key phrases about cross contamination would be good! However, the letter really does help with that!

At the buffets, I was able to eat so many different foods! For breakfast, I had omelets, fresh custom smoothies, fresh fruit, and some form of meat.  For lunch, I had a bean dish, steak (yes, every single day. yes, I was not healthy at all!), and some variation of potatoes, rice, veggies, and ice cream, etc.

With the buffets, I experienced wonderful help from many of the chefs and staff members. Benito (he grills the meats for the lunch buffets at Esmeralda) who would clean the grill and make me fresh steak to prevent any cross contamination caused by any bread that may have touched the grill and the fact that people don’t always take caution when using tongs so the buns could easy touch the already cooked steak!! The moment I walked into the buffet, he would greet me with a huge smile and start cleaning the grill. He went way out of his way for me and I cannot thank him enough.  He spoke VERY VERY little English so we communicated entirely in Spanish and even then, my accent was derivative of Spain and his was Dominican—quite quite different to say the least!!

As for the a la cartes, we ate at Bella Italia, Maiko, Don Pablo, and Rodizio. All were very accommodating for celiac disease except for Don Pablo (Hector was our waiter and he was very rude to us. He wouldn’t even let me order and acted as if we were just a bother to him). Otherwise, no negative experiences with the a la cartes. Rodizio and Maiko (who specially prepared my hibachi meal, made me special sushi for an appetizer, and modified the desserts so I could have some!) were my favorites!!  Huge portions at these restaurants—very surprising compared to other all inclusive I have visited!  Maiko was hibachi/Japanese, Bella Italia was Italian, Rodizio was a Brazilian steak house, and Don Pablo was French.

If you have Celiac Disease, ask to speak to Natalia upon checkin—please see her if you have any food allergy! She informed me that there was gluten free bread and proceeded to get some for me for every single meal. She called ahead to all of the places I was eating at for dinner and the buffet (for lunch) to make sure that they would have gluten free bread for me. She was so incredibly sweet and went out of her way for me. I felt very special and well taken care of. My only regret is not speaking with her sooner! So if you go, please ask for her!

The resort itself was so clean, spacious, quiet, beautiful, safe, and pretty perfect! Great for couples or families!

Well, that’s all for now! I hope this helps someone with planning a trip to the DR! Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section and I would be happy to answer any questions!!

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