We too have just returned from a great week at Arenas Doradas with our family of four - including a 4 year old and a 6month old. I must say that we had read all of the reviews and chose this resort based on the reviews of other families with children. Though in the weeks leading up to our departure date there were negative reviews, I can honestly say that, once we arrived, we were very happy with our choice. Though the resort was dated, it was clean and the staff were friendly from the moment we arrived (around midnight with two sleepy children in tow). I’m sure when it was built 10+ years ago, it was a 4* by Cuban standards. Today I would say it ranges between a 3- 3.5*.
We were in the 700 Block building - an excellent location for a young family - situated (literally) steps from the pool, the Kids Club and the beach. If easy access to these points is important to you try and get a room in the 600, 700 or 800 block.
Our room was very basic, dated, and somewhat disappointing, but it was cleaned well daily. The bathroom was very clean but there were a few chips in tub and a few ants near the drain one day. A little Off took care of that. A word to the wise - don’t keep open food or drinks in your room and rinse out cups and dishes. I also took some Lysol disinfecting wipes and Air Freshener, but found I didn’t really need them. Shampoo was offered, as was a small soap. I would take your own, as well as wash clothes. Towels were clean and restocked daily. The biggest problem we had with cleanliness was the garbage other vacationers kept leaving behind.
The beach was gorgeous and well groomed, particularity in comparison to the other resorts along the beach. Catamaran, kayaks and peddle boats were available for use. You could also buy knickknacks on the beach or book horseback riding, skydiving, paragliding, etc. The lifeguards also make Banana Hats for $5 per hat.
All the staff were friendly and helpful. The wait staff in the buffet were great. There was a decent selection and we could always find something enjoyable. The pasta bar was a big hit. Right beside the Pasta Bar was a grill and meat station, where fresh meat was grilled or carved for you. I personally ate the best turkey I have ever eaten while here. As we were traveling with small children, we didn’t make reservations at the a la cartes, but there are 4. We did lunch at the beach and pool restaurants and enjoyed both - particularly at the beach, which offered a more scenic view, better selection and ice cream. The pool restaurant is fine, but only has sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and fries. There are 3 bars. The lobby bar is open 24hrs. and gets crazy between 6pm-10pm, after the pool and beach bars close and prior to the opening of the Disco. As we were traveling with children, we didn’t have the opportunity to go to the disco, or attend any of the evening shows, though I was told the Water Ballet (in the pool) was quite impressive.
We utilized the Kids Club almost daily. At first I was hesitant to leave my child there, but for kids aged 4-10 years old it is a nice change of pace. Kids Club was open daily (if there were kids to use it) from 10am-12pm and 3pm-5pm. Usually the afternoon session was on the beach or at the pool and included Bingo, Face painting, Darts, Sandcastle Building contests, bowling, races, etc. Every second evening, the staff hosted a “Mini-Disco” at the Stage, which was a lot of fun for the kids. Hula Hoping, Limbo and the Macarena were a riot! Thursdays the ladies organize a “field trip” to the Dolphin Show for kids and parents. It is $15 per person (plus $2 per person for the bus). Kids under 5 are $5 and ride for free. If you want your kids to swim with the dolphins, talk with the ladies. They may be able to make arrangements.
A free shuttle ran 4 times a day from the lobby to a nearby Plaza for shopping, and a double decker bus picked up out front every 30 minutes or so (Cuban time) for $5 per person (under 5 were free) and drove the entire strip of Varadero. Your tickets were good for the entire day, on-off privileges. There were also taxis, Coco Cabs and scooter rentals if you wanted to travel on your own. Tours could be booked from the lobby. There was a bank to change money and a Tienda (store) in the lobby that were both open from 9am-9pm (also Cuban time), as well a Clinic on site. In the area that contained the medical clinic you could also book “spa” treatments such as pedicures and massages. There is also a little “flea’ market by the buffet, and the prices are comparable to the Plaza.
We brought gifts for the staff and we also tipped in CUC's and they were always grateful. I also brought new, inexpensive beach toys, games, puzzles, bubbles, kites, candy etc. which we used while we were there and then gifted to the staff or mini-club. They were also very appreciative of gently used children’s clothes and shoes. If you tip the gardening staff by the pool, they reciprocate with little gifts such as bugs made from palm leaves and coconut umbrella drinks.
I would return to Arenas Doradas with the kids in a heartbeat and would recommend it to a friend. It was just the right size to maneuver with small kids. The staff was friendly and accommodating, and the animation staff put forth a solid effort to organize event daily on the beach, at the pool, in the lobby and at the disco. It was not by any means a large, luxury resort nor was it a real party resort. We found it to be a simple, clean, family-friendly resort with everything we needed. For what we paid, minus taxes and flight, we couldn’t have stayed in a Canadian hotel with food, drinks and entertainment for more than two days, not to say anything of the weather or beach! Cuba si!
For anyone traveling with a baby, note that you must spend $20 (Cnd. cash) on your flight to buy a Cuban Travel Visa for the baby, which are included for everyone else in the cost of your package. Also, babies are exempt from the $25 departure tax.
- Also Known As:
- Arenas Doradas Varadero
- Arenas Doradas Cuba