This was my first time going to Cuba, so I read plenty of reviews on the country but mostly this resort. I traveled there with my boyfriend and another couple. After reading a ton of other peoples reviews, I expected a run down resort with bland food but friendly staff at least. This resort blew my expectations out of the water!
I can be rather picky with food, but there was such a big selection that I always found plenty that I liked that I ended up over-eating every meal. My boyfriend is insanely picky AND allergic to seafood so he mostly stuck to the pasta/pizza bar and he didn't even go hungry.
My room did have an older-tub and some cracks up by the ceiling, but seriously, who cares? Cracks in my wall will not ruin my vacation. What matters more was the resort was clean and well taken care of. The cleaning staff did a great job, and the gardeners were always out making sure coconuts weren't loose and fall on your head, and raking up the leaves every morning etc.
Staff was incredible. So friendly and helpful. The bartenders were more than generous with the "stiffness" of your drinks. The pool was clean, and the beach was gorgeous. There were always available chairs and palapas (the umbrella looking shade structures).
On the first day, we walked in the weedy areas in the beach. Then the next day, we went snorkeling and discovered that there are lots of sea urchins in the weeded area! I am so happy and relieved that none of us stepped on one. After that, we would not walk barefoot there. You could walk out probably a kilometer and it's still waist deep so it didnt make a difference to us if we stayed in the sand area. A lot of weeds did get washed up on the shore from the waves, which isn't great (nor is it the resorts fault). However, because there were weeded areas, it meant a lot of cool creatures to look at when snorkeling. If I had to choose all sand and boring snorkeling, or a bit of weeds but awesome sea creatures, I would definitely deal with the weeds.
Snorkeling was amazing! Even at the resort. If you go near the buoys, there is a mini-reef with a lot of cool fish! We saw star fish, urchins, a sting ray (also harmless if you leave it alone), sanddollars, tons of awesome fish.
One thing I feel the need to mention is how sensitive coral is. When we did the Coral Tour, the Cubans were telling us about how sharp coral is and to not touch anything. There were these three girls that were standing and walking all-over it. Their arrogance most likely led to a lot of coral destruction. The staff focused more on the dangers to you rather than the dangers to the reef. They also failed to mention that touching coral is enough to kill it and that some types grow as slow as 5mm a year. The fastest is 1" a year, which is still REALLY slow. So people, PLEASE treat the reefs with respect. Do not walk, touch, break off etc the coral. You are doing a lot of harm to a world that is already being destroyed at an alarming rate.
I also noticed on the reviews that a lot of people were worried about insects/fish/lizards. All the creatures in Cuba are relatively safe. Every single lizard is non-venomous and they also will not bite you (if you can even catch them. They're so fast!). If they get in your room, please do not hurt them. They're more scared of you than you are of them. There was a massive Cuban Rock Iguana that was very friendly. We were even able to pet her on the head. I read afterwards that there are tarantuals in Cuba, however, they lived in the thick wooded areas and no where near the resort. They also will hide and be undectected even if you walk past one, so have no fears! We never saw a single spider or scorpion. The crabs, lizards, birds, insects etc will all avoid you.
My boyfriend did have an encounter with a barracuda while snorkeling. It followed him for a while. He was obviously quite freaked out over this, however, when we returned we did some research and found out that they, too, are nothing to be terrified of, just be cautious. They will sometimes follow snorkelers because they think they are another "big fish". They're scavengers so they follow you in hopes that you will drop some of the fish that they think you're eating. As long as you stay away from them, you will be fine.
I had an encounter with a few cockroaches in my bathroom one morning. It was the one night that I left the lights out in there, so afterwards we slept with the bathroom light on and hadn't seen once again for the rest of the trip. Those too, are 100% harmless, but I agree, they are disgusting (and terrifying!). We sprayed any openings/cracks, drains and potential hiding places with Off and had no more issues.
Don't be afraid to be firm with the locals. Some of them can be more "agressive" and pushy than others. If you don't want it, just keep saying no thank you and they will go away. It took us a couple days to learn this. I ended up buying this absolutely gorgeous wooden carving of sea turtles and fish from a local on the beach. I only paid 15 pesos for it, and I saw similar ones in the resort that were being sold for 50 pesos and they weren't even as nice. There was one man named Wilson who does horseback riding. He definitely impressed us the most. He seemed the most genuine. We didn't end up getting a chance to go horseback riding at all, but if we did we would have for sure gone with him. We saw him another day on his horses and them seemed well-fed and tame.
To rent scooters, you need a 30-50 pesos deposit depending on how long you rent for. We made the mistake of trying after we spent most of our money so we didn't have enough for deposists. If you decide to rent one, keep in mind you'll need enough pesos for a deposit.
The Centre Commercial isn't what we expected. It only had a bank (with a better conversion rate than on the resort), two small souvenir/convenience shops (with what looked like mass produced things rather than hand-crafted items) and a bar. We never got a chance to go into Santa Lucia or Coco Beach so there might be better things there.
I would definitely recommend this resort to others and would LOVE to return one day. Overall, I was impressed by everything. The only odd complaint (ie. cockroaches, sea urchins, sea weed) was not at all their fault.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.