My four year old daughter and I spent Christmas here. It is very close to the airport and the weather was hot and sunny everyday. From other reviews, I asked for a room in the new building and it was a very clean room with modern finishings...a little too modern for my taste and I do wish that Hoteliers would realize that it is preferable to have somewhere to hang a towel, or to be able to assess the temperature of the shower without having to be in it, than to have granite countertops. The room only had a shower, so if you need a bathtub you will have to stay in the main building. There was lots of hot water, a minibar, flatscreen tv, a safe and a hairdryer.
Other than walking through the lobby to get to the pool and the restaurant, I was not in the main building of the hotel. There are two large pools, one for adults and one for kids and these are in between the restaurant and the hotel. The restaurant is basic as is the breakfast, bread, fruit, arepas, eggs, coffee and juice. The menu is also pretty basic and it is Colombia so the food is decent and well priced, but not super tasty. We did not have the all inclusive package so we usually ate lunch by the pool and had a small supper in our room.
The pools are definitely the best feature of the hotel. If you have small children, you will be very happy. There is a huge kids pool, 1/2 meter deep with a slide, and some fountains and because it is beside the restaurant and the restaurant has no walls you can sit and drink your coffee and watch your kids in the pool. The adult pool is only about 4.5 feet deep, but it is also huge and has a swim up bar, volleyball net and fountains. And the best thing about both is that the water is actually warm. They were also both very clean and Wilfredo the life guard is very accommodating. He took my daughter into the big pool because she wanted to learn how to swim and gave her some tips and let her sit on his back while he swam around the pool.
The beach was disappointing. There is a good view of the ocean from the hotel but you have to walk down some stairs beside the restaurant to the hotel's small section of the beach. The one time we went it was very rough and the water churns up all of the sand so that it is very brown. Also the fact that there are cargo and fuel ships a short way off shore doesn't make it feel very clean.
To address some of the issues in other reviews, you absolutely must speak Spanish because the staff knows very little English. My daughter, though 4, is fluent and I speak passable Spanish so we were fine. Also, having lived in Colombia for a year and a half now, I understand that service is never fast so I found that the staff were very helpful and friendly and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
As for it being a day-use facility, I only noticed a few families using the hotel for the day. This is a bit ironic because one of the reasons I chose this hotel was due to the review that complained that there were too many Colombian families at the hotel. Having an only child I wanted to make sure that she had lots of playmates, so I thought this would be a good thing. There were children staying at the hotel but not swarms of them. The pools were never over-crowded, in fact the adult pool was almost empty a lot of the time and the common areas and the washrooms were very clean. I also had no security concerns and often left my bag with Kindle and camera on the pool chair while I was swimming with my daughter and had no problems.
So perhaps it comes down to culture, language and expectations. I would definitely recommend this hotel to families that speak some Spanish, who just want to relax and play in the pool. I know that if we return to Santa Marta we will definitely stay here again. Fabian the bellman, Marietha on the front desk and Wilfredo the lifeguard always had smiles and ensured we had a great vacation.
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