We stayed at the Sol Cayo Coco from 9th – 23rd April 2012. This was our first ever visit to Cuba.
The weather was 28-30°C every day for both weeks with mostly sun and the occasional cloud cover. It rained once (properly) during our stay and there were 2-3 other times when there was a very brief shower. Despite being very sensible with Factor 30+ suncream and sun block, I have come home with a nice tan!
Our room was more than adequate for a ‘standard’ room. A huge main room with 2 queen-sized double beds, refrigerator, TV and air conditioning. A separate wash area with sink, hairdryer, sockets for electric shavers and straighteners (don’t forget to pack your adaptor) as well as a large wardrobe with mirrored doors (useful for making sure you haven’t missed a bit when applying your after-sun lotion! Finally a separate shower room with walk-in shower (more like a wet room), toilet and bidet.
The rooms were clean and the only minor niggle I had with the maid service was that we had to request bottled water be delivered to the room (which was promised to us at our welcome meeting). I’m only mentioning this as we had to chase this twice from customer-service, but aside from that the maid service was perfect. We stayed in Room 1329, which overlooks the football pitch and has a lovely view of the ocean (of the 2nd/public beach). All rooms have a balcony and we had 2 chairs and a table to overlook the stunning view!
The food was plentiful, fresh and in my opinion had plenty of variety. There was a grill chef cooking fresh meat and fish, a pasta station with freshly cooked pasta (the Carbonara is amazing)! Also a stir-fry chef armed with a wok and an assortment of choices. The hot and cold buffet options had the usual pizza, chips, salads and an array of options that meant you could eat a different meal every day for 2 weeks. The trouble with many of us brits is that we go to an all-inclusive and fill our plates with every option available (I know I’m guilty) and then after a few days it seems ‘samey’. But with more sensible choice, there’s no reason to complain. There was also a large bread station with a huge choice of freshly baked bread, rolls etc.
We ate at both a-la-carte restaurants. We weren’t too keen on the beach/Caribbean restaurant, but that was more about personal choice than anything else. The Don Diego restaurant (Italian Style) was fantastic. Lovely ambience, accompanied by a pianist and the service was exceptional.
Tip: You have to book in advance for the a la carte restaurants and they fill up quickly, so go and reserve your tables on day 1 or 2 of your stay.
Breakfast at the buffet restaurant offer equally good choices as the evening meals. The grill chef offering bacon and eggs and the pasta station became an omlette/pancake station. There was also a lady making fresh smoothies too!
The entertainment team, like the rest of the staff, were great. Funny, enthusiastic and they didn’t bother you if you weren’t interested in the day activities. I’ve had ‘hassle’ at other resorts, where I didn’t want to take part in water polo or rifle shooting, but here was different. They encourage people to take part, but are happy to leave people to sun-bathe if that’s preferred. There’s lots to do and they have a kids-club as well (which we didn’t need, but all the kids looked very happy)! We befriended a family while staying there and I wrote a quiz/treasure hunt for the 2 children one morning, with the answers to the quiz being found at various locations around the resort. When our rep asked me what I was doing, I told her about the quiz. The next thing I knew, the entertainments manager came over to me and asked if they could use the quiz in their kids club programme! I was very flattered!
We didn’t go to many evening shows in the theatre, but the Disney show was awesome! Great costumes, music and dancing. In fact, the dancers were superb at every show we saw. The lip-syncing to the songs was funny, because the music was in English and is, of course, a 2nd language to these people, the timing was out for many of the songs. This didn’t spoil the show, if anything it made it more entertaining. The quality wasn’t braodway my any means, but the effort was superb.
The reason we didn’t go to many shows was because we preferred the atmosphere of the lobby bar. There was entertainment in there most evenings in addition to the theatre shows. ‘Tom Jones’ was my favourite singer! I’ve no idea what his real name is, but he played Mondays and Thursdays and knew how to get a crowd going. Also the regular music/DJ encouraged a disco atmosphere getting people ready for the nightclub (which is located on the resort just outside the reception area). 1 night we even had an impromptu lobby disco. I’m told it doesn’t happen often, but the crowd loved it!
There are 2 beautiful beaches to enjoy directly on the resort. The 1st beach is shared with the Melia hotel and is a typical Caribbean beach. Soft sand, azure blue sea etc. Plenty of sun loungers too! There was a water/sports centre (shared by both hotels) that allowed kayaking and pedalos (included in the all-inclusive rate). The waves were quite strong, but there is a 2nd quieter beach on the walk around to the Tryp hotel. The waves there are a lot smaller. This is a more public beach, and the sand is whiter as well.
For 5 $CUC you can take the open-top bus to Playa Pilar, which is quite simply the most stunning beach I’ve ever been lucky enough to go to. The water is so clear, you can wade in it until you are neck deep and still see your toes! A postcard-esque setting, I found a starfish and fed banana to some other fish, who ate from my hands. There’s a beach grill on site at Playa Pilar and you can also ask for a wristband from the reception to use their sister hotel the Sol Cayo Guillermo. (We didn’t use it, so can’t comment on the quality there).
We only booked 2 excursions while we there, and sadly 1 got cancelled. The catamaran trip was cancelled several times due to bad weather. This was due to the wind affecting the snorkeling. (It only rained 1 day while we were there). Because we’d already planed a 2nd excursion to Havana and the other days were fully booked we (reluctantly) had to accept a refund, rather than change days.
Tip: Check local forecast with rep and book a ‘reserve’ day with your rep for the catamaran. Other people we met said it was fantastic and I’m sad to have missed out.
Havana was an amazing city. It was inspirational seeing how Cubans live in their capital city. You don’t get to see this on the resort, although the Cuban hospitality is the same everywhere we went: Friendly and very helpful!
Our trip consisted of 3 days (Wed-Fri). Day 1 was spent on the coach. We left the resort at 8am and arrived in our Havana Hotel around 7pm (yes, 11 hours)! But the day was broken up with a stop-off in Santa Clara to visit the memorial of Che Guevara and a trip to another hotel for lunch. Day 2 was a tour around Havana; Revolution Square, Cathedral, bars and restaurants made famous by Ernest Hemingway, and many many other interesting sites full of Cuban culture and heritage. Day 2 concluded with a visit to Club Tropicana, the world-famous cabaret show. This was fantastic! I loved the barber-shop quartet, acrobats and of course the dazzling costumes! Day 3 was some free-time around the market, a visit to a cigar shop and then the long coach trip home. You could do Havana by taxi from Cayo Coco, but this is still 5 hours each way. I’m glad I saw Havana, but next time I might opt for a direct flight!
***Resort In General***
I’ve got carried away with this review, so thought I’d wrap up by mentioning that the resort has an on-site bank (which is managed by the central bank, not the hotel), a shop, outdoor market, nightclub, doctor, pharmacist, customer service office and a computer room for internet. Internet is 6 $CUC for a 1 hour card and there is only 1 computer terminal available (no WiFi). But there’s so much to see and do, you don’t want to spend all day on the internet anyway! We didn’t use the hotel beach/pool towels (as we brought our own). But you can get towels from a counter near the pool and take them back or keep them for $10 CUC per towel.
All in all, the Cubans are the friendliest most helpful people I’ve met. I can’t name them all, but a special mention to Manuel, the hotel manager (thanks for the cigar)! Norma, our Thomas Cook rep, Rafael the tour guide and some of the hotel staff; Yoel (Beach bar), Orlando/Luis/Saul in the lobby bar, Andy and Junior in the restaurant, Roly at the pool bar, Norellis doing coffee in the mornings at the lobby bar and Esther and all the entertainment team. During our short stay they all made us feel like family and are a credit to both the resort and to the country of Cuba. The people really did make a difference.
They are all so willing to go the extra mile and don’t ‘expect’ tips (although are very grateful when they are tipped) They certainly remember you and thank you when you do! We, like many of the guests, tipped quite generously but personally I tipped when I felt I’d had good service (like I do when in England). I liked the fact that when tipping the staff, particularly in the lobby bar, that they put the tips in a jar, not in their pockets. I was told by another guest that they share the tips equally and a percentage is given to a cancer charity (although I cannot confirm this).
I’ve always vowed that I’ll visit a different place every time I go on holiday as there’s so many places I want to visit. But the hospitality at the Sol Cayo Coco was so good, I just might return!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.