We vacationed with our two 6 year olds the last week of April. Here is my review.
Ensenachos beach. Breathtaking water color, quiet, powdery sand, no rocks, very gradual entry. Depending on tide you can wade for 200 feet before you get past your waist, so supervising the kids was easy. The Waves were mostly non existent while we were there, not even big enough to spill your drink in the cupholder of your inflatable lounger. The beach is long and wide and although the palapas were close together, it didn't seem crowded because the beach was so wide (compared to Megano, especially at high tide). Nice for snorkeling along one side of this beach. My 6 year olds spent hours floating and observing seat life. You can actually walk out on the sandy bottom right alongside a a coral formation and see some colorful fish even if you can't swim and didn't bring a mask! We didn't get to this beach until Day 4, but went there ever day after. We stayed pretty close to the entrance to the beach near the bathrooms and small beach bar.
Megano Beach: Make sure you experience both beaches, one might suit you better or you may split your time between the two. Both beaches were near perfect for our family. Megano is a little closer to Park and Spa buildings, more lively, has better drink service (to your palapa). It also has the beach grill for lunch so you can spend the full day if you wish. We spent the first 3 mornings at Megano (starting at 8 AM when it was at its most pristine!). It was a 5-6 minute walk to Megano from the lobby and about the same from the Park pool area (longer if you have kids that need to stop and see the sand crabs below the boardwalk). For our stay, low tide came late morning and the beach was calm and the water and view spectacular. The waves picked up only a little in the early afternoon while we were there. We didn't spend a lot of late afternoon time on the beach, but we returned once at high tide and it did feel a litle more cramped. The beach grill didn't thill us so after day 2, we left the beach at lunchtime in search of better lunch options. The beach grill did have a decent made to order pizza we later found out. We were the first ones on the beach and spent the first few hours next to people's towel's on their "reserved seats". I didn't pay too much attention to the towel game because we there so early and even when we moved to the pool in the afternoon, we managed to find something. The best spot at Megano, was just to the left or right of the boardwalk from the lobby, the further you walk from the lobby boardwalk the further you get from the music and services which might not be a bad thing. As you walk along the beach towards the boardwalk to the Park section (between BLD 42-42), the sand gets a little more rocky and for the first 100 or so feet by the Park section boardwalk the bottom is very rocky. The first time we got to the beach, I kicked off my flip flops and ran out into the water right over that rocky bottom section OUCH....Don't do that! :)
Kids Waterpark: This was awesome. I would say it is best suited for age 5-6 although, I saw a 3 year old in swim diapers who was hitting all the slides with confidence, but he was exceptionally coordinated! I think once you hit age 7 you are probably happier at the pool, but for kids younger it was a great place and a key selling feature. I walked around the park and it seemed to be pretty well designed and safe - no slippery spots or places where kids could get into trouble. Honestly, if you have a 4 or 5 year old, this park could occupy a few hours a day. It's in full sun for most of the day...that might be the only downside.
Bus Ride: Going to a resort does not show you anything about the real Cuba. The 1 hour 45 minute bus ride was a real bonus to be able to see some real Cuban countryside. Obviously you passed it by pretty quickly but it did give you a glimpse at the landscape, rural areas, farms, houses, vegetation. You also drive through some small towns (Remedios, Camajuani, Caibarien) and see town markets, a hospital, ballfields, schools, various different types of homes and the pride people take in their dwellings. Very cool. The bus was very comfy and cool and the ride was pretty smooth.
Park Pool: Nicely laid out so that it felt like 3 or 4 small pools chained together with different areas to enjoy. The pool had busier times/days during the week we were there, every morning before 10 AM it was VERY quiet (towels reserving chairs make no noise). There might have been 8-10 people splashing around by 10 AM. At 2 or 3 PM the Animation team arrives with their music...you have to be in the mood for it :) but it does provide some life. I could see that maybe the pool might not be so enjoyable if it was packed with all march break families or spring break partiers. There was a good blend of demographics that spread out the groups - none more noticeable than the other.
Guests: Met some friendly people. A good mix of families and young and older guests while we were there. Again, no dominate demographic for the last week of April. Kids and adults all well behaved that I saw.
Room: We were on the ground floor of building 40. This building was 4 minutes to Park Pool, 6 minutes to Megano beach, 10 minutes to the lobby, 11 minutes to ensenachos beach. Clean, large, well laid out with walk in closet, lots of drawers and hangers. Big bathroom with nice glass shower stall. Maid service was good. Some of the bedding wasn't new, but I am sure it was clean enough. We had no issues with the AC, or bugs beyond what you should expect. TV had more channels than I expected...we got to watch some NBA playoffs, CNN and cartoons. None of these three activities are a neccessity :)
Staff: The staff varied from being engaging and helpful to some not-so-interested. Lots of smiles, some sincere some probably not - its hard to know how Cuban resort workers see and feel about us. I am certain that Cubans are kind people, but I don't know how genuine the resort workers' kindness is towards us in general. I know if I had to serve the 10th rum punch to a drunken college kid from who spent the equivalent of my annual salary on a lame forearm tattoo I am not sure if I could even fake being happy to serve him. They certainly could be pretty good at fooling guests by now. Tipping was always appreciated, but not tipping at times did not change the staff graciousness or responsiveness from what we saw.
Lobby atmosphere: Evenings were very upbeat. Lots of happy people, well behaved kids, I didn't find it too smoky, lots of waitstaff to serve you at your table or sofa. We didn't stay out late enough to see the shows, but from 7-9 PM the lobby was a very cool scene for people watching or checking out the awesome talented musicians nightly.
The Food: Based on previous reviews, I knew what to expect here but still hoped I would have been pleasantly surprised. Nothing "wowed" me all week, nothing was great, but nothing was bad. We ate at the Italian a-la-care twice and the mediterranean/seafood once, both decent. We made reservations 24 hours after arriving and didn't get seatings until the 5th, 6th and 7th night. The Seafood location is lovely, but to be honest the best part of the a la cartes was just the change of scenery and having a meal brought to the table after 4 days of eating at the buffets. One reality of buffets with small kids is that there is a lot of staggared "trips" to the buffet and hardly any time to sit together and eat. At the a la cartes, except for the main course, they had largely the same appetizers and desserts as the buffet, lots of repetition. We didn't have a great food experience, but we did ok. Breakfast for me was the best with made to order eggs, fresh smoothies and fruit selection. The breakfast pastries all seemed to be slight variations on the same sugary white bread rolled again in sugar or with a dab of strawberry or chocolate syrup. The "donut bar" was 3 different shapes of the same donut. I like to think that they are doing their best, but its hard to know in some cases if we are seeing a limitation of their resources or if they are just trying to be efficient and keep it simple, instead of trying to be more creative with the resources they do have.
Walking Distances: At least for Park section guests, no ONE distance was too great, but it took a little planning to avoid letting the distances create a problem. We never called for a golf cart to our room, but we hopped a few of them from the lobby back to our room or to ensenachos beach. The golf cart rides were fun and the nice breeze was appreciated. Personally, I liked the walking but sometimes that 15 minute walk back from the beach meant 15 minutes of sun exposure that you don't need, or maybe you don't arrive at dinner a little clammier than you hoped. I do think the separation of the buildings and recreation areas is more of a PLUS than a MINUS, but if you don't plan properly the walking can be a bit of a downside. For example, at other resorts you can go to breakfast, back to your room to grab your beach stuff and then head to the beach without breaking a sweat. At IBE if we tried to do the same and went to the buffet for breakfast, back to the room to get our swim gear, back to Megano Beach for the morning, back to the room to clean up for lunch, back the buffet for lunch, and back to the pool for the afternoon - hope you have comfy shoes and tolerant kids! If you are mobility challenged or travelling with small kids keep the logistics in mind. If you have a stroller aged childs and a good stroller that can handle the bumpy boardwalk, I would not worry about the distances at all.
Cleanliness: I found all the public areas kept up pretty well. That said, if you found yourself in need of a public bathroom it would be far better early in the day before it has been used 100 times. The beach washrooms were a little "rough" but its far better than having no washroom on the beach. The lobby bathrooms weren't air conditioned, so even at their best, they got a little sweaty and smelly. I read about toilet paper being missing in bathrooms, but am still baffled by it. We always carried a roll from our room in case we needed to use the lobby or beach washroom and this knowledge served us well a few times. I am sure there could be a mild public health risk for when people who haven't "cleaned themselves" then jump into a pool. I also don't think you want to discourage hand washing at the bathroom outside the buffet by not providing paper towels in addition to the single hand dryer.
5)The Could be Better:
The reception staff could have been a little more organized and helpful. It seemed on 3 of my 5 visits to the reception desk (including check in), there were 2-3 people "working" behind the desk and nobody would look up to ask if you needed help. It would have been an improvement even to have some fake smiles from these people - particularly for the first impression at check in. I didn't have any "issues" to take up with reception but I saw people with non-functioning room keys and the staff offered no apology (sincere or otherwise) for the long, hot walk they needed to take back to their room. The reception desk answers the same 20 questions and solves the same 10 or so common problems, so they should be a little more polished at responding to customer needs in a way that makes the customer feel cared for.
Snack situation- We were early risers and ate breakfast at 7:30 AM lunch at 12:30 and dinner at 6:30. One observation was that there didn't seem to be any late morning or late afternoon snack options. If one of our kids had a light breakfast, there was no options to get a late morning snack. Our supply of granola bars brought from home ran out fast for that reason. I am not sure what could be done to provide snacks that aren't just junk (i.e. donuts) or maybe junk is ok for a snack while on vacation. Other guests we talked to suggested a nacho chips and salsa stand or mini pizza oven for late afternoon snacks.
6)The ugly (only one, easily fixed)
Cigarette butts on Ensenachos beach. The smoking guests and resort both have some responsibility here. Better signage "Please dispose of your butts", perhaps some sort of palapa ashtray. Some attempt to make it easier for people to be accountible.
Suggestions to Management:
Simple Lunch Option at ensenachos: Maybe a portable outdoor grill with just burgers, dogs, buns maybe even just on select days of the week). This would allow people to spend full days at Ensenachos instead of packing up and heading back to other lunch locations. I know they are trying to avoid people brining food, plates, napkins onto the beach, but there has to be a way to make this work.
Designated line for golf cart passengers at lobby. Maybe a roped section or a painted line. I saw people waiting for the next golf cart and when the golf cart arrived it stopped infront of some other people who weren't waiting as long who just jumped on.
Consider installing some more shade at the Park pool (i.e. those shade "sails" that are strung between posts), wind-permitting. It seemed people were really competing for limited shady spots.
In summary, I can see why people rave about this place.But I can also see why other people wonder how other people rave about it! I would most definitely return, and most definitely recommend this resort. If you are considering this resort, spend an hour on Trip Advisor reading reviews and postings by destination experts you will not have as many surprises at this resort and have an enjoyable vacation. During our week, I had lots of moments of "oh, I remember reading that". Get your expectations in check and hopefully IBE can meet them!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on the impressive Cayo Ensenachos, Cayo Ensenachos brings all the Cuban flavour to some of the most exclusive Caribbean beaches. Holidays in Cayo Ensenachos are always great. The area features two exclusive, beautiful and quite unknown beaches. Kilometres of golden sand waiting for you and facing the turquoise-shaded ocean. Two of the beaches are bound to captivate you: Megano and Ensenachos. The heavenly beaches and the luxury hotels and resorts in Cayo Ensenachos, offer anything you might think of. Rest is only one of the attractions you'll enjoy if you spend your holidays in Cayo Ensenachos, one of Cuba's most exclusive destinations. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Ensenachos Hotel Cayo Ensenachos
- Occidental Royal Hideaway Ensenachos Cayo
- Royal Hideaway Ensenachos
- Occidental Royal Hideaway Ensenachos Hotel