Memories Azul Cayo Santa Maria
* I am a 36 year old male who traveled alone for background information. I have been to 60 islands/Countries thus far in my life so I have believe I am well experienced in traveling. I am somewhat picky when it comes to my trips but I also know what are the common issues one will face anywhere in the world - 3rd world or 1st world so I won't be speaking of those. The Azul and Parsaro are really one resort as they share the same stuff really...
Flight & Bus Transfer
* Flight from Ottawa to Santa Clara was great. Sunwing tour operator ran very smooth. Note that they tend to have only 2 checkin counters running so expect that you will be waiting in line to check in your bags longer than you would at any other flight. This is also because there is no self-check in options.
* The bus transfer from the city of Santa Clara to the resort was great. The driver was professional and the hotel rep was great at providing information during the trip. Note that the bus ride took 1 hr and 40mins exactly from door to door. The bus ride was actually wonderful because it was more like a 'free' Island Tour!! You were able to see a couple small towns on the way and of course the beautiful man-made roads over the sea to the town of Santa Maria. The beers on the bus cost 2cuc each and the same with the 'sprite' but those sold out very quickly. I was told that one bus had a broken toilet on it so make sure you use the airport one before leaving to get on the bus. However, don't worry as that bus ended up stopping at one of the towns so people could use a public bathroom.
* I have been to Cuba 7 times now and the price I paid for a Ocean View - Single Occupancy vacation from Ottawa, Ontario only cost me $1080 leaving on Feb 14th, 2012 for one week. This is a very good price for a 5* cuba resort and flight especially for single occupancy. Medical insurance was an additional $25 - or you could have went with a regular view room for $20 less but for $20 more it was WELL worth it.
* The ocean view room was amazing. Being my 7th time to cuba this room was by far the best room I have yet to stay in and come to think of it out of all the 60 places I have stayed this room ranks up there among even the best in north america. The room had a safe that worked, iron, ironing board, extra blankets, beach towels which they replaced daily; a fridge that worked and was stocked daily with 2 beer, 1 cola, 1 sprite, 1 large bottle of water. Note: if you hang a 1cuc on the handle of the fridge door the guy will give you an extra 2 beer and an extra bottle of water and trust me it was well worth it as you will see coming back to your room at 3am wanting either more beer or water!! The maids cleaned the room very well and the beds were 'average' > Note: Grab the extra blankets out of the closet and lay them under the bottom sheet - this will make the bed 10x softer on your back and skin. The bathrooms were great as they have a deep tub and a multi-type shower head. Note: Turning the shower head to the 'mist' function felt wonderful after cooking up in the sun all day. There was always hot water and pretty of shower pressure all day and night long. The air conditioner worked amazing - touch screen AC full options on it. They allow it to fun 24/7 unlike some places where you need your card to keep it going. Each room has a beautiful large balcony with chairs on it. My room was close to the beach, 3rd floor (top floor) on the corner over looking the Sea and the pool. I have to say out of all the rooms i was in on the resort I had one of the best locations and views. Note: Request room 5679 and you will not be disappointed at all. Very quiet also, the doors and walls seal very well and block a lot of the noises. Plus being on the 3rd floor corner you do not have neighbours beside you and the bugs don't seem to fly that high.
* The beach was amazing - the crystal clear water for miles out. The soft white sand is to die for. Cuba has one of the best beaches you will find in the world. Since I have traveled a lot of the world I can say this is in the top 10 if not top 5. Some reviews say they had a hard time finding chairs - not the case at all. There are tonnes of chairs and if you don't feel like finding one yourself there are guys on the beach for 1cuc will go get a chair, clean it off, and place it anywhere you want. Well worth a buck... there are limited cabana's and true you need to get up early (6am) to reserve one but again this happens everywhere in the world and at all resorts. Note: best tip i can give you is go into your closet in the room and there is a blue beach/rain umbrella there. Bring it to the beach and it can attach to the side of the chair giving you shade when you want it and folds up for all the sun you can handle! There are fun beach games the staff puts on and the winners get a bottle of rum at the shows at night. The beach bars are great - every 100m they had someone getting you whatever you wanted.
Food & Drink
* I must say the food and drink was great. Out of the 7 times I been to Cuba this was the best place overall. They really did put on a great spread and every night they had lots of different things you could try. Note: since things repeat a lot like every buffet make sure you stick with one type for each meal this way you will not get sick of eating the same thing daily. One night have pasta, next fish, next chicken, etc. Breakfast was the best meal of the day - crepes, eggs, bread, waffles -awww so good and I am a very picky food guy. Note: watch for the deep fried fish as the oil i believe can be old causing one to perhaps get ill. The pizza was one of the best things there...wow, was I every impressed. The stir-fry was also very good and the guy was very fast at getting everyone their food - he earned his tips. The line ups at 'prime' time can be a little long - but waiting 15mins for fresh hot prepared food is well worth it to me. I don't think the time was very long at all cause your busy chatting with people and wondering what else you want. They have many a-la-carte resturants that were great from what people told me. Note: First day you arrive go and book them right away as they can fill up fast. Be prepared to enjoy the dinner as its more of a relaxing slower speed and not like the fast paced buffet. The drinks were great everywhere - service is actually good compared to most resorts and flashing a 1cuc bill goes a long way when you want faster service.
* There is loads of things to do there. They even have a bowling center on the resort and for a small fee of 2cuc you can have a great time with your buddies. 10 pin bowling and it was loads of fun and laughs. They have sailing rides in the Sea, kayaks you can take out, great snorkeling on the east end of the beach - thousands of fish to see and its all walk off the beach into the water... free! Note: Bring your own snorkel gear if you want to do this. They have nightly entertainment including a live band at supper time and then main show area has a nightly kids show followed up the main show which is pretty much the same every night with local music and dancers, After the first couple nights it does get boring but after speaking with the entertainment manager she said they are trying to change things up in the future which is good. There are shops and restaurants at the west end of the resort where you can buy things to bring home (very cheap no need to bargain). Note: You can buy these large wooden cuban mugs for $5 each and free engraving on them and you can use them instead of those tiny plastic cups at the bars. Great deal and they hold like 3x the amount of booze/beer !! The disco was fun each night starting around 11pm. It costs only 2cuc to get in but trust me its a great time. Like anywhere, you make the night as much fun as you want too no one will make it fun for you. Around the pools they have basketball court, badminton, pool tables, ping pong tables and many other things like chess.
Scooters & Diving
* I rented a scooter one day for 4 hours and it cost me 21cuc plus I filled up the tank for 4cuc. Very cheap and I did the entire island all the way to the start of the first bridge. It was beautiful well worth it and fun. I did not end up going scuba diving like i planned because i was drinking at the club and stuff so I did not risk my life going. However, from what I know the diving there is average but pretty cheap compared to other places.
* There are tonnes of pools - adult pools and kids pools. There is no issue in finding shade or chairs if you want to hang by the pool and chill. Loads of things to do as they have volleyball, soccer, music, drinking games too!! Very cool...
* They have great activities for kids from what I saw. They even had a kids club where you can let your child play in a group with other kids. They even have their own pool and play ground areas. Nightly they even have a kids show where they go on stage and play with clowns and dance and sing.
* Overall I would have to say this is the best resort by far out of all the other 6 resorts i been to in Cuba and even comparing it to Mexico and Dominican I say it does very well. If I find another great deal price like this to go here - I will cause you do get a great bang for your buck at his resort.
*The only bad thing I could really find was there is no little town near by that you can easily get to and tour around like in Varadero. The other thing is at night time they tend to have bugs that bite so bring your repellant with you. Stay off the grass at night as the sand fleas come out when it cool and feast on your ankles. The resort goes around and sprays the trees and stuff each night but again it only does so much. Plus, like all resorts you will get this at night time - I am just trying to be super picky here. I only got maybe 8 bites the entire time which is nothing.
9.7 out of 10 rating - Very good & Highly Recommended if going to Cuba