Farallon del Caribe. February 9 to February 16, 2012.
Tour Operator and Carrier and Arrival. We booked with Sunwing Vacations/Airlines and had an early morning flight out of Toronto. As we had door problems on the aircraft we were about 30 minutes late leaving the gate. It was a nice comfortable 3 1/2 hour flight, we were well fed and well watered for the duration, arriving in Manzanillo at 10:30 a.m.. Manzanillo Airport is quite small and has trouble accommodating 190 disembarking passengers. As a third time visitor to this airport, we still weren't ready for that physical fight to get our luggage, it's every man for himself there. I guess "mayhem and pandemonium" would describe getting your baggage and going through customs. Not to worry though, as outside the airport they were selling ice cold Cristal Cervesa for 1 CUC, a refreshing way to calm our nerves and mellow out before our 1 1/2 to 2 hr journey to the Farallon del Caribe. As we made our way to the hotel, the scenery, as usual, was wonderful. The scenery makes the long journey seem to go by quickly.
Hotel check-in. There was a "Welcome to the Farallon delegation" waiting for us on the steps of the hotel. We were warmly greeted with cold drinks and Cuban music. As they had already given us our room assignments and bracelets and other info before we boarded the bus to the resort, all we had to do at the front desk was sign for and pick up our room key and safe key. As we were the first bus to arrive, a bellboy, with our luggage in hand, was waiting for us and we immediately proceeded to our room. Super service and what a nice room it was too.
Room. The air-conditioned room overlooking the beautiful Marea Portillo Bay had a nice sized balcony with two comfy, high-back, lawn chairs. The balcony had a great view of the Sierra Maestra Mountains as well. This spartan room was furnished with a fridge, television, two night tables, one armchair, one table, a reading/writing desk, two comfortable three-quarter beds. It also had a fairly good-sized closet, the closet was fairly roomy with lots of hangers, the closet also housed a safety deposit box (safe), the safe opened with a regular key. The safe is free if you have VIP, it is 14 CUC per week if you haven't. The bathroom with marble vanity and sink and shower stall (no tub) had a good supply of soap and shampoo, lots of hot water, it also had a hair dryer and a standard North American 110 V plug. Since we bought VIP, on reaching our room, our fridge was stocked with 4 beer and 4 pop and 2 juice, a bottle of rum and a bottle of red wine. Great housekeeping all week as well. As always, we brought our small coffeemaker. It was great to sit every morning, on our balconies with our coffees in hand, and watch the sunrise. We just loved our room.
Restaurants. Quite a few of our meals we ate at the buffet restaurant outdoor terrace. The buffet and it's outdoor terrace, with panoramic views of the lagoon below and the Sierra Maestras as a backdrop, served just simple fare at all meals. For breakfast at the grill you could have eggs cooked any style. There was also French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, doughballs, at the hot table. Then there was cold meats, cheeses, breads and this year, lots of fruit. For those with a sweet tooth, there were some pastries as well. Lunch usually consisted of, 2 kinds of soup, 2 pastas, different rice dishes, turkey, pork, lamb, joint. Beef (rarely), burgers, stew. Also grilled chicken pieces, grilled fish fillets, grilled pork chops, all hot off the grill. A limited variety of vegetables and salads, lots of bread, lots of light cake desserts, ice cream on quite a few occasions. We liked to finish our meal off with some aged cheddar or other cheese. Dinner was a mirror image of lunch. They did serve wine or beer with both meals, that is if you could get the attention of the server. We found the service at the buffet outdoor terrace to be confused, indifferent, tardy and unfriendly. I'm disappointed to say the service hadn't improved any over the last three years. This is not a criticism that we make lightly as we enjoyed every other aspect and asset of both these hotels. We never did do the à la carte, we had done it on previous occasions and we found buffet to be just as good.
Bars. At the Farallon property there were four bars, each bar opened at differing times. The pool bar was open from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., great views, great service with a smile, a pleasant place to be. The lobby bar, a wonderful place to go in the evening after dinner and have a Rum Alexander as a nightcap, avoid the Black Russians though, it can be a killer. All in all, a lively place to be, it was fun people watching there. A pretty good menu of cocktails at both these bars. The beach bar, although very quiet on the week we were there is a nice place to sit by the ocean and enjoy friendly conversation and good service. A great place for an afternoon nap on the beach. They served just simple cocktails here. The Zun Zun snack bar, near to the pool, is open during the day and serves sandwiches, snacks, etc.. It served coffee in the early mornings. It also served drinks the week we were there, bar service started about 3 p.m. until late. The best all-around service in the hotel was again at the lobby bar, then the pool bar, followed closely by the beach bar. This hasn't changed much in the last three years.
Beach/Pools/Grounds. The beach is a dark grey fine sand beach. A great place to walk or jog, however, away from the waterline, wearing water shoes is recommended as the dark grey sand gets very hot. The beach, by the waterline, is definitely easy to jog on. The Marea Portillo end of the beach is, by far, the best beach, it's wider and the sand is not pebbly like the Farallon beach. Great shade and much more beach lounges at the Marea Portillo beach than at the Farallon Beach. It's a five-minute walk to Marea Portillo beach from the Farallon. The beach is kept much cleaner at the Marea Portillo.
The Farallon pool had a wonderful view of the surrounding country and you could always get a lounge. The only shortcoming would be that there wasn't a lot of shade at this pool, they definitely need lots more umbrellas.
The Farallon grounds which cascades down to the ocean, is dotted with flowering shrubs and trees. Don't be surprised to see some goats, a couple of pigs, horses, sheep, roaming the property, a wonderful rural scene to soak up. You see quite a few iguanas here and there on the property as well. For people with walking disabilities, the Farallon Hotel and grounds are quite a bit more difficult to negotiate. The flatter terrain at the Marea Portillo Hotel makes it a better fit for people with walking disabilities.
Farallon Del Caribe Hotel and Marea Portillo Hotel Info. These sister hotels are situated close together on a bay with the Sierra Maestra Mountains as a backdrop. Our hotel, the Farallon del Caribe is situated on the side of a hill overlooking the bay. The Marea is situated directly on the beach about 1 km away. They are both reasonably priced, no-frills, three-star, budget hotels. They offer good value for money spent. This was our third visit in as many years and we were happy with the accommodations we got. As a guest at either a hotel, you could consume at or use any or all of the facilities. You can see our photos of the hotel and area by googling Joe and Karen Cuban Travel Photos or at our photo site http://joeandkarentravelphotos.ca/mareaportillo/index.html
Farallon del Caribe/Marea Portillo Area. Over the last three holidays here, we familiarized ourselves with the area by walking to different places that were within 4-5 km of the hotel. The area has extraordinary natural scenery and we enjoyed our walks to Móta and beyond. Small vineyards and banana plantations dot the countryside from the Marea to Móta, there seem to be a lot of market garden plots. A nice place to visit is the local waterfalls by the dam, any one of the locals can direct you there. The locals are quite friendly and some of them stop to say hello and converse, we enjoyed this. We were never felt harassed for anything, a polite but firm no suffices if you are asked for anything that you don't want to give. We felt quite safe everywhere. In our conversations with the locals, we were quite surprised at how many can fluently converse in English. Actually, we were ashamed of ourselves that our Spanish was so bad (comedic actually ). I'm sure they got a kick out of listening to our Spanglish.
Pleasures at the Farallon. 1. We consider the hotel to be really great value for the money spent. 2. We enjoyed everything about our room, really good housekeeping. 3. We had no problem whatsoever getting something we liked to eat at any meal. 4. It was wonderful to be able to use and consume at both hotels. 5. Good pools at both locations (preferring the Farallon). 6. Good solid service at the bars and snack bars at both locations. 7. Great location for anyone that likes to walk and enjoy the always beautiful surrounding countryside. 8. Beautiful treed grounds at the Farallon, nice relaxed atmosphere as well. 9. We most certainly enjoyed our 20 minute hike to the top of the escarpment behind the hotel, great flora and fauna up there, great panoramic views. There were many many more pleasures too numerous to mention here. .
Irritants at the Farallon. 1. The service in the outdoor terrace at the buffet was inconsistent and spotty, the staff seemed somewhat jaded with their clientele and jobs, a constant irritant for us for the last three years. 2. The beach in front of the Farallon wasn't cleaned all week and it looked like it hadn't been cleaned for a month, this shouldn't happen as they are selling the Farallon as a four-star?. 3. They shouldn't run out of lemon juice and mint for making Mojitos (sprite just doesn't cut it) this is after all, their national drink. Note: Some of the bartenders brought their own mint and lemon juice from home, plaudits for the bartenders, brickbats for the hotel management who should be delivering those goods. Would we go back to this hotel again next year, absolutely! without question, the pleasures of the properties far outweigh the irritants.
Flight Departure. There were two Sunwing flights leaving the hotel, first to Montréal and second to Toronto. The Montréal flight was at 11 a.m., our flight to Toronto 12:15 p.m.. At the front desk, they seem to manage both flight checkouts pretty well. The nice thing about the Farallon is that at 6 a.m., on the day of the flights, they open the dining room for breakfast, this gave the Montréal passengers time enough for breakfast. We had a 7 a.m. check out with the busses leaving for the Airport at 8 a.m.. This wasn't too bad and we were lucky enough to be on the first Toronto flight bus to reach the airport. After a fairly quick check-in we decided not to go through security yet as there were the 190 Montréal passengers awaiting their flight in the departure lounge. With two flights going, it would have been severely crowded in the small departure lounge. It was fun just sitting outside of the airport and although it was early, the sun was hot, so we decided to enjoy our last Cristal Cervesas accompanied with some ham sandwiches that we made at the hotel. It was a lovely picnic there in the warm sun before heading back on our 12:15 p.m. flight. Our flight to Toronto didn't take off until 1 p.m. because of a late, unruly passenger. Considering the situation, the crew handled him very well. We arrived back in Toronto, tired and somewhat late but very pleased with our vacation. We will be back.
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- Also Known As:
- Club Amigo Farallon Del Caribe - Marea Del Portillo Hotel Pilon
- Hotel Amigo Farallon Del Caribe
- Resort Amigo Farallon Del Caribe
- Club Amigo Marea Del Portillo Cuba/Pilon