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All reviews italian guests free shuttle entertainment staff other resorts cuban staff minute walk along the beach smaller resort pool bar beach vacation hotel staff is private patio beach chairs great vacation playa del este love cuba havana city old havana
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Reviewed April 10, 2019 via mobile

Arenal has the potential to be an ok hotel but needs quite a bit of work. If you are looking for a place to stay that is just outside of Havana with a nice pool and access to the beach that is what you’ll get. But not much more than that. We arrived early in the week and were pleasantly surprised that we had the pool basically to ourselves. The beach was lovely too, however, we saw a woman pick up a piece of glass, on the non-busy day’s there was quite a bit of seaweed and heard a few people mention they saw jelly fish. We were, however, pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to get chairs by the pool and how someone will bring you to an open beach chair (or even bring one to wherever you’d like to sit and brush the sand off for you). The only other perk I would say this hotel has is that there is a free shuttle to Havana, however you must book in advance (we were unable to get on the shuttle one day as it was full). The shuttle runs between 10 and 4:30, but takes about 45 minutes to get into Havana, which is slightly inconvenient but hey, it was free. The Air Transat girl who briefed us about Havana and the hotel was very lovely and probably the friendliest person we talked to at the hotel.

Now for the cons. Firstly, the staff is not friendly, specifically the entertainment staff (whose jobs are to be friendly?). It seemed that this hotel caters to French and Italian guests (and especially ones who are 60+) so being english speakers in our twenties we were completely ignored. Not even a hola, a smile or an acknowledgement (I understand that the staff might not primarily speak english so they might not be comfortable chatting but the hostile attitude towards us was quite strong). One female entertainment staff member in particular seemed to just plain dislike us and would give dirty looks and cut in front of us in breakfast lines - it truly felt intentionally rude. We stayed at the hotel one day to get some sunshine at the beach and not once were we asked to be included in the games - every person on the beach was asked except for us. They promote that there are water sports but did not see one person utilizing this and was hard to know who to ask to use them. Bartenders were not chatty or that friendly however it seemed like they worked very long shifts so I can’t blame them. The drinks were not particularly good - the mojitos were the only thing we really stuck to, but it seemed like they were missing half the ingredients most of the time. Staff in the restaurant were not very attentive, didn’t bring clean cutlery you would have to find it yourself. We were offered coffee once during breakfast throughout our whole stay.

Nightly shows were quite kitschy but you can tell the staff but their heart into it, but if you don’t speak French or English you won’t understand some of the shows. One evening there was a dance performance by a local cuban group and they were fantastic. The disco was always completely dead during the week but on the weekends appeared to be more popular.

We didn’t have many issues with our room, it was always quite clean and was quiet at night. Our fridge seemed to not work, until we realized it just had to be turned down. Hot tip: make sure your room is not located close to the cleaners preparation area because use we were woken up every morning at 7am by them talking quite loudly which echoed through our room. The shower will get warm if you run for about 10 minutes beforehand and you just need to hold the flusher down for the toilet to work. We were not provided with beach towels when we checked in and took us about an hour to be able to get one (we went to concierge, then the spa, then the concierge again and back to the spa before we could get some), but we did check in early so will give them the benefit of the doubt that they might have been prepared.

Of course this note is out of the resorts control but many guests showed quite a lot of public displays of affection. On the weekends almost everywhere you looked around the pool were couples making out and laying on top of one another, I understand vacations can be romantic but this PDA was quite intense and intimate. When you can hear two people making out beside their child for quite a few minutes it gets a bit uncomfortable.

Lastly the food, I am surprised to read some reviewers said this was the best food they have had in Cuba. The food appeared to always be leftovers from throughout the day (and probably days before). If you didn’t go first thing when the kitchen opens, your options are limited and they were already to begin with (not sure we ever saw the buffet options being replenished at any point during the short windows you could eat). I knew going to Cuba you often hear the food isn’t that great, but man this was awful and frankly, mostly inedible. If you go to Havana be sure to have some drinks and fill up on food before you head back. The snack bar was barely a snack bar. There was pizza and flatbread, which weren’t too bad but half the time there wasn’t any left or anything being prepared, and don’t ever count on a late night snack because there was never anything and no indication of when things would be available.

A few tips:
- Book your shuttle passes as soon as you get there - it only runs Thursday to Sunday and fills up!

- Go to the spa every morning and they will exchange your beach towels them for new ones

- Bring a bubba or a cup to have your drinks made in otherwise you will be going back and forth to the bar a lot as the drinks come in the smallest cups

- You have to pay for water after you finish off the additional two that are in your room - so if you bring a water bottle they will gladly fill that up for you

- Bring your own snacks to have between meals as some days there is nothing to eat

- Pack earplugs the cleaners are loud quite early so if you want to sleep past 7am you might want something to block out their chatter

- Only get coffee from the lobby bar the coffee at the restaurant is just machine made where at the lobby bar they make it themselves

- There is another Arenal hotel in central Havana so make sure you are clear when taking a taxi back to the hotel

If you are under 50, like us, this resort might not be for you, we were the youngest guests at the resort (we had several people point this out to us). But, the older guests that were there seemed to be enjoying themselves. The weekends definitely get a bit more busy with locals who have day passes. Overall wouldn’t recommend this resort, but if you want an all-inclusive home base and spend majority of your time in Havana this could be okay for however I think you could find a better option somewhere else.

Date of stay: April 2019
Trip type: Traveled with friends
Thank vmh0711
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VillaggiBravo, Director General at Club Bravo Arenal, responded to this reviewResponded April 13, 2019
Google Translation

Estimado es un n placer para nuestro staff recibir sus opiniones respecto a nuestros servicios, trabajamos en cada una de sus sugerencias,sus incorformidades serán analizadas en nuestro equipo de trabajo, los clientes son lo más importante, gracias por haber tomado su preciado tiempo para dedicarlo a nuestro Hotel
gracias

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Reviewed April 9, 2019

Being Canadian I feel that I can speak knowledgeably to this resort considering I've travelled to many comparable destinations including Varadero, multiple locations in Dominican Republic, Mexico, Bahamas, Virgin Islands and other non-south destinations. We travelled to Bravo Club Hotel Arenal with a group of 13 ranging from mid 30's to 40's from April 4th to April 7th of 2019 and we could not leave soon enough. I will document via point form below the many reasons I caution, no URGE you not to consider this hotel and if your agent/planner has recommended this place, be sure to ask if they've been themselves and reconsider using their services. And if you are ANY type of demographic other than a senior couple, run. This has no amenities for children except for a small patchy fenced in kids area that looks like a petting zoo enclosure and nothing for middle age people other than feeling young around the older demographic, but I digress, this should not be on your list and these are the reasons why:

• Upon Arrival to the hotel at 5pm, one of our rooms had a busted safe. They called the front desk and it took until the next day to send someone.
• The dinner buffet (and you'll find all the food) was some of the worst food and worst experience we've all ever had and set the precedence for the entire experience
○ Food included half cut up burgers, 1 guy grilling chicken (using the same tool for raw and cooked meats and them touching), a dried out rice dish, a tomato based pasta dish, some veggies mixed together etc. The actual dinner buffet has only 8 options plus the BBQ guy cooking chicken and a past stations with one guy.
○ Now imagine the lineup when the only edible station is staffed by 1 person each
• Staff at dinner, or any meal, have no interest in getting you a drink or cleaning up your plates. When you ask you feel like you are disturbing them. The staff serving BBQ food always looked unhappy and disturbed. Even when we sat at a table with no cutlery (cause most tables are still dirty) no one offered to bring cutlery.
• The coffee although very good in Cuba is difficult to enjoy with your mean since there is one machine in the buffet and they rarely stock the mugs to keep up with demand, so you'll need to steal one from a set table elsewhere (good luck)
• Between buffet meals (there are no A la Carte restaurants by the way) there's supposed to be a 24 hour snack bar…what a joke. The snack bar offers 2 items and only opens sometimes, a baloney/cheese sandwich repurposed from breakfast and a burger half full with cartilage and rubber bits. And that's if they serve you. We went a few times and staff brushed us off in Spanish, so if you or your kids or get hungry between buffet hours, there is literally nothing to eat. Our first night they were cooking pancakes for the next morning, yeah, and we couldn't have any. Imagine how appetizing the pancakes looked the next morning all dried up and stuck together.
• No one, and I mean no one says OLA to you, even when you say it first. From the cleaning staff, entertainment, bar, to the buffet staff. They are pretty rude and not interested in chatting.
• Rooms DO NOT have hot water for showers, or any hot water. All of us ran our showers for 20-30 mins to get lukewarm water…no hot water anywhere.
• Room fridges are not cold or even working. Our fridge never worked, and we arrived to one warm bottle of water
○ Oh and they charge you 2$ CUC for every additional water bottle, not included after your first
○ And our cupboard handle was broken and fell off the first night. Was never repaired.
• The Buffet, I can't speak badly enough about this place, but the mold growing in the north east corner and peeling ceiling throughout should give it away. The desert table stocks the same 3 cakes every night pretty much and 3 ice cream options with 1 syrup option and the water holding the scoop never gets cleaned out and it not hot or running water, so imagine how filthy that water is when you look at it.
• For Breakfast, you can choose from repurposed burgers called BACON (there is no actual BACON at any point), dried out small chorizo sausages, boiled hot dogs, boiled eggs, and bread at any meal never has any butter or jams, so you can have toasted bread by itself. Most mornings we had boiled eggs and bread or an omelet from the omelet station (dinner portion above applies, one guy, lineup, good luck)
• Our first night, one of our guests grabbed a bottle of alcohol being that the staff are slow and don't really care how long you wait. (dumb move on his part still) Security stopped him and the staff/head of security proceeded to speak Spanish to us all and threaten to call the police. They would not communicate with us in English or look us in the eye so we can explain, and it took the front desk staff calling our Air Transat rep to calm them down. That was our weekend, no one took the time to speak to us in English. They even threated to have all 13 adult guests come in the next morning at 10am to hear the hotel rules. Overblown and ridiculous start to our trip.
• This SHUTTLE TO HAVANA they advertise is 1 or 2 buses, leaves at 10am and returns at 4:30pm and only Thursday-Sunday. There is no consistent shuttle, and if you miss it be prepared to pay about 25$ CUC for a cab in or out of Havana. You're better off just staying in Havana.
• The pool is the only highlight being it's clean and warm, and the beach is nothing special and had many jellyfish coming ashore, so we avoided. The beach is somewhat separate from the resort and a few mins walk north down a jittery wooden walkway.
• At no time did they change our swim towels even though we left them on the ground in the room. Instead they hung them up for us, but they remained smelly and dirty.
• Be prepared for the fact that everyone in CUBA is going to sell you cigars or guide you to referrals of their own, and if you did your research finding high rated restaurants/destinations before arriving to Havana, don't let the people their deviate you. They always have an agenda, and one guys downtown pretended to be security at our resort and convinced us to follow him to an apt selling cigars downtown (fakes). Also, we had a dinner reservation on the Friday night and our drivers brought us to the incorrect restaurant, good thing I knew what the restaurant and menu looked like so we walked out and found the actual restaurant across the street
• The rooms are plain and in need of upkeep that's obviously not happening. Broken items, no hot water, and the building is need of touchups/repairs.
• Overall the hotel seems grossly understaffed and no one wants to work for tips and don't want guests bothering them. Whether they are overwhelmed or prideful, it's not what you would expect from travelling to other sunny destination resorts.

My advice is this, if you're going to this resort to be closer to Havana, know that the all-inclusive portion is not worth it and you're better off paying more per night and staying in Havana and buying alcohol at local shops and enjoying the food/restaurants in Havana. After our first night, we ate the next 2 dinners in Havana and avoided food at the hotel as much as possible, but given the distance it's not as easy to get in and out to the city. If you want all inclusive, go elsewhere and don't look back, this place is quite horrible from top to bottom and a waste of money. If you see a STAR RATING of anything higher than 2.5 or 3, that's crazy.

Room tip: There are no good rooms
Date of stay: April 2019
  • Trip type: Traveled with friends
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
1  Thank Roro233
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VillaggiBravo, Director General at Club Bravo Arenal, responded to this reviewResponded April 9, 2019
Google Translation

Estimado Roro233, gran placer recibir sus opiniones, sabemos que uds viajaron en grupo a nuestro HTL, conocemos de alguna manera las carcaterísticas de nuestros visitantes,sus habitaciones asignadas fueron junior suite que poseen altos estandares de calidad, lamentamos que nuestra instalación no les haya sido de su agrado, poseemos nuestras reglas y no podemos permitir que los clientes entren a los bares a sustraer botellas y/o realizar actos ilegales no acorde a las reglas de la casa.
Nuestros empleados son muy profesionales y educados, velan por la seguridad del HTL y sus clientes,poseemos contacto permanente con los representantes de agencias que les comunican a sus clientes todo lo refente a nuestros servicios dentro y fuera del HTL.
Lamentamos que nunca se hayan acercado a la dirección, recepción,calidad,comercial,atención a clientes para referirse alguna inquietud o malestar, al contrario nuestro staff se acercó para explicarle que las actitudes que estaban realizando no eran las adecuadas, tal vez por la alegría de estar en Cuba o desconocimiento de las normas de casa.
agradecemos todas sus opiniones que aunque negativas nos engrandecen,gracias reiteradas por sus opiniones,
gracias

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Reviewed April 8, 2019

Choose this hotel if you like beach holidays and all-inclusive food service.They have great food if you like italian food.The swimming pool is large and comfortable and beach chairs are shared by everyone, and the beach chairs are free for hotel guests.They offer free transport to Havana City.
If you love walking then 1 km away is a small lovely town with shops and restaurants(Guanabo). The animation team was very great.
Only bad things-wifi is not free .And please- you have such a beautiful beach-clean it even more beautiful.

Date of stay: March 2019
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
1  Thank eakalev
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VillaggiBravo, Director General at Club Bravo Arenal, responded to this reviewResponded April 9, 2019
Google Translation

Esimado eakalev es placer conocer que sus vacaciones en nuestro HTL fueron excelentes, es muy importante conocer sus opiniones respecto a nuestros servicios y su estancia, la travesía al pueblo de guanabo es interesante y como bien ud comenta muy cerca con tiendas y restaurantes para degustar alimentos de su preferencia, gracias por escribirnos, gracias por tomar de su tiempo y recordarnos, es bueno saber que logramos hacer de sus vacaciones un recuerdo bonito,
gracias, y regrese lo esperamos!!

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Reviewed March 20, 2019

This was our 4th trip to Cuba - Twice to Holguin - Once to Cayo Santa Maria - We were looking for a split vacation to Varadero and Havana - 4 days at one place and 3 days at the other - These split vacations are offered but the logistics seem overwhelming and expensive - So quick search Beach hotels near Havana - Playa del Este area pops up with 3 or 4 options exlcuding casa paarticulaires - We chose Club Arenal and glad we did.
THE GOOD - Proximity to Havana - Beach Day / Havana Day repeat. Bravo offers complimentary shuttle Thurs.Fri.Sat Sun./ We only used the Friday shuttle since we arrive the previous Sunday and did not go into the city the first day - If you can, take advantage of the shuttle it leaves at 10 a.m and comes back at 4:30 p.m. it will save you $ on taxis - Cost of taxi from Bravo to Havana was $25 CUC(not really negotiable) - this will add up - Taxi from Havana to Bravo $20 CUC (maybe negotiable) HOPONHOPOFF(T1) bus - First day in Havana took the bus 10cuc each (wife /daughter/ and me - 1 1/2 hrs) It gives you a general overview of the city , some areas of interest ( huge graveyard/ several hotels/ revolutionary square/ University and others Be Aware while on bus there are low hanging branches and worse electrical lines so if on the open top stay seated - We found no reason to get off the bus so finished the circuit back at Parque de Central and then set out on foot down Obispo Calle - It is touristy but we loved the mix of music/ food /shops and historic landmarks. During our 3 daily visits to Havana we visited Museum of the Revolution/ Coffee upstairs in Baccardi Building/ walked O'reilly and Neptuno streets/ had lunch at Hotel Nacional (10 cuc sandwiches 3 cuc beer) nice views of harbour - 2 rooftop drinking spots Ingeterra and ambose mundi(sp. ) 3 to 4 cuc a drink - 2 other lunches at El Cafe (excellent) and a place on O'reilly( can't remember name but upscale lots of seafood including octopus 50 cuc for 3 of us. We have never visited a city quite like Havana .
THE RESORT - Clean, great service, nice beach, surprisingly good food (best we have had in Cuba) Snack bar is hit or miss . Lobby Bar much better mixed drinks than pool bar. Much less expectation for tips than our other visits to Cuba. We visited the town next door( Guanabo) for dinner one evening El Piccollo (10 cuc taxi one way) for pizza and pasta and it was excellent - We had a great time at Bravo and would recomend it to anyone who is looking for a Havana City and Beach vacation all in one. Adios

Date of stay: March 2019
  • Trip type: Traveled with family
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Service
4  Thank scotchcove
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VillaggiBravo, Director General at Club Bravo Arenal, responded to this reviewResponded March 21, 2019
Google Translation

Estimado scotchcove, que satisfacción nos da conocer que su estancia en nuestro hotel fue agradable, gracias por hacerle conocer a los futuros clientes la calidad en nuestros servicios, y gracias por recomendarnos, maravilloso saber que la visita a nuestra Isla Bella le gustó, sobre todas las cosas conocer su historia, andar libremente por nuestra ciudad, conocer su historia y encanto, visitar nuestro emblemático HTL Nacional, Cuba es eso alegría, amabilidad, calidez, gracias por haber escogido el Bravo Arenal para el disfrute de sus vacaciones, lo invitamos a que regrese, proximamente estaremos celebrandro el 500 Aniversario de nuestra Habana, con la imagen de su Giraldilla más erguida, saludando a todos sus visitantes con amor, La Habana con sus cicatrices del tiempo, sus leyendas, sus raices entremezcladas afrocubanas, Habana hermosa, orgullosa, lo esperamos regrese a Cuba, y que mejor placer que nos vuelva a reelegir como destino turístico, el Arenal tiene y tendrá siempre abiertas sus puertas,
gracias scotchcove,
un caluroso abrazo cubano!!!

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Reviewed March 7, 2019

Before I even start, I can't emphasize the location enough. It's so amazing to be so close to the city and to still have a tiny retreat to return to.

This hotel is for people who want a launching pad for adventures in Havana. They want a reasonably priced AI where you can put your feet up after a long day in the city. It's really for an adventure traveler who likes a touch of creature comforts.

Hotel:
Hotel Arenal is very small. For the most part this is a good thing. It's not hard to find your room even if they don't take you there. You can find all the amenities without help. The staff are very friendly and you can tell they are making upgrades here and there. We saw them painting and replacing the roof while we were there.

There are more than enough pool chairs, beach chairs and lobby/patio chairs for everyone at all times. Never a wait for anything: the bar, check-in, restaurant, etc. The beach is beautiful. You can walk endlessly in either direction. One way will take you into Guanabo if you want to eat out or go to the bank. There are horse carriages that will take you right into town for $5 CUC. There are no trees on the beach but they have lots of umbrellas they put up every morning. Because you are the only hotel there are no street/beach vendors harassing you.

The pool is large, clean, never busy, and has lots of different depths. The music is not too loud anymore (as others have said).

The bad thing about it being so small is that there is not a lot of variety. Similar activities every day. Restaurant is small and lots of repetition. I could time my watch by the daily events. We ate dinner out three nights which helped keep things interesting. If encouraged us to get out and try other experiences.

For the most part everything was clean but most of the times the plates at the restaurant looked like they could have used one more rinse.

Rooms:
Rooms are typical for Cuba, trying hard but not the same standard as higher star resorts in other countries. Some sloppy paint jobs and drawers that wouldn't open. But the important stuff was there: hot water and excellent AC. Units were new and quiet.

Location:
It's very far from Varadero so expect long drives from airport and if you choose to do any excursions like snorkeling. You'll have to go back to Varadero. But the location of this hotel is prime for people who want to explore Havana. About 25 minutes to the Malecon and old Havana. The shuttle runs for free Thurs-Sun or a cab is just $25CUC one way. We did both.

Tips:
Large bottles of water can be purchased from the bar for $2 CUC. It was very convenient for excursions or days you just needed more. We only got our room cleaned once but they didn't add more water to the fridge.

Your pool towels are in the room when you get there. We didn't figure out until later in the week you could get fresh ones at the spa.

Wi-Fi is fast in the lobby for $1 CUC per hour.

The snack bar appears pretty bare most days but they will make most things for you upon request. Guess they don't want to waste. Same for the restaurant. If you go within the last 45 min of service there will be empty options. I appreciate that i knew they weren't throwing a bunch of stuff out.

The bottom line:
This hotel is not for everyone. It has everything you need but isn't fancy. The quaintness grows on you fast.

I can't emphasize the location enough. It's so amazing to be so close to the city and to still have a tiny retreat to return to. This hotel is for people who want a launching pad for adventures in Havana. They want a reasonably priced AI where you can put your feet up after a long day in the city. It's really for an adventure traveler who likes a touch of creature comforts.

Date of stay: February 2019
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
3  Thank 341stacyg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VillaggiBravo, Director General at Club Bravo Arenal, responded to this reviewResponded March 8, 2019
Google Translation

Estimado 341stacyg, gran placer poder recibir tan buena opinión sobre nuestro hotel y servicios, sabemos que aunque nos encontramos haciendo arreglos en la estructura, tenemos que mejorar en ofertas, lo importante es que ud nos ha hecho llegar sus opiniones para ayudarnos a crecer más, gracias por sus comentarios, los empleados del hotel y la dirección se complace en haberlos recibido en este pequeño hotel como bien ud menciona, gracias nuevamente y lo esperamos para que vuelva a vivir la aventura!!!
gracias,

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