Due to the comments here we had huge expectations for this resort. Not only were they met, but they were exceeded. My girlfriend is an experience junky (wants to see everything in the world, never stay at the same place) - but even she wants to go back! I have been at a lot of resorts and have always been ready to come home. Not this time, we all left feeling sad and while on the bus waved goodbye to the resort like it was an old friend.
Okay - enough of the touchy feely stuff. Here are a few of the things that suprised me about the resort.
1) Its not centralized. I have been to resorts where all of the rooms are in one or two huge buildings, but this was laid out like a community with small two story buildings all through the grounds. It seemed like a small community.
2) The reef ... ahhh - the reef. I have been snorkling at other places, but this is the best one I have ever seen. Its about 40 feet (to the side - not 40 feet out) from the public beach, right under the chapel. We saw an amazing variety of sea life. We saw parrot fish (I think), Lionfish, flounder hiding in the sand, and even a small stingray. Dozens of species of fish flashing a rainbow of hues. They will swim about you curiously (probably hoping for some bananas). One couple even saw a small octopus (I was jealous). Even though the water is not deep you should be able to swim as the waves tend to push you about and the reef/rocks is quite big and sharp. Also there are sea urchins (and the stingray above) so always maintain situational awareness. If you have never snorkled before it would be a crime not to spend 20 minutes exploring this.
3) The public beach (and by public I mean it shares it with another resort), is beautiful and long. However WATCH OUT. There are some sharp rocks in the water, and some of them are as big as a car door. They are also nasty sharp as well (I gouged a pretty big chunk out of my toe that took two weeks to heal). The water is delightful, but wear water shoes. Last time I ignore my girlfiend's advice. I don't know what they could do about this since they would probably have to blast the rocks out, which wouldn't do the nearby reef any favours. I suggested a sign at least.
There were usually lots of chairs to be had. The colours of the water are so intense that they look CGI, but its all real.
4) We were told that there were some bugs so to bring spray. It stayed in the suitcase. We didn't encounter a mosquito or even a fly. I would love to know the resort's secret. Heck, even at night I suddenly noticed to my amazement that there weren't any bugs flying about the lights at night. Its not like there aren't any bugs at all - we saw a few lazy butterflies, but that was about it.
5) Ahhhh ... the Buffet. My favourite part. There are 1 or 2 reviews here that complained about the food. I guess filet mignon, lobster tails, custom pasta, custom salad and custom crepes will just have to do. Nor did I see the same dishes being served every day. One night we had a string quartet playing while we ate, and on Cuba Night (Tuesday nights I think) there was a Cuban band playing and lots of delicious looking food/art.
Some reviews mentioned that long pants weren't required at the buffet. That may or many not be true. On the first night we were in shorts and no one said anything, but then the next day I was mortified to discover that everyone else was wearing pants. So we quickly adapted. Pants are fine, I don't recall a single instance of the buffet being too hot.
The A-La carte restaurants were all wonderful. I don't know if there is a limit to how many you can attend - we didn't encounter any limit. The Japanese restaurant is as good as everyone says it is. We had no trouble getting reservations for any restaurant. The trick seems to be to get a reservation for 9 PM rather than earlier. If that is too late to wait for dinner you can always get something to tide you over at the buffet!
6) Yes - as a lot of reviews have pointed it out its tricky to secure a chair by the pool as you have annoying people dropping towels off and then going about their day. I suppose the resort could get more chairs, but I am not sure where they would put them. Luckily there was always room at the swim up bar. The pool was not heated so it takes a bit to get ducked in, but I never find heated pools to be refreshing. There are a couple of Jacuzzis - they aren't heated either. I never saw them in use, probably because it wasn't clear how exactly to turn the Jacuzzi on.
7) One interesting thing that I didn't notice right away. There are no wrist bands here. We went on an excursion and we were the only ones without wrist bands. They asked us how the resort knows that we are guests. All we could do is shrug our shoulders. As absurd as it sounds, I think the staff memorize the faces of the guests.
8) Service - wow - maybe its because I am Canadian, but I have never experienced service like this. I think there was one time I had to wait 5 minutes for a drink at the bar (and it was BUSY). All the other times I reached the bar and had my drink in hand in another minute. In fact with one bartender, I couldn't even tell you how many screwdrivers I had - since every time I was almost finished it was whisked away with a brand new one in its place. The wait staff were all very attentive. One example - I sat down for breakfast and a waiter asked if there was anything he could get me. I said no, so he went off to help other guests. My girlfriend later sat down and said "Good, now all I need is a Tea". Now waiters were zipping back and forth behind me. So I moved my head about 30 degrees to get eye contact with our waiter. He didn't even fully enter my line of vision before he saw my head move. He stopped where he was walking, did a 180 and zipped up to our table with a "What can I get for you sir?". Delightful. We tipped here and there, and tipped pretty decently at the restaurants. Not because it was expected, but because the service was such a delight. Other's didn't tip, but we never noticed a difference in the level of service. A few of the reviews from a few years ago complain that guests felt they were being hassled for tips, but that certainly wasn't our experience. There wasn't a single instance were we felt we were being solicited for a tip, and when we did tip - the staff was always gracious, even if it was a peso.
9) Bar - Hmmmm ... I think there is something like 5 bars with a great assortment of drinks. The beer is pretty good (WAY better than when I was in Cuba 15 years ago). My girlfriend loved the beer - she compared it to Corona. We brought our own mugs, something I learned at other resorts where they served drinks in tiny cups that were overiced. Here - our mugs stayed in the bags. The glasses were ample and even if it weren't big enough getting another drink is as easy as falling down.
10) The last day I noticed these snacks out at the bar. They looked like tiny Kiwis. Try one - they are heaven. They crunch like cheese poppers but there is this delicious spinach dip in them. I am glad I only discovered them the last day as I would have embarrassed myself shoveling the whole lot into my mouth.
11) Somethings that seem to have changed since I was Cuba 15 years ago. The soldiers with assault rifles are no longer in the airports. Also - curiously - when you land you have to go through Security (metal detectors etc) again. Also - the washroom facilities at the airport are probably a little rustic compared to what you might be used to. But the bus that brings you to the resort is modern and air-conditioned. Also - it was harder to find those older cars that Cuba is famous for. All the Taxis and rental cars seem to be brand spanking new.
12) This is NOT a party resort. Its more of a couples resort. There were a few couples in their 20s and early 30s, but most are older. And from what I could see, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. Anyway the disco was pretty dead - which is a shame. On the other hand if you get a group together you can have the run of the place. They have a pretty decent Karaoke selection.
13) One thing that was a delight to find - that are a few champagne/wine stations with bottles chilling in ice buckets just waiting for you to help yourself if you like. There are even little sandwiches/pastries or fruit beside one such station, which was good when I overslept and missed the breakfast buffet. If I had known I would have just walked over to the pool restaurant which seems to be open all day.
14) There seemed to be a lot of musical entertainment, from Pianos to Cuban bands to String Quartets. There was this one artist who played an electric guitar. He was MARVELOUS. He had quite a group of people that gathered, entranced with his skill and begging him for more. For those that aren't into that - no worries. The volume was perfect. It didn't drown out any of the conversation at the lobby bar, but it was loud enough that its presence was felt.
15) There are quite a few pool tables (full sized ones, not the wussy sized ones you find at some bars), 5 or 6 I think. There was also a Foosball table and even a giant connect 4 game, beside a giant chess board.
16) That sun is intense! Lather up in sunscreen. But still the colours of the resort are bright and deep. They must repaint everything once a month under the sun's relentless assault to keep that level of richness.
17) We stayed at a Junior suite. With a name like that I was expecting a bed in a closet. Boy was I wrong. A beautiful bed with a canopy, a step down living room, and balcony. The AC was modern (a panel on a wall), as was the modern. Not sure I understand what a lot of the comments are saying when they say the bathrooms are "Tired"
18) Even though the resort was at peak season there were always comfortable couches, chairs or tables to be found. It never felt super crowded.
19) We met one couple that had been to Cuba 17 times, and had been to this resort 10 times. As they said - "Once we found this place, it was difficult to justify going anywhere else". I definitely understand what they are saying.
20) We went to a local market (very small). I have been other places where vendors were extremely aggressive, and I did not feel altogether safe. Not here- the vendors seemed almost shy, and I never got an unsafe vibe in my stay at Cuba (even 15 years ago I recall I felt completely safe).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located in the Bahia de Naranjo Natural Park, in Playa Esmeralda, on the northern coast of Holguin province. Five-Star Ultra All Inclusive Eco-Resort with 354 rooms. Conceived only for adults aged 18 years or more. Maximum comfort and perfection in its private Royal Service area for a fabulous experience in a world apart. Recommended for weddings, honeymoons, incentive trips and wellness/spa. Guest Rooms 354 rooms: 254 Junior Suites, 24 Luxury Junior Suites, 16 Luxury Junior Suites Ocean View, 2 Suites Deluxe, 36 Master Junior Suites Royal Service, 14 Master Junior Suites Ocean View Royal Service, 6 Master Junior Suites Luxury Royal Service, 2 Garden Villas Royal Service. Dining: 8 Restaurants (A la Carte, Buffet), 5 Bars. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Paradisus Rio De Oro Hotel Holguin
- Paradisus Rio De Oro Resort And Spa
- Paradisus Hotel Guardalavaca
- Rio De Oro Paradisus
- Paradisus Rio De Oro Cuba
- Hotel Paradisus Rio De Oro
- Paradisus Rio De Oro Resort & Spa Cuba/Holguin