My boyfriend and I stayed at the Iberostar Ensenachoes in May 2012. It was our first all inclusive vacation and I had read every review written on this place, both before it converted to Iberostar, and after. We went in with open minds, and all in all, we really enjoyed our trip.
We booked with Flight Centre and Sunwing. I don't recommend flying with Sunwing if you are over 5' tall. The planes are very crowded and squished. At 5'4" I was uncomfortable. At 6', my boyfriend had his knees into the seat in front of him and neither could recline. Champagne and wine were served, as promised, but keep in mind it's free and portions reflect this.
Cuba Airports can be kind of intimidating. Upon entering, there are several doors at which you line up at to enter the country. Don't forget your green card! The airline should provide this. You need it to enter and exit the country. Don't lose the other half! I tucked both my 25CUC tax and green card into my passport and it was just fine. Once you are through the 'customs' room where the scan your passport, the rest is actually quite laid back and easy. The security dog was more of a pet and the 'security' staff was walking around with headphones in and seemed very relaxed and friendly. Getting our luggage was painless and done within 20 minutes. There was a short lineup for CUC conversion, make sure you do this at the airport; it's handier than trying to get it at the resort.
Getting to and from the hotel was a breeze! It was very well organized. When you exited the airport, guides are lined up and handing out boarding cards for the transport buses (which are very new and nice). They find out which resort you're at and you're off. Beer is offered on the bus for 2CUC (It's Cristal, not the best). From the Santa Clara Airport to the Iberostar is nearly 2 hours. It's a lovely drive if you stay awake. Keep in mind, it's still Cuba. The causeway from the mainland to the Cayos is pretty neat.
Check In and Rooms:
We chose to stay on the 'garden view' side of the resort. It was okay, but half way through we upgraded to the Villas. (DO IT DO IT DO IT) Check in was long, and rooms were not ready right away, but eventually they loaded us onto a golf cart and took us to our building. Keep in mind, this resort is massive; nearly 5km from Villas to the other end. We were pretty close to the main pool, the one that allows children. We chose to walk to almost everything, since we are young, and waiting for a shuttle can take a while. The room we got was very nice. We requested a king, and got 2 queens. We made do and didn't bother to complain. The rooms themselves are mostly marble and the bathrooms so big! The TV got a large selection of English channels and the walk in closet was perfect. The balcony was nice, our view was jungle. The fridge was restocked sporadically. Hold on to your big water bottles if you want consistent water and get them filled at the lobby bar. The rooms were also cleaned sporadically, but they were always done every day and done well.
The food wasn't wonderful. Again, this is Cuba. Most of it is bland, but edible. Buffets were okay. Get there right when they start to avoid long lines and depleted food. Line or not though, get fresh omlettes, fried eggs and crepes for breakfast. There are 2 stations in the buffet that do this. Avoid the buffet eggs. My boyfriend ate them one day and was quite sick. The dinner buffet (which we only did once) was alright. The fried rice is quite good. The a la carte restaurants were fairly good. We ate at the Italian one 3 times. Try the veal tortellini and you HAVE to get a cappuccino after dinner here. Best cappuccino I've ever had! I have seafood allergies, so I cannot comment on the other restaurants. Once we upgraded, we were able to eat at the Gourmet a la carte. My steak was very tough, but my boyfriend's lamb was really good. They also have a very nice premium liquor selection at this restaurant. My boyfriend was able to find a 12 year Glenfiddich scotch, which made his day. Wine. Okay, Cuban wine is terrible! I brought my own from the duty free and enjoyed it in our room. Well worth it. Room service has great pizzas, but they do end around 10 or 11.
The grounds on this resort are to die for! The greenery and pathways are very well kept and gorgeous. They spray each night (around 8pm) for bugs, so we hardly saw any. The pools (4 in all) are nice. The children's pool (attached to the main) is small, but provides a climbing/sliding thing. The main pool offers plenty of seating and I was always able to find one in the shade. The swim up bar at this pool is nice, and the bartenders friendly. (Note: Bring your own cup – like a Starbucks cold cup or a bubba mug. The plastic cups they give you will have you going back for a drink every 2 minutes because they are so small). We went to the Spa section pool (18+) one day. It was very quiet. Like, afraid to talk quiet. But it was lovely for reading and relaxing. Once we upgraded, we spent a lot of time at the Villa pool (14+). It was amazing. It's a bit smaller, but lovely. A nice mix of the other two pools. The bartender at the swim up was fantastic. She was bringing me refills to my lounger without asking! While we were there, they were in the process of doing the renovations to convert them to an Iberostar from the Royal Hideaway. The fountains were all empty and being painted, as well as the front entry being renovated. It didn't diminish from the stay.
The best. White sand, shallow water. There were no vendors permitted and because we were the only resort on this particular cayos, there was no other traffic of any kind. The beach bartenders walked up and down the LONG beach and took orders and brought them to you. There were shaded huts with loungers as well as lots of other loungers in the sun. Keep in mind, the far end of the beach (quite a walk) is clothing optional. We were able to swim and lounge without worry.
Upgrade if you can afford it. Our villa had a king bed, kitchen, dining room and living room, as well as a private hot tub out back and a private patio. The concierge for the Villas is amazing. He made our reservations without hesitation, always called a shuttle promptly (its 2-3km from the villa side to the lobby) and met our every special request. We asked for a bottle of champagne in our room one night – this was done by the time we were finished dinner. It was in a silver stand, on ice, and proper glasses were delivered with it.
We took two excursions while here. The Safari into rural Cuba was interesting, but not what we expected. You spend about 8 hours in a Jeep, and the food at the farm is questionable. Not to mention the chickens and dogs underfoot the whole time. The horseback riding at the end of the safari is fun, unless you're a big person. Cuban horses are quite small and my boyfriend had to switch to the leader's horse to be allowed to ride (6', 185 lbs). The catamaran tour was amazing! The dolphin experience was really cool. You can get in the water with them, but cannot swim with them. The catamaran is well maintained, with an open bar. The snorkeling was fun (but you can't touch the coral – it stings like jellyfish) and the virgin island exploration was really neat. A great way to spend a day!
Long, cramped flight. Renovations. No king bed first room. Food. Lots of noisy kids. A long wait for a drink during peak times. Everyone expects a tip.
Despite the 'cons', we had a wonderful time. We did not let the little things spoil our first all inclusive vacation. We did tip quite a bit, and would do quite a bit less if we return. It doesn’t make that much of a difference for the service.
- 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. Kilometers 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
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Ensenachos Hotel Cayo Ensenachos
- Occidental Royal Hideaway Ensenachos Cayo
- Royal Hideaway Ensenachos
- Occidental Royal Hideaway Ensenachos Hotel