This was our first trip to Cuba and we will definitely be making another trip back to the Buenavista. The beach is why we came to Cuba and the snorkeling is why we chose this resort. We had never been snorkeling before and wanted to try it somewhere the snorkeling was good and the water was easy to navigate.
All three beaches were beautiful and well equipped. There was usually someone at the beach who would walk with you to your bed, position it wherever you pleased and then would make it up for you.
We spent most of our time at the sunset beach, also known as the quiet beach, which lived up to its name. This is where I really felt like I was in heaven. Beautiful soft sand, a beautiful view and nothing to hear but the breeze and the waves lapping at the shore. It was not good for swimming here because it was too shallow and the bottom was a little mucky and a lot weedy. This, however, made for amazing snorkeling. The entire bay is fairly shallow and we saw many beautiful corals and fish. The avid snorkelers reported seeing barracudas, lobsters, octopus and sea turtles and you never had to go far from the shore or the reef.
When we wanted to just swim in the ocean we would head to the snorkeling beach which had a fantastic location a few steps from us at the quiet beach, and right behind the main pool with the pool bar and barbecue. The sand was soft and there was excellent snorkeling here as well, very close to the shore with lots of fish to see, even in the shallow water.
Both pools were beautiful and clean with perfect temperatures and a good supply of floaties. We enjoyed the walk through the grounds for breakfast and the pictures don't do the gardens justice.
The rooms we had were beautiful and clean with lots of space and comfortable furniture. We loved and made good use of both the big tub and the outdoor shower. There is a walk-in closet with lots of space for hanging clothes, three good sized drawers and a shoe rack. There are also small drawers in the night table and desk, and plenty of shelving in the main bedroom so there is lots of space for organizing your stuff. Robes, slippers, beach bag and other small amenities are supplied.
The restaurants are all quite good and though it may seem limited having only two to choose from for dinner, we found there was plenty of choice to get through the week. If we had stayed longer, we may have tried some of the options at the sister resorts. We heard some wonderful things about these from other people at the resort but we were content where we were. For the most part, we ate off the menu and we always enjoyed our meals. The breakfast offered a good selection of buffet items and had a good, if simple, menu. The cappuccinos were awesome and since I saw many people enjoying them at all hours of the day and night, I know I am not the only one who thought so. Our favourite dishes were the omelet at breakfast along with the pastries and tropical fruit on the breakfast buffet, the buffet at lunch, the pumpkin soup (OMG!), tempura vegetables, the steak, the lobster, the perch and traditional dessert on Cuban night, the vegetarian couscous, the mousse (every flavor) and the ice cream. If you're a meat eater, the grill at the pool for lunch was excellent with beautifully roasted chickens, turkey, burgers, hot dogs, skewers of chicken, pork or beef with peppers and pineapple, and sausage. Also at the grill, there are fresh rolls and a big server with enough lettuce and other fresh vegetables to make a salad if you preferred and another big server with banana chips or fresh potato chips. We ordered breakfast via room service one morning and it was fast and the food was good. We enjoyed the pizza as well which could be ordered anywhere it seemed.
The resort itself is beautiful but the staff and the service are what made our trip special.
There is much discussion about the role of the butlers. While it is true that they will make your dinner reservations, they really do so much more. Our butlers, Joel and Chacon were excellent and I would feel extremely fortunate to have them again on our next trip. They were always around to catch us to or from breakfast for a quick check in to make sure the day before had gone well and then to make sure we were looked after for the day ahead. One morning Chacon brought our breakfast from room service and on another when we had skipped through breakfast quickly, Joel came to the beach to find us where he knew we spent most of our time. They would always discuss with us the menus for the evening to ensure we selected the best option for us. Chacon made special arrangements for my husband to have the steak he had enjoyed in Los Navigantes, served in Los Caribos where I could enjoy the music of Spanish Night. They arranged for a dinner in our room that was so beautifully detailed and thoughtful, complete with the live singers from the restaurant, it brought me to tears. They arranged for champagne and a plate of fresh fruit to be waiting for us in our room when we returned from the beach at the end of the day. This was a wonderful way to relax before we got ready for dinner.
While they are wonderful at making sure your holiday is a memorable one and you have everything you want and need, the butlers are also your problem solvers. When we first arrived, I realized I hadn't brought the adapter I needed for my CPAP machine and Chacon brought in the mechanic who worked it all out very quickly. This was such a huge relief as I had envisioned having to spend days hunting around Cuba for something appropriate or simply not being able to sleep all week which would have ruined our holiday. Joel made a recommendation and then an appt. for a massage to help ease the residual aches and pains from the travel. The a/c broke in our room and we had to move. By the time this happened it didn't even faze us as we had complete trust in our butlers and they made it a completely painless experience. Chacon found us a room next door to where we were and arranged everything beautifully. Even if you don't need a lot, you can rest assured they are there keeping everything running smoothly and specifically for you.
The service in the restaurants was outstanding and we always felt well taken care of. Not always really fast but we never sat long at a table with nothing in front of us. The wait staff were excellent at making suggestions to accommodate so if something is not to your liking, all you have to do is say so and they will do their best to make sure you are satisfied. One night I decided after sitting down that I was really in the mood for the other restaurant and while I was feeling embarrassed, the waitress told me it was no problem and to just sit and wait. When she came back a few minutes later she had already made arrangements next door for a table in 10 minutes time and gave us the name of the girl who would look after us there. And all with a smile, of course. :-)
The service on the beach was the fastest I have experienced and they would run up and down the beach all day, even to the quiet beach which is at the far end of the resort from where they start. I had asked for some extra beer for our mini fridge since our room was beside the quiet beach and I didn't expect service there. I knew I could easily run in and grab a drink whenever we wanted one but I never got the chance. The boys were always there and would take our bubbas, fill them up with whatever we asked for and had them back to us quickly.
Our maid, Diamelys was a wonderful girl who worked hard, always with a smile, and helped us out above and beyond with anything we needed. We always had beautiful towel art and flowers on our bed along with lovely little notes from the maid and turndown service. The turndown service was always reliable and magically done while we were at dinner even though we ate at all different times and often came back to our room right after dinner, as all that relaxing and being spoiled seemed to really tire us out. The night we ate in our room, they knocked and we let them in to do their thing as we were just sitting on the balcony relaxing by then. They flew through quickly but were as efficient as ever.
The gardener, Armando, cut some aloe and brought it to the beach for my husband who ended up with a lot of bug bites.
I would leave notes for the mini-bar man and he always left exactly what I requested and always had a smile when I saw him.
The bartenders at the pool bar were excellent and we loved heading here for our lunch because they were fabulous at their jobs and made things a lot of fun. While we were there, a sugar cane press was installed by the pool bar and people were cranking sugar cane through it to make fresh cane juice. This was very tasty and a lot of fun as well.
I especially need to mention Horve who looks after the Quiet Beach and really made our holiday special. He took such good care of us day in and day out and worked incredibly hard to make sure our time there was perfect. From bringing more beds to the beach our first day there to helping us with our new snorkel gear, snorkeling techniques and the best places to go snorkeling. He answered a multitude of questions relating to the resort, the culture, the country, and everything he did, he did with a smile. He became a good friend and we miss him already.
The manager was around to chat briefly a few times, and encouraged us to make any special requests we might like, suggesting a special breakfast in our room before we left. I didn't find him to be hovering but he did always seem available and approachable.
There are so many other staff I would love to mention but I would be going on forever here.
ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT
It is quiet but there are lots of things to do. People at the main pool were always having a lot of fun with dance lessons, pool volleyball, water aerobics and just hanging out at the bar. The people leading the activities don't have a loudspeaker or loud music blasting, it's just good fun.
The sunset with champagne and music at the pier was quite beautiful. This didn't happen every night, depending on weather conditions, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Remember this is the end of the resort with the no-see-ums so be prepared.
I had the Serenity massage at the spa. It was wonderful and I would definitely do it again. It was also very reasonably priced. I spoke with others who had tried the spa as well and they were all quite happy with their services.
In the evening, we stretched out our dinners with many courses and bottles of wine, thoroughly enjoying the music at the restaurant. The musicians in the restaurants were really excellent and they also played at breakfast which was nice. After dinner, the lobby bar had piano music, sometimes a band outside for the patio, and always lots of great company and drinks. We only stayed up a couple of times for this. If you want a more exciting night life or to see a show, you can go to one of the other resorts just a few minutes away by bus for no charge.
THINGS TO KNOW AHEAD OF TIME
You may want to bring something to convert the power in the rooms as it is 220 except for a plug for a shaver in the bathroom but that one is meant for small things and wouldn't power my flat iron.
The shop on site is very limited with a good selection of rums, sodas, cigars and cookies, a few souvenirs and nothing in the way of toiletries or medicines, so don't forget anything. Apparently you can go to one of the other Melia resorts close by where the shop is better equipped but I was having a great time and didn't want to leave the resort. We did go to the market at Las Dunas one day where there were a couple of places to have lunch, some shops, a more varied selection of souvenirs and some local art and wood crafts. Still no toiletries to speak of or medicines. It cost us 3 CUCs each way for a taxi and he waited for us. It was only 5 minutes approx. from the resort and since it is fairly small and I'm not one for long shopping trips on holidays, we were there and back within half an hour or so.
Bring a good insect repellent, something we forgot, because the conditions for great snorkeling also make for great numbers of no-see-ums. I didn't get any bites until close to the end of the week but they loved my husband. (he is a smoker who spent more time on the balcony at night so perhaps quit before you come ;) ) We used a Benadryl spray when we got home and it helped immensely. Next time we will take some with us. The aloe vera did help with the itching. The time of year and our location at the resort contributed to the number of bites, no doubt. The bug bites will not deter us, but will have us packing a little smarter next time.
You get one beach towel for the week, which you will be charged for if it is not in the room when you leave. This you can change for a clean one at the hut by the main pool (where you can also get books). I think I will bring an extra beach towel with me next time but we did manage just fine.
I strongly suggest that you bring your bubbas or other insulated cups. We didn't always use them in other resorts but here they were incredibly helpful as the cups they use for their drinks are small flimsy plastic. I left mine with the maid as the people here have long bus rides to and from work.
There is no wifi but two computers in the lobby which I used a few times. Though slower than I am used to at home, I was able to check my email and Facebook without any problems. You get a card from the desk with a login and password that will give you 30 minutes but there didn't seem to be any problems getting as many cards as you needed.
There were all ages of visitors from university age to retirees and everyone we spoke with was having a fabulous time.
It was simply inspiring to see so many people loving life and each other.
It really did feel like heaven on earth. We found the peace and quiet and rejuvenation we were looking for but whenever we needed something, someone was there with a smile ready to help.
I will be keeping a close eye on this resort and when I see a price that fits at a time we can get away, we will be back there in a flash.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located west of Cayo Santa Maria in a privileged ecological environment, and surrounded by beaches and coves. All-Inclusive five-star resort with 105 junior suites and suites, and the Villa "Zaida del Rio." Designed for adults over 18 years. An entire hotel featuring Royal Service. Recommended for couples, weddings, honeymoons and wellness/spa. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Melia Buenavista Hotel Cayo Santa Maria