I'm not sure where the people who write the bad reviews for this resort have travelled before - they must have been paying 3 times the amount we paid for Paraiso and have no idea how "real people" travel.
I went to Paraiso April 16-22 and had a great time! Travelled with my husband, 14 y/o stepdaughter, and my in-laws. We all had a wonderful trip.
Let me begin by saying - be prepared for the 1.5 hour bus ride from the airport. But it's a fun time and the 1.5 hours went by like it was nothing, even having to stop for 20 minutes while the bus was fixed was no problem - they serve beer on the bus and there's plenty of scenery to look at and take pictures - so try to arrive in Santa Clara while the sun is still out! The tour guides on the bus (both on the way to the airport and the way back at the end of the vacation) had alot to tell us about the towns we were travelling through.
So how was the resort?
Well the food was great by Cuban standards. My in-laws have travelled to Cuba multiple times and said this resort had the best food by far! At times, yes there were line-ups at some of the buffet stations - but in the morning the omlet line only took 10-15 minutes and was well worth it. Get your omlet and then the rest of the food so that it doesn't get cold while waiting on your omlet. I reccommend booking your a la cartes as soon as possible and before the sunwing presentation to avoid a line up that happens right after that presentation. I booked 4 a la cartes while the presentation was going on and by the time I was done booking there was a line up a mile long behind me!
The beach is to die for! I've never seen turquoise blue water like that before in my life! The sand was like walking in baby powder - it was so soft! There was no problem in having no chairs as my in-laws would head for the beach right after breakfast and get our chairs - I reccommend the middle section of the beach between the 2 areas with the sun huts - the beach is least crowded here and the beach and ocean merge beautifully here. We walked down the beach to the other resorts and Memories defently has the best beach on Cayo Santa Maria. We heard complaints from other resorts that the water was rocky or the ocean dropped off just out from their beach. at Memories you can walk out in the sandy ocean for quite a distance. For snokerlers there is a small reef with a million fish at the end of the azul side. My husband ventured out to see it, but after a baby barracuda chased my painted toes I stayed away from the fish for the rest of the vacation!
Our room was clean and there were NO bedbugs! We stayed on the ground floor so there were some ants outside of our room at the door but spraying a bit of bug spray kept them from entering our room. The water pressure in the shower was great (not so great for a sunburn though!) and we never ran out of hot water. There were never any electricity cuts either. We had a standard room, but still it had a cd player where we could hook our mp3 players and ipods into. Our room had our beach towels in it upon arrival and our mini fridge was re-stocked everyday at about 5pm. We even got a few extra drinks on the days we left a tip in the fridge. We tipped everyone who was nice to us and helped us out - including the man who collects the garbage on the beach and the buffet line cooks.
The nightly entertainment was great. The theatre is huge and we found seats every night just after the show had started. If you want really good seats - go a bit before the show starts.
There are cats everywhere and a few dogs running around too. It didn't bother us, in fact my stepdaughter would take extra food from the buffet at every meal and feed the cats living near the buffet..
Pueblo la Estrella is right next door and there are different market vendors every day, but they all sell similar items. I reccommend going up the clocktower and seeing the view of the whole island. There is a cigar shop that sells the same cigars as the hotel shop and prices are similar. the cigar shop in the pueblo is open strange hours 10 am to noon and they open again at 2 after their seista :)
Is there anything We didn't enjoy? The mosquitos on the azul side are just horrendous at dusk! We walked back to the Paraiso side after dinner at the Asian restaurant one night and were almost eaten alive! So bring bug spray! I also didn't enjoy the few sand fleas that came back to our room in some shells collected from the beach. So parents if your kids are bringing back the shells - make sure there's no sand on them, or keep them out on your balcony until the end of your vacation. When you get them home - throw them in a ziploc in the freezer for a week to kill anything that may have survived the trip!
The double decker bus tour is not for everyone. Out of the 5 of us, I was the only one who enjoyed seeing the other resorts and its a good way to get to the dolphinarium for only 2 pesos a person.
The pool is something we never bothered with because there were never any chairs poolside. We lucked out one day and stayed for about an hour by the pool at the end of the day when some people were leaving. It's very loud at the pool with the poolside entertainment, so make sure you don't get a room facing the pools if you don't like the noise. We stayed in building 32 which was quiet and central to everything.
All in all our vacation was great, and we would go back again!
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