Overall, a very nice, well laid out resort with everything you could want, with a killer beach.
,,, everything but a "lazy river", but they have a "lazy ocean" :)
-Extremely beautiful beach, with clear blue water that you could walk out into for about 100 yards. Tip - shower before going into the ocean makes it feel warmer :)
-Facilities were numerous, modern, and they had the capacity to handle many more people than the hotel would hold (we heard 1000 people). There was always room around the pools, beaches, dining areas, theater, etc. Only place that we saw fill up once in a while was the lobby in the evenings.
-The grounds were pretty with well maintained plants and grasses.
- Staff was great, as was the weather.
- Beer gardens! (Coronas were a dollar surcharge, Becks, Buccaneer, and Crystal were free) A good idea for the beach is to bring your own insulated mug to save trips and glasses (be green!).
- An ice cream parlor behind the beer gardens was a nice touch.
- Many other snack places by the pools and out on the beach.
- Large bedroom with King bed, bar fridge you could actually use (and was stocked with beer and pop), flat screen TV with some English channels and modern bathroom with hair dryer that had a 120 V ac outlet. Most of the other outlets were 240 V ac, but the outlets by the bed and desk accepted our phone, camera and I-POD chargers. The chargers we had did accept a range from 120 to 240 V ac (check that), so we did not need a power converter or plug adapter for our electronic gear we brought.
- Power, AC, hot water and TV worked reliably. No outages while we were there. AC in room was pretty quiet.
-Both of us stayed 100% healthy during and after the trip. So that was great.
-The Food was good for Cuba, I would say a 4 out of 5 for Cuba, but compared to Canada or US standards, I would give it a 1 or 2 out of 5. We found lots to eat, but some of the offerings were a little lower than average as far as what we were used to. They had great desserts, breads, cheeses, and even decent sushi and chicken. The beef and the selection of fruits and vegetables was a little hit and miss.
-2 bugs in our room was new to us and a little concerning. We were careful when we packed to shake out our cloths before coming home. Being Canadian, I have never seen a Cockroach and took a picture of it to find out what it was. A spray of Raid and we saw no more of the bugs.
-WIFI was next to non-existent. We did not bother to rent time at their computers, as we heard it too was very unreliable and slow. Texting on Cubacell was $0.85/e, and it worked great with strong, consistent signal. I might suggest (if you care) to look into getting a sim card for data (need an unlocked phone), as we had full cell signal within the resort and thus likely good data service. Need to dig into that or just stay unplugged which is nice too.
-You are slightly isolated, across the causeway, so no towns were close to go exploring, but the beach was much better than most places and second to none in my opinion.
- Pack a couple rolls of decent bathroom tissue as the stuff they have in their bathrooms is very, very thin. Your fingers will go through 7 layers of it - easily - guaranteed :)
- A can of Pringles chips is $7 on the resort, so consider packing stacks for the room if you want them as there is not much to choose from in the gift shop. Maybe even a bottle of good duty free Rum, Vodka or Rye, if you have a type you like and need a break from the Cuban rum and cola.
- Consider exchanging your leftover CUC with the bus driver or host once you get to the airport as they will go 1 for 1, not sure but I think it's better than the exchange booths at the airport. They also said they can not exchange Canadian coins easily, so tipping with coins is not the best for them. The hotel exchanges was about 87% for Canadian to CUC, which is not bad. It was very easy to exchange money, we did not need Passport or any ID.
In more detail,
It's a pretty big place (but not too big that it's a pain to get around), we stayed mostly in our area by the beach & pool (see if you can get located by the main pool which is also close to the beach. We were in building 7). The only rather sad thing in our opinion, is that this very nice, modern resort could use just a little TLC or polish in the way of maintenance, as some things were in need of mechanical repair. But maybe due to the lack of funds, expertise, or just the lack of available parts to make the repairs, as some things were not in tip top shape. This is not to say the resort was run-down in any significant way, just that this well laid out and fully modern resort (that would compete with any top end resort) needed a little attention as far as small repairs or touch ups. Examples we saw were: the men's bathroom by the beer gardens had been closed for a while and that the women's was now a co-ed, LOL. Or the shower handle in our bathroom was replaced but the new one did not properly fit into the shower bracket. The WIFI access points were there on the walls of the buildings, but the Ethernet cable was unplugged and they obviously did not work. Again it's only because it was a beautiful place, with people taking photos in front of the many fountains, and young people going by stating to each other that "this place is sick, just look at it, it's awesome...", when I heard this, I was like great, I agree,,, now please just spend a day or so and fix the five or six fountains that don't have water in them or lights that work, LOL. It's so close to being great.
Our room was huge, clean, modern & always had towels & the maid had "towel animals/arrangements" everyday. We tipped 2 CUC a day, not sure what was right, but that seemed to be appreciated with hand written thank you notes for the "gift". Food was better than what we had in Varadero a few years ago. We had choice of buffets or snack bar (fresh grilled burgers & menu). We only tried 2 of the a la cartes & the Panda Ru (Japanese) one was excellent. Good food & great service. The San Juan (seafood) had really slow service (we think they were over booked and/or lacked staff that night) but the food was pretty good.
The beach was beautiful - clear blue water & soft white sand that is as good as anywhere we have been and better than most places (example, Maui being good, and Cabo being poor (due to abrasive sand, and water that is not good for swimming)). Everyone was nice & friendly, above average for resort staff. The only bad thing (that was a little unsettling) was the 2 cockroaches we found in our room - we only found 1 the first night and another the third day. But being on the main floor of a tropical place, we learned you get bugs - we talked to others & they said the same thing. The room beside us had their patios doors open a lot while they were on their patio and I suspect the previous guests may have had our doors open too. We talked to the front desk after finding the second one and they quickly came and sprayed and cleaned the room (offered to move us) and left a can of insecticide and we never saw another one in the room the rest of the trip. We saw one or two dead ones on the walk ways the rest of the week as we headed to relax on the beach and in the ocean. So that was a new experience and we were not sure how to react to that, but it ended up being no big deal.
All in all, a great place/beach, for the resorts and staff's sake I would like to hear that they fixed the place right up. But on the bus ride back to the airport (1-1/2 H) you do see what the rest of the area is like and you realize how difficult in must be to maintain such a resort in this location. It must be like trying to keep a Ferrari maintained in a small town in northern Canada. Most of the houses had no doors or windows, ox pulled plows in the fields, and pedal bikes were the main mode of transportation, and we complain about poor WIFI and broken fountains.
The Cuba people are great people. We enjoyed our time at this resort and talking with them. We really hope they can keep this resort busy and their economy and standard of living improves.