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“Fabulous location white sand excellent resort”

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Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria
Ranked #4 of 15 Hotels in Cayo Santa Maria
Certificate of Excellence
Salt Spring Island, Canada
Level Contributor
56 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 57 helpful votes
“Fabulous location white sand excellent resort”
Reviewed January 20, 2014

Cayo (Island) Santa Maria is an excellent location probably one of the best beach I have been to. The north side of the island is all beach it's about 10km long. The hotel Playa is almost new and in mint shape. There must be 1000 happy workers at the hotel from the gardeners to the cooks they all have big smiles. One minor problem we had was our room faced the snack bar and was noisy at night we ask if they could move us and it was no problem they moved us that day across the hall. We went on lots of trips from the hotel. They are not cheap $70 per person for a 8 hr bus trip. It was best to rent a brand new car and free roam around. Took my tablet with off line GPS and had no problem driving the island. The do not rent cars often probably because you only get 200k and it's 50k to get off island. It was only $80 per day extra mileage was low cost. Everywhere we stopped we had no problems people were nice and there was no crime. Food at the hotel was fantastic. The only ugly part was seeing so many out of shape Canadians gorging I think they were the same ones who drank all night at the snack bar. Best tour was the catamaran tour. Dolphin tank was something I would rather never see again it was very strange. All in for what you get at the price it's a deal considering it's flight, food and hotel. Don't be a lazy head and sleep at the pool all day get out and see the country side.

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
11 Thank Scott S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jorge C, Director General at Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this review, January 23, 2014
Dear Guest, we appreciate your comments. We are pleased to know you have a very well opinion of our installation and service. On behalf of management and staff, thank you very much. Best regards, Jorge Calderin, Director
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Regina
Level Contributor
73 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 62 helpful votes
Reviewed January 19, 2014

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" :)

Pros:
-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.

Cons:
-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.

TIPS
- 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.

Room Tip: I would try to get a room near the main pool and the beach, building 7 or 15 are ideal. I would als...
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  • Stayed January 2014, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
23 Thank DebiDoubleD
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jorge C, Director General at Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this review, January 23, 2014
Dear Guest, we appreciate your comments and hope you visit us again soon. Thank you very much and best regards, Jorge Calderín, Director
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Vancouver Canada
Level Contributor
33 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 70 helpful votes
Reviewed January 19, 2014

Just returned from a 1 week trip 3 days ago, my first time in Cuba and loved it!

TIPS:

HOTEL – Fantastic! Excellent value and really nice, good service. No complaints other than sometimes the front desk staff aren’t always knowledgeable about the surrounds, amenities, and events. My lovely room cleaners made towel art and left flowers in my room every day, rooms were spotless. You can leave gifts or CUC for tips. In the cities/towns, poorer people will ask for basics such as soap, shampoo, used clothes if you’re not sure what to bring for gifts – these are the people who really need handouts, the resort staff are doing very well income wise relative to the rest of the population. We learned from the tour guide that the government had to pass a law restricting professionals (doctors, engineers, teachers) from working in tourism because they were all leaving their professions for higher pay on resorts!

INTERNET – wifi available in the lobby but it’s extremely spotty and often doesn’t work. There are 3 computers with slow internet. All available for $4.50/hour.

BEACH – stunning. Had calm water x 4 days perfect for snorkeling, but there’s not much to see. Better snorkeling in front of the Iberostar and west.

FOOD – guests get 2 restaurant bookings a week. Food is mostly decent for a resort (I’m a serious foodie), especially the seafood grill station (fish & calamari!) & pasta/fried rice/pizza stations, and ceviche daily at the salad bar. Desserts are generally a miss. Avoid the calamari & potato salad at the snack bar, but the fried shrimp is good. Sushi is all wrong (I come from Vancouver though). There is an a la carte seafood restaurant (San Juan) right on the beach for lunch (also has buffet items/salad bar) and has a wood fired pizza oven with fresh rolled pizza dough that not many people seem to know about. Here you can order a whole fried snapper or prawns. Tip waiters with CUC or gifts seem to work too.

GYM – treadmills, stair climbers, bikes, and universal equipment, all fairly new and functioning. No mats for stretching or free weights.

COMMERCIAL TOURIST CENTRES (“Estrella” larger by Royalton, “Puebla” smaller next to Melia Las Dunas) – bargaining is acceptable, there is a bus from the hotel which runs back and forth till 2am. Just tell them which one you want to go to! Busses will also go to the dolphinarium if you want to go walk around and see the dolphins. Just be careful with the tie-dyed tourist souvenirs (clothes, bags) – I discovered that they leach color and will rub dye onto your nice white top.

TOURS – book the catamaran snorkeling trip!! Incredible value – for $103 you get to go to the snorkeling location on catamaran (half decent snorkeling, there’s a resident octopus I spotted there), go for a lobster/chicken lunch at the dolphinarium (delicious!!), get in the water and pet/kiss the dolphins (everyone gets to do this, included), and then go to a sandbar where you can walk around/swim/snorkel if you have your own gear. Great value. Bring sunblock/hats/cover up – 60% of people on the boat were bright red by the end of the day lol.
The Santa Clara & Remedios trip is also great if you want to see some of REAL cuba and learn about the history and culture – it includes a delicious lunch, horse ride where you have lunch, ride on a historic steam train, visit to the Che Guevara memorial, visit to a cigar factory (but it was closed for holidays so we got a free bottle of rum instead) and free time in Santa Clara and Remedios. For $75 also great value.
There is a Cuban night in the Estrella every Wed night where people from other resorts gather and there are restaurants, music, dancing; a tip just take the 1 CUC bus to go there. The Air Canada rep will try hard to sell you the 38 CUC package including dinner (but they’re roasting a whole pig at the resort that afternoon anyways).

AIRPORT DUTY FREE – CHEAPEST for alcohol and cigars!! We discovered this sadly as we were leaving, after comparing prices in Santa Clara, on other resorts, and in the commercial centres. However – keep in mind that if you have a connecting flight once back in Canada, security will confiscate your duty free alcohol. I discovered this the hard way. :( They will take CAD, however the largest duty free store (there are 2) will give you change back in CUC, whereas the other smaller shop & snack bar gave back change in CAD.

Make sure you save $25 in CUC (no other currency accepted) to pay your departure tax at the airport while checking in, and be prepared for Air Canada to take 3 hours to check you in (while Canjet comes in after you and breezes through before the AC line is processed. They had 3 counters open, AC had 1.)

BOOKING – avoid Air Canada Vacations. They lost 2-3 people’s luggage on our flight, mine did not arrive in Cuba until the 4th day and there is very little to buy in the Cayos in terms of clothes, shoes, contacts solution, etc.,nearest city 1.5 hrs away. The Air Canada rep was not sympathetic nor helpful.

  • Stayed January 2014, traveled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
13 Thank oceansawayhere
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jorge C, Director General at Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this review, January 23, 2014
Dear Guest, thank you for your review. We always work to provide better service to our clients. We hope to return soon. Best regards, Jorge Calderín, Director
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed January 18, 2014 via mobile

We spent the week of December 28 in this resort and this was our first visit to Cuba. What a wonderful experience! The room was spacious and clean, the staff polite and friendly, the beach nice and vibrant. The lobby bar was like a town square where we enjoyed our cappuccino and Cuban rum. There is an Internet cafe and a wi-fi Internet access in the lobby. The New Year celebration was an opportunity to see the hard working staff including the general manager to celebrate with us guests. The food was good and made with heart! We were very impressed with the management. We had some complaints but they were dealt with quickly and professionally (thank you, customer service manager!). I had to see a doctor and was absolutely impressed with the attention I got in the clinic that is just outside the resort. The charge was very reasonable and a proper receipt issued. We signed up for a plane trip to Havana and that was another great experience. We are coming back!
Angelo and Gordana Kokorovic, Toronto, Canada

Stayed December 2013, traveled with family
Helpful?
10 Thank gogagu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jorge C, Director General at Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this review, January 23, 2014
Dear Guest, thank you for your review. We always work to provide better service to our clients, and read that they have felt pleased it keeps us improving. We hope to return soon. Best regards, Jorge Calderín, Director
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hamilton, Canada
Level Contributor
5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 37 helpful votes
Reviewed January 17, 2014

Top Notch Resort. Priced for anyone. Service was excellent, even when busy. Its not so sprawled out. More intimate.
The rooms where very comfortable and clean. Even got a King size bed, after years of travel. that's a first for me and my Lady. Our friends traveled with us and his wife is handicapped and in a wheel chair. They loved there room plus, the special facilities provided. I would highly recommend this resort, to any handicapped or elderly person with a wheel chair.
We spent time at the beach, and it was perfect. Some say its tough to get down, from the upper beach. We even took, the wheelchair down, so she could enjoy it.
Meals, snacks and food access is everywhere. So are the libations. Bars every where, even on the beach.
Special mention must go out for the bar staff at the East Pool. Junior and Chorro. Always smiling and happy to see you. Kept our glasses full and cold.
We where Sorry to Leave. And so will you.
Don't Hesitate to try this Resort. Thumbs Up.

Room Tip: Building Nine Handicapped room, short trip to pool, ice cream,lobby, bank, store and most of the res...
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  • Stayed January 2014, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
10 Thank bungybeng
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jorge C, Director General at Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this review, January 23, 2014
Dear Guest, thank you very much for your review. We are satisfied to know that having a positive evaluation of our Hotel and service. We hope to return soon. Best regards, Jorge Calderín, Director
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Grimsby, Canada
Level Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
Reviewed January 15, 2014

One of the best resorts I have been to in a long time. This was my second time there and I will be back. I meet people that have been there several times. I mean they have it all. Great food, clean, lots of pools and bars and a short walk to the beach that has everything. There is a spa, exercise room, cigar bar and more. There is entertainment for the adults and children day and night at the theater and on the beach,or you can have privacy anywhere you like.The staff are like your friends and family willing to help in any way to make life enjoyable. Lisdonia is one of the entertainers at the beach and on the stage and you will just love her. The bartenders are so friendly that you won't want to leave. There is lots to do outside of the resort if you like and the bus is just one peso. Go and find out for yourself, you will not be disappointed. Chow

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
20 Thank Ken S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jorge C, Director General at Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this review, January 15, 2014
Dear guest, thank you very much for your amazing review. Our management and staff show you our gratitude. We hope your return soon. Best regards, Jorge Calderín, Director
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
7 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed January 15, 2014

I went to this resort from Jan.4-11th, 2014 with my family and couple of my friends. We had a blast at this resort. First and foremost, I would say that the staff is amazing and very humble and nice. This is the only resort that I felt like tipping all the staff even if it was the gardener. Entertainment at the beach, pool and the theatre was awesome as well. Lisdiana and Brunet are the BEST!!! They are just so happy and very friendly. Ricky, the DJ, is an awesome guy as well. The Cigar bar is where the night life starts and it is full of life once the dancing starts. DJ plays the best music and played our preferred music as well which made it even better. Overall, I would rate this 5+ resort from the whole experience, comfort, quality and friendly staff perspective. I would strongly recommend this resort for anyone who is looking for a good time and fun people environment. Viva Cuba!!!!!!

  • Stayed January 2014, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank sashen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Mareyi G, Public Relations Manager at Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this review, January 27, 2014
Dear guest:
Greetings from Playa Cayo Santa Maria.
Once again I would like to thank you for choosing Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria for your recent stay in Cayo Santa Maria. We're always eager to hear what you liked and how we can improve.
Thanks again, and we hope you'll choose Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria the next time you're in Cayo Santa Maria.
Sincerely,

Ms. Mareyi Gómez Montano. Customer Service Manager.
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria

Property: Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria
Address: Las Dunas 5 | Cayo Santa Maria, 50100, Cuba (Formerly Hotel Gaviota Cayo Santa Maria)
Location: Caribbean > Cuba > Villa Clara Province > Cayo Santa Maria
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 15 Hotels in Cayo Santa Maria
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:5 star — Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria 5*
Number of rooms: 769
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