Great place for people not heavy into sports. We went for the wedding of a good friend as a group and it was perfect on so many points. We loved the food, the people, the beach was very nice and clean, the drinks were spiked just how we like it. Even though we went in the high season (the hotel was full or just about), the place is so huge that it didn't feel overcrowded. There was always room at the beach, at the pools and at the reception for the evening activities.
If you are hoping to do sports on your trip (tennis, volley ball, etc), make sure you bring your own equipment if possible. The equipment is sparse, old and often not available. The possible sports on the resort are:
WESTERN PART OF THE RESORT
* tennis (plenty of courts, at least 6) -- bring your own, really.
* wall climbing
* gym (with cardio and weights -- my wife used the cardio equipment and she found more quite good)
* water polo (in the west pool)
* water volley ball (in the pool too)
EASTERN PART OF THE RESORT
* ping pong -- not necessary to bring your own
* archery (although it was rarely opened and they had one arrow in total)
* fussball (what the French call Baby Foot) -- bring a ball or two just in case
* Boche ball, aka pétanque.
* volley ball court (but barely enough sand, so you wouldn't want to dive to save a ball)
* air hockey (was working great)
* pool tables (they have all you need)
ON THE BEACH
* volley ball (bring your ball and a pump)
* catamaran (free but you can tip) -- it's great fun, try it
* snorkeling - arrive first to get the equipment, otherwise it will be gone in no time
I think that covers the sport section. Let's talk about food
The food was delicious, almost none of our group got sick from it. My wife is a bit sensitive and she had no problem whatsoever. We drank water from bottle and from the tap, enjoyed our ice cubes in our drinks etc - no problem. There are many à-la-carte restaurants, I don't think we tried them all. The wine is free is you opt for house wine, otherwise you pay between 9 and 40 CUC. There is some spanish bubbly (sorry, can't call it Champagne as it is TM) for 8 CUC and it is excellent (but it takes a bit of arm twisting from the waiter to get a bottle). As far as I can remember here is a list of restaurants:
* grill house Maria Cejane or something like that -- didn't try it
* steak house Los Siboneyes - nice
* romantico Isabel & Fernando - too dark and so-so food, also the piano is a bit loud although the person playing was good
* italian (forgot the name) -- excellent food
* seafood -- also very good, but bring a sweater as it is a huge hut with no walls, so if there is wind, you will be cold
* oriental -- very good
There may be others but I can't remember.
For lunch and if you are out of dinner reservations, there are a few buffets:
* the main large one toward the west of the reception
* a smaller, more cute buffet attached to it, still at the west but not as much
* the seafood restaurant converts into a buffer for lunch and they also offer a à-la-carte menu, try it!
* both pools (one of each side of the resort) have eatery/bars. We were mostly hanging around the west side (the family pool) and there was another eatery on the way to that pool. Their calzone is amazing. Try it with a glass of "Santa Maria".
* the beer garden is open 24h and serves good calamari and others burgers and stuff. Nice
* the ice cream parlour is not too far from the shops and the beer garden. We haven't tried it but some of our friends did and they loved it.
* the beach also has a little eatery there but it's quite meagre.
As far as booze is concerned, there are so many places to get it. The main lobby bar is always packed with people, but they also have the widest selection. Both pools have a pool bar, with nice choices too. All 3 accesses to the beach (through a walkway) have a bar on the way, fairly close to the beach, Then there is the beer garden, and most eateries. Some rare drinks are NOT included even though it is all inclusive. Mostly brandies and expensive brands of whiskey and champagne. The rest is no problem.
The animations and activities were somewhat disappointing. The evening show is the most fancy and while some shows are excellent, some are also quite lame. The daytime animation is virtually non-existent, so bring your novels, sudokus, scrabble board and cards. The disco is okay but if you are non-smoker, beware, as it is not ventilated. Smoking is permitted virtually everywhere and it was quite a shock as we weren't used to smell cigarettes with dinner since the smoking ban in canadian restaurants.
As far as outdoor activities, you can pick up a bike for free (close to the entrance of the hotel) and go for a ride. It's okay. The land is very flat so that's easy. If you go toward the west, after about a 15-20 minute ride, you reach a small creek with a rocky mass standing like an island. Stop there and go for snorkeling. There are LOT of fish and it's impressive. I was in the middle of a large school swimming around me and I couldn't believe the quantity of fish there.
We also went for scuba dive, which I highly recommend. While we saw a few spectacular fish, we mostly clocked several hours of diving in a shark-free environment (for those afraid of sharks, there is only one kind around and that specie is harmless - the nurse shark - and it would take you extensive search to find one).
Some friends went on a jeep safari and they thoroughly enjoyed it, and also on a deep sea fishing. It seemed the deep sea fishing wasn't as exciting as they thought it would be.
A couple final points on this lengthy review:
* the resort is PERFECT for disabled people. Everything is wheelchair accessible. The adult pool (on the east side) even has a lift to get in and out for disabled people.
* the CUC is brutal for Canadians. Change your money at the airport, it is a better rate than the hotel. Forget Euros or USD, as they imposed a very odd conversion for euros (felt like 1 EURO could buy as much CUC than 1 CAD) and the USD is penalized with a 10% surcharge. Scuba diving was around 65 CUC, deep sea fishing about 250 CUC for 4 people, jeep safari was 120 for 4 people if I remember right, booze is cheap to buy at the airport or at the hotel, 3 CUC for a bottle of white rum. All in all, including tips, scuba dives and booze we purchased, we spent about 270 CUC for 2 weeks.
* gifts are welcomed by the staff. We brought crayons for their kids and gum for the adults. You can leave money too, but some will refuse it. If you can, leave them some articles of clothing that are in good shape and that you don't need anymore. They will appreciate that.
* internet access is possible but OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive. 6 CUC for 30 minutes. Don't bother unless you really have to. The speed was not that bad in my opinion.
* learn a few words of spanish if you can. There were a lot of the staff that spoke either only spanish, or spanish with a little bit of english or french. Plus they appreciate your trying to speak in their home language (remember, YOU are the tourist, so YOU should make the effort to learn).
I think it covers it all. If you have questions, feel free to ask.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Magic and Legend unveils an ancient story that goes back in time to 1492, with the discovery of America. Melia Las Dunas, a 5 star resort, All Inclusive, ideal for your vacation with your Family, Reunion & Incentives, Weddings, Honeymoon Distinguished by the variety of services, the inviting atmosphere and the confort of its facilities, Melia Las Dunas offers the vacations of your dreams. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Melia Las Dunas Hotel Cayo Santa Maria
- Melia Cayo Santa Maria
- Melia Hotel Las Dunas
- Melia Las Dunas Cuba