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“See You Next Year!”

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Islazul Villa Don Lino
Ranked #4 of 4 Hotels in Rafael Freyre
jopieb
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“See You Next Year!”
Reviewed February 27, 2012

I've been to Don Lino many times, both by myself and with my family and have seen many changes. The food this year is much improved in quality and there was quite a lot more fresh fruit to be had. It is a calm, quiet family resort with many older people there as well as multi-generational family groups and young families with well behaved small children and babies. I love it there and will definately return.
I do not like the new buildings as they will double the number of visitors and I am afraid will permanently change the feeling of Don Lino being a large family but I understand why it is necessary. The problem with the new buildings is also that the plumbing leaks and there is no sound barriers in the walls or floors. This is something that must be remedied quickly.
My preferential accomodation is the cabins behind the dining room, just across from the pool. They are clean (but basic), have plenty of hot water and a mini patio where you can sit and listen nightly to the Cuban band playing. My other choice would be the older cabins on the ocean front. They have a little sitting room in front and a bedroom behind a divider.
If you are coming for night life, don't. This is a quiet resort where reading, swimming, horseback riding and day trips are the norm. Bring your googles to look at the fish and your water shoes so you do not cut your feet on the coral. There are decent coaster bikes available and lots of places to ride them.
Do not count on the listed activities taking place. I did not see any Spanish lessons or aquafit classes but there were dance classes at 5:00 PM 3 or 4 times.
Most of the staff treats you like family, especially if you have been there before. You might even get a towel sculpture on your bed, if you are lucky!
Both the bar in the reception area and by the dining room is open until 10 pm and there is plenty of seating available at both.
Make sure that you check with your travel agent before you go, that you are going to Don Lino, as all the tour groups overbooked while I was down there and many people were forced to spend a night or two elsewhere. One woman at the airport told me she and her husband never even got to Don Lono although that was where they had booked. That is not Don Lino's fault but it does give bad optics.

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled solo
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Helpful?
9 Thank jopieb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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569 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (168)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Halifax, Canada
Level Contributor
37 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 37 helpful votes
Reviewed February 27, 2012

Well staying at Don Lino was an experiment as we had stayed at Brisas Guardalavaca 4 years in a row and wanted to try something different. The price made it very appealing. Half what we paid for Brisas! SO...is Brisas worth the extra? I asked my wife about day 5 and she said yes. There are some good points to Don Lino and there are some bad. The first "good" was already mentioned. The Price. The second is that they seem to be trying to improve the hotel. It is a small hotel that has been there since the 60's. It became a military camp for a while in the 90's(we were told this by a lady that's been visiting D.L. since 1971) As you have read by now(or will) they are building new wooden - 4 unit buildings that remind me of a ski-lodge. All wood with dark stain. The smell of the stain is a little heavy at first but you get used to it. The units are new. We travelled with 7 people. Some had these new units and some had the old stone units closer to the beach. These older units were quite musty (moldy) smelling which I would not have wanted to stay in. However they are quite unique looking with all the beach rock walls inside and closer to the water. Although the newer units are much nicer we had a few issues like dripping a/c (the bed, end table with lamp and phone were heavily stained on arrival. They were moved unplugged and not used for the duration. So no phone! yahoo!) Also a water drip from above unit into shower made for a cold surprise each and everytime a drip hit you while having a shower. Also I agree with previous posts - people staying in the bottom units will hear people above them walking around, coming and going etc as the floors are wooden like a barn floor. I am not a carpenter but they should look at something with these upper floors. Very "creaky".
Anyhow - These cuban inconveniences we always shrug off. I put earplugs in and unless you have a bunch of party animals above you(why would they ever go to D.L.?) you should have no issues.
You can't go to Cuba and be seriously wanting things to be perfect or even close to amenities back in Canada or germany or England. They do what they can. This hotel was over booked and had approx 125 guests while we were there. A usual occupancy is about 80guests we were told. A more serious problem while we were there was that my mother - who is in her 70's - had to come to my unit to shower each day as her new unit had no hot water. She mentioned this to the front desk 3 times, they finally moved her about day 3 or 4 and the new unit she moved into didn't have hot water either. It was my mother's 2nd trip to Cuba and she said she would rather stay at Brisas next time. So they have some wrinkles to iron out at D.L.. Location was away from everything and oh so so quiet. Small private beach (yes u do need the shoes. The coral is beautiful to look at as the tide goes out and then comes back in but its hard on the feet.) We didn't swim here but we did walk down to the public (bonita) Playa Blanca (10-15 minute walk or 5 minute horse and buggy ride).
We took a cab back to see friends at Brisas Guardalavaca (7 of us 2 cars for 80 pesos!) We also went into the town of Rafael Freyde many times to visit friends (much closer and cheaper cab ride than Guarda) and found shops etc. So we wonder if we would go back to D.L. next time. Its a hard decision but if it comes down to price and its half the others again - we may. I am leaning towards trying another place. Possibly Playa Pesquero or Sol Melia. The food and entertainment I did not mention cause my mother told me if you don't have something good to say don't say anything at all! Contact me if you have questions. I have left out many other points as I don't want to write a novel. lol. A couple quick ones though - Pool small but nice, and the loungers are new-ish and very nice. The tables and chairs in the dining area are also new-ish. VIVA CUBA!

Room Tip: I guess the wooden bungalows are the best and ask for a top floor room overlooking the water.
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  • Stayed February 2012, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
3 Thank IslaBonita2007
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
ott
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed February 26, 2012

Initially, we had problems with our booking with Nolitours to Don Lino as they were over-booked much to our disappointment on arrival at the airport. Nolitours instead informed the group of people affected by this overbooking that they would drive us to an "equivalent" 2 star place called Villa Cabanas in Guardalavaca and provide us wristbands to club amigo. When we got there we were flabbergasted at what they were allocating for us. I have backpacked in India 25 years ago and Villa Cabanas was on par with that. Dingy dirty dark rooms and horrible toilets with no seats and a great view out the door to a street with cars lined up on it! The Nolitours rep insisted that they were no options as all hotels in eastern cuba as far as Santiago were completely booked! Well our group of fellow travelers (none of us knew each other but we became friends through our shared experience) staged a "sit-in strike" for 5 hours and refused to check-in to these rooms and insisted that Nolitours find a solution. Throughout it all the Nolitours rep insisted that this place was equivalent to Don Lino and spinning what a good deal we had that we had access to Club Amigo! Finally, it was agreed to house us in the Blau Coste Verde for 1 night and then on to Don Lino the next morning. There was no apology nor compensation from Nolitours for basically 1 lost day of a 7 day vacation.

Anyway, once we got to Don Lino the next day, it lived up to our expectations and more based on the positive reviews we read here. My wife and I were housed in the 2 storey buildings at the back. The room was on the top floor and was new and very clean. The downsides were that it is not sound proof at all but luckily we had quiet neighbours. Also there was major construction of a new building next to us with power tools operating all day from 7:30am to 5:30pm every day except Sunday. Not a huge issue as we were generally out most of the day anyway.

Don Lino is a very low key kind of place which suited us. There were hens and a couple of dogs wandering around which contributed to the relaxed air of the place.

The food was ok if you are not too picky, with pasta and mixed veggies as a default option if you are vegetarian. Some days were better than others. If you are hungry between lunch and supper you could always get a plate of fries. Incidentally, they have great grilled fish and fries at the bar available for lunch. The staff are generally friendly and helpful. The bar shuts down at 10pm so get your drinks filled up before then.

In terms of activities, the beach is fine for lounging around albeit rather windy and cool in the shade even on hot days. There were enough loungers/umbrellas even though the resort was at capacity while we were there. If you go to the extreme right side of the beach, it is less rocky in the water and you can snorkel there with interesting fish to see (I even saw an octopus hugging a rock underwater).
One big plus is the free horse riding you can partake twice a day (morning to playa blanca and beyond and afternoons to another location with interesting landscapes and views to playa pesquero in the distance) for 1 hour. Recommend a tip of a peso or 3 for the guide. There are also free (but old) bicycles to borrow.

Nightly entertainment is something we were never interested in at other resorts (too much blaring song and dance shows). At Don Lino it was different. Every night it was the same combo of 6 musicians performing cuban music/songs. Really good musicians and great to hear them around the pool or bar.

This is a small place with mostly older guests (although there were some young couples too with kids) and you get to know everyone after a week which is nice.

Another big plus of Don Lino is the area it is situated in is very interesting both in terms of scenery as well as seeing a slice of authentic cuban life.

One last thing, there is another beach called Playa Blanca which is 2 km away along a quiet road with a small village en route. We also walked there once along the coast but it takes twice as long to get there (about 45 minutes in the left direction from the Don Lino beach) mainly due to the tough walking conditions of the sharp coral rock). The Playa Blanca beach is very nice and sandy but not interesting for snorkelling. You can ride the bike there or easily walk to it on the quiet road in 20-30 minutes.

Things to bring: water shoes, cups, snacks, old clothes etc for staff.

Also recommend calling the hotel to verify that they expect your arrival and avoid any nasty surprises on arrival in Cuba.

Room Tip: To be closer to the beach, you can ask for 1 of the bungalows. Otherwise ask for he top floor of one...
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  • Stayed February 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
7 Thank otttraveller22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hamilton, Canada
Level Contributor
8 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed February 25, 2012

My Husband and I just got back from a week at Villa Don Lino. One week seemed like a month. Time stood still in a good way. The white sand and warm winds are amazing. The resort was clean and is beautiful. The resort is small, so there are never crowds to deal with, and the staff makes you feel like you are family. If you are looking for a busy, noisy, crowded resort, than this is not it. If you are looking for peace and relaxation, than I would highly recommend Villa Don Lino. The food is not great, but everything else is beyond words. We loved it.

Room Tip: All rooms are good, but the new superior rooms are amazing and all have private balconies
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  • Stayed February 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
4 Thank Nancy G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed February 24, 2012

This resort is the best I have ever been to. It is very clean, and good rooms. It is in a good location. The service and value of the resort is excellent. This is a nice small resort that is very private if you want to relax come here, if you are looking for a interactive vacation don't come here. The don lino is a great resort, however I fear that they are ruining the resort by making it bigger. I hope that the manager realizes that he is ruining the resort and stops the expanding.

Other than the fact of them expanding this is a great resort considering the cheap price. I defiantly recommend this resort to all.

  • Stayed February 2012
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank G0LDMEMBER_620
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, Canada
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed February 9, 2012

Great housekeeping and bar staff!
Musicians are super talented!

Food is slightly too repetative.

Lovely swimming pool. Nice beach.
Fresh and cozy reception area.
Great overall atmosphere

Main age group 40+. Lots of singles and couples.
Locals are friendly. surrounding areas are worth seeing.

Currency exchange available.
Bikes available.as well as horseback riding, spanish lessons, cocktail lessons, volleyball, aquafitness.

Catamaran and the Holguin tour greatly recommended!!

Perfect place for sun-tanning, relaxing, doing things on your own time. Safe and quiet area.

Suggestions for improvements: actually PROVIDE the available activities. train restaurant staff and encourage more attentiveness and customer service.

Might come back again, simply because it feels like family with the staff and locals being so friendly. However active efforts of the entertainment staff for making the the daily activities actually happen are severely lacking.

Room Tip: get the rooms with the beach view!! :)
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  • Stayed February 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
14 Thank Sandra R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
7 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
Reviewed February 2, 2012

We had a good vacation that has left us with fond memories. Don Linos venue( Low Key ) suited us.
The resort is kept clean & most of the staff are attentive.& have a desire to be of assistance.
The manager Adrian. is hands on. he is very visable & leads by example. He is pushing his staff to be professional & helpful.
It is a small resort, I counted about 12 new blocks, 2 up & 2 down giving it 48 new rooms. More being built. Nice looking units made of wood which has been stained. They have a full bath with hair dryer. small table with two comfy chairs. Balcony with small table & chair.
The downstairs units can be noisy, One morning I had to turn the tv onto loud volume at 1 am because of a workout in the unit above.
The resort gets a lot of repeats & long stays. They tend to stay in older Cabana type units.
If you need any help with trips or local information, talk to the Hola Sun rep. Felix. Very visable & super helpful. It was a pleasure to meet him. Great report Jen.

  • Stayed January 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
16 Thank raymeg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Islazul Villa Don Lino

Property: Islazul Villa Don Lino
Address: Playa Blanca, Rafael Freyre, Rafael Freyre, Cuba
Location: Caribbean > Cuba > Holguin Province > Rafael Freyre
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 4 Hotels in Rafael Freyre
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Hotel Class:3 star — Islazul Villa Don Lino 3*
Number of rooms: 36
Reservation Options:
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Also Known As:
Villa Islazul Don Lino Hotel Rafael Freyre
Hotel Islazul Don Lino
Islazul Don Lino Hotel
Islazul Villa Don Lino Holguin Province, Cuba

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