For what its worth, I have been to Cuba twice now. My wife and I stayed in Santa Maria in Feb. of 2007 and finally got back to Hoguin in Feb of 2010. If you are looking for the most peaceful holiday you can imagine, I highly recommend the Melia Las Dunas in Santa Maria.
I did my homework on Holguin and specifically the Sol Rio and it sounded great. Reviews were great, pictures were fabulous and it seemed to fit the bil of what you usually look forward to in our holidays. We are the type that like to plant ourselves on the beach and grow roots. On the other side of the coin, we felt we had missed out on some of the local culture by being so far removed from civiliation so we decided to stay 'on' the main island this time. It was a tough call because the Sol Melia Las Dunas was exquisite and beyond our wildest expectations.
GOing into Sol Rio we were set up for failure right away because the of the glowing reviews from previous visitors. When 47% of the over 900 reviews giving it a 4 or 5 out 5 rating on almost ever topic you really can't go wrong can you? WRONG!!
I took into consideration the almost full week of bad weather on the second of our two week holiday. We had almost the exact same weather as we did the first time, at Melia Las Dunas. so it was perfect from point of view of making comparisons. WHich brings me to my first advice. I would hold off any travel to Cuba until near the end of March to the beginning of April just to make sure you get past the change of seasons which is what I attribute to the weather we experienced on both of our early February trips.
If you've never been to Cuba, then go. THe beaches are straight off a post card, that is, until you get a week of pounding waves on the shorelines. Unlike Melia Las Dunas which had the most fantastic natural beaches I have ever seen (and the longest, spanning several miles) Sol Rio's beaches almost disappeared after 4 or 5 days causing 3 to 4' dropoffs along the western edge of the shoreline exposing sharp rocks and coral that is capable of grinding your legs, knees and hands into hamburguesa in no time. Other than watching the sand wash out to sea there really isn't much in the way of beach activities on these days either, as we had red flags for about half of our trip, taking away the opportunities to Hobie (use Alex if you can find him), Catamaran, snorkel, play in the waves (because of the rocks), or even play volleyball, as the marked court area was also succumbing to the waves, although not nearly as bad as it gets west of the volleyball court. Use the services of the lounge chair gurus if you need a chez. Our man was so keen he would see us coming down the stairs, load up a couple of loungers on his trailer, and have a spot picked out for us before we even got to the sand. He even learned our criteria for a good spot to tan so we were always pleased with his picked locations! Best spent pesos during the entire holiday. I know we're not supposed to tip everybody all the time but when the service is that good, you can't not tip him. He never stood waiting for it and didn't cheat on service to anyone if they didn't tip him.
Rooms were adequate, gardens were beautiful (don't forget to tip the gardeners or bring them new work gloves or other appropriate work wear), security is very visible and you always feel protected on and off the site. (the security guards on the beach were sure glad to get the ocassional bottle of water or glass of pop) You don't have to tip each act of kindness with cash by the way. A lot of the time they are more gracious if you get to know them and give them something more appropriate to their personal situation. We had a pregnant bartender during our visit and gave her some candy necklaces for her 7 yr old and some baby socks for her baby when its born.
Anyway, back to maintenance, the more you read on about this hotel the more you will see that there are plans to refurbish several of the units. Although the rooms are clean, and we never ran out of hot water, the comfort level wasn't even close to the airport Best Western we stayed at in Toronto during our return home trip. If that was a 2.5 star hotel, then the Sol Rio would be somewhere around a "1". Understanding that Cuba and a number of other carribean communities use a skewed scale to rate their hotels explains how this 1 could be stretched into a 4. Advice number two, read and listen to what people are saying about the resort. If they hated the trip because the beds were rock hard or the rooms were noisy, or the hot water ran out by 6 AM then there is no way it. should be getting 5 or 4 stars! Our bed was a bit short of stuffing but overall, it was quiet, hot water was ample, and we had requested to be away from the noise and were accomodated, assigned to the furthest building from the activities and gathering centres. On arrival, we learned we were placed on the ground floor. For security and privacy reasons we weren't comfortable with that and within hours we were moved without arguement, to a third floor room with a beautiful ocean view.
The grounds were lush and beautifully kept. The buffets were exactly as everyone warns you they will be in Cuba (bland and spiceless) with the exception of the Romantika a'la carte which was the best meal of my two week experience.
The rooms were clean although workmanship would never pass inspection outside Cuba or the Dominican. Rotting wooden railings that have been painted over to provide a false sense of security; computer room had three computers, one of which would not stay connected to the internet, one was slow as molasses and the third had molasses spilled all over the keyboard, which was fine if you only wanted to type the number six!
Entertainment in the evening was worth the walk to the pool or theatre. I've never been to an all inclusive that had 'real' talent and variety. Koodo's to the program director for offering everything from honky tonk piano at the Luna Bar to Opera and diva music from the likes of Celine Dion to Mariah Carey (in absolute perfect pitch on songs like 'Power of Love', and 'I am a Lady' Do not miss Circus night. Starting off rather lame, acrobats come on stage skipping rope but quickly go double dutch and before you know it, members are being flung into the rafters by their co-performers, landing three bodies high on somebodies shoulders!
This is a quaint a quiet resort for couples wanting to get reaquainted, or families with very young children. Teens and young adults would have more fun in Veradero as there is little more to do then suntan which is all I'm ever looking for. Topless women are quite common on the beach so be aware. Its done respectfully and discreetly but if you have little eyes that for some unknown reason you feel should not be seeing topless women, simply stay to the east side of the beach, or at the very least, to the d'Oro side of the volleyball court.
I hope this helps you out. For the money, give me Melia Las Dunas any day, but if its unavailable, this is still a nice little resort. Out of 10, I would rate it at 6.5 to 7. To compare, my experience with Las Dunas three years ago was a 9 to 9.5 out of 10.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Four -Star All Inclusive Resort with 464 rooms. Located beachfront in Playa Esmeralda, on the northern coast of Holguin province, where visitors will be amazed by the dazzling superposition of blues and greens from the sea, sky and costal shrubbery. This hotel complex is surrounded by extensive green areas and offers a wide variety of services and attractions. Recommended for families, weddings, honeymoons and tourist groups.Guest Rooms464 rooms: 308 Standard, 108 Standard Ocean View, 30 Standard Superior Ocean View, 6 Junior Suite, 4 Suite, 8 Family Suite Ocean ViewDining7 Restaurants (A la Carta, Buffet), 6 Bars ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Sol Rio De Luna y Mares Hotel Guardalavaca
- Sol Rio De Luna y Mares Resort
- Sol Rio De Luna y Mares Guardalavaca, Cuba - Holguin Province