To start off, let me say just months before we stayed at a 5 star (Ensenachos) in Cuba, but we KNEW this would be different. We wanted to go on a quick last minute cheap trip with our two girls and their boyfriends so in order to pay for all we knew we could not get the same quality. To that end I think we were pleasantly surprised to find much of our trip better than expected.
On arrival, we were a bit wary as the lobby was in great need of 'updating' and the staff seemed overwhelmed and slow. It WAS very late at night, but we waited patiently and finally got our rooms. But then - nothing.... where to go??They just gave us a general point 'that way'. No real signs easily found, the only guy to help was off with some others and there was no golf cart or anything to take us and our luggage. We started out in the direction and the man caught up to us - thank goodness, because we would have never found the rooms.
But here it gets good.... The rooms were nicer than our 5 star!!!! I mean, still not 5 star USA standards, but this is Cuba. We paid cheaply for the general price because all the cheap rooms were being renovated and we knew we had an automatic upgrade to the best... and for this 3 star they were pretty nice and very clean (I think they actually have these rooms - maybe called villas? rated at a four star?). The balcony was very private and had a lovely view of the pool and the ocean! The maid service was good, but learn some spanish to be able to say a few words to them. The only thing we didn't like was that you had to get your own drinking water. At Ensenachos they kept your room stocked with bottled water. Here, we had to keep getting it at the bar. They also accommodated our 3 rooms together nicely with one adjoining room.
The food was okay. We were fed, but gained no weight.... like most Cuban resorts. The snack bar kept the young ones happy between meals and late at night, but as usual, sick of fries by the end of the week. But I am good with tons of fruit, beans and rice... so that was good. As for Alcohol, if you want your free drinks when you are on the beach, you must go to the pool bar, as the beach is public and the bars ON the beach cost $. This wasn't really a concern for us as we knew to bring our big bubbas from Canada and usually one of the guys was in need of a walk or one of us had to use the washroom, so once an hour or so someone would make the trip (not that far- the pool is right on the beach). They also made better drinks at the lobby bar so take a few extra steps - they only had lemonlime slushy for margaritas at the lobby.
Now for the all important beach.... There are only a few palapas but there are a few trees too. We did get shade every day, but sometimes not together until someone else moved. It is, as I mentioned earlier, a public beach. This was a first for us and I wouldn't have cared except for the begging. Once we said no, we were left alone, but we did help a single woman out of a situation with a gentleman and we did feel 'watched' at times - especially on the weekend. We would have gone to the tiny 'private' beach, but it was FULL of people interestingly enough not wearing hotel bracelets???? Twice a band and dancers entertained us while we were sunbathing... some may not like this - but they were extremely good musicians so we didn't mind and gave them a five.
The real Bonus of this beach though was that the snorkeling was everywhere - which may not be good for those of you who want clean sand beach out as far as you can see....
At about shoulder level it becomes sea weedy and the snorkeling is fantastic - so its great for beginners and kids. Mine spent most of their time out there - even getting the free paddle boat to snorkel out farther - which is probably why they all burned their backs so bad!
Now for the shopping at the market. The last trip we did not get this and had to go into Santa Clara and there was really nothing to buy. Here, everyday the market is different as the venders only get one day a week, so it keeps changing. So, every morning after breakfast, on our way to the beach, we cut through the market and found great things to buy. Cubans are relatively poor and we chose this way to help, giving to those who are trying to make a living by making or selling goods. Often the seller is representing a group of people who make the products, so even though we didn't 'need' any of the trinkets we bought, we wanted to buy as much as we could afford to give back.
As for the grounds and pools they were very nice. During the day for people watching, pool bar and the ocean views, the main pool is best. For quieter times, the pool by the snack bar is lovely, as there is even some shade at one end. For small ones, there is a kids pool and a playground area that seemed to keep the kids I saw happy. I loved that there were random hammocks everywhere, Just grab a book and find a quiet shady spot and enjoy...
As for entertainment.... do you REALLY go there for that?? We enjoyed the leaf playing music one day - yes I said leaf - and there were various other things going on often through the day and night. Some of our kids saw some bands they said were pretty good, and we caught the end of the 'water ballet' which was pretty good for a hotel, but we didn't really participate in much. Oh and if you want a cheap massage, get your name in early or it fills up and your out of luck (like me).
As for tipping, we were not pressured and gave one or two at every meal and tried to stay in the same waiters area so at the end of the week if they were very helpful (which they all were) we gave them a bigger tip and goodbye gifts. We left the maid one everyday and the bartender often... if your at the spot for a time it doesn't have to be every drink. If you bring gifts, the hardest things for them to get are clothes and shoes - the dancers could use high heeled sandals. I've been to their shoe stores (I mean 4 shelves in the main store) and I understand. Just don't bring anything very American (no American flag, etc). But Canadian is good!
The tour operator representative was only there an hour a day - midday - so any questions and you had to leave the beach or where ever... and signing up for things was a bit unorganized, so we didn't bother. So if your just keeping with your group and making your own fun, all is good. This was very different than at a 5 star.... the representative lived on the site and was there to help most of the day with anything.
The gardens and views are wonderful and all in all if you are on a budget and can get one of the better rooms then I say go for it. We paid 600 Cdn including tax.... so for that price you can't go wrong. We went to spend time with our girls before they went on to Uni, we wanted a cheap all inclusive that was clean, where we could enjoy the beach and pools, where the drinks were free and good, and where the staff was friendly. We accomplished all the above. If you do not get in the good rooms though.... not sure if I would stay there unless you are just there to party.
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- Also Known As:
- Club Amigo Atlantico - Guardalavaca Hotel Guardalavaca
- Hotel Amigo Atlantico Guardalavaca
- Amigo Guardalavaca Hotel Holguin
- Amigo Guardalavaca Club
- Club Amigo Guardalavaca
- Club Amigo Atlantico - Guardalavaca Cuba - Holguin Province