My family and I visited Playa Cayo Santa Maria for 2 weeks in April. This was our 5th trip to Cuba so we thought we knew exactly what to expect, but once again Cuba surprised us.
The most surprising, was the food. While Cuba is known for it’s terribly boring food, it was GREAT! There were freshly made Cuban panini’s at the pool and beach and free ice cream bars by the main pool (a highlight for the afternoon). The buffet had something different everyday, our plates were always full and we went back for seconds. My favourite part was breakfast and dessert, flambéed crapes made right before my eyes! If anyone complains about the food at this place, I have to eat at their house to see what they are having for supper every night. There were line ups to wait for personal omelets, pizzas, pasta, steaks and kabob’s but no longer than you would wait at a restaurant. If you didn’t want to wait, there are plenty of chafers with hot meals.
I was also surprised with the beach, but not good surprised. I had heard that Santa Maria had the most beautiful beaches in Cuba. While the water is turquoise, and the sand is golden (not bright white), the beach was on a hill. There were large sand dunes, making it difficult for even able bodied people to walk from the boardwalk to the water. The water was incredibly beautiful and warm. There were a number of days with red flags and the lifeguards were very diligent about making sure swimmers were not in the water on those days (it turns out a man died in the water at another hotel while we were there) hence the strictness of the lifeguards. Since we were disappointed with the beach we spent most of our time at the pool.
The pools were amazing! They were extremely modern square pools. If you were up early enough you could grab a cabana with a mattress. We got one nearly everyday which only enhanced our experience. The main activity pool has a swim up bar and an extremely shallow end for young swimmers (there are also 2 kiddie pools, one is in the mini club and the other is next to the activity pool). There are also 2 extremely long pools which have a very shallow end and a deep end. We spent hours and hours and hours in the pool. There were a lot of kids around so my little social butterfly was able to make new friends every day. There were a lot of French guests so it forced her to practice French (bonus).
Our rooms were very clean (we had 2 adjoining rooms on the main floor) and are very modern compared to every other resort we have been to in Cuba. We did however have a few “Cucarachas”. The patio door had a bit of a hole next to the door, making it the perfect space for these suckers to get inside. We let the staff members know and they wanted to spray but with a small baby and child in the room we refused. We just stuffed tissue into the hole and the buggers never came back.
I was also surprised by the service. Cuba is known for its amazing service, but here it didn’t matter if you tipped or not at the restaurants, the service stank. Usually $2 left on the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner is a guarantee that orange juice and coffee would be waiting for us when we arrived to eat. This time however, it didn’t matter. After a few days, it occurred to me what the reason was… they are way under staffed! Servers sections were extremely large making it impossible to give that special attention we are used to. I spoke to the head server and I hope the hotel will make a change as service is important to most people and this hotel has a lot going for it!
With small kids, we didn’t make it to the night shows, but we did go to the mini disco. This was an evening highlight for my little one and to enhance her experience, I picked up some neon braclets and gave them out to excited kids. The animation team does a great job with the kids, dancing and playing games.
Overall, for the price we had an amazing two week vacation. There were a few minor hiccups, but nothing we weren’t able to over look. Cuba is a socialist, developing country, the reality of what the people there are living like vs the vacation paradise is just as much as opposite as night and day. A 5 star hotel in Hollywood isn’t going to be the same as a 5 star in Cuba. This hotel is a solid 4 – 4.5 star for Cuba!
Go ahead and book it, unless you’re a super posh traveller or the beach is the number 1 reason you pick a resort you will enjoy this place.
PS. I have a whole memory card missing from my trip, if you happen to find a black Cannon camera (with a label Lynette on it) and pictures of this hotel – it’s mine. Thanks! (Hence the limited amount of photos 🙁 boo)