Our first trip to Cuba. We had the Sunday evening flight from Montréal to Varadero. No problems on the airport, Vacances Air Canada had it well arranged for us. By bus in 20 minutes to the hotel. We arrived at the Barcelo Solymar around 10 PM, February 19. It’s an excellent resort with a good atmosphere. Hotel staff is very nice and helpfull: 5 on 5. We tipped our maid every day with a little present, which is highly appreciated. Don’t always tip, yet don’t be cheap either; in Cuba everyone has a place to stay and enough food (by ticket system from the government), yet luxe products like cola or a small backpacks are expensive compared to their salaries, so a nice tip here are there is reasonable, unless they give you a crappy service, which happened only once in our case. Fridge was always filled up with water and beer. We stayed in a bungalow close to the pool. A clean, spacious 2-floor building. Lodging: 5 on 5. The key is a simple is card with a magnet strip, you can use as well for your locker inside the bedroom. First we expected it to be rather noisy from outside (music stops around midnight), yet with airco on and doors closed, it’s silent inside. There are two, low level pools (max depth 1m20): 4 on 5.
There are 4 bars; one at each pool, one at the beach and the lobby bar, that is open 24 hours per day. Service is fast. Buffet food is average, 3 on 5; sea food restaurant is good! Reserve as early as possible for one of the 3 à la carte restaurants (sea food, Cuban, Italian). There are a lot of activities to do; at the beach sailing, diving, water bike, banana boat. Also outise activities (catamaran trip, jeep trip, several trips to Havana). 5 on 5 for activities. Beach is beautifully white wth sans texture so fine, it feels like silk. The sea is clean, clear and it’s beautifully blue/emerald coloured: 5 on 5. Finally, the Barcelo organizes a lot to entertain people; afternoon- and evening shows. One week later we had a perfect trip back to cold Montréal. We enjoyed an excellent vacation at the Barcelo Solymar! We will return for sure to Cuba, yet somewhere else, as we have seen Varadero now. Overall rate: 4.5 on 5.
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