Hands down, the staff is what makes this hotel experience good. We stayed from Nov 3rd to Nov 10th. The main reasons we chose this hotel was the facilities (pool areas, hot tub, bars, beach), the location close to the town of Varadero, and that we could use the facilities of the sister resort Arenas Blancas. Well, the location was good. Very easy to walk into Varadero. For what it is worth, Varadero is very safe and we absolutely loved that we could walk into town whenever we wanted. But that is where it pretty much ends. The main Solymar pool and bar was closed and under construction (no hot tub either), Arenas Blancas (sister hotel) was also closed, and as a result, quite a few of the bars/restaurants we expected to be able to use were not available. We ended up switching rooms from the tower to a bungalow the second night because we couldn’t stand staring at a pool and a hotel under construction (not to mention the construction noise). As I mentioned right at the beginning, the staff is the ONLY reason I won’t say I was totally disappointed with this hotel. Everyone is so nice, whether you tip or not (of course, tipping is appreciated). The staff go above and beyond to accommodate you, and to help. I honestly can say I didn’t meet a single staff person I would say was unpleasant. This was our first time to Cuba, and we absolutely love the country. I am already planning my next visit but we don’t think we will return to Solymar. Overall, it is a tough call on this hotel. The grounds are nice, the location is great, the beach is gorgeous, and the staff are fantastic. But there were just a few too many other disappointments that just "turned us off". Also, we are more of the "day people" type and this resort would be better suited for people who like more night life activity (see my comments below).
Right from the plane we were met by a representative and taken to a bus that took us directly to the hotel. Hotel check in was smooth and fast.
Rooms: Rooms are basic and clean, but do not expect much more than that. The rooms have the usual: TV, bathroom with tub/shower, hairdryer, coffee machine. Although when we switched to our bungalow we did not have a coffee machine – we had coffee cups but no machine. I am sure if we asked for one, we would have gotten it but it wasn’t a big deal to us. Overall, the room was adequate and provided a place to sleep. BUT…. The beds were very uncomfortable – way too hard. I like a firm mattress but this went way beyond firm. Oh, and the bungalows have entry doors with frosted glass, which is really cute, but the downside is that all night long the room has light shining into it. If you are one of those sleepers who needs pitch black in order to sleep sound (like me), this is really a problem. I don’t know why there isn’t a curtain you could pull over the main door to block out the light. Needless to say, I didn’t get a single good night’s sleep.
Cleaning service was good, but we had issues with replacement of towels. The ones we left on the floor, to be replaced (leave on floor as per hotel instructions), were not replaced but rather folded and just hung back up. Toilet paper refilling is also an issue (tip: bring some of your own toilet paper/tissues to Cuba).
Restaurants and Bars: Solymar offers buffet, snack bars, and four restaurants (well only four open at the time we visited). The food at buffet is bland, but there is a variety and if you are creative you can manage to make an interesting meal (i.e. make your own sandwiches, or get a plate of rice and add veggies/beef sauce). The buffet does get boring, so be sure to book your a la carte restaurants. And visit restaurants in Varadero – there are some great ones, and it really helps to get away from the hotel food. The food at the restaurants was better. The Spanish restaurant was particularly nice, although the food is not really authentic spanish food.
Bars (the ones that were open) were all good.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The hotel grounds I imagine would be very nice if half of it wasn’t under construction. We were able to use the main pool at the Arenas Blancas resort and it was very nice, but the noise from the construction at the Blancas hotel took away from the "relaxing" atmosphere of the pool area. There was another smaller pool between Solymar and Blancas that was fine, but it was just a "plain" smaller pool (not like the ones you see in the images on the resort’s website). The landscaping of the hotel grounds is impeccable and kept very clean. Of course, the beach is amazing.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Unfortunately we did not get to use the kayaks or do any water sports as the beach was under "red flag" every time we visited. We didn’t use the gym, and as I said we are day people so I cannot comment on the night activities too much. We did go to the piano bar one night and that was very nice, and relaxing with a violinist and cellist. We went to a show, but left after about half an hour, it reminded me of a fashion show with a bunch of women modeling different clothes (mostly beach attire). Can’t tell you if it got better because we left.
Off resort excurions…do them! We did three excursions: catamaran, Havana, and Matanzas/caves. All were amazing and very worthwhile. If I had to recommend one, I would recommend the catamaran excursion. It is an all day excursion on a catarman with three main stops: dolphins, snorkeling, and a secluded island to relax. All drinks and lunch included. The dolphin interaction alone is worth the trip. And you really get to interact with the dolphins, not just watch a trainer command the dolphins to do tricks. You get in the water with the dolphins, can touch them, get "dolphin kisses", and some people get to swim with them. My husband was able to swim out with the dolphins, told to "float forward" keeping his legs completely straight, and the dolphins came around and pushed him forward, up, and eventually threw him in the air out of the water. Sort of like the trainer tricks you see at Sea World. After the dolphins, you get to snorkle, and then are taken to an isolated island for lunch and 3 hours of just relaxing on a beach. Cost was 101.00 CUC (about 100.00 CAD) and worth every penny. Havana was amazing too, and a must do if you want to do more than one excursion.
Other Comments: This hotel has a reputation of being a party hotel. Overall our visit was quiet. There was always room at the pools, beach, and the bars/buffet/restaurants were not busy – we never had to wait in a line.
We had only one issue with noise, one night, and found that hotel staff was quick to address the noisy person. However, that said, I think because the Arenas Blancas was closed, and the main pool and bar of the Solymar resort was closed, the hotel was under capacity. I also think that the time we visited was a slow time (i.e not spring break). We both agreed we would not want to be at this resort during spring break (but we are more day people – this hotel would probably be great if you like to party).