I’m going to preface my review by recommending those reading these reviews to go by reviews of guests who stayed during the time period you plan to go. Resorts change with the seasons. Low season/much lower prices attract a younger, more boisterous clientele; high season/much higher prices attracts a much older, quieter group of guests. We have only stayed during high season and, over the 10 weeks we’ve spent at the resort, the majority of guests were mid 40’s to early 70’s. You couldn’t get further from party central! So, if you are reading this review and plan to go during the summer/fall, or during some special “promotion” don’t expect the same atmosphere I’ll be describing.
We return to Breezes Jibacoa, each year, late January or early February for two week stays. This last visit was our 5th so it’s pretty clear we like the place. I would not recommend this resort to just anybody and I’ve steered some people I know away from going there because, knowing them, knew the resort would not “fit” them. The resort is relatively remote to any towns. It sits halfway between Varadero and Havana and the closest town of any size is Santa Cruz del Norte. To get there, you’ll need to take a taxi unless you rent a scooter, at the resort, and go yourself. If you do decide to rent, make sure you are aware of your liability should you have an accident. We fell in love with this little gem just because it doesn’t have all the glitz of Varadero. Within hours of our first arrival, 5 years ago, we knew we had found what we had long been looking for: small, intimate, lovely surroundings, friendly staff, no kids, clean, well maintained, efficient and to top it off, ocean view rooms with views to die for! Did I mention no kids?
Your Arrival: Departed Vancouver at 10pm, on time, via Air Transat with Club Class seating. Since everyone on board was tired, it was a quiet night flight down to Varadero. We arrived around 6:45 am and whizzed through Customs to collect our bags. We had just grabbed baggage carts and gone over to the carousel when our bags started coming through. They had “priority” tags on them due to Club Class but I certainly wasn’t expecting this to mean anything but there they were! We were first out of the arrivals area and to the bus. That’s where things went downhill. Because we were booked with Nolitours, we had to travel to the resort on the same bus as those staying at neighboring Cameleon Villas resort. That wasn’t the problem. Sitting on the bus for 60 minutes waiting for 1 more passenger to show up was the problem! Turns out he wasn’t going to turn up until the next day because he wasn’t on the flight but his wife wasn’t bright enough to advise the tour rep until we’d sat there for an hour. When she finally coughed up this info, there were a lot of angry grumblings from the occupants on the bus! All that was forgotten once we got off the bus at Breezes Jibacoa. There were only ourselves and 1 other couple getting off so check in was very quick. Unfortunately, the resort was fully booked so we could not get into our room until later. This was not unexpected as we’ve had early morning arrivals, in the past, and were prepared for the eventuality. We left our bags in reception and went and had breakfast and then went to the pool and relaxed, with books and drinks, on loungers. While we were having lunch, the bellman came and told us our room was ready (around 1:15 pm) and he would take our bags down for us.
Rooms: We always book ocean view and, after the first year, book the Tropical ocean view suite. Much to our surprise and great pleasure, we were given the same suite we’ve occupied each previous visit. It was just like coming home. We were in building #4 suite 2130, just to the left of the Ranchon. We love the double sized balcony and the stunning views. On the balcony is a seating area with 2 large wooden chairs and a table and, in front of the bedroom, 2 wooden loungers with cushions and a smaller table. We spent many relaxing hours out on the balcony “people watching” or just reading and, periodically, entertaining new friends for pre-dinner cocktails and appies. Coming in the door of the suite, you enter a hallway which has a large closet on one wall with sliding, mirrored doors and contained within is an ironing board and iron. Across from the closet is a large bathroom with sink and large counter and toilet. We kept the converter on the counter in this room. From the hallway, you walk into the dining/kitchen/living room. In here you will find a small kitchenette with sink, upper and lower cupboards, 2 burner stove and fridge. I’ve never used the stove because, after all, I’m at an AI so why would I cook? A glass topped table with 4 chairs separates the kitchenette from the sitting area. Here you will find two large rattan chairs and ottoman and large coffee table. There are large, matching consoles on which sit a t.v. and combo c.d/radio unit. You have sliding glass doors through which to access one end of the balcony and the views from the room are breathtaking. To the right of the dining table is the door to the bedroom. This is a very large room and contains a king sized bed, night stands, a desk + chair, 2 large dressers with plenty of storage room, a rattan loveseat and ottoman. The bedroom has a t.v., also. Another set of double glass doors access the other end of the balcony and the loungers. We would leave these doors open, at night, so that we could hear the ocean…very soothing. There is a short hall, off the bedroom with another large closet on one wall and full bathroom across from it. In the closet you will find more drawers for storage topped with the safe. There were extra blankets on the top shelf of the closet. I just want to add that we had no complaints with the bed. We prefer a “firm” mattress and found the one in our room very comfortable. The bathroom was made up of a sink and lots of counter space, toilet and bath. I loved the bath because it was actually long enough for me to relax in without having to scrunch myself up and lots of hot water to soak away the fatigue of hours of walking around in Old Havana. I can try and describe the room we occupied but my attached photos do a much better job.
Restaurants and Bars: Love the Ranchon for lunch and the only thing we haven’t tried are the hot dogs but, from watching others, they look like they are as good as everything else on the menu. My favourite is the grilled fish with French fries. Drinks are great and the wait staff very friendly. Take a thermal coffee type mug for drinks to avoid using the small plastic glasses that are just a pain. We prefer the patio area of the buffet restaurant because we want to enjoy the outdoors, when we are in the tropics, not sit inside. I really like the fact that smoking is NOT allowed in this area anymore. In fact, this trip we noticed that they had made all of the lobby, lower foyer areas SMOKE FREE except for the very lowest level just before you step out onto the long walkway to the beach. Smokers beware because they do enforce it. We were chatting, one evening, with a couple up by the doors where you enter the lobby. The guy lit up a smoke and within minutes an employee was over advising him he would have to put it out or move to the lower area where smoking was permitted. As for the food, there is plenty of choice and I didn’t try anything I didn’t enjoy. The soups are great! One night they had a rabbit casserole that was delicious. The only complaint I have, and I’m not alone, is that hot food could be hotter. That being said, I think that’s a Cuban “thing” because, even in Havana, getting hot food, well, hot, was a rarity. We do the ala cartes but prefer the buffet for it’s cheerful atmosphere and opportunity to share meals with new friends we’ve made during our stay.
The piano bar is our favourite place to relax after dinner and this trip we actually got to listen to a very talented pianist. The 24 hour lobby bar is always popular and they make great cappuccinos. We pick up a bottle of Bailey’s, at Vancouver duty free and, each morning around 6:30 am, I’d head up to the lobby, with our mugs, for a couple of cappuccinos and back to the room to enjoy them on the balcony with a shot of Bailey’s. A great way to start the day and watch the resort come to life
Beach/Pools/Grounds: This beach does not lack for shady areas whether it be man made palapas or natural growth. Loungers are plentiful and, thankfully, towel wars aren’t an issue. There’s lots of loungers and shady areas at the pool, also. I find the beach in front of Breezes Jibacoa to be nicer and cleaner than the one further down in front of Cameleon Villas. The current runs in that direction so most of the flotsam ends up on Cameleon Villas beach area. You can take a long walk, along the beach, past Cameleon Villas to the far point and beyond, if you wish. When you are walking the beach or just on the beach at the resort, I would strongly advise against giving items to Cubans who are on the beach asking for things from guests. It is not a problem, at Breezes, yet, but, with encouragement of the wrong kind, it could be. They are working you so please don’t encourage this behaviour.
In the area of the beach, between the two resorts, artisans set up their wares and you can pick up some art work at reasonable prices. We take our own snorkeling gear and when the flag is the right colour (green or yellow) we make the most of it and get out snorkeling and looking for new areas to explore. This is one of the highlights of this resort but please DON’T STEP on the reef and DON’T FEED THE FISH!
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Check with your tour rep if you are interested in off resort tours as they have many to offer. If you need something to do with your time, you’ll find a shuffle board and chess set (mega sized) at the pool, tennis courts, bocce balls, pool table, volleyball at the beach and bingo games. Check the bulletin board between the lobby and buffet restaurant for daily activies. The hike up the hill to the look out is Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 9am and well worth it for the views. If you plan to do it, flip flops are NOT the footwear of choice but I’ve seen folks set off in them!
Other Comments: So, another stay at Breezes Jibacoa is but a wonderful memory and, once again, we were not disappointed. I should mention that, this time around, we noticed a major increase in the number of British guests. When we first started going, it was predominantly Canadian but this time around it was about 60/40 Canadians and Brits with a smattering of other nationalities. We’ve always found this a very easy resort to get to know other guests and socialize. This resort is popular for weddings and not surprising with the gazebo and lovely grounds leading onto the beach. It’s a bride’s dream setting. I hope you enjoy my photos; they tell the story.