Tour Operator: Nolitours/ Air Transat.
Caracol is a small three star resort with only 150 rooms. This was my second visit.Last time I travelled with friends, this trip was made solo. I had enjoyed Caracol very much last year, but wasn’t sure what to expect since the fall season of hurricanes. I was delighted to find the resort has actually improved! I had a wonderful week, and will definitely be returning next year.
Flight & Arrival:
Our flight was delayed out of Pearson due to a maintenance problem. Once this was resolved, we were on our way…..perhaps an hour late. Flight was otherwise uneventful. Service in Club Class was good. On arrival I had to report for a Customs secondary inspection, due to a Not Just Tourists humanitarian aid suitcase I was transporting, but after a brief inspection and a few questions I was on my way. My third NJT suitcase, and the first time anyone has wanted to look at it. The bus ride to Santa Lucia is about 90 minutes, which passed fairly quickly. On arrival, guests were informed the buffet restaurant had been kept open for them and were directed there prior to checking in. Since I was not hungry (due to the ample food in Club Class) I waited at the front desk and checked in almost immediately.
I had a wonderful ocean view room in the same area as last year. The main difference was this year there were no sticky windows or balcony doors. Everything is new and worked well. The bed was a bit hard for my liking, a not unusual problem for me in Cuba. There is a sitting room as well as a bedroom. The small balcony opens off the sitting room on one side. On the other is a large window. It is best to draw the curtain when the sun hits this window, to keep things from getting too warm. In the sitting room there is a mini fridge. (not stocked). The television in the bedroom is mounted fairly high and is easy to see. The air conditioner is likewise mounted high, with a remote control. Very convenient to use. Water pressure is great, with ample hot water. Be careful, as the water truly is hot, due to the solar heaters on the roof. I love the layout of the units at Caracol. Only four rooms per unit, two up, two down. Very little noise transmission between them. Noise from outside is another matter, and the nearby disco can be an issue depending on where your room is located. I had no problems with noise except for a few late night revelers who slammed doors and talked loudly on a couple of occasions. For those who have been to Caracol before, I note that the room key is now the standard magnetic strip type, but the key to the safety box is still a physical key. They are now charging a steep (35 CUC!) returnable deposit for this key, as well as a rate of 6 CUC/week for the safety box. I expect they have had issues with people losing keys, which are likely difficult to replace. In any case, when you return your key you now have your airport tax in hand, plus a little extra for last minute expenses.
Restaurants and Bars::
The food at the buffet restaurant has improved since last year. I found the selection and quality very good and especially noticed that the desserts were very tasty. There is a pasta bar at lunch and in the evening, and the usual omelets and eggs made to order at breakfast. The fresh fruit was wonderful, particularly the grapefruit. Several evenings there was a musical quartet entertaining at supper time. There are two a la carte restaurants, International and Cuban, but in reality they occupy the same physical space and operate at different hours. This close to the beach restaurant area is no longer used as a snack bar at lunch, which is unfortunate. It has a wonderful view, but suffers from exposure to the wind. As yet there are no screens to shield you, so dinner can be a bit breezy, to say the least! I found the food at the a la carte was much improved from last year. One quibble…..no wine available unless you want to buy a bottle. The buffet has very decent wine available at lunch and dinner. The snack bar on the path to the beach operates from late morning to mid afternoon. Burgers, hot dogs, fries, the usual snack bar fare. Also serves as the beach bar. The pool bar is being renovated and a small temporary one is in use at the moment. I don’t believe the swim up bar is operational at this time, but should reopen soon. The lobby bar is 24 hours and great for morning coffee no matter how early you want it, unlike some four star resorts I could name. I also got a wonderful Spanish coffee there in the evening…..last year nobody knew how to make one! For some reason, beer is not available at the lobby bar. No big deal, but a little strange. Nolitours still has the "dine around" option with Mayanabo, next door. You may go once per week to sample their buffet.
Santa Lucia beach is protected by a coral reef about a mile offshore. The water near the beach has a lot of sea grass, which is constantly washing in, making it a full time job to clean the beach. The resorts do their best, but there is usually some debris along the beach. That said, it is a very long beach with firm sand for walking. Because the sea grass can hide shells and bits of coral, footwear is a good idea. If you are barefoot, you need to pay attention. There are a few palapas for shade, and less trees since the hurricane, but I had no problem finding a chair.For swimming, water shoes will guard against coral and the occasional sea urchin. For snorkelling, the beach is very good! There is a patch of coral and rocks about 300 meters straight out in front of Caracol, and there are lots of fish to be seen there. I notice that people have been feeding them and they are becoming habituated to this, which is unfortunate. You may see lots of fish when you feed them, but you will miss out on the rare, interesting ones. Besides, it is not good for the fish or the environment. Please don’t do it.
Shade is at a premium here. It’s available, but probably not enough to go around when the area is crowded. I didn’t bother swimming here as I spend my time at the beach. The pool was cleaned every morning without fail.
Caracol has internet access this year, and although there is only one computer I found the service to be very good. It is available 24 hours, so you can always find a time to send an email, and it is economical, at only 6 CUC/hour. The speed is at least as good as my dial up at home.
The usual selection….Spanish lessons, dancing, beach volleyball, etc. I didn’t bother. Sailing is another story. I love it, and with the exception of the first couple of days when it was extremely windy and red flags were flying, I went out every day. Because the wind was high most of the week, I had some very memorable sailing…..fast, wet, fun!! Snorkelling, as I have mentioned, is also very good, and possible even on windy days, since the reef keeps the wave action to a minimum. Kite boarders also find the lack of big waves attractive. There were several enjoying the wind, which made swimming and snorkelling a bit hazardous as you had to keep a look out for them. There are decent bicycles if you want to ride to Coco Beach or around Santa Lucia……or just down the road to the other hotels. It’s always interesting to check out the local crafts for sale, which vary somewhat from resort to resort. There seem to be no issues with Security as far as visiting other resorts….I had no problem walking around Brisas to meet a friend.
There is a show every night, but I did not attend.
There are several available. Camaguey is one destination. You can go for the whole day for 45 CUC including your lunch. You can also do the "last day" tour, which gives you a look at the city on your way to the airport and also includes lunch, priced at 29 CUC. Catamaran Playa Bonita for 55 CUC which includes snorkelling, lunch and a open bar. Also, for those who only wish to snorkel, the Coral tour is priced at 25 CUC and just takes you out to the reef. There is a lobster dinner at Coco Beach available for 25 CUC. There is deep sea fishing available as well.
A Cadeca on site for money exchange, just beside the front desk.
Well maintained, with gardeners busy from the early hours before it is too hot.
Excellent staff at this resort. Friendly, helpful, and a lot of fun.
There weren’t any! It was very windy much of the week, and a bit chilly in the evenings. That’s probably the reason for the lack of insects. I did see a few ants in my washroom a couple of times. Nothing significant and not a problem.
There are taxis and horse & buggy taxis available to go to town or Coco Beach. Horseback riding is available as well.
Caracol is a wonderful little hotel with terrific staff, decent food, excellent accommodation, and a very friendly atmosphere. What it lacks in 4 star amenities it makes up for with heart. It’s definitely worth going back to….and I shall.