Santiago Airport is very small. Arrival and transfer was a bit chaotic due to several bicycle containers that didn’t fit under the bus and ended up being transported in the aisle. Once at the resort we received our room cards quickly and a bell boy delivered the bags promptly to the room.
My room was on the second floor and had a nice ocean view, as all the rooms do at Bucanero. It was kept clean, although I did notice a few small ants around the sink, but I don’t find this unusual in a tropical country and it wasn’t a problem. The hotel is spread out between the rock cliffs behind and the ocean in front. Block three is handy to everything, with the beach to the west and the lobby to the east. The room had adequate storage for clothing and a large safe which easily held my netbook and other items. The twin beds were comfortable, not as hard as the beds usually are in Cuba, and I slept well. The bathroom has a walk in shower, no tub. Water pressure was good with plentiful hot water. I had no complaints about the room at all.
Restaurants and Bars: There is one buffet restaurant and one a la carte. The buffet has an open air section very close to the sea, and it is pleasant to sit there in the morning with a cup of coffee while you are waiting for the restaurant to open. The buffet featured the usual breakfast, with eggs cooked to order, pancakes and french toast, not a lot of variety of cereals, but really nice bread for toast, and fresh grapefruit and pineapple most mornings. Orange juice was unavailable and the "juice" appeared to be something akin to "Tang". Lunch could be taken at the buffet or the beach restaurant. I stuck to the buffet. There was more variety of vegetables at lunch than at supper, and as I am vegetarian I didn’t want to miss out. Salads were available, and usually squash, rice, cooked cabbage. Really good bread. More variety if you are a meat eater. Supper also featured ice cream every day. Most evenings there was entertainment at the buffet and the musicians were very good. There are two bars, one by the pool, the other at the beach. I drank mostly cerveza, so I can’t comment on the mixed drinks. The red wine at the buffet was, however, the worst I have had in Cuba, and by the end of the week I had switched to white, which was marginally less objectionable. The a la carte restaurant was available by reservation, made a day ahead. When you reserve you indicate your choice of meal. The fish was quite good, and my friend enjoyed the chicken. (yes, I know fish is not a vegetable).
Twice during the week there was a pig roast, served in the late afternoon. My friend described the pork as "delicious".
Beach/Pools/Grounds: I didn’t use the pool, (there are two) but it was popular for water games most days. I did stick my hand in and the water seemed fairly warm. The beach is a small cove beach with a rocky entry to the water. I never swam, only snorkelled, and it was a bit tricky getting into the water with fins on. Water shoes are a must if you are wading. Snorkelling was quite good right in the cove, although the fish are habituated and you tend to attract a swarm of the more common varieties. With patience you will find squid, flounder, cow fish, and other more interesting varietals. We also snorkelled outside the cove, but this should be done with caution (and with fins!) We encountered a strong current on an outgoing tide one day, and had to detour to get out of it and back to the cove. Someone snorkelling without fins had difficulty at the same spot, and the nautical staff swiftly responded with sea kayaks to rescue him.
The grounds are quite attractive, particularly around buildings one, two, and three. The cliff behind and ocean in front make for a spectacular setting, although there has been extensive hurricane damage to the infrastructure near the ocean.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We went on one excursion, the boat trip to Santiago. This was very enjoyable, and featured a stop for snorkelling along the way. Lunch at a restaurant in Santiago harbour was excellent, and the free time in the city afforded a chance to look around and also to shop. On the resort, there are daily "mountain" hikes, and they are not kidding about the mountain part. You scale the cliff behind the hotel, then trek through some tricky trails and descend into the canyon behind the beach. The climb down over the rocks looks intimidating, but the staff are very good and make sure you descend safely. We also took a longer……and much less demanding…..hike one day, walking back through a farm and returning via the road, past the public beach which is about a ten minute walk from the hotel.
Sailing is another enjoyable activity at this resort, and we went out several times. Twice we had fast, wild rides that were a lot of fun.
Other Comments: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the sex tourism that is one blemish on this resort. "Working girls" are definitely present, both with and without partners. This seems to be a problem at many of the lower starred resorts in the poorer areas of Cuba, and I have encountered it before. If you venture to the public beach, you will definitely be approached with offers of "cigars, rum, Chicas". It was not a problem for me and my friends, but could make some people uncomfortable, which is why I mention it. The staff at this resort were mainly good and the service adequate if not outstanding. Some people stood out and I expressed my appreciation accordingly.
Bucanero has a fabulous location and the potential to be an outstanding resort. I expect I will return again, since the weather is more predictably warm in this area than further north, and I found the hotel both comfortable and enjoyable. With a little improvement in the food and a little discouragement of the local ladies, this could be a first class place to vacation.
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