Arrival: Night flight, arrival around 7 p.m., quick through customs, one hour busride and quick 3-min check-in. The Nolitours rep gave us all of the relevant info on the bus so no need to attend the lecture the next morning. Good thinking!
Rooms: Spotless, well stocked, lots of hot water and working air conditioning. Our building was close to the beach, but since we did not ask for sea-view, from our balcony we saw the sunset and tops of palm trees which was just as nice!
The bedding was a little fraggled. Our room lady was Mireilis.
Restaurants and Bars: The food was not a top priority for us and we are NOT fussy eaters (especially in 30C heat!) That said… Gaviota (state)-run hotels offer the least variety in their menus, imho, compared to, say, the large chains like Iberostar, for example. The huge central buffet was open morning and night with quite a large variety for everyone. At noon, you had the choice of lunch at the Beer Garden (mostly sandwiches and tapas, limited menu), the Mojito Bar (3 kinds of delicious chicken, and the usual sandwiches), an Italian restaurant (pizza etc.), the Seafood restaurant on the beach (fresh pescado) or the Yareyal (pronounced DJA-ray-djal), a limited menu as well. The best a-la-carte was the Romantico: good atmosphere, service, champagne and food, overall. There’s often a pianist (which we missed on our night). Next was the Italian "Gondola", beautiful setting, but food rather ho-hum, both the salmon and the meat were overcooked and two of the desserts had different names but were the same, go figure! Then we tried the Seafood à la carte (the same one on the beach but with different menu): nice atmosphere, wonderful staff, fish and langouste was good. The last one we tried was the Yareyal (or Grill in the evenings) which was the least liked of all of our a-la-carte experiences, bad (or perhaps inexperienced?) unsmiling blasé service and totally forgettable food. The buffet was much better all in all.
Coffee is great but only at the Lobby Coffee Bar (try the Cortado, small espresso with whipped topping, yummy)
Beach/Pools/Grounds: We did not use the pool during our entire stay, but I can honestly say it’s the most beautiful pool I’ve ever seen! Wow! So big it does not fit in one picture! Lots of chairs, vegetation, just beautiful. Beach: Our #1 priority as we spend all of our vacation on it! We knew it was not a long beach, but… anyhoo the water was hot and cristal clear. Yes, there is a bit of coral on our beach, but you really don’t need water shoes, just one step over the coral and you’re in! There is, however, a huge coral section on the Playa Costa Verde beach to our right, poor them! On the up side, we spent less time walking up and down the small stretch of beach and actually more time in the water swimming, soaking, and snorkeling. Lots of fish to go around, as the coral and reefs are close, so it’s a real treat for young and old snorklers alike. There were always lots of chairs, under the supervision of senor Carlos, service with a smile, and many palapas as well. The beach bar is a ways off at the Seafood restaurant, but there were waiters on the beach for the lazy bones lol
The hotels grounds are truly amazing. The hotel was built in a forest, so the vegetation is both mature and marvelous. Very clean grounds and very clean hotel in general.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Tons of excursions, yes. But we’re beach bums, so all we did were the daily catamaran outings which we really liked because we got to chat alot with the two fellas (Alejandro P and Claudio), great conversations and exchange. Some tourist friends went to Holguin by taxi with a guide (the driver) but were a little underwhelmed about the visit, as the city does not have the architectural and historical clout as Santiago or Havana. Others went to Santiago and enjoyed it altho tiring (3hr trip so 3h return in non air-conditioned car at 35C, ouf…). Our digestion was a bit iffy the first couple of days so we opted to stay put and try the ronron regime lol Snorkelers have several excursions to choose from. The gym is centrally located and also has 4 small jacuzzis for a late-afternoon dip. The massage center is also in the gym but we were unable to get a reservation, too booked.
Other Comments: No bugs to speak of, 2-3 muskies, a couple of crabs after dark on the stone pathways leading to the beach, 3 peacocks, 2 cats, chickens, cute salamanders on the trees by the beach and oh yeah, one very impressive hairy spider that was more afraid of us than us of it! Local merchants set up their stands, with new ones every day with similar merchandise. One small cigar shop in the lobby, one ciggy shop off of the Mojito Bar and one small gift shop. Don’t miss the evening synchronized swimming spectacle in the Volley Pool, great party! Thanks to Mireilis, our room lady, building 16. Thanks to senor Carlos, 17 years of loyal service, and counting… all with a smile. He took his job very seriously and watched those chairs like a hawk lol Thanks to the gentlemen in blue, the compound guards, who always smiled and said hello, standing there all day in that blistering heat… Our cokas, Watkins creme and little chats were always welcomed and much appreciated. Thanks to Alejandro P and Claudio for the catamaran rides, and sharing their stories with us. Thanks to Wilmer and Liliana at the Seafood restaurant a-la-carte for their warmth and wonderful service. Such a cute couple! Thanks to Michel at the Mojito Bar for the WORLD’S BEST MOJITOS, bar none! Gracias! Thanks to "little" Alexander and Leonel at the Lobby Bar for their excellent service and joviality.
And last but not least, Senora E, mi amiga jardiniera, lover of words, your warm welcome, your generosity, and your thoughtfulness have touched my heart forever! Viaje con Dio y hasta luego!