We vacationed at the Gran Caribe Villa Coral in Cayo Largo, Cuba (VC for short) from April 8-15, 2011. This was our 7th trip to Cuba, 2nd to Cayo Largo, 1st to VC and we are a married couple in our 40’s. For reference, we have previously stayed at the Paradisus Varadero, Sol Cayo Guillermo, Oasis Playa Coco (now a Be Live) and the Sol Cayo Largo. The VC is rated 2 1/2 stars by Cuban standards. This trip was for our 21st anniversary. Here is my review and findings of what my wife and I consider a simple but perfectly acceptable resort and one that we will happily return to. Please note that when I describe the resort my findings are more observations as for the most part we did not have any complaints, but some people may depending on how they feel about certain things. AGENCY AND FLIGHT: This year our trip was with Hola Sun, and flight through Canjet. We booked our trip through Cassandra at Bravo Travel, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Cassandra was great to deal with and very helpful and was able to match $ to $ the price I found on line. I highly recommend her as a travel agent. As last year, the Canjet crew were very pleasant and helpful. We were given a complimentary glass of champagne on our way down to celebrate our vacation.
WEATHER: The weather this trip was perfect. Every day was sunny and warm with temperatures in the 30’s. One day we heard it actually reached 40 degrees. For most of the week it was windy and the water was wavy. It did calm down 1 day enough that we could snorkel out front of the resort.
ARRIVAL AND CHECK IN: We were through customs in a very short time, met our Hola Sun Rep, Olga, and were told which bus to get on. The bus trip was a short 10 minutes at the most in an air conditioned bus. Check in for the VC is at the Isla del Sur (Eden Resort) which is the main building in the Gran Caribe complex that encompasses Villa Coral, Villa Soledad, and Villa Lindamar. While we were checking in, everyone’s bags were being taken off the bus. We were given our Villa Coral wrist bands, room key card and towel vouchers and were told to walk to our room and wait there and the gentleman would bring our bags to our room.
ROOM: The VC is a small complex of 2 storey bungalows which amount to about 55 rooms total. It was a short 5 min walk to our room which was on the far west side of the resort. We were given a second storey room with a large balcony. Our room had a small 3 piece bathroom with a tiled floor. The shower floor was sunken about the thickness of a tile and had a curtain you pulled closed on 2 sides. Unfortunately often when finished a shower we’d find a wet floor in the rest of the bathroom. The sink was mounted to the wall with little space to set any items on. We always had lots of water pressure and lots of hot water. The toilet also worked well; however there are no hairdryers. The same tiled floor continued into the bedroom. We had 2 single beds pushed together with fairly comfortable mattresses. The room was cooled by a small air conditioner that was mounted through the wall with wood trim surrounding it. It was slightly noisy but worked well. The entrance to the balcony was through 2 poorly fitting wood doors. The balcony itself was beautiful and had views of the ocean from either side. We did have a few ants crawling around the room but nothing we needed to worry about. The bedroom and bathroom had 110v receptacles so there was not any need for a converter.
Restaurants and Bars: RESTAURANTS AND BARS: The enclosed air conditioned buffet is open 7:30am-10am for breakfast, 1pm-2:45pm for lunch, and 7:30pm-9:45pm for dinner. The buffet also has an outside area covered just outside the doors as well as a small trellis covered spot over-looking the ocean. Keep in mind that you can also get pizza to the left of the buffet starting at 4pm. You have 2 a la cartes per week at the Ranchon over at the Villa Lindamar and you must make reservations in advance. We were only able to eat there once during our stay due to being booked up quickly. Although the buffet food selection is small, it is of fairly decent quality. In fact it was better than what I was expecting. During breakfast there is; an omelette station, a station set up of pancakes, scrambled and/or hard boiled eggs, sausage or bacon, A pastry station with very tasty pastries, as well as a toaster with slice-your-own bread to toast and a fresh fruit station. Unfortunately fresh orange juice was rare to find. I usually drank mango juice at breakfast. During the evening there is a main station set up with the dish of the day. This often was roast pork, roast beef, and sometimes a fresh catch of the day. There is also a station set up of roast beef slices, pork slices, roasted chicken pieces, garlic mashed potatoes…yes, I said garlic! I did find the beef slices and chicken slightly chewy and dry. Sometimes there was a soup, and even spiced calamari rings, yes again, I said spiced. For those of you new to Cuba, it is commonly known that the food in Cuba can be described as bland. Often this is true, but sometimes you will find some that is not. Carlos, the main Chef here at the time we stayed, was quite good. Unfortunately we never came up from the beach to eat at lunch. I can honestly say I was surprised by a few dishes like the spiced calamari, soup, and garlic mashed potatoes. As well, I was surprised to find the roasts done fairly well, especially at a 2 1/2 star. We did splurge one evening and paid 20 pesos each for the lobster dish for our anniversary dinner. While the lobster was tasty, it was not something to rave about. On the other hand, the whole shrimp that accompanied the lobster were very tasty. I have to talk about our anniversary dinner more. Apart from the dinner itself, our waitress Daima went out of her way to make this a special occasion for us. Not only did she set up a nice table on the outside patio of the buffet, but she gathered flower petals to surround a tea-light candle and arranged for the house band to serenade us with a couple of songs. If that wasn’t enough she arrange for the pastry chef to make and beautifully decorate a delicious cake for us.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: RESORT GROUNDS AND BUILDINGS: When you first enter the resort from the Isla del Sur, you walk past the massage/medical rooms on the right and the main building on the left, and the pool in front of you. The main building houses the buffet, public washrooms, lounge area and club house where you get your towels. The so called club house is no more than a small room with a sign hung on it with times of availability between 8am-12pm. I point this out because it took us a day to find this room as no one told us this upon arrival. To the left of the buffet is a little seating area where you can get pizza, fries and sometimes hamburgers starting at 4pm. The grounds here are sparse, mainly sand covered with some ground cover, small bushes, and taller palm trees that provide shade throughout the resort. The buildings are painted in coral pink or turquoise and at close look, definitely show their age. There are concrete and interlocking stone walkways around the resort some of which have small pieces missing. Although it is sparse, the grounds are well kept and always clean. The maintenance/gardening staff seemed to be on top of things picking up old palm branches and leaves. I would say that for the most part it is guest friendly, except for anyone with a wheelchair or any trouble with stairs. Since it’s not a large resort you don’t really have too far to walk for anything. POOL: A salt water pool with a depth of about 4 1/2 feet, not huge but well kept and cleaned every morning. Times are from about 7:30/8 am to 1 am. It is set within the square shape of the pool bar, buffet and club house sections. It does have a swim up bar where you can get most of your typical Cuban drinks, such as; Mojito, Ron Colins, Pina Colada, Daiquiri, and Rum Punch. It even had a whiskey which did not cost extra. There are some drinks that may be extra. You can also get an espresso and cappuccino here. The pool bar also has an extended covered area behind it where one could sit and enjoy a drink out of the sun.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: THE VILLAGE: The village, Isla del Sol or “El Pueblito”, where the resort workers live is a short distance away. We rented a scooter one day and rode into the village. You’ll find a; restaurant, bar, Caracol gift shop, La Casa del Habano cigar shop, museum, dive shop, and a bank. The LCDH also has a selection of liquor and coffee. Please do take in the little Turtle Sanctuary. They ask for a 1 peso donation. I’ve posted 2 pictures of the “Taberna del Pirata” bar menu. The one day we were in the village, I ordered the fried 1/2 chicken and french fry dish for 3 pesos and found it quite tasty. CIGARS: The airport has a very small selection. For any serious cigar smoker I highly recommend buying your cigars at the LCDH in the village. It has a much better selection. Please see my pictures of this shop. Other trips I asked and received a duplicate receipt for leaving Cuba with the cigars. This trip I was told I didn’t need this receipt. They have changed things now. The cigar boxes not only have holograms, they also have a barcode with corresponding number. When heading through customs this year, I was asked to open my carry-on and show them the cigar boxes. They scanned the barcode and wrote down the numbers of every box and thanked me for purchasing from the government store.
Other Comments: THE STAFF: All staff at this resort are very friendly and accommodating, always with an hola and smile when passing. Carlos one evening even brought my wife and I a small bowl of soup each over to the pool bar without us even asking for it. I happened to mention to him how much I enjoyed it the evening before. The pool bar bartenders, Vladimir and Yosvani were very friendly and a lot of fun to be around. I would recommend this resort to anyone who wants a very simple resort and does not need/demand 5 star food and accommodation. If any of the points I made above caused you to wince, this is not a place for you. It is not a perfect resort, nor is it for everyone. Price will certainly drive my choice for return, but with the right price we will happily return. You can also see pictures of this resort on my Webshots page at: http://travel.webshots.com/album/580062822leDXdt?vhost=travel