Cuban Customs and Immigration: We had no problems whatsoever coming through customs and immigration this time around. We had our baggage within 30 minutes and where ensconced on our bus to the hotel within 40 minutes. The bus filled up quickly and we were on our way to our hotel shortly thereafter. They sold beer on the bus at a reasonable price and we indulged ourselves with two frosty cold ones. A great start to our holiday. The weather was sunny and warm and it’s great when everything turns out well despite the delay in Toronto.
The Hotel. The Cuatro Palmas is a nice three-star budget hotel. It is situated on Ave 1ra opposite Calle 62 in Varadero proper. It is quite central to everything in Varadero. There are three sections to this hotel. The main hotel is a three-story building with about 90 rooms, in this complex some of the rooms have ocean view and others pool view and others street view. The colonial section is three-story and has about 100 rooms, some rooms may be partial ocean view and some rooms directly viewing Ave 1ra and Calle 62 disco and others have garden view. The economy section has three buildings with absolutely no ocean view. Most economy views are East and West. These rooms are the 3000 block, 4000 block, and 5000 block. These economy rooms are across the street from the main building. There are about 120 economy rooms.
Check-in: The check-in at the Cuatro Palmas was quick and we had our wristbands on before we knew it. Of course since it was only 2:30 p.m. and our rooms weren’t ready until the 4 p.m. check-in time. They will not let you go to your room before 4 p.m. even if you get there early in the morning. I guess rules are rules. We had no problem with this as we just stowed our luggage in a room off the lobby and donned our bathing suits and headed for the pool for a quick dip and then the lobby bar where we had a well deserved Mojito.
Economy Building Las Palmas: Since we had paid the lowest price possible through our travel agent for the Nolitours package holiday to Cuatro Palmas out of Toronto the economy rooms are what we got. On getting our keys we made our way across the road to these rooms. As I said there are three buildings with rooms across the street. Sections 3000 and 4000 directly across the street (for me those looked a bit neglected) and then building 2000 where we stayed a short way down and across the street which was a tiny bit more upscale. These rooms are about a three minute walk from the main hotel lobby. This was the Nolitours section. We had no problems whatsoever with the Nolitours section (Club Cameleon). Our block of rooms though timeworn were very clean and well-kept. They had a central covered courtyard with nice landscaping at the edges of the courtyard. Under the courtyard roof was a bar and the Italian à la carte restaurant. The bar was open from about midday until 6 p.m. when it then served as Italian à la carte restaurant. It was a great place to have a quiet drink in the afternoon as there were not too many people that used the bar. They just served rum and basic cocktails and soft drinks there. There was no beer on tap. This was just fine with us as if we wanted beer we could just pop across the street and fill our thermal mugs. There were lots of security on the buildings so there is no need for worry about personal or property safety issues. I got up at 5 a.m. several times during the week to go for a walk and there was lots of security on duty so you will feel quite safe.
Our Room: It was in the 2000 block and was clean and comfortable. Our room which was on the second floor had a really nice view of Josone Park. The room 2219 had a small balcony with chairs and table. The balcony had a western exposure so the afternoon sun shone directly on the balcony and this was a nice place to sit and read and have a Mojito or two. It was very quiet. The room was equipped with a television, bar fridge, a room safety deposit box which opened with your room key. The safety deposit box was located in the closet. The bathroom had a nice marble vanity with sink, shower stall, toilet. There was also a hair dryer in the bathroom. The voltage in the bathroom was 110 V. The plug in the bathroom was standard North American three prong. We used this plug for our electric kettle to make coffee and tea in the morning and to charge our iPod and camera batteries. Although the bathroom was small it was more than adequate for both of us. The main room furnishings were very basic but suited us fine as the closet was a fairly good size to hang up your clothes and there were two small bedside tables with drawers and shelves underneath. There was a larger cabinet that the bar fridge and television stood on which had ample room underneath for more storage.There was a 110 V plug in the main room. There was a stand for your suitcase as well. The closet was big enough that we could keep our 2 large suitcases in. There was a very quiet air conditioner controlled by a remote control. We just tried the air conditioner the first day and didn’t need it after that. I certainly also have to commend our housekeeper as the housekeeping was immaculate every day of our vacation and the housekeeper was friendly and had great skills in towel art and best of all had some knowledge of English. This was good because our communication skills in Spanish I would have to say are pathetic to say the least. We are certainly ashamed of ourselves. But what can you do about lack of brain cells. I guess cut back on the Mojito’s maybe.LOL. One thing also to remember about this section is you have to supply your own bottled water as the hotel doesn’t supply it. There was a one time small problem with tiny ants that showed up in our room near the balcony on the third day but on telling our housekeeper she quickly dispatched them to wherever you dispatch small ants in Varadero. There was no ant problem for the rest of the week. I would have to say all in all we were very pleased with the room as we had read other reviews about the economy rooms that classed the building and rooms as scary and unsafe. We didn’t find that at all.
The Buffet:. A large bright room with lots of space. Very good service also. This is where we ate most breakfasts and dinners. The food and service was in our opinion quite good for a three star resort. The staff were quick to meet your needs for coffee or orange juice in the morning, or wine with your lunch or dinner. All finished dishes were cleared promptly from your table. We certainly didn’t want for service here all week long.
Breakfast: There were lots for breakfast every morning at the buffet. There were eggs any style. Omelettes, fried eggs or boiled eggs. There was a variety of sausage meat and hot ham, beans, scrambled eggs, pancakes. There was no cooked crispy bacon served all week. There was lots of bread which by the way was very good. There was yogurt, fruit, cold meats and cheeses, orange juice. The waiters and waitresses served coffee and filled your orange juice on your arrival at the table. Breakfast was good.
Lunch: On most occasions we had lunch at the restaurant "Tropipalma" which was by the beach promenade . There they served a simple salad of lettuce , cucumbers, peppers, shredded cabbage and oil and vinegar. They had different breads and rolls. At the hot table they served white and brown rice with beans, some pasta, boiled potato, french fries, green vegetables, fish, chicken, pork chops. They had wine and beer service for lunch. The staff always kept your wine glass full. Also a dessert table with pie, and different pastries. There was a magnificent view of Varadero beach and the ocean from there. We certainly looked forward every day to our lunch in this setting.
Buffet Lunch: We had our lunch here on one occasion. This was very good with a lot more food variety than Tropipalma, but alas without the wonderful ocean view. Here they had the usual salad table, fruit table, breads and rolls. Carved turkey or pork. Pork chops, beef patties, veal stew, fish, chicken. Beans, cabbage, white rice, brown rice with beans, assorted vegetables. Great dessert table with pie, lots of different pastries, fruit. Then there was usually three different kinds of ice cream.
Buffet Dinner: We had dinner on most occasions at the buffet. It was similar food to lunchtime. Usually they had a carving station with either turkey, pork, lamb, fish, and on one occasion beef. And then they had an assortment of vegetables. Two kinds of soup. Lots of breads. Also white rice or brown rice with beans. Usually potatoes of some kind along with some other green vegetable. Then there was usually three different kinds of ice cream. Great dessert table with pie, lots of different pastries and fruit. There was always something to choose from that pleased our palate.
Bars: there was four bars that we had drinks at. The bar we frequented most was the lobby bar. You could have almost any type of cocktail you wanted here plus you could have several types of coffee. The staff were quite professional and on almost all occasions we got our drinks in a timely fashion. This bar is the most popular bar at Cuatro Palmas. This bar was open 24 hours.The pool bar was also a snack bar. This pool bar was quite busy from midday until 5 p.m.. Sometimes there was a line up but the lineup was never too long. They served your basic cocktails and beer. These were mostly served in small plastic glasses. It would be better for to bring your own thermal mugs for the beer.The Cuban bar which opened at 6 p.m. was a favorite of ours for a before dinner cocktail. This bar by the beach was not particularly busy at that time. It was just wonderful sitting there having a drink. The bartender was a bit of a showoff. He was constantly juggling the bottles and showing off his cocktail mixing skills. It reminded me of the movie "Cocktail" with Tom Cruise LOL. At the economy rooms across the street from the main hotel there was a small bar that was open from noon until about 6 p.m.. It was a very quiet location and if you wanted somewhere to relax and read and have a quiet cocktail in the afternoon this was the place to be. The staff were very friendly and eager to please.
The Pool: This was a very nice large pool with lots of lounges all the way around the pool. It was fairly busy during our weeks stay. The water temperature of the pool itself was quite cool on that week. Most people were just sunning themselves. We didn’t see that many enter the pool. It is a beautiful pool area and the snack bar and pool bar and lobby bar are quite close when you are in need of refreshments. The pool itself is kept quite clean. I would say though that the lounges because they are cloth need some steam cleaning or power washing. They are on the most part quite discolored because of the suntan lotion.
The Beach: This beach in front of the Cuatro Palmas is quite beautiful and they have lots of Palapas and lounges. We at any time of the week could have got a lounge on the beach. It is one of the nicest beaches we have ever been to. You can walk for approximately 3 km to the east before you hit the golf course. You can walk for about 5 km to the west toward the Puntarena Hotel. Varadero beach is spectacular and wide on either side of this hotel (which is very centrally located). The beach didn’t seem crowded at any one point. But of course this is the shoulder season so that may account for the lack of crowding on the beach.
Changing Money: We found that we got the best rate for changing our Canadian dollars to CUC was at the bank which is located at Ave 1ra and Calle 32 about a 20 minute walk west from the hotel (you get a receipt for your exchange). There is a Cadeca closer to the hotel (about two blocks west on the north side of Ave 1ra) which will give you less of a rate than the bank (no receipt as their printer was broken). The hotel rate on our weeks stay at the hotel was a little better than the Cadeca rate (you get a receipt if you ask for one) . So if you don’t want to walk very far and you don’t have a lot to exchange just exchange your money at the hotel. There was a difference of .04 CUC per Canadian dollar in the rates (.71 CUC at the bank, .68CUC at hotel, as opposed .67CUC per 1 Canadian dollar at the Cadeca). These exchange rates though fluctuate every day so it may be different on your weeks vacation. You will however save money by going to the bank.
Varadero Doubledecker: The last time we were in Varadero was in the winter of 1990/91 . We stayed at Sol Palmeras. The Sol was in those days the last hotel on the peninsula. To see what changes had taken place we decided to take the double-decker bus. The cost of the bus fare was five CUC per person for the whole day to see the peninsula. The bus was great value for money as we could alight or board the bus at any designated bus stop at our discretion between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. that day. We sat on the upper deck of the bus because it was a brilliantly sunny day and we enjoyed seeing the many changes that have happened on the peninsula since we were there last. We would recommend the bus as a fairly frugal way of seeing the different vacation properties which Varadero has to offer. Just ask permission at the lobbies of the different hotels to see the property and most public relations will allow you with a hotel security escort to do just that .
Cuatro Palmas Overall: We certainly had a good vacation at this three-star property. We got great value for money spent. We had adequate to good food all week long. The cocktails and beer and soft drinks were good quality. The staff at most locations throughout the hotel we found to be friendly and helpful. On the overall the staff tried to make our vacation a good one. The beach is absolutely great. The pool was fine. The rooms at the economy section as I said although timeworn were more than adequate for us. The only negative thing we would say about all of the property is that some parts are definitely in need of a good coat of paint.
Our Flight Back: We were supposed to board our bus for the airport at 7 a.m.. The bus didn’t arrive until 7:45 a.m. so we were able to have a quick breakfast at the buffet which opened at 7 a.m.. This was perfect as we would have missed breakfast had the bus been on time. There is always a silver lining to vacationing on Cuba time. The bus to the airport takes about one hour and we got through our airport check-in fairly quickly . The waiting room at the airport wasn’t very crowded so we sat and enjoyed some sandwiches that we had made the evening before and kept in our fridge overnight. Before long we were boarding the Skyservice Airbus and after an uneventful 3 1/2 hour flight we were back in cold snowy Toronto.
We have put together a few photographs and videos of the hotel and beach. Just go to this link.
Would We Go Back to This Hotel Again: We certainly would. It was great value for money and we had a good time. Of course it will be quite a while into the future before we go back to Varadero again as we have so many other great places to visit in Cuba that are on our bucket list