Room: I had a very nice ocean view room, 2nd floor in one of the "bungalows". (It does pay to have your travel agent mention that you are a repeat customer!) The room was kept clean, and I had no complaints about the housekeeping. Unfortunately, I was in a direct line with the beach restaurant, which turns into a disco at night, so I wasn’t always able to sleep with the patio door open (which I prefer) and listen to the surf….at least not until after 2 a.m.
Beach: You may have heard that Barcelo had lost its beach….well, it has it back, just in a slightly different location! The beach is building in nicely at the east side of the resort, and is accessible by several sandy trails. This was no problem for me, but could pose a challenge for someone who finds uneven ground difficult. While I was there, they began using the old stairs down from the beach restaurant, and this worked fine at low tide. When the tide was in, there were water covered rocks at the foot of the stairs….not quite so easy, but at least you could avoid "sandy toes" when you were leaving the beach. The water, as usual, was that wonderful torquoise colour, and very clear. The beach has palapas on it for shade, but you need to be there early to ensure you have one. There are also comfortable cushions on the chairs, but again, if you are late you may have to be content with a plain uncushioned chaise. This beach drops off into the water gradually, and is perfect for body surfing. To the west, where once you could walk along the beach to the other hotels, it is now rocky and inaccessible. However, the east beach is easy to access at low tide, and you can walk forever in that direction. (the longest I managed was two hours, and there was lots more beach ahead of me when I turned back!) With a little effort, you can be the only person on the beach, perfect if you relish solitude.
Playa Paraiso & Sirena: There is a regular shuttle to these two west facing beaches. They are very beautiful and worth seeing, even if you don’t desire to try the water sports available there for Barcelo guests. There is one HobieCat, some paddle boats, and sea kayaks available. Sometimes it was a challenge finding the staff member in charge, and it seemed there was only one guy taking care of all the boats, but I managed to get out for a couple of sails on the HobieCat. (it was out of commission part of the week, with a tear in the mainsail) They have been building more palapas at Playa Sirena, so shade is not as hard to come by, and they also have quite a few chairs available there now. Snorkelling is also good in this area, notably at Punta Tiempo, which is the sand spit a bit south of Playa Paraiso. Try inside the reef there…..lots of fish to be seen. (and the shuttle driver will drop you off and pick you up there if you ask….it helps if you tip him!)
Food: I had no problem with the quality and variety of the food at the buffet….but some people were complaining. Personally, I can’t think of a restaurant in Toronto that wouldn’t become boring and repetitious to eat at, if one tried doing so for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a whole week. The snack bar is good for lunch…..pizza and cerveza….yummy!
Staff: All were very nice, I had no complaints about service.
Pools: There are two for adults, both salt water. A small pool is available for children, also a miniature playground with swings and teeter-totters.
Entertainment: I really can’t comment, since I don’t stay up for the shows. The music was nice most evenings, and I could hear it well from my room. The dancers are super, and it’s interesting to watch them rehearse in the daytime. There were some beach volleyball games going on most days.
Hot Water: This was a bit of an issue, mainly because there wasn’t any! At least not in my room, and from the comments I heard, lots of others were in the same boat. The water wasn’t freezing cold, but at best was lukewarm. Tolerable, but I missed having a hot shower. Also, it is noticably yellow at first, but does run clear after a minute or so. (possibly sulfur??)
Iguanas: You will definitely see these if you walk the beach to the east. They seem more numerous this year, perhaps because they are less shy. People have obviously been feeding them (they like bananas) and some are becoming quite bold.
Hotel Guests: I would say most people at the hotel were from either Canada (English & French speaking) or from Italy. I didn’t notice many other languages spoken. Most people were sociable and it wasn’t difficult to find a snorkelling companion.
Naturism: The "clothing optional" part of the beach is on the east side. This was not a problem in my opinion, but you should know that if you walk to the east, you will probably encounter people who are opting for the "all over" tan.
Weather: In a word, perfect! Hot and sunny every day. We did have thunderstorms one night, and the dawn broke cloudy, but it soon cleared off and turned into another sunny day.
Money Exchange: There seemed to be a chronic shortage of C.U.C.’s and it took persistance to obtain these, especially one peso notes. (They often would try to give you coin, saying it is the same. It is not.) Eventually it was possible to obtain what I needed.
All in all, I enjoyed my trip to Cayo Largo. Barcelo has a few rough edges, compared to what I have heard of the other hotels, but then you are not paying as much to be there as to visit the Sol properties. Cayo Largo is the right destination if what you desire is perfect white sand beaches, crystal clear water, good snorkelling, and solitude. It may not be the place of your dreams if you are wanting more entertainment, but is one of the best relaxation destinations I have seen.