Old Reviews – Sol Rio de Luna y Mares Resort

My first visit to the Holguin area, and my 12th trip to Cuba. I travelled with Transat Vacations. After a flight delay on my return date, I was happy to be able to upgrade to Club Class and enjoy my flight home!

Weather: I had a good week, but we did get rain from time to time. The last day was a complete washout! Heavy downpours interspersed with tempting moments of sunshine to lure you out before the next torrent of rain. It was also a windy week….great for sailing!

Room: I had a perfect location in building 8000 on the Luna side. Second floor, no view due to the dense foliage, but quiet and private. The maid kept the room perfectly clean. She wasn’t into "towel art" but did some interesting things with the sheers and the bedspread. I had no problems with insects of any kind. I did notice a problem with low water pressure and less than hot water if I showered at "prime time" when everyone returns from the beach and gets ready for dinner. A slight change in my schedule fixed the problem. The bathroom contained a four piece bath, and there was also a bidet. A slight water leak left a tiny puddle near the floor drain. The air conditioning worked fine but wasn’t needed most of the time. My patio door was slightly stiff to open. All in all, a comfortable room…..I had no complaints.

Beach: A beautiful beach, powdery white sand, but short! Not a beach walker’s beach, as you can easily cover the distance end to end in ten minutes….even a slow saunter could be done in twenty. That said, there were many advantages here. The barrier reef keeps the surf on the beach reasonable, even on very windy days. This enabled me to go sailing on the Hobie Cat almost every day….and some great sails they were. Fast, sometimes scary fast, and wet. Flying the hull almost every trip. Great fun! This beach is also very good for snorkelling. Don’t waste your time on the Mares side. The "good stuff" is in front of PRDO, the hotel next door. You can access the water in a sandy area just east of the PRDO nautical area, and snorkel along the rocks parallel to shore. You’ll see lots of fish here, and when you get to the end of the beach, head out parallel to the rocky cliff, and you will find the reef. I didn’t venture too far, as I was on my own, but with a group or perhaps preferably with a pedal boat, you could easily access the same reef area the snorkel catamaran tours use. I was able to snorkel almost every day….including yellow flag days. For swimming, the Mares side is best. Sandy entrance to the water, which does get deep fairly quickly.

Food: The usual Cuban fare. There were good pasta bars at both buffet restaurants, (except for a lack of Parmesan cheese) and excellent omelets to be had in the morning. I felt the service at the Mares buffet was somewhat better than the Luna side. I tried two a la carte restaurants. The Mexican was fine….spicy food in Cuba! I enjoyed the Italian meal very much.(funny enough, they had Parmesan cheese!) Both these restaurants are open air, which can get a little interesting when it is raining. The roof protects well enough, but if it’s windy the side tables can get a bit wet. The Italian restaurant becomes the snack bar at lunchtime, and offers good Pizza. Both beach restaurants are open as snack bars at noon.

Activities: I didn’t go on any of the tours, but did use the excellent free activities offered by the animation staff. The walk up the "hill" behind the resort is worth it for the view, and the "Mini Zoo" was interesting. I skipped the bike tour to Guardalavaca and went myself on a cloudy morning. It’s not far, but would be tiring on a hot, sunny day. I went to the market and had a look around. A Cuban man offered to watch my bicycle, which I appreciated. He didn’t ask me for money, but I tipped him 1 CUC when I was leaving. (he seemed to have made quite a business for himself watching bicycles for tourists….and it’s great not to have to trundle the bike through the market). I was hoping to have a tour of the resort next door (Paradisus Rio de Oro), but it got washed out. Likewise, the snorkelling was cancelled due to too much surf. Other activities included archery (at the beach), dance lessons, Spanish lessons. I didn’t bother with any of these, but observed them taking place.

Entertainment: I didn’t bother with the nightly shows, but enjoyed the Pianist in the Luna lobby every night. The only difficulty was finding a place to sit, as she is popular! Second hand smoke is also an issue here.

Banks: There are Cadecas at both Luna and Mares, so it’s pretty convenient to exchange money. They are open fairly long hours (including into the evening).

Internet: There is currently only one computer available for Internet access. It is located in the Mares lobby, and is quite popular. The upside is it seems to be "high speed", at least in comparison to others I have used in Cuba. Also, the cost is an affordable 3 CUC for 30 minutes, which is all I needed to send an email a day.

Staff: Most of the staff I encountered were friendly and helpful. I thought the buffet staff were a bit distant (with a few notable exceptions), just doing their jobs and that’s all. Activities staff were helpful and fun, and my maid was very nice and friendly when I encountered her. The staff at the beach who place your lounger where you request it seem cheerful and eager to help (I tried getting my own chair the first day, and didn’t get very far before someone was at my elbow taking it from me and asking me where I wanted to sit). On the other hand, the guy who hands out the bicycles seemed only interested in getting my room number, not in helping me choose an appropriate bike.

Notable: There are roof patios at the ends of buildings 8000 and 7000 which have loungers on them, and a very nice view. There are also wonderful views to be had upstairs on the Mares side. There are couches to sit on by the fourth floor elevators Look around. These places are apparently not well known and therefore are perfect spots to relax if you seek peace and quiet.

Conclusion: I had a good vacation at this resort. It’s large enough to be interesting, but not too big to conveniently walk around. There are many choices for eating and drinking, including two restaurants right on the beach. There is excellent sailing and snorkelling available. You can hike in the hills if you crave walking. It’s easy to bicycle to the nearest town. This resort is a good choice for people who like to relax but have the option to keep busy. It’s starting to show its age, and I did hear a few complaints from people who were less happy with their rooms than I. It might not please those who crave luxury and great food above all else, but is a very good choice for the budget traveller.

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