Old Reviews – Villa Tropico (Cameleon Villa Jibacoa)

My second visit to this resort. I travelled here exactly the same date last year. Quite a different experience this year, due to a "plague" of Portuguese Man O’ War that made snorkelling and ocean swimming all but impossible.

Arrival: I can’t say enough about the way this resort treats returning guests. My flight got in fairly late in the evening, and when I arrived at my room the lights were on, the air conditioner was running, there was a fruit plate and a sandwich plate in my fridge, and a nice note welcoming me and inviting me to a special dinner for repeat clients. This in addition to Nolitours gift of rum and coffee and a 1.5 liter bottle of water. The porter brought my bags promptly and informed me of the "goodies" in the fridge.

Room: Room #6, exactly where I wanted to be. Close to the beach, nice view, comfortable room in a quiet location. My maid did a wonderful job keeping things clean and tidy, and amused me daily with "towel art". The water here is always hot and plentiful. (solar heater with units on the roof) The A/C had a problem the first night, (noisy & dripping water) but before I could report it the next morning, my maid had noticed and when I returned from breakfast the repairs were just being completed. Excellent service! I find the beds at Cameleon more comfortable than most. They are softer, which might not suit everyone, but I find the beds at most resorts are too firm for me. At Cameleon I got a good night’s sleep.

Beach: Of course, this beach is golden, not white, and it’s quite short. If you crave more walking, you can continue to the west past the Cuban campgrounds and go for quite a ways (with the occasional inland detour on sandy paths). As you pass the point at the end of the resort beach, you will often encounter Cubans who are looking for handouts of clothing or supplies. While I sympathize with poverty in Cuba, I do find it difficult to feel charitable towards rather pushy individuals who on one memorable occasion were dressed better than I was, and who had obviously been better fed! In the mornings it was interesting to watch a Cuban biology class who came most days to study the marine life. There is lots of shade at the beach, and enough chairs so it is never necessary to play the "towel game" of reserving a shady spot. It was necessary to watch where you walked on the beach this year, because of the washed up Portuguese Man O’ War’s that littered the beach and continued to wash ashore after the seaweed and debris had been raked in the morning. I did quite a bit of sailing on the Hobie Cat, despite it being out of commission for a day while having the hull repaired. When I saw the boat upside down on the beach I expected the worst, but was delighted to find it back in service (as promised) the following day.

Weather: Windy the first couple of days….which of course was the reason for so many PMOW’s later in the week. We had red flags all week, but only the first 2 days because of wind. Jellyfish stings are never pleasant, and those from PMOW’s can be dangerous. I did manage to snorkel a few times, but it was nerve wracking and tense, keeping an eye out for the floating monsters! Several people did get stung, although most superficially. One woman was stung while kayaking when she inadvertently hooked the tentacles of a Man O’ War with her paddle and suffered a couple of welts on her arm.

Food & Drink: Just as I remembered from last year. Only one a la carte restaurant which I did visit this year and found the food very good. Most days I ate at the buffet for all three meals, although there is snack food available at the pool bar and on one occasion there was a BBQ and buffet served there for lunch. There was also live entertainment….a very good band with singers….one afternoon at the pool. I had no difficulty finding enough tasty food to eat, and the Spanish Coffee is still excellent at the lobby bar.

Activities: There is a full slate of free activities, ranging from physically challenging like the hike up the hill (which is worthwhile for the view) and the bicycle tour to the less strenuous walking tour and the Spanish lessons. I didn’t go on any of the off resort excursions, but there are all the usual choices including of course Havana tours.

Pool: I spent more time here than I usually would, because of the beach conditions. There are two pools, and the deeper one is just fine to swim in.

Internet: Although a bit slow, this was quite reliable and I used it for all my communications home. There is only one computer, located at the lobby. It was not in constant use and I seldom had to line up to use it.

Staff: As I remembered from last year, the staff are very pleasant and helpful. It was interesting to note at the special dinner for returning guests that when asked they all cited "staff" as a major reason for their return.

Conclusion: This is a wonderful resort, and superb value. With the parklike setting and mature trees full of birdsong, it’s a joy to just walk around the grounds. I would definitely return, and recommend it to others, the only caveat being the likelihood of Portuguese Man O’ War spoiling beach activities. This is the only place in Cuba I have encountered this variety of jellyfish (although I’ve been told they sometimes wash up in Varadero) and particularly as Jibacoa is such a great off the beach snorkelling destination this is something to bear in mind. (the same would obviously apply to Breezes Jibacoa next door)

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