This is a place for a CHEAP get-away, NOT a luxury vacation. If someone can over-looked minor irritants & is the type of person that always sees their ‘glass as half-full, not half empty’, when remembering it is half the cost of many other packages in Cuba, they’ll feel safe & satisfied here.
Arrival: The hour-or-so ride from the Santa Clara airport was in a comfortable modern bus but, to the extreme discomfort of several passengers who bought beer for the ride, the bathroom was not functional. Be warned – this happens a lot!
Hotel check in was efficient. I didn’t wait for a bell-hop as i had rolling luggage,but a gardener saw me having trouble on the walkway stairs & offered help.
My 2nd floor ocean-facing room was dated & simple, but it was comfortable and everything worked. I had declined a similar ground floor room with a cute patio because the sliding door could not be secured. Friends in rooms closer to the main hotel & facing it (334,368,365) had similar but acceptable facilities, with the occasional shabby item. Hot water was a problem for a friend one day.
Restaurants and Bars: The main buffet included lots of fresh fruit & quantities of wonderful ice-cream. All of the baked deserts have the same taste (or lack thereof) even if they look different. At every meal there was a few choices of meat & vegetables, so there was always something to eat unless you’re quite picky. The eggs/omelettes cooked to order, and ‘while-you-wait’ fruit smoothies were very good, IMHO. That said, no one will leave the country raving about the food at this hotel – except for that incredible ice-cream, which is as good as I’ve had anywhere in Cuba.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The hotel grounds were pleasant, the bars had friendly & efficient staff, the food was certainly acceptable. The pool looked good & was conveniently located.
This Caribbean beach is warmer than at those fancier places on the Atlantic side of the country, but smaller & less isolated from ‘local business people’.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: The entertainment was of varying quality. There was an excellent & authentic musical group performance Monday Dec 26. A dance troupe on the Thursday night was also technically strong. It costs at least $10 each way for a taxi to the classical nearby city of Cienfuegos (approx 15 minute ride). It’s well worth a visit. The central area has been improved, with more commercial activity for locals & tourists. Although it’s fun & safe thing to do, if you aren’t adventurous about going independently by taxi, the (Monday??) guided tour from the hotel is reasonably priced. On another visit I went on an eco-tour to ‘El Nicho’, a cascading river viewed in refreshing mountain air. If you like nature w/o gimmicks, I highly recommend this totally-off-the-beaten-track spot. The hills are so steep that few cars can get you there safely, so the excursion (full day-trip) from Rancho Luna is not unreasonable at about $50 or 75. You walk a steep well-tended trail so some fitness & sensible shoes are important. We enjoyed an option of swimming in the fresh pools of the waterfall, a unique & exhilarating experience. PREPARE: I don’t recall any changing rooms at the natural pool on the trail itself, although there are ‘facilities’ at the base-restaurant.
Other Comments: The guests were a generally informal friendly sort, interested in low-budget fun, not so much culture. Significant numbers where from Europe, and some Cubans, as well as lots of Canadians. I didn’t see much to keep a child entertained. There were an unusual percentage of older men. Two things I noticed at Rancho Luna: – the two public internet terminals actually worked, this week had no line-ups & were cheaper than in Cayo Santa Maria
– Iagna, the Hola Sun tour rep was reliable about attending was scheduled, informative about options & diligent in advancing my question when I had a request of hotel management.