This being my first trip to Cuba I went with an open mind after reading all the reviews. We traveled Apr 22-29 and were pleased with the decision to visit the SCSM, it is a nice, quiet getaway at the right price. We flew with Air Transat, no issues, they provided full meals on the plane (going and coming) so there was no need to buy food at the airport and bring on board. 90mins bus ride to the hotel. Traveling to the hotel the bus rep provided commentary on the passing towns.
The people at the resort give A+ service, everyone we came in contact with (front desk, housekeeping, bartenders, waiters, cooks, tour guides, even groundskeepers) were genuinely helpful, courteous, and willing to please us. We brought items to give to the staff (school supplies, toiletries, clothes, etc) and everyone we gave was very grateful for it. Memorable people; Osvaldo was our waiter in the buffet, amazing service. Yoslan made us crepes every morning and a special pizza the day we left, amazing service. Arnaldo was our bus tour guide to Topes, provided a wealth of knowledge on Cuban history. Ceasar, bartender at the pool bar, makes great drinks and sandwiches. The staff at La Picua, Los Flamencos, the front-desk, and our nature hike guide made our Cuba trip unforgettable and longing to come back.
Stayed in room 4507, 2nd floor. Very spacious, tiled floor with the balcony facing the ocean (was able to wake up to the sunrise). Beds were comfortable and sheet design/art was left by the maid some days. Furnished with bed w/ side tables, a mini fridge (restocked daily w/ bottled water), a television, 2 rocking chairs w/ small table, a writing table, a bench, a self-programmable safe (not bolted down in this room, some rooms have bolted down safe), standing lamp, wall lamps, full size mirror. A/C worked perfectly, had to turn it down or off at times b/c it was too cold. Bathroom has bathtub w/ hand held shower (water pressure was a bit low but always had hot running water), hairdryer, complimentary bag of shampoo/conditioner/soap/show caps. Balcony has 2 chairs w/ small table (mostly used these to dry our wet clothes). 220V electrical plugs (bring adapter/converter). Ceiling fan did not work (wasn’t an issue). Towels were not changed daily (we had to ask the maid for clean ones), and no wash/face cloths are provided.
Restaurants and Bars: The overall food at the resort was fine. You won’t go hungry and there is something for everyone. Main Buffet (B/fast: 7-10a, lunch: 1-3p, dinner: 7-10p). There is a crepes station, a juice station, and an egg/omelette station. Each morning we had freshly made crepes, omelettes and orange or mango juice. There are a couple of flat grill stations where they cook chicken/beef/pork/fish/seafood for lunch/dinner. They serve juice, beer, wine, and bottled water. Standard international foods in the main buffet. Negative observations about the buffet is the amount of files, they need to keep the doors closed. Also, in the main buffet you sometimes need to search for clean plates/cups as they are not always clean. 2 à la carte restaurant: Los Cocos (Creole rest.) and La Fontanella (Italian rest.). You need to make reservations sooner than later b/c they book up fast. Los Cocos is outdoor and located near the beach. We had the grill chicken and snapper served with rice/squash/cooked veggies. La Fontanella is indoors and has an elegant ambiance. Main courses include spaghetti /pasta with beef or shrimp, lasagne, chicken supreme w/ 3 sauces and mash potatoes, and beef loin. Desserts included ice cream and crepes w/ fruits. We preferred the Italian rest. “Los Flamencos” (Pizza rest.) is opened for lunch and delicious pizza (plain/mushrooms/Hawaiian/vegetarian/seafood)…one of our fav places to eat. “La Picua” (Grill snack bar) is opened for lunch and is located right on the beach so you don’t have to go far for refills. Try the poutine..you won’t be disappointed. Great staff works at both these locations. Pool Bar has a sandwich station where the grill ham/cheese and tuna sandwich. Ham/cheese taste tasty. DRINKS/BARS
There are many bars around the resort.. 24hr lobby bar, the pool bar, beach bar, Piano bar, La Picua bar, Pizza rest. bar. The Piano bar has live entertainment (singer & pianist), nice & quiet atmosphere with great drink selection. At any bar ask for the ‘Santa Maria’ and ‘Havana special’. Bring your travel mugs if you love to drink. One thing to note is the bartenders are extremely generous when pouring you alcohol..no skimping here
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Absolutely, picture perfect, beautiful beach…soft white sand with stunning turquoise ocean. The beach is long and connects to the neighboring resort. The sun keeps the sand nice and hot, feels great to walk on. A lot of loungers and palm umbrellas to relax under. Bring goggles if you want to pick up shells from the ocean floor. There is a bar and a grill/snack bar on the beach. We were not able to take advantage of the Nautical center due to red flag while we were there. Shower area has good water pressure. Main pool has a lot of loungers and umbrella, no need to get up early to reserve. Lots of shower areas. Pool has a volleyball and basketball net. There are shallow areas and a children’s section. No swim-up bar, but the pool bar is in the center of the main pool.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: There are daily activities from morning til night which are posted on the Activity Club’s wall. Activities include beach and pool volleyball, dance/salsa lessons, games & competition, Spanish lesson, and the nightly shows. We only attended 1 night show which included singing, dancing, and a magician..it was good and the crowd was entertained. There is a tourist town 3-5min drive from the resort (beside the Barcelo CSM), a bus comes by the resort every hour to bring you there (1peso/person). There is a spa, a bowling alley, restaurants and cafes, live entertainment, a tower (you can look over into the BCSM resort), and vendors that sell souvenirs/crafts. Great place to go for items to bring back home, great prices. This area is not included in your all-inclusive package. We did the Catamaran excursion (7hrs). Perfect hot, sunny, day filled with fun and relaxation. Non-stop drinks from the onboard bar. First we did the interaction with the dolphins; you sit on a small pier with your legs in the water. The dolphins do tricks and you’re able to pet/play/kiss them. Next we did snorkeling for about an hour. We ate lunch which was either lobster or chicken w/ rice & cooked veggies. Final stop was a private beach where you were able to walk/swim the shallow ocean. We had a great time on this trip, a must do. The sun was really hot! Cost p/p: $82 adults/ $49 child. We also did the Topes Overnight excursion (2days). This trip allowed us to experience the real Cuba; the beautiful mountains, the vast countryside, and a lot of Cuban history. Day 1 involved a 5hr bus ride (with stops) to the town Trinidad. Here we climbed the historic 136 steps (149 feet tall) Iznaga Tower, lunch at El Cubano restaurant, toured downtown Trinidad, visited the Brunet Palace museum, climbed a 100step peak to view the Trinidad valley/mountains, and visited a coffee museum before retiring to our hotel (Los Helechos) in Topes. One negative observation about our hotel room in Topes is that the washroom windows have shutters with no mesh and they do not to shut completely. I had to stuff/jam a towel around it to keep it closed…this was necessary b/c there was a small frog in the washroom.
Day 2 starts with boarding a Russian truck and taking a bumpy ride into the mountains to “Guanayara”. This is the start of a 3hr hike thru the natural park (bring cross-country shoes). Many sights to see and our guide provided knowledgeable info along the way. We went into a large cave, saw the waterfall "El Rocío", took a swim in the river, saw the Cuban national bird, great view of the different mountains, and the hike ended with lunch at La Gallega (chicken/rice/potatoes/veggies). Great experience (at $95pes you won’t be disappointed). Cost p/p: $95 adults/ $72 child.
Other Comments: Tips: The hotel offers late checkout til 4pm for $25pesos, this was useful b/c the bus to the airport left at 6pm and regular checkout is 12noon. Take a walk along the beach to the Melia CSM, you can walk the resort and if you’re lucky get something to eat/drink (bring tip $).