Having been to all other major and quite a few minor tourist areas in Cuba, Cayo Santa Maria was the last but not least on our "Cuban Places to See" bucket list. Looking back on our week, we have to say we came away from our stay at Sol Cayo Santa Maria, very very pleased. It is a small, 300 room, 3-3 1/2 star, well treed, well landscaped, beachfront property, it was initially opened in 2001. All of the rooms are housed in one and two-story buildings, some with ocean view, some not. Because of the heavy vegetation, even if you were in the one-story oceanfront, you wouldn’t get a particularly good view of the ocean from most of those, although, some of the two-story buildings may afford that view. Our particular room, number 5805, was on the top floor of a two story four-plex, the building was cocooned in a leafy heavily treed area on the southeast side of the property, close by the Melia. As we were on the second floor we were at tree top level and could if we wanted, enjoy from the comfort of our covered balcony, the warm early morning sunshine, then again, could on occasion, enjoy the hot late afternoon sun from a covered shared area balcony just outside our front door. For us this was, although a little timeworn, an ideal, good-sized, reasonably furnished, comfortable, well maintained room.
We would say the hotel food was, for us, much better than the usual 3-3 1/2 star Cuban food that we have come to know in our travels in Cuba. We enjoyed, our nicely prepared, nicely presented meals, at the buffet, where i have to say we had lots of choice at all meals, however we did enjoy having lunch on a couple of occasions at the rustic "La Picua" beachfront Ranchon. The service at this hotel from housekeeping to bars to meals, was for us, very very good. Only on one occasion were we very disappointed by a buffet servers attitude. The property has an unbelievably good beach with lots of Palapas for shade and a good amount of lounges. We also enjoyed a very nice quiet after lunch snooze on lounges at the shallow pool close by the buffet. With the exception of the à la carte, we took full advantage of all the perks that this property had to offer. I have to say, for our whole week, we weren’t wanting for any services in the line of food or drink, all of the staff were very caring, pleasant in manner, and very attentive to our needs. As far as bugs and other critters are concerned, neither one of us had either a mosquito bite or a noseeum bite, that was a first for us on our many travels in Cuba. For the bugs, the property edges were heavily fogged both early morning and late evening, and on one day, several workmen very carefully hand sprayed the undergrowth throughout the property with some type of insecticide, it seemed very effective. We would certainly come back to this hotel again as it was top value for the money we spent. Below, for those who are interested, is a more detailed description of the property.
Arrival And Check-in:. We flew with Air Canada from Toronto to Santa Clara, on a late afternoon, on time, 3 1/2 hour, completely booked flight. Arriving after dark in the small but very efficient Santa Clara Airport, we were quickly hustled to our bus through, friendly and efficient, customs and emigration and security officials. Our luggage was waiting for us and we quickly boarded the bus to the hotel. As it was after dark, the bus trip was really a two-hour nonevent journey, before we knew it we were checking in to the hotel along with a couple of other people, SCSM was the last drop off point for the bus. Checking in was easy and painless and having studied a map of the hotel before we came, we were quickly to our room stowing our luggage.
Rooms: Our Room: A very nice, simple spacious room, furnished with, a comfortable king bed, two bedside tables with drawers, two rocking chairs, a fridge, a television, writing table with drawers, closet with chest of drawers and quite a few clothes hangers, the closet housed a programmable good-sized safe (security box). We liked the safe as you could program it with your own code, you could house a lot of valuables in the safe. The bathroom was quite large with a very nice vanity with sink, a hair dryer and 110 V/220 V electrical shaver plugs, full bath tub and shower, clear picture window by the bathtub, this window overlooked the surrounding forest, thank goodness for the roll down blinds or, on having my shower, everyone on the pathway would have been entertained every morning, a horror show before breakfast you dont need. LOL. The electric plug receptacles were all 220 V, you may need an adapter and or converter. Our room was a large nicely tiled living space, from the room you could access, through secure sliding doors, a good-sized balcony furnished with two wicker chairs and a table. Reclining on the balcony, on our rocking chairs, catching the very early morning sun, we felt we had gone to heaven.
When you had the balcony doors and your front door open, there was a beautiful cross breeze, this, along with a very quiet efficient ceiling fan, helped to cool the room down as we didn’t use our air-conditioning during the day. We only used the air-conditioning when we left to go to dinner and on returning to the room turned it off and used the ceiling fan, our room was comfortable the whole night through. Good housekeeping all week, no shortage of towels, soap, shampoo etc., room meticulously cleaned everyday, including the windows.
Food: Food:. Through the week we mostly dined at the buffet, the exception being, two occasions at lunch when we dined at the beachfront Ranchon. For us the food at the buffet was a cut above the usual three star Cuban fare, all food in the buffet was nicely prepared and nicely presented. We were very pleased with the variety and the amount of food offered at every meal. FOR BREAKFAST in the mornings you could get a very delicious cup of Cuban coffee with a beautiful creamy top, this was served to us by our wonderful lady server, who always adorned the creamy top with a chocolate powder happy face, a lovely touch. There was a short order cook who did your eggs any style, he did this in a quick and professional manner. There was, from the different hot tables, lots of other goodies to choose from— bacon, pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages, beans, potatoes. In addition there was toast, cheeses, cold meats, some pastries, fruit, yogurt, fruit smoothies, lots of cereal and many other choices. A good breakfast table. Lunch at the buffet, where there were two short order cooks, one of the cooks doing a variety of fresh fish fillets, cooked to your liking, wine was used in the cooking of the fish if you so desired, a nice touch. The other cook looked after, chicken, pork, beef, liver, a good variety. Lots of variety of vegetables and other meat dishes (black bean chili, breaded chicken cutlets, lamb, ham, and breads and a variety of other dishes, differing on a daily basis. There was always a good selection of salads and cold meats, lots of bread, soup was also served. There was also a pasta station, pasta cooked to your specification. For dessert you can have fresh fruit and ice cream available along with lots of different pastries. . DINNER. The menu for dinner was a mirror image of the lunch menu with an addition of a roast turkey or pork joint carved for you. They served a good quality wine with both lunch and dinner, beer was also available.
RANCHON: The two occasions we had the pleasure of dining at the rustic thatched "La Picua" beachfront Ranchon, we found the food to be quite good. On those occasions we had BBQ chicken brochettes, accompanied with salad and we opted for the poutine style french fries as a side,our lunch was washed down with a nice cold Cervesa, we certainly enjoyed those meals in such a wonderful location with a panoramic view of that white fringed turquoise ocean.
Bars:. They had five bars that were operating during our week. The "Patio Bar" by the lobby which we frequented in the late afternoon and evening is a 24-hour bar. The piano bar usually opened around 6 p.m. and closed around 10 p.m. or maybe a little later. There was no music or piano playing at this bar during our stay, it was quite a lovely indoor bar with lots of seating. The pool bar operated from about 09:00 – 18:00. Nice bar serving simple cocktails and beer, they also served toasted sandwiches as snacks. The Cuban Bar "Los Flamencos" down close to the beach was open from about 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., they served pizza from 12:30 p.m. until 3 p.m.. The beachfront "La Picua" Ranchon served simple rum cocktails and beer from about 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., a simple lunch of burgers, hot dogs and chicken brochettes was served here also. We encountered very good service at all bars.
The Beach:. Sol Cayo Santa Maria beach is quite beautiful, we were pleasantly surprised about how wide and how long it was. The powdery white soft sand fringing that beautiful turquoise ocean was a stunning sight, looking at this we were sorry that we hadn’t visited this beautiful place before. We have been to quite a few beaches in Cuba and this beach would compare with any that we have seen. Maybe we were saving the best for last. Lots of shade, lots of lounges, a nice beach bar, catamarans, paddle boats, sea kayaks. Everything you would want on a beach.
Pool and Grounds:
Pool And Grounds:. What a lovely pool, this pool was sectioned off into four sections. Lots of shower areas. Lots of lounges at all times while we were there, we only seen the odd lounge saved with a towel. We had no problems at any time getting a lounger for to lay in the sun, this we did at some point every day. The pool bar was centered in the pool area but with no swim up bar, access to the bar from the pool area was by a bridge or stairs. Overall a very nice pool set up,also a beautifully maintained and landscaped pool area. The hotel grounds were very well kept with lots of treed walkways, small park bench rest areas, a smattering of tropicals throughout the property, the property is also heavily treed as the hotel is in a natural preserve. A very pretty place,so easy to get around as well.
Small Gripes:. In the buildings where we stayed and at many other buildings, the wooden railings on the stairs desperately needs to be replaced, they are unsafe. Please, have some piano music at the piano bar or don’t call it the piano bar, the piano bar is one of the facilities that attracted us to book the Sol. Lack of toilet paper in some of the public washrooms, no excuse for that.
Enjoyments:. They were many. The service with a smile in all areas of this hotel, good bar service at all open bars, the beautiful walkways, which we strolled every day, all throughout the property. One of the best beaches in Cuba, one of the best vistas of the turquoise ocean and beach from a beachfront Ranchon, lots of beach lounges and shade, good food at the buffet, a lovely pool to relax at, good public relations, our lovely room and balcony. The myriads of trees that cover the property, the landscaping and the many sculptures and potted plants throughout the property, the wonderful quietness of our room area and of course, sunshine, sunshine, sunshine.
Santa Clara Airport:
Santa Clara Airport: It was daylight making our way back to Santa Clara and home to Toronto. Our Air Canada rep on the bus to the airport gave us a running commentary of all of the landmarks and interesting sites that we passed, this was most interesting and he certainly kept us well-informed about the history and flora and fauna of the area. It was like having a tour that was included in your fare. Santa Clara Airport is quite compact but very nice indeed. No problems through customs and with a couple of hours to go before our flight we had a couple of nice Cristal Cervesa at 1.80 CUC each and some sandwiches made at the hotel and before you knew it we were winging our way back, on time, to Toronto. We will definitely be back to Santa Clara and SCSM.