We vacationed at the Sol Cayo Largo (SCL) from October 17-24, 2010. This was our 6th trip to Cuba, 1st to SCL and we are a married couple in our 40’s. Here is my review and findings of what my wife and I consider our new favourite resort.
We were through customs in a very short time. I would have to say that Travel operators could have had better organization of telling us which bus to get on as I had to search for the Hola Sun Rep. The bus trip was a short 10 minutes at the most. We arrived at the resort at around 10pm and we were able to go straight to the buffet where there was quite the spread of food. After a good bite to eat, we went to the desk and were quickly given our room cards. I noticed that the front desk had everyone’s room info waiting behind the desk. Very well organized! I noticed this practice was repeated every day guests were arriving through the week. We were quickly driven to our room and shown the unit’s amenities.
I had read a review which recommended room# 1024. This is in building 10 on the second floor and is located at the east side of the resort. I had emailed a week before leaving, asking if it was possible to reserve it. While we did not get 1024 we were given 1023 next door which also has a decent view of the ocean. It was bright and clean, with a standard size bathroom which had a wall-hung hair dryer. The room contained a king size bed which had a fairly comfortable mattress, better than some I’ve slept on in Cuba. We also had a bar fridge with 1 bottle of water replenished daily. There were extra pillows and blankets in the closet. The closet also housed the safe which was operated by 1 of the 2 room cards. We did not have to pay extra for the safe. On the balcony facing the ocean was a table and 2 chairs. There were never any bugs in our room. The shower, sink, air conditioner and toilet worked well. There was always enough hot water except for one late evening. All the electrical outlets were 220 volt that would fit North American and European prongs. If there is one negative about the room, we wished there was better lighting in the room and bathroom. Unlike other resorts, we did not find much on the TV to much.
Restaurants and Bars: The SCL consists of 2 a la carte Restaurants; Las Trinas, and the Ranchon. The Lobby bar is located just past the lobby. The pool bar where you can get delicious sandwiches and pizza on the opposite side and the beach bar. The buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My wife and I enjoyed every meal at the SCL. I found the food at the buffet better than some other resorts. I always had enough to eat, found the food quite tasty, and never went hungry. Most of the restaurants serve a collection of chicken, pork, and beef. The Las Trinas, among other dishes, serves a delicious smoked salmon appetizer, lobster bisque, and filet mignon. The pork chop dish is quite tasty as well. They also serve a nice selection of desserts. The Ranchon was also quite good. You can also order a lobster for an extra 20 pesos. The buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is your typical Cuban buffet. Dishes of pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, rice, fish, mussels, as well as cold cuts, assortment of salads, beans, bacon and eggs (breakfast), and breads and buns. There is also a tasty pastry bar and ice cream bar. For all meals you can have different items fried for you on a griddle, i.e. omelettes, beef, chicken, and pork. They even have a pasta bar and a pancake/crepe bar.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The grounds are beautiful with many palms and flowering bushes. I was actually surprised by how lush the grounds were, given that this area contains a lot of scrub. Walkways wind around the resort connecting all the buildings and amenities. A large fish pond stretches around the front of the buffet, lobby and over to Las Trinas and Karaoke buildings. I would say that for the most part it is very guest friendly, even for anyone with a wheelchair, with the exception of the stairs down to the beach. POOL
Actually, I should say pools. The 2 salt water free form pools are beautiful, large and very guest friendly. One has a small island of palm trees and flowering bushes and at the end has the swim up bar. I should add, if you leave your belongings by the pool in the evening and don’t come back until after the pool caretakers have straightened up, you may find them gone. If this does happen, ask the pool caretakers as they have probably picked them up and put them in a lost and found.
This year our trip was with Hola Sun, and flight through Canjet. We booked our trip through Cassandra at Bravo Travel, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Cassandra was great to deal with and very helpful and was able to match $ to $ the price I found on line. I highly recommend her as a travel agent.
As I mentioned it was through Canjet and the aircraft was the Boeing 737 and while it is a smaller aircraft, we found it to have better leg room than the Airbus A320 we flew last year. I would have to say that the flight crew was very accommodating and professional. I do wish that they would have served water/drinks faster after serving the light snack. This year we had a short stopover in Santiago de Cuba. After about 25 mins, we were up in the air and on to Cayo Largo. It was quite interesting to land in Cayo Largo as it is a relatively short runway and it seemed that the thrusters came on as soon as the back wheels touched and didn’t stop until the end of the runway. The flight back started out interesting. We were delayed in Cuba for close to 4 hrs. After the wait, the Captain got us to cruising altitude quickly and got us home in just over 3 hours.
The weather this year was next to perfect. I was worried before we left as we were due to fly out at the same time Hurricane Paula was around the middle of Cuba even though it had dissipated to a tropical depression. I emailed the SCL and they emailed me back very quickly to assure me that Cayo Largo was not hampered at all by Paula. We had mostly sunny days and a couple times that rained over night. Three days started out overcast but it cleared up by 11am or so. The temperatures were mid to high 30’s throughout the week. For most of the week it was windy and the water was wavy, especially the last couple of days.
THE STAFF: I CAN NOT say enough about the staff at this resort, so friendly and accommodating. A special shout out to: Tani and Yudisley in the buffet, “Pool Boy” and man of many talents; Yoansy, and Gardener Firenzio, Danieyis, Ivo and Sommelier Jorge in Las Trinas, Noel “the dancing fool” Lobby Bar Bartender, Mario and Antonio in the Lobby Bar and Cobas at the Beach Bar. One cannot forget Carlos at the beach with his dog “Lola”. These people certainly made our stay even more memorable. For those of you taking gifts, please note that what many can use are kids shoes and adult shoes, soap, shower gel and shampoo. Baseball mitts, balls and bats are great too. We took down a whole suitcase full of stuff and even gave away the suitcase. The person we gave it to was so happy for it. If you do happen to have a spare suitcase, someone there may need one. Keep in mind that the staff typically work 20 days straight and 10 days at home. They stay in the village for those 20 days. I was blown away by several of staff who gave us a gift back in appreciation for what we gave them.
The village where the resort workers live is a short distance away. We rented a scooter one overcast morning and rode into the village. You’ll find a; restaurant, bar, Caracol gift shop, LCDH (La Casa del Habano) cigar shop, museum, dive shop, and a bank. The LCDH also has a selection of liquor and coffee. Please do take in the little Turtle Sanctuary. They ask for a 1 peso donation. If you are lucky enough, you may be able to take part in the releasing of baby turtles from the resort beach, which we quite enjoyed.
The airport has a very small selection. For any serious cigar smoker I highly recommend buying your cigars at the LCDH in the village. It has a much better selection. Please see my pictures of this shop. One thing I do recommend; if you are buying a few boxes, request the official receipt. You should be given duplicate copies, one for you, one for the Cuban Government. Every year I go to Cuba I bring back a few boxes. I always request this receipt regardless what the regulations say. This time it indeed came in handy as my boxes came into question and they asked for the receipt.
BEACH AND OCEAN:
The beach is beautiful! I love the fact that the Pelicano next door is still a distance away. The ocean depth drops off relatively quickly but still extends far enough to enjoy it even in wavy conditions. There are quite a few palapas set back from the ocean near the rocky edge. There are also quite a few A-frame shelters which are set up onto the ledge of the rocks. As many before me have stated, west of the beach bar is designated as the nude area. This is not so much of a separated area as it is an imaginary division of the beach area. Everyone respects this line and does not venture in front of the resort without clothing. Also, when walking west along the beach, even far past the resort you will encounter someone walking wearing nothing but a smile. I personally love to walk the beach and this area is amazing for walking. I walked close to 10km on a few days. We also did visit Paraiso (Para-eetzo) beach and Sirena beach. I personally think Sirena is the better of the 2. There is a small bar hut located at Paraiso where, for a couple of pesos you can buy a drink, ie; beer or even a mojito. Sirena has a few people who will walk the beach area asking if you want a drink and will deliver it to you. Do note that drinks are about a peso or 2 more at Sirena.
LOBBY and STORE:
The Lobby is not overly large but is open and airy, with a central fountain. Not a lot to mention about the store; typical Cuban souvenirs as well as some clothing and a small selection of cigars and alcohol.
I would have to say that their evening entertainment is well performed by very talented people. I would highly recommend taking in any of them.
DEPARTURE: The Cayo Largo airport is not large, nor up to date. While standing in line at the ticket counters, we found it quite warm. I’m not sure if they had AC and it wasn’t working or if this section just didn’t have AC. Once through customs, you’ll find a waiting area with uncomfortable chairs. This section does have AC but we still found it quite warm. You’ll also find bathrooms, a small Caracol gift shop and a bar sectioned off from the waiting area, which seemed to have better AC and more comfortable chairs. The bar had a sectioned off room for smokers. Be forewarned, when people enter and exit the smoking room, smoke enters the bar area and can be quite over powering. The gift shop had a very small assortment of standard gifts and cigars. The bathroom; when you enter, you “donate” 1 peso for several sheets of toilet paper to a lady at the entrance and there were not any toilet seats. To finish, we thoroughly enjoyed our 1st vacation to this beautiful resort. I would highly recommend it and personally look forward to many more vacations to this amazing cayo.