Arrived late at nigth (with two hours of delay cause of some flight problems), the front desk staff was efficient though noone cared to show us out room. We had to figure out for ourself where it was, which was relatively easy with the directions around the site. There was a lite lunch waiting for us in the minibar – cheese and ham sandwich with cut fruits. There was also a full bottle of water as well as a silver rum bottle as a welcome gift.
Rooms: The room was nice and very well located. We were in room 40, the closest to the beach and the pool bar. We had a large porch area, a queen bed, large bathroom with towels, TV with satellite (which proved VERY useful given the AWFUL weather we had all week long lol), a mini bar… the usual. The AC seems to work fine, though it was so cold during the week that we wished for heating instead of AC… which the room didnt offer. We piled up the blankets and eventually even put towels at the bottom of the door to block the wind from coming in (our room facing the sea, it was even more windy than elsewhere on the site). The maid came everyday and did a nice job, with the daily towel art and a very respectful all around cleaning. . Our friends had twin beds instead of a queen, with separate linens. They asked for queen sheets with a written note to their maid and got them the same day. All in all, a good service.
The reviews about bugs are true, though : there was ants in our room as soon as we left any food around, even for a short time, and that included the glasses emptied from their drinks and even the plastic straw. Just dont let anything stand without washing them carefully and you should be ok.
Restaurants and Bars: The bar were very nice, especially the bra staff. My favorites definitely were the night guys from the pool bar, but being a Québécoise, I am definitely biased by their very cute French 😉 The drinks were allright, mostly rum based, and the one sort of beer offered (the Cristal) was very nice too. I would have liked a little more variety, but we knew that a 3stars in Cuba couldnt offer the moon… The restaurant definitely was the point that I wish would have been better. I am a foodie, and though I was prepared for a very humble sort of food, the lack of variety eventually was sort of sad. Everyday the buffet offered pastas with two sort of sauce, a grilled meat (pork 80% of the time, burgers the rest of the time), salad made of cucumbers and cabbage and tomatoes, some bread and that was about it. We found something at each meal, and everything was very honest adn not as bland as some people have put it, but I would have taken some variety.
The "À la carte" dinner was nice : a nice, classier ambiance, table service, four services including a nice shrimp apperizer and a choice of beef, pork, poultry or fish as main dish. The pool "collation" kitchen offered ham and cheese "paninis" everyday beetween meal time and though very simple, those were something my friends and I liked very much!
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The week we were there was especially cold and we were able to swim in the sea only two of the seven days because of wave conditions and jellyfishs. Given that state of thing, we would have wished to use the pool more, but it was so damn cold we only dared once. I understand we were in a very bad week and that it would been very surprising for a cuban resort to have heated outdoor pool, but it would have been really appreciated. Other than that, the beach is relatively nice and especially quiet : no need to run every morning to "reserve" your chair. The highlight of the resort isnt its beach, though, it definitely is its coral reef and snorkeling opportunities. We only got to swim twice, but those two days are the best memories ill keep of my trip: with basic snorkeling equipment (that you can also borrow at the hotel), youll get to swim to the reef that is about 250 meters from the shore, and there youll witness the wonderful variety the cuban seas as to offer in terms of fishs and corrals and anemones, in a setting that dazzled me. Honestly, all the time you can spend in the water, do so : just be careful as some of the reef are covered in corrals that can scratch you and the waves can be traitorous.
The grounds were very nice, well kept and relatively clean. Every morning, we would walk into one of the gardener that would offer us girls a few flowers for our room or to put in our hair. There were also a few cute stray dogs around, all very friendly. If I ever go back to that resort, I will be sure to pack dog treats in, for the dogs, though everyone was rather nice to them and, therefore, was probably giving them bits of this or that, all looks relatively underfed…
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We took the Jeep Nature Safari on one of the days we couldnt use the beach and we were really happy we did. The guide was lovely and we had the best of time driving like crazy on the small muddy roads, trying to get the jeep as dirty as possible!! The stops during the day were OK but all in all, it was a great opportunity to get out of the resort and see the area (the Matanzas region especially). Instead of taking the organized tour of La Habana, we dealt a "taxi" with someone from the hotel. The car picked us up out of the hotel and drove us to the capital and back for 70 pesos – a real deal! Our driver didnt speak english but we managed to communicate with him anyway and he dropped us where we wanted and waited for us all day. He offered to take us around town, but we prefered to do it by foot – and boy are we glad we did! Our daytrip to La Habana is definitely one of my favorite part of the trip. It is a wonderful city, vibrant, colorful… an happy sort of mess, too!! Everything looks and feels like it was stuck in time, and we had a very good time walking aorund the old part of the city and through ‘real streets’ to the Capitolio. I highly recommend taking a day of your stay at Jibacoa for exploring the capital : it will add a lot to your comprehension of Cuba and its people.
We also went and have a dinner at a local fisherman’s house. It was also organised with someone from the hotel. We were offered langoustines, rice, manioc, banana chips, salad, all this for 15 pesos per person. It was a very unique experience, getting into those people’s house, eating at their table, getting to see how they live. Its illegal but a lot of people do it anyway, just listen or ask around at the hotel : youll find what you need!
Other Comments: What really made our stay special definitely was the staff. They were all genuinely fun and welcoming and we felt at home in a matter of no time at all. Given the horrible weather, we would have liked a little bit more daytime activities (baseball, sand castle contests, anything!!), but it gave us plenty of time to relax and get rested! The animation team, the bar staff, the waitresses, everyone was awesome! We were told to bring things to offer our maid, little gifts from the dollar store. After talking very openly about life and money with a few people there, we understood what was really needed was clothes. Should we go back, I would take the 20 bucks we put in stupid dollar stores things and use it to buy secondhand, clean, useful clothes. Shoes, jeans, skirts, dress shirts… everything is needed and could make a HUGE difference to those people. And think of offering your present to people that dont usually receive anything from tourists : maids will get a lot of gifts, as well as the waitress, and bar staff are receiving lots of tips compared to others. The gardeners, lifeguards and security guards from the beach dont get anything at all : to them, your two-dollars shirt will be a true gift.
All in all, I really liked my stay at the Jibacoa Villa. We knew all along it wasnt going to be a luxury stay, and it wasnt. But otherwise, it kept all its promises : very relax, laid-back atmosphere, friendly staff, great snorkeling, quiet setting. I would definitely go back and I recommand it to anyone looking for a different sort of stat in Cuba, something more like a summer camp for adults than a big international hotel.