Hotel Barcelo Solymar Arenas Blancas
Travel Blogs from Varadero
... confident or eager to get on boats, especially without a lifejacket on. But after a quarter of a year on the road, and being in a wide variety of travel situations, I wasn't anxious at all. I did make a mental note of where the life jackets were stored, but felt fine as our skiff chugged it's way out to where our boat was anchored, belching out gray smoke that matched the skies ...
... during the meal.
I’m so happy to get a good time together in this trip. Although everybody felt tired of after got a big trek but it’s still OK because many interesting things discovered. Continue the trip we walked to Ta Van village, had some looks then comeback to the house of the host. We were served a delicious meal in which we could see the way the H’mong people cook the meal in the normal day.
Morning in Sapa was very nice. It ...
... andre ting.
Paa veien inn til sentrum, var vi innom en bensinstasjon, som noe uventet viste seg aa ha en del matvarer. Ergo fikk vi handlet inn en del smaatterier til morgendagens etappe.
Dagen etter gjorde vi ikke stort annet enn ĺ forberede oss pĺ ĺ sette ankerplattformen i retning Marina Hemingway.
... solstikk og myggstikk. Det ble dermed ankring i Puerto Padre allerede fřrste kvelden. Den eneste mulige bukta pĺ strekket.
Vi hadde sett oss ut en liten vik med en flott sandstrand ved inngangen til Puerto Padre bukta. Ankeret lĺ pĺ bunn og det sĺ veldig bra ut nĺr VHF 'en sprang til liv. Det var Guarda Nacional. Her kunne vi ikke ligge nei, vi mĺtte inn til byen en times motorkjřring lengere inn i bukta og legge til ved en stygg industrikai. En ...
... experience to chill out in a kayak on Halong Bay, definitely one.
Dinner was a lot more seafood and we just drank away the rest of the evening on the boat. We drank with the Danish couple for most of the evening who were really nice people.
When they went to bed we ended up playing a drinking game called Kings with the American lads which was goodcraic. The whole pack of cards is laid out on the table face down and ...
How has this resort rated in the past?
- Swimming pool
- Wheelchair accessibility
- Fitness/Health center
Historical Traveler Reviews Hotel Barcelo Solymar Arenas Blancas Varadero
We just returned from a two-week stay at Barcelo, Solymar in Cuba and for the most part we were disappointed. Having been to an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, perhaps we were expecting at least as much in Cuba but it wasn't close.The best part was undoubtedly the beach and the ocean. Great water, lots of beach, plenty of chairs . . near-perfect. Other than that . . . The food, at best, was inconsistent. Very greasy, pretty tasteless and it differed from one day to the next. Even the a la carte restaurants were inconsistent. One day it'd be fine . ..two days later, terrible. The staff didn't seem that friendly, especially at the bars. It didn't take us long to figure out that if you were flashing a bit of money, the smiles came out and the service sped up. Very tip-orientated and for an all-inclusive resort, I didn't like that. It's not really all-inclusive if you start to feel obligated to tip $1 U.S. for a 6 oz. glass of beer. The hotel rooms were fairly clean but the staff was slow in making them up and if you ever needed anything (ie toilet paper), you'd better be prepared to wait. The nightly entertainment was good . . lots of audience participation which was fun. DO NOT get a room overtop of the disco . . .very loud, though you get an ocean view. Our room was on the third floor, above the all-night lobby bar and that, too, was loud. The two pools are quite large and fairly cold, but on a nice day most head to the beach anyway. There is usually some food to be found all day/night but again, it's hit and miss. We met others staying at a hotel near Barcelo Solymar and they said their food was excellent. All in all, it was nice to be away from -30 weather but I wouldn't return to that particular hotel. Bring immodium!! And bring Nutragrain or Granola bars . . .you may get hungry! Also, hotel staff is quite appreciative of little trinkets . . .earrings, perfume samples . . . pencils and crayons for their kids. Hope this is helpful. we read similar reviews before we left but unfortunately, had already booked!
Don't Believe What Others Say...
I've been back from Cuba for 2 weeks and can't wait to go back again. Our 1 week stay at the Barcelo Solymar was incredible!! I may be a first time traveller with nothing to compare my experience to but this resort exceeded my expectations. Several of the reviews I read before leaving gave this resort a low rating, but I don't agree with any of them.
As we were on our honeymoon we had requested the package offered by our travel company Conquest, and we were not disappoointed. We expected a fruit plate and a bottle of rum, but we ended up in a bungalow steps away from the beach. The bungalows are great, very spacious for 2. We travelled in a group of 6 and were able to have everyone to our room. The rooms were always cleaned on time and the fridge was always filled with cold drinks for the day. And by what we saw of the hotel rooms in the main building they wouldn't have been bad either.
As most say, the beach was amazing! White sand, clear blue water and never really busy, we could always find a spot. The pool was nice too, but there was always more families with kids there, not what I wanted on my trip.
If you have the chance rent mopeds for a day, we went out twice and had a great ride each time, it's worth the money. If you go out the penninsula, stop at the cave bar, it might not look like much but, it's good enough for a show. The bartender sings and dances for you, he's hilarious! Check out the mall by the golf course too, interesting shops.
For our day trip we took the catamaran tour to Cayo Blanco, we didn't pick the best day for it (cool & cloudy) but it was fun just the same, we had lunch & drinks on the beach and some free time. Heard that the Jeep tour was great though, maybe next time...
The entertainment was always good accept for the 2 shows were at the same time. The disco though is pretty dead, you're better off to sit in the lobby on the comfy couches and drink or get to know the entertainers and they'll take you out after the shows are over.
We knew not to expect great food before going to Cuba, so we were not overly disappointed like some have been. All of the a la carte restaurants were great, incredible & quick service, average food for the most part. When going to the buffets, try the restaurant by the beach for breakfast & lunch, never busy like the main buffet. For lunch also try the grill by the pool, great BBQ'd chicken, we spent a lot of lunches here. Make saure to have the pineapple dessert at the international restaurant (Isabella something is the name). Drinks were average as long as you told them to only put in half the amount of rum. The only thing was they didn't make a lot of the fruity blender drinks like you might expect, which I was disappointed about, but there is always Rum Punch.
We will advise everyone never to fly SkyService, we were really dissappointed by this airline. Our flight was delayed leaving Toronto, Pearson is not a great place to have to sit for 5 hours. Then once we did finally get on a plane we found out we had to go to Cayo Coco before Varadero, we thought we had a direct flight, as did everyone else on the flight. The same thing happend on the way home, we left Varadero and no one knew this again, we had to stop in Cayo Coco. I know that airline food is not great, but they could at least tell you what it is that they are serving you, I still don't know what was in my wrap on the way home. The flight was really the only down fall to the whole trip I have to say.
Overall Solymar is a great place to go with friendly staff, great beaches & lots to drink. I know I can't wait to go back again.
Can not believe what others are saying
I am surprised to read the reviews on this hotel, it seems to me that there must be 2 different hotels with the same name.
The food in my opinion is excellent. There are 4 a la carte restaurants and in the buffet there was at least 5 different meat dishes each meal with at least 2 different fish dishes.
The food was well presented and was always of a good quality.
Food I find is always to personal preference, but I have been to Cuba 8 times over the past couple of years and for me, the Solymar provides better food than most of the other hotels.
Not perfect. But I'll go back for sure!
January 9th to 16th, 2003
Arrival & Checkin
We arrived on time at the hotel at about 11:00am. Check in was very fast which was great, so we figured we would be on the beach by 11:30. Unfortunately the rooms were not ready till 1:30pm. So we had lunch and sat around in our Canadian winter wear since we could not get changed until we got a room. They store your bags for you in a secure luggage room until you check in, but we would have liked to settle in right away and hit the beach. Why leave Toronto at 6:00am to spend 2 1/2 hours killing time waiting for a room?
While we were walking around the grounds of the hotel, we used the time to see where a good location to have a room would be. We noticed the bungalows on the property which were much closer to the beach then the main hotel building. So we requested one. The hotel staff obliged us and gave us a bungalow as close to the beach as you can get at that resort. The bungalow rooms were very clean and modern. with excellent toilet and shower. The balcony was ample size with a table and two chairs. Nice to enjoy the warm evenings smoking a fine Cuban cigar before going to dinner. Just make sure to lock the balcony door when you leave! We left it open once by mistake when we went out for dinner, only to discover that several items were stolen from our room! Fortunately all the valuables were locked in the safe in the room. Nothing major was lost. Just be careful! I recommend trying to get the bungalows. They seem a much better less hotel like feeling then staying in the main building.
The weather for the first 4 days was perfect! Daytime highs in the mid to upper 20s. About 17-20 at night. Very comfortable for lying on the beach during the day and swimming. Excellent for sitting outside at the poolside bars in the evening. The last couple of days were cloudy and too cool to enjoy the beach. So we took a day trip to Havana.
Just as everyone else seems to say in this forum, the beach is incredible! I have been to Cancun and many other places in the Caribbean. This beach is equal to any that I have seen! The water is crystal clear, warm and shallow enough to walk out at least 200m from the shore. The bottom is all sand with no rocks to worry about and almost no seaweed at all. Perfect! One complaint is when it gets windy and the waves go over 1m in height, they chase everyone out of the ocean! Seems stupid, when in Hawaii I seem people bodysurfing and swimming in surf almost 10 meters high! They need to hire some more lifeguards to watch people that may get into trouble. not empty out one of the best beaches in the world!
Everyone seems to have differing opinions on the food. I thought it was pretty good. Not excellent, I have had better at other resorts in the Caribbean. But not horrible either. I did not get sick. Neither did I hear about anyone having problems either. The Cuban and the International a la carte restaurants were very good. The buffet restaurants were excellent at breakfast. The lunch and dinner at the buffet restaurants were hit and miss, depending on the day. Service at all the restaurants were excellent all the time. Plenty of waiters and waitresses to serve all your needs. Leave a $1 or $2 dollar tip at the beginning of your stay and the same waiters will treat you like your best friend for the rest of the stay!
Bars & Nightlife
All the bars were fine, with fast enough service, and friendly staff. All the Cuban people who work at the bars and restaurants are just amazing people! Just talk to them like they are your friend and not a servant, and they will be very warm to you always. They had a great variety of drinks, and never skimp on the booze. Nightlife at the hotel is fairly poor though. After the entertainment shows end around 11, there is a disco that starts. Always was dead when we went to check it out. No idea why that is? We went to the town of Veradero to find a hopping club.
We only took one day trip during the week. We went to Havana. Instead of booking the $65 USD tour though our tour rep in the hotel, we were told by some other guests at our hotel that were there a few days before us to contact a waiter that works in the Cuban a la carte restaurant. His name is Miguel. He is a gray haired gentleman that is a former Cuban high school English teacher. We found another 8 guests at dinner interested in going to Havana, and we each paid Miguel $35 US (after the trip of course!) to give us a private tour of Havana. He hired a Mercedes van bus and the 10 guests, Miguel and the driver had an amazing tour of Havana! Stopping at many places the the big tour buses do not go. I really recommend giving Miguel some of your business. He speaks English and German fluently, and is a h*** of a interesting guy to listen to! Other quests told me that the Jeep Challenge tour is awesome. Next time I will try that one.
I loved Cuba! I loved the people, and found the country very fascinating! The hotel is excellent overall, with probably the best location on Veradero beach. Hotel security needs to be improved though. We were careless once, and we paid for it. Aside from that, I always felt very safe in Veradero and in Havana. Nobody bothers you anywhere. I will be going back as soon as I get the chance.
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Nay, not hey!
We have just come back from Cuba having spent 14 days on holiday, 3 days in Havana and 10 days at he Barcelo. We spent the first 3 days in Havana which was interesting , and very well worth it, got to see a lot more than the day trips that are offered at a very high price from varedero. We stayed at The Sevilla Hotel, supposingly a 5 star hotel!!!!!!! The lobby of the Hotel looks at least 4 star, however the public toilets more a no star, dirty and never any toilet paper or soap, but then this is Cuba, and not to mention the toilet door that lived on the floor!! Only one of the two lifts worked and at times you had to bang the panel to close the door and on occasions the door would not open , you could travel to the 8 floor and walk up to the resturant on the ninth, which is not open at night time to see the great sunset as advised in guide books!!!!!!! Drinks are also very expensive at the bar. The rooms are 2 star plus and the bell boys will ask for a tip if you are not quick enough with your hand in your pocket when they finally deliver your bags.! We were lucky enough to have the counter weights of a crane outside our room and the work men started at 8.00, coffee and chat with he boys at 7.45 , no need for a walk up call or alarm clock here. Breakfast was ok , but leave plenty of time if you want an ometttet or eggs! The violinest was a nice touch, but as it was commented to us "doesnt it make you feel like you are on the Titanic and it is going down" as it is quite a grand old room. Havana is very safe, food is very limited, alot of chicken and pork, which will probably be fryed and overcooked on the out side and raw on the middle, be aware of this, to avoid getting ill. Also be aware when in bars listening to the bands that they expect a tip if you do not buy one of there cd's when they come around with the basket, it can be an expensive day if you go to many different bars, also we heard that one traveller bought a cd only to find that there was nothing on it!!! Havan
l and food was rubbish, some of the old cars and and music will cheer up.
We then traveled to Varadero to the Barcelo Hotel. The lobby is very nice, most of the receponistist bar a couple of the men, who werent wearing name tags , were all very nice, but I sure if you are going to the hotel you will know which ones I am talking about. Our room was very nice, we left little gifts each day for the housemaids, as we heard that some things go missing, so figured it was better to leave things than to have things taken, seemed to have worked, and yes, some people did have some items go missing. Mini bar, filled each day which was great.
The resort it self is very nice and the beach great, and most of the staff are very freindly, however I dont know how friendly the staff would be if no tipping was allowed, you seem to get a lot more quicker service if you tipp ( and remember this is all - inclusive and service is already provided).
The entertaiment staff I guess are ok, however we had 4 days of bad weather and no entertainment was put on during the day, so there was many people bored to death. Thank god for the French -Canadian woman who took it apond herself to rally people around to the disco area and teach dancing, which was great but should have been done by the staff.
The drinks at the hotel are not the best in the world, and they still have not figured out that fresh pineapple and coconut go into a pina colada. The rum as we discovered per bottle down the road costs $2.80, which will proably explain that small cars can be also run on it, the beer is drinkable at least in the bar.
Now to the food. This will be the biggest let down . The food here is terrible. Having spent the first 3 days in Havana we come to know that there wasnt a lot of food around and was greatly surprised to see so much here in Varedero, great we thought. Boy were we wrong. As a Chef I can see the pitfalls more so than most people who are not in the trade, and there are many here. Food that comes from the kitchen cold and is some how expected to become warm over a long period of time from the lights at the top and the element from the bottom will only result in most cases to the majority of people eating very tepid food , and as the food is not treated correctly, ie: re heated food should be heated quickely to a higher cooking heat to kill the bugs and consumed asap, will become ill. Having spent 3 month in India and not becoming sick over there, was some what surprised that we became ill over here,or not as the case may be . Most foods, chicken and pork was undercooked, and fish was most certainly over cooked. Many foods were reused again to resemble something else, I think my favourit was the white bean soup on monday , and then the white bean soup with tuesdays black pudding from breakfast in it for tuesday nite soup or was it breakfast scamble eggs( this term is losley) at lunch time with mushroom in it . Salads are hit and miss.The a la carte resturants should give up.
I did complain as I am sure many others did. Food tempature did slightly in prove for two days an then went back to normal. The chefs need to be taught, preparation, preservation , and presentation if this hotel is to make it to a 4 star hotel. We understand that some days there is limited food that can be bought by the hotel , but I feel that providing you do the best of you produce you will receive fewer complaints and more praise. The 5 star rating dosent not apply here. Because of the food , the knowledge that tipps are expected if you want a drink at night, the quality of the alcohol and the entertainment , of which they have two show at night time at the same time I can not reccommend this resort to any one. If you have already paid for you holiday, take some chilli sauce, some herbs, any sauces and seasoning that you enjoy and a packet of immodine and hope for the best and some good weather.
My family and I went to the Barcelo Solymar the first week in December. My family included 18 people ranging in age from 3-65 years.
THE BEACH was spectacular with crystal clear water and waves that were easy to swim in and very fun for boogie boarding! After visiting Australia, Mexico (Cancun, Manzinillio, & Los Cabos), Hawaii and the Dominican I would rate this beach the best!!!! It was so nice that we did not even spend time at the pool. The resort has many activities on the beach such as beach volley, ocean aerobics, stretching, and "olympics" for all ages.
THE HOTEL was decent as our room had a beautiful view of the ocean and pool. Even if you do not face the ocean you still have a nice view of the lagoon. This hotel is one of the only that has ocean views in most of the rooms. We rented a scooter and went touring several other resorts to discover many of them were bungalow style and farther back from the beach.
THE FOOD was not very good. At times we dreaded going to eat. The only meal that we enjoyed was at the a la carte seafood restaurant. The other a la carte restaurants were disgusting and in many instances the food was not identifiable (ie. Cuban they serve fatty meat of some kind and a stew, Italian they served pizza which is tomatoe sauce on thin bread). The funniest was when the lunch buffet had beef and bananas with tomatoe sauce!!! However, at the buffets there were some staple foods such as bread, salad, ice cream and fruit . I do not think that anyone going to Cuba should be going for the food; they have limited resources to cook with and every person I talked to on the plane had similar reviews about the food.
The people were generally nice. At the front desk they did not seem to understand English but the activity staff and bar tenders did!!! The resort was tidy and the rooms were clean. All of us had bug bites and many of us had diarrhea.... I suggest you bring Sunscreen, OFF and Imodium on your holiday!!!
We've just returned from a week at the Barcelo Solymar (Resort ?) in Cuba. The beach was great, that's about it. Many of the staff had an attitude and you had trouble getting a drink resembling what you ordered. Forget about a cup of black tea and this 5 star resort was often out of orange or pineapple juice. I went to Cuba to enjoy the beaches and weather, not to live like a Cuban. The food at the Barcelo Solymar was disgusting. I suspect that much of what was not eaten today was refried and served up in some of the following days mystery salads or some other bowl of slop. Try and imagine a salad made from rice and pasta with some old refried cubes of ham, some olives and pickled onions and, get this, sliced radish, all overcooked and unappetizing. God, I felt as though I had been eating airline food for a week. At least, airline food was fresh. Salad bar, nothing fresh and the poorest cuts of meat (if that's what it was). Now you can say, this guy really has it in for the Barcelo Solymar. Go ahead, visit the place and find out for yourself. But take your own food and drinks.
Preferred Cuba over Mexico
We stayed in Mexico in 2001 and Cuba in Dec 2 - 9 2002. Cuba clearly was better.
We had the 4th floor overlooking the pool and excellent view of the ocean.
- Hotel is spotless and they are constantly cleaning up after people that don't understand the concept of cleaning sand off in the outside showers.
- Good entertainment at night. Nightly show, piano bar and piano in main lobby.
- had no problem getting on Hobby cat or any of their water sports equipment.
- most of the staff are friendly
- Resort is on the beach
- Short walk to town (15 minutes if you are slow)
- other people at work said the beds where lumpy or hard at resorts they stayed at, we found our beds to be very good.
- the room has a safe (no extra charge)
- room has a mini-fridge which after you get their they put two cans of beer and 2 cans of pop and 1.5 liters of bottled water per day. Nothing like a beer to start the day off.
- rooms are spotless
- washroom is excellent. Well stocked with toilet paper.
- pools are shallow and very clean
- had no problems drinking the tap water (at resort only)
- lots of fruit for all meals
- red wine is good, white wine taste like early Canadian wine.
Very Mild dislikes
- Your room may not be done until 430 in the afternoon.
- Air Conditioning- if you turn it on, you can drop the room almost to the freezing level, ours didn't like any other position (two settings off, on - Canadian winter.)
- Food in mexico was better than in Cuba. At the Solymar it was greasy and there was a large number of pork dishes, luckly they also had some fish dishes and they were excellent (except one fillet that you could have used as a salt lick).
- Drink size - tiny glasses, bring your own mug (plastic preferably so it will not break)
- Drink consistancy - Rum and Cola, judge the strength by the colour if you are a timid drinker.
- 24 hour bar in the main lobby has fair to poor service, every where else the service was excellent.
- Take bug repellent, and use it. The sand flies or black flies are undetectable until after the fact. For the fancy dinners where you wear long pants, spray everything below your knees.
- this is a repeat - take your own mug.
- If the cataran (hobby cat) is fully booked, drop by and see if people actually show up, it may be available.
- Use the red tourist bus. There are two buses that run a loop from one end of the town all the way to the end of the peninusla. If cost $2 each and the ticket is good all day. Hint - duck when on the second level, by the time you figure out the sign is warning about low branches and wires you may have hit one.
- When leaving resort ( and even down at the beach) make sure you pack some toilet paper, because it seems like it is made of gold down there. Don't expect to find any toilet paper in any washroom, and that includes the Airport.
Cigars - buy them at the governmet stores only. They are a fraction of the cost in Canada and all the governmet store prices are the same. Odds are the street ones are fake.
Cigars - Example of price Montecristo #1 box of 25 $112.50 USD
Last Comment - We will go back, but probably to a different Hotel just for the variety.
The Solymar from a Single's Perspective
Let me start off by saying I had the most fantastic time in Cuba and cannot wait to return! This trip was spur of the moment (visited Oct 14-21/02) so I was able to grab a great deal. It was my first solo female adventure (27 y.o.) outside of Canada and I felt safe the entire time. The friends I made (Canadians & Cubans alike) made the trip incredibly memorable.
When booking I had a choice between Breezes Jibacoa and the Solymar. Even though Breezes was a hundred dollars less and appeared to cater more to singles, I felt the Solymar was a better location for me (and I was correct, Breezes is halfway between Havana & Varadero. I met a young guy (24) who stayed there and he felt it was too isolated but nice). And I had no problem being single here. This was my first time using Air Transat Holidays and I would use them again. A suggestion, if possible pay the extra money to sit in the Club Transat area, youÂ’ll be thankful for the extra space (even if youÂ’re a small person).
I stayed in a one level corner bungalow (only problem were ants one morning at the front door, but it was fixed immediately) within steps of the beach. I loved it! The two-storyÂ’s are good for families or longer stays. The little Â‘extrasÂ’ I liked about my room was the mini fridge (filled daily with 2 bottles of water, beer and juice) and hairdryer.
As this was my first resort type holiday, I didnÂ’t know what to expect. But everything was great. Upon check-in, the front desk requires your passport & hotel voucher. Due to the long lines, they ask that you leave your passport with them to speed up the process. This was a little uncomfortable, but you pick it up a couple hours later. If it really bothers you, try going to the end of the line when they have time for better service. A resort map is provided when you get there and I had no problem finding my way around.
There are a couple of stores in the hotel and in the evenings there is even a man making cigars for you to purchase.
The beach was amazing. I spent most of my time here. Bike vendors would park along the shore and those on foot, would try to sell you things. On occasion, people tried to sell horseback riding or boat rides as well. But there was never any pressure.
You will need $10US deposit for each towel you require at the beach. Pay at the front desk and take your receipt to the beach house for towel pickup (when facing the beach, turn left and visit a peach colored house, there will be a guy sitting on a porch). In exchange for the receipt youÂ’ll get a towel. The towel can be exchanged each day for a fresh one. And on your last day instead of getting a new towel, just ask for your receipt back and the front desk will refund your money.
There are nightly shows at the hotel, which are all different. I believe it was supposed to turn into a nightclub after, but perhaps since it was low season, it never happened.
WHEN TO GO
I was there during off-season, aka hurricane season, the beaches were not crowded and some of the restaurants were closed. But this did not affect my experience. I enjoyed the quiet beaches and being able to find a chair & palapa at any time of the day. I would also say you get better service at this time or maybe itÂ’s because I was a female on my own?!
DonÂ’t go to Cuba expecting amazing food (at least not at the resorts). It was good, but nothing to write home about. ThereÂ’s a breakfast, lunch & dinner buffet, plus an a-la-cart dinner (which I didnÂ’t try). The buffets have different themes each day except for breakfast so hopefully you wonÂ’t get tired (unless youÂ’re there for two weeks!). I did venture off the resort a couple of times for dinner with friends. We had lobster tails at Rancho Josone (about a 10-15 min walk west of the Solymar-Ave 1 & Calle 56). ItÂ’s a fantastic restaurant where you eat outdoors under a huge palapa. The owner was so funny and reminded us of Chef Boyardee.
You wonÂ’t go hungry at the resort. If itÂ’s after 11pm (buffet closes) and youÂ’re looking for food, visit the lobby lounge for snacks (grilled ham & cheese buns).
TOURS, SHOPPING & TRANSPORATION
Go to the orientation offered by your tour operator as they inform you of the different types of tours available (a little $$ though). Havana is highly recommended. IÂ’m not big on bus tours, but as a single female, I figured this would be my best bet. Try the overnight trip as one day is too short. Bring a sweater for the air-conditioned bus. I also heard some people made arrangements with a cab driver to take them to Havana to tour for much cheaper. If you do this, you probably wonÂ’t get to visit a cigar factory (which I recommend).
Bring lotÂ’s of film (itÂ’s $$ down there). Also note that in Havana, the Cubans know where all the tourists will be and will try to trade with you, ask for money, or sell you something. They are harmless, but be aware.
There are lotÂ’s of activities to do (or not) on the resort. And you are close enough to things to leave the resort. If you decide to use taxiÂ’s, coco cars, horse & buggy, etc remember to ask the price first. You can also rent scooters, which one person told me was great, but be warned, no helmets are provided, and I heard of one guy getting into an accident (and I was told thereÂ’s also no insurance!)
ThereÂ’s a shopping mall, Plaza America, east of the Solymar. By cab itÂ’s between $4-6US. I took a horse & buggy ride back, which was $10US. DidnÂ’t like the mall (small and doesnÂ’t have much). ThereÂ’s better shopping at the flea market west of the hotel (15-20 min walk). There are several small markets on the way to the large one. And the prices are better than the mall. A cab from the large market to the Solymar is approximately $3-5US. I liked to walk along the beach back to the hotel. And I met so many people this way! You wonÂ’t get lost and I was fine venturing to these places on my own.
Souvenirs are very inexpensive, key chains are 12 for $5US, 4x6 oil paintings with easel are 2 for $5US, handcrafted wooden chess sets are $6-16US, etc. I wanted to bring everything back!
A few things to bring:
Ketchup (it doesnÂ’t taste the same, neither does Coke)
Soya sauce, peanut butter (didnÂ’t see any)
Kleenex (always carry this with you, especially women-other than your room, toilet paper is scarce)
Hand Sanitizer (so you donÂ’t require water to wash your hands)
Bug repellent (the mosquitoes found me)
Aspirin, gravol, tums, etc. (best to be safe than sorry - itÂ’ll be almost impossible to find some things or $$)
Lotion & lip balm
Chocolate bars, chips, etc (these are very expensive at the hotel)
GIFTS, TIPPING & MONEY
US$ only. At the resort I was able to use my VISA to book my Havana tour. You can get small bills at the front desk, which is good for tipping. Packs of gum or such are good for tipping bathroom attendants off the resorts, if you donÂ’t feel like giving money. I brought gifts for the cleaning staff (perfume, crayons, soap, etc), which I would leave on my bed. And if you tip, try to remember the people that arenÂ’t normally given any but still provide a service; like the gardeners, beach chair attendant, front desk staff, etc.
I will definitely be going back. And IÂ’d be more than happy to answer any of your questions!
This hotel is great. It is less than one year old and it shows. Everything was spotless.
The service was excellent, from the WONDERFUL maids to all the friendly waiters. We had no problems with the service. All the staff smiled and greeted us everytime they saw us.
The ONLY negative was the food. It is too bad that such a great hotel has bad food.
I got sick within 24 hours and just as I felt better (thanks to imodium) my friend got sick. We are not picky eaters and I laughed when I read all the other reviews about bad food in other hotels. I honestly thought we would not have problems. Unfortunately we did. There was plenty of variety and they tried SO hard, but I think it is their method of cooking that is bad. Quite a lot of it was fried or soaking in oil.When you are used to eating healthier, this can bother you. We spoke to quite a few people who had the same experience we did.
But all in all, it was an enjoyable vacation. We loved the beach and the sun ( even though it did rain a few afternoons).