Arrived at the hotel at ~ 4:30pm (thought it was only 3:30 - no-one on the First Choice flight knew that Cuba were on Daylight saving time!!) - rapid check in and given exactly the room we had asked for by previous email.
Relatively small hotel,well laid out and easy to get around. Only about 5 minute walk from the front of the hotel to the sunbeds on the beach.
ROOM- Large and cool - equipped with efficient air conditioning, a fridge stocked with water,soft drinks and beers and a working TV. Kept clean and tidy for the whole 2 weeks.
GROUNDS - Beautifully laid out - actually watched humming birds on the blossoms on the trees by our bungalow.
FOOD - Breakfast - taken in the buffet area - cereals,fruit,bread and eggs (various) always available plus more exotic fare - good fresh fruit juice and plenty of hot coffee.
Lunch - we ate at the snack bar every day in the cool,shady bar area. Always pizza, spaghetti,burgers,hot dogs and a fish dish available plus loads of fresh salad and delicious fresh bread. Washed down with a cold beer or a mojito!
Dinner - plenty of choice in the buffet - always found a tasty soup and a fresh joint of meat and some large fish to try plus a number of casserole style dishes. Only negatives were the lack of vegetables on some nights and occasional tough meat (but it is Cuba!) Great choice of cheeses some nights for a good finish to the meal.
A la cartes - Cuban - very relaxed - the soup was delicious and the main courses we tried on our 2 visits were very good.Service was excellent (thanks Martha!) - only downside were ultra sweet sweets!! Just sat and people watched at the end of the meal over an excellent cappachino and a whisky!
- Japanese - bit disappointing - nothing wrong with the food or the service but lacking in atmosphere, bit like a conveyor belt and a very sudden finish to the meal - weren't offered refills for our drinks.
BARS - Main bar - very good service whether tipping or not - always found somewhere to sit in the evening for a final coffee and Scotch!
Beach bar - perfectly adequate for beers and soft drinks - the bar man made very dangerous Cuba Libres !!!
Ranchon - our favourite area whether at lunch time or early evening - fabulous service and a great range of drinks.
POOL - Looked fine but we found it a bit overcrowded and noisy.
BEACH - Best beach/sea we have experienced in Cuba - virtually no weed even the 2nd week when the wind got up - always a pleasure to go in for a swim altho it was a litlle rough the afternoons of the 2nd week.Always got sun beds and a shade (altho' shade was difficult to find for the morning latecomers) - not an area for snorkelling tho'.
Overall a really good place to unwind for 2 weeks.
Travel operator: First Choice
Travel operator: Thomas Cook
We did 3 trips. The swimming with dolphins was a enjoyable but the water (in a canal) was filthy. Doesn't compare with Discovery cove in Florida. The overnight trip to Havana and Pina de Rio was fabulous. Excellent tour guide and well worth the exhaustion felt at the end of it! The Catamaran trip with fresh lobster on board was fantastic.
Travel operator: Thomas Cook
Monarch charter. Thomas Cook will have to change airlines for long haul flights,minimum leg room does not make start of holiday something to look forward to.
Customs,immigration and baggage no problem, the transfer to hotel only took about 40 mins,first impressions of hotel lovely gardens and efficent reception staff.
We struck lucky with our room it turned out to be a large suite four poster bed on suite loo large tv in bedroom,seperate lounge again a large tv separate bathroom twin balcony air con, fridge daily fresh bottled water.
Fresh towels, bedding daily,swans and hearts sculpture on towels each maid visit.
Travel operator: thomas cook
The catamaran trip was good fun and good value, particularly the lobster. However the Havana day trip was a long drag and the guide left us for a couple of long periods when we were pestered by black market sellers.
Beware the mosquitoes if travelling in May/June period they are ravenous and little seemed to deter them.
Travel operator: Thomas Cook
The beach was absolutely gorgeous one of the best beaches we have seen.
The hotel itself was very clean very well kept and nice.
The food was good but not wonderful either. It was the same every night and it had not cultural foods. The a la carte meals which consisted of a Cuban and Brazilian one were horrible. My family booked the Brazilian one first and after we ate there, we decided to cancel the other a la carte and to continue to eat at the buffet. They cook all there meat to the point that it
Travel operator: Signature
The rooms are comfy and spacious the staff are very friendly and will do anything for you although I feel this is often the case because they want tipping.
Tipping is the staffs main way of doubling there wages and you do get sick of the constant hints. The location although quite scenic is actually miles away from Varadero centre and there is nothing within walking distance.
The food is average they cook maybe three meat dishes and three fish dishes a very basic salad bar and a few cooked veg the same dishes are repeated every few days and is never ever hot I think you would be happy staying and eating the food for a week but you get very bored of it after two weeks.
Entertainment is ok on an evening but it doesn
Travel operator: thomas cook
The food could not be faulted, there was so much choice at every meal, & so many staff in the food areas - waiters chefs and clearers up. I cannot list everything we ate but must give special mention to the delicious soups, the massive tiger prawns cooked on the grill in front of you, the big range of fresh salads, the joint that the head chef carved each night (like once there were two great big roast turkeys); the pizzas (the Tainos has its own pizza oven), the wonderful chips and jacket potatoes, (& plenty of other vegetables), the range of fresh breads, and the desserts like profiteroles at almost every lunch and dinner that tasted fantastic with the homemade vanilla and chocolate chip ice cream (heaven help the waistline). And it wasn't the sort of place where the good stuff runs out in about 40 minutes - the chefs were constantly repleneshing; this was wonderful if you like a late dinner like us - the main restaurant was supposed to stop dinner at 10pm but in reality stayed open later still dishing up really good food. The waiting staff were quick to bring whatever drink you wanted, the house wine we thought was fine. Breakfast was good, fruit and juice and eggs, cold stuff etc, excellent choice of bread pastries & so on, and omelets and fried eggs cooked by the chef for you. (Also one or two surprise appearances for breakfast like meatballs and runner beans with carrots, and, once, chilli con carne - and no, I didn't ! Not at 8 in the morning). There were two speciality restaurants - one, a supposedly Brazilian one, where we didn't like the look of the menu; and a rustic-looking one near the beach. This was open sided so not only was there no a/c there were insects; a couple of other people told us they had just settled down to a romantic dinner there when a swarm of large flying ants invaded and settled on anyone wearing white. Erk. In our second week the weather became VERY hot and it was a bit sultry at night, and our friends the mosquitoes came out of the trees. Good repellent was a must. Lunchtime, there's a poolside restaurant - we ate in the main restaurant because it was airconditioned and it was lovely to just sit there and drink about a litre of iced water before doing one's duty at the buffet. Everyone seemed to like the food -although one couple we met who owned a restaurant in Turin said the food was great but their only quibble was one of the pizzas the Tainos produced had pineapple on it. Not done in Italy, apparently.
The drinks at the Tainos were highly acceptable; there were always at least two and usually four bars open, where you could get virtually any drink you wanted (including international brands like Gordons gin) from 10am until 1am. There was no queuing up or having to wait, there were numerous staff who were quick and efficient and spoke pretty good English, remembered how you liked your drink and brought it to your table - the Tainos was not the sort of hotel that ran out of ice, glasses, or anything else for that matter. They (sensibly) had plastic glasses at the beach bar but the other bars had a wide range of glasses appropriate to the drink they held. The cocktail list was impressive. Each room has a fridge and there is no problem taking drinks upstairs (the bars have take away containers if you want a beer or juice in your room. Nice to have an ice cold orange juice to wake up to).
Our lovely room was large and immaculately kept with clean bedlinen & towels daily. It had a spacious bathroom, (nice shower & a hairdrier, tho' it was rather ineffective on any hair longer than a crew cut), large wardrobe, a colour tv, a safe, a big balcony, a fridge and a table and 2 chairs. Nice touches like good bedside lights, lots of hangers, colour TV. On other websites you will see the bungalow rooms recommended; we were on the third floor of the main building which suited us fine, it was cool and shady to go back to because the sun was on the other side of the building most of the afternoon, and the balcony wasn't overlooked, (the bungalow ones were, and although a little closer to the beach were mostly in a noisier position). Everything was so clean, I didn't hear of one person being ill at all (apart from sunburn and hangovers). All the staff were very helpful and quick and professional, and appreciative and responsive to a few friendly words whether accompanied by a tip or not. Of course they like being tipped, and we liked tipping them, I think everyone did - they don't earn much and they work jolly hard keeping everyone happy & comfortable.
The Tainos has the nicest stretch of one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in a long while. The palapas are nicely spaced and there are plenty of them, and sunbeds too. There were always fun and games on the beach like darts, petanque, salsa lessons (but no pressure to join in if you didn't want to) and water sports like pedalos, and hobie catamarans. Although the beach barstaff played music it wasn't loud - just some nice low key Cuban stuff. Nothing to keep you awake if you wanted to nod off after lunch ! Next door was the Beaches hotel, their stretch of beach was a bit scruffy it wasn't anywhere near as nice as the Tainos beach. The Tainos had a large pool, and it was clean and well kept - but the pool area was hotter than the beach, where there was normally a pleasant breeze.
Entertainment was low key - the lobby bar had a baby grand played by a pianist (imagine a hybrid of a poor girl's Richard Clayderman & Liberace) most nights (ok, a bit old-fashioned) and in the theatre every night there was a different show, a mix of dancing, mime and singing - the entertainment staff worked very hard, they were young and good looking and sang in tune and included a few very talented dancers. Before the show there was a bit where everyone who had won a competition that day was presented with a certificate while the audience sang We are the Champions. This toe-curlingly embarrassing process did nothing to encourage me to enter any competition, but some seemed to enjoy it. One German lady collected certificates for just about everything 7 nights in a row, beaming with pride.
Most nights we were happy sitting outside after dinner chatting over a drink with fellow holidaymakers - who came from all over the place, lots of Canadians, some Germans, Swiss, Italians, Spaniards, Dutch, French, Scandinavians and Brits - but no Americans of course. We met some very nice people whose company we enjoyed very much.
Sorry if I've gone on a bit (specially about food & drink !) Honestly and truly if you're going to Varadero I can't imagine there's anywhere better to stay. We intend to go back next year & I guess that's the real test isn't it ? (I have put on a separate report for Varadero, and reviews for Havana & our hotel there, the Telegrafo - also highly recommended. If anyone wants to know anything else about either hotel or either resort I will be only too pleased to offer any assistance I can. I've had a lot of help from this site in the past & will be glad to give something back).
Travel operator: Thomas Cook
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