Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Reviews

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Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort  

Playa Esmeralda, Carretera Guardalavaca, Holguin
(Holguin Maps)

"3 times and counting! Great vacation!"
Posted by: George  on Apr 16, 2016
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Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Reviews
Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Pictures and Information
Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Playa Esmeralda Cuba

of 2 Hotels in Playa Esmeralda

User rating 4.5

Based on 36 reviews

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Information

The resort is surrounded by beautiful gardens in an area of ecological importance, typical of the eastern part of the country.

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Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Reviews

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 4.5 of 5 36 reviews
Very good
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"Don't come here. Please read!!!!"

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort
User Rating:  Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 1.0 of 5

Posted by:  Jose  on Sep 9, 2012  >  1 contribution(s) United States of America
Visited on: Aug, 2012 | Leisure | Family and Kids
472 people found this review helpful

I liked the surroundings, the pool during the day time, and several employees like Roger at the Buffet. On the other hand, customer service is horrible, elevators didn't work at least twice a day. Underage kids drinking (even with the white wristband). Many employees are hustling guests with fake cigars, and most of them don’t understand the concept of tipping, they will even ask for money. Entertainment is tailored to adults, not kids or teenagers. My wife got food poisoning at the buffet, I had to pay extra for things that were included in the package (scuba diving). If you have young daughters and still come here caveat! Employees don’t care they are underage.

Room Number:

Room Block:
3rd floor

There were only a handful of people in the bus, check in was quick. They ordered cold drinks for us in the lobby. The bell boy nowhere to be found so I carried my own luggage.

I paid an extra $15 a night upon arrival to have a beach view. Room is big, clean but the AC does not work very well. The bathroom is old and somethings don't work properly.

Restaurants and Bars:
I only used the buffet and the snack bar. The buffet is a little disorganized, they only serve coffee at breakfast. My wife got food poisoning here (we believe due to bad fish). Service is best here, but still lacks, employees hassle for tips.

Beach was not what I expected, definitely not the ones in the pictures. At least is quiet. Pool at the Mares is good, but stay away from the bar, no refrigerator in the bar, the poor woman has to come back and forth with ice, but it only lasts so long. The hotel surroundings are beautiful, out of this world.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Activities during the day are pretty fun, most of them in the pool. At night is for adults, and as I said a lot of underage drinking.

Other Comments:
Will never come here again. However I would like to try a different property nearby in Playa Pesquero, I hear the beach is a lot better there.

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"An average resort"

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort
User Rating:  Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 2.0 of 5

Posted by:  E  on Feb 1, 2011  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2011 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
450 people found this review helpful

The food, in particular the seafood, is excellent, the beach and view are great.
Service, as a whole, needs improvement.

No info on the hotel from the staff at checkin. Staffs at the reception are not helpful (nor friendly).

Quite rundown. Shower is not as good as other cuban resorts we went to.

Restaurants and Bars:
Too crowded, and not enough staffs.

Beach is the among the best. The ocean view is the best among all cuban resorts we went to. This was my tenth visits to Cuba.

Other Comments:
The resort needs a complete revenovation. More staffs are needed. Some staffs in the restaurant work very hard while others only serve the clients they know. As a result, uneven distribution of work among staffs in the restuarant. I feel sorry for those who really do their work. The noise from the disco is far too loud and last until 2am in the morning. Hard to get a nice sleep in most buildings.

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"Clean but boring....."

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort
User Rating:  Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 3.0 of 5

Posted by:  Disappointed  on Jan 21, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2010 | Leisure | Family and Kids
267 people found this review helpful

Departed Toronto on Sunwing Airlines after leaving one and a half hours late..due to the removal of nine passengers....which we never found out why only from heresay...The service on this charter is is like years ago when we were treated well....champagne breakfast which was hot and very towels is always a nice pillows etc etc...the flight attendants are so nice and continually came round to see if we needed anything unlike other airlines where they disappear after an hour only to see them again shortly before landing.we paid more to have the extra leg room which was so well worth it....I will be flying Sunwing whenever I can.....

Your Arrival:
Arrival went very well..through customs also what was when I got my suitcase a customs came up to me and said he needed to go through my suitcase...he pulled out my travelling kettle and asked me what it was...he didn't understand me so had to ask another agent close by she asked me what it was also I told her it was a kettle to boil water to make tea or coffee....this cleared up the situation on the bus and everything was very quick and efficient... At the resort our check-in was quite fast...

We had the perfect room, view, size, cleanliness.... room 2061 on the Mares side....beds were comfy. the only gripe we had were the bedspreads there were rough and scratchy...looked like they had been made out of curtain material..put the blanket on instead and we were comfortable...Our housekeeper Minerva was so nice and our room was spotless our whole week...we brought a couple of jackets, Tylenol, aspirin and candies for her kids....she was sp appreciative..also I brought a new pair of men's sandals which we gave to the gardener...people seem to forget them sometimes..we also tipped Minerva quite well the day before we left because apparently others go in the rooms before the maids get to them and take what people have if you are pleased with your housekeeper give it to her personally before you leave...this way you know she gets it...

Restaurants and Bars:
Food at the Colon was very repeticious...same old every meal...poor quality of food...roast pork was very tough looked good but couldn't chew it..bread totally tasteless except the odd time we found good buns...bring coffemate because they don't have that anywhere...their milk is quite different...the pasta bar was a lifesaver....very good as long as you tell them to cook it a bit longer so it will be hot....porridge would have been nice but there wasn't any...ate at the Italian, the appetizer was to die for...parmesan cheese with balsamic vinegar with crispy bread to dip in...the Lasagna had big chunks of hamburger in with little sauce...not very good !! The french one we had heard people raving about disappointed us...the Lobster bisque had a very strong fishy taste..ans salty....the grilled shrimps and rice were very tasty...also the roast pork...We as well as others were asking for different wine..they serve the same wine everywhere...both the red and white tasted awful...people were leaving their glasses is the quality of everything and not the quantity that leaves a lot to be desired

Beach access not easy for people with handicaps....beach was gorgeous excpet for the very thick sand which made it hard for walking unless you were were right near the water...the ocean water was very warm unlike the pools that are not heated and are freezing cold...they were pretty empty...the grounds are needs more flowers--color missing...

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
This section is why us and a lot of people we spoke to will never go back to this resort...boring, boring , boring.....every resort I have been to has daily actvities and entertainment...water volleyball, 2 drinking games and what they call crazy games which we saw twice in one week....was the extent of "daily activities" the weather wasn't the best so people sitting around the Mares pool were very bored....let's just say they didn't do anything except play music and stand around the lobby doing nothing...shame on the animation team... we took the horse and buggy into Guardalavaca one day. we enjoyed the ride and the few vendors that were there..they don't harass you like thay do in Jamaica.... The computer room need some new keyboards. they are in bad shape with their letters missing... Locks on the lobby washroom doors should be put on...this is neglect....

Other Comments:
If this resort would up their food quality and change their animation team..get some employees with a little bit of up and go in would be an awesome place....

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"Too windy and cool"

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort
User Rating:  Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 3.0 of 5

Posted by:  Keith  on Mar 13, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2010 | Leisure | Family and Kids
360 people found this review helpful

Too windy and can't control the weather but we were not expecting how cool and windy our week turned out to, certainly not a canadian winter, but not warm.You definetly needed pants and a sweater in the evening and we covered up a lot on the beach too!

Your Arrival:
We left Halifax at 7:30pm on CanJet and arrived three and a half hours later in Holguin. The hotel is about an hour from the airport. It was after midnight when we arrived at the hotel and our checkin was handled quickly.Our request for a king bed was denied, which we expected anyway.

Our room, 2026, had just been painted. It was clean and everything worked. The AC was working and everything in the bathroom worked.That was a relief.The room was clean.We could see the ocean from our balcony. The balcony was private, enclosed. We liked that. The door did not lock, but we didn't complain about this since it hardly seemed important.Staff are very honest.Some things in our daughters rooms were not replenished quickly enough, toilet paper and hand soap, but not a major issue.

Restaurants and Bars:
We ate at three a-la-cartes:International,Italian,and we are not sure what the third was.The Italian was our favorite.There was also a special Transat dinner on the beach, which was a letdown...another buffet.We were getting tired of the food after a week, however the flambayed bananas were a delight...excellent! The buffet staff were awesome, friendly and good service.

Very nice beach, clean and no problem with getting a chaise any time of the day.The hotel staff will deliver one to any part of the beach you request...a great service some other resorts should emulate.I forgot and left my hat under the chaise the first day of our vacation when we left the beach.The next day when we returned to the beach I inquired if there was a Lost and Found,but my Spanish and his English lost something.A few minutes later he came over with my "sombrero".Where could you go in the Carribean and find such honest, kind and caring people, genuinely interested in making your vacation enjoyable.I would take some water shoes as there were some rocks exposed at the waters edge by the stong winds we experienced all week.We enjoyed snorkeling from the beach, lots of sand dollars to dive for, and some coral reefs a bit futhur out with some fish too.The other hotel on the beach is the Paridissus.The grounds of the hotel have an ecletic mixture of feral cats, horses, chickens and goats.The meowling cats and urine smell became a bit annoying near our rooms one night.We were all delighted with the animals.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
There is not much in Quardalavacca, open air market, nice beach. Four of us took a taxi in for $5CUC and a horse and buggy back for $10CUC.Nice experience. The next day we took bikes in for some exercise, about a fifteen minute ride.We went on the catamarran/snorkelling excursion but nearly froze as the weather was cloudy and cool all day.We left from the port of Antilla, about an hour bus ride from the resort.The cat is fairly cramped with about 60 people on board, but it has good washrooms, and the staff serve drinks during the entire cruise.The snorkeling was not that great, but the meal on the island(Cayo Sartia) we landed on was excellent. While on the Island we took the wild Safari ride on the back of a huge truck, $9 CUC each, which our daughters enjoyed immensely. There are several species of African animals, including zebras and ostriches scattered about. Our driver, Cesar, stopped to feed the ostrich bananas.

Other Comments:
All the staff we met at the hotel were great and will do anything they can to ensure you have a nice vacation. The service was friendly.We tipped at all our meals and brought things for the maids we left in the room, and tipped whenever we had good service, which was everywhere.

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"If you want fresh towels daily good luck! "

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort
User Rating:  Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Mary Ann from Nova Scotia  on Nov 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Nov, 2009
216 people found this review helpful

6/11/2009 to 13/11/2009
Our overall experience at this resort was very good. The management seemed genuinely interested in our well-being and comfort. Any issues we had were dealt with promptly and courteously. There are only 3 computers in the internet cafe area and one had no mouse. It costs $4 CUC for 1/2 hour of usage and $6 for 1 hour. It's dial-up service so it's rather slow. I was unable to log in to my Facebook account from their computers. I got an error message saying it was an unsecure website. I was able to read and send emails through MSN Hotmail. There are no printers and I did not notice anyone trying to download pictures. The resort is an older property. It's a quiet, laid-back atmosphere. It's not a place to party hard and drink until there's no tomorrow. The guests are mostly in the 30 plus age group. It's in need of some upgrades regarding the bedding and perhaps a new coat of paint but the amenities are functional and seemed to be in working order. Cuba is on the! brink of an energy crisis so we did have some power outages during our stay. Because of this energy shortage, the staff are probably instructed to turn off air-conditioners and refrigeration units alot. We found our A/C unit turned off every time we returned to our room after is was cleaned. There is not alot of shopping opportunities in this part of Cuba. Most of the tourist areas sell handicrafts and souvenirs and that's about it. The beach and the warm weather are about all this area has going for it. It was nice to see how the Cuban people live and the country itself, but we both suffered so badly with tummy issues related to the food we ate that we'll probably never travel to this country again. It's hard to enjoy your vacation when you are not feeling well.

Standard rooms have 2 double beds pushed together to make a king bed. Hard, lumpy mattresses. Ground floor room had a terrible musty smell and there were large red ants crawling on the bathroom floor. Fourth floor room (#4004) had a fantastic view of ocean and pool area, no large ants but noticed several very tiny ants. Hot water was available on 6 of the 7 days we stayed. I'm told the hot water is heated by solar power so it's not as hot after dark. During our entire stay we noticed a fairly strong sewer smell in our room. We thought it was coming from the floor drain so kept it covered with a towel but still smelled sewer. Husband tried keeping drains closed in bidet, sink, and bathtub but could still smell a strong odor. Mini fridge is only stocked with one large bottle of natural spring water. If you want other beverages you have to ask at front desk and pay extra for them. If you want fresh towels daily good luck! I think we had the same towels all week. The maid was an absolute doll and hugged me twice and thanked me for the little treats I left for her. She kept the room very clean (except for changing used towels).

Restaurants and Bars::
Reservations for ala carte dining are taken in the Luna lobby after 8 a.m. We booked the Romantic (La Pinta on the beach,serving Mediterranean cuisine) which I enjoyed but my husband did not; and the French (on the Luna side of resort). My husband was not feeling well so did not dine with me. I started feeling unwell after I was seated, so I too did not enjoy my dinner there. The lobster bisque was so salty and the only item I could stomach in my main course was the rice. The chocolate mousse was horrible compared to others I've tasted in fine restaurants elsewhere. The Colon buffet was open on the Mares side (this resort was only at about 60% capacity during our stay in November) and the Luna buffet was closed. The Colon buffet was OK. There is lots to choose from but we both suffered terribly from cramps, bloating, and gas during our entire stay so the food was not enjoyable for us no matter where we ate. I ate at the beach bar (La Nina) one day for lunch and I h! ated my choice. I had a shrimp sandwich with fries and water. The shrimp was again too salty for my liking. The fries were fine.

The beach directly in front of SRLM is fine. When you walk east toward the 5-star Paradisus the beach becomes very rocky and much of it has been eroded from a previous hurricane. Be careful wear you step as I saw 2 hypodermic needles on the beach my first day there. They probably washed ashore from elsewhere. This resort is not very handicap-friendly as far as beach access is concerned. There are ramps to the beach but no boardwalks to be able to enjoy it. The Mares pool was busier than the Luna pool. Due to it being the low season all of the daytime activities happened on the Mares side of the resort. There is a swim-up bar in the Mares pool and lots of lounge chairs. There are no pool-side waiters so if you want refreshments you have to leave your lounge chair and walk to the 1492 Lobby bar for a beer or drink. The grounds seemed to be well-groomed during our stay. The many flowering shrubs were blooming and looked nice. November in Cuba is at the end of the r! ainy season and we had on and off rain the first 2 days of our stay. Hurricane Ida, which passed west of Cuba, gave inclement weather and rough seas for a few days. There are over 50 steps leading down to the beach from the Mares pool. If you don't want to walk back up you can walk further up the beach to the Luna side and there are only 10 or 12 steps to climb but then you'll have a longer walk back through the resort to your room. Upon check-in you are given a paper for your beach towel usage. DO NOT lose this or forget to return your towels to the beach club house, otherwise you will have a charge added to your room upon check-out! You can get a fresh towel between 9am and 5pm daily if you like or keep the same towel all week and return it at the end of your stay. You must present this towel paper to the front desk upon check-out.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel::
We didn't participate in any hotel activities due to our on and off tummy troubles. We did book 2 excursions during our stay. We took the Cuba Life tour and we both enjoyed it. We also booked the Ocean Paradise catamaran cruise and I enjoyed the 2 snorkelling stops. My husband stayed onboard the boat as he was not feeling well. Both tours lasted 6 or more hours. Take Gravol with you on any sea-faring excursions if you're prone to seasickness because the tour company probably will not have any to give you once you board the vessel. There is one hour of free horseback riding for guests of both the SRLM and the Paradisus. The stables are not marked with any signs. They are located directly across the street from the Luna lobby and are hidden by shrubs. You book your riding time at the stable with one of the men who looks after the horses. Take a few bananas with you to give your horse a treat after you return from your ride. They eat them just like apples, skin and! all. Don't forget to tip the stable hand who takes you out on the trail. There is a billiards table and a pingpong table in the Mares lobby bar area. The pool table cloth is in desperate need of changing and the cue sticks have no chalk. We never took part in the mini golf, darts, or other free activities offered. There are horse & buggy rides that park just outside the entrance of the resort. Depending on who the driver is you'll be charged $15 or $20 CUC for a ride into Guardalavaca. They drop you off at the local flea market where you can buy souvenirs.

Other Comments::
You can hear the loudspeakers from the pool activities and nightly entertainment in the 1492 Lobby bar from your room. Most outside noise is over by 10:30 p.m. or so. From our room (#4004) we could not hear any music/noise from the nightly beach disco at the La Pinta. The washrooms in the lobby of SRLM (Mares side) have no working latches to keep the door closed and the stalls are very tiny. If you're a larger person you may find them claustrophobic. The money exchange is located in the Mares lobby just beyond all the tour guide desks. There are convenience stores in both Mares and Luna lobbies which sell essentials and souvenirs. The prices are good. One night during our stay we were pleasantly surprised to find that the manager was holding a special guest-appreciation dinner in the buffet. Others had a notice slipped under their door but somehow ours was missed. The food was served ala carte and the menu was wonderful. There was also a string quartet for our dining entertainment. The are only 2 elevators to get to the upper floors on the Mares side and one was not working. The elevator is tiny and runs very slowly. The numbers don't count the floors properly so when it stops you have to peak outside to see what floor you're on. There were only 2 bellhops on duty the night we arrived so we ended up taking our luggage to our room. I suppose we could have asked the desk to call one for use but one would think they would all be nearby knowing that a group of new arrivals were soon due in.

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"one of my best holidays"

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort
User Rating:  Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  adrian denney  on Sep 22, 2005  >  1 contribution(s) United Kingdom
Visited on: Sep, 2005
1858 people found this review helpful

2 weeks march 2005 . fantastic holiday stayed at Sol Rio de Luna y Mares Resort, swimming with dolphins is at the hotel even though they don't tell you. just walk round the corner and your there. food ok but staff fantastic nothing is too much trouble ./ lady who does rooms even helped when one of party was ill . The people of the area are sooooooooooo friendly. re bookin 2007 .

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"Resort was better than what I expected it to be"

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort
User Rating:  Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Dave from Ontario  on Feb 1, 2009  >  3 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2009
171 people found this review helpful

Other Comments:

There was a maid whom I did not like, so this resort is not even one star. Oh, yes, and my wife lost something when she left it somewhere unattended for a long time, so maybe this resort is not even a one star!! The beach is too far, so I had to walk a lot, and the staff refused to carry me on their back to the beach after my frequent requests! After all I have paid "A GRAND" so everyone had to bow to me which they did not! After all that I paid, The weather was not good I emailed all my friends and family members to ban this resort and will never go back there again till my last breath, unless Raoul Castro himself send me a written apology to my door


The resort is very nice. The beach is great and ideal for resting, tanning, snorkelling, reading books etc.. The food is good and the restaurants are just OK, some better than the others. The main buffet in Mares (Colon) is offering a good variety of fish, meat, chicken and pork to roast on site which is nice. Don't worry, you will not be disappointed in my opinion, as far as you are there to have a nice relaxed time and you are easy-going.
The rooms on the Luna side are fine and clean apart from the bathroom and the tub, which are OK but can use a facelift. The Mares rooms are better since the bldg is 10 yrs younger. The highlights of the resort are the ELITE BEACH and the wonderful entertainment group.(see my video posts to see the samples). The entertainment was better at the start of the week however the Tues and Wednesday shows were not that great. The other nights were just wonderful (including the weekend and beach party) as I compare them to two 5 star resorts we have been to in the last 10 months. Highly recommended. They start at 9:15 0r 9:30 as posted daily in the main lobby at the entrance of the buffet. The service is good and the staff try to do their best to help you. There is a small disco at the beach which starts at 23:00 everyday. The pools are nice and kept pretty clean. The bars and snack bars are all fine with descent service. Overall resort was better than what I expected it to be.

Things to know::
1-The horseback riding is free for one hour. You should book it a day ahead if you are planning to do it.
2-The snorkelling is great under the chapel of the next door resort (see my posted clips)
3-The mini-zoo is well worth it(2 CUC entrance). Take you camera and pay a visit to the lagoon right next to the zoo.(A CUC is 1.41 CAD - Feb 2009)
4- I highly recommend scooter ride. 10-14-18-21 for 1 to 4 hrs rental respectively. The daily rental is 27$(return till 5 pm). You can go to Guardalavaca mini-market (10-15 min drive). I suggest driving further to the next village which is almost 10 km further down the road. It is nicer and the drive is fun.
5- The excursions are nice but expensive. (With 1.41 exchange rate). I recommend jeep safari (71 CUC)v 6-Catamaran ride is also nice if you are into it. It is free and joyful.
7- Pedalos are also free and fun.
8- We did not see even one sand fly or mosquito (however take your repellents with you)
9- Cuban restaurant is not that good. Others are nice. You get 2 reservations per week of stay.
10-On the last days of your stay, check the boards for any possible flight delays so you can enjoy more hours if such a thing happens.
11-The recreational center is also free to use (Sauna, Jacuzzi).
12- The Holguin airport is small and crowded once you pass into the waiting saloon. Remember to keep 25 CUC per passenger for airport taxes on the return flight.
13- Internet is 6 CUC for 60 min. You can use the voucher several times as far as there is still minutes left on it. The speed is pretty slow (like a dial up in Canada)
14- Enjoy the resort. You will find it lovely.

Luna y Mares is nice for a3.5 STAR� resort with nice staff, very nice beach, wonderful entertainment group, good food and ideal for a week of stay. I recommend it as a very nice 3.5 star resort.

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"We also went ‘snorkeling! That was great fun!"

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort
User Rating:  Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Lorie  on Apr 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) 
Visited on: Apr, 2009
184 people found this review helpful

You had me at ‘Hola’…

Arrived back to a really damp and rainy Nova Scotia after a week at Sol Rio de Luna y Mares at noon today, so before I completely slide into a two day crash, I’ll relay my experience and hopefully it will be useful.

We were trying to decide where to spend a week. That was all we had. I’ve only been to Cuba once, spending much more time in Mexico and South America. I knew Guadalavaca was a beautiful area and not quite as ‘slick’ as Veradero and after some resort research, I decided on Luna y Mares. For one thing, it seemed like the resort had huge personality and I really liked what travellers from my area were saying about the staff and management. As an aside, somebody in another review mentioned a ‘cookie cutter’ vacation, and in my opinion that’s a good representation of the experience you’ll have in Orlando or Las Vegas, or even Cancun, which is sort of like Miami. You’ll rarely see a bug, and essentially enjoy completely sterile and pristine accommodations. Staff will be efficient and professional and friendly, and you’ll be blown away by Hollywood and Broadway style stage shows… and what’s not to like about that? If that’s what you want.

For us, it’s about the experience.

Because, on a ‘cookie cutter holiday’ you’ll rarely find a housekeeping staffer who throws her arms around you after the second day of cleaning your room, telling you tales about life in her country and displaying genuine interest in life in yours, nor will you often find a bartender making impassioned salient points about why Che Guevera is a hero and ‘descamisado’ and will never die in the eyes of many Cuban people.

So, ahem… after that fairly lengthy prelude, I’ll give you the goods, as I saw them!

We flew Transat Holidays and arrived at the ungodly hour of 4 am last Sunday, April 5. I was far too excited to sleep and after getting our room ( more later) prowled around the resort for an hour to check out the lay of the land. My excuse for this pre dawn explorative quest, was that I was hungry and wanted a burger- a blatant lie—I was waaay to excited to eat it, but we did get one on the Luna all night snack bar. We were served by an amiable if somewhat sleepy bartender. I didn’t have any tip money so I gave him some sun glasses, which I felt was good and proper. Anyone I ask to cook for me at 5 am deserves something, don’t you think? The hamburger was good. It tasted a lot like my mother’s to tell the truth, and the fries were delicious! After the burger, I had no more excuse not to retire for the remainder of the night, so off we went to room 4009 on the Mares side, overlooking the pool and the ocean. It was big and it was spotless, and it was COLOURFUL! To me, it embodied the Caribbean in a blend of turquoise, pale orange, burgundy and white—a combination that I wouldn’t have thought stunning, but was. The beds were two singles pushed together. Very comfortable. There were extra blankets in the closet, and water in the small fridge. The bathroom was large with a tub and shower, toilet and bidet; sort of a cool European touch, I thought. Everything worked perfectly. The room fixtures were not brand new. It was not the Hilton or the Hampton Inn. I thought it was better.

Sunday am, we staggered off to the Transat Orientation before 10. The Transat Rep was informative knowledgeable, and remained extremely accessible all week. During orientation, the hotel’s food and beverage manager introduced himself, welcomed us, but we didn’t catch his name; only that he was from Spain, so we nicknamed him Mr. Barcelona!

Tromping back to our room on the way to the beach, we met our housekeeper. Her name was Rosa Carmina- and we completely fell in love. She told me with complete sincerity, that the most important thing for her was that my holiday be happy and stress free. I gaped. I couldn’t help it, but she meant it, and though I’m not sure I deserve it, such was the level of her professionalism. She was incredibly funny and, intelligent- and a way of connecting with people instantly. I don’t mean that housekeeping staff shouldn’t be / aren’t intelligent, but it occurred to me after several conversations with her that the country would be better served with Rosa in a diplomatic capacity. She hopes to finish up her degree in the fall, and I can’t help but think her talents are a bit wasted making ducks out of towels, sporting sunglasses and scarves (although the one she did for me looked uncannily like a great aunt I had that died last year!)

We were extremely fortunate to receive an invitation to the new French Restaurant (Bistrau ) on it’s opening night, and it was one of the most delicious meals we’ve ever had anywhere in the world. No joke. There were a group of Health Care Workers from NS at the next table, and we overheard them trying to estimate how much the meal would have cost in Halifax. Possibly $300 a couple with wine; at least that was our guess. I was able to snag a copy of the menu, so here it is, although it will no doubt vary.

Nicoise Salad with Tuna Duet of Asparagus with Citrus Cream
Smoked Salmon Plate
Champagne Pate with Cognac

French Onion Soup
Lobster Bisque with Armagnac

Salmon Steak, with Creamed Dill and Fried Vegetables
Sauteed Caribbean Prawns with Garlic and Butter Rice Crown
Pork Medalions with Matignon Sauce and Potatoes
Beef Entrecote with Pepper Sauce and Stuffed Potatoes
Chateau Brilliant and their Classic Garnish

Lemon Pie
Pears Cooked with Red Wine and Vanilla Ice Cream
Carmelized Banana Pie
Chocolate Mousse

There you have it! We had Smoked Salmon Plate and the Lobster Bisque to start. The smoked salmon tasted exactly like home to us (NS) but it was from Chile. Good on the Chileans, I say! The bisque was also delicious!

We then had the pork medallions and the beef- both of which were fork tender. For dessert, we had the banana pie and the pears. It was a toss up- but I think I’d choose the pears next time—amazing.

The restaurant is very small, and there were a group of very celebratory French Canadians there as well. They were having a lot of fun, and slightly boisterous, and on the way out, a gentleman with their party congratulated the Maitre’De on the opening and whispered humbly that he hoped he “wasn’t too loud.” I snickered to myself, wondering if he’d ever seen a bunch of Nova Scotians on a rant- Here on the South Shore, we drink Cuba Libras; just without the lime—we call them ‘Dark and Dirtys’! Between the two provinces, no doubt we’d be a force to be reckoned with!

We had opportunity to speak with Carlos Freeman, the Maitre’De, and he told us, he had spent the last several months preparing for the opening of the restaurant, ensuring that the ambiance be perfect, his staff highly trained in both food and wine pairings as well. While the other a la cartes were excellent within the resort, Carlos and his staff’s culinary efforts, I believe will make his restaurant many guests first choice. Plus, Carlos is a great conversationalist and host. We felt really privileged to attend the opening.

The Colon Buffet is large and varied. The name still cracks me up, even if it is Columbus in Spanish—no doubt that show’s my level of maturity. Seriously, if you can’t find something to eat there, you’re not hungry. It has a huge selection and the food is very good. It’s been covered in many reviews. My biggest regret is that I saw a pig roasted on a spit and it looked delicious! We went to the French Restaurant that night, so I missed Porky Pig- much to my dismay!

This is getting lengthy, so I’ll try and summarize a bit. We took a horse and buggy to the mini zoo. Our driver’s name began with a G, I believe, but his horse was named Hurricane. He was a lot of fun! He talked in broken English; I in broken Spanish and once in a while we understood each other. Once we got to the Mini Zoo- Rob, the handler took us around to all of the animals, and ‘G’ was so interested, he decided to come with us. We got up close and personal with an African Turtle named Paca, and went in an iguana’s cage named Marisa and scratched her under the chin. ‘I mention G and Hurricane in particular, because we took a horse and buggy into Guadalavaca the day before and our driver was dour and incommunicative and wouldn’t even try to converse with me in my horrible Spanish. I know it must be frustrating but it’s a bit deflating. I’d much rather take another trip with G and Hurricane. The mini zoo doesn’t seem to publicized well, and it’s really worth the trip. You could walk it or take a bike. It’s not far at all.

We also went ‘snorkeling! That was great fun! Close to the Rio D’Oro, we even saw what we think was a tuna. If you have your own gear, that might be good as it’s very popular and might not be available when you want it.

The hotel entertainment was also great fun! Very talented entertainment staff were able to engage a large range of ages and cultural tastes effectively. I also loved the music. I’m really glad not to hear hip hop blaring through the speakers by the pool. It’s not that I mind hip hop (although I’d prefer Nickelback- I’d just really rather hear local music) and that was phenomenal.

The bar staff at 1492 was excellent! Dania (daytime) is very charismatic, and is able to make each patron feel like they were the most important in the world. That’s a gift when you’re not always respected by vacationers.

It’s likely evident, that we, like many people grew very attached to people in a very short time. My partner gave away his ipod. No coercion, or manipulation by anyone. I was proud that he did it.

I had read that Mohamed Fawzi, the General Manager of the hotel was extremely competent, as well as customer oriented, and that was evident quickly. I had the pleasure of speaking to him briefly. I’ve never seen management as visible or conscientious about performance and quality control in a resort. It appeared that at least several managers put in at least a 16 hour day in the trenches interacting with their guests, and there seemed little Mohamed wasn’t on top of.

Mr. Barcelona (we learned his name was Ferran, an hour before we left!) cropped up everywhere too. I’d see him conferring in the early morning hours with his manager, while walking the property, and later clearing glasses from a table if the wait staff were swamped and once high fiving a bartender on the way through the bar. It really made me happy to see “Mr. B” high fiving his staff, because after a day or two in dealing with the front line staff, it’s evident that life for them in Cuba is not the same as life for us. For example, we have no problem buying aspirin, buying a pound of hamburger, and many things we take for granted are just beyond their reach, economically. That’s one reason, I think it assuaged my conscience to see that their managers treated them with respect. I went so far as to ask Rosa, the ‘housecleaning diplomat’ if the General Manager was a good boss. If she had been disparaging, I naturally wouldn’t have given her up- but she wasn’t. She said he had very high standards and wanted the hotel to be excellent. A worthy answer I thought.

Last evening, we had grilled lobster at a table by ourselves outside the international restaurant. It overlooked Playa Esmerelda; there was no wind, and the moon was almost full. The lobster was grilled, and served with a pepper mayonnaise, ceasar salad and a French onion soup that was as delicious as any I’ve had anywhere. For dessert, I had flan with coconut ice cream, and then we watched the water ballet show. I can’t see how our last evening could have been better. I am grateful I don’t have ready access to that coconut ice cream here in NS. I don’t want to be mistaken for the rare Albino Northern Porpoise on my next trip!!

Three last things

1. Second morning out, I got sunstroke. We were on the beach for two hours and I had a hat on. No booze. Really, violently ill and dizzy.l Had to go back to our room, and lay down for almost 24 hours. Be really careful of the sun.

2. We bought some beautiful end tables from a vendor at the hotel. Very nice man. They had fish swimming through sea grass and customs confiscated them because he used seeds for the fish eyes that are poisonous. Apparently it permeates the wood. There’s no way he would know we’d have an issue, but make sure you check because we could easily have taken them out and replaced them with something here.

3. If anyone wants more details or has questions, we’d be delighted to try and answer them.

As for a return visit, bring it!

Hasta luego…

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"Sol Río De Luna y Mares FEB 4-19"

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort
User Rating:  Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Mike  on Mar 13, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2010 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
375 people found this review helpful

We stayed at the Sol Rio de Luna y Mares Resort from Feb 4th-19th. Overall we enjoyed our stay.

We were on the Luna side in 8013 and the room were very spacious and clean with a King bed. There is a fridge, hair dryer and large full size bath

Restaurants and Bars:
The buffet had a large choice and the food was good. We enjoyed all of the ala carte restaurants, with the exception of the Santa Maria which served rather dry sheesh kabobs. The French ala carte was excellent.
The staff were friendly and accommodating throughout the resort.
Lisney is a young lady who works at the reception desk on the Luna side. She is a walking history of Cuba and very proud of her country. She is a delight to chat with.
There is a picture #50 in the attached URL.
The piano bar also had an interesting young man playing who was very good. I have a couple of (poor quality) video clips taken with my camera attached as well.

The beach is beautiful and extremely wide. Once you get to the water however, you must beware of the coral rocks, which are only a short way out. If the waves are large, you could have a hard time getting back in without skinning something. The grounds are well kept and other than sawed-off trees (which are re-growing), there is not much sign of the hurricane. Outside of the 8000 block of rooms (and just above the French restaurant), there are gardens where they grow their own flowers, herbs and yes,
the mint for the mojitos.
The bad:
I have never been a victim of mosquitoes or other insects previously but they found me there-big time. I don’t know what they were
-(sandflys?) but I had bites all over my feet and lower legs. I never once felt being bitten but they sure irritated later. I had 95% DEET with me, which prevented subsequent bites. They never bothered my wife at all. I did see several folks walk by that were also bitten. I would advise anyone to carry some kind of DEET bug repellent with them.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We hired a cab to take us into Guardalavaca to look around. He waited for us while we meandered around the marketplace. We also took a horse/buggy ride to the country. We visited a small farming area which there are also pictures of.
On the resort itself, there is an eco-tour which I would recommend. You should request the services of the guide who is very knowledgeable and makes it much more worth while.
There is also a small zoo about 2 Km from the resort. We took bicycles and had a very enjoyable time. The zoo keeper (a veterinarian) was very helpful and informative.
While walking about, I almost stepped on an Iguana (picture 44, 45) He had escaped last fall and the keeper said he was better off free and that he wasn’t going to go anywhere anyway, since he fed them. (good attitude)

Other Comments:
The Ugly:
We did have an unpleasant experience during our stay.
One day, we were reading in loungers at the small pool on the Luna side. Workers began hauling tables out around the pool at about 10:30 AM, until we were finally enclosed. A staff person came to us and asked if we had ala carte reservations for that night (we did not) and would we like to come to a lobster dinner that evening. We accepted the offer with the understanding it was made to compensate for the inconvenience at that pool.

We arrived at 8:30 PM and were seated. My wife left at 9:45 PM after no service. At 10, I became agitated and demanded to see the manager... After that it became ugly.
The next morning after breakfast we found a bottle of rum and a letter in our room, apologizing for any inconvenience and offering us a special lobster dinner that evening. We accepted their apology and went and had a lovely experience (except that we were centred out by ourselves like royalty) with a very good meal. The head waiter went out of his way to make sure everything was perfect. He confided that the wait-staff was hung out to dry for the fiasco the previous evening.
The letter I received also asked if I could meet with the General Manager on the following morning-and boy, could I ever.
We met and I immediately detected his inference to the wait-staff as the problem. I wasted no time informing him that it was not them who were the problem but the management, who organized this affair, with too many people, with too few staff and not enough food. I also illustrated a few other *management* problems such as the chronic absence of glasses at the fresh orange juice counter
at breakfast. I pointed out that it was not the fault of the man crushing the oranges in the machine nor that of the dishwasher. It was obviously a management problem for not having enough glasses. Lo and behold -and to their credit, the next morning (and the rest of our stay), there were no more line ups waiting for glasses.

As a final gesture and an attempt to attract us back, he made an offer to give us an upgrade on a future visit, to an oceanfront suite, with mini-bar service, ala carte every night, all inclusive massage etc. We accepted his offer and he said that he would have the necessary paperwork prepared. The day before we were leaving, we met him as we were leaving the buffet and he mentioned that everything would be ready by our departure the next day...We haven’t heard from him since.
For this deception alone, we will never return to this resort and I cannot recommend it. It is probably an isolated incident but it shows me the sincerity of the management and how much they really care. They could do well, to take an example from their staff.

I will be copying this to Sol Melia as well as the Sol Rio de Luna y Mares.



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"Was more then I expected"

Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort
User Rating:  Sol Río de Luna y Mares Resort Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Pauline  on Dec 2, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Dec, 2010 | Leisure | Family and Kids
373 people found this review helpful

November 20 to November 27 2010. The weather was great. Between 27 and 30. The last day was 34. Little rain but nothing to get upset about. There are many things to do between a little sprinkle. We have done so much don't know where to begin. The service was excellent. Cuban staff beautiful and friendly. Big resort and well kept. Everything you need. Doctor's office, gym, spa, lots of restaurants, bank, gift shop, post office, cigar shop, hair dressing shop, waxing, pedicures, manicures, disco, public relations for reservations and any questions you had. Our air Canada rep was very hard to reach, not there most of the time but found out they have a desk to reserve tours and whatever you need if your rep is not available. That was the only downfall was with the rep.Thank God we had the VIP because it was all arranged by public relations.

Our flight was very good. First time with Air Canada and will travel with them from now on. I live in Northern Ontario and used to have to drive 8 hrs to get to the airport. Left from Timmins for only 96.00 extra. Did not have to get a room. We arrived in Toronto at 1:30 and left at 4:00p.m. We arrived in Holguin at7:45 by the time we got to our resort was 10:00p.m. We had someone greeting us and brought our luggage to the room. We then went to the 24 hr buffet on the Luna side for a bite to eat then went and checked out the disco on the beach.

I traveled with my sobrina, eeha and amiga. We had 2 rooms side by side adjoining. I was very happy about that. Our view was spectacular. Ocean view facing the pool and the sea. Room 3034 and 3035 smack in the middle of the resort on the Mares side. Leaving our room was the most breath taken view of the mountains and vegetation. It was lush and green. We were close to the elevators. The beds were very comfortable. The room itself was a fair size with t.v. which we never used, cd player. Our fridge was stocked with beer pop and water every day. VIP you get beer but with regular room you only get 2 1 litre bottles.

Restaurants and Bars:
They have the main buffet off the lobby named Colon buffet. Lots of choice in food. You can have them cook fish, steak, pork, eggs, omelets and so on if you want something done a special way. The variety is very good. No complaints. I have been to Cuba 6 times now and I am used to their foods. My niece and my daughters friend had a hard time adjusting but most of the times it's all in peoples heads. They had someone making smoothies every morning and the juice was freshly squeezed. The Cuban coffee is awesome. You won't miss Tim Horton's.
We ate at 4 a la carte restaurants. My favorite was the French. We went to the Italian, International. You must experience the French The banana pie is to die for. Ate lobster 4 times while I was there.

Not too much of a pool person but had to try the swim up bar. The waitress was funny and very friendly. The beach, the beach!!!!! Nicest beach I have seen in all my travels in Cuba. Wide and white powdery sand with aqua waters. It was a little rough but not that much. I was told by a Cuban friend because it was the time of the year. I believe her because I have been to a resort not far from there in March and the water was calm. There is a bathroom and a snack bar on the Mares side. The beach on the Luna side is a little rocky but they also have a snack bar and a bathroom. I have been to Melias Las Dunas in Cayo Santa Maria which had no bathroom and I did not like that because it was a far walk and I don't believe in pissing in the ocean. (Pardon my language)
Going to the beach from Mares side has quite a few stairs. This hotel might be difficult for the elderly and the disabled.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Wow!!! where do I begin. We have had a few trips to Guardalavaca by horse and buggy for 20 pesos for 2 hrs. to the market to do some shopping. Lots of vendors. That is the place to buy your goods and cigars. You must also try the beach. It is also beautiful. We only stayed for 1 hr at the beach and enjoyed live entertainment. They came and sang 3 songs for us. It was very special. Going back our driver from the horse and buggy took us to the village and gave us a little history about the village and the Cuban people. Very interesting. You can take a double decker for 2 pesos but 20 pesos for a horse and buggy and a bag full of beer and a quiet and intimate ride was more enjoyable for me. He would stop and let us take pictures and so on. Good way to give stuff to the Cuban people. I have known a Cuban family for 6 years now and went to her home town in Banes.(Twice now)by taxi. It's 45 minutes away and took a cab which cost us 65.00 tourist pesos. We got there at 1p.m. and left at 8p.m. Our taxi driver was so nice and also explained about every town. He was lot's of fun. His name is Hermes. We had so much fun with him. We had Christmas in November with my Cuban family. Got all 6 of them a pair of p.j.'s and each a makeup bags for the ladies and shaving kits for the men. I wrapped the gifts with Christmas wrapping in my room. Watching them smell a bar of soap, happy to get shampoo and asking what toothpaste was, smelling the perfume and happy to get a razor with blades was very emotional for all of us. They have nothing!!!! The child picked vitamins over candies. 8 year old folding the p.j. he received and admiring it with care when we give our children clothes and they toss it waiting for the next gift. They gently opened their gift not to tear the wrapping paper. I can't begin to express what I have seen. It was very emotional.

Other Comments:
All in all in 1 week we have done quite a bit. We savored every moment. Never again will I ever go for 1 week. Not long enough. If you plan on doing tours stay for 2 weeks. If you want is just the beach 1 week is enough but why go to Cuba without learning their culture. I also have to mention the dolphin tour (bring extra pesos for photos) which you can see from the hotel(not to far). You can go half a day by bus(79.00 pesos) or take the catameran for a whole day which gives you a lobster lunch and snorkeling . I have done both at the other resorts and it's an awesome experience. You will love to walk the beach there. Lots of trees and lots of sombreas for shade. I will return to this resort. Between Playa Pesquero where I have been twice and Sol Rio de Luna y Mares resort it's a tie. Scenery and beach Mares win. Playa Pesquero night life wins. Don't get me wrong, you have to try both.(they're not too far from each other). Service was very good at both. You will love the Cuban people. Treat them with respect and you will get 10 folds. Very family oriented, respectful and happy. Every time I go, I come back with good memories and I am great full for what we have and how lucky we are to be able to leave our country to experience their culture. Don't forget to bring stuff for them. Things we take for granted like toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, vitamins,underwear, shoes, sandals, crocks, clothes. You don't have to buy anything. Any clothes that don't fit your children or yourselves, watches you don't wear, hats you don't wear. If your tired of your summer clothes leave it. Any medication, band aids (I always packed a medicine cabinet before I go) Anything you have at home in your medicine cabinet I always buy and leave it before I go. You never know you might need it and if you don't you can leave it behind. Hope this review helps and if you have any questions you can reach me at

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