Cayo Largo del Sur, Isla de la Juventud, Cuba
"comfortable and descent"
Posted by: tessa on Jun 15, 2014
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"comfortable and descent"
tessa on Jun 15, 2014 >
1 contribution(s) GERMANY
Visited on: Apr, 2014 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
66 people found this review helpful
I visited this villa with my spouse and it was a fun trip for us, in fact, we plan coming back here soon as we had the time of our lives during our vacation at this villa. The food here is quite plentiful and for big eaters, this is the best choice for you. The food was great and the choices were plenty. This hotel has a medical clinic that works well in case of emergencies and that was great. The staff at this villa was all so nice to us, the grounds were very clean and so were the rooms. The cabins here have independent rooms and the hotel offers different activities such as aquatic sports and diving if you are interested. The hotel has lots of facilities that will keep you busy and make your stay a wonderful one. We usually go out, I men throughout our stay here, despite the activities lined up for us, we still went out by ourselves to have fun and just take a look around the city as we were hell bent of maximizing our time here/ The staff here was nice and cheerful, at all times, I never met one staff member who didn’t smile at me and my wife throughout our stay here. They helped us pick places where we could visit in town and told us how to go about it. I recommend this place to you if you want comfort and top notch service from the staff and clean rooms.
"Simple, but perfectly acceptable for us"
Posted by: GefM
on Apr 21, 2011 >
2 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Apr, 2011 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
296 people found this review helpful
We vacationed at the Gran Caribe Villa Coral in Cayo Largo, Cuba (VC for short) from April 8-15, 2011. This was our 7th trip to Cuba, 2nd to Cayo Largo, 1st to VC and we are a married couple in our 40’s. For reference, we have previously stayed at the Paradisus Varadero, Sol Cayo Guillermo, Oasis Playa Coco (now a Be Live) and the Sol Cayo Largo. The VC is rated 2 1/2 stars by Cuban standards. This trip was for our 21st anniversary. Here is my review and findings of what my wife and I consider a simple but perfectly acceptable resort and one that we will happily return to. Please note that when I describe the resort my findings are more observations as for the most part we did not have any complaints, but some people may depending on how they feel about certain things.
AGENCY AND FLIGHT: This year our trip was with Hola Sun, and flight through Canjet. We booked our trip through Cassandra at Bravo Travel, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Cassandra was great to deal with and very helpful and was able to match $ to $ the price I found on line. I highly recommend her as a travel agent. As last year, the Canjet crew were very pleasant and helpful. We were given a complimentary glass of champagne on our way down to celebrate our vacation.
WEATHER: The weather this trip was perfect. Every day was sunny and warm with temperatures in the 30’s. One day we heard it actually reached 40 degrees. For most of the week it was windy and the water was wavy. It did calm down 1 day enough that we could snorkel out front of the resort.
ARRIVAL AND CHECK IN: We were through customs in a very short time, met our Hola Sun Rep, Olga, and were told which bus to get on. The bus trip was a short 10 minutes at the most in an air conditioned bus. Check in for the VC is at the Isla del Sur (Eden Resort) which is the main building in the Gran Caribe complex that encompasses Villa Coral, Villa Soledad, and Villa Lindamar. While we were checking in, everyone’s bags were being taken off the bus. We were given our Villa Coral wrist bands, room key card and towel vouchers and were told to walk to our room and wait there and the gentleman would bring our bags to our room.
ROOM: The VC is a small complex of 2 storey bungalows which amount to about 55 rooms total. It was a short 5 min walk to our room which was on the far west side of the resort. We were given a second storey room with a large balcony. Our room had a small 3 piece bathroom with a tiled floor. The shower floor was sunken about the thickness of a tile and had a curtain you pulled closed on 2 sides. Unfortunately often when finished a shower we’d find a wet floor in the rest of the bathroom. The sink was mounted to the wall with little space to set any items on. We always had lots of water pressure and lots of hot water. The toilet also worked well; however there are no hairdryers. The same tiled floor continued into the bedroom. We had 2 single beds pushed together with fairly comfortable mattresses. The room was cooled by a small air conditioner that was mounted through the wall with wood trim surrounding it. It was slightly noisy but worked well. The entrance to the balcony was through 2 poorly fitting wood doors. The balcony itself was beautiful and had views of the ocean from either side. We did have a few ants crawling around the room but nothing we needed to worry about. The bedroom and bathroom had 110v receptacles so there was not any need for a converter.
Restaurants and Bars:
RESTAURANTS AND BARS: The enclosed air conditioned buffet is open 7:30am-10am for breakfast, 1pm-2:45pm for lunch, and 7:30pm-9:45pm for dinner. The buffet also has an outside area covered just outside the doors as well as a small trellis covered spot over-looking the ocean. Keep in mind that you can also get pizza to the left of the buffet starting at 4pm. You have 2 a la cartes per week at the Ranchon over at the Villa Lindamar and you must make reservations in advance. We were only able to eat there once during our stay due to being booked up quickly.
Although the buffet food selection is small, it is of fairly decent quality. In fact it was better than what I was expecting. During breakfast there is; an omelette station, a station set up of pancakes, scrambled and/or hard boiled eggs, sausage or bacon, A pastry station with very tasty pastries, as well as a toaster with slice-your-own bread to toast and a fresh fruit station. Unfortunately fresh orange juice was rare to find. I usually drank mango juice at breakfast. During the evening there is a main station set up with the dish of the day. This often was roast pork, roast beef, and sometimes a fresh catch of the day. There is also a station set up of roast beef slices, pork slices, roasted chicken pieces, garlic mashed potatoes...yes, I said garlic! I did find the beef slices and chicken slightly chewy and dry. Sometimes there was a soup, and even spiced calamari rings, yes again, I said spiced. For those of you new to Cuba, it is commonly known that the food in Cuba can be described as bland. Often this is true, but sometimes you will find some that is not. Carlos, the main Chef here at the time we stayed, was quite good. Unfortunately we never came up from the beach to eat at lunch. I can honestly say I was surprised by a few dishes like the spiced calamari, soup, and garlic mashed potatoes. As well, I was surprised to find the roasts done fairly well, especially at a 2 1/2 star. We did splurge one evening and paid 20 pesos each for the lobster dish for our anniversary dinner. While the lobster was tasty, it was not something to rave about. On the other hand, the whole shrimp that accompanied the lobster were very tasty.
I have to talk about our anniversary dinner more. Apart from the dinner itself, our waitress Daima went out of her way to make this a special occasion for us. Not only did she set up a nice table on the outside patio of the buffet, but she gathered flower petals to surround a tea-light candle and arranged for the house band to serenade us with a couple of songs. If that wasn’t enough she arrange for the pastry chef to make and beautifully decorate a delicious cake for us.
RESORT GROUNDS AND BUILDINGS: When you first enter the resort from the Isla del Sur, you walk past the massage/medical rooms on the right and the main building on the left, and the pool in front of you. The main building houses the buffet, public washrooms, lounge area and club house where you get your towels. The so called club house is no more than a small room with a sign hung on it with times of availability between 8am-12pm. I point this out because it took us a day to find this room as no one told us this upon arrival. To the left of the buffet is a little seating area where you can get pizza, fries and sometimes hamburgers starting at 4pm.
The grounds here are sparse, mainly sand covered with some ground cover, small bushes, and taller palm trees that provide shade throughout the resort. The buildings are painted in coral pink or turquoise and at close look, definitely show their age. There are concrete and interlocking stone walkways around the resort some of which have small pieces missing. Although it is sparse, the grounds are well kept and always clean. The maintenance/gardening staff seemed to be on top of things picking up old palm branches and leaves. I would say that for the most part it is guest friendly, except for anyone with a wheelchair or any trouble with stairs. Since it’s not a large resort you don’t really have too far to walk for anything.
POOL: A salt water pool with a depth of about 4 1/2 feet, not huge but well kept and cleaned every morning. Times are from about 7:30/8 am to 1 am. It is set within the square shape of the pool bar, buffet and club house sections. It does have a swim up bar where you can get most of your typical Cuban drinks, such as; Mojito, Ron Colins, Pina Colada, Daiquiri, and Rum Punch. It even had a whiskey which did not cost extra. There are some drinks that may be extra. You can also get an espresso and cappuccino here. The pool bar also has an extended covered area behind it where one could sit and enjoy a drink out of the sun.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
THE VILLAGE: The village, Isla del Sol or “El Pueblito”, where the resort workers live is a short distance away. We rented a scooter one day and rode into the village. You’ll find a; restaurant, bar, Caracol gift shop, La Casa del Habano cigar shop, museum, dive shop, and a bank. The LCDH also has a selection of liquor and coffee. Please do take in the little Turtle Sanctuary. They ask for a 1 peso donation. I’ve posted 2 pictures of the “Taberna del Pirata” bar menu. The one day we were in the village, I ordered the fried 1/2 chicken and french fry dish for 3 pesos and found it quite tasty.
CIGARS: The airport has a very small selection. For any serious cigar smoker I highly recommend buying your cigars at the LCDH in the village. It has a much better selection. Please see my pictures of this shop. Other trips I asked and received a duplicate receipt for leaving Cuba with the cigars. This trip I was told I didn’t need this receipt. They have changed things now. The cigar boxes not only have holograms, they also have a barcode with corresponding number. When heading through customs this year, I was asked to open my carry-on and show them the cigar boxes. They scanned the barcode and wrote down the numbers of every box and thanked me for purchasing from the government store.
THE STAFF: All staff at this resort are very friendly and accommodating, always with an hola and smile when passing. Carlos one evening even brought my wife and I a small bowl of soup each over to the pool bar without us even asking for it. I happened to mention to him how much I enjoyed it the evening before. The pool bar bartenders, Vladimir and Yosvani were very friendly and a lot of fun to be around.
I would recommend this resort to anyone who wants a very simple resort and does not need/demand 5 star food and accommodation. If any of the points I made above caused you to wince, this is not a place for you. It is not a perfect resort, nor is it for everyone. Price will certainly drive my choice for return, but with the right price we will happily return.
You can also see pictures of this resort on my Webshots page at:
leslie on Mar 30, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2010 | Leisure | Solo
391 people found this review helpful
Leslie - Toronto
I stayed at this hotel March 21-28 2010.Having been to Cayo Largo once before, I knew what to expect of the island. I did not enjoy my hotel last time around. This time I was very happy with my choice.
4052 – 1st floor which at first I was disappointed. I had a small patio in front – no patio in the back like some rooms. Two single beds pushed together were fine. Room did not smell. Bathroom had a small shower and perhaps the only con was not any space to put toiletries. Most sockets I saw were 110 volt. Mini fridge with 1 bottle of water upon arrival only.
My room was located close to the buffet, swim up bar & not far from the Isla del Sur where the main reception desk was. I went there every day as my card would not open the door daily so the reception staff would have to reset it. I did not keep it anywhere near any magnetic strips so it must have been the door but they could not locate the technician and I really didn’t care after awhile.
Main buffet served breakfast, lunch & dinner. Food was good – not many vegetables except cabbage but I was happy with the food.
Ranchon at the Lindemar hotel was nice. It would turn to the ala carte certain evenings and personally I think that is a waste of a reservation. It started out good – prosciutto with toast & tomatoes, nice cream soup – then you’re told to help yourself to the salad bar – cucumbers, tomatoes & shredded cabbage and the main course – rice, pork, fish and cabbage which you lined up for. Had I had a 2nd reservation I would of cancelled.
I was told you can get sandwiches between 3:00-4:00 in front of the buffet but I never tried them. They do have pizza after 4:00 – 6:00 which was nice. I always had cheese only but saw some with ham.
You could get drinks at the main lobby Isla del Sur bar but would have to pay for beer. The Villa Coral bar was at the swim up pool. Waiters were great.
I found the staff very friendly at all times. They all spoke English.
There was a mixture of people from Quebec, Ontario, Argentina that I noticed. A few children , couples and singles – due to the no single supplement I’m sure.
I found this hotel very cozy and truly enjoyed it. I would not hesitate to return.
"Not for everyone but perfect for me!"
eeeefarm on Feb 10, 2010 >
12 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2010 | Leisure | Solo
367 people found this review helpful
I have stayed at Cayo Largo previously and wandered through the Gran Caribe complex. I've always wanted to try it, but it wasn't previously available from Toronto. When it was offered through Hola Sun I jumped at the opportunity.
Flight with Cubana was above average. Very good flight attendants and a decent snack complete with complimentary wine. At Cayo Largo you are five minutes from the hotels, so transfers are quick and painless.
I had a wonderful room with a fabulous balcony that was as large as the room. Ocean view and very close to the beach. The room was clean and comfortable, although the bed was a bit hard for my taste. There was a safe and mini fridge provided at no extra charge. A 1.5 liter bottle of water was also included. The bathroom was basic with a shower only, no tub. Lots of room to hang clothes, and several drawers to put things in. The air conditioner was a window type and quite noisy. Most nights I turned it off and listened to the surf. I had the balcony door open much of the time and there were also windows for cross ventilation. When it was windy, this was perfect. Unfortunately when the wind died the mosquitoes arrived and I had to close things up and use the A/C.
Restaurants and Bars:
The buffet restaurant afforded an ocean view and there was a patio on the sea side where you could sit outside if you wished. Most didn't while I was there. Breakfasts were typical, with an omelet station where you could get eggs and sometimes pancakes cooked to order. Fresh fruit was wonderful, particularly the grapefruit. The bread was fresh and delicious. I am vegetarian, so can't comment on the meats.
Lunch could be taken at the buffet or at the Ranchon at Lindemar where there was a choice of beef, chicken or fish. Also salads and deserts. Lunch at the buffet usually featured ice cream, which was delicious.
Dinner at the buffet was a little spartan for me, as there was not a lot of variety in the way of vegetarian fare. However, I certainly did not starve! Meat eaters had much more choice. A la carte dinners are available at the Ranchon, reservations in advance.
Pizza is available around 4 p.m. at the coffee bar behind the buffet restaurant. The coffee here is excellent and available all day. You could also go over the Isla del Sur and get a pizza, which I did several times. It was a wise precaution in case there was a scarcity of vegetarian fare at supper.
There is a bar at the pool and we also had access to the bars at Isla del Sur, and also of course at the Ranchon. I can't comment on the mixed drinks since I don't indulge, but the cerveza was cold and good. Other guests I spoke with seemed to enjoy the Pina Coladas and Mojitos. Wine was available at lunch and supper. Service was mostly good, although some staff were more attentive than others. I had no complaints.
The pool was deep enough for swimming, although it was fairly small. There is a swim up bar. Beaches in front of the Gran Caribe complex are fine for sunning but a little challenging for swimming. The entry to the water is rocky in places, but it wasn't too hard to find a sandy access. No "towel games" going on.....lots of chairs and shade for everyone! The grounds didn't feature a lot of gardens or flowers, but were neatly kept.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
The shuttle went three times a day to Playa Sirena and Playa Paraiso, and was free. Animation at the hotel tried to get people involved, but I usually avoid these activities.....I'd rather be at the beach!
I really enjoyed this small hotel. It is quiet and a perfect place to relax. There were some issues with hot water from time to time, but mostly everything worked well. If you are looking for a charming, quiet spot to enjoy Cayo Largo's fabulous beaches without breaking the bank, this is an excellent place to be. It's not "party central", but that suited me to a "T". I will definitely be going back!
"I immediately fell in love with its charm"
Marlene on May 1, 2009 >
9 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: May, 2009
344 people found this review helpful
This resort is a little pearl in the tiny island of Cayo Largo. I flew from Montreal to Cayo Largo on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009. I had booked online with Yourtraveltickets from St Catherines, ON two weeks before departure and paid $1166 for two weeks All Inclusive at the 3* Gran Caribe. My flight on Air Cubana, a new airbus, was delayed 90 minutes as they were waiting for the plane to arrive from Cuba. This was the first time I have traveled with Cubana. The seating was comfortable; they distributed headsets prior to showing the movie. One ear was in Spanish and the other ear was in French for listening. There was no English option. The morning meal served at 10:30 am was a cold entrée consisting of fruit cup, apple Danish, bun and butter orange juice and coffee. There was no complimentary water, juice or soft drink service. All these were for sale only. The flight lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. Our flight was combined with the Cayo Coco destination but we landed in Cayo Largo first.
We quickly went through Customs. We were the only plane on the tarmac at the time. ¾ of the passengers disembarked at Cayo Largo and only 2 of us were going to the Gran Caribe. There was one other passenger on the 40 pax bus with me. We arrived at the Reception Desk of Isla del Sur to check in. The Gran Caribe is a four-hotel complex. The Barcelo (which has just been transferred to become part of the Gran Caribe chain in May 2009) is to the left and the Pelicano is to the right, both only a short 20 minute walk away. Two of the four Gran Caribe sections are exclusively Italian Club sections (Isla del Sur and Villa Lindamar). The Villa Coral and Villa Soledad have Italian, Canadian and Cuban clientele.
The second week of my stay I moved to Villa Coral to be closer to my traveling companion who was assigned a room in that section. The Villa Coral room (4028) was on the first floor with a full ocean view and was just a few steps to the beach and the section closest to the Villa Soledad. This room did not have a tub or bidette or a hair dryer. I believe the Soledad rooms, although in a quieter part of the resort, because there is no pool or buffet there, are more updated. They were about to put a new red tin roof on my building as I was leaving.
The main buffet in the Villa Coral had better than average food than what I was anticipating for a 3* in Cuba. Every breakfast provided a made to order omlette station, fresh fruite (watermelon, pineapple and the sweetest orange sections I’ve tasted all winter), fresh baked loaves of French bread and rolls, various cheeses, ham slices, jams and butter and a selection of breakfast cakes. The hot entrees included deep fried potato rolls, which were delicious, bacon, ham, pancakes (one morning only), boiled eggs and toast. There were two choices of cereal and milk, yogurt and buttermilk in jugs. There were also jugs of fruit juice (frozen concentrate, I think) of grapefruit, orange, mango and mixed fruit). Coffee and hot chocolate came from a machine but it was very good. There were sugar bowls and salt and pepper (white pepper) on the tables. The buffet walls were decorated with various paintings from the Leonardo de Vinci era. There was only an air conditioner directly above the salads and dessert tables. Breakfast was from 7:30 until 10:30 a.m.
Lunch was open from 1:30 until 3:30 and there were a variety of salad dishes as well as platters of cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce (on week #2). Oil and vinegar was the only salad dressing offered. We brought our own favourite from home. There were 5 hot entrée steam table dishes of chicken, pork, fish, pasta and soup. Red and White Argentinian wine was served on request. An alternate lunch option was available at the Villa Lindemar Ranchon beachfront restaurant which served chicken, fish, hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries. This became an a la carte on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings serving steak, pork, or fish.
Supper buffet opened at 7:30 until 10:30 p.m. Throughout my stay, there were always at least 5 choices of meat, 2 vegetables, soup, various salada similar to lunch and desserts consisted of crème caramel, cake, éclairs, fruit flans, ice cream and fresh fruit. No coffee was available at supper. We would walk next door to the 24-hour lobby bar at Isla del Sur for a delicious cappacino, expresso, and café Americano while sitting on the patio overlooking the entertainment stage and large freeform pool of the Isla hotel.
There is a 5-member house band (Cinquillo Pinero) that circulates in the dining room. One night they gave the half a dozen Canadians in attendance at the pool bar an impromptu concert from 8 to 11. It was a magical evening. You can view a video on You tube if you key in SUCU SUCU A ISLA DEL SUR
Entertainment was at 10 pm each night at the Isla del Sur but it was only in Italian. The entire resort complex of the four hotels was 95% Italian guests from Italy, and the remainder of the clientele were from Quebec and Cuba. I was the only Anglophone in the resort and my traveling companion was the only Maritimer. I think all of the English speaking only visitors to the island from Toronto tend to book at the Pelicano, Barcelo or Sol. The Gran Caribe is not sold out of the Toronto gateway, only Montreal.
The Villa Coral has a swim-up bar (Giovanni and Vladamir are excellent, fun bartenders) and there are two activity staff (shout out to Alex and Daeme), two great people who teach salsa, give Spanish lessons and provide various games activities. I even saw Alex babysitting an 8 year old boy one day while his parents went on an excursion. Pizza is served in the afternoon at the bar as a snack. Music is loud and often repetitive.
The beaches of Cayo Largo are renowned for their beauty. The Playa Paraiso and Playa Sirena are picture postcard perfect with powder soft sand which is not hot to walk on. The water is clear and aqua marine in colour and is either calm as glass or has very gentle waves perfect for laying on an air mattress. Walks along this beach towards Punta Mal Tiempo to the left or beyond Playa Sirena always produced interesting things to see like starfish, sting rays, birds, etc. There is nudism displayed on this island in various sections of all the beaches. There is a complementary shuttle train three times in the morning: 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 going to Paraiso and Sirena. It is an extremely bumpy ride but a lot of fun. Taxis are for hire and cost 2 CUCs per person and are faster than the road train. At Paraiso and Sirena there is a restaurant and bar to purchase food and drinks. The palappas and loungers are usually taken by the 8:30 arrivals but become available at 1:30 when the shuttle comes to pick up and return guests to their hotels. The last shuttle returns at 5:00 pm.
There is a gift shop located across from the main entrance of the Isla hotel. They sell rum, coffee, beach bags, swimsuits, snorkels and masks, towels, handicrafts, fragrances, cigars, crèmes. It is quite remarkable how well stocked it is. There is a little post office beside the store (tienda) which sells post cards, stamps and pens. Beside that is the car, scooter rental which is popular.
Jorge Felix is the Public Relations person and is always circulating throughout the resort, greeting guests, making a la carte arrangements for the Ranchon steak house on Tues and Thurs evening (seating for 30 people). If you have a problem, Jorge does his best to find resolution.
I had the opportunity to visit each of the other hotels on Cayo Largo and in comparison, the Gran Caribe does show its age (it was the first hotel on the island) but it is kept very clean and in good repair. The Villa Coral buildings are painted in pretty pastel colours (blue, pink) that are pretty against the palm trees and various bushes that dot the resort.
The Italians were given an orange bracelet to wear. I was given one but told not to wear it, just show it at the Villa Coral for my first meal and then put it away. The Cubans that arrived throughout the week for 3 day stays wore pink bracelets.
The reps from TMR, Varaplaya and Cubana were present each day to book various excursions that people wanted to take. The Catamaran tour was very popular for $73 CUCs. It included snorkeling, visit to Iguana Island and a lobster dinner at sunset.The village was a $5CUC taxi ride away and houses the museum (a history of Cayo Largo and pictures of the hurricane damage from 2001), a store, a couple of restaurants, a bank, turtle sanctuary and marina. There are apartment complexes for staff in this village also. It takes about an hour to see everything in the village.
This was my first trip to Cayo Largo but I immediately fell in love with its charm, quietness, natural beauty and friendliness of the people. I will go back again next year and probably meet the same guests I befriended this year (shout out to Suzie, Sebastian, Andre and Diane, Joanne and Linne, all from the Montreal area.). I would recommend this resort for a totally relaxing vacation. It certainly helps to speak French, Spanish, or Italian here. Anglophones are definitely the minority population. I got to practice my French that I haven’t spoken since high school. It was a fabulous 2 weeks for me. I loved every minute.