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Arenas Blancas - Varadero
John 
Ottawa
December 2008
Arrival: Dec. 7-14, 2008
My travel companions and I booked with Sunwing. Flight left Toronto on time and arrived early thanks to a rare tail wind. No problem locating the Sunwing rep after collecting our luggage and being directed to the appropriate bus. Upon arriving at the hotel (around 7:30 p.m.) there were about 15-20 couples checking in but only one person at the front desk. Eventually another person came in to help her. Things moved smoothly thereafter, however the porter was very aggressive in demanding a tip, which was difficult to be generous given his aggressiveness and that none of us had had an opportunity to change our money to convertible pesos.
The dining room was still open so we had dinner at the buffet.

Rooms:
My room was clean and smelled fresh and floral after cleaning each day. Beds are low and hard but not uncomfortable as I prefer a firm mattress. Rooms are dated and my room overlooked he front entrance on the third floor. Not bad but many drunken louts tended to hang out in the front after midnight, and also a seeming never ending stream of drunken idiots staggering into the hotel from midnight until 5 a.m. some nights. Even with the balcony door closed, it was loud. Also heard drunken idiots in the hall ways saying effe this, effe that at the top of their lungs. Glad my give year old wasn't with me.
If I go again, I would pay the extra money for an ocean view for the view and the quiet. One of my companions paid extra for an ocean view and it was quiet all week... apparently drunkards don't pay the extra coin for a view.

Restaurants and Bars:
Buffet was edible most days but on day two something didn't sit right and the bacon in the morning set the previous evening's meal induced discomfort off for a day of painful stomach cramps and a 2hr lie down mid afternoon. :( One of my travel companions got quite ill and was not 'right' for the rest of the week. However my other companion has an uber sensitive stomach and made it through no problem.

Buffet has the same stuff every meal. We ate at the three restos on sight. Italian was where I ate my nemisis, not great. The Cuban wasn't too bad but it's hard to mess up chicken and the international was meh...

The main inside hotel bar staff were surly at the best of times. Even after a generous tip. Not good. The pool bar staff were hit and miss. One cook at the pool bar ignored me entirely, but the woman there is a sweet heart. The pool bar didn't make mojitos half the time and you never knew if it was mojito time or not. Inside bar made them all the time, but on occasion ran out of mojito stuff.
Beach bar was not bad with service and food at lunch was okay too.
Resto and bar staff always asked me if I wanted to buy cigars and rum.

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
There was no clear path from my side of the hotel to the beach. There is a path on the other side. Beach was FAB-YOU-LUS. Great sand, somewhat overzealous lifeguard on red and yellow flag days. One lifeguard, and I use that term looosely seemed only there on green-flag days and was always trying to sell cigars, and got pissed off when turned down.

Pool looked okay... only went in once and it was freezing cold. Ocean was warmer. But it looked clean and well kept. The hotel celebrated it's 10th anniversary when we were there and all of us were shocked that the hotel is 'only' 10 years old. My guess would be 25+ years given the condition of the place and the decor.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Activities on the resort were not too bad. Well organized and the staff were amusing and fun to deal with/talk to. Entertainment was good and the dancing was quite good. Got to know one of the dancers and they have a hard life, working from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. at night 15 days on, one day off then back at it, dancing on concrete with no access to medical on the resort for dance-related injuries.

Other Comments:
I may go back if only because I got to know a dancer rather well (as well as you can in a week with a bit of a language barrier LOL). My second time in Cuba. First time was also Veradero, but stayed at Paradysis, which was indeed a paradise for sure. Arenas Blancas, not so much.

One VERY disturbing incident was my departure from Cuba. The Sunwing rep told us they would tell us in advance if our flight was delayed as they'd rather us wait at the resort than the airport. Bus picked up and took us to the airport to find out flight was delayed two hours. We checked our bags but didn't yet go through immigration, rather hung out in the parking lot.

Went into the airport at 10 p.m. and had to look for an immigration officer. My two companions went through in seconds. When I went through I got the usual questions then the officer asked me, and I quote, "How many Cuban women did you ****?" Needless I was dumbfounded and had momentary images of me in a small room sweating out charges for sex tourism. Then he held up my passport which had a post-it note affixed to it with a hand written message "Give me a gift". Again, what if I didn't have anything to give him? I have him all I had that I was willing to part with, one convertible peso (no way he was getting my Nikon D80 or iPod Nano).
He said that was fine, since one convertible peso = 25 local pesos.

Not the way I want to leave a foreign country. I wrote the Cuban Embassy up here and two weeks and no word from them. I do like Cuba and one week there feels like two weeks and for $100/day all in, it's hard to complain about mediocre food. Arenas Blancas is okay for a cheap budget get away, but I wouldn't pay more than $700 all in for this vacation. Paradysis cost double that for a week, but the differences in quality of vacations is HUGE!
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Linda - Married couple in the early 50's 
Norway
September 2008
Arrival and Flight : The flight with Martinair from Amsterdam was very comfortable.

Rooms : Need updating, but clean. The aircondition was noisy.

Restaurants : The food was better than standard Cuban food. International Restaurant was alright. Good service and nice people.

Bars : Lobby bar was ok. Good service.

Beach and Pools : The beach was great, but the tourist was throwing rubbish everywhere. The pool was big and clean.

Grounds : ok

Activities and Entertainment: Good

Conclusion : Cuba is a wonderful country. This was our third stay at the hotel. First an second time was ok, but this time was horrible. Every night with party, much noise, people running up and down the corridor, yelling, vomiting, screaming. Screaming outside by the pool. A lot of drunk people.
No sleep.
We did complain to the staff, but they did nothing.
Next time we will choose another hotel.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Ms. Imelyn 
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
July 2008
Arrival and Flight
My husband and I, first time in Cuba travelling with 4 years old twins and two seniors. We left Toronto on July 9/08 at 9:25 am, & left Varadero on July 16/08 at 1:45 pm via Camaguey to pick up more passengers and left at 2:35 pm. We arrived back Toronto at 7:15 pm on time. Sunwing Airlines, was awesome to fly; large portions of food and flight-attendants cautious and courteous! Tourist Visa Card is given at the plane (cost $20.00 if you loose it or made mistakes). Customs are not as friendly as in Toronto. Hardly can understand what they are saying, so soft but FYI. You must stand straight and look at the camera behind them. No fidgeting. One at a time even you're family of four, no excuses. I almost wonder what about those 4 years old kids, how can they be alone? cannot reach the counter either?...LOL. We manage.

The transgaviota tour bus was waiting for all passengers who've arrived same time at Gomez Airport, Varadero. They'd designate bus numbers for destinations and dropping passengers to their reserved hotels. The guide gave us so much historical information during our way to the hotel as well coming back home. They gave us an indexed card with passengers name and information's to be filled by us later and return it back to our Sunwing representative during orientation.

Check in/Out
Not so bad. Checking In: One person to tend to our needs in the lobby since we are the first in line among the group it only takes us 15 minutes to do 3 rooms processing. We have a cold drink upon arrival part of sunwing deal. Bell boys are helpful. Our room is not yet ready so we hang around to one of the rooms prepared for seniors. Check Out: 5 minutes process. We have to wait an hour for airport pick up. Hot and Boring.

Rooms
Need updating, Simple yet neat and tidy - no dressers (only little night side tables). The bed is low and hard. The fridge is a one time filled up - upon arrival only. (Mind you, not too cold either) So whatever empty water bottles you have please save it and refill from the bar. Safety deposit box is available inside the closet. Basic washroom with a bidet. Shower with half glass door. Also, if you are traveling with children who is not fond of powdered milk, you make purchase of whole milk in a carton at store down across the lobby or make groceries at Plaza America for a cheaper value.

Orientation
A must if you want to be on the right track. Since the regular guy is on holiday himself our fill-in representative from Sunwing, was informative and considerate enough to give us some ideas of what to be aware of and give us some helpful recommendations as well as safety precautions. Thanks so much you did a good job, Miguel. Restaurants
Buffet: not much of variety - same food for most of the week b-fast/lunch/dinner. Recycled some of them. But, we always find something to eat. The twins are fussy eaters so we sticked to food they're familiar with. B-fast at 7:00 am, Lunch at 11:30 am and Dinner opens at 6:30 pm.

24 hrs snack bar: (by the pool) had fries and hot dogs. Hamburgers/chicken burgers on odd days. Thanks to one of the guy who was nice serving us hot dogs with buns, even though they are closed (4:30 pm) during our day of arrival. The twins are so hungry as well as the seniors. Again, we appreciate the effort.

3 A La Carte
Italian Restaurant: out of 5 it could be a 2. So much with authenticated, eh?
International Restaurant: was alright. Pay extra & get the lobster for 15.00 pesos. (bring extra cash- violin serenade tips.)
Cuban: We missed it. So sad.

Bars
The bartender ladies are nice in Lobby bar but then closed at 11:00pm. You where then forced to go to the 24 hrs bar located by the pool - it smell. No blender to make a good slushy drink, so your options beer & rum. What a shame. Need upgrade.

Beach and Pools
The beach was awesome, great location, white soft sand & great chair/huts all over. We appreciate the effort made from beach guards to set up our spot at the beach. The pool was nice & spacious, however they closed it at 7pm for maintenance purposes (adding chlorine). So much for night swim.

Grounds
Not maintained on a daily basis. Yet not so bad either. Gardeners effort is appreciated.

Activities and Entertainment
Not a lot of activities, they had a full board of activities but you couldn't always find an activity coordinator. The hours of kids club is not affirmative. You must have patience to wait for the room to open or upon arrival of the coordinator (Hours of Operation should have been posted) Also, you must have one guardian/parent to watch your child at all time. But not so bad. There is always room for improvement.

Tours/Excursions
We wanted to book for Havana Tour for historical sites, but we are so occupied at the beach and pool. The twins are having so much fun. The Seniors are getting exhausted. Perhaps next time around we decide to come back.

We booked Jeep Safari thru Sunwing. Adult for 71 Pesos and child for 54 Pesos. Party of five (2 kids 3 adults). Left at 8:20 am for pick up (paid receipt upon boarding the trans tour bus). Dropped at rental office for jeeps (drivers license needed if your driving, please). Oops! This is only available for standard transmission (so much for the automatic). Our party in one jeep together following our tour guides/mechanic in one long line, altogether 9 jeeps cruising along the country side of Varadero, Cuba. With an open mind you will experience the local lifestyle and make the best out of it. We brought some candies to share to some children waving along the way (buy it from dollar store). We stopped 5 times during the excursions. Some went snorkeling. Swim at the cave sweet water to cool down. Visit a local farmers house. Lunch at the ranch. Did horse back riding, photo shooting with the bull, hammock relaxation, sight seeing etc. A boat ride along the river. It was a wonderful experience for us. I shall recommend this to whom who is interested in this sort of activity.

Public Transportation
Taxi: 1 peso/kilometro.
Bus: 2 pesos per person.
Tricycle: Per Kilometro
Horse buggy: Per kilometro
Beach Tour Bus: for 5.00 pesos per person for whole day trip. Stopped at calle 13 for main flea market. Hop back into the bus for more sight seeing around loop or to Plaza America for other shopping spree.

Tips
It is an individual preference. We gave change and small bills. In return we have a swan made towels and blanket. A thank you notes. We left behind goodies and toys that my kids does not want no more.

Conclusions
With an open mind. Learn the basics. This place is in average. The service and staff are friendly yet far away from we experienced in Dominican Republic. This place is on the right track for improvement. All they need is more research to enhance their skills and knowledge in public relations. Upgrade their equipments and learn new things. I shall recommend this place to Families with small children and seniors. Definitely not for adult. Keep up the good work guyz.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Terry 
Toronto
June 2008
Arrival and Flight
We left Toronto on May 10th at 4:15pm, & left Varadero on May 17th at 10:15pm. Sungwing Airlines, was awesome to fly; large portions of food and flight-attendants curtious!

Rooms
Need updating, very clean - no dressers (only little night side tables).

Restaurants
Italian Restaurant, out of 5 I would rate it a 2.
International Restaurant was the best, pay extra & get the lobster.
Buffet, no variety at all - same food for most of the week both lunch/dinner.
24 hrs snack bar only had grilled cheese sandwiches & fries, odd day they had hamburgers/hot dogs.

Bars
Lobby bar closed at 11:00pm, you where than forced to go to the 24 hrs bar located by the pool - it smelt the entire week. No blender to make a good slushy drink, so your options beer & rum.

Beach and Pools
The beach was awesome, great location, soft sand & great chair/huts all over. The pool was nice & big & spacious however not kept clean within 3 days the water looked merky as if they wheren't cleaning it.

Grounds
Not cleaned on a daily basis, it was almost like they had cut down on staff as it was going into there slow season.

Activities and Entertainment
Not allot of activities, they had a full board of activities but you couldn't always find an activity co-ordinator. Tours Departure and Check Out Check in took us 45 mins, for 15 people with 2 people at the front desk. Check out was even worse, no one to help us at all to where to put our suitcases till we got picked up later that afternoon. Conclusion According to Itravel this resort was rated a 4 star & gold star; I would not rate this hotel higher than 3 star.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Carla 
Newfoundland
May 2008
Arrival and Flight: April 27, 2008

Rooms: Just as described, nothing fancy, but very clean and tidy. Always hot water, and we were on the second floor. We had a room with two double beds. The beds are very low to the ground, so we just took the other mattress and put it on top of our bed! Made it a normal size bed, and the housekeeper just made the bed normally ( I don't think it was the first time she had seen this done ). Shampoo/Conditioner all provider for you in the room. They replaced all the pillows with brand new ones the week we were there. Fridge in room was also great.

Restaurants: We ate at the Italian and International. The Italian was just like the buffet, nothing fancy. The International was great! Loved the food selection there. Always found something to eat at buffet for all meals, honestly no complaints there.

Bars: All were great, pool bar open 24 hours.

Beach and Pools: pool is big, and was very nice. Beach was amazing, this is why we returned to Varadero.

Grounds: Since this hotel is an older hotel, all the grounds are fully grown, so it was great. Trees were fully grown, and plants as well. Really nice.

Activities and Entertainment: Show everynight... same stuff as every other place. Location is key for this hotel as you can just go on the street and find something to do.

Tours: Did the Havana day tour, booked through Sunwing. Great time, got to see Old Havana. Everything we expected.

Departure and Check Out: Since we were flying to St. John's, NL, our flight left very early in the morning... seems we always get the worst flight times. Quick check in and out at the hotel. No complaints.

Conclusion: Overall, the best thing about Arenas Blancas is the location. If you pay over $1000 a person for this hotel, it is not worth it. Our one complaint was that the air conditioning in the rooms wasnt very powerful. It keeps the rooms cool, but not powerful. We were with a group with three rooms, and all of our a/c units were like this. Staff are very friendly, and we would definitely return to Arenas Blancas.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Heidi 

May 2008
Arenas Blancas was the trip from hell. The food was better than standard Cuban food, but that is the only good thing to say about this hotel. I was awakened every night with party goers running up and down the hallway yelling, vomiting, screaming, banging on doors - until 4 am. When I mentioned it to the staff they indicated nothing could be done. I apparently was not the only complainant. Finally, they switched rooms for me (further from the elevator/stairs). I called my room the Chinese water torture room. Water was constantly running, as if someone was showering and again staff indicated nothing could be done. Only 1 light worked and I was lucky if I had hot water for my shower. I put up with this nonsense for a full week - little or no sleep, no lights, no hot water. On the final night someone new checked in in the next room with a boom box and of course music was blasting and yes I mean blasting until 4 am again.

I would recommend this hotel if you are auditioning for a part in the movie Animal House, but as for regular patrons I would not recommend this hotel. Oh yes, and I did complain to the tour company thinking I would get a least a credit for the sub par room and of course they apologized but did nothing. Again, I would not recommend this hotel to anyone.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Brikel 

March 2008
Recently I have read some bad reviews of this hotel. I wanted to submit my review of the hotel to dispel some of the conflicting information.

My family visited this hotel from Mar 21-28 2008 (children 9+11). The hotel is large and spacious with a great swimming pool. The beach is about a 5 minute walk from any room in the hotel. The beach is probably one of the best I've ever been to stretching for a mile each way.

Food: The food is good we could always find something we liked breakfast lunch and dinner, however the assortment was limited. The pasta bar, and omelette station were the best choices. I never got a chance to eat at the a-la-cartes because we booked excursions and the booking for the restaurants closed up quickly.

Rooms: The rooms had enough space for the four of us, clean with NO bugs. The beds however were hard and uncomfortable. The rooms definitely need to be updated. Ocean view rooms are not what they say since your view is blocked by palm trees. The maid service was great -she made swans with the towels.

Service: The breakfast and lunch staff at the buffet did little but always expected a tip. However the dinner staff were very helpful and friendly. The cooks went out of their way while preparing the foods at the stations to be courteous to the kids.

Beach: Like I said early, the beach is amazing. Clear water and a beach that went on forever. You could walk our for a hundred meters and it was only up to your waist.

Location: Close walk to downtown Varadero. You can take the tourist bus but watch for the long lines at the end of the day. The bus may pass you by. I always felt safe while walking on the beach and on the street.

Excursions: We did two day trips. One was on the catamaran to see the dolphins. This was a great day. Swim with the dolphins for 10 minutes, visit a nearby island to have a lobster/chicken lunch. Hopefully the sea won't be as rough for you since our snorkeling trip was hampered by winds.

The second was a Jeep trip. We all had alot of fun. We did about 180km on and off road. A swim in Saturn cave, trip to a local farm, a boat ride down a river. Bring lots of candy that you can give to the kids who stand by the side of the road waving to you as you go through the small towns. It opens your eyes to the real lives of the Cubans.

Money Exchange: Sure they do take Canadian money in Cuba but the exchange rate is horrible. The rates are very close where every you go however their is a officer just out of the hotel on the left where you get the best rates. The rate for Canadian is One Cuban Peso costs $1.15 Canadian. One Cuban Peso costs 0.89 American. That's a .26 cent difference. It will definitely make a difference if you take American cash with you. Using a Canadian credit card anywhere they charge an extra 11%.

Value: This is a hotel with alot of value especially when you have kids since they stay and eat free. Obviously this is a 4 star in Cuba but probably a 3 1/2 in Mexico etc. For the money we paid it was definitely worth it.

The Good: Beach, location, pool, cleanliness, value

The Bad: uncomfortable beds, staff presuming to be tipped,

Summary: I had a great time in Arenas Blancos, its exactly what I expected from a 4 star Cuban hotel. I would return and I would recommend it to anyone with children. If you want something fancy and your a picky eater go somewhere else or pick another island. The bottom line when I read some of the previous reviews is that you can't expect Canadian food and lodging while in Cuba. If your going for a beautiful beach and a comfortable stay-your set.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
 
Canada
February 2008
My husband and I just returned from our sixth stay at Arenas Blancas in Varadero, Cuba and had a wonderful time as always. We took our two grandsons, ages 7 and 9 with us and they loved the experience and are wanting to know when they can go again.

Our check in was fast and friendly. We were very surprised to find our room ready for us as we got to Varadero at l0 to l0 in the morning. Our room was large, spotless, had three double beds in it and was very nice. Remember to take your own facecloths as they don't provide them.

We felt the buffet was better than other years. We were always able to find something to eat. The children loved the pasta bar and the pizza and of course the ice cream. The snack bar out side which is open when the buffet is closed had fries and hamburgers and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.

The pool of course was amazing. Very very clean and never crowded. The ocean was great for swimming and lots of fun to jump the waves. The beach is incredible. The best I have ever seen. We were there from Feb. 4th to llth, 2008 and can hardly wait to go back again next year.

It is in a great location, close to the beach, within walking distance of stores and markets and we even took the boys to the public school and dropped off supplies we had shopped for at home and taken with us. It is good for children to see that everyone isn't as lucky as they are. They enjoyed that.

If anyone is considering Arenas Blancas and has any questions they would like answered they can contact me at estoehr@vianet.ca and I would be very happy to try to answer them.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Carlos 
Hawkesbury
January 2008
Arrival - Arrival was uneventful - we were missing some documentation but that was our tour agent's fault (TMR) - the desk clerk said she would sort it out with the rep and did so.

Rooms - rooms were spacious - the slightly stale smell cleared qucikly it that we slept with the door open all night ( NO BUGS !! )the cleaning staff did a good job and appreciated the 'gifts' we left behind

Restaurants - The cafeteria served up varied and usually tasty meals every deal - there's lots of choice even for the pickiest eaters ( Notwithstanding some of the earlier reviews) all three 'specialty' restaurants were fine - the food was no better than the cafeteria but had enjoyable atmospheres ( especially the international and the Cuban )

Bars - The best coffee was definitely at the pool bar ( Cactus, I believe )If you bring your own mug, if cuts down on the to and fro.

Beach and Pools - the beach was great though everyone seems to treat it like a giant ashtray - do take advantage of the watercraft - kayaks, catamarans -

Grounds - The grounds are the most attractive feature of the hotel and were a joy to wander whether by day or by night.

Activities - night time entertanment - amateurish but fun -

Tours - Only to the day tour to Habana - well worth the $67 pesos if only to see old Habana ( self-confessed history nut ) and how the majority of Cubans really live. Beggars are a bit of a nuisance - La Mina restaurant was worthwhile and recommended

Conclusion - found out our waitress makes $10 CU pesos per month ! next time I'll walk around with a pocketful of pesos for tips - while they never ask they could certainly use them
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Laura 
Canada
January 2008
Arrival - No problems at check in - very quick, organized and the bell boy was waiting for us at the door.

Rooms - The room was huge - we had a room with 3 beds, however they were rock hard and the pillows were terrible - BRING YOUR OWN PILLOWS. Room was clean. Bathroom was large with toilet, bidet and full bath with shower. Sink was outside toilet area, which is a plus! There is a safe opened by your room key in the closet which worked great. We had a first floor room facing the pool which, for us, turned out bad since we have children and the shows were late at night and it was very loud in our room. If you are staying up for them or don't travel with children, pool view is the best.. otherwise, get the other side of the building.

Restaurants - Buffet was OK - we always found something eatable. ALWAYS CHECK what they are doing on the grill - I found the best food was there (fresh fish, beef, chicken etc) and it was hot and served quickly. My kids were not impressed with the food at all but never went hungry. The snack bar is great (advertised 24 hours but isn't open between 7am-10am and 6 pm - 11pm) with french fries, hot dogs, burgers, grilled cheese etc made for you.

We at ate the cuban and the italian a la carte. The cuban was terrible (bad service all around!) but the italian was pretty good. Make you reservations the first day you arrive or there may not be times available.

Bars - Lobby bar was the best, frozen drinks and good service. Beach bar was terrible with slow service and the pool bar was decent.

Beach and Pools - The pool here is amazing and huge. Always somewhere to go where the kids wouldn't bother someone sunbathing. Warm and clean! The beach is Varadero - amazing of course!

Grounds - The grounds are kept clean and tidy. We didn't have any problems with how much it was lit at night.

Activities - We didn't see any of the shows but the afternoon entertainment was OK - they did some dancing, mini golf, ping pong tournaments and animal trainers while we were there.

Conclusion - We are a family of 4 and this was our first trip to the caribbean. Our overall opinion was that this is a good place to stay, clean, everyone was friendly and kind.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Oldcubalover 

January 2008
Being a frequent flyer to Cuba, I have stayed at some bad hotels, and some very good ones.

In my opinion the AB is in the good ones.

The food was typical buffet food, you don’t go to Cuba for their culinary skills, but everything I ate was at least palatable, and some was very good.

The fresh cooked filets of fish were excellent, lots of stuff for salads and of course their breads were always fresh.

Breakfast is good, the guy that cooks the eggs will do anything you want, and after the 2nd day he knew how I liked them.

Since I don’t spend a lot of time there, I never tried the a la carte restaurants.

Pool was clean, the property is huge, so be prepared for a bit of walking. The beach is awesome of course, but it’s a 4 or 5 min walk to it from the main building. Depending on where your room is it could be even longer. I found like another poster that at night, the walking paths are not very well lit.

My room was great, I had a huge bedroom, huge bathroom, living room with TV and everything. I was in one of the bungalows.

The staff is ok, I never had any problems.

All in all, it was a good week and that hotel helped in making it a good week.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Sam 

November 2007
So I (male 28) started a new job Nov 5 so i decided to reward myself with a last minute vacation to Varedero... I have been there several times with my guy friends but no one could go this time so i went single with SUNWING, only bad thing is the late flight... but the VIP is great.

HOTEL was amazing, great rooms, clean and spacious... not the Ritz carlton, but this is the tropics.

FOOD was better than i have ever had in cuba, I set my expectations low due to the way they process their food, but I had greta lamb, beef, pork and fish almost every night, never made it to breakfast... hehe.

BEACH was so beautiful but due to the storm serge from tropical storm Noel the waves were very rough and prevented my from getting in the water.

POOL was the best as the trees and dunes sheltered the pool area from the sand and wind, the pool was a great place during the day to cool off and a better place to relax with friends after the clubs at 4AM!

NIGHTLIFE was better than I expected considering that this is slow season and most of the hotels were at 25%capacity. the playmakers organise club nights at the best clubs every night, I danced in outdoor clubs all night with some of the most beautiful women in Cuba and from Canada (Quebec). Bus ride is $5 roundtrip (unless you walk) and entrace is $10 with 1 dollar drinks all night.

Went to Mediteranian, an outdoor club, International a theatre type club, the CAVE (too hot), a pool party, and a beach party. the outdoor clubs were the best, dancing under the stars with a full moon was more fun (and romantic) than I have ever experienced.

Bring Canadian dollars to convert into CUC as that is the only money people take for payment. Make friends with an emplyee at the hotel and ask for dinner at their house and for Cigars (yes they are fake but REALLY good fakes - in the sence that they are Cuban tobacco but not the best QUALITY - they still smoke great).

I went by myself but ended up meeting many great groups of people from all over Canada (especially Quebec) I danced all night every night and hung out by the pool drinking every day. (ANOTRE - TOUT LE MODE)

Cant wait to go back for March Break 2008.

The hotel is situated at the edge of the TOWN of Varedero (it starts at street 1 and ends at street 69) the hotel is at the start of HOTEL ROW which starts at street 69... so you can WALK into town to the stores, the BIG mall is about a $5 cab ride away. I bought some nice Tshirts from Europe that I have not seen in Toronto.

Maybe rent a moped for a few hours to scoot into town and see the MAIN part of town. Go to Havana, cheaper if you have a local take you.

I went Scuba diving to teh BAY OF PIGS and found MANY spent Ammunition shells from the american invasion.

Played a round of golf, but it was too hot.

For the $ value i will take Cuba over Dominican or any place else anytime.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
John 

September 2007
Aug 18 to 25th, single male 27yo - Toronto

I confirmed my decision of going to this resort by reading the reviews on this site so I’m writing my review so others can make an informed decision as well.

Flight: I flew with Conquest. I originally wanted to go through Sunwing because of their VIP package. Others who flew Sunwing had their fridge stocked with water, pop & beer and for me I only had water, it's a nice welcome package but it's an all inclusive bar anyways. I found that Sunwing flights are evening flights so by the time you arrived at the resort it was late and everything is closed (except for the 24hr bar). The benefit to flying with conquest is they had early morning flights so I arrived during the day and was on the beach by noon. This gave me the chance to scope out everything for the rest of my stay. If you find a good deal, don't wait, book it! The fuller the resort, the higher the price. I waited last min and ended up paying $1248 but could have saved $200. Either way, I had a great time, no regrets.

Resort: Loved it. My room was a bit musty but that comes with age and the only time I was in my room was to shower and sleep. No bugs. This was definitely a fun resort. They had nightly entertainment on a daily bases from 9pm to 11pm and the shows where entertaining and the dancers where very talented, And yes, the drinks at the lobby bar are made better then the pool bar. The fries and grilled cheese sandwiches at the 24hour bar where delicious! I spent most of my time on the beach but the pool was large and clean and you'll get a good tan lounging by the pool with sun reflecting off the waters.

Food: Reading the reviews not many people enjoyed the food but I had no problems and actually liked it. Breakfast was my favorite, especially the omelets made while you wait plenty of fresh fruits, lunch and dinner buffet had something different everyday. From the Italian and International A la Carte, Italian was my favorite.

Excursions: I went to a guided tour to Havana $67CUC, very educational and historical. I also booked the Catamaran $85CUC (Kissed by dolphins - picture included, snorkeling, couple hours on and island beach and seafood lunch), and lots of drinking and relaxation. On the catamaran you have an option to enjoy a fresh garlic/butter lobster for $10CUC and that was delicious!

Phones: At the front desk you can make a quick 2min phone call for $2cuc

Beach: Beautiful! and the resort was right on the beach. If you want to reserve a good shaded area it's good to go before breakfast. You can pay a deposit for a beach towel and trade it in for a fresh one each day. I went during Hurricane Dean and was relieved to find out it went south of Cuba. The weather was beautiful, the water was turquoise and it only rained 1 day.

Nightlife: Amazing! great party atmosphere. I don't know the spelling but I went to Caste duo, there was a big cave but the real party was on the beach, clubbing on the beach was indeed a memorable experience, there where at least 500 people and the music was great, classic house/dance and raggaeton if your into that. I also went to a pool party at Fiesta House and La Rhumba. Entrance is $5 to $10 cuc, drinks not included but very cheap.

Tips: Not expected but it's only courtesy and they really don't make much at all. I tipped ($1-$2cuc) to my favorite bartenders and maids along with the towel person and I received excellent service!

Don't forget: Bring extra sun block! It's expensive in Cuba $20bottle. Bug spray, after bite. In this case it's better to over pack then under pack, it's expensive to buy clothes so the workers will appreciate any clothing item you can give them. There’s no laundry facility but you can leave your laundry with the maids and it takes 24hrs. I brought around $50 in gifts including army hats and they loved it! Especially the grounds keepers cause they're in the sun all day.

Money: Bring CANADIAN dollars!, I brought all American and it's not worth it, $100 American I got back $80cuc. There's a bank right beside the resort, no debit cards accepted, if your taking money out it'll be a cash advance on your credit card. After hours (9pm to 9am) you can exchange money at the resort.

All and all I had a fantastic time at Arenas Blancas and would highly recommend it to anyone, even for solo travelers, there where some families with kids as well. Enjoy!
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Two university students,aged 18 and 19 
Toronto
June 2007
We booked our trip with CONQUEST. And as I went with a male and we didnt want to share rooms, they arranged for us to have two rooms side by side for the same price as if we were sharing one!! (talk about awesome serivce!!!!)

FLIGHT
We flew with SKYSERVICE, probably the smallest plane i have ever been on but becausethe flight was so short it wasnt too bad. I would never fly with them anywhere far. The departure to Cuba was right on time!! however, our flight was delayed 12 hours on the way back. At first i was upset but then i realized i got an extra 12 hours in CUBA!!

RESORT
I need to make one thing clear... THERE ARE NO BUGS! I saw no bugs at all at arenas blancas or even outside. On one occasion I was walking down the hall and saw a moth. That was as bad as it got. The resort is very comfortable. A few things are old but they do an excellent job of keeping it clean and staying on top of any repairs. The rooms are clean and comfortable, the view i had was unbelievable. The pool and beach are VERY clean. You don’t need to bring a beach towel, they are provided with a deposit of 20 pesos that you will get back when you return the towels at the end of your stay.

The staff are amazing and friendly (especially the bartenders). The cleaning service is very nice too. However they can be loud in the hallways in the morning but I didn’t mind too much, it woke me up so I didn’t waste a day sleeping.

There are more young people at this resort it really is considered a party resort. A few families that were there did not look like they were enjoying it much.

FOOD
The food is bearable. I lived off fruit, pasta and bread the whole trip. I brought granola bars with me and I was fine. I always had enough to eat. But being a vegetarian in Cuba is not very easy.

The restaurants at the resort are very nice. Remember to book your reservations when you get there or else you wont have a chance to experience them. I did not enjoy the Italian restaurant. it is all meat but the International restaurant was fantastic!!!

ENTERTAINMENT/NIGHTLIFE
The nightlife is what won me over in cuba. The clubs in cuba are amazing. Keep in mind that it costs 10 pesos for cover and you still have to pay for drinks once inside. So I suggest drinking as much as you can at your resort before leaving. Cabs are always outside the resort at night to pick you up. I usually paid 4 pesos each way.
The usual hotspots were La Rhumba, Beach Party, and International. I found myself at La Rhumba 3 times on that trip.
The nightly entertainment at the resort was hilarious! It was fun and truly entertaining. They have very talented dancers.

REMEMBER
You need to save 25 pesos to leave the country. Also, bring bandaids, lighters, pepto bismol caplets, advil, Tylenol etc. It is very expensive to buy these things down there, if you can even find them.

The Cubans also appreciate anything you leave behind for them.

I absolutley reccomend Arenas Blancas to everyone, even if you are very picky.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Donnie & Lynn 

May 2007
A group of 5 adults (two couples and one single) traveling between April 1 - 8, 2007. One of the couples had stayed here before (they have done a lot of traveling), but it was the first time for us (last year we were in Cayo Coco, Cuba). We've also been to Dominican Republic (Puerto Plata, Punta Canada, Rio San Juan)

Flight: We traveled with Sunwing out of Halifax, NS and I'm sure that we will not be traveling with them again. We prebooked our seats both ways and ended up getting bumped both times, although we did receive a refund on the seat charge, after a month of waiting. The flight itself was good - leather seats, good meals. Our flight started in St. John's, NF, came to Halifax, and then onto Varadero. We were 7 hours late coming home due to the Easter Sunday snowstorm, but you can't do much about the weather!

Hotel: We always look for a beachfront resort and this fit the bill! It was also really neat to walk out the front door of the hotel and be downtown. We walked to the closest flea market (only 5 minutes) a few times, also went for a walk one night after supper and there were no worries - very safe. They have lots of choices for transportation (horse & carriage, taxis - mostly antique cars - very cool!, coco taxi, and the Varadero Beach tour double decker bus which you can ride all day for 5 pesos - great way to visit the other flea markets and see Varadero). Although they say it's a 4 star, I disagree - probably when it was first built it was, but it's in desperate need of some updating, so I would rate it at 3 ½ - but still a nice place to go. We asked for a third or fourth floor room with an ocean view and a king size bed and ended up with a fourth floor room with two double beds. The hotel does have elevators or if you're ambitious you can take the stairs. Varadero is a peninsula and when you walked out onto our balcony you could see the gorgeous ocean on one side and the Bay of Cardenas on the other side. Apparently the snorkeling is good in the Bay of Cardenas. Our room was always clean and we had ample towels, blankets. Housekeeping made really neat designs with our towels which was always fun to find. Our friends asked to have their room changed to be closer to the rest of us and it wasn't a problem. However, their new room had extremely little water pressure in the shower, but ours was ok. We usually had ample hot water, except for a few times it went lukewarm, but soon warmed back up again. Bring your own facecloths as they aren't supplied. Two cans of beer, two cans of pop and 2 1.5 L of water were in the fridge. These are not replenished and you can get refills of your water in the lobby bar. You can drink the water from the tap, but we always play it safe and use the bottled water - even for brushing your teeth.

We brought some gifts for the maids and left a peso as well. We had our briefing with our Sunwing rep the next day (please attend these - they will give you important information about the hotel, excursions, changing money, etc.) and spoke with him following that. We found out that pesos are appreciated more than the gifts - which is great as that means more room in the luggage for our stuff!

Rather than changing your money at the airport where the line is long, change it at the hotel - they have a desk around the corner from the front desk that will change it there and the rate is comparable to what you would get elsewhere.

Restaurants/Bars:
If you're expecting food to be the same as in Canada, you will be disappointed. I'm a picky eater, but I never went hungry - there's always something you can eat. We ate at the buffet every day for breakfast. Lunch was either the buffet, the snack bar by the pool, or the restaurant by the beach. We did go to the International restaurant for supper one night and it was really good. We also went to the Italian restaurant another night and it was quite good as well. The service in both restaurants was superb!

All the bars we visited (lobby, pool and beach) were fine. Some of the staff at the lobby bar were cool (not rude...just standoffish), but I suppose if I had to work 23 hours straight I might be the same way too! If you like beer - Crystal is very good. I found that the slush they use to make Margaritas with goes really well with rum too!

Beach/Ocean:
Absolutely beautiful! Miles and miles of pure white sand with gorgeous blue & turquoise water. The water is a little cool getting in (we're used to warmer water in Dominican) but once you're in it's great. No rocks and very little seaweed and grass in the water. One day we had a lot of wind and there were a few jellyfish wash up, but they weren't letting anyone in the water due to unsafe conditions anyway. We did take a pedal boat out for a while. Others were certainly making use of the kayaks and catamarans. It's nice to have the breeze when you're laying in the sun. Sometimes it was hard to find 5 chairs together if you weren't at the beach/pool early and if you want some shade, I would recommend getting there early. Although we never left our gear totally unattended (one of us usually stayed behind), we saw many others who did and there was never a problem.

Entertainment:
Every evening there was a show. We didn't take in many. They always started off with a show for the kids before the main event.

Excursions:
We only did the half day Swim With the Dolphins tour ($89 pesos per person). Although it wasn't even a full half day, I'm glad that we went and we all had a great time. First you watch a dolphin show - what amazing animals! Then you break into smaller groups and get in the water with the dolphins where you get to do stunts with them. If you want to take your camera in with you to take pictures of the dolphin show, it is an extra $5 pesos, and if you want a photo of the dolphins "kissing" you, it's an extra $8 pesos. You can also do a little shopping there as well.

All in all, we enjoyed our trip to Varadero as we had super weather (just a few sprinkles of rain one morning) and it was great to get away and unwind.

Would we recommend this resort? Yes, but would we return to this resort? Likely not...just because there are so many other locations to sample!
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Annie 

April 2007
Two girls traveling together, we are 26 and 28. We went to Arenas Blancas from March 30th to April 6th, 2007.

Flight: We booked our flight with Sunwing vacations and I would hesitate to book with them again. Our plane was late both ways : almost 6 hours late while going to Cuba and an hour late leaving. However, the service inside the plane was good : great meals, champagne, etc. We left from Ottawa and had a stop at Cancun on the way and our flight was direct at the return.

Location: This hotel is situated right on the beach on one side and downtown Varadero on the other side. The location is great! It is walking distance (5-10 minutes) from shops, markets, restaurants, bars, etc. If you prefer not to walk, you have a variety of other options : coco taxi, horse carriage, real taxi, double-decker bus (5 pesos and you can use it from 9 to 9 that day)

Resort: This resort is rated as a four star but I would rate it as a 3 or 3 ½. It is quite old and not really taken care off (but the gardens, pool and beach are beautiful). If you are not the type to spend a lot a time in your room, you will be fine. The crowd is mainly couples and older people, and a few families. It might only be the time of the year where we went. We still met some fun people to hang with.

Our Room: The first room we were assigned to was on the third floor on the pool/ beach side House keeping was always prompt and polite and very appreciative of all of the gifts we gave or left them, our room was always clean and tidy. The towel art was always fun to find when we got ”home” at night. Also, there is a fairly big balcony with a table and chairs – it’s great!

Bars: The bars were all ok; by far the best one was the lobby bar for the drinks and service. The Mojitos and the Margaritas are amazing! Also, I you like orange juice, don’t take the one in the lobby bar, fill your cup at the buffet, it is delicious!!

Restaurants: It’s ok. Really! For an all-inclusive resort in Cuba, it is ok. There is choice, we always found something to eat, at every meal. Breakfast is especially good and I loved the ham and cheese. The Cuban sure love their ham and cheese! A disappointment was the snack bar. I read a lot about the ham and cheese sandwiches and the snack bar and they are not good. Fries and burgers were ok. As for the A la Carte restaurants, we only tried the Italian one and liked it very much. Finally, the beach restaurant (at lunch) has a small buffet with pasta and shrimps… really good!

Beach: It’s perfect; long and white, and the water turquoise, clean and the temperature is PERFECT. The weather was perfect all week for swimming and tanning on the beach, and there were big waves to play in. We had no problem finding chairs even if we went on the beach late in the morning. Shade, however, was harder to find but the day we wanted a break from the sun, we looked and finally found a spot under a palpas. We always had our camera and MP3 players on the beach and were never scared to leave for drinks or to go swimming – there was plenty of beach security.

Entertainment: The nightly entertainment consists of musical events, bands, dance, shows and competitions last Miss or Mister Arenas Blancas. It is fun to watch and very entertaining.

Excursions: We took the day tour to Havana (Wonderful! So interesting! We had a small group and our tour guide, Aramis, was amazing!) and the Catamaran – Crucero Del Sol day, wich is also a wonderfull day. You get to snorkel, swim with the dolphins, visit a beautiful beach, eat lobster and tan on the beach / boar.

Retrospect: Would I go back to Arenas Blancas? Probably not, but only because I’m not the type to go back twice at the same hotel. But I would recommend it to someone on a tight budget, who want s agreat vacation, close to everything and with a beautiful beach. Need more info or pictures? sookmaster@hotmail.com
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Lynda Gilles and the kids 
New liskeard, Ontario
January 2007
This is our second trip to Cuba. You can check my other review to villa covarubias from last year. We traveled with sunwing from Sudbury. It is very nice to leave from a smaller airport when travelling with kids.

FOR THE KIDS: This resort is very child friendly. Their is many organized activities for the kids all day and into the evening. Bowling, darts, ping pong, checker, tennis, dancing, dress up, playground, just to name a few. I felt safe to leave my 7 and eleven year old at the daycare. The daycare worker was very nice and my kids loved her. The swimming pools are safe for children.

OCEAN: The ocean is just wonderful. Activities includ kayaks, catamarans, and peddal boats.

RESORT: This resort is clean but seems to need some carpets to be changed.(paint and stains on them) The rooms are clean but look a little old.

FOOD: My take on the food in Cuba is if you don't like change then stay home. None of us starved! The kids ate all day, snacks plentyfull, fresh fruit, pizza, hamburgers and french fries. Their was always lots to choose from in the buffet. We all found something good to eat. The a la carte restaurants were very good. The x-mass supper was great! Hey! I'm not going to lie, some food is bad BUT you're in a different country. If you rather eat things you are used to then stay in Canada. As for the beer, crystal is always a very good choice. The mix for the drinks, not so good. You can drink the water in Cuba, we did and never got sick!

TRIPS: Their are many trips you can take daily in Varadero. We did the dolphin swim for x-mass. It includes a day trip in a catamaran, all inclusive drinks, a swim with dolphins, snorkeling, lunch on an island. A must for children. My kids loved this. We also took the kids on a horse caridge ride in the town of Varadero. They got to see alot of different things that they would otherwise not get to see if we stayed on the resort. I went for a walk with my cousin to the markets and felt very safe to do so.

This was a very good trip, the staff was nice, the weather was great, my kids were safe.I will be returning to Cuba.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Char & Joy 
Ottawa , Canada
December 2006
Arenas Blancas was not what we had expected, but our trip to Cuba ended up being a great experience because we made the best of it!

This trip was an end of exams getaway. We are both 23 and we were looking forward to a relaxing vacation filled with cute boys, and lots of booze. This resort was definitely not filled with many people our age, very few were. Most seemed to be in the 30’s range and with their significant others.

We arrived at the hotel at noon, and the rooms were not ready until 3, so if you’re traveling in the early am make sure to pack your swimgear in your carry on, so it’s easily accessible while your killing time before your room is ready.

Food
People are not kidding when they say the food in Cuba isn’t so great. Breakfast was always the best meal, fresh fruit, bacon and eggs were the most edible. Lunch and dinner in the buffet was not so great. Most of the time there was pasta, so if your picky, stick to that and you’ll be okay. The Italian a la carte restaurant was excellent, the pizza and lasagna was the best food we had all week.

Drinks
Very rum heavy, as like half your drink is rum. We brought coffee mugs for our drinks to cut down on wasted plastic cups, and because the plastic cups are like Dixie cop size. Pool bar was really bad. Lobby bar made the best drinks….pina coladas, Cuba libres and vodka lemons were our faves.

Trips
We booked our day trip through sunwing vacations, and they had several day packages you could sign up for. We went on the Havana Day trip. We got to sight see, eat lunch at a Havana restaurant and do a little afternoon shopping. It was fun, but it was a poor area. People were stopping us asking if we had soap and shampoo.

(we brought makeup, shampoos, soaps and treats for the hotel staff but we never thought of bringing stuff to Havana)

Leaving the Resort
We left the resort to explore quite frequently. We checked out the flea markets in Varadero and bought some souvenirs. BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THE JEWELLERY YOU BUY. DO NOT WEAR IT UNTIL YOU HAVE BLEACHED/LYSOLED IT. This I speak from experience. I bought a cute hemp flower necklace which, gave me a fungus on my neck. An itchy, red, mess that hurt, and was spreading. ($40 of creams from Canadian doctors cured it when I got back) SO be careful, cause this type of rash is really uncomfortable and hurts when exposed to the sun, not to mention is really gross.

Phones
We did not use the phones at the resort, as we heard they were quite costly. Instead we walked into Varadero and stopped at a telephone hut to buy a phone card and to call home. We paid 5 CUC for a card and got like 4 minutes, which was enough time to call home, and let everyone know we had arrived safely.

The Beach
The beaches in Varadero were gorgeous, beautiful turquoise waters, and white sands. This alone made the trip worthwhile. We never had an issue finding room at the beach, there were always tons of chairs and great spots to chill. In addition, most of the time the pool was empty too, so finding a spot at either location was never a hassle.

The Nightlife
The nightlife at the resort pretty much didn’t exist. The shows ended before midnight, and most headed out into the city to the bars. Havana Club is walking distance. It reminded us of ‘On tap” in Ottawa, hence we didn’t enjoy it too much (10 CUC’s all you can drink) Rhumba was way better. 5 peso cab ride and 10 pesos all you can drink as well. It was an awesome club, we had a great time there.

Toilet Seats
In addition it might be helpful for some of you to know that in Cuba (outside the resort), toilet seats are rare, and you have to pay to use the bathroom. The attendant sits outside and will give you toilet paper when you pay her. So carry lots of Kleenex too just in case. As well, we were paying a peso each time we went ( which with all the booze it was a lot) and when we left Cuba we found out most of the time people pay like 0.25 instead….so, yah that’s something to keep in mind.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Patricia 
Ontario Canada
September 2006
We are a couple in our late 50's who vacationed at the Arenas Blancas in February 2006. This was our third visit to Cuba, but first to Varadero; previously we vacationed at the Trypp Cayo Coco. We have also vacationed in Jamaica.

Flight: We booked this time with Air Canada Vacations and we would strongly suggest if at all possible that you book with this carrier. The flight was on time, the service and food were excellent. Having previously travelled on some of the less expensive carriers, we can say in all honesty that the difference in cost was well worth it, as we didn't have to pay for head sets to watch the movie or drinks of water, pop or wine which came with our hot in flight meals.

Location: This hotel is situated right on the beach on the one hand (and a very busy and crowded beach at that); but is also right at the top of the main street, so it is within walking distance of most shops, markets, restaurants, bars or what ever else you may need. For those of you who would prefer to ride out of the resort, there is a wide assortment of inexpensive transportation available at the doors of the hotel.

Resort: This resort is rated as a four star but it shouldn't be; we would give it possibly a three star (maybe less). This is an older hotel and while the cosmetics does a good job of masking the age, nevertheless it doesn't take long to see past the paint and plaster. There is also a huge problem with the house keeping of the common areas of this hotel. Caution here: It may be a pain, but we would recommend that while at this hotel you use the bathroom facilities in you own room and not the ones in the common area. There is a problem with cleanliness and supplies.

Our Room: The first room we were assigned to was on the main floor on the beach side but overlooked a very shady garden; because of the overgrown foliage this room was very dark and musty so we asked to be moved; within a few minutes they were able to relocate us to a room on the third floor on the other side of the building; this one overlooked the front of the hotel however due to the split levels of the design, most of our view if we looked down consisted of a large expanse of the roof of the lower levels, parking lots and supply lanes. However we had a view of the Bay off on the horizon. House keeping was always prompt and polite and very appreciative of all of the gifts we gave or left them, our room was always clean and tidy.

Bars: The bars were all adequate; by far the best one was the lobby bar, however none of the drinks at this resort were particularly spectacular, however the lack of quality was made up by the enthusiasm of the staff. The ladies in the lobby bar were particularly delightful. On a side note here, the Beach Bar is probably the best place in Varadero to buy any booze you wish to take home; depending on who you deal with, you will probably be able to swing a deal that's better than even 'in-bond' prices. They were particularly generous to us.

Restaurants: Do not go to Arenas Blancas for the food, because if you do you will be very angry (as was I). The buffet starts at terrible and goes down hill from there. This is a tropical island yet fresh fruit is in short supply (that is unless you like grapefruits at every meal). Being a seafood lover the first night I thought I'd try the fish...... wrong choice; as soon as I cut onto it, the 'aroma' that greeted my nose made me realize that 'something was rotten......on my plate'. The al la carte restaurants were not much better; again wanting fish, I tried the BBQ seafood one day at the beach grill, that turned out to be smoked herring (and very bad at that). We tried the Italian Restaurant one night, but unfortunately there was a staffing problem that night and our quick dinner turned into a two and a half hour marathon. The worse part being that the food was just as terrible here as well. We had reservations for the Cuban Restaurant one night but due to a problem in that area we decided not to dine there... (the toilet adjoining that restaurant was so backed up ..... all week, you could smell it all the way down to the beach). Like I said, don't go to the Arenas Blancas for the food.

Beach: Like every other beach in Cuba it was exquisite; long and white, and the water turquoise, clean and 'bath temperature'. The weather was perfect everyday for swimming, walking or sunning, and there were always availability beach chairs. There is also beach activity everyday for the doers; and plenty of visible beach security.

Entertainment: There's always something going on, either around the pool or on the beach; the nightly entertainment consists of musical events in their bandshell; we didn't take part in very many as we were usually 'tuckered out by the end of the day'.

Excursions: These are plentiful and the respective tour Reps. are always available to book you into any trips you wish to take. Most of our trips consisted of walking into town visiting the many markets and shops along the way.

Retrospect: Would we go back to Arenas Blancas? No, and for the afore mentioned reasons; bad food, terrible house keeping in common areas, and nothing spectacular about this resort. Now this is not to say that we didn't enjoy the beach, or the nice people we met there, especially the buffet staff, the lobby bar staff, the house keeping staff, and the two kind gardeners who cut us fresh coconuts every day. But our main reason for going to Varadero is that we had never been down that end of the island before; Having now done so, we'll stick to Cayo Coco.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Jennifer 
Canada
August 2006
OVERALL
I went at the end of May this year (2006) with 3 girlfriends between the ages of 22 to 30. I was forewarned by a lot of the bad comments on the site, but in the end, we had a blast. I paid around 1100$ departing from Toronto (which is always more expensive than Montreal, it seems). I had the option of finding cheaper deals but it was hard to arrange with my friends, so we ended up with this deal. I’ve seen many of the other resorts at Veradero (they are all walking distance along the beach) and they are all very beautiful, and many of them much nicer in terms of cleanliness and tips, than Arenas Blancas. However we had the beach behind the hotel, which gave this place a big upperhand. So, the details:

CROWD
I would highly recommend this place for the younger crowd. We peeped into other nicer hotels and noticed that the nicer hotel the was, the older the crowd seemed. There was always an energetic bunch of young people around the 24 hour bar and by the pool so there was always someone to party with. There is a room for children (a “playpen”), but it’s pretty pathetic (consisting of a small room with chairs and a cartoon on the wall), so I wouldn’t recommend bringing the family here if you’re expecting a kids area.

ATMOSPHERE
Although the service wasn’t exceptional, as you would expect from a 4 star hotel in North America, the staff are extremely friendly and unlike at other nice hotels, they are really grateful for the tips. They don’t expect you to tip because the patrons are younger, so they really appreciate it. There’s no pretense here, it’s really laid back and friendly. It’s not the cleanest place though, expect to find some dirty glasses, cracks in the wall etc, but it’s completely tolerable as you don’t come here to be in the hotel, you expect to be in the sun!

BEACH/POOL
Pool is amazing. Beautiful. Very very big, with tons of sun chairs. You pay a little deposit for sun chair towels, otherwise bring your own. I never found there wasn’t enough sunchairs for everyone, in fact there was always enough space to find your private area. The pool is probably one of the best features of the hotel.. As for the beach, you couldn’t find a more beautiful, and clean beach in North America. The water was so blue it could pass for pool water, and the sand was pure white. It was gorgeous. There was also a bar and lunch area by the beach, so you could pretty much lounge there all day.

PARTY
We went to La Rhumba, Havana Club, and 62nd Street for a street salsa. Havana Club is very closeby and it’s a lot of fun. It’s about 10 pesos for entry and all you can drink.

EXCURSIONS
We went on the Havana day tour. We took it in French. The tour guide couldn’t speak very well in French, and I suspect the same for English, and we actually almost lost an old lady on the tour because the tour guide was going so fast and we practically deserted her. Fortunately we found her several hours later. Lesson is to: a) read up on Havana before you go, or bring a tourguide book with you so you understand, b) stay close to the tour guide…they don’t count heads or keep track of people especially in the Havana Crowd c) there are a lot of beggars, so I would recommend bringing some gifts to Havana (many people seemed to ask for soap) or some change. My friends did the scooba diving excursion and apparently it was breathtaking and definitely worthwhile. I heard the catamaran was a lot of fun too. The trips may seem a little artificial from the brochure, but Cuba is as authentic and untouched you can get, as you will see.

FOOD
Here is the downside. The food is actually quite terrible. We were able to sneak into a few other hotels hwere the food was hotter, fresher and there was more variety. The food is quite stale, “mushy”, and surrounded by flies. The tables are often dirty, as are the cutlery and dishes. If you can get past this main flaw, you will have a great time!

You have two opportunities to eat at their themed restaurants. There are 3 choices: international, italien and something else. The italien is OK, but either the international or the local one is awful! I think it was international. The food is not very good but the atmosphere is lovely. So if you go after eating for the romantic atmosphere (violin music and everything), it is actually pretty nice.

WHAT TO BRING:
Lots, and lots of water. You can buy some in the market (maybe a 15-20 minute walk to the more commercial area, which isn’t very much), but I suggest you bring some of your own. The water at the hotel isn’t very well filtered and there have been several times when I can taste the debris and the hardness of the water.

There is no need, I learned, to bring gifts for the hotel staff (see note below- used items that you don’t want are OK). The staff generally prefers to be tipped in pesos (equivalent to a dollar Canadian), and a peso every day or two is well appreciated. There is no need to waste space in your luggage to buy gifts. Pesos are even better.

A lot of people will ask you for your shirt, your mp3 player, your skirt, your shoes, etc. So if you have some nice clothes at home that you don’t wear anymore (this applies especially to the girls), I would recommend bringing them because you can’t buy nice things in Cuba. For the girls the dress nice in Cuba they rely on kind visitors like you to bring them nice clothes, etc. This is where gifts come in handy.

Towels- one for the beach, as they don’t let you bring the indoor towels outside. You have to pay for a towel exchange.

Sunscreen, obviously, because you WILL get burned.

MONEY EXCHANGE
I suggest you do it at the airport. I got a much better deal at the airport than at the roadside money exchange down the street, which is only 5 minutes away. I can’t remember the exchange rate, but if I could buy the peso for 1.3 at the roadside stop, I was able to get it for 1.18 or something at the airport. Don’t quote me on these numbers.

ALCOHOL
It is sooo cheap there!! I got two big bottles of rum for about 10 pesos (maybe 15 Canadian, max.) Ask the staff where to get the alcohol ;). They are very helpful in this.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Sophie 22 yrs old 
Canada
August 2006
i give it a 5 star review

i went to arenas blancas august 7 to 14 2006. it was my first time in cuba! the hotel rooms are very spacious, there a big bathroom, bed is comfortable,balcon with a table and chairs,THERE ARE NO BUGS IN THE ROOMS. Yes its true the food at the buffet is not great but at the 24/hr snack bar you will find ham and cheese sandwich and pizza with are great, and you also have 3 reservation to 3 different restaurant around the hotel, the italian one is the best!!! The beach is at 1 minute walk from the hotel, beautiful white sand and clear blue water, the pool is beautiful but i spent most of my time at the beach. during the day theres games to win rum bottles, and at night from 9:30 to 11:00there is a beautiful show all this just beside the pool. after the show every one ends up at the same club witch is from 10 pesos to 15 pesos and all you can drink! most of them closes at 3 am, after you go back to the 24/hr bar and continue to party till you no longer can!!! AND THAT ABOUT ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW. if you have more questions heres my email sofi420@hotmail.com
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Sarah 
Canada
July 2006
I would like to post this review of Arenas Blancas in Varadero Cuba so others will be aware of whats in store for them at this "4 star" resort. I travelled with Sunquest Vacations. (Flight and Service was great)

Firstly, I am 19 years old and hardly have unreasonable expectations. I was more than satisfied on my last trip to Acapulco Mexico in a 3 star hotel. Although I dont have unrealistic expectations, I do expect cleanliness, decent food, friendly staff, and what was advertised to me prior to booking this trip.

I will start off with the positives the resort offers. The beach is absolutely gorgeous. They have more than enough beach chairs, however the number of covered huts they provide is not sufficient. The water is perfectly blue and the temperature is amazing. There is hardly any sea weed and the bottom is sand. The hotel includes water sports such as, kyaking, snorkelling, and paddle boats. We paid 15 pesos per person and were taken out in a catemoran sail boat about 4kms from shore and went snorkelling, and fed the fish; it was great. The other positive of this hotel was the pool, and the landscaping, however there is no swim up bar as advertised. The pool was absolutely huge, and the grounds were lovely. The pool was clean, and a nice temp. The last positive this resort offers is the Italian restaurant. The food is great and so is the service, ONLY IN THAT RESTAURANT!

So, the positives end there. The food is absolutely disgusting, and I am hardly picky. The service is brutal, in the restaraunt, bar and front desk. They are rude and so un welcoming. 40% of the people on our bus to the resort were sick for more than a day. My sister was horribly ill for 2 days straight and my stomach was really upset for 3 days and we were both very careful about what we ate, ie no water, ice, veggies.. etc.

On to the rooms! Bugs Bugs Bugs, Lizards, Scorpions, Red Ants, Termites, Sand Crabs and Cockroaches. Expect to find one or all of these in your room and sheets at this resort. Absolutely disgusting. My dad and friends of ours were eaten alive in their sleep by small crabs, and mosquitoes. I personally woke up to termites crawiling out of the wood beside my bed, and they looked like maggots. There were constantly bugs in the sheets, which they never changed and spraying the sheets and entire room with bug spray became a routine activity.

The staff. Expect bad service unless you are tipping every person you encounter. At the 24hour bar I waited for 10 minutes well the bar tender was on a personal phone call at the bar, while the other servers were sitting at a table talking and laughing while me and another lady were standing and waiting. This was a regular occurrance.

Bottom line. Go to the Barcelo resort next door, only heard positives from the Canadians who went there. Do not go to Arenas Blancas. You will be very disapointed. I cant count how many poeple i heard say that it was one of the worst hotel experiences they had had, and that they planned on contacting the BBB once they returned home. Even the Sunquest representative at Arenas Blancas told us we had picked the worst resort for the money we paid in Varadero.

I hope this review is helpful, and once again I am not one of those people who go travelling with unrealistic expectations. I expect to get what i pay for, and at least a clean room free of bugs. I would rate this hotel 3 stars at most, only because of the grounds.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Enid 
Canada
February 2006
My husband and I stayed at Arenas Blancas for the fourth year in a row. Needless to say we love it there.

Two of those years we had a grandchild with us and they thoroughly enjoyed it too.

The pool is huge, beautiful clear water, if somewhat cool and a good variety of depths. The children seemed to prefer to swim in the pool rather than the ocean. Unfortunately, this year we had poor weather, rain, dull, windy and downright cold. However we had a great time anyway and always managed to keep busy.

I think the food was the best this year of all the years we have been and saw a great improvement. If people just go to Cuba for the food they might as well stay at home. We had lots of variety, and other than the beef always being tough, we had no complaints. We had pork, ham, chicken, turkey, fish, even lobster and shrimp on Valentines. Each night they also had a pasta bar too where they made your meal to order. Don't miss the rolls and ice cream. They are the best.

I would suggest if you are going it may be a good idea to take a few tea bags with you from home as there is always hot water and sometimes not a flavour of tea that you may particularly like.

We never had sugar put on the table for lunch or dinner so soon learned to tuck some away at breakfast for the other two meals. The rooms were nice and clean and very spacious. The beds were very comfortable. The bathroom always had lots of hot water. You are never given face cloths so I took some from home and you may want to do this too. You will need

a converter for the hydro or you will ruin your razor or curling iron. The room is equipped with a hair dryer which worked very well.

We went on the dolphin swim. My husband and I just went on the bus to see the show (l5 pesos each) and our grand daughter saw the show and then had a half hour swim with the dolphins which was 83 pesos. It was amazing. She loved it and it is something she will always remember. They took nice photos which you could buy for l0 and 8 pesos depending on the size. They also sold a video of the show and the swim for $35 pesos if you wanted that instead. We got her the photos.

Needless to say Arenas Blancas is tops in our books and we love it there. One week is not long enough for me but unfortunately things at home need to be attended to. We are already looking forward to next year. If you have any questions or would like to contact me you can do so at estoehr@vianet.ca.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
 

February 2006
I am not one that would ever write a review but I felt that it should be done.
I am never concerned with flight that has nothing to do with the resort.
After reading many reviews myself and six other head down to this resort with two kids

 

We are not fussy people at all but this place needs some work, the maids and cleaners do there best to keep it clean but, the place is really showing its age. My biggest complains sound like stupid issues but, at a 4 star resort I guess I expected better

First the beds suck very very bad
They run out of chairs at the lobby bar all the time The chair at the pool are really uncomfortable The grout in the bathroom in the rooms is very dirty The line-ups to get drinks coffee are long, would not hurt to have another server The birds at the pool bar are very annoying And there is no music at night at the pool bar makes you sleep and everyone ones to go to bed

On the good side food was great
They do there best at elacart
Most of the staff is very friendly
Maids did a awesome job
Kids had a blast 13 and 7 very good job

Would I say there a again no, but I like to try different places, would I go if I won a trip 100%. It is not terrible just expected better.

Recommend the Catamaran
Not the jet skis
Rent scooters
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Maggie 
Thunder Bay Canada
February 2006
I felt I had to write and give you my review of Arenas Blancas. My husband and myself were there Jan.29 to Feb. 5. to sum it up it was wonderful, very clean , we had an ocean view room. Our chambermaid Elise was wonderful and friendly.The food was good no complaints there was something for everyone . If you did’nt like the food there was always next door where they served steak and lobster at very reasonable prices.I liked everything about this resort . I would go there again. So for all you whiners you must have a very high standard of living because my stay there was great.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Scott 
Ottawa, Ontario
February 2006
My family and I just returned from a one week stay at the hotel Arenas Blancas in Varadero Cuba. We were there from Jan! uary 15TH to 22ND 2006 and wish that we would have had two weeks. The resort was EXCELLENT and I have read some of the negative reviews and really don't get it. I have travelled to Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Egypt etc. and will say that the Cuban people are amazing and that this hotel was wonderful. I have a loot of information to pass on that should make your stay better. The most important point I have to make is that you are absolutely SAFE as a traveller in CUBA. I went with my wife and 9 year old and the Cubans view family as being absolutely sacred. I got to know many local Cubans quite well and learned a lot of what is not necessarily shared with people but I will leave that to the end.

THE FLIGHT
We flew Air Canada and it w! as O.K. going there but coming back we got one of those burnt of Stewardesses who obviously needed a vacation herself.

TRANSPORT FROM AIRPORT TO HOTEL / MONEY EXCHANGE & IMMIGRATION
We arrived at the airport no problem. Customs? What customs? We were a bit nervous arriving but is was so simple. You must have a tourist Visa ahead of time which your travel agent should provide you at NO COST if not make sure you get one from your airline when you check your bags. You fill out the card and present this with your passport to immigration upon arrival and once processed you pass through a door beyond the immigration booths and collect your luggage.

There is a money exchange at the airport and they use the Convertable Peso which is based on the U.S. dollar but do not try to exchange U.S. dollars or you will get penalized. $500 Canadian gets you about $340 convertable pesos and this is the only money that can be used by tourists Once we finished getting money converted we went to find our pre-paid transport only to discover that we were not in their computer system (an error on the part of our travel agent) but there were no worries as the cabs are state regulated and the drivers very friendly. It is not the hustle and hastle scene like in JAmaica for example it cost 28 pesos from the airport to the hotel which irnonically was cheaper than what we pre-paid in canada ! ahead of time (we are getting a refund no problem).

CHECK IN & THE ROOM
Pool or Ocean view had been requested and that was what we got a poolside view on the 3RD floor room 310 or 301 I think. The bell boy was very helpful and got us settled in. We had a lovely room overlooking the pool with a nice balcony and from teh 3RD floor you could see just over the palm trees at both the pool and ocean. The 4TH floor would have been even better but anything 3RD floor and up is great. The rooms had no ants or bugs and no bad smells. The lines were just fine. The shower was decent enough a! nd there was even a hairdryer there installed in the room. Power looks like ours but is 220 so if you plug in something from home it will blow! There is sattelite T.V. with Showtime and some new movies, a decnt kids channel and bit more but we were not there for the T.V. The A / C was fine. When you check in get them to put your bracelet on a bit lose (Bracelet for all guests shows you at their hotel) so that once you leave the compound and hit the streets you can put it in your pocket and not have a big sign on you anymore that says I AM A TOURIST!!!!

THE FOOD / DRINKS & RESTAURANTS
The food was very good and there was plenty of variety. The meat is really good and there is ofetn some sort of pasta dish. Fresh squeezed juices, coffee that wo! uld rival Tim Hortons. At breakfast they have an omlette station and this is a good bet. Fruit, breads all good. There is even cereal for the children and basically if you can't find something just ask as the buffet is large and there are ofetn things tucked in around corners etc. When you go to eat pick a table and stick with it each meal and you will end up with the same servers and you will get to know them and them you. Your service will be very good.

When you check in you will be given an envelope with room and safe cards and also there will be two or more vouchers for restaurants in the hotel depending on your deal. I would suggest that the following day you make reservations fro the first seating (7:00 PM) for your last couple of suppers and your best bet by far is the Itallian restaurant. Soui! p, salad, past appetizers, pasta or pizza main meal and dessert in a small intimate setting complete with the odd travlling musicians who can play ANYTHING. We listened to Led Zeplin's "Stairway to Heaven" exact including all the guitar solos LOCO! Bring a travel mug for drinks if you want or water and from the bar it is absolutely safe. They can give you ice or not, very safe. I do not drink alcohol at all but the wife does and she likes the drink called the "Arenas Blancas" and my daughter got them made fro her without the alcohol. I drank lots of soda water and too much cappacino but it was SO GOOD. By the end of trip I was getting cappucinno mixed with the Pina colada slushy ice mix (no alcohol) sort of like a frappacinno (The Cubans thought I was LOCO). Lobby Bar is better than the pool bar.

TIPPING
This is very important. These people are extremely poor, you have no idea. They make maybe 20 pesos a month and the giovernment only issues them minimal amounts of food etc. to get through a month. I found out what the best items are to bring and w travlled with an extra suitcase filled with old cloths of my daughters, school supplies, tylenol (small bottles), disposable razors, small toys, Canadian soveniers etc. I gave something to most people reagrdless of their kobs and it was appreciated and when I left i had only the cloths on my back as I left stuff for families. These are an honest and proud people, they do no hustle or hastle you. By giving some gifts to different staff they will take extra special care of you so ! if you don't that is your choice but it is a good idea.
The hottest items to bring are:
- Tear free baby shampoo (not just for kids but it is also mixed in the rads as coolant.
- Pantyhose for women (The women are beautiful and leggy and can't get these items, the men like them too to replace broken fan belts)
- tins of salmon (they like this as it supplements ther food for the family)
- packages of candy (Get a bunch on sale after hallowen, give a small pack ever time you go to the bar for example, they love it!)
- Children's cloths or adult clothing any size as this will get passed to family members.
- pens, pencils, colored pencils, erasers, school supplies.
- womens make up, cosmetics, perfume, cologne ( I gave a bar tender the half bottle of cologne I had left the day of leaving and he was so happy ("...my wife will love me again..." he said jokingly - The Cubans have a very gentle humour)
- Anything that says Canada
- A peso is also good but actual goods are more important.

SHOPPING / TRANSPORT / SHOPPING
Exit the hotel and turn right. Stay on the sidewalk and you will pass a steak and lobster restaurant. Keep going a bit more and you will see a bus stop with a picture of a double decker bus without a roof on it. It costs $5 pesos per person which gives you unlimted usuage from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM for that entire day. The sign says “ Paradas – Bus Stop 33 Tabaco Y Ron” Coming back you want to get off the bus at stop number 6. You can ride up top and get off at open air shopping. Ask the driver to let you know when you are the main shopping. You can also get taken to CASA DE AL which was the origional home of Al Caponne the ganster (now a restaurant). From Arenas Blancas you can do a lot a walking though to shop but go by bus first to see where all the markets are.

Just across from the bus stop and across from the Quattra Palmas hotel is the CALLE 62 which is an open air Café and restaurant. From 9:00 PM to 12 midnight there is live music, different bands each night and some are quite good. People dancing in the streets. I even had some drunken tourist party girls ask if I spoke english (they mistook me for a Cuban and were looking for a temporary boyfriend) I said “NO” (my wife just slapped me).

Continue down the alleyway that CALLE 62 is on and you come to the HAVANA CLUB which is the big disco $10 pesos all you can drink (I do not no drink so I didn’t go but lots of party girls headed there so if that is what you are into…)

Back on the main street same side as CALLE 62 continue down until you come to a big stone gate. You can enter this for free and at night it leads through restaurants and go past that you come a little bride over a small river with a tiny outdoor café with live music. Lots of tiny Christmas lights, very romantic, maybe next time we will leave the kid with Nanny and Pa! pa.

USEFUL WORDS and PHRASES
Ola – Hello
Good – Bueno
Water – Agua
Where is – Donde Esta
Please - Por Favor
Thank You – Gracias
You are welcome – De Nada
Where is the bathroom? – Donde esta el bano
How are you? – Come Estas
Very well, thank you? – May Bieno gracias
Do you speak english? – Habla usted inglis?
I don’t speak spanish – No hablo espanol
It doesn’t matter – No importa
Yes – Si No – No
This is for you – Esto es para usted
Good night – Buenos Noches
Good Morning – Buenos Dias
Coffee please – El café por favor

BUYING CIGARS / COFFEE / RUM
Email me about how and where to get the best deals. Do not buy from the hotel store or the stores on the street or guys off the street as you will either pay through the nose or buy garbage.
My email is stowaij@yahoo.ca

CONCLUSION
Arenas Blancas is an excellent resort for your buck. If you want Breezes or Sandles then go there. The resort is older but nice. The employess are very kind and the pool, ocean and grounds are pretty awesome. There are some rude hotel guests however and even though Americans are not present there are many other countries with their own reprseentatives to take on that role. Cubans love Candians and we represent at least 50% of the tourist dollars so go and enjoy. We will be going back to the same resport in the future, when you get it right the first t! ime why keep looking?
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Lisa 
Canada
January 2006
The resort was wonderful. I travelled with my family, and we were able to compare experiences. There is a discrepency in quality of rooms: you can get fantastic, ocean view, or you can get noisy, parking lot view with some ocean in the background. If this is a big deal to you, you might not want to gamble on this resort. For us, no one spent much time in their room.

Pool is, as many others have noted, very large. There is a games hut where you can sign out balls for the pool, tennis rackets, poker chips, ping-pong, and serveral other games. We enjoyed this on several occassions, and it was great for our needs. If you are a serious tennis player, bring your own racket, as what you get here is "Cuban quality".

We always felt very safe and secure, and could leave personal items at our beach chairs on the beach when we went into the sea. Hotel security were always nearby. Always plenty of beach chairs available.

The "Disco" at the resort is quite minimal. We spent one night there. There is a pool table here, which we didn't expect, and a small dance floor at the back. The dj takes requests. We had a good time, but it's not what you'd expect from a disco.

Food.
I don't know what the deal is with all the food complaints. My entire family (8 of us) didn't have any problems. At least 2 of us are very picky. The daily buffet always had two fish selections and several meat choices, along with local veggies: eggplant, artichokes, pumpkin, potatoes, tomatoes, fruits, and a salad bar. On my last night there, I had one of the best pieces of fish I've ever had (at the outdoor restaurant). While we ate at the Italian restaurant, and it was fine, I think most of us preferred the buffet. I never woke up in time for the breakfast. Between the buffet and Poolside bar, there was always something available to eat. I certainly didn't loose any weight. Ice cream was fantastic. If you don't like Ice Cream, bring a calcium supplement, as thats pretty much all the calcium to be had. Oh, wait - one day, the eggplant dish wasn't very good, and we actually didn't eat what we put on the plate. And the cheese wasn't great. Maybe that's what people mean by awful?? Also, I drank the water the entire time, and persuaded the few apprehensive ones in our gang to do the same after a few days - no problems.

Phoning Home: If you need to keep contact, phone calls are v. expensive. Cell phones may or may not work - you have to call your provider to see if they have a signal down there. For internet, its something like $25 Cuban Converitble pesos/hour (not sure exactly), and you need an internet card to connect, which may or may not be available. Don't count on it.

Voltage - outlets are 220 volts in the hotel. My camera battery charger worked okay, but not all Canadian adapters are 220 volts. Check your voltage, bring extra batteries if necessary. My husband fried his cell phone charger, b/c it was only a 110.

Varadero - Arenas Blancas is great, because as soon as you cross the street, there are cafes and markets to check out. Many other resorts are further down the peninsula, and you really need to take a cab or bus to see any local activity. Less than a five minute walk from Arenas Blancas is Caille 62, an outdoor cafe with VERY lively nightly performances; A Rum shop that offers tours and tastings; an Art Gallery; open/outdoor markets. A little further down the street, at Caille 50, if you hang a right toward the beach, there's another great outdoor cafe that usually has live music during the day. This is at most a 15-minute walk from Arenas Blancas.

Other advice? Consider bringing an anti-itch lotion if you like "long walks on the beach". Particulary if you catch the sunset, there are sand fleas that come out in the evening. Nothing major, but think about having a couple dozen mosquito bites on your legs. Other great advice we recieved from this site: bring a travel mug. If you don't have your own cup, all your pool and beachside bevvies will be served up in a 4oz plastic cup.

Staff/Tipping: Sure, they like to get tips. Most of the staff were not pushy about it, but some made strong suggestions about how they would really like to have an item (ie a soccer ball) for their kids. It's true, its nice to bring some luxuries from home, like cosmetics or shoes or nylons for the housekeeping staff, but when you're at the bar? These people aren't that different from us, they want cash. And if you really don't need that ball when you leave? I bet their kids will appreciate it.

We would definitely return to this resort.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
B and I 
British Columbia
January 2006
We stayed December 26th 2005 to January 9th, 2006. We are a couple in our early 50’s from British Columbia. We had an idea of what to expect after reading some of the reviews before leaving home. We thought the hotel on the whole was a great bang for your buck. Not too expensive at all.

Our flight in to Cuba was via Air Canada and it was alright. We flew with the aeroplan miles plan. The flight home was delayed two hours and the seats we were assigned, sucked. But, next time we will request different seats. Cuban time is any time – when they tell you the bus to the airport is arriving for pickup in 10 to 20 minutes, make sure you are in the lobby at least 30 minutes before leaving. We didn’t buy the transportation ticket from the airport to the hotel and vise versa – took our chances and there was no problem. We caught a bus for ten pesos each from the airport to our hotel. We paid 15 pesos each for the bus trip to the airport.

The room did not smell at all! The maid actually sprayed some fabreze in our room on occasion. The blankets and pillows were fine, no complaints there. Our maid Miley was great. There were no noises after 11 pm. Go to the Solymar hotel just down the street to get money from your VISA. They gave us a great rate. No problem getting money. At the end of our stay, we cashed in our Cuban money for US dollars at Arenas Blancas. Buy everything with cash, don’t use your visa for purchases. They want an extra 11% if you use your visa.

The staff at the lobby bar in the hotel were great!!! The others, so, so. Some needed to be told to smile. Too bad we weren’t aware that at the end of our trip to go at a time when no one is at the pool bar and they would have given us 3 bottles of rum for 10 pesos. The pool was good, however the water wasn’t nearly as warm as the ocean. We never had a problem finding chairs. We never had too much problems exchanging our wet towels for dry fresh ones.

The nightly entertainment was loud indeed, but interesting....so many fun nights, men vs women, Mr/Ms Arenas Blancas, Music Quiz, latin show....they start at 9:45 and go until around 12. There was always activities... Spanish lessons, dance lessons...go and have fun! If you think the drinks are too weak, just ask for more alcohol and they will top up your glass for you. Don’t go away complaining. Most of the staff like to please everyone.

The food was fine, I ate well. My husband was more picky than I. I didn’t like the fact that little kids kept dropping the dishes and they would shatter into a million pieces. I also watched a serving tong fall on the floor and someone picked it up and put in in with the food. That grossed me out a little. The desserts were awesome and yes they have the best ice-cream. There hot chocolate is good too. We were served lobster new years eve and it was cooked to perfection. Hats off to the breakfast cook!! He cooked great omelets and would crisp up your bacon for you too.

We went to the International and Italian restaurant. The food was good. You only can book between 1:30 and 4:30 at the front desk---BOOK EARLY THEY FILL FAST!!!

We tipped when we felt we were treated good. We took all kinds of eye glasses, tensor bandages, tooth brushes, tooth paste and gave these to our maid who thanked us so much for it all. We tipped her with money every day. When we saw her, which wasn’t too often, she thanked us for everything we gave her.

The Beach is our main reason we went. Absolutely beautiful! The vendors didn't harass you and you could completely relax. Obey the flags on the beach. Don't swim if the red flag is up.

We went on the Havana (73 pesos), and the Discovery Tour (85 pesos). Havana was great for history, architecture and really seeing true Cuban life. There were some amazing views en route to Havana. There are a lot of beggars, but you just have to say no firmly and walk away. Take toilet paper--there is none....and no toilet seats either...that was a real eye opener for us. I was told about no toilet paper so I took my own roll wherever we went. We gave our tour guides that took us to Havana, a Canadian ball cap with our local pin and Canadian flag on them. The guys absolutely loved them. The discovery tour was a hoot! Drove the jeep, drove the boat, swam in the cave, ate lunch at a farm and saw lots of neat things.

The Varadero market was great. There were very few beggars in Varadero. It is completely safe, no crime, drugs etc. We had to go to the 24 hour walk in medical clinic and the staff is top notch and they know what they are doing. The hotel doctor and nurse were dressed in white (and the nurse wore the white cap which looked great). One could certainly pick out the Doctor and the nurse.

We learned a little Spanish before we left home and the Cubans really liked that. Simple phrases like hello, thank you, please, and try your hand at a phrase and they will chuckle and correct you if you want to learn the right way.

We had a great time, only two days of cold heavy clouds and tons of fun. We met some awesome people and made friends with some of the tourists. I would totally recommend this resort, it isn't bad at all. Those who don’t like the food are just too picky. There is something there for everyone. I would definitely recommend Cuba to everyone just once. We probably won’t go back only because we like to see other places in the world.
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Joan and Egon  
Canada
January 2006
On Sunday, January 22nd, 2006 we returned from Varadero, Arenas Blancas, after a two week stay.

The Reception:
As usual, we were picked up at the airport with minimum delay. On the bus to the hotel we were offered a beer, which, as it turned out, was not included. At three cup (convertible pesos) a piece (four Canadian dollars), this was no bargain. I should have waited till we got to the hotel where it was included. The reception at the front desk was very quick. The clerks all spoke English.

The Room:
We were lucky to get a room (5403) on the top (fifth) floor away from the pool and noisy stage. The room was relatively large. The balcony overlooked some roofs, the road and the ocean on the south side of the Varadero strip. Not bad. The bathroom had a tub (with shower) and a bidet (nice touch). The hot water was hot most of the time. The sink and the mirror had it's own area. The beds were fairly solid which suited us just fine. No bugs to speak of, perhaps because we were so high up.

The Pool:
This must have been one of the nicest, largest pools we have ever encountered in any resort and we have stayed in many over the years, in many different places. The gardens around the pool were well tended and beautiful. The water was somewhat cold and took some getting used to. The lounges around the pool are a little worn and old, but quite comfortable and there are many.

The Beach:
Each morning a tractor pulling a beach sweeper combed the sand for debris. Seaweed, old plastic cups, rocks and washed up shells were all gone. Usually, someone assigned from the hotel will clean off a beach chair for you. He will hang around waiting for a tip. The chairs (different from the ones around the pool) have no cushion and are not comfortable. Many have no adjustable back rest. The last storm blew away most of the palm leaf beach umbrellas and they have not been replaced. But still, you will find some shade near the palms. In order to swim in the ocean, you had to walk out about 400 meters over a sandbar. More often than not, the water was too rough to swim anyway but lots of fun to bodysurf.

The Bars:
There are three bars, one at the beach, the pool and the lobby. You got to love the rum. Unless you ask, everything is mixed with rum. The Cuba Libres are terrible because their Coke is flat and too lemony. We had to come back to Canada to have a decent Cuba Libre, go figure! They don't measure those shots, so the drinks are never the same. Either too strong or too weak. Every bartender does things a little differently. Way too much salt in those Bloody Mary's. They do have Vodka, Gin and other spirits, but sometimes they run out.

The Food:
I'm a picky eater. That means I pick up everything and eat it all. I'm embarrassed to admit, I've gained five pounds in those two weeks. Not that the food was that good, it was actually often, well, awful. But most of us found something we liked. The a la carte restaurants (three) were okay.

The Service:
This is our forth time in Cuba, third time in Varadero in the last six years. The service, restaurant, front desk and general staff was rarely good, most of the time indifferent and sometimes a little hostile. The general attitude of the people serving the tourists in Varadero has deteriorated. Every one is chasing the cup (peso). Many of the staff have lost the enthusiasm and friendliness that we had experienced on our earlier visits. On some occasions, the bus back to the airport, for instance, we were reminded not to forget to tip the driver.
On a positive note: Because of our own sheer stupidity, we left the safe wide open when we left for the beach for the day. The maid (and here I will name her) Dayami came and cleaned our room and made the bed. She must have noticed the open safe as soon as she walked in. Yet, nothing was missing. We had about $ 800.00 Canadian cash and our passports in there. It was all still there. Our carelessness could have been disastrous. Dayami's honesty was refreshing to say the least.

Tours:
We had been to Havana before, but decided this time to take the two day overnighter, which included the Tropicana Show. This show came highly recommended. Folks that saw it, talked about it in glowing terms. We were a bit disappointed. I think, they need a better choreographer. Perhaps our expectations were too high. The acrobatic part of that show was world class. The glass of champagne, bottle of rum, ice and local Coke on every table (included) made the evening a pleasant event. They charged us five cup (pesos or Can $ 6.50) per camera to take pictures. The girls never stood still long enough to take a decent photograph. If they charge for those shots, they should at least get the dancers to pose for a minute or so. We also took the Jeep Safari Jungle tour. Lots of fun! We, with ten other vehicles, toured the country side, through hill and dale, had a boat ride; swam; back on the Jeep to a grotto; swimming again; back on the Jeep to a farm for horse riding and lunch and back through the country side to the hotel. A great outing for us.
The "Jeeps" are actually Suzuki Sidekicks that you drive yourself. The brakes work, the engine works and the standard transmission works. The rest of the vehicle would not pass any safety test anywhere. Hey, even this old boy likes to live on the edge at times.

Sum Up:
Although the Arenas Blancas Hotel is showing it's age, bang for bucks, it's a good deal. It's great for children, especially pre-teens. Would I go back there? No, we never do. We did encounter folks that had been there before. The guests, at the time we were there, included, in no particular order, Germans, Icelanders, Canadians (French and English speaking), Scandinavians and some Spanish speaking visitors. The location of this hotel was ideal for us. We walked into town for picture taking and shopping. We also walked to the Las Americas shopping center, a stiff hike across the golf course. The beach stops at the golf course on the east and in town on the west. Miles for hiking!
If you go, take an insulated mug for your drinks. Don't be shy, take a big one. If you have a light, self inflatable air mattress, take it for the beach chairs, you will thank me for that advise. The hotel will exchange your Canadian Dollars for Convertible Pesos at a rate less than the bank. The difference is not enough for me to stand in line at the bank.
All in all, we had a pleasant break from winter with no unpleasant surprises!
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Kyla 

January 2006
We just returned from a week long stay January 3-10. We are a young couple (22 & 23) from Toronto, ON. We were truly unsure what to expect after reading some of these reviews. I am quite picky as is my boyfriend. However, I have to be honest and say we must have caught a good week or the people reviewing this resort have exceptionally high standards!!!

Flight-sucked. We were bumped from a 6pm flight to a 6am flight, and instead of being direct we went via the Dominican....7hours on the plane was NOT fun. Same story for the way home, we were bumped from an 11 pm flight to a 7am flight, via Dominican. I really would like answers to why THIS happened...we felt kind of jipped for time at the resort, and a direct flight was pretty important to us. The disappointment seemed to be across the board with the people we met both on the flight and at the resort.

Hotel-Great. Yes, the rooms smell lightly-funky, but I was used to it by the 2nd day. We just left our patio door open and it aired it out. The blankets and pillows were fine, no complaints there. Our room was facing the entrance....there was not much noise at all, we slept well and even with the door slightly open. There were no noises after 11ish really...except music from resorts. I think they have a no honking after 10ish rule because there was lots of honking during the day and none at night....?? The staff we had no problems with them, always friendly and polite. Miguel at the front desk is an absolute sweetheart. The SUNWING rep, Ernesto is awesome as well--we booked through him, I recommend it, we felt safest and he does get a commission. Yes, they did run out of money a couple times, but the Solymar next door has an exchange and they do VISA advances as well...so we had no problems getting money!

Our maids were great, we left goodies every day, they love pantyhose, pain killers (tylenol, advil), feminine hygeine products, SHOES, clothes and hair products. Really, our daily simplicities are their luxuries. The staff at the bars were great!!! At the end of your trip go at a time when noone is at the pool bar and they will give you 3 bottles of rum for 10 pesos. Yes, they pocket the money--but I didn't mind supporting the bartender's family instead of Fidel for once!! (DO you know he has 10 times the net worth of Oprah! Its really quite sad) The pool is incredible. One of the largest I've seen at a resort. It was quite chilly, but we were fine. We never had a problem finding chairs. We were usually out to the pool around 11-1. Once or twice we had to move chairs into the sunlight, but there was always a chair. There is no swim up bar though-- as our travel agent told us there would be.

The nightly entertainment was loud indeed, but AWESOME....so many fun nights, men vs women, Mr/Ms Arenas Blancas, Music Quiz, latin show....they atart at 9:45 and go until around 12...GO, really what else are you doing!!! There was always activities...spanish lessons, dance lessons...go and have fun, be adventurous, make a fool of yourself at the night shows--NOONE KNOWS YOU!!!

The food was fine, I am VERY PICKY and I ate vegetables and fruit all week and grilled cheese from the pool bar. I was fine. My boyfriend loved the pork and chicken, I tasted it and it was fine. I was not blown away by the food, but I ate fine, and enough.

We went to the International and Italian restaurant. The food was good. For some reason we only got to go to a restaurant twice. And you only can book between 130 and 430 at the front desk---BOOK EARLY THEY FILL FAST!!!

If you want your hair braided, go to the gift shop beside the pool bar and ask the person where you can get your hair braided....a lady will do half your head for 10-15 and full for 20-30 (depending what you barder). The lady that paints the backgrounds on the stage does it...and pockets the money. I began to understand why people were pocketing money. They get 15-25 pesos per month and food for the first 15 days. It costs them an additional 250 pesos per month to live. This they get begging, TIPS, under the table etc.....I was kind of erked by the everyone wanting tips thing, but when I found out this, I tipped everyone...really, to me, the extra 50 or 75 dollars I spent tipping was worth it. Our jeep safari guide said, he doesn't come to woprk for his salary, he comes for the tips. So re consider when you get annoyed that everyone wants tips....

The Beach is the reason we went. Absolutely beautiful! The vendors didn't harrass you and you could completely relax. Obey the flags on the beach. There are Red Cross guards working and don't swim if the red flag is up, we did see a couple washed up jelly fish and one girl who was on our flight got stung...apparently it was worse than a hornet sting, but she seemed fine and in good spirits the next day...but the flag was onlyup the one day that we had rain and clouds and wind, so we weren't on the beach anyways. (apparently the jellyfish come out when its cloudy and strong winds--someone told us...) There were sand fleas, I had two or three bites on my foot, but they didn't bother me. My boyfriend had none....they weren't as bad as the Dominican.

TRIPS!! We went slightly trip crazy. We went on the Havana (67 pesos), Catamaran (85 pesos) and Jeep Safari (69 pesos). Havana was great for history, architecture and really seeing true Cuban life. There were some amazing views en route to Havana. There are a lot of beggers, but you just have to say no firmly and walk away. Take toilet paper---there is none....and no toilet seats either...that was fun. Really anytime you go off the resort take wipes, kleenex or some toilet paper, they don't have it in public washrooms. We took the Havana bus trip, but apparently if you have a group of 4 you can get a taxi (through the sunwing rep) for 40 pesos each and basically have him take you where you want, revolution place, capitol hill, malecon (riverside drive), Floridita-restaurant Hemmingway went to, Cigar factory---closed during our trip for holiday, Rum factory, "Jurassic Park"--all the old cars, Hotel National of Cuba, artisan market...Havana was really neat to see all their billboards getting cubans hyped on Socialism and anti-Bush billboards. The catamaran was not so fun for us as it poured and ws very windy...but the island they take you to for lunch is beautiful, the spot they take you to for snorkelling looked nice, and I hear the dolphins was great. The jeep safari was our favourite, we did it on our last day. we had an awesome group, awesome guides (do the Nature Tour with Marciano from ECO Tours--ask for it when you book with Ernesto). We went off roading, went to a ranch for lunch, horseback riding, watersports, animals---it was fun! We also went snorkelling (the red coral burns!!!) and stopped at some nice rest points with beautiful scenery. Honestly, I would do this trip over any others. We had a blast.

The Veradero market was great. We took a COCO Taxi (little taxis like bananas or coconuts on scooters, 5 pesos for 2ppl each way). There were no beggars in Veradero, and it is completely safe, no crime drugs etc...we walked late into the night and felt very safe.

The moped rental was fun...we did the 5pm-9am special for 15 pesos (otherwise 9pesos per hour). Just don't crash it, I heard they can hose you pretty bad. One young guy crashed while we were there, and it didn't cost him too much...but we were warned they will charge you insanely if you cause damage. ALSO, the police want their extra pesos too!!! They pulled someone over and charged them with a DUI (with no proof OR a breathalizer), and made him pay on the spot, they also charged him with speeding...so obey the road signs....and the sign that looks like a yield sign that says PARE MEANS STOP!!!

The cheapest place we found for cigars was a store across from the hotel called BAZAR CUBA. Rum was cheapest at the airport duty free (other than the 3 for 10 deal at the pool bar). Barter with them, they love it....and you can avoid paying in cash if you bring clothing/shoes/toiletries to trade.

For those who care, yes your cell phone works down there. FOr anyone that has an old cell phone and is going (one from Rogers or Fido that works on a SIM Card...take it....because they can buy a sim card cheaply and use the phone....phones cost them like 200 pesos down there......if you plan on going on the ECO Tour....our guide MARCIANO SANCHEZ RODRIGUEZ HAD HIS PHONE BROKEN TO PIECES ON THE JEEP TOUR AND DESPERATELY NEEDS A NEW ONE. IF YOU CAN BRING ONE TO HIM HE WOULD SERIOUSLY GO TO TEARS. IF YOU CAN TAKE ONE OR A FEW IN CASE ONE DOESN'T WORK (ROGERS OR FIDO), HIS EMAIL IS MARCYBSA@YAHOO.COM AND PHONE NUMBER IS 53-45294207 AFTER 9PM. HE HAS ASKED ME TO POST THIS FOR ANYONE THAT CAN HELP HIM OUT. IF YOU CALL HIM FROM VERADERO, HE WILL HAVE YOU HANG UP AND HE WILL CALL YOU BACK SO YOU DON'T GET CHARGED. IF YOU ARE GOING AND ARE INTERESTED IN HELPING HIM OUT, PLEASE EMAIL ME AT ksnedden@hotmail.com He speaks great English so you'll be able to communicate just fine. Even if you are going and you could take one on my behalf, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE email me. Someone attempted to mail him one but it was stolen enroute as well. Thanks in advance if you can help out.

Overall we had a great time, only one day with rain and tons of fun. We met some awesome people (in fact the reviewer Calvin I believe was in our jeep on the safari!!--coincedence!!! We were talking about this Review website in Cuba!!) I would totally recommend this resort, it isn't bad at all...great bang for your buck.....we'll go back. Not likely with Sunwing after the flight fiasco, but for sure to this resort.

Feel free to email me with any questions! ksnedden@hotmail.com
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Calvin 
Ontario
January 2006
I spent a week in arenas blancas from january 3-10 2006. All in all it was a wonderful vacation.

Flight: not the highlight of the vacation as we had to go from toronto to the DR to varadero, i was not pleased with the double lenght flight, but them the breaks.

Hotel: The rooms were fine! i dont no what the other complliants were about, i have stayed in better, but this isint the royal york, it is Cuba! There was a bit of a moldy smell, but i have had worse in placees in Ontario. the beds were always made, and the towel designs were fun.

Entertainment: The entertainers were loud and funny. that week was a wide mix of ages there and everyone had a blast. by the end of one show i was wearing nothing but my boxers! the music was loud, but i liked it. there were complints from some people up to three hotels away, so if u like loud music, this place is for you.

Pool: Second to none!! it was big and very refreshing. one word of advice.. if you want a spot by the pool, get there early, like 7 am!

Drinks: Its all inclusive, try not to get caried away! the beer was good, however the rum drinks are about 75 % rum, so be careful on how many you put down.

Food: The sea food was good. the beef and chicken not great. the fruit good. the internation and italian resturants were better than the buffett but hard to book. You will not starve at this resort

Trip: We went on a jeep saffair day, it included alot of cool stuff like horse back riding and snolkling. It was fun fir all ages also. it cost 65 pesos and was well worth it!

Negatives: It costs more for a two minute phone call to canada than a bottel of rum they are short reserves for toilet paper, some staff are a bit un friendly,

Great trip great weather!!!!!!! for the price it was worth it

hope this helps
Arenas Blancas - Varadero
Marc 

January 2006
We had a pretty good week here. We were afraid of the resort after we had read the reviews but as it turned out it really was not so bad. It is true that you should bring a towel or two with you. They definitely have a towel problem. They do not have enough clean towels to give you some everyday and you cannot get clean beach towels every day either. The food is good; sometimes bland but not always bad. I could always find enough to eat and sometimes I really liked it. We did not have any complaints about the cleanliness of the rooms and who cares what colour the walls are????? We liked some of the staff at this hotel but there were some who weren't very nice. I have to ask though where some of the people writing these reviews are staying in Canada; why do you think every person at the hotel will bow down to you? We have stayed in many American and Canadian hotels in which there were friendly and unfriendly staff! Tony at the waterfront and Henry in the dining room are great young men and the entertainment people are fun and friendly! Even though there are vendors on the beach with their carts full of stuff to buy they do not hassle you like they do on the beaches of the Dominican! No one in the town approached us when we were out walking.

If you cannot put up with any inconveniences and you expect everything to be exactly as it is at home then that's where you should stay. If you do not pay for a five star resort then you can expect that you will make some sacrifices but overall you can have a fun time at Arenas Blanca's and if I got as good a deal here again I would return! I would bring a few large glasses and some chips or other snacks. I would bring a towel or two and then I would take in the beach and the sun and have a great time again.