logo Old Reviews - Barcelo Solymar
Solymar Beach Resort
Karen and Howard 
Alberta, Canada
May 2008
Second time staying at the Barcelo Solymar and was not disappointed. It has the best beach in Varadero and the staff is what makes this resort - they are awesome. This review will be short and sweet because I have nothing negative to say about this resort. There is a wide variety of food. I would highly recommend this place. We had a great vacation. We will return.

Some of the previous reviews that I read here are very picky - if you want the Ritz then I suggest that you book there instead.
Solymar Beach Resort
Brian & Carole 

March 2008
We stayed at the Barcelo Solymar from March 14 - 24 2008.

First of all the weather. Perfect every day

Our room: We were in block 35 bungalow 3506 the room was very clean and our maid did a excellent job, our only complaint was we were a distance from everything. In our opinion block 27 and 28 are the best locations, close to pools, beach and restaurants.

Restaurants & Buffet: When their is 2 to 4 chicken dishes, 2 to 4 fish dishes, a couple pork dishes, a couple beef dishes + pasta bar + salads bar how can one complain about food there is something for everyone? Hey it's Cuba. The staff at the Restaurants treat you like gold. Gonzelo and Boris are the best they will treat you with so much respect and look after your every needs.

Bars: We had no issues with the bars, we tipped a little and had very good service and staff were very freindly.

Beach: No more has to be said about the beach in front of the Solymar, it is one of the best beaches in the world. While we were there the resort was full and their was lots of lounges to be found.

Pools: The pools are very Clean, only about 40 inches in depth, While we were there the resort was full and their was lots of lounges to be found.

Grounds: I have read negative reviews on this site about the grounds at the Solymar. We found the grounds at this resort to be one of the best designed and cared for grounds of any resort we have ever stayed at.

Location: The location of the solymar is excellent only minutes to the town of Varadero and to the markets and shops. Only 20 minutes from the airport.

Internet: The internet worked really well, being from rural Nova Scotia and use to dial up how can I complain. 5 pasos for 30 minutes.

Overall: We enjoyed our vacation at the Barcelo Solymar Resort and would definately go back again, we are already planning a trip for next March. Despite some of the negative reviews and feedback you have read, take it from me this place is well worth the money. I've been to many other resorts around the world and this resort run's close to one of the best. If your looking for the party life then this place is NOT for you - but if you want the R&R style of a vacation then I would highly recommend it. Thanks to the Barcelo Solymar and there great staff for a wonderful vacation.
Solymar Beach Resort
Eileen 

March 2008
We just returned from a week at the Barcelo Solymar, and can hardly wait to go back, for 2 weeks. In speaking to several other couples who were at other hotels, we know we made the correct choice, haring their nightmare tales of poor food, noise from construction, rude staff, etc.. The food at the Barcelo was fabulous, lots of variety, and delicious. The staff was very friendly and helpful, our room in the bungalow was very clean and spacious, lots of hot water, and a lovely view of the ocean to one side, and the gardens from the balcony. Lots of activities going on, but still a peaceful and relaxing area. The pools were great, lots of chairs at both pools, and at the beach as well, which was cleaned everyday. The drinks and snacks at the pool and beach restaurant/bars were great. My only complaint was the amount of cigarette butts left in the sand by smokers. We took the day trip into Havana, which we really enjoyed, but other than that just lazed at the beach and pool, ate too much, drank too much, and were very sad to leave. I would recommend this resort to everyone interested in a great winter get-away.
Solymar Beach Resort
Wayne 
Toronto
March 2008
Arrival - Arrival is easy and it takes only 35-40 minutes to get to the hotel. Check in is fast and easy. Most arrivals and departures are at night. I think this is done so the tourists do not see the hobbles that line the road. Poverty is not a pleasant think to look at. Change money at the airport. You will have time. Remember the 25.00 departure tax.

Rooms - I stayed in the main hotel. The room was quite nice and overlooked the pool/ocean.The air-conditioning makes a bit of a smell when it starts up so I would bring air freshener. Also if you take baths instead of showers I would recommend taking a universal plug. Theirs does not work all that well. Bring some cheap face clothes, a must.

Restaurants - The best of the side restaurants was the Italian. As said before you do not go to Cuba for the food. Saying that I give their food a six out of ten. The buffet restaurant is quite acceptable and the service for drinks is great. Never a empty glass.

Bars - The indoor bar is always busy and mixed drinks in the outside bars are sub par. Make sure that you bring your big mugs. The staff happily fill them up. Bring a small canteen and keep it full of water from the bar. That way where ever you go you will have clean safe water.

Beach and Pools - The beach is great. That is why you go to Cuba. The pool is very shallow. I am 6 foot two. The water comes up to my waist. They need to make parts of the pool deeper.

Grounds - Grounds are well kept but not well lit. I recomend taking a small flash light if you walk away from the pool area at night.

Activities - . Not much going on in this department. The nightly shows at the theatre are pretty bad. But typical of this type of vacation. You will notice people around the resort playing scrabble and card games. This is because there is little entertainment or night life. Cuba is a beach vacation.

Tours - I took the day and night tour of Havana. I would recommend this as it includes the show at the famous Tropicanna. Which is outdoors and the men have to wear pants. A must see. Also took the escorted jeep tour which includes those famous caves. I also recommend that. Also bathroom breaks on bus tours are bad. All the buses stop at the same time at the only two washrooms. So be prepared. Bus bathrooms are small and embarrassing.

Conclusion - Cuba is a beach vacation mostly. The resort was acceptable. The service was good. Bring consumer goods that you can donate to the orphanage. Sewing kits crayons and coloring books, brushes and combs etc.Would I go back ?????????????????????????????????????
Solymar Beach Resort
David 
Nova Scotia
February 2008
Arrival at Veradero Airport was quick and easy. Checkin was slow and we were surpried when we were asked for a 25 peso deposit for each of our beach towels.
We had booked a Permium Club Package through Sunwing and the information was not forwarded to the front desk at the time of ckeck in. The error was discovered 2 days after arrival when we inquired as to some of the perks we were supposed to have received upon arrival. Marda of Guest Services did her best to correct the mistake, including an offer to move us to the suite we supposed to bave been assigned upon arrival.

Rooms - We stayed in one of the 2 level suites in Bungalow 28. The building is central to all facilities in the resort. The rooms, even though the hotel is less than 8 years old, require updating. It took photos of a safety hazard, protruding nails, to get the necessary repairs completed. Our Housekeeper worked hard to keep our room clean and left thank-you notes and towel art in apprecation for the gifts we gave her.

Restaurants

Buffet: I am very well aware that you don't got Cuba for the food but there were times that food in the Buffet was less than acceptable.

Many times we found the hot food in the serving line cold or at room temerature. There were always never enough tools for handling food especialy bread products. In order to avoid illness from the food we got our food from the as you order it food preparation, pasta/grill service areas. Coffee in the Buffet is always strong even when diluted with milk.

A-La-Cartes: We ate at all 3 Restaurants and definately found the Italian the best. The Cuban and the Seafood were mediocre at best. Service was xcelent in all.

Bars - We enjoyed the Lobby bar and the La Horizions Snack Bar. The Lobby Bar is open 24 hours and is an ideal place to get a coffee in the morning.
The food in both snack bars is great especially the "Super" or "Bizmark" burger.

Beach and Pools - The pools are nothing to write home about. A pool bar attached the Horizions Snack bar would go a long way

Grounds - The resort seemed to be under staffed in comparison to other resorts we have been in when it comes grounds maintaince. There seemed to be garbage and Cigarette butts around the walkways even though there seemed to be no shortage of garbage recepticles around.
There are a number of trees with dead leaves and overloaded with rotting Coconuts in them. During a wind storm a number of these coconuts fell out of the trees.

Tours - We took a tour of Havana, booked with Cuba Tours, The group was small, 9 People, and it was like being on a private taxi tour. Juliette was wonderful and very informative. Unfortunately I was pickpocketed in the Fea Market by a team. One will try to sell Cigars while someone else does the deed after they learn where you keep your cash after paying for something. If you do the tour take bar soap with you for the locals.
We toured Veradaro by horse and buggy which turned out to be very enjoyable.

Conclusion - Departure from Veradaro turned to be a real experience. We made the mistake of packing Coffee in our checked luggage. When Our luggage was xrayed customs couldn't identify the "Coffee Bricks" and we had to open our luggage to prove it was NOT drugs. Our luggage was then left in unsecured area after the inspection for over an hour. Overall I would rate the resort a 3 out of 5 and we would probably not return to this resort or Veradaro in the near future
Solymar Beach Resort
Colleen & Lisa  
Toronto, Ontario
December 2007
Arrival - Our arrival to the Varadero airport went very well; without any significant delays or line ups. We went thru customs to the baggage area where our bags had been already removed from the conveyor and sitting waiting for us. The bathrooms at the airport were clean.

Just before leaving the airport's main building, we had made it thru the final metal detector or checkpoint. Some people behind us were randomly pulled aside causing a bit of a delay for some people ~2-3 minutes.

A Sunwing representive greeted us outside and directed us to the bus to take us to the hotel. The bus had 3-4 stops to make but Barcelo Solymar was the first. We waited 10-15 minutes before leaving the airport and the drive to the hotel was 20-25 minutes. People were walking around at the airport selling nicely chilled Cristal beer.

Check-in time is 4:00pm. We got to the hotel at between 1-2 pm so we had a few hours to kill before we can unpack. There is a secure luggage room were we put our bags for the few hours. We later found out that Barcelo has a Club Premium that you can pay $25 Pesos to upgrade to give you early check-ins times (among other percs as well)...

Rooms - Our room had 2 double beds and very clean. Our Mini bar was equipped with 2 beers, 2x 1-litre bottle water and a 1-litre lime sparkling drink. It was refilled everyday.

Our maid was named Yadi. She left us a note our first day introducing herself and welcoming us to Cuba. She told us when her day off was going to be, so it we need anything to let her know the day before.

Restaurants - The hotel had breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Overall, the food was OK. Lots of sliced meat & cheese, omelettes for breakfast, pasta bar for lunch and dinner, fruit bar, desert bar with ice cream among other selections. I found their chicken & pork to be the best. Lunch & Dinner buffets had some grilled fish & chicken.

For the a la carte restaurants, we went to the Seafood and Cuban restaurant on our last night. Both were excellent...but preferred the Cuban.

Bars - The hotel has a 24-hour bar in the lobby. Bar at the beach and 2 bars near each of the pools. They served burgers, hot dogs and pizza. I liked the hamburger with egg and cheese.

While at bars, you get your drink in a glass although, if you want a traveller, you get little plastic cups which are more like beer shooter. I recommend a taking an insulated cup from home.

Beach and Pools - Beach was excellent. The water was too rough to take out the catamaran and kayaks until our last day.

We took a catamaran for a 20 minute trip. We went out about 2-kilometers to beautiful, clean, blue water. Our guide told us that they take people out about 5-kilometers for a snorkelling near a reef.

The kayaks are open, recreational single or double seaters. As the current was very strong, we didn't venture out too far. I tipped it coming shore but had a great time doing it.

Grounds - Grounds were very well kept and was a nice walk from the beach, to pools and to the main hotel.

Activities - Bicycles are available free of charge and scooters are available right at the hotel. We rented scooters for 3 hours ($15 pecos for 3 hours) and travelled to the end of the penninsula and downtown. A great way to see the area, other hotels, night clubs and the local people.

Tours - There is an information desk in the hotel and representatives from various travel agencies visiting the hotel at scheduled intervals where you can book tours.

Conclusion - When you venture off the hotel grounds, don't order mixed drinks with ice cubes. Had stomach cramps & diarrea and lost 1 day of our vacation. $46 pesos for a doctors' visit and examination in hotel room , $44 pesos for prescriptions delivered to hotel room, live to tell about, priceless!

Remember to over-pack! You can't esily go find things to replace..or stock up on when there...(you can't find a Wal-mart in Cuba!) I lost a pair of sunglasses but luckily had brought a spare pair. Plan your consumable items well (Advil, suntan lotion, kleenex, toothpaste, toothbrushes etc...)

If planning a trip off the hotel grounds, bring toilet paper/kleenex. Have no expectations of toilet paper.

Contrary to what you may have heard, do not leave canadian loonies or toonies as tips. When talking to local people, they cannot easily exchange it.

We converted $100 canadian dollars for $88 Cuban convertible pesos. You can exchange your canadian currency at the hotel front desk or the exchange booth in the hotel.
Solymar Beach Resort
Vivian 

November 2007
Arrival
As this was our 9th trip, we knew pretty much what to expect upon arriving at the airport. Since we were the only plane that had landed, we were through customs in about 5 mins, waited about 20 mins for the luggage and away we went. One note, the Cadeca (money exchange booth) is now on the other side of the arrivals area. Once you are outside the terminal, go to the left to the departure area to change money if needed. Not sure why they would close it on the arrival side, many people were looking to change money for tips. Check in at the hotel, was very quick, again, no line up which helped. Arriving at 11:00AM we did not expect our room to be ready, but surprise it was, great!

Rooms
We had requested a bungalow in a specific area, which we were given. It was a 2 storey junior suite, more than we really needed, but very happy with. These bungalows and the hotel rooms are pretty basic. However, they are always kept clean, they are comfortable, mini bar stocked daily, TV with a fair number of English speaking channels. When you are on vacation what more do you need. All rooms have irons, hair dryers, stocked with shampoo etc for those that may forget some things at home. Our chambermaid kept the room very clean daily and was pleasant and smiling whenever we saw her. Left small gifts daily which I know they are grateful for.

Restaurants /pools/bars
No one should ever think of going to Cuba for the food. That being said, there is always something to eat, from salads and cold meats, veggies etc, to full course meals. Breakfasts are great, and new this trip; they now cook French toast and pancakes in the morning right at the buffet. They do not however have any syrup only honey, so take some if you want syrup with your pancakes. We usually have lunch at the buffet on the beach. We find it to be not a busy, and the food very good. They bar-b-que every day there with a variety of foods. Also sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs etc. are always available at the snack bars up to 6 PM. Dinner at the buffet is good, lots to chose from, the a la cartes- I have to say the Italian is our favourite, friends went to the Seafood one and were quite pleased with the food, felt it was a huge improvement over previous visits. The bars are everywhere. Sports bar has 2 pool tables (just re done during our visit), table tennis, dartboard and a nice little bar to sit and relax at.The wait staffs everywhere speak quite good English and are usually very pleasant. I chuckle when I hear some tourists there complain that the staff was not friendly. Especially when I witnessed those same tourists being rude to the staff or very demanding, you get what you give. During our stay the small pool was closed for 2 days, completely drained, repaired and re painted. Once that was completed, they did the same to the large pool. There are new lounge chairs at the small pool, much more comfortable. Noticed they also now have umbrellas at both pools, lots of them, about one umbrella for every 2 chairs. Also, at both snack bars at the pools the chairs and tables have all been replaced.

Beach/Grounds
What else can be said about the beach in Varadero? It is amazing. The only complaint I have, is the garbage left on the beach by tourists. They do have people cleaning and picking up all the time, but hard to keep up some days. There are loads of bins all over the beach, I cannot figure out how people can walk right by them, and still drop their plastic glasses or whatever in the sand. The grounds and gardens are immaculate. There are so many gardeners working all day to keep clean and well maintained. Don’t forget to tip them a little something; garden gloves are a big hit.

Activities
Can’t say we do many of those, we go to relax and unwind. There are water activities (weather permitting), games etc. for those that wish to participate. There is a board at the buffet restaurant in the hotel that lists all activities for each day. Nightly shows are okay, but we prefer to sit in the Piano bar and listen to the singer for a nice relaxing evening.

Area
One of the main reasons we continue to return to Solymar is the location. It is the nicest resort that close to town so you can walk into town in about 5-10 min. The market at the other end of town is about 1-1/2 hour walk, however, there are many smaller ones close to Solymar that carry a wide variety of items.

Overall
We will definitely go back to Solymar, especially since we continue to see improvements to the resort each trip. Looking at other resorts, location, facilities, etc. it is probably one of the best in the area for the value. Would give this a 4.5* out of 5*.
Solymar Beach Resort
Steve 

November 2007
Arrival

Our flight to Cuba was just awesome, we flew Air Canada direct from Toronto to Varadero and arrived around 8:30 pm. We departed the plane and was welcomed right away by the airport staff, very friendly people. Custom’s was packed as there was 2 plane loads of people to contend with. It took about 30 minutes to get through custom’s and security but we made it. Exchanged money right at the airport ( $600 Canada = $547.35 Convertible Peso) and then headed for our Bus. The tour guide was very friendly and extremely informative, he made the ride interesting. We finally got to the Hotel which was roughly about a 25 minute ride from the airport and it was packed. 2 bus loads arrived at the same time and the lobby was hectic, it took about 40 minutes before we got to the front desk and checked in, the front desk people were quite helpful but very slow. We finally got our package with our room keys and gave our luggage to the bellboy for delivery to our room. We stayed in a Bungalow suite ( rm. 3703 ) which was way in the back of the resort by the seafood restaurant and close to the beach, it took us 30 minutes just to locate our suite because the layout is very big. The sign's are not well marked and there are so many path's to take. We finally found our room and was itching to check it out and start having fun but that was delayed for quite sometime. Our room keys didn't work at all, we tried everything before heading back to the lobby, they forgot to program our keys. All in all I would give the arrival a 4 out of 5

ROOMS

They finally got things straight and we headed back to the room. We opened the door and to our amazement the suite was super large, 2 levels - a downstairs with a kitchenette and living room + bathroom and the upstairs with a master bedroom and full bathroom. The suite was very clean and smelt not to bad, I heard a lot of people complaining about the smell of their rooms so we felt lucky. Nothing special about the suite, it was very plain and colorful. There where a few ants in the room but only by the bathroom sink, nothing really to complain about. The bar fridge was already stock for us with 3 beers and water and coke so at least we had something to drink. While in our room we had to wait for our luggage to be delivered which took forever, we waited about 1 1/2 hours before we finally got it and by that time we we're getting upset. Katie and I were getting quite hungry and couldn't go for food because we had to wait so that took a toll on us. All in all the room was kept very clean and there was no complaints about it. The maid ( Dunia ) always kept our room smelling fresh and clean and always left little notes with towel ornaments that Katie just loved. 5 out of 5 for the room

Restaurants

The main buffet had a wide assortment of food. You would never go hungry, there was pasta, chicken, meat, fish, baked potato, mashed potato, french fries and an assortment of vegetables. Breads and desserts were very good. Katie lived off the bread the whole time there. I don't know how anyone could complain about the food - we had non what-so-ever, it was perfect. We did not try any of the a la cartes, as they were always booked up for the evenings. We just ate at our leisure. Also, no complaints about the service, they were very friendly and attentive, a special thanks goes out to Yanny, she made our dinners very special . Restaurant / food is definately a 4 out of 5

Bars

The bars were very busy at some points and if you didn't make nice to any of the bar tenders then you waited forever to get a drink. The first night we were there I tipped most of the regular tenders that worked through out the week so that I would get noticed, never had to wait for a drink. A little tip goes a long ways here so if anything I would suggest making friends with the workers. Special treatment makes a holiday more enjoyable. A special thanks to Jose at the lobby bar for his specially made pina colada's for my wife and I, we'll miss his drinks. All in all I will give the bars a 4 out of 5

Beach and Pools

The beach and ocean were to die for . This is the best stretch of beach in Varadero. It was very clean - no garbage -seaweed- or cigarette butts anywhere. The only complaint here was the beach sharks asking if you wanted to buy stuff. Other then that it was truly paradise. I would give the beach and pools a 5 out of 5

Grounds

The grounds and gardens were truly amazing. The grounds keepers work very hard to keep them this way and they do an awesome job. You will never find any garbage around the resort. The only complaint is there's really no signage around the resort so you tend to get lost at first because is so big. Again I will give it a 5 out of 5

Activities

Activities sucked.... the only real complaint we had, bare minimal to do, I think the best parts of this was the paddle boats and the sea kayaks and maybe the nightly entertainment, other then that this resort caters to R&R only. They had some games on the beach but it seemed like no one was interested in them, everyone just wanted to laz around the beach. I will give this a 2 1/2 out of 5

Conclusion

My wife and I throughly enjoyed our vacation to Barcelo Solymar Resort and would definately go back again, we are already planning a trip for next November with the people that we met down there. Despite some of the negative feedback people left out here, take it from me this place it well worth the money. I've been to many other places around the world and this run's close to one of the best. If your looking for the party life then this place is NOT for you - but if you want the R&R style of a vacation then I would highly recommend it. Thanks BSPR for a wonderful Vacation. 4 ½ * out of 5 *
Solymar Beach Resort
Karen and Howard 
Alberta, Canada
November 2007
ROOM:
Plain but very clean, the maid service was awesome! Bar in room was stocked every day. No complaints about the room. Towel art was done everyday and notes were left. We had a great view, we were on the 4th. floor of the main building - in a quiet wing.

FOOD:
The main buffet had a very wide assortment of food. You would never go hungry - there was pasta, chicken, meat, fish, baked potato, mashed potato, french fries and an assortment of vegetables. Breads and desserts were very good. I don't know how anyone could complain about the food - we had non what-so-ever. We did not try any of the ala cartes, as we did not know if we would be there in time every evening. We just ate at our leisure. Also, no complaints about the service, they were very attentive. We ate in the town of Varadero a couple times. The chinese food at the Lai Lai (right on the main street) was very good and cheap compared to what we pay in Canada for Chinese food.

BEACH & OCEAN:
The beach and ocean were just awesome. This is the best stretch of beach in Varadero. It was very clean - no seaweed at all. The only complaint here was the cigarette butts and plastic glasses that were left, by the tourists, that were too lazy to properly dispose of their own garbage. Most of this garbage was close to the lounge chairs.

GROUNDS & GARDENS:
The grounds and gardens were impeccable. The grounds keepers work very hard to keep them this way and they do an awesome job.

TOURS:
We did the Catamaran to Cayo Blanco which we thoroughly enjoyed. We met two sisters from Ontario - Jeannie and Joannie - they put the party life on the Catamaran. Because of those two ladies everyone had a blast. Thanks, ladies!!!! We also did the Sports Fishing - our guides were Hose and Pedro. They were great. We did not bother to do the Havana tour this time, as this was our 4th. time to Varadero, and we were to Havana the last 3 times. It is a must see if this will be your first trip to Havana. Be sure to also visit the side streets which are very narrow, as there is a lot to see here also.

OVERALL:
We really enjoyed staying at this resort as it was within walking distance into town. The staff was awesome and very friendly. I would highly recommend this resort. The only thing I would do different at this resort the next time would be to upgrade the room. I did not know that you could until the last few days we were there. The larger suite was very nice.

If you go to Varadero, please bring the things that we take for granted. They are very appreciative people. Baby aspirin, Advil, band-aids, soap, hair accessories, crayons, colored pencils, exercise books, colored sidewalk chalk, umbrellas, etc. I brought down a suitcase full of things. Those things can be bought at the dollar stores and they are things that we have all the time but they don't.
Solymar Beach Resort
 
Canada
September 2007
We would like to start off by saying we fly with Sunwing from September 15 till September 23,2007. Being this was our first time flying with sunwing we were a bit nervise. The service on the plane was great. We left on time we got champane, hot towels, hot meal, wine, pop, etc. great service.

Everything at the airport went okay then we changed our money over at the airport too, we exchanged 600.00 canadian dollars and we got 517.65 cuc dollars. Just some advice they wont take any torn bills.

Were now on a bus heading to the Barcelo Solymar Hotel. The guide on the bus was really nice. There were four drop offs and we were the last to let off.

Everthing went okay to check in. You had to show them your hotel paper and your passport and they gave you your room card.

The hotel lobby is covered in long green ivory that has been growing for 6 years. There are 5 elevators which 3 were working.

We had an oceanview room which was beautiful. We saw the sunset , people in the pool what a view. The rooms are nice but my advice when we left was get new pillows and get some dressers. The pillows are rolled up foam and really uncomfortable to sleep on. We woke up with a stiff neck. Bring your own pillows. There is a closet to hang up your clothes in and a save for your valuables that you dont pay for . The rest of our clothes we left in our suitcase. The maid was great she made us towel art everyday with real flowers on it. The room was cleaned very good. We had no ants at all. If you open your balcony door the air goes off or sometimes when the maid is finished she turns off the air.

My husband liked the lobby bar drinks the best. At night they played the violin at this bar the music was nice. A nice place to eat hamburgers and have a drink is at the pool bar by the large pool near the hotel. If you arrive late like we did you can go the snack bar near the beach and we got a drink and hamburger at 11 pm at night.

The entertainment is at 10 olock at the theater room past the lobby. The magic show was good. A lot of the shows are just people dancing to cuban music. Some nights they have a band playing and they are good. Some people stay and watch some people find this boring and they leave. When this is over at 11pm if you stay the workers will tell you where you can go party outside the hotel but you have to pay for drinks.

We ate all our meals in the buffet. Good selection of food. Lots of pork, french fries potatoes vegetables, omelets the way you want them cooked, pancakes, breads, cakes and you must try at supper the fried bananas from the banana lady and eat it with icecream. They have the best icecream there is usually 3 or 4 kinds to pick from.

We tried the cuban a la cart the pork was good but the rest of the meal was not enjoyable. The man in the restaurant played for you at the table, he was good. We tried the Italian a la carte but the menu didnt apeal to us.

The beach was to die for it was beautiful. White sand blue, green coloured water and the water was really warm. The last day we were their the water was like it was low tide. It had rained the night before and the sand from the beach came into the water and when you sept into the water the water was at your ankles, we noticed the water changed every day. There were hobbie cats you could go on, my husband did the banana boat ride twice on one day, paddle boats canoes. Their is music on the beach, dance lessons, volleyball exersizing etc. If you have one bring a bubba mug. tim hortons mug or any mug for your drinks. The cups are very small and even if you dont drink like me I filled my mug up with bottled water and brought it to the beach with me and it didnt spill and no bugs get in from the sand.

The trips we did were we went on Wednesday to the Sugar tour. We went to Cardenas and saw how sugar cane was cut and how it is made into sugar. We saw the museum where you could only look but not touch. You left your purses and cameras on the bus because you couldnt take pictures inside was military stuff. We saw the factory where they make the sugar into molasses and we saw trains and they took us on a train ride. This town is really poor as we saw by driving around. A lot of the workers at our hotels live their our guide told us. This trip cost 39.00 cuc each.

We had a horse and buggy tour with a guide. He took us all around Varadero told us about places took us to the big flea market, and when we wanted to shop he let us off but he waited for us.

If you stay at this hotel and you wanted to help someone out their is a man who is a gardener and he works beside the restaurant where you see the water tower. It is on the left side of the hotel when you come out the front door. You have to walk up the rode to the water tower ask at the restaurant for a man called Ernesto. He is a young man who is married with 2 girls 8 and 9years old. He is a diebetic and he needs precision 100 test strips, syringes a meter what ever you can bring and you are not stopped at customs with these items because my husband had them because he is a diebetic too.

There is much more too see but we have too go back. One week is too short. We have to see Havana and many more places their. Just remember if you stay their bring your own pillows and mozzie spray. We are going back next year. Enjoy your self.
Solymar Beach Resort
Steve 
Scarborough, Ontario
September 2007
1st of all I want to start positive. We arrived at the Barceló Solymar on Saturday Sept. 9th. The weather was great and the drive from the airport to the hotel was wonderful and short. Again with more positive stuff. The staff at the hotel couldn't do more for you and they were a very proud and talented in their fields. The beaches and water were amazing and of course the air-conditioning in the bed room was out standing.

Now the sad part. I never experienced sub standard food in my life as I did at this hotel. The meals appear to be recycled meaning what ever they served at dinner that was not used they served it for breakfast. For breakfast they served (Mashed Potatoes, Cabbage and an assortment of boiled and fried fish) The only breakfast food was eggs and toast. You couldn't eat the bacon as it was over cooked. The cheese table was always covered in flies and the service staff didn't appear to care.

The ala cart restaurants were a real joke. We went to the Italian restaurant and ordered grilled shrimp and we got shrimp in a sauce. When we changed the order we got Chicken that was boiled to the point that it was not eatable. The feeling of the poor quality ran rampant through out the hotel and it became a joke. I expected there might have been some issues but not for the whole week. I would never go to that restaurant again.

I wish there was a sight that one can check prior to going on vacation as to what is being served at specific restaurants. I am not saying that a vacation should be centered around eating but when you are paying for an all inclusive you should have some rights when it comes to poor food quality.
Solymar Beach Resort
chrism26/glen 
Canada
March 2007
My husband and I have traveled to three different destinations in Cuba: Holguin (Guardalavaca – three times), Cayo Coco – once), and Varadero (twice). We are 47 and 53 years of age.

Flight to Varadero - We arrived on Feb 16/07 at about 9:30 p.m. direct from Toronto via Skyservice. The flight was typical –very little leg room and a light snack. Very polite and boarding on and off was very quick.

Varadero Airport - Very quick. We were the only plane in Varadero who arrived at that time. We picked up our luggage, golf clubs and went through customs in approximately 20 minutes. Our luggage was not weighed and we then headed out to our bus. Money exchange went smooth too.

Check in - Hotel transfer was very quick. The front desk staff was very pleasant, polite and their English was good. There is an interesting atrium in the lobby with 40 foot long plants hanging down to the second floor. We did not see a bellboy who could take our luggage. We had hoped we could follow the signs to our room. We were wrong because our room # was not on the signs. One of the workers helped us and we were then led to a ”cottage like building” right on the beach. We stayed in room #4001 and it was right on the beach. The bungalow room was spotless, very spacious and very quiet. Décor was plain but we had a front door and a back door and windows on three walls of the bedroom.

Resort - The resort had a very nice layout and is wheelchair accessible. During our stay we saw three guests in wheelchairs and the staff was most helpful in any assistance that they required including taking them to the beach and ocean. There was the main hotel area which included the main buffet restaurant which was open for breakfast and dinner (not sure about lunch). There was a 24 hour lobby bar, a piano bar (evening entertainment every night), indoor theatre type room for the shows, computers set up for guests ($10 CUC for 60 minutes), fitness area, sauna (extra $), massage (extra $), hairdressers (extra $), general store, cigar store, money exchange, medical centre and clean washrooms in the lobby. The two hotel pools and grounds were exceptionally clean and VERY beautiful. Neither pools had a swim up bar but there were bars with food that you could enjoy throughout the day and/or night. The main pool had a sit down area as well as menu for late breakfast, lunch and dinner. The other pool was open for food all night and during the day. There were plenty of chairs at the pools – never a problem getting a lounger. The pool activities were at the smaller pool while the main pool was pleasantly quiet. There were always grounds keepers working to keep this a very clean and tidy resort. Our chambermaid Belkis Castro (no relation) was a sweetheart. She was polite, professional and clearly wanted us to be comfortable. She would ask us if we had any special requests i.e.: for the mini bar, extra towels etc… The room was left perfect every day.

Hot Water - We did run out of hot water on several occasions. We don’t know whether it was because we were in a separate building (2 rooms). They immediately fixed the problem. I think this problem was frustrating to the workers but it was always fixed right away. The showers were great once we had the hot water. The other buildings did not have this problem.

Beach - All we can say is WOW. We walked for hours every day on the beach. There was music all day long at the beach. If you didn’t want music, there were many areas that were quiet. The music was not too loud but created a lovely atmosphere. All the activities that would normally be at most resort pools were also at the beach. Try the aquafit in the ocean and dance lessons right on the beach. The beach was very clean and there were many receptacles for garbage. The beach was very large and wide. Never was crowded even though the resort was full. We never had a problem getting a lounger or shade.

Food/Restaurants - Roast beef, pork, lamb and of course many different varieties of fresh fish and chicken. The veggies were plentiful as well as many different salads, both green and of the pasta varieties. The fruit was limited. We always had bananas, pineapple, oranges, grapefruits, papayas and one other pink fruit with seeds. It wasn’t the season for watermelon or mangoes. There was also an excellent assortment of cheeses and ice cream. Good deserts especially the banana Fosters in the main dining room. The main buffet breakfast had ham carved on the bone one day, nice omelet’s and nice granolas. A handsome man greeted us every morning waiting to prepare our eggs. Very fresh orange juice with Champagne was served each day. Fresh breads with nice German butter were available in all the restaurants. Try the little long peppers that look like green beans. Linen tablecloths adorned the tables in every restaurant. The food lines in the buffets moved quickly. The restaurant staff was very friendly and acted like they remembered us on every visit. The main buffet was very well staffed.

The Italian A la Carte was quite good. Real Italian dishes etc. Very nice atmosphere and service was slow but we found it very relaxing. The Seafood A la Carte was great, especially the prawns and lobster. We had lunch in the seafood restaurant every day. The buffet included bar-b-q meat and sausages. Food selection and quality was excellent. One of the things that we liked is that since this restaurant was right on the beach, you did not have to dress up in shorts – you could go in your bathing suits with cover ups and sandals and eat there. This was a major plus since we stayed on the beach all day. Washrooms were also provided in the restaurant beside the beach. Very accessible. The seafood paella in the big wok looked nice, but was empty every time I went which must be a good sign. There were cats wondering around in the restaurant but not bothersome. The Cuban A la Carte was the only one that we were not crazy about. The service was regimented – not the type of service that you would normally receive in Cuba. Fish was very nice as well as the Cuban bean soups. Overall the food was way above the norm for Cuban resorts.

Bars - Our favourite bar was the lobby bar – open 24 hours and made good Mojitos and better Pina Coladas. Count the number of bottles above the bar in the afternoon because they are almost all gone by morning. Where could they possibly go? It was a nice meeting spot. The beach bar was also excellent – Jorge makes great drinks at the beach but of limited selection. No problems having travel mugs filled. The piano bar was a relaxing bar with live entertainers, a sitting bar, tables and rocking chairs. It is a nice place before or after the show across the hall. Excellent Mojitos.

Off the Resort excursions - The location of the Barcelo was EXCELLENT. You could walk into town in approximately 6 minutes. Check out the rum store just before Calle 62, they give you free samples of some fine rums not commonly available. For a real treat, try the “sweet rum”. Calle 62 is nice outdoor café. There is live music with dancing in the streets between 9pm-midnight. There are many craft markets just down the street. Josone Park is wonderful (calle 61) – it’s only a15 minute walk from the hotel. They make the best pina coladas at the little bar beside the lake. Take the double decker bus tour – 5 CUC takes all day (9-9 p.m.) You can get on and off as many times as you want….lovely way to see Varadero. Havana is a must tour - 1.5 hours away.

Varadero Golf Club was better than I ever expected. The course conditions were close to perfect. The layout of the course is both fun and challenging. The rental clubs were Taylor-mades and the power carts quick. Take the package deals offered at the course for the best deal unless golf is included in your hotel stay. The course plays very hard on windy days. The back nine holes are the best. Do not use your credit cards at the course…they mark every price up by 12% if you pay by credit card. My only small complaint is the pro shop items (balls, gloves) had a small selection, but at least you can buy something there. Tee off times were never a problem, people just arrived by taxi (only 4 cuc + tip from Solymar) and were on the course in minutes. If you are a golfer, this is a must play.

Walking around Varadero is easy and safe. Great for the senses, nice aromas from the little restaurants and bakeries, feel the sand on your feet and the sun in your face, move to the music, see the sights and meet new friends.

Check out - Quick – we stored our luggage in a locked room and were able to access during the day. During our stay we also made many local telephone calls – it was .15 cents for one minute – very reasonable.

Transfer to the airport and return to Canada - My husband had a swollen knee due to torn cartilage (but he still did golf). The Sunquest rep. noticed that he was having difficulty walking off the bus and immediately made arrangements for a wheelchair. We whisked through customs in approx 15 minutes and they even made arrangements for an excellent seat with plenty of legroom on return Skyservice flight. Upon arrival in Toronto, Skyservice assisted us with a wheelchair again and helped us quickly through customs and ensured my husband’s proper care in Toronto.

Overall, we had a great time. We highly recommend this resort. Our best resort yet!
Solymar Beach Resort
 
Canada
March 2007
My husband and I have traveled to three different destinations in Cuba: Holguin (Guardalavaca – three times), Cayo Coco – once), and Varadero (twice). We are 47 and 53 years of age.

Flight to Varadero - We arrived on Feb 16/07 at about 9:30 p.m. direct from Toronto via Skyservice. The flight was typical –very little leg room and a light snack. Very polite and boarding on and off was very quick.

Varadero Airport - Very quick. We were the only plane in Varadero who arrived at that time. We picked up our luggage, golf clubs and went through customs in approximately 20 minutes. Our luggage was not weighed and we then headed out to our bus. Money exchange went smooth too.

Check in - Hotel transfer was very quick. The front desk staff was very pleasant, polite and their English was good. There is an interesting atrium in the lobby with 40 foot long plants hanging down to the second floor. We did not see a bellboy who could take our luggage. We had hoped we could follow the signs to our room. We were wrong because our room # was not on the signs. One of the workers helped us and we were then led to a ”cottage like building” right on the beach. We stayed in room #4001 and it was right on the beach. The bungalow room was spotless, very spacious and very quiet. Décor was plain but we had a front door and a back door and windows on three walls of the bedroom.

Resort - The resort had a very nice layout and is wheelchair accessible. During our stay we saw three guests in wheelchairs and the staff was most helpful in any assistance that they required including taking them to the beach and ocean. There was the main hotel area which included the main buffet restaurant which was open for breakfast and dinner (not sure about lunch). There was a 24 hour lobby bar, a piano bar (evening entertainment every night), indoor theatre type room for the shows, computers set up for guests ($10 CUC for 60 minutes), fitness area, sauna (extra $), massage (extra $), hairdressers (extra $), general store, cigar store, money exchange, medical centre and clean washrooms in the lobby. The two hotel pools and grounds were exceptionally clean and VERY beautiful. Neither pools had a swim up bar but there were bars with food that you could enjoy throughout the day and/or night. The main pool had a sit down area as well as menu for late breakfast, lunch and dinner. The other pool was open for food all night and during the day. There were plenty of chairs at the pools – never a problem getting a lounger. The pool activities were at the smaller pool while the main pool was pleasantly quiet. There were always grounds keepers working to keep this a very clean and tidy resort. Our chambermaid Belkis Castro (no relation) was a sweetheart. She was polite, professional and clearly wanted us to be comfortable. She would ask us if we had any special requests i.e.: for the mini bar, extra towels etc… The room was left perfect every day.

Hot Water - We did run out of hot water on several occasions. We don’t know whether it was because we were in a separate building (2 rooms). They immediately fixed the problem. I think this problem was frustrating to the workers but it was always fixed right away. The showers were great once we had the hot water. The other buildings did not have this problem.

Beach - All we can say is WOW. We walked for hours every day on the beach. There was music all day long at the beach. If you didn’t want music, there were many areas that were quiet. The music was not too loud but created a lovely atmosphere. All the activities that would normally be at most resort pools were also at the beach. Try the aquafit in the ocean and dance lessons right on the beach. The beach was very clean and there were many receptacles for garbage. The beach was very large and wide. Never was crowded even though the resort was full. We never had a problem getting a lounger or shade.

Food/Restaurants - Roast beef, pork, lamb and of course many different varieties of fresh fish and chicken. The veggies were plentiful as well as many different salads, both green and of the pasta varieties. The fruit was limited. We always had bananas, pineapple, oranges, grapefruits, papayas and one other pink fruit with seeds. It wasn’t the season for watermelon or mangoes. There was also an excellent assortment of cheeses and ice cream. Good deserts especially the banana Fosters in the main dining room. The main buffet breakfast had ham carved on the bone one day, nice omelet’s and nice granolas. A handsome man greeted us every morning waiting to prepare our eggs. Very fresh orange juice with Champagne was served each day. Fresh breads with nice German butter were available in all the restaurants. Try the little long peppers that look like green beans. Linen tablecloths adorned the tables in every restaurant. The food lines in the buffets moved quickly. The restaurant staff was very friendly and acted like they remembered us on every visit. The main buffet was very well staffed.

The Italian A la Carte was quite good. Real Italian dishes etc. Very nice atmosphere and service was slow but we found it very relaxing. The Seafood A la Carte was great, especially the prawns and lobster. We had lunch in the seafood restaurant every day. The buffet included bar-b-q meat and sausages. Food selection and quality was excellent. One of the things that we liked is that since this restaurant was right on the beach, you did not have to dress up in shorts – you could go in your bathing suits with cover ups and sandals and eat there. This was a major plus since we stayed on the beach all day. Washrooms were also provided in the restaurant beside the beach. Very accessible. The seafood paella in the big wok looked nice, but was empty every time I went which must be a good sign. There were cats wondering around in the restaurant but not bothersome. The Cuban A la Carte was the only one that we were not crazy about. The service was regimented – not the type of service that you would normally receive in Cuba. Fish was very nice as well as the Cuban bean soups. Overall the food was way above the norm for Cuban resorts.

Bars - Our favourite bar was the lobby bar – open 24 hours and made good Mojitos and better Pina Coladas. Count the number of bottles above the bar in the afternoon because they are almost all gone by morning. Where could they possibly go? It was a nice meeting spot. The beach bar was also excellent – Jorge makes great drinks at the beach but of limited selection. No problems having travel mugs filled. The piano bar was a relaxing bar with live entertainers, a sitting bar, tables and rocking chairs. It is a nice place before or after the show across the hall. Excellent Mojitos.

Off the Resort excursions - The location of the Barcelo was EXCELLENT. You could walk into town in approximately 6 minutes. Check out the rum store just before Calle 62, they give you free samples of some fine rums not commonly available. For a real treat, try the “sweet rum”. Calle 62 is nice outdoor café. There is live music with dancing in the streets between 9pm-midnight. There are many craft markets just down the street. Josone Park is wonderful (calle 61) – it’s only a15 minute walk from the hotel. They make the best pina coladas at the little bar beside the lake. Take the double decker bus tour – 5 CUC takes all day (9-9 p.m.) You can get on and off as many times as you want….lovely way to see Varadero. Havana is a must tour - 1.5 hours away.

Varadero Golf Club was better than I ever expected. The course conditions were close to perfect. The layout of the course is both fun and challenging. The rental clubs were Taylor-mades and the power carts quick. Take the package deals offered at the course for the best deal unless golf is included in your hotel stay. The course plays very hard on windy days. The back nine holes are the best. Do not use your credit cards at the course…they mark every price up by 12% if you pay by credit card. My only small complaint is the pro shop items (balls, gloves) had a small selection, but at least you can buy something there. Tee off times were never a problem, people just arrived by taxi (only 4 cuc + tip from Solymar) and were on the course in minutes. If you are a golfer, this is a must play.

Walking around Varadero is easy and safe. Great for the senses, nice aromas from the little restaurants and bakeries, feel the sand on your feet and the sun in your face, move to the music, see the sights and meet new friends.

Check out - Quick – we stored our luggage in a locked room and were able to access during the day. During our stay we also made many local telephone calls – it was .15 cents for one minute – very reasonable.

Transfer to the airport and return to Canada - My husband had a swollen knee due to torn cartilage (but he still did golf). The Sunquest rep. noticed that he was having difficulty walking off the bus and immediately made arrangements for a wheelchair. We whisked through customs in approx 15 minutes and they even made arrangements for an excellent seat with plenty of legroom on return Skyservice flight. Upon arrival in Toronto, Skyservice assisted us with a wheelchair again and helped us quickly through customs and ensured my husband’s proper care in Toronto.

Overall, we had a great time. We highly recommend this resort. Our best resort yet!
Solymar Beach Resort
Rob and Laurie  
Canada
February 2007
I would first like to set all the skeptics minds at ease. My wife and I have traveled to 4 different destinations in Cuba: Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco, Holguin and now Varadero. Our travel companions, 6 times to Varadero. We know why they are so adamant about returning there. We are both 40 and our travel companions are in their early 50’s.

Arrival:
We Arrived on Jan.5/07 at about 11:00p.m. direct from Ottawa. We flew with Sun Wing Airlines and let me just say everything was fantastic about the flight. Quite decent Champagne for starters, excellent food and wine for dinner, great movie with headsets that worked, and you didn’t have to pay extra for, and really pleasant and professional staff at your service. Oh, did I mention that it was a balmy 29 degrees Celsius? Yah, we knew we were in for a rough ride on hearing that.

Check in was the best we had ever experienced at any hotel in Cuba. The staff were very pleasant and polite, and their English language skills were very good. The bellboy took our luggage to our rooms with a smile.

We stayed in the Bungalows in rooms 3219 and 3222. These rooms were spotless, very spacious, but most off all, away from the noise of the disco. This was great if you wanted to retire early, or just sit on your balcony at night with a drink. Our chambermaid Yamari was a sweetheart. She was polite, professional and clearly wanted us to be comfortable. She would ask us if we had any special requests i.e.: for the mini bar, extra towels etc… The room was left perfect every day.

Resort:
The resort in general was just great. It was really kind of fun arriving into the lobby to be greeted by a huge 18 foot Christmas tree. You see, they still had all the Christmas stuff up because of the upcoming Ukrainian Christmas. They clearly are very sensitive to all of their guests celebrations and customs. Outside behind the main pool stood a Christmas tree most likely 30 feet high. It was magnificently decorated as well.

Plenty of chairs at the pools if you’re into the pool thing. The pools were quite nice. Great area for families with young children too. Of course you can’t have a pool without a Bar and a place to eat as well. Well not to worry, they were there too.

Beach:
All we can say is WOW. We walked for hours every day on the beach. You can pretty much get a real feel for all the hotels, even a sneak peak if you are discrete about it. We even had a couple of drinks at one of them. The one and only complaint about the beach in general is the slobs, oh, I meant tourists that can’t seem to put their plastic drink cups in a garbage can or their cigarette butts in an ashtray. There is no excuse for this. You can pretty much trip over one every 50 feet. Please people, bring a travel mug from home, but most of all if you’re walking down the beach, don’t kick a stray cup, pick it up and toss it into a trashcan along the way. This would improve the beach immensely for future tourists and their families.

Food/Restaurants:
Lets cut to the chase. You always hear how people can’t find variety at the buffets. Even the fussiest of diners would have been pleasantly surprised. Roast beef, veal, roast turkey, lamb and of course 20 different varieties of fresh fish and chicken. The veggies were plentiful as well as tonnes of salads, both green and of the pasta varieties. The fruit was fantastic for the time of the year. Keep in mind people, it is winter there too, and they are under a bit of an embargo! And lets not forget about the incredible cheeses and ICE CREAM. I don’t know what it is, maybe the lack of chemicals and preservatives, but wow, you can’t pass on these. No shortage of yummy, high calorie, high fat, high cream deserts either. A true vacation must. Forget the diet, you’re on holidays.

The Italian A la Carte was quite good. Real Italian dishes etc. The Seafood A la Carte was great too. You have never seen lobster tails this big. You know the kind that 2 adults can share? The Creole A la Carte was the only one that was kinda blah. But it’s not like you didn’t have any other options. If anyone complains about the quantity, quality or variety of the food at this resort, I don’t think you’re the type that could be pleased anywhere, that goes for wherever you come from as well.

Bars:
The lobby bar makes the best cappuccino hands down. Especially good with a shot of Triple Sec. They also make a mean Mojito. Whichever bar you choose, the drinks are always cold, especially the beer, and in abundance. Each staff member often will suggest something new to try. Go for it. What have you to loose? Just remember, show some class and manners wherever you are. Cuban people are very proud and polite. Most of all they are very educated. Your bartender is probably a lawyer or engineer. He just has a better chance of supporting his family by working at a resort. Your chambermaid is probably a nurse. Don’t forget to bring things for their children. The things we take, or our kids take for granted. Crayons, pencils, pens. Ladies, bring hair elastics, scrunchies, any stuff like that. They appreciate it so much. Toiletries, ladies feminine products, Tylenol for kids and toothpaste. These are all thing we can pretty much buy at a dollar store, but they just can’t afford. Excursions:

We strongly recommend the Havana Special. Book it through you tour rep at the hotel. This trip is worth every dime. Of course you also get to see the original Tropicana Show. It will blow you away. Fantastic sights and of course great food and Rum. This trip is a must.

Do the Catamaran if you can too. You swim with real dolphins, this alone is totally amazing and worth the money for the excursion. Next you go snorkeling at a great reef. Then you are treated to another amazing seafood lunch at the beautiful island of Cayo Blanco. This is the best $80.00 you’ll spend.

Downtown:
Nowhere else in the Caribbean do you have the freedom to walk around off your resort and feel this safe. The local people are pleasant and very friendly. There are a couple of great craft markets on the main street. Just remember, the price they ask is usually a place to begin the negotiations. Don’t be a rude fool though, show some class.

Go to a little club called Calle 62. It’s a mere 10 minute walk from the hotel and it is one of the most entertaining evenings you’ll spend in Varadero. The locals come to this club with their families, to share in some fantastic music and dance. This is a great place to mingle with these unbelievably warm people. They might even show you a few dance moves.

Staff:
The fantastic staff at this resort make it what it is. They are very pleasant, professional but most of all very thoughtful. Remember to be kind. You know, the way they treat you? If you have the pleasure of meeting Carey, a waitress in the buffet, give her a hug. Tell her, her dancing friends from Canada from Calle 62 said hi.

Anyone looking for a great stretch of beach, a nice clean and safe hotel and some really good food, don’t hesitate to visit the Barcelo Solymar. You won’t be disappointed. We’re going back!
Solymar Beach Resort
Betty 
Canada
January 2007
Our family trip, my parents decided that they were going to go to Cuba as part of a winter getaway with a group. My brother and I decided to join them together with my daughter, my other half, my sister-in law and my niece and nephew, My parents were staying to 2 weeks and my brother and I were only staying for 1 week.

The trip down wasn't too bad, we boarded on Cubana Airlines, I have been on planes and always knew that the plane food was nothing to brag about, but on Cubana Airlines - it's a taste of the bland food that you will be eating on the resort. I have never been on a plane where drinks are not included, (OJ and pop 1-2 dollars)

The resort, first impressions, very nice.................... that was all.

I have travelled to Cuba twice before this trip so I knew what I was getting into. We decided to tip on the first night, 1-2 dollars at the snack bar - due to arriving after 10 pm that was all that was open, thinking that we MIGHT get better service NOT!!!!!!!!!!!! that was it for tipping.

Maid service, we tipped 2 dollars the first day, thinking that maybe we would get better service, NOT - the whole week we were there, she cleaned our room 3 times. We had to ask for toilet paper, water and towels almost every day. She would come around to clean everyday around 3-4 pm (that was usually the time my daughter would go down for a nap),

Buffet restaurants, not much of a selection unless you liked fish. Unless you drank wine or tipped very generously, don't count on getting refills of juice, pop or water. The thing that bothered me about the service was if you don't tip they do tell the others and your service isn't at all friendly - ( I did understand spanish when they would tell the others don't expect a tip from that family)

I have been to other resorts where the shows and the entertainment staff made all the difference - the shows were awful, and the one time there was a good show (Magic show - I missed it because down by the snack bar there was another show at the same time),

My overall impression of this resort was a 3 star. Would I recommend this place to others - it was okay if all you were looking for is some rest and relaxation and not much to do.

The only thing that I love about Varadero and I would rave about is the beach - Cuba has the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Solymar Beach Resort
Susy 
Canada
August 2006
We visited this resort from August 11 – August 18. My group included myself, my husband and 22 month old son. My sister, who is in her early 20’s came a few days later with a group of friends.

Check in at the airport
We flew to Varadero the day after the travel restrictions were put in place. What a nightmare that was. All liquids and gels had to be packed in our luggage. They did allow me to bring a bottle of milk for my son but not without hassle. Because we didn’t purchase a ticket for him, our bags were 10kg overweight which we had to pay for. The check-in attendant was nice enough to reduce our charge from $100 to $60. Definitely watch the weight of your bags.

Arrival in Varadero
The flight was great. No turbulence, just smooth sailing. Customs is always fun and takes some time. Retrieving our baggage is where our fun began. We checked in 3 luggages plus a stroller. We received the stroller and two luggages. One luggage is still missing in action. Of course, this is the case that held all of my son’s and husband’s essentials. Diapers, swimmers, formula, shorts, t-shirts, my shoes and all of our toiletries were in this luggage. What a disaster. We had to fill out a lost and found report and go to the hotel. We were told that many flights were coming from Toronto and that our luggage may be on one those flights. That was just wishful thinking. We still haven’t received anything. The Signature Vacation rep was awesome. She made contact with us everyday. Even though the luggage never turned up, we were able to buy what we needed from the local supermarket (another adventure).

First impression
My first impression was great. I did lots of research on this website as well as others before we made our decision and I am so glad that I went with my instincts. Many people have commented that the staff at the reception desk were rude. We really did not encounter this. We arrived at the hotel at about 10:30 at night and they were very friendly. I guess it depends on who is there and how you speak to them.

Room
We stayed in bungalow 2109. This bungalow was close to the hotel, one pool, beach and buffet restaurant. I was a bit worried because I read that some people had complaints about the smell. I can’t say that I experienced this. I think in general, traveling in August you get a lot of humidity which of course is in the air. I found that when we hung our bathing suits or towels up, they were not dry by the morning. The bungalow seemed a bit older than the hotel rooms but all in all, we can’t complain. The maid did a wonderful job of cleaning and leaving us nice towel structures on our bed.

Hotel
The hotel is very big. There are two pools, a buffet restaurant, two bars where you can order food, a lobby bar, a piano bar, 3 restaurants and a pool bar. The week isn’t long enough to enjoy what each attraction had to offer but we did our best to enjoy as much as we can. The landscaping is beautiful and there were always people cutting grass or pruning. Lots of shade near the big pool. The second pool near Las Dunas did not have any shade at all so we didn’t do much swimming in this pool. The pools in general were great. The deepest spot in the pool was about 4ft. Again, great for children.

Food
The food always seems to be the biggest complaint. Yes, the selection is missing but we never went hungry. My son who is a picky eater ate very well and that was one of my biggest concerns. We really enjoyed eating the Cuban restaurant and the Italian restaurant. We skipped the Seafood restaurant because it wasn’t air conditioned and it was too hot to not have A/C.

Beach
Words almost can’t describe how beautiful the beach was. You could walk in for a really long time before it got deep which was great for children. The only thing I didn’t like about the beach being asked for things by some of the locals. We brought tons of stuff to give away and I really didn’t like this one day we were in the water and this lady came up to us and said she had a small child like mine who needed stuff. She basically asked me for my son’s bathing suit. Never mind that I hadn’t received my luggage so I had no other bathing suit for him, but I didn’t like the feeling of obligation of having to give this lady something. Most people in Cuba were not like this. Security was always on the beach so this wouldn’t be a problem but this lady was in the water. That turned me off a bit but please don’t let that discourage you.

We did not do any excursions as one it was too hot and two, our son was too young. We did go to the town of Varadero. You could walk to the first market in the town on 1st street from the hotel but we took the Varadero Beach Tour bus. It cost 5CUC/person and you can get on and off however many times you like. We went to the furthest and biggest market on 1St and 16Th.

A quick word about tipping. You really should tip for good service. The people working at the hotel go well beyond what they have to make your stay a good one. Think about how much you would tip someone in your country when you go out for dinner. One peso here and there is much appreciated.

We gave a lot of toiletries and such to the staff but I was told later in the week that there is Catholic Church in the Varadero that accepts donations of any sort and gives it to the most needy. The priest that runs the church is Canadian. He is only there on Sunday but the church is open from 9-12 Monday to Friday. They really appreciate medications, clothing, shoes, toys, really anything you can spare.

This hotel was fabulous and definitely on my must-go-to list. If you have any questions, email me at matata_99@yahoo.ca.
Solymar Beach Resort
Gee 
Ontario Canada
June 2006
My Best friend and I have been home just a week from our stay at Solymar, and this hotel is everything you read and more!! I have really nothing negative to say.......food was okay but not great but we all know that when planning a trip anywhere in Cuba! The italian restaraunt was Fab however, and would have eaten there every night if we could have. Onay the waiter is great, and he truly makes you feel like you are "fine dinning" with a reasonable tip he can get you booked for more than one night, which is well worth it compared to your buffet options!

We origanally booked a Bungalow, but had to wait 2 days before one was availabel due to "over-booking" when they finally moved us, we hated it on sight, it was in a horrible location, and smelled really bad, now I know that we met other people who loved their Bungalows, so just be particular when you are booking and ask for one closer to the Hotel, pool ect..... otherwise it is quite a walk everytime you want to go to the hotel. We requested our room back that we had previously occupied and it was not a problem at all....if they can accomodate you they will. The grounds are beautiful, and the beach amazing........just remember about those nasty little sand fleas, we didn't have one bite all week long and we were by the beach everyday, but on our second to last night there we played some beach volleyball, at dusk and I guess that is what strirs them up and although you don't feel them biting you a few days later you will be scratching like mad.....I am still scratching a week later, and it is an itch like you have never felt before! So remember to cover at least your legs with bug spray if you are digging or dancing in the sand for any reason at all! We did the Catermaran trip, which was a blast..... We booked it with the bounus sunset tour so that we could see the Dolphin show (which is really only about 10 min long) but the hightlight was having your pic taken with them, so remember to bring your camera and for an extra 5 dollars they will take your picture with the dolphins....they jump right into you lap, it was truly amazing to hug such a beautiful animal! Also while on the Catameran, they have a person going around video taping, and for an extra 30 peso's he will bring a copy of the tape to your hotel the next day, so that you can have those memories for those that don't bring a camera.......you can easily talk them down in price, we paid 20 peso, and know of another couple who went previous to us and paid on 16 peso's....so keep that in mind!

One more tip....we went on the horse and buggy ride, and our driver gave us a tour of the town of Varedaro, took us to the market and then made a few stops along the way......so one of the stops was the Havana Cigar Shop.......DON'T BUY YOUR CIGARS THERE ( I think that they are in buisness together and benifit from ripping off the tourist) ...... we got ripped off big time, we had no idea about prices and what not, the guy seems legit but totaly doubled his price as to what you will pay anywhere else, I paid 40 peso's for a box of 10 cigars that anywhere else would have cost me around 20 peso's, so be aware. We stopped at a local liquior store and her prices were half of what he was charging for the exact same cigars.......if you have doubts wait until you get to the airport, or buy from you hotel.....the prices are pretty comparable.

Another thing I noticed as far as bringing "gifts" yes they are all quite poor in Cuba, but it doesn't look to me like its the ones that work in the hotel who are suffering.....I noticed they all had nice jewlery, clothing, shoes, etc......they still appreciate everything you give them, so still of course tip a little or give a little to each, but what I became aware of is that it is the vendors on the beach who need it more than the hotel workers.......We met a wonderful Vendor and his son, we bought all of out trinkets from him, they would sit in that hot sun 12 hrs a day with only 1 bottle of water, and alot of times nothing to eat, so have a heart and if your going up for a drink....bring them an ice cold lemonade, they reallly really appreciate it! Sometimes I would bring muffins and whatnot from the buffet for them to snack on, on our last day there I gave them everything we had left......ball caps, umberallas, sunscreen, bug spray, gum, candy, soap ,shampoo, frisbee.....and our insulated mugs.... (a must have if you don't want to make 10 trips an hr to the bar) well they were so grateful I thought they were tearing up......these truly are the poor people struggling to make a living, not educated enough to work in a hotel so they must fend for themselves on the beach...so keep this in mind when handing out gifts. I bought 3 Bongo's from this gentleman and he was kind enough to bring them home and burn each of my niece's name into the drum and bring it back to the beach for me the next day, and would not let me pre-pay him ......truly trustworthy.

You can buy almost every souvenier you need on the beach, by bartering, I still paid peso's knowing how bad they need the money, but if you bring some decent stuff down everyday, that is just as well appreciated. Just be generous with your items instead of cheap, you have no idea how badly some of these items are needed, and you will find great joy in giving without always reiceving something for it.

Also you can barter with most of the street vendors with clothing shoes, and children's items...we received 10 straw hats , for a few clothing items and kids trinkets.....they love that kind of stuff. Bring all sizes though because they are particular about it fitting them! Shoes are a big thing there, and you will always be able to barter with a cute pair of flip flops, also sun glasses I noticed not alot of the locals were wearing them, and when I gave a pair away, they were extremly excited !!

All in all it was a fabulous stay the hotel lives up to your expectation and I have already began to save again so that I can take my 2 daughters there in April!!

Learn a few Spanish phrases before you go, you would be amazed at how far it will take you, because some of the locals can barely speak English.

Hope any or all of this advice is useful to you future travellers!

P.s.....if you are animal lovers like myself, you may want to bring a bag of Dog/Cat treats, do not bring rawhide or pigs ears anything like that or you may have a problem getting through customs , ( a girl on our plane had wrapped up her in flight meal which was a ham&cheese sandwich, and was stopped at customs, taken aside, questioned, and filled out about 10 forms because they accused her of smuggling meat into the country!!) but a sealed bag of treats Dent-a-Bone's or whatever is okay, you will fall in love with each of these gentle animals on site! If I could have I would have rescued each and every one of them!

Have a great trip
Solymar Beach Resort
Larry  
Canada
June 2006
We visited Vardero and the Barcelo Solymar on March 27th for a week.

The tip to keep a hold of your baggage as you exit the Veradero airport terminal is good advice. The bus is 20 feet away tops, so no need for help as they will charge you 15 CUC or more.

Arriving at the hotel, the trick is to get to the front desk to avoid the line from your bus. The hotel front desk staff are not too friendly, more of a cold indifference. They rarely look up to ask if they can help you, unless you are changing money at the side counter. We stored our bags until the rooms were ready at 4pm. The bell staff are nice enough guys. They don’t expect a tip, but are grateful if getting one.

Our first two nights we had rooms overlooking the lobby bar. The main lobby is a large cavernous place with a skylight and vines hanging down from the top. You can’t see the lobby from most of the hall floor space that lead to the rooms, but you can sure hear it. Our main lesson, and best advice. Don’t stay in a room that is over the lobby bar, unless you want to party in the lobby bar until you drop. This bar is open 24 hours I think. Point is, even if there are a few people speaking loudly in this bar, the sound carries up to all the rooms that overlook it. We tried to put up with it for two nights, but it was like having ghosts in the hall, and loud drunk ones at that! Our Air Canada rep was very good and on orientation day we told him about the problem and he got us a new room way down the other end of one of the hotel wings. Nicer view, quieter, except for the sound of the generator that controls the air conditioning for the entire hotel. At night, with the balcony door closed, it was only a low hum. We compromised, as it was quieter than our first two nights.

The grounds are beautiful, with one exception. There seem to be a lot of cigarette butts in the brown gravel that surround the pool areas, and in the sand on the beach. There are no ashtrays, so people just drop their butts when they are finished. This makes the whole place seem dirty, especially to a non smoker. They just need someone walking around scooping up the butts, but there was no one like that anywhere. Plastic cups seem to be everywhere too. Maybe it was just the week we were there, but it leaves a bad impression, when it is so easily dealt with. The drinks are definitely watered down, maybe for god reason. There probably many people who don’t know when to stop drinking, and this may be how they deal with that. If you want to taste decent rum in your drink, bring it with you or buy a bottle at the departure airport to bring. We did like the free cold beer in the rooms and at the outdoor bars though. Fridges are re-stocked with water and beer each day in your room.

We did a day trip to Havana in a government cab arranged for us by the Air Canada vacations rep. Again, this rep was very good at customer service, and he was there for an hour in the lobby every day at 12:30 to deal with people’s issues. We had a great day with the cab driver, he was very friendly and fluent in English. We gave him toys and stationary (don’t forget paper) for a local private school that he visits. We gave the maids gum which they loved. They asked for music, but we had no portable players or tapes. If you have a cassette walkman and some modern tapes like Michael Jackson, or want to give them some cd’s with something to play them on, they would probably cry with joy. They also like magazines a lot. They like distractions from North American culture, especially music. Many don’t read English so magazines with lots of pictures are better than books to give.

We did ok at the restaurants on the Solymar resort. The staff have this same cold indifference, and I think it is an act they put on. I’ve had this same attitude in New York, so we didn’t take things personally once we understood the game. If you make an effort to joke with them, they soften a little. The food they serve is rarely warm. I think they are always trying to save power, and they have no microwaves to be sure. Much of the food is bland, probably to satisfy the majority of customers. You’d be wise to take your favourite spices if you hate bland food. Even pepper would make a difference. The seafood restaurant near the beach is nice and has breakfast for the late risers from 12-3 each day. We found the buffet boring so only went when we had nothing else planned. They do have great vanilla ice cream, for some reason. If you only have what they cook in front of you at the buffet, like eggs, it will be hotter and fresher than the bulk food in the pans under the heat lamps. We didn’t have the patience to wait for what seemed like forever. The sandwiches at the pool bar are a good option also - as is the breakfast of bacon and eggs. Remember, they move quite slowly compared to our culture. There’s no point letting this bother you, as they won’t move faster because you are aggravated. They actually tend to move slower just to teach a lesson.

The entertainment is ok, but we preferred walking on the beach and strolling the grounds at night. This place is much more of a daytime place than a night party place. The sun, the beach, the daytime activities are how you get your moneys worth, not the resort disco.

We found lots of nice things about this resort, and it deserves a 7 out of 10 mojitos. The noise from the lobby bar was the worst part. Why they put a 24 hour bar in the lobby surrounded by rooms above it is beyond me. For the price we paid, it was worth it. With little effort they could have a much better reputation with the tourists.
Solymar Beach Resort
Dwight and Pam 
Nova Scotia
May 2006
We have been home from Varadero for almost a week now and wish we had a month there.

First of all, the positive reviews of this resort are correct and for those who were negative, stay home. That’s all I can say on that.

We were 13 persons who left Halifax, out of a group of 38 that went to Solymar for my son’s wedding which took place on April 27/06.

We flew both ways from Halifax via Canjet. Flights were normal with a little turbulence especially over a few spots in the USA. As I said, normal.

Arrived at Varadero airport around 9 am and went very easily through Cuban customs with no problems. Changed over some money for pesos and went to our bus. Half an hour later we arrived at Barceló Solymar. Check-in was very quick and very smooth. Our only problem was that our rooms would not be ready until 4 PM which was a little inconvenient. However there was a room with attendants who stored our luggage for us as we headed to the buffet for lunch.

Barceló Solymar is a rather large resort with a 4-floor hotel and quite a few bungalows. It has 2 swimming pools and from the hotel it is about a 5-minute walk to the beach. No big deal there. Definitely need the walk for some exercise.

Food
There is a buffet restaurant in the hotel lobby and adjoining it is the Italian a la carte restaurant. There is also a Cuban a la carte as well as a Seafood a la carte at the beach. The Seafood is also a grill and buffet during the day and an a la carte in the evenings. Also there are grills at both swimming pools. The grill at the 1st pool has a breakfast menu from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm for anybody that ends up sleeping in and then it has a lunch menu for the afternoon. It is open until 11 PM at night. The grill at the second pool is not open until 11:00 pm for food and stays open until 7:00 am. It only has French fries, hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. But that is great for those who need a snack at night. I think there was a consensus that the Cuban a la carte was the best of all of the eating places.
The only complaint regarding food for some of us was that the buffet in the morning did not cook their bacon well enough for most peoples’ standards, but some found that they would put it back on the grill at the omelet station if you wanted it done better.

Rooms
Normal hotel rooms, some have king-size beds and some have 2 double beds which can be pushed together to make a really big sleeping area. The room was always kept spotless by our maid, “America” who we left small gifts and a peso every day for. Water pressure was very good even by our standards. Room has a safe included with your package and a bar fridge which is replenished every day by the maid. Satellite TV, phone and balcony with small table and chairs. We were on the street side of the hotel, which didn’t bother us at all, as compared to an upgraded room on the pool side facing the beach. Must say that those rooms had the best view, but we were quite happy with ours.

Beach
Not too much you can add to any other review of Varadero Beach. It is sandy and warm and has some of the best colors in the water that you will find anywhere. There are plenty of palapas for shade, although during this particular period, you definitely had to go there early and reserve a spot with some towels on the loungers if you wanted shade when you decided to go there. We did this on several occasions and there appears to be an unwritten law that says it is yours as long as you have it reserved. We found this to be the same situation at both pools.

Bars
There is a 24-hour lobby bar, a bar at each swimming pool, a beach bar, piano bar, sports bar, as well as bars in each restaurant and another one in the theatre at the nightly shows. No shortage of drinks for certain. We managed to visit each of them regularly. More than enough places to get a drink.

Wedding
My son was the one getting married, so I can’t comment on as much as he possibly could. But I think Mayelin, the wedding coordinator did an excellent job in arranging the marriage. It took place on April 27th at the gazebo which is at the edge of a small bank overlooking the beach. It was done up with flowers and veils and looked very nice indeed. At the wedding, there is a trio which serenades everyone and plays “Here comes the bride” when she walks from the street inside the resort, down a sidewalk to the gazebo. The wedding was performed in Spanish by a justice of the peace or a lawyer and is translated into English by Mayelin, the wedding coordinator. It only takes about 10-15 minutes once it starts and then you are married. Once the ceremony is over, there is a wedding cake cut by the newlyweds and everyone gets some, along with champagne for a toast. Then the newlyweds must traditionally have their first dance in the gazebo as the trio plays.
As we were a large group of 38, it was decided to have the wedding supper in the seafood restaurant which could accommodate all of us at one sitting. We had their ‘surf n turf’ which was their version of lobster and a filet mignon steak. I never heard a single person complain about it so it must have been good. I know I enjoyed mine as well as my wife’s lobster which she does not eat. Steak was done to perfection too.

After enjoying 2 weeks at this resort I can sum it up by saying that Barceló Solymar is one of the nicest resorts we have stayed at in our 6 visits to Cuba and we would go there again in the bat of an eye, with no hesitation. The staff are friendly and look after you whether you decide to tip them or not, although any and all tips are greatly appreciated.
Solymar Beach Resort
Sandy 

April 2006
Hola

We just came back from Barcelo Solymar Resort from April 13th to April 20th.

We went with another family, and overall we all enjoyed our vacation very much! The flight there was great, Air Transat was very good.They Provided Subway sandwiches and a great movie. We arrived at our resort pretty late (probably around 9:30pm), the check in was good. Because the buffet closes at 10:00 and we were hungry, we ate before heading to our rooms (Bungalows). They didn't seem to mind. Our room was in a great location, right next door to the pool. It was always kept clean. Everyday we would leave a little something for the maid, she wrote us notes every once in a while.

The Beach
The beach at Barcelo Solymar is absolutely amazing!! We always had really good weather, and there was SO much to do! THe water was refreshing and we didn't have trouble finding chairs. One day we noticed that there were little Jellyfish in the water. But by the next day they were gone.

The Activities
There was always something to do at this resort! At the beach, they have peddle boats, kayaks, catamarans. We really enjoyed the kayaks and peddle boats, the catamaran was a little slow, maybe because the water was very calm... The Banana Boat is a must, it was extremely fun!! We went on it three times because we enjoyed it so much! THey also have archery, which was also fun as well. The shows were awesome!! They were all great! We saw a show almost every night and they were awesome. The comedy was hilarious and the magic show was good, and everything else was excellent too.

The Pool
The pool here is great! THere are actually 2. THey are both clean and the water is always beautiful! The one near the lobby isn't used as much, the other one seems to always have more people. We all loved the pool! It's shallow but not too shallow. It was always a warm but refreshing temperature. We usually spent the morning at the beach and the afternoon by the pool.
The only problem with the pool is there isn't usually a lot of shade, we always seemed to find a spot but sometimes it can be hard.

The Food
Well the food was good. It deffinetly wasn't a highligh of our trip. The buffet is okay, we often ate here for breakfast and sometimes dinner. It was always pretty good. We all enjoyed the snack bar next to the pool for lunch. The food there was always good, especially the fries. The A la Carte restaurants were okay. We didn't really enjoy the Seafood, the food just wasn't that great, and there were cats & dogs walking around in the restaurant. But we really enjoyed the Cuban restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised of how good the food was here. THe Italian restuaurant was also very good.

Day Trip to Havana
The day trip to Havana was great!! It was quite the experience. We were a little disapointed with the shopping, but everything else was amazing! It's wonderful to see stuff outside of your resort too. The day we went was extrmemly hot so we had a bus tour. The Havana trip is a must.

Overall...
We thought that Barcelo Solymar was an excellent resort! The resort itself is absolutely beautiful, the beach is amazing and the pools are great. The food is good and the shows are excellent. We really enjoyed our vacation to Barcelo Solymar Resort.
Solymar Beach Resort
Robert 
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
March 2006
I am a tour operator out of Edmonton, Alberta Canada and very seldom will I ever issue a negative review of a property unless it really irritated me. I understand that when we travel to another part of the world we have to remember that it is not home and wouldn't want it to be.

Every year I escort one or two groups to Varadero, Cuba, with each group numbering 40 passengers and for the past 4 years have stayed at the Barcelo Solymar and have been quite pleased.

Up till last year I was very pleased with the resort and the services it offered, except for this year. The food was not up to the standard set over the last few years, but even that I could accept.

What irritated me the most was the front desk staff and the so-called manager.

They had placed me in a hole of a room where even the window was not visible from floor level, it was like a jail cell. I went down to the front desk and informed them that I was in charge of my group and that more often that not my clients would join me in my room to discuss minor problems or to praise the resort and that I would appreciate a room with a patio door, preferably overlooking the pool, or even the parking lot but with at least a patio door. very few rooms do not have the patio door and that is where they stuck me.

When I went downstairs and asked the front desk staff if they could move me I was asked, not with words but with gestures for a "tip", like rubbing his fingers together while looking from side to side to see if anyone was looking.

This I refused to do. He was determined he was not going to find me a room. If it wasn't for the Nolitours representative I would have been stuck there. She found a decent room for me.

The manager makes sure she is never available to the general population and makes haste whenever approached. She is quite a work of art compared to the young man that managed the resort a few years ago, he was very approachable.

The staff are very cognisant of supplying service to tourists, good service results in good tips.

No complaints with any staff members., restaurant, bar, house cleaning, groundskeepers, all great.One problem, and it again hinged on the front desk staff and in particular the manager. every night after 1 am a group of young people would gather at the pool bar and would hoot and holler till 5 or 6 in the morning, having fun is one thing, making total idiots of themselves is another. they would throw chairs into the pool, rip coconuts off the trees and again throw them into the pool and in turn simply make a real nuisance of themselves. reporting this to the front desk resulted in nothing. It went on for 2 weeks with no action from the resort management.

I have decided that the Barcelo Solymar no longer deserves my business. I have reported this to the head office but after a month still no reply. So in 2007 I will be taking my groups to a as yet unnamed resort in Varadero.
Solymar Beach Resort
Scott 

March 2006
4 of us stayed in the Barceló Solymar, Varadero, 4th to 11th March 06. (All of us early to late 30's.) Overall, I would say that this is a really nice hotel, rated 4 star, but remember this is Cuba. The hotel was apparently built within the last 4 or 5 years, and it looks it – it’s in excellent shape. 2 of us stayed in a bungalow, which I loved, and 2 stayed in a room in the main building, which looked nice, since they had an ocean view. The staff is friendly, some very, very nice. Thank you Luis. But there are a few problems. First, 2 of the 4 of us got sick there, requiring medical attention. One was vomiting with diarrhoea, the other got diarrhoea with fever. We overheard another couple there with the same problem. We think it was the food. So while the food in my opinion was not terrible, we figure that 2 of us got sick from it. Not good. One of us does not want to go back to Cuba because of it. Having said that, I ate like a pig at a trough and was fine the whole time. I ’m just very careful about what I eat, and eat only small portions of each thing I choose. If something doesn’t taste right, I don’t eat it. I would recommend this hotel, but have to be honest about the food. Why are so many people getting sick? This is very serious.

Holasun, Cubana Air
This year we travelled on Cubana air, via Holasun. What a catch! We picked up our tickets, no waiting, we picked up our boarding pass, absolutely no line-up! We were through security within minutes, and that was it. The whole thing maybe took 10 minutes. And we took our time. The plane was an A320 and in excellent condition. No worries. Last year with Sunwing, there were huge line-ups for every step. On the return, we had our own minivan for the ride back to the airport. Would definitely recommend Holasun.

The Hotel
The hotel is new, freshly painted, and well maintained. I didn’t have any problems with things not working. The pool and grounds were well maintained. When the pizza oven broke down in the snack bar it was fixed promptly. I felt totally safe there. The electricity is 220 V (Canada is 110V), and they have universal plugs so any type of plug will fit (except Canadian type A, 3-prong grounded, which will not fit). The elevators seemed to work fine this year. They have motor scooters to rent, and free bikes from 9 AM to 5 PM (not all of which were in working order). The rooms have room service, so if you need a snack you can pay a small amount to have something sent to your room. Maid service was excellent. Overall much better than Arenas Blancas (see my review last year), and well worth the extra money. Internet worked about ½ hour the whole week we were there, which allowed me to read one email. Too bad you have to pay for an hour! Not worth it. There is a safe in each room, bu t I don’t completely trust them.

The Weather
The weather was slightly disappointing. Last year we travelled 1 April for a week, and it was hot. March is dry, so sunny all the time, but windy. April is the beginning of the rainy season, so it will rain at some point. But it is usually just showers. Our travel rep said that by summer most Canadians find it too hot in Cuba. I think the best time to travel there is the end of March, beginning of April. I found it chilly in the early morning, quickly warming up, and hot by the afternoon, but cooled down by 5 or 6 PM, if you’re on the beach or pool. Most nights were warm. I never used my sweater. The beach pretty well emptied out by 5 PM, I think because it was “chilly” by then, especially if you’re wet. Chilly is all relative, I was fine, some loved it.

The Beach
Solymar has one of the nicest stretches of beach on the strip. It seemed narrower this year. Did Katrina wash some of it away? (All the palapas at Arenas Blancas next door were blown away, and not replaced!) Solymar has plenty of room for the 5 or so rows of palapas (no problems getting a palapa here, even by mid afternoon), plus volleyball nets, and still room for playing in the sand for the kids. This year the water got deep faster, but sand dunes are always on the move. It’s a great beach. One of their best selling points. Apparently much nicer than Puerto Vallarta. But guess what folks, the ocean was a little chilly! Once you got in you could swim for quite a while before getting cold, although it is windy in March, so it gets chilly. Kind of sad that it wasn’t really warm. Last year in April the water was like warm soup. I loved it, it was perfect. You could jump right in and swim for hours. If you don’t mind it a little chilly, March is OK, but if you like it warm or ho t, April is better.

The Food  The food is the big problem here. (As in most places less than 5 star in Cuba, and even some 5 star.) While I didn’t find it revolting (like I did at Arenas Blancas), I enjoyed it only one night. The rest of the time I found it really bland, just not right. And most importantly, 2 of us got quite ill. We assume it was the food. This is very serious. We figure one got sick from the Seafood restaurant, although I was fine, and one from the Italian (salmon salad). Another problem that aggravated me is the way they book the restaurants. When I checked in, the receptionist said that I had to book the restaurants on the day I wanted to go to them. In other words, she said I couldn’t book in advance. What a surprise when I went to book a restaurant 2 days later to find that they were booked up for the rest of our stay and we wouldn’t be able to get in at all! I want some money back for that. The only one that doesn’t book in advance is the seafood restaurant, the other 2 do, and they book up fast. Very disappointing considering how bland the buffet is. Another problem is the chaos in the buffet area. There just didn’t seem to be enough seating there. Especially when there were 4 of us trying to eat together. And no one helps you. I think if you give a big tip, then maybe, just maybe, one of them would put the tiniest bit of effort to clean a table for you so you could sit down and eat. Not impressed. (With exceptions, like Luis.) They are really nice people, and they work hard, but they could put some effort into cleaning tables for people to sit when it’s busy.
You can get food at almost any hour. When the buffet is closed, there are two small outdoor snack bars, that serve relatively good food, in fact some was better than at the buffet. Here you can grab something and head back to the beach. Or order from your room. The best place to get coffee is at the piano bar in the main lobby, although unless you sit (if there are any chairs), be prepared to wait, and wait, and wait.
I only made it to the Seafood Restaurant. It was nice. I loved the wild cats. Some nights were better than others. The lobster could have been a little softer, but it was grilled. Bring a snack from home, especially if you’re a chocoholic like me. Or try the dark chocolate I found only at the Plaza Las Americas.

The Pool
There are 2 pools. I didn’t swim in either – why bother with the beautiful ocean steps away. Some people did, mostly in the afternoon. I found them a little chilly. They have shallow areas for the kids, with deeper parts for swimming. You can use scuba gear in the pool to practice, which was a nice touch. Maybe they have lessons.

Entertainment
We didn’t see much of the entertainment at the hotel. The best was in the main building, if you like that sort of thing. The entertainment staff was really nice. I liked seeing entertainment in the main lobby. There is an activity board near the buffet that lists all the classes and activities they offer at the hotel during the week. Quite a full schedule.
Walk to Calle 62 and watch the locals dancing Salsa, Meringue, Reggaeton. It’s a blast. Totally different dancing styles than in Canada. Down the street is the Havana Club, a nice disco (10 CUC includes all you can drink, if you can get one), and a lot of people having a good time, in a non-judgemental way (how refreshing). La Rumba is further up the peninsula (in the hotel region just before the golf course). We had a really good time there. They played just about every kind of music you could imagine. (Weekends 15 CUC for all you can drink, and it’s much easier to get drinks there.) A big place right on the beach, with a nice view of the ocean. I walked home through Varadero one night at 3 AM, and felt perfectly safe, but taxis are plentiful.

Excursions
This year we did the Jeep Safari. It was good in some ways, bad in others. I liked that we did a lot of different and interesting things (snorkelling in a barrier reef, driving through the heart of Matanzas, horseback riding, swimming in a huge cave, and visiting a farm), I could have done without all that dusty driving back bumpy roads with little to no view of anything interesting. But you might like that. They are not jeeps, they are Suzukis. And they are standard, so I didn’t drive. Bring some items to give away to the locals, and don’t wear white!
We did the jet ski adventure. That was fun. For 39 CUC we jet skied for 2 hours on the ocean through little mangrove islands. The stop for the so-called zoo was a joke. That was unnecessary, and in my opinion a waste. Would have preferred to keep jet skiing. The jet skis are wide ones, so they don’t tip easily. Well worth it. In Wasaga Beach they cost $250 an hour. So enjoy the almost free ride.
This year we did the Catamaran with the dolphin show (as opposed to the catamaran with swimming with the dolphins). How do the 2 compare? The snorkelling was better this year (I actually saw fish this year), the beach was much better (absolutely gorgeous), (the lobster on the boat was better than on the island, but an additional 10 CUC), but the catamaran ride was shorter so that they could bus us to the dolphin show. The show is nice, but way too short. I would rather have swam with the dolphins. Is there a way to go to the nice beach at Cayo Blanco, as well as swim with the dolphins? (Of the 2, go with the beach.) There is a north side and a south side. I think the nicer beach is on the north side of the island. Ask your rep. The other beach was not impressive.
Last year we went into Havana, and it is a must see. Just hope your tour guide actually speaks English and can offer some information. An overnight there would be preferred.
Take the government taxis or tours anywhere in Cuba. Avoid the local taxis – they can’t go everywhere the gov’t taxis can, and besides if you support the government taxis you support the whole economy, not just an individual.
The motor scooters were a blast, but watch out for those potholes. Also, not all intersections are clearly marked, so be on the watch. I would suggest doing as much of the Varadero peninsula as you can (wear a helmet for sure). The bikes are nice too, if you want to go slower. The horse and buggy ride is calming and fun, maybe even romantic, depending upon the company you keep.

Currency
The currency thing really bothers me about Cuba to be totally honest. When I left, the Internet showed the exchange rate for Canadian was 1 Can $ = 0.8177 CUC. When we got there, they were offering 0.76 !! Was that disappointing. 100 CUCs cost over $130 Canadian. Which makes all these excursions a little pricey afterall. The rate kept dropping while we were there. How come? Though the rates change daily, I would recommend changing your currency at the bank at the airport when you arrive; they offer a slightly better rate than at the hotel desk. There is also a bank in the hotel, and they offer a better exchange than at the front desk. Change your currency back to Canadian at the airport, they have a better deal. Just save your 25 CUC for departure tax.

Overall
I would recommend this hotel, and I would be happy to go back. I will always love the beach, and the local people. However, I am very concerned that so many people were getting sick at Solymar. Varadero beaches are among the best in the world in my opinion, and well worth a week or 2 of not so good food. If you like good food, stay at a 5 star. The cheaper hotels have even worse food. If you want to save money and stay at a cheaper hotel, try to avoid a hotel that is closer to the mainland. The area is not as nice, being in the village. The hotels in general are nicer the further out the peninsula you go. Solymar is in the ideal location because you can walk into town, but are out of the traffic, and away from the oil refinery that sometimes blankets Varadero with a sulphurous bunker oil smell. If you like hot water, try for the end of March or beginning of April. I didn’t see a bug the whole time I was there.

Bring all the supplies you will need, they can be hard to find in Cuba; all your batteries, medications (Pepto-Bismol, which is the best way to prevent you from getting sick while travelling, Gravol, sunscreen, aloe for sunburns, Tylenol, polysporin, bandages etc, just in case). Bring some things to give to the locals, and tipping is not necessary but nice. Their salaries are low (remember that university and health care are totally free in Cuba, and of high standards, and much else is supplied or subsidized), so tip them sometimes. Clothing is nice to give. Bring a travel mug, or if you’re an alcoholic, a travel keg, as the plastic cups are tiny and are usually empty by the time you get back to your palapa. Then give the mug to someone you thought treated you well while you were there, or a local you meet. Enjoy! I wish I were going with you. :) I’d go back to Varadero in a heartbeat. Have I missed anything? (LOL) Email me if you wish. traveltalkatemailsdotnet. (You know what I mean, no Viagra ads please!)
Solymar Beach Resort
Rebecca 
Canada
March 2006
just returned from Barceló Solymar in Varadero Cuba and it was amazing! I absolutely recommend this resort to everyone and anyone of all ages. Some people on this site have seemed to be quite picky with what they received at the resort, whether it is the food, the service, the entertainment. You have to keep in mind that this is a poor country that is just barely making it...once you see how the Cubans live and how they are treated, and then compare it to how you are treated in your own country and even in theirs, you'll think twice about bashing how you were treated or what you received at the resort. Also keep in mind, if you treat the Cubans with absolute respect and I mean absolute, you will be treated as if you were one of their own family members. Trust me, be nice, tip (and I mean be good about this, $3.00CUC is very good and really not much out of your pocket) and always say GRACIAS and you will be treated the way you treat them!

Check-in – It was fast and easy. A recommendation – if you don't like long line ups (which is what you will experience at ANY RESORT with a large bus unloading people) have one person grab the bags and one person go in and check in. I got off my bus and just went right in and was the first one in line. Everyone else was too busy trying to figure which bag belonged to them. We had our room within minutes! Very good service. Staff at the front desk is very helpful and friendly. One incident did occur where my IPOD was out of battery, so I went to the hotel "internet care" and plugged it in one of the computers to charge, one of the front desk staff members was in there on a computer and noticed what I was doing. I asked him if I could leave it with him to charge as it would take me a number of hours and I wanted to TAN!! He happily obliged and showed me what office to come back to pick it up and they charged it for me all day on one of their computers – I know hotels in Canada that would never do that!

Service - Overall, the service was excellent +++++ in all respects. Front desk – very nice. Maids, extremely nice, but very shy. If you leave them a note that you've left gifts etc...they will gladly write back and make your room look sensational! A little tip -If you would like to tip the maid money, best to put it in the mini-fridge where she can see it – she will over stock your fridge! A little tip – the maid will not restock if there are drinks that she left from the day before still in there...if you want more, take those drinks out and put them away somewhere, she will gladly restock! Or even leave a note for her...she will help you in any way she can!

Pools - This hotel had two really nice and clean pools. The larger pool was good to spend time relaxing and reading while the smaller pool had music and water activities (both pools had bars). The pools are freshwater...so I was told and the pool really did not smell like chlorine. The pool temp is chilly. When you first get there it will probably be too cold, but give it a few hours and when that sun is beaming down, you'll thank the resort for keeping the temp at a little on the chilly side. The best part of the pools is that there are no swim up bars...i.e. no one is peeing in the pool, which I found Mexico was like -the pools there were warm and murky...Cuba's is cool and blue, the way a pool should be.

Grounds - Excellent. Very clean, and the landscaping was very nice. Great walks at night, lots of security so you always feel safe.

Resort - We stayed in the main hotel and our hotel room was very nice. I wished we were in the bungalows as they looked really really nice – next time! There were no ants or cockroaches as people have claimed, however, those were reviews from 3 years ago. Very very very clean. The lobby was decorated with vines and had a "jungle" feel. There were a lot of cats and dogs around the resort – try not to pet them as they may have fleas. They are very cute thou...The whole resort was just beautiful and extremely welcoming! Very clean and very modern. The only thing I had a problem with was the elevators...but that's me and not anything the resort did...

Activities - Many activities available. On the beach, you could play volleyball, frisbee or try any of the water sports such as water skiing, catamaran, paddle boats, snorkelling gear, kayaking etc which are all included. We did all of the non-motorized water sports – take advantage of it, it's so much fun! We also went snorkelling way out! It costs $20 CUC and is worth every penny! You go out for an hour or so. A suggestion would be to buy or bring your own snorkelling stuff (mouth piece and goggles); I didn't like the fact that other people have used it. Another great beach activity is the horseback riding at sunset. This too is $20 CUC and well worth it. The sun setting is beautiful and you have a guide with you that speaks perfect English (like a lot of the Cubans...very good English speakers).

Food - Overall, the food was as good as can be expected in Cuba. The Ala Carte Restaurants were very good (all three -- see below). There were two buffet restaurants (1 for breakfast and dinner, the other for lunch). If you are into seafood, then you will really enjoy your stay. Personally, I stuck with the pasta, chicken, veggies, and pizza. I didn't have any stomach problems. I think a lot of peoples stomach problems are due to the extreme change in your eating habits and drinking habits. You're eating at least 3 regular meals per day if not more, you're drinking alcohol everyday all the time...well for most seeing as you paid for it! Of course your tummy is going to nuts! Think about it.

Ala Carte Restaurants - There was three Ala Carte Restaurants -- Cuban, Italian, and Seafood. Nothing more to say than they were all very good. You are required to make a reservation in advance which was very easy. You must try the Grilled Lobster Tail!

Beach - AWESOME! Lots of palm umbrellas to find shade. White sandy beach with security patrolling the resort grounds. Lots of stuff to do. Make sure to bring some pesos with you as the vendors are out in full swing and will not harass you...just blow you kisses!!

Entertainment - There was a show every evening at 10pm which we went to. There were Tropicana dancers, great music (live) and a full bar...for the smokers out there – you can smoke anywhere!

Trips – we did not get a chance to do any of the day trips, however, from what other people at the resort told us, they all seemed well worth the money. A few tips on trips – your travel company (e.g. Signature) will have a book of all the day trips they offer with prices and descriptions of what to expect. I met a lot of locals down there that were more than happy to treat the tourists to a day in Havana for only $25 CUC's each...the day trip to Havana with your tour company may run from $70CUCs to $129CUCs each and you're stuck on a bus 2hours there and 2hours back...it's only 1hour to Havana by car, so taking up the offer from a friendly Cuban is well worth your time and money. Some of you weary travellers out there may think this is a scam...trust me, I met many tourists who took up that option with a local and in years past took it with the tour company and found that getting a taste of the "real Cuba" and not doing a "commercial" trip in was far more worth it! The Cubans are really not there to rip you off...the rules are so strict down there for them, that really they are only trying to be nice and make a little extra cash for their family.

Hotel room - Kept very clean. Always fresh towels, mini-fridge stocked, all toiletries fully stocked. You can leave your room with the peace of mind that nothing will get stolen or moved, or broken, the cleaning staff are very reliable and trusting...nothing like Mexico where you have to keep EVERYTHING under lock and key.

Night Life - Many night clubs in the hotel district in Varadero. Every evening, there are hotel staff members that organize trips to clubs. It's best to ask around as to the best clubs as everyone's tastes are different. I didn't want an "Americanized" club, meaning all they played was North American music – I WANTED SALSA!!!! El Rancho is a good club....very close to Barceló and a nice walk home on the beach is a great way to end a night of Cuban dancing. There is a good mix of Spanish and English music. It only costs $10 CUC to get in and all drinks are inclusive!

Town of Varadero: Really nice beach town. A big huge market right in the centre of town. Bargaining is really not necessary as most everything is very cheap. I found that at the markets (especially the ones in Barceló) you could actually exchange personal hygiene products like shampoo (pantine, dove), all hair products, deodorant etc., for jewellery, these items are very expensive for them to purchase and they will be more than happy to do a switch.

Items to bring with you to give to the Cubans and tipping:

The following are some items that are greatly appreciated down there by the Cubans: -Personal hygiene products – shampoo, conditioner, lotions, deodorants etc...
-Medicine – Tylenol, Advil, aspirin, band aids, first aid supplies etc..;
-Vegetable seeds – i.e. carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber (much better for them to grow their own food);
-Kids supplies – writing books, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, colouring books, reading books
-Clothing – women, men, and children. Also at the end of your trip, anything you do not want to take back, leave it for them, or give to them. My sister had a really pretty yellow mini skirt for the beach that she purchased from Zeller's for $10 CND. The towel girl told my sister that she was looking for a skirt just like that and asked if she bought it in Cuba and for how much cause she saw a skirt similar but it was $25CUC...the average Cuban makes at most $15 CUC per month so a $25 skirt is not worth it...so my sister gave her the skirt!
-Feminine Hygiene products – all are greatly appreciated;
TIPPING – the minute you do anything whether it be getting a drink at the lobby bar or having some food at the buffet – TIP and be generous the first time you tip ($3-5CUC). You will not only be treated great but when you go back to buffet or bar you will for sure have a drink ready, table ready and friendly staff ready to go! The tipping in the beginning goes a LONG WAY and then the rest of your trip, just tip normally, $1-2 CUC each time...I know tips are included, but you'll notice the difference in treatment with other guests that are not so generous with tipping. Pretend you're in Canada and tip when your meal or drinks are done!
I loved this resort and the people of the resort so much that I am returning at the end of May! I completely recommend this resort and for the people out there giving the bad reviews on this resort – STOP BEING SO SNOBBY AND ENJOY WHAT YOU HAVE! Go into the real Cuba and you'll stop your complaining on "how the staff was rude, or the food was bland"...gosh a whole bunch of spoiled people say those kind of things!

Enjoy Barceló Solymar!
Solymar Beach Resort
Connie 
Canada
March 2006
My husband and I and our two children (son - age 20 and daughter - age 17) traveled to Varadero Cuba from Feb. 16 - 23/06 and stayed at the Barceló Solymar Resort.

We flew out of Calgary, Alberta with Skyservice Airlines. We've flown previously with Westjet, Air Canada and Air Transat and we were very pleased with Skyservice. We left on time and had no issues whatsoever - meals were definitely better and we had more leg room than we had with Transat.

When we arrived at Varadero, we got through customs quickly considering that it is Cuba and two other planes landed at the same time. While my husband and kid's got our luggage I went and exchanged our money into Cuban pesos. We found that the exchange rate was no different here than at the resort. We headed outside the airport where you are then guided to the bus that will take you to your resort. We probably waited about 20 minutes on the bus before the other passengers got through the airport and on the bus as well. We didn't mind as we met a gentlemen on the bus who had been to Cuba ten times, so we spent the time talking to him and getting a lot of useful information.

The trip to the resort is about 30 minutes which included a couple of stops at other resorts along the way. On the bus there is a guide that explains things along the way and helps pass the time. Check in at the resort was very fast and efficient. We had initially booked to be in the bungalows, but when we got there they were all booked up and so we got upgraded to ocean view rooms in the hotel. In hind sight we were happier with this as some of the bungalows are quite a ways from the hotel which has all the action and the buffet. We would stay in the hotel again. I had read about the lack of service at the reception desk. At no time did we encounter that - we went back quite a few times throughout the week for one reason or another, and never experienced any problems with the staff. The air conditioning in our kid's room was not working, and I reported it to the front desk. I stopped at the convenience shop in the lobby to pick up a couple of things and then went back to our room. I probably wasn't gone for more than ten minutes and by the time I got back to our rooms, someone had already been up and repaired the air conditioning. My son was very impressed with the speed at which this was handled - you don't get that type of service even in a Canadian hotel.

There are lots of places to eat throughout the resort. Our kid's enjoyed the pool bar where you can get fast food throughout the day - burgers, hot dogs, pizza, etc. We ate there quite a bit and had nothing to complain about. At lunch time the seafood restaurant, which is situated on the beach, is turned into a buffet. We ate there once and were satisfied. The main buffet in the hotel has lots of selection - if you complain about the food then you are too picky. You will never go hungry. I had also read quite a bit about the food being bland and was very surprised to find that this is not so. I had brought along some Weatherford seasoning (if you work in the oil patch in Alberta you know what I'm talking about), but I did not even pull it out of the suitcase. The salt and pepper are definitely different and my husband would bring his own along next time, but to me that is going a little far. We went to the Dominican two years ago and found the food to be much more bland there than here at the Solymar. There was an abundance of fruit, salads, chicken, pork and lots of seafood. Their bread selection was to die for - I found the desserts a little dry. I thought at first that the cakes and pastries were old and dried out, but I later found out that that is the way they prepare them. You have to try the banana flambe once - it is definitely a different and tasty way to eat a banana!! We did try all of the ala cartes as I knew we would get tired of the buffet night after night. Like everyone else, we had our preferences. We enjoyed all of them but found the meal at the Italian restaurant the best. My husband had the filet mignon - we raise Alberta beef and he had no complaints about his meal which says a lot. We had the garlic shrimp and the spaghetti and they were also really good. The desserts were out of this world - you have to try the chocolate cake and the tiramisu. You book the ala cartes at the desk to the side of the reception desk in the lobby. They take reservations from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. daily. Get there early if you don't want to stand in line and wait. I got there about 8:45 a.m. and found that I was already fourth in line. Do these bookings the first day that you arrive. We did tip throughout the week and found only a couple of times that it made a difference in faster service. The drinks were hit and miss - all were good but never consistent. There is definitely no shortage of rum!! We drank lots of water - on and off the resort, always bottled and none of us ever got sick.

A lot of the reviews said that the beach was absolutely amazing and they weren't exaggerating!! We spent all of our time on the beach and only spent about five minutes at the pool one day just to say that we did. Looking at how many empty chairs were at the pool, I would say that most of the others guests felt the same way. I would go for a walk every morning along the beachfront and found that the Solymar has the most beautiful part of the beach compared to the other resorts. It is the widest and has a lot of huts that you can sit under if the sun gets too hot. We would usually get to the beach about 9:30 - 10:00 in the morning, although one morning we didn't get there till about 11:00 and had no problem getting lounge chairs. The water is absolutely wonderful - my daughter would literally spend hours in it. I am not a water person but I certainly spent a lot more time in the water here than in the Dominican. There were two days that the flag was yellow which meant no water sports, but other than that every other day was a green flag. We took a catamaran out one morning which we enjoyed and my husband and son went snorkeling one morning as well. They were absolutely amazed and impressed with what they saw - once again we snorkeled in the Dominican and there was no comparison. There wasn't near as much offered for water sports as stated in the travel brochures and this is one area that we were disappointed in.

We did two excursions. Because of the age of our children we all decided on a day trip to Havana. THIS IS A MUST. You will not have seen the real Cuba if you don't go to Havana. The culture, people, history, and politics, of Cuba are very evident during the day. My kid's got to see where Ernest Hemingway lived while in Cuba and the bar he solicited. They were also impressed with Revolution Square. One day was not enough to see Havana, but when you only go for one week your time is limited. We bought our cigars in Havana at a cigar store and they were cheaper here than in Varadero or at our resort. I later found out that the cheapest place to buy them was at the duty free shop at the Varadero Airport when you are leaving. The other excursion we did was the jeep safari. You drive (if you wish or they will provide a driver) your own four wheel drive jeep throughout the country for two hours, then end up at the river where you then get into motor boats and drive them down the river for about half an hour. You then stop at a park for lunch and spend about an hour swimming in the river, horseback riding, or resting. Then you get back into the jeeps and go to an underwater cave where you watch Cuban divers and also have the chance to swim in the cave. This was a full day excursion and well worth it.

The great thing about staying at the Solymar is that you are only about a 10 - 15 minute walk into Varadero. When we had enough of the beach we would wonder into town and walk around. We took the horse and buggy tour around Varadero and also rode the double deck bus around the island one afternoon as well. This costs 5 pesos/ person and you can ride it all day for that price. You get on and off wherever you want and the round trip up the coast takes about two hours. We bought most of our souvenirs in town at a flea market on 15th street (Calle 15). The prices are all government set and will be basically the same wherever you go. You don't need to barter as the prices are very reasonable and inexpensive. Varadero is very safe - we felt very comfortable walking around even after dark. We were never hassled or felt threatened. The worse thing that happened was that my daughter and I got whistled at when we walked by some construction workers - we took it as a compliment and had a good laugh over it!!

Before I left home I went to the dollar store and bought a lot of items to give to the maid i.e. pencils, paper, toothpaste, personal hygiene items which they have a hard time purchasing. We left something every day and had good service. One morning we forgot to leave something and it really didn't make any difference. She always left a note thanking us for what we gave her. I had also gone to our local Sally-Ann store and had taken along a bag of children's clothing and shoes - this was greatly appreciated.

There is not a lot of night life at this resort - this is something to consider if you're taking teenage children. If you want to go to a disco, you have to go off of the resort. The entertainment crew would meet in the lobby @ 11 p.m. every evening and take you to a disco and then bring you back to the resort. There is a show every evening in the theatre which starts @ 10 p.m. They are your typical entertainment shows that are in an all inclusive resort - it's not Vegas but the entertainers try their best and the ones we saw were enjoyable.

For the trip home, the bus picked us up at the resort about 3.5 hours before our flight left, and later on I realized why. The process to leave Varadero is a long and tedious one. Once you get to the airport, you stand in line to check in your luggage and get your seats on the plane. From there you get into another line and pay your 25 pesos departure tax. You then get into yet another line and then proceed through customs. After that go upstairs to the departure lounge where they have the duty free shop and other stores where you can buy some last minute souvenirs. The last thing you do is exchange your pesos back into Canadian money as it is of no use to you once you leave Cuba. In the end we probably waited about 30 - 45 minutes before our flight was called.

Some tips you may find helpful:


  • Take go cups to the beach with you - you have to go to the bars to get your drinks and they come in tiny plastic glasses. By the time you get back to your lounge chair your drink is usually gone and it's time to go back and get another one. We used the go cups all week and then left them behind when we came home.


  • As soon as you get to the resort put 25 pesos in each of you passports and lock them up in the safe. That way you will already have your money for the departure tax at the airport when you are leaving.


  • If you go on the jeep safari, take the items you purchase at the dollar store with you. These are the people that really need them. This is where you see poverty and people begging on the streets. The staff at the resort get a lot of stuff given to them, as well as, tips and the next time I would take the majority of the items out into the country.


  • Leave your attitude at home. You are going to a different country to see how they live, etc. etc. If you want everything to be the same as it is at home then stay home. You are on a vacation, so relax and remember that you are on Cuban time!! I can't believe how rude some vacationers are - I felt really embarrassed and sorry for the staff at times.


  • Remember that everything is different - food, water, environment. Some people were getting sick. Stop and think - if you go to a different country where even though the food is good, it is different, you are probably eating more than you do at home, you are definitely drinking more than you normally do, and you are in the heat the majority of the day you are going to get sick - that would happen at home as well. Use some common sense.


  • If you want snacks i.e. Pringles, licorice, chocolate bars, etc. buy it at home and take it with you. These things are very expensive in Cuba. A bottle of pop and a container of Pringles will cost almost $10. At the same time, buy any pharmaceutical items, etc. at home as well and take them with you as this stuff is also very expensive. I took a drugstore with me - bandaids, Pepto Bismal, Tylenol, sunscreen, sunburn lotions, Gravol, etc. We didn't use very much of it and I gave it to the maid when we left for home.


We have been to Hawaii three times, Mexico and the Dominican. We truly enjoyed Cuba. They realize the value and $$ in the tourism industry and do everything to accommodate you. We felt totally safe here which we didn't feel in the Dominican. You do have to use your common sense as you would anywhere else - don't walk around with your wallet hanging out. If you want a resort where you want to stay the entire week without venturing off of the resort, then go further up the coast near the golf course to some of the resorts there. Talking to some of the people that stayed at those resorts, they said it was windy and cool. They are getting the wind off of the tip of the peninsula and therefore it would have been more windy and cooler. We are an active family who like to get out and see things and we would not have been happy with a 30 minute drive one way into Varadero. We will definitely return to Cuba and would also stay at the Solymar again because of it's location.
Solymar Beach Resort
Gord 
Aurora, Ontario
February 2006
My wife and I arrived in Varadero on Sat. Jan. 28 via Air Canada. The flight was on time and efficient as usual with Air Canada flights.

Arrival in Varadero:
The arrival process was simple. We went through Cuban customs first. They checked our documents and mostly our faces to match up with our passport photos. Make sure all of your documents are filled out completely and properly or you will be sent to the back of the line if you are missing any information. Yes, this did happen to my wife and I had already passed through customs. I didn’t know why it was taking her so long because I had passed through the doors already into another area. Eventually she came through and everything was ok. You pick up your luggage which is pretty quick and then exchange your money into convertible Cuban pesos. The bank exchange booth is right across the floor to the luggage pick up area. Approximately $1.20 CDN to $1.00 Convertible Cuban Pesos. You can also exchange your money at the resort. There was no inspection of your luggage. You walk outside to catch your bus to the resort. There are baggage people trying to convince you to let them carry your bags. If you don’t need help, refuse and they will go away. I hear that they want $5.00 Conv. Pesos for this service. I’m sure you can talk them down. There are people from the vacation tour companies waiting for you to direct you to the proper bus.

Check In: This was a process that puzzles me. This is the resorts front-line people representing the resort. First impressions people. Although I can not say that they were impolite, they did not give us a warm and fuzzy greeting. Perhaps the resort needs to train them in the importance of interactive skills. We had several encounters with the front desk staff and every time we came away disappointed. It was always like we were bothering them. They assigned us a room with very little conversation. We asked about our choices of an area of the hotel for our room assignment and we were basically ignored. They told us if we did not like the room we could come back and request to be moved. We went to the room, it was fine other than the fact that it overlooked the road and was over top of the entrance of the hotel. I thought this would be noisy so we went to request another room. It cost us more $$ but we were assigned a room with a view of the pool and the ocean. The view was great and the room was just as nice. The problem was that although we had a great view, we also had to put up with all of the party noise coming from the pool bar that lasted until 3:00 – 4:00 am every night. We learned to close the patio doors at night and turn on the A/C to block out the noise. In hindsight, we would still choose the view.

Resort: The resort is beautiful. The main lobby is very open and has lots of activity. There is a bar in the main lobby that is very relaxing to enjoy coffee and/or alcohol. There are tables to sit at and watch the people go by. The main buffet restaurant is in the main building as well as the Italian Restaurant. The pool area is gorgeous. There are lots of lounge chairs to sit, relax and rest. The pool is kept very clean. There is a pool bar, not swim up, with a snack bar. This is a nice area to sit and relax with a drink whether you are swimming or not. The waiting staff are not too talkative but friendly. Tipping will ensure that you get service. One peso tip with the first drink and they will be back soon. This is the bar that people go to after they eat supper. Some nights they have great live Cuban music and jazz. This is also the bar that the all night partying happens. There is also another pool dedicated to the younger families. A shallow pool for small children, snack bar and play areas.

Beach: The beach area is excellent. White fine sand, lounge chairs, shaded umbrella areas for sun bathing, volleyball areas, soccer areas, nice ocean swimming, kayaking, paddle boats, sailing and windsurfing are all available. There is a beach bar that supplies the basic all inclusive drinks such as beer, rum punch, pina coladas. The bar is a busy spot but they keep up the pace. You have volleyball games going on most of the time. Anyone can join in and it is a great way to meet people. You can walk on the beach in one direction for about ½ hour until you hit the golf course. It is a nice walk and you can check out the other resorts along the way. The other direction takes you towards the town of Varadero. When you arrive at check in, ask for the beach towel voucher so you can pick up your towels from the beach hut by the childrens pool. It will cost you $25.00 pesos for each towel, but you get it back when you return them. This is the $25.00 Convert. Pesos you need to pay when you pay your tax at the airport on departure. So consider it a savings for future use. If you lose the towel, though, it will not be refunded. They tell you to watch your towels, but we never heard of anyone having their towels stolen.

Excursions:
We took the free bicycles one day and tried to ride to the end of the island, away from Varadero. You can also rent motorized scooters from the resort for $10.00 pesos per hour. Well, we got about 15 minutes from the resort and the chain broke on one of the bikes. I tried fixing it but didn’t have enough resources to piece it back together. We ended up walking back to the resort and getting another bike. We continued on again. It was a great ride while we were on the side streets, away from the main highway, but when we came to the end of the road, at the golf course, we had to double back and go on to the main highway. The highway is four lanes and it is not too bad for bicycling. It does get a little scary when the trucks get too close to you, but generally there is not a lot of traffic to worry about. The drivers are fairly courteous, but they definitely make it known that they have the right of way. We rode for an hour and came to the switch back to a two lane highway. This makes the ride a little more adventurous. We rode for another 15 minutes and decided to turn back. It was more dangerous than we anticipated. We talked to other people that made the ride without incident, so it is possible. You can also take a bus (double decker, open roof) for $5.00 pesos that lets you use the bus system all day for the one price. This is a better option if you want to go to the end of the island. There is a nice park/garden at the end as well as a dolphin swimming area. Swimming with dolphins cost $$$. We did not do this, but we talked to people that said it was a great experience. From the resort you can also walk into the town of Varadero. Walking all around Varadero is very safe. Do not hesitate to be adventurous. Varadero has markets, stores for cigars, rum, crafts, art and restaurants. We particularly enjoyed the Mojitos (rum, mint, sparking water, sugar) at a outdoor café called Calle 62, across from the Quatro Palms Hotel. These are the best Mojitos in Varadero that we found. There are also some nice restaurants in this area. We heard from people that did eat at the Fondue and said it was great. We stuck to the hotel for meals.

We made a trip into Havana for the day arranged with the tour company. Our guide, Jose, was just amazing. He was so informative and knowledgable about Cuba, the history, the present, and the geography. We were lucky to have been on his tour. He walked us around Colonial Havana and showed us some very interesting places. Havana is a worth while excursion. Plenty of history, art, culture and contrasts. There is a lot of begging, but they do not bother you too much.

Food: The food at the hotel is good. Cuban food is generally bland in taste but it was always good. The vegetables are always fresh. The buffet is international so you will find vegetables (salads), cheese, bread, meat (fish, pork, chicken, beef), fish, pasta, some fruits (in season) and deserts and ice cream. Always a good mixture of food. Eggs for breakfast. Water is safe to drink. The waiting staff are very friendly and the service is excellent. They are very quick to replenish your beverages and take away your empty plates. They are always hoping for tips. The Italian restaurant is very good. The seafood restaurant was good but they did not serve a big enough portion of lobster. It was very good though. The Cuban restaurant was most enjoyable. This was our favorite meal. You can tell they take a lot of pride in the quality and presentation of this meal. The staff was more than friendly. The food was very good overall.

Housekeeping:
Excellent service everywhere, all week. This resort takes much pride in making sure things are clean. The staff is very friendly and pleasant to deal with. We left gifts for our housekeeping attendant everyday and she always appreciated the gesture. At the end of the week we also left her $$$.

Check Out:
Another experience with the front desk staff. We finalized our bill with the staff and after paying the only thing that was said to us was” OK”. No conversation saying: “thank you for staying with us’, or “we hope you enjoyed your stay” or “we hope you will come back to stay with us again”. No, just “OK”. This still puzzles me how this type of attitude is allowed to be on the front lines greeting customers. This is a big mistake. Generally everyone else we dealt with was more than friendly.

We were pleased with our choice of resorts. We would probably not return because of the front desk attitude. We have stayed at other resorts in Cuba and had much better experiences with the front lines. We also do not generally book at a resort more than once. If you can put up with the front desk attitude, this is a great resort.
Solymar Beach Resort
Rica 
Canada
January 2006
My boyfriend and I went to Barcelo Solymar for his friend's wedding. This was our first time in Cuba. We were there from December 4-11. All in all, the vacation was great since it's always nice to get away from the freezing weather of Canada.

Arrival
Customs officers in Cuba are inconsistent. While at the customs line, we met a couple who were staying in the same resort as us. When it was their turn to speak to the Customs officer, they went together. When my boyfriend and I approached her, we were told we can only go one at a time. Just be courteous to them and you won't have a problem. Be careful about what you pack in your carry-on. One woman we met had her carry-on opened because she had too much stuff. They questioned her about her birth-control pills, make-up, and over the counter drugs.

When meeting your bus, don't let the porters help you with your luggage unless it's absolutely necessary. When we gave our porter $1 for carrying our bags (for a distance of 20 feet), he said no, he wanted $5. Whoever heard of a porter negotiating how much tip he gets. We gave him $4 because we didn't want to cause any trouble.

Exchanging Money
Exchange as much money as you can at the airport. The rate is better than at the hotel. The exchange rate is one of my complaints because 1 convertible peso is = to 1 US dollar. We tipped all the time because you do get better service so it added up quickly. We used more than half of our money in tips.

Food/A la Carte Restaurants
I'd like to start by saying I am not a picky eater. The food's edible. I had to think about the food as sustenance, instead of something I should savour. So as long as I had some protein, carbs and veggies, I was fine. The buffet was ok. I had fish everyday because it always looked safe. Which is more than I can say for what they label as "veal", "pork" or "beef". And the chicken was always ok too. Do not have the cold seafood salads at the buffets. I think they recycle them from the other restaurants or from the day before. There are always birds in the buffet and they land on the tables. This did not bother me but I can imagine that some people would find this annoying and unhygienic. The two pool bars also had nice sandwiches and snack foods. The best a la carte was Italian. It had the best food, nicest ambience and waitstaff. The Cuban one was ok. The Seafood one was good. We had half a lobster but I heard you can ask for more if you want.

Drinks
We always tipped and got better service. The main poolbar is always busy. Yosvanni, our favorite waiter always knew what we wanted. Try a Miami Vice. It's delicious. But they have a variety of drinks so you'll always find something you'll like. The lobby bar makes the best cappuccino but sometimes you have to wait a while to get served. Bring a thermos if you can so that you won't have to go back for drinks often.

Resort Grounds/Rooms
The resort itself is beautifully maintained. The landscape is lush and tropical and the grounds are always clean. The rooms are very basic. We pushed our twin beds together to make a king. There are not enough drawer space so bring extra hangers to hang your clothes in the closet. There is a 6-inch wide gap between the shower door and the wall so the first couple of times we took a shower, we flooded the bathroom. Our room was always kept clean by our maid and we always left her with a nice tip and/or gift. We told her we only wanted beer and water and she always stocked our fridge properly, sometimes giving us extras. The one thing that bothered me about the grounds was that there were always stray cats and dogs around. Apparently this is normal at all the resorts. I have a dog and I love them but I am allergic to cats. They are all very friendly but I would suggest you not pet them. My boyfriend and I were relaxing by the pool one night and a stray cat jumped on his lap. It was superfriendly so we petted it for a while. It even fell asleep on his lap. The next day our legs were covered in small bites. They weren't mosquito bites so we concluded that they were flea bits from the cat. You can always throw a piece of food at them if you feel sorry for them. Another tip I would offer when booking your rooms is don't book a room that close to the main pool. It is open 24/7 so you may lose some sleep if there are loud groups who party till early in the morning. I know that the hotel received a few complaints about our party. We were the loud ones. Also, don't book a room that overlooks the hotel lobby as it can get loud there, especially in the mornings.

Beach
The beach is amazing, absolutely breathtaking. Fine white sand and clear blue water as far as the eye can see. There's never a shortage of chairs, either in the shade or under the sun. There are vendors there but they never bother you. And there are a lot of activities you can do. We tried going on a kayak and banana boat. There were a couple of days when the waves were too rough to go banana boating but it was also fun the swim when the waves were huge.

Excursions
Our group went on the catamaran tour. We went snorkeling and had lunch on a small island. The buffet lunch was the best meal I had in Cuba. They served shrimps, squid, chicken, rice potatoes and lobster tails. They also sell coconuts that they open up and pour rum in....that was so good. We rented a moped for a couple of hours and toured Varadero. It was a lot of fun and we always felt safe. The people are very friendly. You can take a taxi or walk to the flea markets. Bring things you can trade like gently used clothes, makeup, toiletries. They especially like kids/baby clothing and shoes.

All in all, I had a good time although I wouldn't go back to Cuba.
Solymar Beach Resort
L and L  
Canada
December 2005
I am writing this review simply because I read all of them before I left posted on this web site and they gave me a great deal of information to work with and plan for our trip. We did the last minute club deal and needed to get information quickly before we left. Flying Air Transat was wonderful. We got such a great deal throught the last minute club that we upgraded to CLUB CLASS and that was well worth it. We have flown across the world and often with Air Transat and once again we were not disappointed. They treat their customers like royality. The service was impeccable. Upon boarding you were served sparkling wine, followed by a choice of food listed in the menu ( your order is taken immediately ) drinks at your request, head sets, fresh hot towels, snacks throughout the flight, and any specialty order that you could think of. Flying home was equally as pleasant. We would fly with them again in an instance.

The resort was a pleasant surprise. Having never been to Cuba before I was not sure of what we would experience. After reading the reviews on this site I was to say the least hopefull and sceptical at the same time. I confidently can say everything about the resort is wonderful and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The only issue and we were aware of it was the food choices and preparation. In Canada we are very spoiled with the quality of our food. We knew that before we left so we scouted out the best places and times to get good food and we found them. The Italian restaurant was great and we got an extra night free of charge simply by asking if we could return. The seafood and creole restaurants as well were fine. The buffet in the main lobby , well it was hit and miss. The restaurant by the beach was good if you got there when it opened for lunch to get the fresh food and no line ups and the flies have not had a chance to pounce on the food yet. The pool bars were OK if you like fast food. Just keep trying and go to the lobby bar for the coffee. We took packets of Tim HOrton's coffee with us for the week and that was fine as there was a coffee maker in the room and we just did our own thing in the mornings before we left our room.
Remember to take coffee filters too! Our room was immaculate and large. It had a five piece bathroom, dressing area and two double beds that we pushed together to make a huge KING. All that we needed was there, including hairdryer, coffee maker, soap, shampoo etc. The tile was sparkling clean and obviously fairly new. No complaints about the condition of the room . Our mini fridge was filled daily with water, beer, coke, etc. The air conditioning worked well , in fact we were cold during the night, but there are extra blankets in the cupboard. Ample cupboard space, closet space, etc. The balcony over looking the water ( not the ocean side - you pay extra for the ocean view but it is louder and not near as peaceful ) was wonderful. Hearing the horses with their carriages clip clop all the time was pleasing to the soul. Take a carriage ride - it is a must and cheap. The orange taxi bug rides are a blast and the open air bus trip around the resorts and Varedaro are great fun as well. Very reasonable in prices and one thing that helped us was going to the tour guide meeting the second day we arrived.
They gave us valuable hints about what to do and what to avoid. The Nolytours group from start to finish were very knowledgeable , professional and friendly.

We took $30.00 of dollar store items to give to our maid everyday and she was very appreciative. Crayons, candy, chocolate, calculators, note paper, markers, etc. were left on the bed every morning and we would return to extra water, towels folded with flowers in many different shapes and sizes and ample towels. The pool towels are exchanged daily after you deposit 25 CUP but that is OK because you need that for your departure tax when you leave. It is like money being invested for your return trip home. The beach was 5 star without a doubt, lots of games and water sports and clean. We had only one red day, two yellow days and the rest were great. The pools were equally as fun and clean. My husband enjoyed the massage at the spa and the entertainment we both enjoyed several nights at the pool bar. True blue Cuban music and the service was once again top notch. We arrived after being at one of the a la carte restaurants and the place was full, but when the waiter saw us coming in he went quickly to find us two seats and a table that we enjoyed the rest of the evening. Tipping is not required but with what we experienced for service we gladly gave tips to the bar staff. The grounds are beautiful and well kept. The flowers and shrubs are well maintained and pleasant to walk through. The Internet service and phone service was slow but adequate. We were able to call home on a regular basis at $2.05 CUP / minute. Internet was 4 CUP / half hour. One item that we learned from this site by reading the reviews was to take your own spices.
The food is a bit bland and so we took our own salt and pepper and that saved us many times. The salt and pepper in CUBA is very different from what we are used to. My husband would also take A1 sauce and ketchup, but that is a bit extreme. It is all up to your individual taste.

Check in was fast and our room was ready. We waited at the airport in an airconditioned bus for 45 minutes for all to board and make their way through customs. My husband had a few beers with staff in the parking lot and got the inside scoop on where to go and what to do, while I read information on the bus that you recieve at the airport from your tour company. Beer is the same price as water. The drive was only 25 minutes and we were checked in and in our room by 1:30 p.m. ( we landed at 11:30 our time ) A helpful hint is to split up and I went to the check in at the front desk. and was first in line while my husband got the luggage. Every one waits until the luggage is off the bus and then you are in a long line. I had it all done when he surfaced in the lobby. It was a very enjoyable vacation, lots of sun, rest and relaxation. We met wonderful friends from Vancouver. I would highly recommend this resort to anyone travelling to CUBA.