logo Old Reviews - Club Puntarena
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Toronto, Canada
December 2008
Arrival: February 2008
No probs there. Got dropped off right at the hotel. Staff was there to welcome you.

The rooms were clean, beds comfortable, big bathroom, balcony, maid was super nice and really appreciated the little gifts we left for her.
We originally had two single beds and the hotel staff were very accomodating in changing our room to one with a king bed. Worth paying a little extra to get the Ocean View :) Walls are a little thin, so stay away March break or reading week if you want peace and quiet!

Restaurants and Bars:
I don't understand why people have written bad reviews about the food. It was excellent!! Buffet was large with lots of fresh fruit! A la carte was very good. BBQ at the beach hut with fresh fish was just delish! 24 snack bar that served pizza, hot dogs, burgers...
We really loved it and put on a few pounds! lol!!
Bar staff were very friendly and always remembered you.

Grounds are very well kept. Palm trees, grassy areas, great pool, beach was super clear and the water was warm...

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Nightly entertainment was fun, but worth going into town and visiting "Casa Di Musica" for some outdoor live Cuban Music and dancing with the locals. The place is busy and the line-up are HUGE, but as a tourist, you stand out, and for $10 you get escorted in and no line-ups for you! Cheaper than any club in Toronto!!

We did the day trip to Havana and it was well worth it! Made arrangements to pay for just the coach ride and then do our own thing once we got there, which worked out really well because we got to see what we wanted at our own pace and we also got to eat at a really nice seafood restaurant right on the main piazza! $70 for a HUGE and DELICIOUS lobster dinner including tip and drinks! Bargain!

There are lots of excursions available. Check them out at the main lobby (which is actually really beautiful with it's trees growing indoors!).
Daily games by the pool are fun too. We played Bingo and I won a bottle of rum!

Other Comments:
I would go back for sure!
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena

November 2007
We have stayed at the Punatrena for the past two years and are returning for the 3rd time this November.

Yes it is a 3 star resort but we have had a great experience staying their. The rooms are always well kept and the staff is great.

The food is what you would expect for Cuba, simple but good. They have made a few improvements from the first year to the second.

You can step out the front door of the hotel and go fishing or out the back door and go to the beach.

If you are looking for a place to party this is not it. It is a place to go to unwind and enjoy yourself. No worries, no need to hurry.

There are no line ups to eat, it has an intimate setting where you can meet other travelers and make new friends.

This will be our 3rd time and not our last!
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Angela, Brian, Craig & Sabrina Ages 23-30 
Toronto, Ontario
July 2007
We travelled with a group of 4. it was myself & my husband, and another couple. We had read many reviews before booking to go to this resort. We figured the good outweighed the bad, so we took a chance. Knowing that it was a 3.5 star in cuba, we weren’t expecting much. Mainly we cared about the sun, booze and just relaxing. We went on this vacation with a positive attitude.

My husband & I have been many places over the years…Jamaica, St.Lucia, Dominican Republic, Cancun, Acapulco, Mayan Riviera & Cayo Coco, Cuba. We have stayed at 3 stars, as well as 5 stars.

We have never, ever complained on a trip before. I usually find myself getting upset at people who write bad reviews…I can honestly say that we have open minds, and realize not everything can go right when you go on vacation…that being said, this trip was a disaster from the beginning to the end. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. And this review is a bad one, which is completely warranted!!!

We were scheduled to depart from Pearson Airport at 545pm. Our flight was delayed 1.5hrs. when we arrived in veradero, we waited over ½ an hour for our luggage. We saw everyones luggage coming out of the baggage claim and people were complaining of their locks being broken. The four of us were very nervous after seeing this, as our luggage was the last to be brought out. Once we received our luggage, our locks had been broken off, one of the zippers broken off our new luggage. And everything in our luggage had been rummaged through. My friends $50 carton of cigarettes were stolen.

Bus & Tour Operator (Nolitours)
We got onto the bus to head to our resort, and when the bus started to drive out of the airport parking lot…it died. We all had to get off the bus, and the rep from nolitours told us it would be 20minutes for another bus to arrive. We were thinking about taking a taxi, but figured 20minutes wasn’t too bad. Well, 20minutes later the rep told us it would be another ½ hour.
I told the rep it would have been nice if they could have told us from the beginning that it was going to be approximately one hour wait, because we would have taken a taxi right away. The rep was extremely RUDE to me as well as the people I was with, telling us to relax because it was not that big of a deal. At this point, we were so frustrated; we decided to take a taxi…, which cost us $40 cdn of our own money. All because the tour company didn’t ensure the bus they were loading 30 people on worked properly. We were supposed to arrive at the hotel at 930pm. We did not arrive there until midnight because of all the confusion, so basically our first night was ruined. We will never travel with nolitours again, we had heard bad things but didn’t realize how bad they were.

Check In & Rooms When we arrived in our rooms, we thought they looked fine. After reading the reviews about how horrible the rooms were in the canal view, we expected worse. But they were fine. Our maid was amazing! I have never been away and had a maid get so creative with the towel sculptures she leaves for you. The t.v & fridge in our room were never working, and when we’d have someone come up to take a look at them, they would bang on it to fix it temporarily.
And by the next day it would be broken again. Our toilet also broke a few times as well.

My brother in law & I broke out in rashes after a couple days of being at the resort. I’ve never had this happen before & have no clue what it was from. We suspected the bed sheets not being clean…still don’t know.

The night we arrived, we discovered the air conditioning was broken. We assumed this was just a problem in our rooms, but found out the next day that the entire building was not air-conditioned. And they had no clue when it was going to be fixed. At no point in the week did we have air conditioning. And with the heat in cuba at this time, we constantly felt as though we were in a sauna. There was no escaping the heat. None of us could even sleep at night, it was horrible. We even took a taxi into town one day just to look for fans to buy, and nobody at all could understand what we were saying when we were asking where we could buy a fan. So we wasted an entire day, paying for a taxi to drive us around to countless stores searching for a fan that we never found.

The elevators were constantly broken, only one would be working at a time…if that. There were many times that we had to take the creepy stairs outside up & down from our room. Or we would be waiting for a long time when the one elevator was working.

I have never, ever seen a cockroach in a place that I have stayed on vacation…well this time I saw tons. I woke up in the middle of the night to find them in our bathroom, the hallway…they were everywhere.

The mosquitos were also a big problem. We would go outside at night to escape the heat inside, and in turn we were eating alive by mosquitos. By the 2nd night my entire body was covered in bites.

We first converted half our money at the resort…not a good idea. They add a service fee when you do that. So for the rest of our money, we went to the bank in town & it was a big difference. You’re best to bring Canadian dollars. Day trips are best paid by cash. You pay more if you use credit card.

The people at the front desk, the bar tenders, the 24hr snack bar cook, cashier in the store and most of the other people in veradero were honestly the rudest people I’ve ever come across in my entire life. Last year we stayed at the TRYP cayo coco, and people were so nice. I don’t know what the difference is here, but my goodness, rude doesn’t even begin to explain it. Especially the people at the front desk, they were always trying to make things seem as though it was your own fault. Ie:the air conditioner being broken all week.
We had one of the waiters tell us that he could get us cigars for a good deal. We spent $75 on cigars, which by the next night were stale. We took the cigars to the lady who worked in the actual cigar shop in the resort. And she told us that he had sold us fake cohibas & romeo & juliets. We then had to track the waiter down that night & he gave us every excuse in the book, but we finally got our money back from him because he was worried he’d lose his job. These people will try to take advantage of you at any point they can. We had never bought cigars before, and did not know what to look for. The ones he gave us weren’t stamped, and if we had tried to take them home…they would have been taken from us at the airport.

Breakfast:we went to breakfast the first day & realized there was absolutely nothing to it. So we did not bother waking up early any other day for breakfast. They had no eggs, bacon…basically nothing. And we also peeked in the morning of our excursion, and they still had nothing to eat.

Lunch:The lunch is best at the outdoor restaurant. It’s the same thing everyday…but still pretty good. Burgers, chicken, fish, fries & whatever else is left over from dinner the night before.

Dinner:We had 2 a la carte dinners, and 2 Nolitour dinners. Those were all very good…when we could actually stay long enough in the restaurant to eat it. The inside restaurant was SSSOOO hot it was unbearable to eat. I almost fainted the second last night. Many times throughout dinner we would all have to leave and walk around in order to keep our sanity. However, if the air conditioning was working…they were really good meals.

The 24 hr snack bar is supposed to provide hamburgers, hotdogs & ham & cheese sandwiches all night. They were always out of hamburgers & hotdogs.
We only managed to get a hamburger one night. Near the end of the week, we saw the man who always worked at the 24 hr snack bar walk over to a bush and pee right in front of us. He then walked back to the grill and continued making food without washing his hands. We approached him to ask him to wash his hands and he laughed at us. Needless to say, we didn’t eat there after that.
Previous reviews were correct in saying that the bar does run out of vodka. If you don’t drink your vodka by lunchtime…chances are you wont see any for the rest of the day. Which was kind of a let down for us, because my girlfriend & I really love our vodka 7’s.

Pool & Ocean
The pool was nicely kept. Clean & a good size. We spent most of our days by the pool. The advertisement in the Nolitours magazine says there is a swim up bar at the pool…well there isn’t. There is a pool bar, but not a swim up one.
The ocean was very beautiful as well. There are many sea shells in the sand, but not a big deal at all. Always lots of chairs by the pool & the ocean. The pool & ocean are what made the vacation bearable.

Night Life
The resort disco is usually pretty dead. One night we got a bunch of the tourists together and filled it up to make it a good time. But if you’re looking to really party, you have to leave the resort. We went to Mediterranean one night, which is a locals club. It was nice. They had a salsa band there most of the night, and then played some mixed music after that. The entertainment staff will let you know what club is good on what night. And they’ll usually come in the cab with you to the place to get you to bypass the line. They’re really sweet people. Tatiana, who is pregnant now…so won’t be around for much longer. And Os, who is a pretty sarcastic but funny guy. You really get to like them, because they are the only two on the resort who can speak English.

Bring with you
Definitely bring an insulated mug. My brother in law lost mine after the first night of drinking & I was missing it the rest of the week. The glasses they give you are so tiny! Also any t-shirts or ball caps that you don’t use. They absolutely love & appreciate that stuff!!! I wish we could have brought more.

We did the jeep safari. It was well worth the money spent! They keep you very busy all day with all kinds of fun stuff to do. Snorkelling in two spots, boat ride, lobster on a pontoon, swimming in a cave, horseback riding & lunch at a restaurant. I did the jeep safari last year in Cayo Coco & it wasn’t as nice as this one.

Airport Home
By the end of the week, all we could think about was getting home to air conditioning & good food. The last day we arrived at the cuba airport at 730pm for our 1030pm flight home. Well, once we were there, we were advised that our plane would be delayed until 1230am…and then once again delayed until 330am. So we were stuck in the airport for 8hours with absolutely nothing to do!!! And all we received for the inconvenience was a ham & cheese sandwich. Needless to say that every single person who was away with us that week just lost it!!! Our trip couldn’t have ended any worse!!! It was almost as though someone was playing a trick on us on a reality t.v. show.

So that concludes my review on the worst vacation of all four of our lives. The lesson we learned from all of this was: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!!! We paid $650 taxes included and thought we were getting a great deal. I had read many mixed reviews so thought we would take a chance. But we will never make that mistake again. So please, if you want a nice, relaxing vacation…go anywhere but HERE!
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena

July 2007
having had great trouble trying to find a hotel that was suitable for my disabled wife thankfully a friend recommended this hotel .the wife can walk a little as she has had several operations on both knees i would not send anyone that is totally disabled to this hotel there are ramps everywhere but untill they get a walkin shower i would give it a miss there are steps to get in the hotel but there is a ramp for suitcases whicjh we managed to get the wheel chair up in to the hotel but it could be alittle steep for some folk. the reception check in was so fast in and booked in side a couple of minutes very polite and efficent staff the food well you are in cuba breakfast was eggs bacon cereal toast lunch was taken at the beach hut chicken pork fish with french fries or chips there was a snack bar which is run by anita or frank toasties sandwiches soft drinks coffee the pool is very large and is cleaned all the time. the restraunt was closed so we were using one of the alacarte for breakfast and dinner when they are open there are 2 alacarte italian and a chinese both serve fine food thee are 5 bars drinks were always available 24 hours a day food was available from 730am untill 9mp then the snack bar opened around 11pm untill no one was left wanting food . we left all things in our room the maid never took anything untill she was told what was for her to take all ways the room was clean . all in all for what we paid for this all inclusive holiday we got really good value you just have to remember you are in cuba not a rich country but they are pleased to give
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Kim & Mike 
Toronto, Ontario
April 2007
My fiancée and I spent a week at this resort (April 6th to 12th) and found it mediocre every step of the way. We left with average expectations as have only traveled to 3-star resorts and know what to expect, yet the experience was somewhat worse than anticipated…

As we were trying to save money, we took the canal view room. What the pictures don’t show is it also overlooks the highway running parallel to the canal. We had the opportunity to visit an ocean view room and if we could go back in time, we would have spent the extra money for ocean side – it was beautiful.

Our maid was amazing and great with towel art. The only ‘con’ to the room itself was the sheets were damp every day/night. Also, our in-room hairdryer did not work (would over heat within 1 minute) so ladies, bring one from home! Other than that, it was your standard room – did the trick!

The beach and pool are the two main reasons I am giving my stay 3-stars instead of 2 or 1.5. They were both amazing and never over crowded. You could always find chairs at the beach and as the hotel is at the end of the coast, there is no one else there but this hotel. The pool was large and again, never too busy. The only con was lack of swim-up-bar which WAS actually advertised in the Nolitour literature. That was a disappointment as it was actually a criteria for us when we booked our resort.

It was horrible and inedible. If you want to loose weight on vacation, then Puntarena is the resort for you. They did actually service liver as a main course and the pasta also tasted like alphaghetti. Drinks were always served to you at the table which was a con if they didn’t approach your table (which OFTEN happened). They have a pop machine but it only dispenses water. Also, don’t show up for breakfast after 10:00 (it’s open until 10:30) as they pretty much stop making anything new by 10:00. I waited 10 minutes one morning at about 10:05 for orange juice (the man was busy chatting) and when he finally came over, flat our refused to make anything... he was actually rude which was shocking. So although it can be nice to be served, if they don’t serve you, you get nothing! I far preferred the Dominican where you just got it all yourself!

Breakfast: The French toast was always good. They will also fry eggs up for you which are a safe bet too.

Lunch: Eat at the beach restaurant or the outside patio grill. The beach restaurant has a buffet AND a sit-down menu. The buffet was gross and the only edible thing on the sit down menu was hamburgers and fries – caution, they sometimes ran out of burgers so get there early. The French fries at the patio grill were amazing and ate those everyday as well as their ice cream cones. We lived off of fries and ice cream.

Dinner: Go to your two Noltitour dinners as they are the best two meals you will have. They are both held at the beach restaurant. We missed the first one as it was held on the night we arrived and no one told our group (as was before the information session the next morning). Food at the regular buffet was always bad, ALWAYS. One night we just had ice cream. I must point out that I am NOT a picky eater and love food… I would not call some of the stuff served “food”. Dessert was also always bad (except the very yummy ice cream). I probably tried almost all of them, and dessert is not a specialty. Also, the two A La Carte dinners were good. I was warned by many to stay away from the pasta at the Italian one – the fish, however, was excellent @ both places.

The bars were all good – the beach restaurant bar was the best but not open late. The 24-hour bar was also good and the severs were very friendly! I found the pool bar to be my least favorite by far! There are also no “international brands of beer” as again stated in the Nolitour literature. I believe there was pretty much one option.

To sum things up – remember to tip, I would only bring cash (as paid for a day tour with VISA and they convert it to U.S. then to Canadian and ends up being WAY more), bring snacks as the food is horrible, go ocean side if you can and spend as much time as possible on the beautiful beach. This resort is only good if you got a REALLY GOOD DEAL.
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
London, Ontario
March 2007
We went the week of the 25Th in February 2007.

Check in - No problem. We got there around noon - 1 pm and they were ready for us.

Room - No problem. We had Ocean view on the third floor. Very clean and the cleaning staff were very nice.

Location - A cab ride to the nearest market is about 4 - 5 CUC. Scooters are about 20 CUC for 24 hours. There is a smell that can be a little repulsive some times but you're there for a good time, not a long time. No big deal.

Beach - What can I say, the beaches in Varadero are beautiful!

Food - Bland. It keeps you alive but could use some work. Breakfast is by far the best meal with all the freshly squeezed juice you can drink. The sandwich hut behind the hotel is a pretty safe bet. But even that can get a bit boring by the end of the week.

Pool - Clean and fairly warm. No complaints.

Staff - Excellent! Everyone seemed very nice and hospitable. I never went hungry or thirsty and the room was always clean.

Excursions - We didn't take any seeing it was our second time in Cuba. But I didn't see anyone upset with the travels they took.

Bring with you - A insulated cooler mug. The one I had held 3 cans of beer. It saves on waiting time at the bar as it can get a bit busy at times. When you leave, you can leave it with a staff member who pleased you the most. They seem to love those things.

All in all, I would have no problem going back if the price was still right. There are very few kids there and it seemed to be a resort that had everyone from 20 to 80.

I had a blast.
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
August 2006
well it all started at the airport where i was detained as i was entering the tour bus for some reason not at customs but outside on the step to the bus hauled away and my passport taken left to stand there horrified..after tenminutes or so the guy comes back smiling saying dont freakout its ok ...after 2 armed guards gave me grief for hanging about...myself and 2 other bald tattooed folk were released.same time. i get on the bus to get bombarded with sob stories and flirts from the tour operator suggesting that tips were not obligatory but that (sob story) and another sob story about driver ) and i felt like shit as i only tipped what i could being fairly challenged financially

finally we get to hotel where they told me wrong room number 4 times... felt like an idiot after the fourth time turns out they pronounce numbers in english poorly and i was given wrong number by accident oh well i finally get to my room on the 7th floor with the canal view .. not tooooooo bad i figure. i work out the ac and the room cools nicely.

i go to eat and check out the beach.. the buffett which was only option apart from the beach shack food of dogs and burgers etc.was very well basic , kinda groce even ,not worth a ten spot if you were payin then and there. uncle willys here is 10 times better .... the only good things were the fresh fruit nothing beats a fresh cuban banana.... but everything else was basic.badly prepared, the service was terrible they wanted money to pour you a water lol when there was a fountain 5 kinds of pop (no such luck all water)lol . if you sat near a window they,d fight to serve you... expecting a tip if you did,nt tip they,d glare at you give you a suggestion that you are sorta supposed to tip if you wish as they make very little money ...well i was a little put off by this as they were all wearing more gold than i could ever hope to ever own,and sat and watched the same scenario go down 7 or 8 times... and also the sweet talk hello brother / friend cousin you wanna buy some cigars......to the guys at the beach hut for watersports who by the way will pay 12 tourist pesos for those 4 blade razors of any kind maybe even give you a whole days worth of sailing for your flexfit ball cap(gold is cheaper than a sweet flexfit) added on.the beach rocks at the puntarena though

i must say the sunsets and sunrises were awesome . the smells from the powerplant refinerys and pumpjacks combined with all the polution from the main roadway directly downwind from the hotel was absolutely ghastly....got sick just from the smog alone....tried to go downstairs and got stuck in the elevator which happened twice the bell thingy did,nt work and after 10 minutes i gave up pryed open the door and pulled myself up to the floor , went to the shows every night but just ended up pissed off cause next door they have real shows with dancing girls etcand well what can i say mr gangsta wannabe dude sucked after you,ve seen him do 5 different acts in 5 days. , this really pissed me off cause next door i later found out was not only serving better food , had real shows , cleaner beaches and internet that works and the deskstaff dont try and rip you off when you buy phone time . overcharging for phones was rampant the pool on that side also had a floating bar andthe pool was apparently open 24/7 unlike this side...that closed at dusk...there was once 2 towers to the club they split and the one where i stayed was the sucky one under new management apparently...as if this was,nt enough .

i go back to my room and try to sleep as the disco had only 3 people in it doing coca in boredom at the bar .coca was everywhere..there was an awesome rain storm and lightning blasts too everynight even that was awesome but the thrill is worn out as the huge and i mean really huge cockroaches that live in the closet and in the airconditioning vents hundreds of them and ants like army ants with stings that are like really sharp....ouch.. crawling in my bed to the point where i had to sleep for the rest of my trip with all lights on ......that helps but only a little. cuban cockroaches are as hungry as the hotel employees it seems....

went to the cigar shop to check out cigars was given fairly high prices ...the guy behind me said what he paid it was much different than what i was asked for so we did an experiment i went in asked for prices of 3 cigars he went in too and an east indian lady went in after him wearing gold she was charged even more than i who was double his prices absolutely all about whatever they thought they could take you for...this seemed to be the way of it money grab , money grab , money grab,,,sketchy , sketchy sketchy....after much discussion with others who,ve been there a bit i come to understand it a little better they must work for no money only credits at the cues for food water etc . the only money they get is from us only the tourists the government and baseball stars get paid in convertibles the rest in cuban dollars 45/1 one convertible is a days work for them . a cuban engineer told me that he only gets 35 convertible pesos a month. .

i get frustrated and decide to check out havana with some other canadians from van we agree to go splitties on a cab ...they are wanting to bring along a lady who speaks spanish and eenglish for free i agree we arrange a taxi ride to havana arranged by a guy who,s been trying everything to get my sandals for days he arranges a deal for 100 pesos his buddy will drive us tomorrow he,ll pick us up at nine and we explain how the canadians i,m with will want to stop everywhere to give away hundreds of dollars of goods from toothpaste to perfume and candy one the guy and girl from van bought 350.00 worth of stuff from the dollar store and the spanish lady bought about half as much well the next day the guy does,nt show we end up gettin g the deskguy to get us a taxi who asks for 135 straight up when we ruturn we reluctantly agree because you need to book a day in advance to do a tour for 85 that stops everywhere on the beaten tourist route for a ten minute tour we,d run out of days as they shut down all tours during the middle week during slow season...anyway we agree to split it later on with the exception of our interpreter....we stop for 2 minutes three times enroute to havana and we finally get to the market where mt felow canadians create frenzy by giving away goods to many many very ungreat\ful people who just want more and more hound you silly till you break down....i had to stop them from being pick pocketed 3 times even to the point of pulling one ladys hand out of my comrades pocket on the back of her pack as she was looking at art...i got mad at this point and insisted they stop giving shit away as they were being marked silly.....

they agree to stop along the way home to veradero to give away stuff to the hungry poor farmers etc this was overheard by our cabbie obviously to me a mafioso underground who was anxiously awaiting every moment that he was left alone to show off the loot to his buddies... whom formed a plan to dupe the stupid bleeding heat tourists of their golden treasure....the cabbie ,his parking dude buddies and the bus driver that was watching had it all figured out as we shopped got pickpocketed mobbed etc they devised an ingenious plan they rounded up about 6-7 guys had them go to a certain strip of roadway away from the police which were everywhere that every quartermile there was heaters along the roadway anyhow the plot thickens.i decide to go to the bank where i give the teller a 100 she gives me back change for a 10 i get angry ask for my money back 3 times each time to be told that i,m mistaken that sh,s right i,m wrong see the receipt etcc well i get choked reach through the wicket to grabmy hun as i push her 6.5 pesos back through next to the piles of cuban bills to the sound of an automatic being caulked and a bootslide as the armed guard freaks yelling at me to halto halto or something like that thought i was gonna die right then and there and truth being told if it wasn,t for the spanish/english lady from calgary i probably would of she saved my butt and i excuse her for that reason from later bullshit from fellow canadians...well after this i start to get pissed off i get right coin and lameass sorrys thought it was a ten ...ya right thought i was right off the bus no doubt....looking for a lotto tourist shoulda had $$$ tattooed on my forehead... any we go to market after a bad meal for too much money....they shop barter etc .i just hang out and play bodyguard cause withoutthat they woulda lost all passports money etc...anyhow we go to the cabbie who,s in a rush to leave.we,re late and no doubt his buddies down the road waiting for us are pissed by now....we drive passing by many hungry looking peasants several time each time they say please stop the cabbies says please not here further down the road there ares om really poor people etc after 3 times asked to stop and refusing we finally come accross 7 guys along theroadside well groomed with good shoes , on and clean hands and no callouses whatsoever holding a few bananas limes etc the cabbie pulls up to the first 3 and they are given lootbags with gold in them from toothpaste to nailclippers and toothbrushes and razors.. thay greedily thank us a speed off back dow road where that bus driver has been waiting up a drive i spot him there tucked away... the cabbie shoots past the next guy obviously a hurtin angry farmer with grubby gear torn clothes and buckets with stuff in them he swears and gets pissed and backs off screaming at the others and the cabbie shoots ahead to his buddies where they are given more loot this really pissed the farmer guy off and he was livid and stormed off the 3 guys did the same thing retreated to where the busdriver waited for them there was a bright side though therewas some clothes to be given out and against his will they pressured the cabbie to pull over and beckoned an obviously real farmer and his boy with grubbies and no shoes period sweatier than sweaty with big bunches of bananas were given clothes for his female family members courtesy of canada .

....well i,m feeling perturbed at this point remaining silent as to not ruin my fellow canadians we saved cubans from hunger and starvation vibe...well we get to vera dero and its time to split the cab i,m told by my fellow canadians that they the couple from van are not 2 but 1 i,m told to deal with it as i,m told to pay for my half not third.....there goes my souveneir money...good thing i got my promised gigar money stashed for the duty free at the airport ...well anyway i pay it but i,m soooooooo vexed i nearly lose it and avoid them they later on apologized saying they overspent and had no more money a blatant lie actually i later learned..so next day i take my marzocci racing hat mp3 player and my last 25 cuban as well as 30 canadian and go into the town market feeling badly for i,d promised my many neices and nephew gifts from cuba so i went to the market and bartered for souveneirs and would,nt you know it the guy who has the best selection is a xxl sized guy like myself who knows when he,s got ya and after much haggling and me yelling how he was going back on deals a marketplace no no he ends up with my mp3 player all cash , about60 can total my 35 dollar marzocci hat , my 50.00 dollar sunglasses my shorts my underwear 3 pairs all my socks save what i,m a wearing etc all for 6 small carvings and one really sweet poseidon statue worth about a cool hun in can so not too bad a deal really .eyes wide open i see all cause of who i am and where i,ve been....the story still continues we wait for bus which is late ..

get on bus get to airport where i with just a carryon breze right through customs to go to cigar shop where i must say the russian guy was half right heres the tip for the gigar efficianados the blue glass place allthough a little more expensive sells fresh non moldy cigars whereas the litle cheaper place right next door does,nt a mistake learned half way real yes fresh no......not done yet i enter the waiting zone hear mny name 2 and go to customs present my passport they tell me no its ok not you i go back sit down get on plane never so glad for a canadian based airliner in my life safe at last from sketchy/dubious shit or so i thought anyway i,m in front row and there is all of a sudden a lady at front door and 2 guards with guns wanting to board us i figure for me maybe as i,ve been very lippy aboutmy observations etc....anywway they are refused . they the officials the refuse to reload supplies then if they are not given permission to board and westjet pilots rock cause they said no.. so the repurcussion of all this was to have the supplies on board spli\t between the 2 jets in havana which is what went down... we take off i,m diabetic right and overloaded by sugar allready as cubans sweeten everything.. i ask for a full can of diet pepsi they the stewardesses refuse i understand limited supply so i back off later on though i persist as they are down to 2 cans i bug them just as they are dealing with other uncomfortable dehydrated souls as a run of turbulance starts the one server says shje,ll break down and give me some more in a minute she goes off and the other stewardess gives me a regular sprite i catch it i return it she apologizes profusely and gives me a full glass of diet pepsi off a cardboard tray i chug it whoops not diet pepsi regular pepsi.......oh shit i,m diabetic pill controlled not by insulin shots the only way i can adjust my sugar levels is by liquid and exercise and the stewardess is now giving out last of the water and i,m hearing the return to seats as turbulance is happenig words from attendants i just decide to let it go for now and i pass out , wake up can hardly feel my feet sort of massage them to life fearing that i,ll losethem to the doctors saw if i dont..... we get to alberta and i get some fresh liquids that arent full of sugar finally and thanks to that i,m ok allthough it took a few days to righten myself...so i,m home in van right all is well or is it lol..... i get home sleep for a day and then go to my bank to find out that when i was in cuba someone had duplicated my bank card and tried to switch the pin so it was immediately shut down thank god.... well what a freakin nightmare.......the trip to remember i,ll tell ya never ever goin to cuba again
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Lenora & Kev 
BC Canada
June 2006
Edmonton Airport to Calgary with a two hour lay over while passengers were boarded. We weren't allowed to leave the plane, next time we'll leave from Calgary. Then to the Varadero Airport. We booked online and got a good price $3200.

I made the mistake of leaving from Edmonton in a jean skirt and tank top, anticapating the warm weather and was cold the whole flight even with a blanket.

As soon as we got off the plane we could feel the heat. Going through customs was okay, the wait wasn't that long. We did wait about a half an hour waiting for our bags to come off the plane, first on last off. We exchanged our Canadian $ at the airport. For our Canadian $ we got 0.79 Cuban Convertible Peso.
When we left the airport the Trans Tour people were right outside the door. We made the mistake of letting a man take our bags thinking he was from the Tour, ended up he wasn't and asked for 5$ Canadian for bringing our bags to the bus. There was a little beverage truck in the parking lot and we were able to buy a can of beer (Cristal, good beer) for 2$. Very nice buses to take us to the hotel.

Check In
A bit of a wait to check in, but a bunch of us were dropped off all at once. The ladies at the desk were nice. We didn't find them snobby at all. You leave your passports with them for the night and the next day you can pick them up and an extra room key.

Our room was nice, King size bed, tv with limited channels, mini fridge, hair dryer, safe, air conditioning. We had the Canal view and we thought it was nice. During the evening I would read out on the balcony drinking an espresso. There was one drilling rig near by and a service rig. Once or twice we could smell them but it wasn't that bad. I have smelled worse, we live in Northern BC and work on rigs. Our maid Mary was very nice. More than one Mary though. She would make things with our towels and blankets, swans wearing our sunglasses, bows with flowers that she had brought. Every day though she would crank the air conditioning up and we would have to open the balcony door to heat up the room. Also a little fact, if you tip your maid you leave it on the bed. There was a problem with some girls, their maid had asked to buy their hair dryer and when they left their room for the day they lef it on the bed with some other stuff that they were tipping her with. The maid thought they left it for her. (If you leave them a hair dryer they will be very very happy as this is something they can not get in Cuba)

I really liked where the Puntarena was located. As it is on the very end of the Pennisula it is quite and you are still close to everything. Down the road is Casa de Al. A little ways from the hotel, at the guard shack (they make sure only Cubans that are working go into the resorts) you can rent mopids. We took a long walk on our last night to the Sports bar, its close to the traffic circle on the left when heading to downtown Varadero, red awning, for pizza and Cristal. We had friends who had stayed at the Blau earlier in the month and they only went to down town Varadero once as they were so far from everything. You can take the bus but we found the mopid very nice, for 24 hrs it was 24 dollars and you could go wherever you wanted. Just remember that the right of way goes, pedestrians, horses, bicycles, and then vehicles. Lots of pple crossing the roads. When you are coming up behind something honk your horn so they know your there, a local told us this, for the first couple days we didn't know why everyone was honking at us.

The beach was beautiful! I was expecting it to be not as nice as the pictures but it was. Lots of Cabanas(?) I don't know what you call them but they gave you shade and there were lots of loungers to lay in. The sand was nice. I had read reviews were people complained about it but its sand, and it was clean. There were a couple (maybe two) ladies who tanned topless. They should of tried to stay off from everyone as there were children around. The beach was only red flagged once (to windy to go into the ocean). I never got down to the beach early enough to play beach volleyball but heard that it was held around 10am.

The food was okay. I love ketchup and heard you should bring your own if your partial to heinz, I brought little packs. They don't have many spices so the food was a little bland. But they also did some things very nicely. We really liked the pork. We usually skipped breakfast as it wasn't the greatest, there is bacon but it is different from the Canadian kind we're used to. Don't drink the milk! It is terrible, not many dairy cows (cows at all, it is illegal for cubans to slaughter a cow as they are saved for the tourist industry as there is very little of them). The lunch buffet was nice and usually very quite as most pple go to the beach lunch hut. The beach lunch hut was nice as well, always great service. They made some very nice looking fish on the bbq. you can always count on the fries and burgers to be good. There is also a little hot dog, grilled ham & Cheese, burger and frie hut right in the court yard between the mini golf and soccer field. We only had the Chinese al la carte, it was good. At midnight on the second floor lobby there is a hamburger/grilled ham & cheese. I can't remember the mans name but he is there till 6 am.
We ate four times away from the hotel. Pizza at the Sports Bar and another restaurant by the traffice circle. The pizza was good. Not like we're used to, no tomato sauce, the size of a plate. I had the shrimp, ham and cheese. For us to have two pizzas, beer, orang pop, and a coffee, $11 CUC. We went to the Chinese restaurant in downtown Varadero. Very good, Chinese cooks, very good. I'm not sure of the cost, we went with friends we made at the hotel and some newly made Cuban friends. We also had lunch on the beach at the Bay of Pigs. One of our friends went up the road to a restaurant and brought back plates with Crocodile (tasted like fish, consistency of chicken), lobster, fish and potatoes.

In the fifteen days we were there we didn't go in the pool once. Or near the pool, the beach is right there and the water is sooo warm. I heard there is activities held in it during the day, volleyball.

We found the staff to be very very nice. What most people don't know is that a Cuban person makes the equivalent of $11 CUC a month. Doctors make $15. Most of the staff work 12 hour days as they live far far away (the female bartender lives in Hiway, three hour bus ride). They work as maids, then to the lunch buffet and then to laundry service. To work at the resorts you have to have your Grade 12. We heard one guy complaining about the service he was getting (not prompt enough) and someone asked if he was tipping, he said 'no this is an all inclusive I don't have to tip!' Well you don't have to but if you were working there would you bust your ass for the guy who gave you a $1 or the guy who gave you nothin? We seen a lot of Canadians behaving badly. There was a group of Acadia grads who came for a week and reaked havic for everyone that wasn't with their group. Most of the staff don't speak great english but they do understand, please, thank you. I heard one lady tell the pasta guy 'don't talk to me I don't understand you.' Harsh. I even seen the breakfast guy give a lady french toast when she repeatedly ask for pancakes cause she was being really rude. Then he asked me if I wanted a pancake with a smile.
So we found them to be nice to us. They appreciate it if you try to speak spanish and obviously you don't. They try hard to speak english. We took $10 a day and would spread it around the resort. You don't have to tip in cash either, I brought custome jewerly from Claires and gave them to our maids, bartenders, and our new Cuban friends. Also if you want bring baby clothes. The bartender, everyone called him Hollywood or Tom Cruies (Cocktail) is trying to make a baseball team and expecting another baby in four months. Shoes, purses, make up is very hard for them to get as it is so expensive in Cuba. I gave away clothes to my new Canadian friends and a purse. They really like white. Also don't be suprised if some of the male staff ask to buy your hat. They like anything Canadian, I seen a lot of Cuban men wearing Canadian hockey hats. Some of our friends brought some of their company promo hats and handed them out.

Almost every night a lady plays the piano in the lobby lounge. She is very good, we heard jingle bells a lot. There is a fashion show once a week out by the pool, as well as different acts every night. The actors were really good. In the lobby there is a ping pong table, air hockey and foz ball. The Disco opens around ten, they play a lot of American music.
We went to the La Mamba or La Bamba club once. It was really nice, good live music, two singers and about 20 man band. If only I could dance like the Cuban women!

We went scuba diving with a couple of friends twice. It was awesome! We got a lot of great underwater pics, just don't shower, put on perfume, or deoderant if you are diving that day. I made the mistake of showering and the fish were attracted to my hair, I got pics of them nibbling on it, and one fish bit the back of my arm, it didn't have teeth and only left a bruise but scared me, I screamed under water. We went to the Bay of Pigs for our first dive, on the way back the road was covered in crabs, they cross the road to lay their eggs. Lots of dead crabs. We also went to the Crocodile Farm. We went after all the tour buses left and had the place pretty much to ourselves.
We booked one tour at the hotel, "The Jeep Discovery Tour". We didn't like it very much. Your suppose to get the real Cuban experience, see the rural part and a traditional Cuban ranch. The jeeps were beat up and you travel on dirt roads most of the time so you can't see anything, plus your covered in dust. The trip up the river to the "ranch" was nice. The ranch was just a place to stop to spend $$. Then you go to the underground cave where you can swim in the underground pool. We didn't as there were about thirty pple there and the pool wasn't that big. I would have rather went there on my own. Its on the way to the airport, easy to find, follow the airport signs. The tour was about $70 CUC a person.
We heard the Cattermeran(?) was really nice. Also known as the booze cruise.
Also the Tropicana in Matanza. You're closer to the entertaiment and its just about as big as the one in Havana.
We toured around mostly on mopids, we found a nice little bar by the watch tower on the east end of Varadero.
We went to the Mall. Americana somethin. It was nice, The only place besides the hotel to buy bathing suits. They also have shoes, sunglasses, more clothes. Very expensive.
We went to the big market and a couple of little ones. We bought a lot of stuff and didn't have to barter as everything was either cheap or reasonably priced. You have to pay a $1 for mopid parking at the big market, I don't know why. A guy walks around with a clip board and I guess watches it for you.
We only encountered one guy who outright asked for money for nothing. He was usually at the big market and didn't even ask, he just stuck out his one deformed hand, looks like he has two thumbs. We gave him a peso and seen him drinking a beer later. If the police seen him doing it though he would be in Big Trouble.

Very hot, around average 36 to 38. A couple of windy days. It rained once, and only for an hour, more of a drizzle. Never really cloudy.

Bring With You
At least 40 or higher SPF sunscreen, sport sweat proof, if you are staying for two weeks bring two bottles. The stuff they sell at the hotel is very expensive, we couldn't find any with a high SPF anywhere. If you are spending a lot of time on the beach bring a big cup. The drinks are served usually in small plastic cups unless you're eating. My boyfriend really wished he would of brought chips, munchies, as there is a limited selection. They don't sell tampoons in Cuba. Two pairs of sunglasses, in case you lose a pair, I did, and couldn't find any that were reasonably priced that looked decent. Medicine: immodium (you can drink the water), Tylenol, Advil, Gravel just in case. I brought bug repellent. Didn't use it, got ate by the bugs on the last night. I didn't see any magazines or books to buy anywhere. We didn't bring enough cigarettes and had to smoke the Cuban made Hollywoods, red box, stronger than Canadian not as strong as the Americans. An open mind and positve attitude.
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Nova Scotia, Canada
April 2006
March 31st-April 8th Having travelled extensively-this being 1st trip to Cuba. It's ALL GOOD!! Went to relax...get some sun and swimming done....fantastic.!

Room on the 7th floor facing Canal...did smell the oil refinery twice...so we closed the balcony door...success!..No problem...it wasn't as strong as the exhaust pollution in ANY city here in Canada! Food was plentiful and a good variety...staff was great...however we do have our favorites..Maydelina in the buffet and Osiris,Antonio and Raphael. Treated us like queens! The best pina colada's are ALEX'S at the beach bar!!!!Food at the beach hut is really good!! Afternoon ice-cream and hotdogs hit the spot! Rooms were kept very clean and maids very nice and friendly...Entertainment was impressive!! Grounds were immaculate(compliments to Pueblo and Dexan)...messy tourists we are! Pool was nice...clean and heated! Beach was heaven...Really enjoyed the canal view watching the old cars etc. fishingboats..and daily Coast Guard go by...never a dull moment..would go back in a flash! ZZZZZipppppp...by the way...You HAVE to do HAVANA!!! 4 of us paid $40CuC each for an entire day with tour....new car/A/C and sandwich incl.We got to go and do what we wanted...when we wanted and had a fantastic meal there as well! Can;'t wait to return
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Kiki & Kev 
April 2006
Went to Varadero Cuba from April 1st to April 8th had a wonderful time.

Check In
Checking in at the airport in Varadero was not the best. Not sure what happened that night although we waited 1hr 20min in line ups to get through security. Spoke to others and it was not like that when they checked in so must have been luck of the draw.

Our Room
Was good one the 4th floor with one king size bed. It was very bright and cheerful just like the pictures we had a mini fridge and a safe in our room. Had the canal view which was nice a few times you could smell the oil refinery but for the limited amount of time we spent in our room we noticed it only once. Only downfall to room was that it was a room with the capability of opening the door to adjoin 2 rooms together therefore could hear very clearly what was going on in the other room. Again not much time spent in the room so this was okay.

Resort is located on a side street with just resorts on it a little distance to the main town but nothing to extensive. Truly loved the fact that the resort is all so close together. From room to bars, to pool, entertainment stage and ocean is a small walk. Was nice to have everything so close together.

Was beautiful! In the past found very limited shade on beaches and therefore had to resort to going to the pool side. This resort had lots of huts and chairs so that we could enjoy the shade. Wonderful breeze coming off the ocean as well which made the days seem cooler than the actual 36degrees it was while there (be sure to bring sun screen and lots of it). Two long piers to the left of the ocean where the locals fish from they also will sell you large sea shells etc. Bring some water shoes if you like to snorkel as the canal is a great place to see lots!

Had no issues with the food in cuba. It is not as seasoned as what we are used to here in Canada and therefore many people found in bland. Although we had no issues eating for the week. Check out the pancakes and French toast in the morning hot off the grill. As well see Jorge at the pasta bar in the evening fantastic job! Went to both a la cartes they were both good. Definetly more choices at the buffet but never the less very good!

We ate at the beach bar “El Rancho” (I believe) great food there as well. Most days we grabbed something from the snack bar it was good hot dogs and ham and cheese. And the ice cream you have got to have the ice cream very good!

Due to the large amount of shade available at ocean side we did not spend anytime at the pool!

Were very friendly and tried hard to speak English and accommodate where they can.

Didn’t see much of it! Watched the horror show and that was very good! Dancers were great although we never stayed as by then we were tired!

We did the catamaran trip with swimming with the dolphins it was wonderful and I highly recommend it. We stopped in the middle of the ocean for some snorkeling which was good although not the best that I had seen. We then proceeded to a little island where we had an excellent lunch you get your choice of chicken or seafood. Go for the seafood lobster and shrimp absolutely wonderful! We then had some swim time water was beautiful one of the nicest beaches I had seen. I would have preferred to stay snorkeling for longer rather than hang on the beach. From there we went to swim with the dolphins this was great! Not much else I can say here quite the experience!

We went a couple of times you can ride the tourist bus for $5 pesos all day or take the tourist train $1 each way. First time to town we went with a horse and buggy he did a complete tour of the beach for us and stopped along the way so we could shop. This was good because he waited for us and drove us back. Cost us $10pesos each. We stopped by the local school as the kids were just leaving and handed out some dollar store items that was probably one of my favourite parts of the trip the kids loved it. Day 2 we took the tourist train (be careful they changed prices depending on who got on) this time around just shopping. Day 3 we went to 62nd street a local bar where the tourist and Cubans dance together. It gets started about 9 or 930 but give them time to get some drinks into them before they start to mix and mingle.

Overall had a great time! The weather was awesome and the people were wonderful. Overall I would definetly go back! We never visit the same place twice although there is no reason I would not go back here. If you have any questions feel free to contact me at ck.taylor@sympatico.ca
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
March 2006
Age 20, went with friends

I was at Club Puntarenas from February 18th to March 7th.

Food: The food wasn't bad but nothing compared to Canada. The al a Cartes were pretty good. The international was better than the Italian. It saids you could only go twice but we were able to go 3 times and if we had enough time we would had gone a 4th time. WORD OF ADVICE, BRING YOUR OWN KETCHUP!!!
The ketchup there in Cuba is horrible! The midnight snack bar was great especially when we went out all night. There’s a 24-hour bar that is open on the main floor.

Hotel: The hotel was kept very clean. Our room was on the sixth floor, which was good that it was not to close to the disco. We had the ocean view room and it is worth the extra money! The canal view room wasn’t bad but at night you can smell the oil refinery down the road. It smelt very bad! Only two of the three elevators worked at the hotel and sometimes only one worked. The elevator doors are dangerous. One time it closed on me but one of the other guest pushed the button on time to save me from being crushed. One of the other guest wasn’t so lucky, he had a door closed and him and he got a big cut.

The workers: The workers were nice except for the front desk workers. They seemed a bit snobby. They really appreciate what you can give them. The men workers are always trying to pick up the girls. So watch out! Alex the beach hut bartender is the sweetest person and he makes the best pina coladas!

Nightly Entertainment: Sometimes corny, but it passed the time!

Beach: the weather when we were there was great! We never had a red flag so we were always in the water. There is plenty of room and lots of chairs. The beach towel is recommended since it is only 10 peso and you get it back when you return the towel. We never had to wait to do any of the water activities. When we wanted to do it, we could right there. The water was nice and warm. We never saw any jellyfish or anything.

Excursions: The Discover Tour was amazing. You pay very little compare to what you get. We drove a jeep on the back roads, which was good to see how the Cuban people really lived. (The jeeps are standard) Bring candy and clothes to give to the children that you will pass. We drove on the back roads for a while before going onto a speedboat. We drove it down a river for about 20 km. awesome scenery! Then we got back into the jeep and drove it a cave! We were able to swim in the cave! And then we drove back in the jeeps. There were a couple of pit stops to get a drink. I recommend this excursion!

We also went to Havana for 40 pesos with one of the dancers. Very worth it! We had to buy our own food, and we were ripped off! We paid for tax and there is no tax in Cuba! If you ever go to Havana with a dancer, tell them to take you to a cheap place to eat, we had to pay 30 pesos each for lunch!!!

Overall, it was a great trip! We met a lot of good people and it was really relaxing.
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena

March 2006
First remember your in Cuba its a location with beautiful beaches and people. A like any other areas in the world there are pros and cons The hotel comes with those as well. If you want have a great time you can and of course if you look for fault you will find it. This is a great vacation location just to get away from everyday hustle & bustle

The hotel is clean and adquate with great staff. Not a new resort but a low three star and well worth the dollars. The food (Remember your in a forgien Country "Cuba") not bad but different some people have a challenege with it but my wife some it up nice by saying we never went hungry and were always able to find something very taste and to fill our plates .

A few tips


  • Simple medical supplies such a tylenol, imodime,tumms, solarcaine,and anything you might need even Halls remember its too late once you arrive, and its availablity is not great.

  • Bring a themal mug 16oz ( small plastics glasses used at the bars outside were a pain in the ass) They fill what ever you present

  • Some of the tours worth the trip the Catarmera is one I would recommended but if your there for the 7 night stay one tour should be enough. We did two and to be honest one was adquate

  • If you going to snorkle bring your own equipment ( its available on the resort but well used by the guests)

  • You don't have to tip the staff but a simple passo brings a smile and alittle extra from the staff. This applies every where in Cuba even the airport, its not require but often expected ( Havana always found people looking for money)

  • We brought a lot of items such a tooth paste, and items such as school supplies and toilteries these items a very prices for those who live there and we provided them portions daily to the room staff/ hotel staff

  • The rental of the scooters has little grabs ( they give one Litre of fuel expect the fill up on your return and then remove it when you return , it's a scam so a couple of passo will get you by.

  • Going into Verdero, There is a little tram ( Train front) one passo for each person each way not a bad deal. Double decker bus 5 passo per person all day Not worth it, The horse and buggies 5 passo one way You can deal with these guys

  • Telephone cards needed to call otherwise telephoning very expensive and you get them at the bank 20 passo approximately 8 mins ( not Cheap) or there is a phone centre( small enclosed booth) by the large market

The tour company staff provided great info and was well worth the presentation on the first morning

This is a great location to relax and I would recommend but remember it is Cuba and therefore a little different I would go back tomorrow and will return next year
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
June 2005
We arrived at this resort on June 11, 2005 after an uneventful on time Air Transat flight. We had booked a canal room, nice view, saw people fishing and snorkeling in it several times.

Our room was on the 7th floor with 2 twin (very comfortable) beds, I shared a room with my daughter. The décor was bright but the hotel is in need of upgrading in lots of ways, I would rate it a 3 star. Despite the lovely photo of the huge pool in the brochure, we only had use of ½ of it as the other side was closed off and completely drained. The resort next door, that was split from our side to be renamed the Caleta, was under renovation whilst we were there and was shut down to guests and empty. We heard lots of banging, etc, but it didn’t really bother us, we were far enough away. So here is my personal opinion of the resort.

Location: At the end of the ‘strip’, to the left is the canal entrance so you can only really go one way. A double decker bus runs from one end of the strip to the other, about a 45 minute ride. We took advantage of it, 5 pesos for unlimited hop on and offs, we took it right to the end and got off at various markets on the way back.

Beach: Very wide, lots of loungers and shade, we were the only ones on it on many occasions. My daughter got stung or bit by something in the shallow water, (think it was a crab) so do a shoe shuffle when going into the ocean or wear water sandals. Great view of the sunset, to the left of us was a small pier which always had people on it, presumably locals going fishing.

Food: Oh dear, yes, I know I never went to Cuba for the food, but it was a challenge to find something to eat that didn’t have a load of flies on it, whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Breakfast was o.k., even though we went for it at varying times throughout the week, the bacon pan was always empty, I asked on two occasions if it could be filled up and both times it wasn’t after a ½ hour wait, so I gave up asking. Lunch was at the beach hut, every day was the same, fish (with the head still on), chicken, pork, hamburger and French fries. There were a few salad variations, only saw lettuce once the whole week, always with flies all over them, and baked desserts, again, fly fodder. Personally I have trouble with flies crawling all over something I intend to eat, so my choice daily was French fries, I presumed they would be safe to eat.

Dinner was almost identical every night, some shrimp, chicken, fish and other dishes I couldn’t quite identify. There were also bread rolls and soup. The coffee machine ran out of dehydrated milk constantly, we had to ask almost daily for that to be refilled so we could pour a cup.

We visited the Italian restaurant and the International one, not bad, nothing memorable though. Service in both places was rather surly, and despite tons of empty tables, the reservation desk wouldn’t let people do same day bookings, saying it was full!

Occupancy was at 10%, so I heard, so we never got the all day snack bar at all, the indoor buffet restaurant was always closed for lunch, forcing people to the beach hut to eat, and there was nowhere to get a snack between 10.30 and 11.45 p.m. so after the shows you were out of luck if you wanted something to eat before you went to bed.

Pool: be warned, the smooth tiles surrounding the pool area are extremely slippery when wet, you have to walk like a penguin. No swim-up bar, no problem, the bar was close by. Lots of comfy loungers, beautiful area and kept very clean. Hardly any shade though, they need more umbrellas or canopies.

Staff: On the whole, friendly and pleasant except for the a-la-carte restaurants, not sure why.

Entertainment: We only caught one show as being in the sun and water all day is very tiring, it was well done and worth staying up for. We never made it to the disco, but heard it was good music.

Trips: We went on the jeep Safari, great value for money, it was 4 people to a Jeep and we took turns driving, you have to be able to drive a Standard. We took a tour through the country, stopped for beer, drove a speedboat up the river, had a typical Cuban lunch, rode a horse, and ended up swimming in a cave waterhole with lots of bats flying around. All in all, a great day, cost us 74 pesos each, if you pay by credit card, you will be charged an 11% commission and it will be coverted to US dollars, something to do with using the new tourist peso that the banks can’t process by credit card yet.

Arriving at the airport to come home was much better that the last time we came to Cuba, (to Holguin), the airport in Varadero seems much more organized, and we only had to wait about ½ hour in line to check-in, that’s very good.

Overall, I would not return to this hotel, although I met several people who had stayed several times before. I went here because of timing, etc and got a good price, so for a cheap holiday it’s fine, but I’m usually a 4 star visitor so perhaps I’m a bit spoiled, Cuban people are very friendly though, and much appreciative of anything you give them. They welcome tourists with open arms and I’m glad I took my dollar stores items with me to give out.
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Toronto, Canada
June 2005
My husband and I spent 7 days at the Gran Caribe Club Puntarena the last week of May, 2005. It was blazing hot the first three days and cloudy and/or rainy the rest of the time. We had a great time, especially exploring old Havana. I wouldn't recommend going down the end of May or beginning of June (just look at the forecast this week) due to rainy season. Off-season, you will also notice Cubans staying at your resort. Some are given a week at a resort a year. They come from other resorts or work in offices (I hear). The resort grounds were nicely laid out with lots of plants.

The rooms are nice. The king size bed was very comfortable. We stayed at the Iberostar Daiquiri in Cayo Coco last fall where the beds were awful. The food was adequate. Lots of rice, bread and fruit. No pizza which was a surprise, but we have plenty of it at home. Some men were crazy about the glazed pork (looked like ham) one night. One gentleman had a whole plate of the shredded beef another night. There wasn't a huge variety of food due to off-season. You could tell it was off-season - food, running out of beer and mint at one bar at a time. It was wonderful having your choice of shady spot on the beach and couch inside. Lots of space at this place. The beach was okay. On my walk down the beach to all the other resorts, the beach seemed to get flatter which is ideal. The beach in Cayo Coco doesn’t seem to be as loose or shell-based. Cayo Coco is paradise and Varadero, Disneyland I’d say.

The positives - Lots of space. The Puntarena looks like it was made for many guests. Very comfortable bed. Very nice staff. The glow-in-the-dark show was cool. The entertainment the last night had a tropical/jungle theme. The staff/entertainers picked all the men from the audience and had them stand on stage, take their shirt off, and limbo centre stage a couple times. That was a blast. Drinks were great. Don't complain too much about the size of the cups. They get you up off your butt (exercise) and your drink is always cold due to getting a new one. The a la carte restaurants were nice. No trouble with the elevators as some have commented in reviews.

The negatives - Ants in room. We were on the sixth floor. No excuse for ants. There weren't any ants at the Iberostar on the ground floor. Running out of beer and mint.They really didn't bring out more food at the main buffet restaurant and beach grill. What you saw was it. Do not pay six pesos for the internet. It is very very very slow. And good luck being able to read or compose your Hotmail. I didn't get my money back. I was told that they sell the service. I said that they sold me the service of a keyboard and mouse. I didn't even check the weather! A few cigarette butts on the beach. Not very nice seeing one inside a huge gorgeous cactus (similar to aloe). We smelled the oil refinery about three times - twice at night and once in the morning. We never smelled it on the beach so no worries. No shade really around the pool. Pool lounges were awful. Beach lounges were adequate but not as good as the yellow mesh ones at the Iberostar in Cayo Coco (there I go comparing again). The satellite was down from around 6pm till around 4pm the next day. I was told it was due to the weather.

This resort wasn't our first choice, but the deal was sure the right price. Take the deal and you’ll enjoy yourself. I don't think we'll choose this resort if we have a choice. There are plenty to choose from in Varadero. We had to use an Air Transat credit (due to being evacuated in September because of hurricane Ivan).
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Vancouver, Canada
May 2005
Buenos Dias,
I just got back from the beautiful Varadero Cuba and thought I would share some thoughts and views. Being a travel consultant, I often have to live through the eyes of my clients in order to educate other people, so here is some feedback on my vacation to Cuba in case you may be interested or someone you may know who is planning to visit Cuba.

I stayed at a hotel called the Gran Caribe Club Puntarenas, formally the Superclubs Puntarenas. The hotel was sold to the Gran Caribe Chain and split into two hotels. This hotel is often rated a 4 star, however I could rate it more so a 3.5*. Our room was small in comparison to the Club med that I stayed in when I visited Turks and Caicos. We had a triple room with 3 girls and found the space OK. We had a canal view with a balcony. All rooms had a balcony from what I saw. We had a room on the 7th floor which was really nice, however one of the elevators was constantly out of service. Other than that all the horror stories I heard about the elevators turned out to be a myth, while I visited anyhow. Voltage is the same as North America so you can bring your neccessities that need to be plugged in. There is a blow drier in the bathroom for those of you requiring one. There is a safe in the room where we kept all of our electronics and documents, however only one key will open this safe. There is air conditioning in the room and was working well, however we opted for leaving the balcony door open instead. Pool tables, air hockey tables and ping pong are all located indoors on the lobby level. If you are looking for a few drinks in the middle of the night, you can find the Lobby Bar is open 24 hours. There is a cigar shop on sight as well as a gift shop. You can get massages in the hotel or in a cabina out on the beach. We did neither so I'm not sure of the cost. In your hotel room there is a jug in the bathroom, normally for water, however we found this quite convenient to take with us to the lobby bar and fill it pina coladas or daquari's.

The food was OK as is almost anywhere in Cuba. They are definitely not known for their culinary abilities. I always found something to eat regardless what they served. However if you are expecting luxurious fancy winning and dinning you are definitely in for some disappointment. The staff was phenomenal (4*/5*), very friendly and hospitable. They had one night where they had a barbeque on the beach which included unlimited lobster and roasted pig and much much more. I unfortunately missed that day because I was in Havana. From what I heard though I apparently really missed out on an amazing meal! There are 2 beach restaurants(one being a snack bar with hamburgers and hot dogs/ice cream) and I believe 2 restaurants are inside the hotel however I stuck with the buffet for the entire week. None of us got sick during the entire week. I much preferred to visit the cook in the middle of the buffet dining room where in the morning he would cook fresh omelettes, French toast, pancakes and fried eggs. (Syrup is Cuban style, sugar and water, honey was available a few times as well). Lunch buffet is served at the beach restaurant. For dinner, selection varied. I remember shrimp and Turkey but can't register what else they served as I wasn't there for a few night and stuck other times I wasn't keen on what they had. I heard that there is an amazing restaurant, very small, but phenomenal. I believe the name is "The Cave" or something along those lines. It is located in the middle of the park in downtown. Seven of my friends went and paid 150 pesos total for an amazing meal with a few bottles of wine and tip as well. There is a 24 hour snack bar in the buffet restaurant for those late nights where you are craving hot dogs, hamburgers and grill cheese sandwiches. This came in hand when we returned from Downtown at 3 or 4 in the morning.

There is one pool, which does not include a swim up bar. Unfortunately the swim up bar now belongs to the other hotel since they split the two(Playa Caleta I believe) There is a bar just outside of the pool where the entertainment stage is for the night shows. The pool is still quite large with tons of lounge chairs to relax on. Should you require a towel you can leave a deposit at the front desk of $10 pesos and they will rent it to you for the week with as many exchanges as you wish. The exchange booth is located by the pool and open from 9am-5pm. You will have your $10 pesos reimbursed when you return your towel on the final day.

There was an entertainment staff that put on a show every night beginning at 9:30 PM. Typical Cheesy shows, but a lot of fun if you are open to it. The last day we were there they did a Ms. Puntarenas. My friend went up for this show and won the pageant. (A bottle of Rum was the prize) It wasn't very busy at the hotel, so the nightly entertainment at the disco was quite dead. We opted for heading downtown. The hotel is located at the beginning of the strip approximately 10 minutes by taxi to town. Roughly 6-9 convertible pesos. We went to some local bars which cost anywhere from 7-15 Pesos to get in which also included unlimited beverages. After the show often the entertainment staff will organize an outing to a local bar where it will cost approximately 5 pesos for transportation (in a bus) and 10 pesos to get in with drinks included. La Rumba is supposed to be great, however the line up was too long to get in that we ended up at La Comparsita. Club 62 was fun, free outdoor entertainment with locals dancing in the streets. Club Havana is just down the street from this bar where I also heard was a good time. Club International I was told was not very good and indoors however I can't speak for that Bar as we never made it there. We spent a couple nights at the Comparsita where they had a comedian on for an hour or so, but after that the Latin music comes on and everyone dances on stage. It is outdoors with a large veranda where you can overlook the stage and "people" watch. For all the ladies, the Latin men can get a little overwhelming so to speak, so taking a man with you is a good option, or just stick together as we did works as well. Be firm when you say NO to dancing with someone, is the best piece of advice I can give you. Bars roughly closed at 3am over the weekend and 2:30am during the week.

Ok ladies, once you leave the luxuries of your hotel, you will be faced with reality in the local bars. Don't be alarmed but It is normal that there is no door on the bathroom stalls. You may want to carry a package of travel napkins with you as there is no toilet paper in most bathrooms. Normally you will see a woman sitting outside the bathroom with a "tip" jar of some sort where she will give you a mere 3 squares of toilet paper in exchange for some pesos. Bring your own to avoid tipping, especially if you don't have any small change with you. Should you be walking downtown, you will notice that time does go by very fast and it is common for people to have a drink in their hand as they walk through the streets and markets, so if you require to use a bathroom at a restaurant it is only customary to purchase something small (bottle of water) in exchange to use their bathroom facilities. It's only fair.

I took the tour to Havana for $129 Pesos which consisted of the entire day with a guide both in old Havana and New Havana. We had lunch and dinner included as well as a beautiful Tropicana Show (Las Vegas Style). We were given a day room at a 5* Hotel (Hotel Nacional or similar) where we could nap/ freshen up etc. before the Tropicana show which is held in a theatre "under the stars" with a complimentary bottle of Rum per 4 people. We left the hotel at 8:30 am and arrived back at the Hotel at 2:00 AM. The transfer time was 1.5-2 hours and were given a hour or so of free time to wander the large Market in Havana. People will go out of their way to help you in any way to earn a buck or two. You will notice people approaching you and sketching your picture in exchange for some money. We just politely said "no thank you" People will try to sell you newspapers or even offer to locate your tour bus for you. There are women dressed in traditional clothing everywhere waiting for you to take pictures of them or with them. Be prepared that you must pay them if you choose to do either.

I also took the Catamaran tour, definitely a must. The cost was $73 Pesos. We left at 8:30 am and were taken on a catamaran where there were 50 people on board. I never got sea sick at all nor did anyone else on board. They stop for you to go snorkeling where an underwater camera is convenient. The weather was very windy that day for us so that cut our snorkeling experience a bit short. I still managed to take a few pictures though. After snorkeling they take you to an island called Cayo Blanco, also known as paradise. It reminded me of the beaches in Turks and Caicos. Calm crystal clear waters even clearer than the ones on the Varadero strip. There they feed you lobster, rice and a whole bunch of other food. The bar is open to a degree (normally beer) Mojitos are additional as are the coconuts with a straw (2 pesos). On our way to the island they stopped the catamaran in a secluded area where they had lobster prepared for us on board. Each lobster cost $10 pesos. We shared on between 3 girls. Had I known about the lobster upon arrival, I probably would have waited until we arrived at Cayo Blanco. They did do a good job cooking it on board the Catamaran though. We had 3 hours of free time on the island where by far we received the best tan. This tour also includes a sunset cruise hosted on another day. Be sure to check with your destination Rep. to book the cruise on another night. I heard that the Jeep Safari was a wonderful experience, however we passed. The cost was roughly $75 pesos.

In the Puntarenas area is where the largest stretch of beach is from what I was told. There was almost no one on the beach which made it really nice and quiet. You could walk for miles on end. The sand is white and it did have a few shells and things in them, but that didn't bother us at all. We normally took our flip flops to the beach anyhow. Water was green flag for 2 days, yellow flag for 4 and red for one. We spent tons of time swimming in the ocean everyday other than the red flag day. The water is clear blue and definitely not the west coast, from what I'm used to. It got quite hot so I made sure to take a spray bottle in which i constantly filled up for cooling purposes in case I didn't want to run to the shore every 5 minutes! Taking a travel mug makes for the best way to transport your drinks. They serve all their drinks in a small plastic cups. The bar tenders have no problem filling them with tasty pina coladas or Daquari's, my favorites.

The currency is no longer the American dollar as they removed that sometime last year, only to implement a currency called the Cuban Convertible Peso.
This currency is strictly for the tourists and conveniently more expensive than the American Dollar. In this case spending can become quite expensive around town.
There are 3 markets downtown however the largest one is the best. They do not exchange travelers cheques there nor do they accept any American credit cards. The best exchange rate is at the airport upon arrival in cash. If you choose to use your credit card to take out a cash advance there are 2 banks that I came across where the girls I was traveling with went to withdraw money. There is NO DEBIT to be used there! The hotel will keep your passport at the front desk which is normal, however what they don't tell you is that in order to use your credit card at a bank teller or exchange money at the bank you need your passport. A passport is also required anywhere you choose to charge your credit card or purchase cigars. We collected out passports around the 4th day when we headed into town for some shopping extravanza. They have beautiful artwork available in Varadero or all of Cuba for that matter. You must make sure that the back of any painting larger than 12 x12 has a stamp in order to take the paintings out of the country. Small 4x6 paintings ran from 5 peso to 7 pesos. I purchased mine 3 for 7 pesos. I also bought a 12 x 12 for 6 Pesos and a large painting 4 feet by 3 feet for 25 pesos.

I found that the cheapest cigars were found at the Airport. I went to a cigar shop on the downtown strip and bought a box of 5 Cohibas for $35 pesos if i remember correctly. I did not buy any at the Cigar factory in Havana as I was still undecided as to whether I was going to buy any at all. Unfortunately I cannot vouch for the prices there. Alcohol was very inexpensive at Duty free as well. A good bottle of rum cost me $13 pesos in Havana at the Cigar/Alcohol house, where the same bottle at the Duty free in the airport only cost $8 pesos. Should you want a bottle of rum for your room, you can sometimes bargain with the bartender and he just may sell you one for $5 pesos.

Wow how expensive is 8 Pesos for 3-4 minutes. I called home when I arrived in order to give my family the number to the hotel which turned out to be different than the one on our reservation confirmation. My family was able to get through once however we were in Havana and missed the call. They were unable to get through any other night.

Taxi's were everywhere, however make sure to set a price as you get in. They have a meter, but it is always wise to check. There are also "coco Taxi's" which looked like giant yellow helmets and they sat 3 people in the back. I didn't take one so I'm not sure of the price. Probably somewhere between the taxi and the carriage. Horse and Carriage is also a very common way to get up and down the strip...normally costing us 2-3 pesos per person for a 15-20 minutes trot back to the hotel. They will stop anywhere at no extra charge if you need to hop off and pick up something along the way. If your patience runs short sometimes when it comes to time, let me be the first to tell you that Cubans run on Cuban time for the most part, also known as never on time! Normally they run 30 minutes late, but not always. Just a fair warning.

Before leaving we visited a local dollar store and bought a good 50.00 CAD of odds and ends to use for tipping. Toothpaste and other necessities are very expensive in Cuba. The staff really appreciate tips of that sort as they cannot convert the Cuban Convertible Peso into their local peso. Candy and chocolate was a huge hit with the Cubans as they don't have any in Cuba. Apparently Tylenol and Advil is a huge hit as well.

I felt very safe in Varadero at all times even when us four girls went out on a night on the town alone. Taxi cabs were waiting right outside the bars which made it very convenient for us to hop in and catch a ride home. Just make sure no one else decides to jump into your taxi with you.

Please remember whether you are doing a package or not, a $25 departure tax is payable at the airport after you check your bags. This tax is to be paid in Cuban Convertible Pesos. Try to set aside the $25 right from the beginning of your vacation. You will be glad that you did after you do all your shopping and realize that you are down to your last pesos. Without the $25 you are unable to leave the country! For those of you doing a package, make sure you attend your welcome meeting with your destination representative as it is during this meeting that they will hand you your transfer "card" for your return to the airport.

As for your passports, I do know that some of you like to collect stamps to fill your passport, however they do not normally stamp them. We had a really nice officer in the booth that agreed to stamp them after each of us requested one.

In conclusion, I would definitely return to Cuba, however I would prefer to stay closer in to town, even if my hotel was located across the street from the beach. (Hotel Palma Real I heard is great and across the street and a 4*) Makes it easier for nightly entertainment on the town as well as wandering the shopping areas of downtown without having to take a take for 12 pesos return each time. If there was another good deal at the Gran Caribe I wouldn't hesitate to go back as it was definitely my moneys worth. I really enjoyed the fact that Cuba is still very cultural and I did not find it at all Americanized as some parts of Mexico have become. I think I have covered just about everything. I really like this website and have gotten a ton of information for myself when traveling. I hope that my review answers most of your questions and/or concerns. HAVE A GREAT TIME!!!
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
April 2005
Stayed there the last week of March 2005. Four of us went and came back with the thoughts that we'd go back in a heart beat. I'm a travel agent and have traveled a lot over the years to hotels from 3 to 5plus. This hotel is a solid 3 1/2, but I thought the staff to be a 5*. I was impressed daily at how genuinely nice they were to us. Yes we tipped and yes we gave them lots of fun things we brought with us, but who wouldn't want to bring them something when these people hardly have anything. The only thing that I'd say that bothered me about this hotel was how rude some of the people were that shared this hotel with us. They were from the same country as us so it was a bit embarrassing to admit that to the staff.

I struggled with the food a bit, but came to the conclusion that there's nothing wrong with eating salad, pasta, fruit, grilled cheese sand., cheese, bread, chicken, and the sweets. I found a way after day two that helped. I buttered my bread before she grilled my sand. I put tobacco in my tomato sauce before he cooked my pasta. There's many ways to make their food better that's for sure! If your really nice to the pasta guy he'll even throw in some fresh garlic for you...and yes I had that every day too. None of us or anyone we met got sick.

Things I noticed:
Hardly any kids or kid like activities.
The nightly entertainment was fine.
Take go-go cups...their plastic cups are very small.
Get the ocean view.
If your going to take stuff to give...try and pack a couple of bra's to leave there. I guess there hard to come by. If you want free rum to bring home...take a diskman to barter with. It will get you almost anything.

I have to say though..to the people that wrote the negative reviews over the past few months....is there anything at all that you are happy with? The things that were complaints from these people.....I LAUGH AT NOW!!!! Go there again...and next time go with a positive attitude.
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
April 2005
My wife and I travelled mid-March 2005 to Gran Caribe Puntarena, Varadero Cuba. My first warning to you, do not book during Spring Break (particularly European spring break) unless you are that age and don't mind crowds. We had the unfortunate experience of being booked in with 150 Spanish university students. We found them to be very rude, loud, and obnoxious. The only time they were taken aback was after a very resounding rendition of O Canada that could be heard on the 3rd floor of the hotel because the Canadians were sick of these kids. The staff were grumpy, tired, and ticked off because of the volumes of people, ordering 20+ drinks at a time, and the lack of tipping. Once they left, the resort returned to the way we remember it from March 2003. This is my first resort review.

Flight: Air Transat - Shortly after booking our all-inclusive trip to Varadero and from our previous experiences with Air Transat we thought we would take advantage of the advance seat selection. For a nominal fee you can pre-arrange seating (or so it would seem). I called the phone number and the agent took my my flight numbers and dates of departure. She then asked whether we wanted window or aisle. I explained that I was looking for bulkhead seating for the extra legroom. She replied that this is not possible. She was also unable to provide any information on upgrading to Club Class (first class). Generally not a very productive phone call so I decided to take my chances when checking in. Departing from Calgary we received a beach bag from Air Transat as almost an apology for the cramped conditions that they were going to put you in. In flight, we were served a hockey puck (english muffin and egg sandwich) almost as soon as we had departed (about 0115). Thoughts of the beautiful beaches and a tropical breeze made the 5 and 1/2 hour flight bearable.

Airport: There is a bathroom prior to customs for those that choose not to utilize the airplane lavatory, packing kleenex and hand sanitizers in a carry on is a good idea throughout your trip to Cuba. Once through customs and security you may claim your baggage. You may notice a long line up at the 3 currency exchange windows, with some foresight you can avoid this line. Bring a few US dollars or small Canadian currency (not coins) to tip baggage handlers that will accost you outside the terminal and carry your bags 30 yards. Once your bags are on your bus, go in through Departures and you will find 2 currency exchanges windows with no line up (the Airport was the best place we found to exchange currency). Return to your bus and have your guide summon the beer vendor and enjoy the taste of your first beer in Cuba. It will take about an hour or hour and a half for the rest of the travellers to board your bus (depending on resort). For those who choose not to use the baggage h andlers, don't get mad at the guide when you have to put your own bags on the bus (yes this happened).

Front Desk: Staff speak enough English that you will not have a problem with communicating. Staff were overall friendly except for one encounter that I attribute to being a bad day. Staff arranged to have us in our hotel room by 1100 even though check in wasn't until 1600 (and did so for everyone else checking in too). At check in you will receive a map of the resort and instructions to attend an "orientation" session. Attend this session as this is where you will receive your transfers back to the airport. You may not "need" this paper, but it will make your life easier when you leave. Front desk is also where you can purchase time for internet usage ( 6 pesos for 1 hour). Internet speed is roughly 56k dialup and they have 3 computers for guests to use. Front desk is also where you can exchange currency (we did not experience any problems that other reviewers did, but did find the rate lower than at the airport). You can also obtain a beach towel with a 10 peso deposit from the front desk.

Accomodations: Rooms equipped with 110 and 220 voltage. Air conditioner worked well though most of the time we just had the balcony door open. Rooms were clean and about the size you'd expect for a 3 1/2 star resort. Drawers in the closet stuck frequently, lamps mounted to the walls showed some disrepair, decor was circa 1970, and the pillows were flat. The telephone in our room did not work, but that was fixed within 2 days (provide family members the hotel phone number and schedule calls prior to departure as dialing out from the hotel can be very costly 60 - 80 peso calls were common from other travellers). Those were the only drawbacks to the room. However, we spent so little time in our room that it was of no consequence. Two elevators were inservice and I was amazed the number of people that did not take the stairs down or up 1 or 2 flights.

Maid service was okay. Only a couple days we experienced an unswept floor or garbage in the can, other than that it was very good. Maid left towel art and flowers each day. We left a peso and assorted dollar store goodies each day. Mary (the maid) asked my wife about one pair of shoes she found pretty, which we left behind for her.

Beach: Yes there are some shells and some burrs with thorns on the beach. However, this hotel is "on" the beach. Other resorts claim to be on the beach but you will still have a fair jaunt to get to the water or sand (not very handy if you forget your towel in your room). There is a beach bar that is open from ?1100 until 1700 hours. Lunch is served here as well from noon til 1500. Sitting close to the bar daily will subject yourself to the one CD that gets played over and over (bring a walkman if that bothers you or sit further down the beach). Pablo the bartender is the best you will find at this resort. He makes an awesome Banana Mama or Banana Daquiri if you can provide him the important ingredient (hint: you may find it in the cafeteria for breakfast or lunch, and it is not available everyday but ask if you don't see it). The beach has a volleyball net and there is usually one pick up game per day (don't be shy, all skill levels can play). Lounge chairs and huts are ava ilable on the beach. For 20 pesos you can have a massage in a hut on the beach (or in the salon on level Lobby 2) I highly recommend this indulgence.

Pool: Pool was much nicer when both the Playa Caleta and Puntarena were together, and Playa Caleta got the better half (which includes the swim up bar). Pool was cleaned daily and chemically treated several times while we were there. There are a couple shallow areas for children (but we did not find many children at this resort during our stay).

Food: Food was plentiful. Best dining experiences will be found in the a la carte restaurants. You must make reservations to dine in La Costa/Dragon D' Oro. To maximize these experiences (you are allowed one reservation per room/per week) book a table for 4 if you are a couple, then find another couple at the resort and invite them to dinner. In turn they make a reservation and invite you. Cafeteria food was okay, best bets are the salad, pasta station, meat station, and the breads. 22 hour a day food is limited to ham and cheese sandwiches, hamburgers, and hotdogs. If you expect fine dining select another resort, if you are satisfied with family restaurant fare, then this is your resort.

Drinks: Rum is cheaper than the mix or the ice cubes and the bartenders know it. You will have to specify a "light" drink if you don't like the standard pour. Rum is standard liquor, but you can order many other liquors (I recommend Disco cream and Cacao or Disco cream and coffee - very similar to Baileys). Water is safe from the tap (or so they say) but I purchased one bottle of water from the confectionary and then had the bartenders refill it (may be the same as tap water but it was much cooler). Bring Immodium with you just in case, in 2 weeks my wife and I went through 20 caplets (nothing ruins a snorkle trip like a bowel howl).

Entertainment: The "animacion" staff put on a nightly show from 2130 to 2230. Shows we attended were "PG" rated. Rocky Horror Picture Show was our favorite. At 2300 the entertainers will take anyone interested to a local club for dancing (cost is 10 pesos and is all you can drink). We went to one and had a great time though we felt about 10 years too old (20 to late 20's crowd).

Excursions: The catamaran cruise is a must do when in Varadero. 50 people on a catamaran with all you can drink, snorkling, lobster lunch (bring 10 pesos if you would like a whole lobster as an appetizer), and dancing. A lot of fun! The only other excursion I can share with you on this site, is tandem skydiving. Having never skydived, my wife and I thought it would be fun. The instructors speak a little english and can walk you through the 3 positions you need to know. At 4000' altitude you get 12 seconds of acceleration to 120 mph then ?13 seconds of weightlessness freefall and about 2 min of gliding under the canopy before landing on the beach outside a resort.

Tipping: You would be surprised how far a peso or two goes here. Consistent tipping of your staff will improve your service (getting into a la carte restaurants, maid service, having bellboys fetch you drinks while others wait, etc.) The staff really do appreciate anything you can spare: clothing, makeup, electronics, sporting equipment (baseball).

Things to bring:
A large thermal glass,ie.travel mug - unless you like drinking out of 6 oz plastic glasses and making lots of trips. Dollar store stuff for gifts - Canadian pins are good, I AM Canadain shirts are good, etc Business cards - sharing e-mail addresses to get those pictures from your fellow travellers Beach towel - in this humidity it takes a long time for things to dry. A backpack - handy when walking into Varadero, for shopping, etc.

You may e-mail me at markawatt@shaw.ca for other travel tips that I can not share on this site.
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Ontario, Canada
April 2005
I was overall happy with Club Puntarena. Two others and myself booked the trip last minute, and got a really great deal! The hotel was only about 15-20 minutes from the airport and about 5-10 minutes from town. Our room was ready right when we got there, which was great!

STAFF: The staff was up and down. Most maids were very nice. The maid that was assigned to our room was very sweet and made many different things out of the towels...something different each day. We left her makeup and things like that each day as a tip. Most bartenders were nice as well, although some came on pretty strong wanting to dance or even kiss you! Most waiters were not as nice, some were downright rude. The guys that worked at the bike and moped renting place were extremely rude. But almost all of the workers knew english, french and spanish.

LANDSCAPE: The landscape was very nice. We had an ocean view room. It was one of the best views I have ever had at a resort. The rooms on the other side of the hotel didn't have great views though...the extra money is definately worth it!!! Everything was kept well, no garbage anywhere, everything was kept clean.

INSIDE HOTEL: The inside of the hotel was pretty nice too...the elevators weren't as bad as I thought they would be after reading some reviews, but one wasn't working and they did often take a while. One thing I didn't like was that almost all of the activities were indoors. Most games (air hockey, pool, etc.) were inside, as well as the disco, and bars at night. After about 10:30 everyone goes inside. I found this strange because it was so nice out. The disco played pretty good music, two of the nights there were quite a few people there, but most of the time it wasn't full at all. One of the nights there was absolutely nobody there. Anyways, there are also stores, the buffet and restaurants inside as well.

FOOD: The food as okay, not the best I've had. The bread was excellent, chicken was okay. Some of the food was downright gross, but there's an alright selection to get something you like. Only had breakfast once, didn't like it at all! During the day there is a grill for snacks/icecream and a lunch restaurant. There is a bar at the pool as well. Inside, there is the buffet, and two restaurants. The international one wasn't very good at all, but the italian restaurant was great. There is 24 hour snacks in the buffet and a 24 hour bar inside as well.

BEACH: The beach is kept very nicely. The sand can be gritty, and there are burrs in it. There are enough huts and chairs for everyone. The water is clean, no jelly fish even after rain. There was a red flag one day after a short rain, but green for the rest of the time. Some days there was pretty big waves, which can be fun.

ENTERTAINMENT: The activities during the day are minimal, and the shows at night aren't that great from what I've seen. They are very corny, and low key. They were funny though, I'll admit that. The first night was a magic show, second night a live band, third night Havana night (dancing), fourth night was Mr. Puntarena (very funny!), fifth night was Sister Act (the movie), the last night was a Horror show (corny). Anyway, I've definately seen better, could skip the shows you're not missing much.

Overall it was a great experience, great hotel, worth the money! Besides a few little things that weren't up to par, it is great. I wouldn't recommend it to teenagers who want to party though. I am 20, and found the night life boring, although you can go into Varadero to the bars. I would recommend a hotel closer to town if you want to party. HAVE FUN EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena

March 2005
Background: My husband and I have traveled to several countries and enjoy All-inclusives. We have always stayed at 4-5 star resorts but this came up on a great last minute deal and myself, my Mom, 18yr old daughter and 16 yr old nephew (hubby had to work) found ourselves going with only a few days notice. We only paid 750.00 pp (from MB) and had a great time.

Flights: We lucked out and got West Jet with TVs. Good flight, no complaints.

Resort: I was very nervous about going to a 3.5 star but the resort itself was lovely. This was one 9 story building (around 260 rooms) with the first 2 floors being lobby, bars and restaurants. Lots of greenery, very clean. It would easily rate 4 stars based on this alone. It used to be Breezes Superclubs but they sold the place and its now 2 different resorts. There are 2 bars inside the resort, a disco (never went), game tables (pool, air hockey, etc), lots of couches and internet for 6.00 an hour. There was a Cigar store, a small store, T-shirt place, massage shop and a beauty parlor. There are 3 elevators but only 1-2 were working. These elevators were scary. My Mom and I were trapped in one for a few min, it stopped dead and went dark, it scared the hell out of us. They really need to replace or fix these. Before I went, I was warned about strong oil smells but we only smelled this once at night so it wasn’t an issue.

Rooms: rooms are abit outdated but the sheets and bedspreads seemed new. There are extra pillows and blankets, a free safe, a mini fridge (empty), and a balcony. Water was hot and had good pressure in the shower. We bought a 2 liter coke at the store and had it refilled at the bar and kept it in the fridge. The maids were fantastic; I’ve never seen so many different designs with towels before, not even at the 5 stars. The only real problem here was that the walls are very thin and it could get noisy at night if you’re a light sleeper.

Pool: still a good size, very nice, very clean. Lots of lounge chairs; we had no problems getting one. They want a returnable deposit (10.00) for the beach towels which can be changed daily. There is a large bar at the pool area.

Beach: Not the nicest part of Varadero Beach. It was still huge but the sand had broken shells and was grittier than it is further down. It was very quiet though and we had green flags all week. The sand in the ocean was soft. Again, lots of palapas and lounge chairs. There is a bar and restaurant on the beach that was opened for lunch. Salads, burgers, hotdogs, chicken, pork chops, fish, fries and rice were the usual. Very nice to sit in, it was our favorite restaurant.

Food: There is the main buffet, 2 ala cartes, the beach restaurant and the grill. The grill was outside and just opened during the day. You could get hotdogs, burgers, ham sandwiches, fries and ice cream. We went to both ala cartes, the Italian was good, nice pizza but we thought the International was terrible. This is where this resort really falls into the 3 star category, I think. Breakfast was fine; there was someone who made fresh eggs, French toast and hotcakes and then the usual fare. There was rarely bacon or sausage. Their breads, buns, etc were awesome. We usually had lunch at the grill. The supper buffet always had lots of bread, salads, deserts, a pasta station but not enough hot items. There were always tons and tons of fish served and a few stew things that didn’t look great. We only had chicken a few times in the week and a pork roast once. I had pasta a few times as I could not find anything else that I wanted. I don’t like fish; my Mom loves it so she was happy enough with the food. You need to go early to the buffets as sometimes they ran out of certain things later.

Drinks: ok but limited. They had a drink menu and pretty much stuck to it. We found a nice cream liquor, they called Disco but they ran out twice. They made a nice rum punch.

Staff: no problems here, all very nice. The Gardiner would always bring us flowers when he saw us and would cut down coconuts and make drinks for us. Might have been because I tip but it was still nice. The front desk spoke enough English to get by.

Entertainment: This was actually some of the best I’ve seen yet on resorts. Some of it was corny but it was fun. They did something different everyday, like a take off of movies (Sister Act when we were there), Havana night (very good), brought in a band, Mr Motel, etc. I was pretty impressed for a place this size; it was a lot more entertaining then Playa Pesquero which is a 5 star.

Money: They will change your money at the resort.

General: It was about 10 min to town, around 6 pesos. The place isn’t perfect but it was fine for the price we paid. It’s a 3.5 star and I would say that is accurate. I would prefer to be closer to town next time but if another great deal came up, I would probably go again and eat in town a few times for variety, lol. The food seemed comparable to other 3 star resorts from what I’ve been told though. I got over my fear of staying in any resort under a 4 star in Cuba so that will open up a lot more great last min deals for us. I really enjoyed the size of the resort. Everything was so close by and so easy to pop back into the room for something, We usually stay at huge resorts which are beautiful but I think I enjoyed the size of this place more.
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Andrew and Anna 
March 2005
Getting There
We booked our Varadero vacation on the internet a week before departure time. Since I had never booked a southern trip on the internet before, I was worried about how we would pick up our documentation. Surprise! It was all so simple: You arrive at Terminal 3, go to the Air Transat desk at the departures level, pick up your tickets and vouchers, and then proceed to check-in for your flight - it was over in less than 20 minutes. Other than dealing with a surly Air Transat agent at the check-in counter, it was a piece of cake!

Three hours and twenty minutes after take-off from Toronto, we landed at the Varadero airport, made our way through Cuban immigration and customs, retrieved our luggage, and homed onto the correct shuttle bus to the Gran Caribe Club Puntarena hotel.

This was our first time in Cuba and we had prepared ourselves by reading many of the reviews on the debbiescaribbeanresortreviews web site. Our wallets were full of american $1 bills for tipping and our luggage was crammed with odds and ends from the local Dollar Store. We had been exposed to central European style socialism before it had evaporated in 1990 and we were eager to see it in reality once more before Fidel joined his revolucionistas in another burning hot climate.

At the Puntarena
At the hotel reception, it was easy to upgrade to a north-facing ocean-view room from a canal-view room for an additional nominal charge. The ocean view is certainly worth it.

This hotel is a sturdy steel-framed building containing a 2-storey atrium topped by 7 storeys of hotel rooms. It is located at the extreme western end of the Peninsula de Hicacos, adjacent to the canal linking the Bahia de Cardenas with the Straits of Florida. The property is kept nice and clean inside as well as the beach and pool areas.

Beware of the elevators. All 3 elevators were out of service on one of the days when we were there. We met an elderly Scottish couple who were greatly troubled about how to return to their rooms on the 5th storey given that the husband had a heart condition. Hotel staff showed us the back service entrance to one of the elevators and many of the guests braved life and limb to get back and forth.

Many reviewers have already commented about hotel food. We were pleasantly surprised that the food was rather good and plentiful and we gained a few pounds over a week.

Depending on the direction of the wind, the hotel is exposed to some bad smells. This hotel is situated across the canal from some oil wells. As well, one can see a number of chimney stacks belching smoke and gas flares. There was also a serious smell in our suite bathroom which appeared to come from the plumbing system, probably due to improper venting of the drainage system. However, these are minor inconveniences since we came to enjoy the marvelous climate.

We enjoyed our stay and would return here again since we had expected conditions to be worse than this.

Exchanging Money
When you exchange your canadian dollars at the hotel front desk, check the exchange rate board first and estimate how much you will receive, keeping in mind that the hotel charges a commission of about 3%. In late February, 2005, selling canadian $200 should get you about 150 cuban convertible pesos. The front desk staff tried to short change us by giving us 100 pesos but we did not move away from the desk until the cashier gave us the missing 50 pesos. This is NOT an isolated incident. We met another tourist who also discovered he was short changed. Another veteran visitor to this hotel cautioned us that one must be very vigilant when dealing with the cashiers. On page A12 of the Friday, February 25, 2005 issue of the Toronto edition of The Globe and Mail, you will find an article titled: “Accepting Gratuities Outlawed in Cuba”, which states: “Cubans working in tourism earn average monthly salaries of $12 to $15, paid to them in Cuban pesos, and rely heavily on gratuities to supplement their incomes.” You can draw your own conclusions.

On this web site, we had read that you can get better service by tipping. After a couple of days of tipping, we noticed that the service remained good whether we tipped or not.

In any socialist country it is important to know who to tip for a service. Our room maid did an exceptional job of looking after our room and certainly deserved the odds and ends that we had brought for her from the local Dollar Store.

We tried horse-drawn carriages, taxis, the beach tour bus, and rental motor scooters. They were all fun but the bus is the most economical because you can ride it as many times as you want in one day for 5 convertible pesos per person.

Our hotel was close to Al Copone’s former beach home - it is now a restaurant called the Casa de Al. It is worth a visit for the ocean view.

Take a walk through the Parque Josone in the town and try Dante’s restaurant while reflecting on the story of Sr. Fermin, the last owner of this property before the 1959 revolution, when he was forced to give it up to the Castro regime in order to get his family alive out of Cuba.

Remember, Varadero is a relatively rich tourist bubble in a poor socialist country. We proved this to ourselves when we took a trip to Havana. But that is another review ........
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
Ken and Sheila 
Vancouver B.C.
March 2005
Fourteen of us went to the Puntarena the first week of February. We ranged in age from 15 to 58 years old, and we all enjoyed our stay very much. This is my husband and my fourth time at this resort including when it was "all one" with the Playa Caleta. Obviously we like it and would go back again, but there are a few things that we don't like at all. Actually, it's mainly the food. It's pretty bad even for people that aren't all that fussy. I took some pictures of it, so if you want to see them or have any questions, e-mail me at kpomeroy@telus.net. Our family knows quite a bit about the area because our son married a girl from Santa Marta, which is right across the bridge. They go down at least four times a year to visit her family. This resort has a cosy feel to it, because of the size. It has the usual standard rooms, and the drinks are a bit limited but the grounds are nice and the pool is pretty to sit around. I was told that is is freezing though because it's only solar heated. The beach is lovely too. One word of warning though, watch out for the elevators. They are dangerous and I'm not kidding. One trip, an elderly had her arm broken when the door slammed on it. There is no safety factor built in to it, to prevent it from closing on you. I don't want to repeat what the other reviewer had to say, but I want to address the "seasoned" traveller. We travel several times a year, usually to the Mayan Riviera. We have been to a lot of all-inclusives and consider ourselves fairly experienced travellers, having been to many countries including at least 20 times to the Cancun area. I can't stress enough, that you WILL NOT get what you may have been used to in other countries. It is a third world communist country that tries it's best, but doesn't succeed every time. Cuba has lovely people, nice beaches, good weather, and interesting sights, and if you just want to experience the country, go, but if you are looking for luxury, you won't find it at the Puntarena. If you want a clean room, nice beach and pool, and pleasant staff, you will find this. Would I recommend this hotel? Yes, if you aren't fussy and if the price is right. I want to make one comment on something the other reviewer had to say about the staff only being able to keep 10% of their tips. I have never heard of this and I think they may be wrong. My son's brother-in-law is the beach boy there [Jorge] and I know he doesn't share the few tips he gets. Be discreet when you give them. They are greatly appreciated because of the small wage they make. [around $20 a month] If you want to give them something that they may not get past the guard, walk to the entrance and give it there.
Gran Caribe Club Puntarena
February 2005
This was my best friend and mine's first time to Cuba. We went the week of February 8th to February 15th, 2005. We book last minute at a local travel agent. We orignally want to go to Cayo Coco in Cuba, as it was less busy and less touristy. But the travel agent told us in Varadero you get both worlds, touristy when u go into town but quit and relaxing when at your resort. The resort use to be two 9 story buildings with the largest pool in Varadero, but in the fall of 2004 Superclub sold half the resort to Gran Caribe, and the other half to the Playa Resort company, and it was the right choice. When we book the resort Air Transat the only travel company that has vacation packages to the resort listed it as a 3 1/2 star resort, but now after being sold, Gran Caribe turned it into a 4 star resort, we were plesently suprised. The resort it's self is so pretty, go to this link to see pictures I took of the it http://community.webshots.com/album/275271180APsZFN?431 The beach is so beautiful, what is nice about is it is very wide and there is a quick drop off which makes swimming very nice, as when it is a green flag day it is chest/shoulder deep. The beach is also more natural (being that there a crushed up shells all over the beach and it is not as white) then the resorts further down the Varadero Beach (This resort is the first resort on the Varadero beach). The pool is now split in half, but it is still quit big. It is very clean and you can't smell the chlorine which is nice. The pool is only heated by the sun, so it makes for a refeshing dip after lying in the sun. The staff are all very friendly and all understand english. I suggest it is better to tip them with goods like make-up, pencils, clothes as they only get 10% of any money you give them and they can't leave the resort with alcohol. There is one 24 hour bar, which has a list of 20 drinks besides soft drinks and beer and wine that you can order, one beach bar, and one bar on the second floor lobby. We both had the water in cuba and nothing bad happened to us, so the water is safe like we were told. The food at this resort isn't amazing, but it is not bad, it's just moderate, which is why I am guessing it only moved up to a 4 star and not a 5 star. The outside Grill and the outside snack bar make good hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries, also they outside grill makes really good chicken. The buffet has good breakfests, tasty freshed made french toast, fried eggs and omlets. The lunch and dinner are kind of boring nothing exciting. The resort also has this delicous mango juice in the morning. The two a la carte resturants are okay. The international one, food isn't that good, i mean it tast good but I've had better food at Mcdonalds. The italian food is pretty good, the pizza's are home made and desserts are very tasty, especially the coconut pie. We did not find till 3 days into our trip that after 11:30pm, the buffet opens as a snack bar where you can get, ham and cheese sandwiches, grilled cheeses, hamburgers, and hot dogs, which are perfect midnight snacks. The only other thing I can say about the food is my best friend got a weird rash on her hands, arms and feet on the third day and everyday after that, after she ate lunch, at the outside grill, and dinner in the buffet. The day before we left, it got really bad so we went to the nurse at the resort and she said it is common to get this rash when your in Cuba, because the food is prepared differently with different preservatives. She gave my best friend some creme and bennadryll, which made it go away, and she could eat the food with no reaction after taking the bennadryll every 12 hours. The room we stayed in was very cute, we had a canal view which was nice because we got to see all the 1950 cars drive by on the highway, and all the tour boats go by on the canal, plus we felt more of the culture as we actualy saw factories and small towns from our balcony. The nightly entertainment is really good, they had a amazing magic show, which was very professional. Also, this resort is the only resort in all of Varadero that has night beach party. MY best friend and I took part in the games and they were really fun. They split participants into two groups guys and girls. The guys, won and we got coconut rum drinks and dipolima saying we took part in it and everyone who took part in it got prizes, such as Gran Caribe Club Puntareana hats and t-shirts, a bottle of wine etc. Every night the resort has a different nightly entertainment. The resort also has a disco which we never went into during the night. (Discos aren't our thing) But people we talked who went to the disco said it was quit fun, they played Canadian/American music as while as Cuba music. The resort has 3 stores, 2 gift shops, and one alcohol and cigar store. Overall this resort is excellent for a first trip to cuba and if you don't want to go to a snobby 5 star resort. It was very relaxing, quite, and you really get to feel the culture of Cuba. Ohh also to access the internet it is 6 pesos for 60 minutes and when the internet system working properly the internet is fast, but not as fast as high speed cable in Canada.