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Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Geta 
Milton, Ontario
December 2008
Arrival: Dec.21 - Dec. 28
We flew with SkyService directly from Toronto to Santa Clara airport - thank goodness it was only a 3.5 hour flight! Make sure you pre-select your seats beforehand. Flight was full of kids that were screaming and crying most of the way and parents who were obviously on vacation mode and didn't mind them bothering every person on the plane. They served us lukewarm, tasteless bread with one slice of cheese and one slice of fatty meat and a drink. Bring your own headset, otherwise get ready to pay $4 to watch their movie. Like I said, so glad it was only a short flight and that I was going to an adults only resort. We arrived in Cuba at about 11 p.m., were quickly processed through immigration and put on the bus. The bus ride through a mostly dark Cuba to the resort took about 1 hr and 10 mins. There were only 14 of us on the bus checking in to the Royal Hideaway so checkout was quick and easy, with room keys and resort info in hand. The busboys quickly took us to our bungalow on their golf cart. We were able to be in our room and settled by 12:30 p.m. There was a plate of fruits and sandwiches for us to enjoy before we turned in for the night. No bracelets here - Yeah!!

Rooms:
I had requested through my travel provider a king sized bed in bungalow 20 or 21 (the closest to the beach and main building) but the hotel did not receive our request - make sure you make your request directly to the hotel. We were put in bungalow 27, in a double bed room, Spa section. Our conceirge, Yelenys, quickly got our beds pushed together and was very friendly and helpful throughout our stay. She booked all our restaurants, made sure our minibar was filled with what we wanted each and every day and completed our check out very quickly. The room was very spacious and clean with lots of room in the bathroom, walk in closet and balcony (ours overlooked a lush jungle and you could see and hear, if the door was left open, the causeway that connects the islands to the mainland of Cuba. Overall a very nice and clean room. The maid was excellent and fulfilled your needs as requested in a note or through the conceirge.

Restaurants and Bars:
There in one main restaurant, the Ventanas, which is a buffet restaurant open for all three meals - breakfast was best, with eggs made to order, crepes, fresh squeezed orange juice (mostly) and good cappacuino. For lunch, there was fast food at the beach snack bar, or the pool snack bar. We often ate at the pool snack bar El Megano. They have a set menu, my favourite was the chicken fingers for appetizers. There are 3 a la carte restaurants, the Italian (loved the beef tenderloin - medium cooked and tender!), the Japanese (good spring rolls and chicken tepanaki), and the seafood (didn't go) and you get to eat once at each. Overall the food quality was good, but not as varied as other resorts. Food sometimes a little cool, so dig to bottom of the dish to get the warmer bits and always go for the cook to order items for the freshest tastes and hottest temperature. Best times to go to eat at the buffet are earliest for fastest service although it never took too long or felt too crowded. Almost always got attentive and efficient service, which makes you feel taken care of and relaxed. Great drinks at the pool and lobby bars (although the lobby bar seemed to make the drinks stronger)such as the pina coladas, mojitos, varedero sunrise, drinkable white and red wine and pale beers. Overall good service and good quality food for the price.

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
Spectacular beaches! We visited Megano beach and Ensenachos beach during our stay, both are stunning, with powder soft sand, shallow and mostly clear water, plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas. The Megano beach is busiest and closest to the Spa section but still did not feel crowded. We went to the Ensenachos beach twice and it is best to get a ride from the bellboys on the golf carts if you can, but definitely walkable through beautiful grounds. There is another beach in the suites section, which we did not get to on this trip.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Seemed the travel reps. were pushing these trips, but we felt content to just relax and one week was not enough for us to give up a relaxing day to go on a trip.

Other Comments:
We have travelled to the Dominican, Mexico and this is our second trip to Cuba. As a couple who can only travel during certain times of the year, we have to pay top dollar and we have to go during the busiest times - so it is important to us to really feel like we have got our money's worth. We felt we did at this resort, maybe it's the size of the resort, truly never felt crowded, or the adults only, which really let you unwind and relax, or the attentive service, really was quite good, we felt one week was not enough. We would return to this resort in a heartbeat and feel good about recommending this resort to our friends and family.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Mitchell 

September 2008
My partner and I traveled with Air Canada from Montreal to Santa Clara on August 23rd returning on August 30th. We stayed at The Royal Hideaway Ensenachos (Spa section) booked with Air Canada Vacations.

The Resort: The facilities at the RH are true to five star standards as far as North American standards are stated. Beautifully appointed lobby with fresh flowers, shops, and bar. Very spacious making the resort feel very comfortable not crowded. A lower lobby level houses, the currency exchange office, shops, library, disco and two restaurants. As you walk into the lobby, you will get the feeling that Occidental did not spare any expense in the construction of this resort.

There are two beaches, Ensenacho and Megano. Both beaches are beautiful with bar service and snack bar. The nautical services are located on Megano at the center of the Key.

The rooms are located in three separate land sections on Ensenachos Key, from west to east: Suites, Hideaway and Spa. Each section has two story buildings that are numbered. Each sections has a pool and lunch restaurant. All well landscaped with lush tropical vegetation. The spa section contains a building housing the spa. What we found most interesting about the resort was the level of privacy made by the landscaping; buildings and pool are separated with vegetation making the resort feel appealing without the perception that the resort contains 500 rooms in numerous buildings. Sections and buildings are accessible by numerous walk paths.

Room: The rooms are well appointed and spacious. The bathrooms are big with separate European style shower stalls and the toilet is in its own little closet off the bathroom. There is a walk-in closet with safe and lots of room to store clothing. Mini-bar stocked daily satellite TV, DVD player with surround sound system. Not sure if the DVD player is compatible with North American DVD’s. All rooms have balconies.

Personnel & Services: The personnel at the resort are courteous and more than willing to help you with anything. A concierge is located at every building in the room sections making it easy to make reservations and get information. The bellhops are always ready and quick to transport you with a golf cart to anywhere on the property. Room service was quick; house cleaners did a fantastic job everyday in the rooms. The only failing with service was at breakfast and lunch, slow to be served, it took forever to get coffee and juice in the morning.

Food: Having vacationed in Cuba before expectations for fine cuisine was not very high. You do not go to Cuba for its fine dining or any other high culinary experience. Breakfast was lean and did not offer many choices, aside from an egg and crepe station I did not find anything to my liking. The breakfast meats were not very good and there were no potatoes. The fruit was either too ripe or not ripe and was not chilled but warm. Pastries were tasteless and the breads were bland. After three days of breakfast I skipped this meal for the rest of our stay, you cannot eat eggs only for 7 days or your cholesterol level will go through the roof. Lunch was à la carte, again tasteless, greasy and not much variety. Lots of fish and seafood but the preparation is always off with no spices and over cooked. Since we were there in low season, we had 5 à la carte dinners and 2 buffets dinners, I would have preferred 7 buffets where there are more options and choices, and you can see the food and know what to expect. À la carte dinners were bland, again no spices and everything is over cooked. The only undercooked items were the steaks, ask for medium and you get very rare blood dripping everywhere, ask for well done and it is the same texture as the sole of a shoe. The service at the dinners was outstanding and had a good choice of wines. In brief, cooking lacks refinement and precision it does not matter what themed restaurant (Italian, Asian...) you are in the food is bland, without spices, it cannot be distinct to a type of food.

Conclusion: I loved my vacation at this beautiful resort. Quiet relaxing beautiful beaches and pools is what I needed. Aside from the food, there is nothing wrong with this resort. If fine dining is not during your vacation then you will find it all here. I would return just for the properties facilities and secluded beach.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Chad 

July 2008
Stayed at RHE from March 27th to April 3rd. The resort was at MAXIMUM capacity this week. We went in a group of 6, ranging in age from 27-39. Overall GREAT! Would go there again, for sure! My last visit to Cuba prior to this was 1991 - and none of the other 5 in our group had ever been. (all have past experiences with All Inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic - 4* or better)

Flew Air Transat - great check-in at YYZ - Flight was on time departing, arrived a little early. In flight meal was ok - cold breakfast - nothing special, but it took the edge off.

Santa Clara Airport - very clean, and well appointed for a small airport. (on our way home we decided not to get the VIP package, and found that the regular snack bar was more than fair with selection and prices….we spent aprox $10 between the two of us, rather than $40 for VIP) Staff English skills were on par, if not better than the YYZ staff. Customs was quick and efficient - no 'scary' experiences here. I had votive candles in my carry-on, and I guess they looked kind of strange on the x-ray - so I had to open my bag - as soon as they realized what it was - I was free to go. (This was nothing compared to the 'Sensual Massage' I received earlier in the day from customs at YYZ!) Once through customs, we were on the bus headed for the Cayos.

I have to make an observation of the few little towns we were able to view on our way to and from the resort (Santa Clara, Caibarien, and Remedios) I was astounded at the level of pride these people take in their homes, and although it's obvious this is an economically depressed country - each house was kept neat and tidy, and most boasted flowers of some kind, and an obvious pride of ownership. Also - all of the people we saw in the streets seemed to be 'going somewhere' - as opposed to the Dominican, where the houses were most often in complete disarray - each gutter and ally was littered with masses of garbage, and the people just seemed to be 'hanging out' on porches, and at the side of the road. As for the causeway itself, try to plan your arrival in daylight hours - this is a beautiful drive! We had no trouble staying awake there and back - there was so much to see, and it was truly a beautiful drive.

The Resort: this place is HUGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE - 66 hectares - which is no small sack of potatoes!! It is as spectacular as it is big! Grounds are amazing! Gardens are breathtaking, and the gardeners, should be very proud of their work...those with a green thumb must visit the 'nursery' (leave the main lobby and head toward the Hideaway section - it will be on your left) and check out their herb garden, and newly propagated plants! Buildings are beautiful - I'd love to get a paint chip from the exterior building colour!

As far as location - we stayed on the Hideaway side - in Building 36 - If we were to do it again, we would have requested a building closest to the Lobby - as we were there frequently….each morning and evening - and quite often were making a long hike in dressy clothing, or in casual clothes for breakfast - and this walk can be quite hot....I would prefer to make the long walk to get to the beach or pool, (which we did once per day) in my swimming togs and flip flops, rather than heels! We did find the busboys quite helpful for getting to our dinner reservations on time, and without aching feet from walking all that way in heels! (NO, I will not leave the super-cute shoes at home!) Overall feel of the resort - I echo previous posters that said there is no 'Cuban' feel here....and although I understand the desire for the resort to appear 'high class' it would be nice to see this done in a 'Cuban' way. (perhaps similar to the Jamaican plantation decor - they do Pineapples galore - when done right it's very tasteful, and not 'cheesy' at all - let’s find the Cuban equivalent) We did not care for the indoor theatre….and we ate outdoors whenever possible, by 8pm the temperature had cooled considerably, and the breeze was heavenly. (even in long pants, my hubby was fine with this)

Staff: for a resort of this size, we were very happy to make connections with a few staff members - although quite often, we didn't see the same person more than once, and that makes it difficult to forge any kind of bond. That being said, I have to say that of those people we did have an opportunity to meet, I felt a much more 'genuine' vibe here....in the DR, I felt as though many of the people we dealt with were 'working an angle' and although we had very good service, many people seemed to be 'acting' the part, rather than actually being genuine about their dedication to their jobs. (To their credit, we did meet several amazing people in the DR, and I don't want to take anything away from the fantastic experiences we had with those individuals)

The golf cart drivers (busboys) were hysterical! I want to take a moment to honour Alexis - our best man....He was our most frequent driver, and we asked him throughout the week if he could take us on a tour of the resort, but due to the very high occupancy, this was difficult for the most part. He did make arrangements toward the end of our week, and we had an amazing time! What an asset he is to this resort! He's got a dry sense of humour that will have you in stitches!! Ask him about his Mother In Law! If we return to RHE, Alexis will be the first one we look for! I hope others have a chance to meet him, he is so great. He has a young family - a daughter of 12, and a boy, 5 - that he calls 'Hurricane Christian' I wished I had brought more 'things' with me that I could have sent home for his kids. We also had another fella that did some shuttle trips for us - Roberto - a super nice fellow who took great care of us. One of our gals is expecting, and he always asked her how the baby was. He was so sweet. He also took me up to the lobby late one night so I could deliver supplies to the dancers from the show (Band-Aids, blister care bandages, tights, make-up, feminine supplies, and some other toiletries) Roberto made sure I got back to my room safely.

Language barrier: we found that most employees spoke English very well, although we did encounter a few that had very limited skills, but on the whole we all commented how rusty our Spanish was getting, because we just weren't using it! I often wonder the motivation behind those who complain about the language barrier down south....You are going to a Spanish speaking country - how is it fair to demand that the residents there speak fluent English, when in our own, English speaking country, you can find MANY people employed in similar hospitality and service positions that are much worse!!

Food & Beverage: if I'm totally honest, it did not measure up to the fare we had in the DR, however, we're not on a level playing field...so, I'll skip the comparisons, and give you the highlights instead! Cappuccino - Cappuccino - Cappuccino - actually, I am still suffering severe withdrawal!!!! Also - Didn’t hear of anyone getting sick the entire time we were there - so in this respect Cuba has the DR beat, hands down!

Breakfast - we went to the buffet each morning - had omelettes, and bacon each morning (I'm not a crepe fan, but the other girls in our party had them every day, and they loved them) Croissant’s were amazing! Did I mention Cappuccino??

Lunch - split between the Megano and Marino snack bars, and the buffet. Megano (spa side) had better breaded chicken - but we preferred the Marino (Hideaway) side for everything else. LOVE the Crown of Shrimp and Artichokes - awesome Pizza, and you gotta love the Ensenachos Banana Split! I finally realized I could just ask for a scoop of chocolate ice cream with a banana instead of the whole big split - and I preferred this. Great fries, and the boys enjoyed the burgers and dogs too. Also - try the 'Old Clothes' and the Saltimbocca - very good as well. Oh, and the Cappuccino was great!

Dinners
Buffet - nice choices - we really found the buffet catered toward European tastes for all meals, but did find some new and different things we enjoyed. There was a large group from Spain on a conference during our stay - so I wonder if this may have made the Euro influence even more strong?? Service for the evening meal was very nice...we enjoyed our one dinner here

Asian - our least favorite - visited as a group of 6 we did not do the Tepenyaki table, but instead had the private dining room, and menu service. Everyone found their respective entrees very salty, almost to the point of being inedible. Spring rolls are everything they are hyped up to be! Soup was good too.

Italian - group of 4 - Cesar salad is different (has tuna in it?) but still quite good - had the steak here, and ordered a side of pasta - very nice.

Cuban - went in a group of 4 - our server, MARIO was possibly the most adorable server in the history of the world! He took immense pride in his work, and had an EXTENSIVE knowledge of the menu. He gave us a history lesson of how the 'Ajiaco' soup came to be, and even helped us to understand the meaning of the name 'Ensenachos'. We were blown away by his service.

Seafood - group of 6 - seated outside on the patio - what a beautiful evening! We had a very inexperienced server to start with, but he was very intent on doing things 'just right' and we were patient with him. He had to come back and clarify our drink orders, and was very embarrassed - but did a good job nonetheless. He eventually called for backup - and we had what appeared to be a very senior server on hand to supervise, and assist. We didn't mind this...hey, you've gotta learn somehow! We did find the service a tad slow, but this was to be expected, and just allowed us more time to digest between courses. By the time the entrees were served, our little waiter had loosened up, and was joking with us. We think he will go on to achieve great things! We had the Lobster Tail Risotto, and Beef Tenderloin together, as suggested by previous posters on various sites- it was divine!!

Grill - visited here as a couple on the first night - had the Shrimp Creviche - Lobster & Steak - and Three Milk dessert - absolutely amazing!! Ate here the following night as a group of 6 - and everything was amazing again, however the three milk dessert was totally different than the previous night - this time it appeared to be crumbled apple pie with ice cream on top. Still not bad, just not what we had expected. Of course, no dinner is complete without..........wait for it.............Cappuccino!!

Room Service
We found the menu very limited - and the few things we tried were really not to our liking. This is one area where we felt a very strong European vibe. I wonder if it would be possible to run the Room Service out of the Marino Snack bar - and offer a pared down list from it's Breakfast/Lunch/Snack menu? The room service guys however were all shining stars! I will never forget 'One for the Road, One for the Ditch' and the Secretary joke! These guys are too much!!!!

Concierge Service - our concierge Tammi was very nice, her English was excellent, and she tried her very best to get reservations for our group of 6. One of the evenings, she was unable to get us a reservation at all, and we were headed to the buffet- on our way, we noticed the Italian was only about 1/4 full - so we went in, and asked if we could eat there. NO problem! We were seated right away, and had a great meal! We also did this for our last dinner at the Grill - we simply called and asked - and again, this was greeted with 'of course, no problem' Also - keep in mind if your reservation time isn't to your preference, you can always call the restaurant directly, and ask if they have an alternate time available. We were able to change a 6pm reservation to 8pm by doing this.

Maid service - I found this to be more of a fluff and fold than a good cleaning each day - however, we are pretty tidy people, so didn't mind much. The towels weren't changed too frequently - but we always made a point of hanging them up to dry - so perhaps this is why. We rarely left them in the tub (the new international 'change my towels' lingo) Sheets were not changed for the duration of our stay. (with the exception of the evening chambermaid we had to call when our phone fell off the nightstand and knocked a full glass of red wine onto the bed!)

Rooms - beautiful! well appointed and spacious - I loved the closet, and the bathroom, my hubby loved the TV and surround sound!
***TIP*** we bought a travel power converter/adaptor from Canadian Tire - and it DID NOT work - but on day 3 we realized that there IS an adaptor hidden in every room....however, if you’re not careful, it may kill you! PM me if you need instructions!

Pools - very nice! Each side has a very good sized pool, and a well equipped bar. We visited both sides, but tended to frequent the Hideaway side, as it was closer. Shout out to the 'dream team' at the Hideaway pool bar - Zaidy - Alia - Adonis, and a very hardworking Estudiente (never did get his name) did a great job! I feel they could have used a few more hands on deck, as they were responsible for quite a boatload of people, and this did seem to slow the service somewhat, but they were always working hard to make sure everyone was happy. We enjoyed our late afternoon cruise with the ‘booze barge’ floatie!

Beach - what can I say that hasn't been said? In a word, breathtaking. Spent time at each beach, snorkelled the boat (echoes of Finding Nemo 'Don't touch the Butt'! LOL) walked out to the sandbar, snorkelled from Megano over to the Punta Nautico - snorkelled the right hand side of Ensenachos and saw a small (thankfully!) barracuda here! Just an amazing beach experience to be had here.

Animation - there was a 'good college try' put forth by a few folks each day around the Hideaway pool....not too many participants, so we liked to try and get in there. Rocka, rocka!! Disco - was what you made of it - we went one night when the Spanish conference group was there, and ripped it up until 3am! We had a blast! DJ Anderson did great job, and Marco (Polo!) kept our whistles wet, and then some from the bar! We then continued the 'after party' at the Marino snack bar, and had even more fun. Because the bungalows are a distance from the pool, this did not seem to cause any distress to those already in bed. (our room was quite close to the pool, and when we finally called it a night, we made a point to try and see if we could hear the party...not a sound unless you were outside on the patio, and then it was a not even a dull roar!)

Excursions - did the SeaDoos from Cayo Las Brujas - if you like adventure - do this!!!!!!! Our entire group of 6 booked together, so we took up all the seats for our session. We were told that the guides will adjust the pace to your preference - and we went full throttle! We heard other groups took it quite a bit slower - so maybe do some chatting on the forum meeting place before your trip and find some like-minded people, and try to book together. Book this your first day - as it fills up fast! We seriously considered booking a second round on this trip - but decided to use this money to tip instead...at this point in the week, we had found a few employees that were going above and beyond, and felt that we would rather pass our appreciation along to them.

Art - please go and see Yandry in the lower level of the Lobby! He does exquisite work! We bought a painting of a 1957 Chevy for my Father, and he LOVES it! I wish I had seen his work earlier in the week, because he apparently had quite a few of his original abstract pieces, but there were only 2 left by the time I found him! : (

Evening Entertainment - we tend to eat late (prefer 8pm sitting) so quite often, the shows were well underway, or over by the time we meandered into the lobby. Did see the Spanish and Cuban Shows, and thought they were well done - but not really high quality. We briefly attended the Beach party on our first night - this looked like fun - and had this not been our first night, we probably would have been more involved - but we were just too tired!

Mosquitoes - not one bite among the 6 of us - and again, we spent a considerable amount of time outdoors after dark!

We had a great time, and were sad to go home. I don’t know if we’d return ,only because we have other places we’d like to visit. I’d recommend it to anyone, and if I did a trip with my Mom, I think it would be great! We were worried that it would be too quiet, and although it is not a ‘party’ resort - we did manage a few moments of ‘mayhem’ without bothering anyone else. (I hope!!) I don’t know that it’s ultra romantic, but it sure is peaceful and relaxing, and is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life. Met lots of very nice folks here, and everyone seemed to really be enjoying their stay.

Don't hesitate to book this resort - it's great!
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Lynn 
Ottawa
June 2008
I just returned from a one-week stay at the Royal Hideaway Cayo Ensenachos in Cuba.

The resort is located just west of Cayo Santa Maria, on the north shore of the island and west of the Cayo Coco/Cayo Guillermo archipelago.

Arrival and Flight
We arrived on Air Transat at about 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 15. The bus trip in was very interesting, although the Pedraplen chunk was kind of dull. But I love travelling through Cuban towns and villages; people wave and smile.

Rooms
Our room was gorgeous. This is our seventh trip to Cuba but our first at a non-Melia resort, so found it different (no perky murals and swooshy draperies) but very elegant, spacious and comfortable. Cool, polished marble floors, a huge king-size bed, comfortable furnishings, a delightful balcony from which to snoop at the goings on and enjoy the tropical heat. The bathroom is excellent; the separate shower stall/deep tub was useful, as were the “telephone” shower heads in both – made cleaning off after a day snorkeling and rinsing out our clothes and gear a snap. The separate toilet area was handy, too…enough said.

Restaurants
Since this is definitely their low season – less than 200 guests compared to their capacity of almost a thousand – things were understandably throttled back. The breakfast buffet was limited but you could always get a delicious omelette and/or pastries, and there were no lineups for the omelette bar or toaster. Five or six fresh fruits, cold cuts, cheeses, fresh fruit juices. Frankly, considering they’re catering to North Americans, South Americans, and Europeans – all of whom have a very different notion of what should constitute “breakfast” – they did fine. The fresh OJ is worth the flight; the coffee is superb; the staff were adorable.

Lunch was generally offered at the El Megano “snack bar” – fairly elegant spot with an excellent selection of fish, hamburgers, salads, some Cuban dishes, etc. All very good, and service was great. You could also get lunch at the beach grill, but very limited – burgers, dogs, grilled sandwiches. However, it was kind of nice to keep the occasional lunch small; too much good food!

Dinners “rotated” around the a la carte restaurants, with the buffet open one night. Our wonderful concierge, Osmani, took care of all the bookings and we just rolled with whatever we got. The Asian restaurant wouldn’t satisfy purists, but it was lots of fun, and hey, you’re in Cuba, not Hokkaido! The Italian restaurant was just fine (again, you’re getting the Cuban version of things) with a wonderful little woodwind quartet playing as we dined. The seafood restaurant was really good – we were very entertained by a huge thunderstorm, which showed well in the 240-degree surround windows! I found the “Gourmet Restaurant” was okay – we had a slightly chippy waitress – but I was a bit disappointed in the food. Maybe getting spoiled by then?

Overall, the usual Cuban food review: if you’re going to an economically challenged country looking for fine dining, you’re setting yourself up. Expect clean, fresh and a bit of variety and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. As a fish and seafood fan, I was in heaven.

Bars
Excellent. And again, because there were so few guests, service was practically instanteous and courteous. The 24-hour Lobby Bar also stocks pastries around the clock and has an excellent espresso/cappuccino machine so if you miss breakfast, hey…. The bars at the Megano Beach, the pool, and the El Megano snack bar were equally well supplied and service was excellent. Excellent mojitos, and I’m an officionada, as well as A-1 daiquiries, Cuba libres. Apparently their Bahama Mama is lovely.

Beach and Pools
Both the Playa Megano and Playa Ensenachos beaches were by far the best we’ve encountered in Cuba – and we’ve seen a lot of them. An excellent combination of smooth, soft sand sloping gradually from the beach, so very easy to get in and out of, and coral close to shore at either end of the Megano beach which made for delightful snorkeling. Playo Ensenachos was deserted. We toddled over to the east end of the beach from our Hideaway room and… no-one there. One Cuban security/life guard chap wayyyyy in the distance, but we may as well have owned it. Admittedly, they had closed the beach bar at “our” end but we weren’t there to drink, we were there to enjoy the sea. And the snorkeling was very pleasant. We’ve been to the Paradisus Rio de Oro, which has (arguably) a “better” coral bank close in to shore, but it’s a smaller, busier beach, very choppy, and you can only safely enter in one narrow area cleared and pontooned off. Otherwise, lots of sharp black coral jabbing your feet at the Paradisus. At the RHE, wider variety of sea life including lots of starfish, and charming tiny fish that nibble at your toes (painlessly) by the shore.

The pool in the Hideaway section was, again, empty for the first few days we were there. A couple of other tourists discovered it as the week went on but still, a quiet, delicious oasis. The Jacuzzi was running – it’s a honker! – but did feel extraneous, given the heat. The drinks and service at the pool bar were great. Tip: don’t ask room service for ice; since they don’t charge for it, they don’t make it a priority. Instead, ask for a couple of disposable glasses of ice at the pool or lobby bar to take back to your room for your drinks there (we always buy a nice little rum, etc. for the room) or bring plastic thermos cups and use them. Give the barkeep a 50-centavo to 1 peso tip.

And tip the staff! We probably spent about 30 or so pesos on tips, equivalent to less than CD$40 – for seven days’ superb service.

Grounds
Absolutely gorgeous; breathtaking. The hotel is, however, on a “mangrove-reclaimed” island so the bugs can be bad. The hotel sprays at least once a day (known as Stinky Time – head for your room, pronto!) but even so you’re wise to bring repellent and use it in the morning and evening. Lovely fountains, bougainvilla-arched walkways, and lovely flora. And fauna! Large, laid-back iguana couple lives near the pool; they like banana bits. Lots of little skinks, crabs (the large variety and the hysterical hermit crabs, too), birds (I finally saw a zunzun, the world’s smallest bird!). Like the Melia chain, the RHE has cats to control the potential “critter problem”. Don’t feed them, however tempted you might be; they’ll sit yowling outside your room, and besides, you want them hunting. Having discovered a family of mice behind a bidet at another hotel once, trust me on this. Let the cats be cats. They’re pretty cute, though; and I’m a dog lover.

Activities and Entertainment
As mentioned by others, this is a pretty quiet resort, especially in the off-season. Easy to get a pickup game of volleyball going on the beach, but since we were primarily interested in swimming, snorkeling, and the occasional paddle-boat or kayak expedition, we were well amused ourselves. Frankly, I’m not big on the Enforced Jollity that is shoved on you at some resorts. Most evenings offered some live music or a theatrical event; the disco was operating (but largely unused, which is a shame – it’s a hoot).

Tours
This is one you’ll need to decide for yourself. We got a taxi to take us to Caibarien and Remedios, as we wanted to explore on our own. Fabulous driver, Roly, whose English was very good and he have us the “insider tour” as he lives in C. and seems to know everyone in R.! The church in Remedios, with a wonderful tour by Cuban National Treasure Esteban Grande was a real highlight, and we’re not church-y people. Amazing.

That said, definitely sign up for the catamaran trip; they take you to the most beautiful reef I’ve ever seen – a garden under the sea. Wonderful, wonderful day and (believe it or not) Too Much Lobster for lunch. Urp.

Departure and Check Out
Our concierge handled everything. He issued us a little ticket to show the bus driver, walked us through the proceedings, and all went very smoothly.

Conclusion
We’d definitely go back, although except for the beach it’s not quite as nifty as the Paradisus. They’re doing a lot of things right – the concierge system is brilliant – and I’m confident they’ll have the few remaining kinks in this relatively new hotel ironed out soon.

One other note: we met young couples who were in Cuba for the first time, and who’d brought down SPF 8 sun lotion, no bug spray, no aloe vera gel, and who got burnt to a crisp on their first day. Yikes! Sun rash and even future melanomas are a real possibility if you aren’t careful. Better to slather on the sunblock (minimum 40, higher if you’re fair-skinned), and accumulate a healthy glow over your stay, than be in agony on day two and for the rest of your trip.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Gayle 
New Brunswick
May 2008
My husband and I stayed at the Royal Hideaway in Mach 2008 and had a wonderful trip. We would definately return. We have travelled many times to the Carribean and I always find it had to believe that there are so many disapointed travellers out there. You are on vacation - relax and enjoy your surroundings

Flight: Our Transat flight was uneventful - on time, not rough - kudos to WestJet. Lorraine, our on-site respresntative was the best we have ever had on any of our holidays.

Check-in: We arrived late in the evening; however check-in went fast. The map that was provided worked well (unfortunately I was reading it upside down). Once that was rectified, we started walking to our room only to be picked up by a passing cart. Our luggage did not arrive for a while so we decided to check out the resort - find our bearings.

Accomodations: We had stayed at the Royal Hideaway in Mexico so knew what to expect - very similar rooms. The fridge was well stocked with what we had requested. The shower head had to be fixed but that was done quickly.

Property: The gardeners do an awsome job on the surroundings. Note: The suites are a long way from the main lobby but if you want a quiet place to vacation they are perfect.

Food: The A-la-cart restaurants were very good, expecially the Asian, nice atmosphere, the chef was the entertainment. We ate at four of the restaurants and enjoyed them all, as well as the buffet.

Entertainment: There was entertainment it the lobby and lobby bar nightly as well as a show in the auditorium. This is not a hotel for the young and restless - but your brouchure and travel agents will inform you of that. We did not check out the disco so I can not comment.

Shopping. There were local handicrafts brought in for purchasing as well a jewellry store, convenience store and cigar store. So if there are any men who don't like to shop, this might appeal to you.

Beach: 100% We walked on both beaches every day. We did not have any problems getting chairs (and no we did not save chairs with our towels); however they could use some more shaded areas.

Pools: The pools are large, have swim-up bars, lots of chairs, food, what more could you want.

I would certainly recommend this hotel. I did not mind the walk to the restaurants, beach, etc; however if you want to be on the beach and do not want to walk anywhere - try the Royal Hideway in Mexico - it is situated directly on the beach.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Stephanie 

May 2008
My parents, sister and I stayed at the Royal Hideaway Ensanachos from April 26th to May 4th 2008.

Before we booked this trip, like many others, we read many, many reviews and I said that when I was done with my vacation, I would turn around and do the same for people researching their vacations. I have never stayed anywhere outside of Canada since I was about 11, so my opinion is based on only what I experienced at this resort, and have nothing to compare it to. (So take my review for what it’s worth).

Flight: We flew into Cuba with Sky Service. Again I haven’t flown on an airplane since grade 5, but I really was excited to get on a plane and go somewhere. I have no fear of flying, but after a good solid hour and a half of rough turbulence, I was about as fearful as I could possibly be. To quote one man from the plane “It was like riding in the back seat of a Hummer for two hours”.

They offered us a sandwich, which was pretty good. They offered pop, water and a granola bar, plus food, drink and duty free were available for purchase. The in-flight movie was very up to date and kept you occupied. There were zero delays with our schedule to and from Toronto, which was nice because I believe those from Montreal were delayed on their departure from Santa Clara.

The plane is very cramped for space, you feel almost as if you’re packed into that plane like a sardine or something. My suggestion is to keep a few things with you to keep you occupied for the 3 hour flight, and leave most of it above you in the compartment as to conserve leg room. We had no problems at the Santa Clara airport; however it is a little daunting when you’re forced to speak to a customs agent that doesn’t speak very good English.

Bus Ride to Hotel: Surprisingly not that bad. We filled the seats and off we went. Unfortunately when we arrived it was dark and couldn’t see the town which we were passing by. The only upside to the dark trip was seeing the inside of their little shacks because they have no doors. The man who was our “tour guide” told us that it would be an hour and a half trip, but it felt more like an hour and 10 minutes. Since there are hardly any vehicles on the road to begin with, and even less at 10pm, the bus driver was free to speed all the way to the resort. I don’t suggest you bringing a sweater on the ride to the resort as you’ll likely be dying of heat. Perhaps you might want to bring some CUC’s (their currency) and get a pop/water/beer before you board the bus.

Check In: We unloaded from the bus and made our way to a conference room. We were offered Champagne and a small snack if you wanted to be daring. (However it looked like it had been there a while) We sat and listened to a small speech that was almost literally underway as soon as we arrived. The only hold up was the people who would have had rather sat in the lobby and listened instead of joining the rest of the group. We were asked to line up into two lines with Hotel vouchers in hand. After getting our keys we were sent on our way with resort map in hand, and stickers to identify your luggage. You are literally sent on your way, to find your room in the dark... but you could always do what my Dad did... ask the Bartender for the right direction as the map is TOTALLY useless. Our luggage arrived 40 minutes after we found our room, which was slightly annoying since I had NO light clothes on and had to undress into my robe.

Bungalows/Rooms: These Bungalows, as their called, are very clean and beautiful buildings. Two floors of rooms encase a really nice court yard. The sky is easily seen through the top of this structure. I never got sick of walking out in the morning and looking at this living arrangement.

The rooms are stunning. The curtains and bead spreads match, and are accented with really nice dark wood tables and dressers. The floors and walls of the bathroom look like they’re made of marble (very well could be, except I’m not a stone expert). The tub, sink, and shower are stunning, and inside the bathroom is a privacy door for just the toilet. There is a closet, to hang your clothes, a safe (which is very easy to operate), an entertainment centre which comes with a TV, stereo system – including subwoofer, DVD player, mini fridge, and ice bucket. Our room was on the top floor, so we had a walk out patio with two chairs and a table, as well as a large section of windows by our bed. Our room was in the 2400’s section, so the view wasn’t that exciting, but very private. The one thing I really wanted to have information on before we left was voltage coming out of the power outlets. It’s European, so if you’re from Canada, bring a converter and an adapter and don’t plug anything into the “shaver” plug in the bathroom unless it has a high limit listed on the back of your appliance.

Grounds: So many plants, and all in great shape. The ground staff work very hard in keeping everything trimmed. All the plants have tiny signs identifying what they are. Aside from beauty, I really believe that they put all these plants, and signs all over the place, to keep your eyes occupied while you walk for an eternity to get where you’re going. I haven’t mentioned this until now, but keep the number 7 in mind – because unless you like walking 10 minutes to eat breakfast, or 15 minutes to get down to the beach in the blistering heat, you will want to call a golf cart service to drive you around. I didn’t find this out until it was too late.

Food: Awful!!!!! Food should be worth at least one star out of their 5, making them only a 4 star resort.

I’m fairly picky with what I like to eat... and although I didn’t go hungry for 7 days, I certainly wasn’t satisfied either. I knew going to Cuba would mean that the food would be lacking in comparison to what you get in Toronto, but I wasn’t expecting to eat Olives and cold French fries for breakfast, in order to keep myself going. Breakfast was always a struggle. Two egg stations were set up the first couple of days we were there, but it got cut down to one after a while. Good eggs actually- you’re choice of omelette, fried, scrambled etc. However the egg chef only has the ability to make two at once it seems. At this area, there were crepes being made also. If I had more patience I would have eaten omelettes and crepes everyday for breakfast, but the line ups were unreal most days. Toast, or bread was readily available, however they would run of the butter and not replenish it. No peanut butter is available and I saw some people bringing their own condiments from home. (Obviously professional eaters). The things you would think of for breakfast were not offered, and if they were, they’d be empty. Bacon was available, but it is very hard to separate, seems they throw it into the deep fryer before separating it. Many hot dog variations and many crappy, stale pastries for your eating pleasure. It seemed to me that they would just put out any kind of food as long as they filled up their food stations. For breakfast, they would put out olives, cabbage, salad dressings, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach croquettes, cold meat and cheese that would be sitting so long, and all sorts of meat shavings they would put under oil. The fruit should have been better in my opinion. They always had pineapple, guava, bananas, watermelon.... but majority of the fruit wasn’t ripe, or was overly ripe. I never saw a pineapple that wasn’t white and hard, and the bananas were growing an abundance of brown spots. On one particular day, they were offering many dishes of canned fruit. Seems odd at a tropical resort...The one thing they did have however was a truck load of cereals and milk.

I never saw the lunch buffet, so I can’t make a review about that – I mostly ate at the beach where they offered BBQ snacks; hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken burgers, and tuna sandwiches. The beach bar and snack bar were mostly a good 5 minutes walking distance from the far away umbrellas and chairs so they would always bring you your food... but order in advance, because it would normally take 30 minutes for delivery.

The Al A Carte dinner that got me going back for more was the Asian one (Azia). The seafood restaurant (Pirata) and the Italian( Palazzo) were garbage!!! We didn’t have a chance to visit a 4th restaurant as it was closed due to the off season. We had 6:30pm reservations for these places, and ended up running to the buffet for more dinner.

If I can recommend anything for the Al A Carte dinners, it’s that you order everything double. These Cubans must eat like birds because they certainly feed you the smallest portions.

In conclusion – bring yourself some snacks; chips, peanuts, candy bars, whatever it is, bring enough to last you 7 days because you will go batty.

Try and eat at the Pool restaurant “La Megano” as they offered the most decent food on the whole resort. Chicken fingers with fries, pasta with 4 cheeses, lasagne, and brownies with ice cream. (Keep in mind too, that nothing comes out the way you’re expecting. I.e. Caesar salad was lettuce, bacon and bread chucks and topped with what tasted like mayo.)

Beach; Definitely a 5 star beach. I couldn’t ask for anything more. The water is crystal clear and you could see right down to the sand with ease. There was no seaweed on the beach, and if there was, it was all gone every day before 10am. They say that you cannot reserve chairs and umbrellas, but who knows if people are, or aren’t. The one thing to keep in mind is that when my family went, they were very much under capacity and a lot of the beach chairs and umbrellas were already filled up. The water has red markers in it, not really sure why since its salt water and you float no matter the depth, but again, no reason for the markers. You’re able to rent paddle boats or sailboats, and during the afternoon hours, the hobby cat boats will show up to take you for a ride. My parents did this sailing trip, about 10 minutes; they said it was a blast. There are two beaches at this resort but I only really saw the one. My sister and I used the snorkels that my parents brought from home and paddle boated out to the sunken ship. Very awesome sights here and I would recommend you bring an underwater camera (or two) if you go!

Staff: I went into this vacation thinking that the staff should know decent enough English as they work at a resort where the majority of the guests speak English... but I was wrong. You’re able to communicate with the staff enough to get through your vacation, but some of the staff only know the words they need to know. We had one waitress serving us dinner, I asked her for pop instead of water or wine... she looked at me blankly and then walked away. We had great maids, they made us tiny creatures out of towels every day, and sometimes they would leave us notes.

Some of the waitresses were awesome, and would try their very best to communicate with us. It was great to see them try, as most of the other staff wouldn’t try that hard. The “tour guide” on the bus ride back to the airport was pretty awesome too. He expressed his love for Canadians and his hatred for Americans, which was funny to hear.

Pool: The pool was great! Always very clean and the temperature seemed to be perfect. There is one deep section, about 7 feet in depth and the rest of the pool is about 4-5 feet deep. The swim up bar is really awesome too. You don’t have to give an arm or leg to get a drink and they offer a menu of drinks if you can’t make up your mind. They offer a couple types of beer throughout the resort, but I think they only have one type at the pool. There are two sections to the pool, we stayed on the section with the bar always because it was bigger but you’re welcome to have a pool boy bring your drinks for you if you’re on the other side. There is a “hot” tub, but I never went in it.... seems kind of pointless since it’s like a million degrees outside.

The pool comes with blue floating mats, but there never were many of them around. People would get one and drag it up onto the pool deck so they could use it again when they got back in the pool. Drove me nuts! But if I wanted to, I could have easily spent the entire vacation in the pool (and some did).

Entertainment: Very little to do during the day around the pool, beach and resort. If you want any kind of excitement or activities during the day you won’t find them here. It was even a treat to hear quiet Cuban music playing at the pool or beach bar. If you're looking to relax, this is the place. No children, no screaming people, no pool splashers, no drunken messes. At night, there seemed to be the most entertainment. If you’re up for it, there is a jumbo checkers board and a jumbo chess board to play on, as well as a ping pong table and tennis courts. Graviota Tours offers the rental of mopeds or bicycles, or even a car if you want. However, unless you’re a 2 sum, with great insurance, I wouldn’t suggest the cars or the mopeds. My parents rented the bikes, and even that was a chore since none of their equipment is in good working condition. One night we heard an awesome band, maybe like a high school band or something. Very great music, but they ended up in the disco just as we were showing up. Always seemed to be band or live music, whether it was in the lobby bar or in the foyer. Sometimes there were shows in the theatre, but I only attended one.

If you’re not into live bands or Cuban music, bring a deck or cards and play in the lobby bar. This resort is mainly for 30-80 year olds, so if you’re gathering up a bunch of young friends to drink your faces off for a week, don’t come here.

Conclusion: I would return to this resort.... but knowing what I know now, I’d make sure to bring the essentials with me. Also, don’t ever go out in the sun for a long period of time without sun screen on. You will burn everywhere!! I sat in the sun on my first day and got pretty badly burnt, and it lasted all week. Also, if you’re booking, send out an email to make sure that you don’t book your trip when the Italians are showing up. On our last night at the resort a whole plane load of them arrived. They were treated like gold... they had better food; better arrangements and they reserved almost the entire buffet seating for them. I’ve read other reviews that said they were noisy and rude... so take my advice and check before booking. Make sure you hit a dollar store and buy yourself a big mug or cup. If you don’t bring this with you, you will be miserable with the plastic cup size... very tiny. Also, try and bring small toys, gifts, toiletries for the staff. They warn you in the briefing about giving all your presents to the maids as they get the best tips, and it’s true. There is many many staff that could use any donations... I always felt sorry for the gardeners or pool bar staff. Again, this hotel would be a great 5 star if they could get their meals and food service together better. Everything is almost perfect, until you have to eat. Enjoy your vacation!! Email me if you have any more questions (Stephanie_n_mann@yahoo.ca)
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Brian and Eden 
Hamilton, ON, Canada
May 2008
This is our 2nd trip to Cuba -- our first time was 10 years ago and we did not have a good experience then, but many people have told us that it has improved and that we should give it another chance. However we are still not impressed and feel that their food still needs North American influence. We have also been to the Dominican 8 times, the Mayan Riviera twice and the Bahamas twice.

We will NOT go back. We had a good time, not fabulous, but of course we believe in having a good time no matter where we go -- but we will not be returning. It just isn't for us.

We're not fussy people and we realize that this is slow season but we usually travel during the slow season to get the good deals and have never been this disappointed. Others at the resort talked openly about their disappointments as well and said they won't return.

This resort is boasted to be a "TRUE" 5 star and although we got a good deal we do not believe that this should be reflected on how we are treated, 5 star resorts treat their guests with 5 star service at all times, not just in high season, it's why they have good ratings. We do not consider this a 5 star, especially their food. I truly believe that their food would be considered 3 star anywhere else in the Caribbean.

Arrival/Departure -- Check-in/Check-out:
- all went very smooth both ways, no problem there -- Sky Service took us there and Air Transat took us home.

Accommodation:
- we were not given accommodation in the section we booked which is the Royal Hideaway
- the Royal Hideaway (RH) is close to everything, rooms, pools, restaurants, beach and the majority of the rooms in this section have King size beds, their own reviews write: [• 219 King-size bed rooms and 51 double bedded rooms (including 10 Duplex 2-story suites and 5 rooms specially adapted for the disabled) • Duplex suites are two-stories with bedroom, living room, terrace and balcony]
- we were given a room in the Spa area it had 2 - 3/4 beds
- the SPA area of this resort is a minimun 20 minute walk to the BEACH!!!!
- It would have only been a 5 minute walk from the Royal Hideaway section
- they have a person running around the resort with one of those golf cart things, but staff were not in abundance so they were pretty busy with the guests who were coming and going with luggage (and I am certainly not blaming them!)
- I spoke to a manager (there are many, but I did get past those at the front desk) -- I explained to him that we had booked the Royal Hideaway, and requested a room close to the beach with a King Size bed via our travel agent -- he said they had not received any such request, I said that I KNOW our travel agent made these requests and he said that NO they hadn't -- I have been with our travel agent for six years, trust me, she made the request
- I was informed that the RH section was being closed for renovations, and that this was all they had to offer. I said it was professional to advise booking agents of these changes so that they are able to advise their guests of these things before they book. He just said this is all we have.
- I said that since we are being put in the Spa section, by their choice not ours, if that also meant we were entitled to Spa "extras" and he said NO. I said that I believed that this was the least they could do since they were not able to give us rooms in the section we originally booked and that we were being inconvienced. He said they were unable to do anything. Not very professional. their own reviews write: [All Guests staying in the Royal Spa section (7 day minimum stay) will enjoy the following Royal Spa Experience at no extra charge: • Spa Gift (1 per stay) • Massage (1 per stay) • Facial (1 per stay) • Pedicure (1 per stay) • Manicure (1 per stay) • Daily Royal Night turn down and flowers on the bed.]
- I did find that calling home was inexpensive, about $10 for a call that's approx. 5 minutes -- I was told by our rep that the internet service can be very slow and it costs about $8 for 30 minutes so if it takes a long time to connect I thought I'd just call home instead so that was a bonus.

Entertainment:
- there wasn't any
- no pool activities, no bocce balls or horseshoes, there wasn't anyone doing water aerobics, stretching nothing -- this was to take place in the RH area and b/c that was closed for renos th
ey cancelled that too
- NEVER seen any entertainment/activity staff, not evey one person - beach volleyball was the only thing offered
- I think there was entertainment one night inside a theatre in the main building, but there weren't any staff advertising or encouraging guests to attend
- they did have hobbie cats, paddle boats which we did take out, but it too was at the other end of the resort of where our rooms were, but is close to the RH section, it was a 30 minute walk away from our room

Bars:
- the pool and lobby bars are great, the staff there are wonderful -- great people and lots of variety of drinks -- they seemed to have everything except clamato juice which is only now becoming popular to resorts so that is understandable

Pools, Beach & Grounds:
- their pools and grounds are very clean, and very lush
- lots of shade if you'd like it, some have umbrellas but lots of arbors filled with beautiful flowers or palm trees to protect you from the sun, this part is truly amazing
- the best part of the pools is Albarto, as soon as he sees you he'll be back within seconds with a beautiful lounge pad for your lounger -- he's awesome!!
- my husband loved the beach, it's lovely, the nicest in Cuba (they tell us) but I enjoy the beaches in Punta Cana the most

Gastronomy:
- the food at the buffet is VERY limited and poor, very POOR food
- 2 of the people in our group were served raw food on 2 separate occaisions (cooked on the outside, raw inside, one was chicken fingers at the pool bar dining room and the other was a hamburger from the main buffet)
- poor variety in fruits, warm dishes, desserts (their desserts are very limited)
- had a variety of meat (pork, chicken, hamburger, didn't see any beef -- no steak to be found), fish and salads, but the quality wasn't great
- food was cold -- always cold -- they have warming lamps but don't put the food plates directly under them so they aren't using them to their full advantage
- on Friday night the place was like a ghost town, half the buffet was shut down, what food was there was terrible -- hardly any staff
- Saturday night was better but that was b/c travel agents from Italy were visiting the resort, they even sat them in a section area, blocked to the rest of us, and dressed up very nicely like it was a wedding -- more variety and better quality of fruits / salads / meats etc. -- did not go over well with many of the guests, they also gave them a beach party which guests were NOT invited to and that too did not go over very well with other guests
- on our last day there we went to the main dining room for breakfast, they didn't seat us, they just waved us in so we sat down at a table and went into the buffet to get our food -- when we came out and sat down a guy told us this section was now closed -- there were other people in the same section so how was a person to know it was being closed? we already had our food and it was getting cold, and there weren't any clean tables in the other sectin so we sat down but we were not served ANY beverages, not water, juice, nothing, we were ignored -- however he did continue to serve other people that in were in the same area, other guests were also waved into the dining room, not seated, and they too were ignored -- how is a person to know the area is closed if they don't seat you? -- not impressed
- al a-carte restaurants were fine, lots complained that the Asian was horrible but we actually enjoyed it, Italian was good and the Seafood was just ok
- many people at the resort, including us were really sick, not the normal stuff that one experiences when you go away to a resort, this was much worse

- I know that this is a different country and that the food and beverages there are much different from here but we're pretty used to that, we go south almost twice a year so I think we have a pretty good idea of what to expect, we had our medicine every day and it was late in our vacation when we took sick
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Ray 

April 2008
My wife and I stayed at the RHE from Mar.22 - Apr.5. The whole experience was simply amazing. Here it is

Flight: We flew SkyService. We were a little concerned about them as we read horror stories of them changing times, delays, etc. Our flight had no issues whatsoever. Left on Time, Arrived on time. Down side was leg room, but it is what it is. Won't comment on the food as its airline food and we know better, right? No problems at Santa Clara airport. Customs and security, as well as baggage pickup, went smoothly.

Check-in: Again was a breeze. After our 90 min. drive(air conditioned, of course) we arrived at the resort. We were met by resort staff and taken to a meeting room where we were offered cooling towels as well as a glass of Champagne. A small speech welcoming us and then we formed 2 lines to receive our room assignments. After getting our keys we were sent on our way with resort map in hand. Luggage will be taken care of. A little trouble finding our building, since it was dark and not a lot of staff around to guide you. Luggage arrived 10 mins. after we found our room.

Rooms; Absolutely elegant. Pictures do not do them justice. We were in the Hideaway section, building #41, second floor. We overlooked a wonderful garden. Right on the pathway to beach. Bathroom was great. Separate tub and shower.

Grounds; Simply stunning. They ground staff work so very hard in keeping everything trimmed. We liked the fact that some of the shrubs had little signs telling you what the plant was. Its obvious that the gardeners and groundskeepers take pride in their work.

Food: We tried all the al a cartes, as well as the buffet. The al a cartes were good, however we'd say that the buffet was not up to a 5 star standard , even for Cuba. That's not to say that you won't find something you'll like. As for the al a cartes my wife preferred the Cuban( Creole), and I liked the International, although the others we all good as well.

Beach; Simply stunning. Definitely a 5 star beach in any part of the world, in our opinion. Spent our days on Playa Megano. Didn't go to Playa Ensenachos as we spent our days on Megano. The walk to the point was excellent. Each day brought something new to see. We found that the resort being at capacity there was not enough sun loungers and certainly not enough palapas. You could ask the beach guys to set up a umbrella for you, but those are also limited.

Staff: We had a positive experience with everyone we came in contact with. Right from the guys that rake the seaweed on the 2 beaches to the General Manager. All in our opinion top notch. They are there to help you in any way they can. Can't say enough about our concierge Mikhail. He's one of the good guys. Is there for your every need and want.

Entertainment: This is a area in which we found the resort to be lacking. Very little to do during the day around the pool and at the beach. If you are wanting that sort of thing then the RHE you'll find disappointing. If you're looking to relax, this is the place. The shows at times were non-existent. The concert band was excellent as was the piano player in the lobby bar.

All in All we had a great time at the RHE. Again its big and spread out. For a 5* resort in Cuba it comes really close to the mark with a few minor bumps along the way. This can happen at any resort, but at a 5* its magnified and not expected. Oh and by the way did we mention the beach...lol
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Cheryl 

March 2008
My friend and I were here March 3 to March 16/08. PARADISE. We have decided we will not go anywhere else now, only here. Beaches, water, rooms, grounds, pools, staff, transportation on the resort, all excellent. Italian a la carte particularly good (our favourite) Having your own concierge in each bungalow was a definite bonus. All in all, you feel you are in a 5 star and that you are being treated royally. We met the greatest people and had the ultimate holiday.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Caribbean Queen 

March 2008
This review is for those who would like to know the difference between the Paradisus Rio de Oro (Holguin) and the Occidental Royal Hideaway Ensenachos (Santa Clara) resorts. We are a Canadian couple in our late 40's, and have travelled extensively in the Caribbean over the last 10 years. The last visit (we've been a few times) to the PRDO was the first week of December, 2007 and our first visit to the RHE was this winter, 2008.

Comparisons: the Paradisus Rio de Oro and the Royal Hideaway Ensenachos
    The Check-in
  • PRDO: Quick and efficient, with champagne and wet cloth upon arrival and keys within minutes. Once you are checked in you go along with your bellboy and suitcases to your room, in a golf cart. He makes sure you get into your room, and brings your luggage in for you.
  • RHE: Also quick and efficient, with champagne and wet cloth upon arrival and keys within minutes. You are brought to your bungalow, dropped off, and then your luggage arrives later, we had a 90-minute wait for our luggage… not great when you arrive at 11pm! Also, our key didn’t work, so we had to use the phone at the unattended concierge desk to have another one delivered. So we waited outside our room, in the central court for 20 minutes before we could enter our room. Next time, we will just grab a drink from the Lobby Bar and wait at the front Foyer, until our luggage is ready to come along with us. Once in our room, there was a welcome platter of fruit, sandwiches, and the minibar well stocked, as well, mood music was playing! What a wonderful welcome.
  • Checkout time was 12pm… we paid $40 to keep our room until we were ready to leave for 6pm. Our concierge arranged this easily the morning of departure. One other thing to mention, at Checkout, we were told that it was up to us to make sure that our luggage got onto the bus, prior to leaving. (?)


    Buffet
  • PRDO: Excellent quality, lots of variety, heat lamps keeping food hot, grilling station doing fried eggs, scrambled eggs & other type eggs to order (and filling buffet selections, too, as needed), two stations for fresh omelettes (less lines), fabulous selections of cold cuts, cheeses, yoghurts, cereals (European granolas), and breads, large selection of fresh cut fruits, salmon, pastries, fresh juices & fruit milkshakes. The food stations remained in the same place each day, making it very easy to go and find what you like, immediately, as you know where everything is: Very helpful. Only ate here a few times for lunch or dinner, each time going around the buffet collecting salmon, shrimp, capers, scallops, black & green olives, peppers, onions, etc. for a “special” pasta dish done @ the pasta station. Oh, and topped with freshly grated Parmesan straight from the 40cm wide “wheel of cheese”. Fresh linen napkins & tablecloths, china & glassware.
  • RHE: A lot less variety, 1/3 the space, therefore lots less to choose from and in general being a little inconsistent in quality (by that I mean hot). There was only one person, doing all types of eggs (fried, scrambled and omelettes), taking orders from one person at a time (quite a line up to wait). The buffet selections had been cooked prior to opening, and no heat lamps to keep the cooked food hot. Small selection of cold cuts, cheeses, yoghurts, cereals (no granola at all) and breads (croissants were excellent). There were offerings of fruit; and salmon appeared once or twice. Small table for pastries, and a number of juices. The food stations are moved around each day, making it very difficult to go and find what you like, as you have to go around each morning to see where everything is first, before deciding: Not very helpful. Only ate once for lunch and dinner, each time again to make a “special” dish done at the pasta station, making selections of items from around the buffet as the pasta station didn’t have much selection, however, the one time they had pesto for sauce! My favourite! RHE also had freshly grated Parmesan cheese, in a bowl. Fresh linen tablecloth, china & glassware, paper napkins for breakfast. Lunch & Dinner there were cloth napkins. Good mimosas and cappuccinos.
    Booking A la Carte Restaurants
  • PRDO: There is one person at a table in the front Lobby who takes care of your reservations for the week. Each time, our TA has emailed ahead of time to book for us at our desired times. He will change the time for you if possible, when there is a conflict (returning guest’s dinner or Lobster night at the buffet). Really easy, no problems. But as he was only one person doing the bookings, you may have to wait, for one or two other guests, to talk to him.
  • RHE: Each bungalow of 20 rooms has a concierge that arranges your reservations for you for the week. We could not contact this person prior to our visit to arrange ahead of time, and we were a bit concerned that this would not work for us. However, I have to say, that the first morning, we met with our concierge and she asked us which restaurants we wanted to book on which days, and what times would we prefer to dine (within one hour, 7-8pm, for example) and she took care of it all, confirming with us our desired restaurant on each day! Really easy, with no problems, at all. Actually quite handy, as she is in your building, and we didn’t have to line up or go to the Lobby and stand in line. She would ask us each day, if there was anything that she could do for us, fill the minibar, arrange transportation to the Lobby, or to the beach, etc. One day, after the evening maids had done their "turndown" service, one of our beach towels had gone missing, and she replaced it, no questions asked (and no surprise charge at the end of the visit)! Our concierge also organized for us a "special dinner" which included the resort’s best champagne (cava) and a wonderful “flaming” cake for dessert, at the Suites section’s Gourmet restaurant. Our table had been decorated with an abundance of flowers, and also had flower petals spelling out a special greeting to us!
    A la Carte Restaurants & Music
  • PRDO: Generally great atmosphere, furnishings and very nice selections on each a la carte restaurant’s menu. I would like to mention that in the Japanese restaurant, the PRDO have skilful and entertaining chefs; plus they make a point of reserving 4 couples at the same time to each of the four teppanyaki tables to ensure that the dinner is enjoyable from start to finish. There is live entertainment at the PRDO everywhere you go... the beach restaurant quartet, the buffet sax duo, the a la carte Mediterranean duo, the El Bohio Son Trio, El Patio has a violinist, the lobby bar sometimes has a Jazz trio and other times a pianist, and the stage band in the evenings are amazing.
  • RHE: Again, all a la cartes have wonderful atmospheres, European furnishings and very nice selections in each menu. One thing to mention, is that the Asian restaurant here asks at the door whether you would like to sit at one of only two teppanyaki tables or not, so sometimes, one or two couples begin a dinner, and then 30 – 40 minutes later, another group could join. Not a big problem, but does interrupt the “flow” of conversation, as well as the meal. Live entertainment, musicians at the RHE included… full symphony orchestra in the Lobby one evening, a quartet in the Italian a la carte, a trio in the Buffet and the Lobby bar usually had a pianist. The interesting (?) thing was that the trio in the Buffet was the only group that was actually playing Cuban music once in a while. Most music was classically arranged modern tunes such as Elton John, Beatles, Sting, Bryan Adams, etc.
  • Honourable mention goes to both PRDO pool/beach restaurants & RHE for their pool restaurants: Great sit down service, linen napkins & tablecloths, terrific choices from the menus. As well, both PRDO pool restaurant & the Hideaway’s pool restaurant make fabulous thin crust pizzas! Yum!
    Beaches
  • PRDO’s Playa Esmeralda is in a protected cove, and is a very beautiful and stunning beach, especially when viewed from the overlooking coral rock overhang upon which the whole resort is built. It is not a very long beach, perhaps 500 meters, which can be walked from one end, to the other & back, in about 20 minutes (if you walk slowly). The sand is a coarser, loose sand that can make walking difficult at times, when you have to walk around outcroppings of coral along the PRDO end of the beach. The coral is great for those who like to snorkel right from the water’s edge, however, one needs to manoeuvre around it to go in for a swim. The descent into the water is steep, you are chin deep within 10-15m, plus there tends to always be some sort of wave action happening. There is a beach restaurant and bar on this east end, as well as one bathroom stall for males and one for females. The palapas and loungers are all at this end as well, and there seems to be plenty for all, but they do tend to seem quite close to each other. One shower area is halfway up the path towards the main pool, past the bar & restaurant, quite a distance from the loungers & palapas, and there are more up by the pool area. PRDO also has three other small remote beaches (caleticas) at the extreme east end of the resort. One is right behind the Spa, where an attendance will pull out loungers for you, plus there are a couple of palapas there. The one in the middle has no palapas or loungers, and the last one has only palapas. None of these beaches has any washroom facilities or offer any refreshments, so you truly feel as though you are on a deserted stretch of beach.
  • RHE’s two beaches are absolutely stunning. We have been to many islands (except for the D.R.) and have not experienced beaches as wonderful as Playa Megano and Playa Ensenachos. Both are very compactable sand which is so easy to walk on, and both are very long, at least a mile (2 – 2.5 kms). Each day, they have different “moods” for example, one day the water will be as smooth as a mirror, then there may be small soft waves, and then another day there could be much action with waves of half a metre high. Plenty of palapas and loungers along Playa Megano (nicely spaced), between the two boardwalks from the main resort. Along these boardwalks, perhaps 30 feet from the end, there are shower facilities to rinse the salt water off of feet and bodies. There is coral to the southwest end of Megano, making great opportunities for snorkelling right off the beach, as well as a sunken barge to the northeast end that is reachable. Playa Ensenachos is a more remote experience. One would have to walk from the Hideaway Bungalows near the Pool Restaurant towards the small Beach where the catamarans, Hobies and other water activities items are; then past the Beach Restaurant, and then onto a boardwalk to access Playa Ensenachos. There are no palapas or loungers, no facilities, washrooms, or showers here at all. Very Robinson Crusoe! But very, very beautiful! As you walk from this east end towards the very end in the west, you do come across a small number (15 - 20) of palapas and loungers for the use of the Royal Suite guests.
    Rooms
  • PRDO: The rooms are well appointed, and very clean. The photos on the websites are very much exactly what you would get anywhere in the resort. The Superior Rooms have full bathroom, separate dressing area with extra pillows, housecoats, beach towels & umbrella is kept, shoe shelf, rod & hangers, four drawers, self-coded safe box; king-size bed, additional wooden luggage table, console/ dresser with TV, CD player, coffee maker, mini fridge; as well, a lower sitting area with rattan/wicker chairs & coffee table. The rooms have character, with much Cuban influence! Yes, this resort is 8-9 years old; it is just not brand spanking new like some of the newer palaces, which have been built in the last year or so, but at least you know that you are in Cuba! I'm "germ-a-phobic" by nature, and have always felt the rooms were excellently cleaned and taken care of. The Superior Suite with the private outdoor shower area is heavenly, listening to the songs of the birds in the morning or watching the stars overhead at night. As well, you cannot beat the coziness of your own private back patio overlooking the distant Cuban landscape, and the intimate quietness, when you step out your front doorstep into the beautiful gardens, you feel as though you are in your own cottage.
  • RHE: The rooms are set up in 2-storey Bungalows with 20 rooms total, with an inner courtyard where all the doors face in to this courtyard, and the balconies face outwards. We requested and received an upper corner unit, with a king-size bed, armoire with TV, radio, and mini fridge; there was an upholstered lounger, a small table (with coffee maker et al) and two comfy upholstered chairs. We had a large walk-in closet with a rack for suitcases, shoe shelf, rod & hangers, four drawers, self-coded safe box, and an upper shelf where beach towels, extra pillows, umbrella and housecoats were kept. The marble bathroom was sparkling clean (amazing!), with tub, glass shower stall, large vanity & mirror, hairdryer & make-up mirror, and a separate WC. Just a side note… no Cuban architecture, artwork, or furnishings made for a very generic European ambiance… we would compare it to a modern art-hotel we stayed at in Vienna!


    Room Service
  • PRDO: Delivery always within 20 – 30 minutes, sometimes a hit or miss with everything ordered. No problem. The biggest problem is getting through, with the number listed in the Room Service menu. Sometimes no one will pick up, other times you have someone say you’ve dialled the wrong number, and either put you on hold or give you another number to try. Can get annoying (sorry, JMHO)
  • RHE: Delivery within 30 minutes generally, one time over 50 minutes with deepest regrets expressed. Communication excellent, contact within first try each time; also a hit or miss, with everything ordered (need to remember to request milk for your coffee!). No worries, though. Would like to mention, RHE always has two deliverymen, who will set up the meal wherever requested, quickly and efficiently. They even pour your coffee & milk, and open the bottle of cava, setting it in ice bucket (with ice they brought). Very nice touch


    Entertainment
  • PRDO: I would have to say that, comparing this with other places we’ve visited (Paradisus Cozumel, Almond Beach Village and Carnival Valor), the PRDO’s evening entertainment is excellent. Lots of variety in shows and costumes, artful dance numbers, and the ever present House Band playing amazing Cuban music, are worth staying up a bit late for. Especially, since you can enjoy the performances in an open-air theatre with massive cathedral ceiling (for protection from the occasional tropical downpour), while sitting in your choice of comfortable wicker, rattan or teak furnishings. As well, the front Lobby barmen come around for requests of refreshments, delivered to your table promptly. The Cuban music, a refreshing Cuba Libre in hand, and the warm tropical breezes, make for a wonderful evening.
  • RHE: This is where I really cannot make too much of a comment, as we only went once to the RHE evening entertainment in the Theatre. The RHE has an indoor theatre, with air-conditioning and movie theatre seating, within the front complex, across the hallway from the Lobby bar. It felt very strange to walk into and sit in a “movie theatre” in Cuba… far from the stage and performance. The ambiance just wasn’t right for us, so after about ten minutes, we left. It is hard to say how we felt, it seemed impersonal and distant; no real ambiance; we could have been anywhere in the US or Canada, watching this performance… It just did not “do it” for us. We felt this way at the Paradisus Cozumel (now Melia), as well. Next time we will have to make more of an effort to go to some of the shows.


    Bars
  • PRDO: As mentioned previously, Lobby bar is open concept, with lots of small tables, comfortable wicker & rattan chairs, all set in intimate areas around the whole “open air” area, with a beautiful gazebo that has “help yourself” canapés, bottles of sparkling wine (cava) red & white wine available. There is also, a newer bar between the Lobby and the Mediterranean Restaurant, in a type of “Cuban Street” setting with intimate settings to sit, and canapés available to nibble on. There is also a pool swim up bar, Pool Restaurant bar, and Beach bar. Lots of variety and choices of liquors, too many to mention. They also make wonderful cappuccinos & specialty coffees.
  • RHE: Lobby bar is indoors, with upholstered chairs & wingback chairs set around in intimate settings, with marble floors, crystal chandeliers, huge walls of windows looking out into the main lobby area and side breezeway/hallway. Across the hallway, there is also a Cigar Bar, with pool table and large leather club chairs. The Cigar Bar has French doors in the back, that open out onto a large terrace surrounded by stone balustrades, with additional seating outdoors… quite beautiful; felt like we were in Spain with the large urns full of palms & plant material with views of the garden beyond. Neither bar has any canapés or nibbles available as far as we could see. Lots of variety and choices of liquors… quite well stocked by our estimation (do try their chocolate martini!). Their house wines (although we are definitely not connoisseurs): you will be given a choice between Spanish and Chilean. The Chilean red was from the Maipo valley, a Cabernet Sauviginon, an excellent, moderate, full-bodied red. Not too heavy, with a very smooth finish. The Spanish Merlot offering was too tannic, and had a very sharp edge (perhaps should have given it a second try). Didn’t try the whites, but the general “champagne” (cava) was fun, light and clean, touched by a soft sweetness, very drinkable and great for mimosas (can’t recall the label). The “champagne” (cava) offering at the Gourmet Restaurant was “Freixenet Carta Nevada Brut”, from Spain; a medium sparkling dry wine, easygoing, with some weight and roundness, extremely elegant with creamy, delicate bubbles.
  • Both pools and the beach have bars with lots of selection as well. No need to go thirsty! As mentioned previously, the indoor bar areas really lacked the “Cuban” flair & ambiance that we truly missed (sorry to harp on this), even though the experience and settings were beautiful! JMHO-> probably wouldn’t even affect other people who have never experienced the “flavour” of the PRDO. I just want to state this, for those who could find this an important factor when deciding on a resort.


    Grounds
  • PRDO: A wonderful garden full of pathways, ponds, various plant material, landscaping and Cuban sculptures throughout the resort. The Gardeners really do a fantastic job maintaining, replacing and/or building up newer areas all the time.
  • RHE: Again, a wonderful garden full of pathways, ponds, plant material, landscaping and a few sculptures throughout the resort. Where the RHE excels, in this amateur gardener’s opinion, is the labelling of all the plant material -> excellent idea! Also would like to point out that since this resort is only 2 years old, it is noticeable (I think only to those of us who dabble in gardening) that the three separate sections of the resort has been planted at different times. The Spa area is just a tad lusher, whereas the Hideaway area will probably fill out more in the next year or so (nothing really, just my observation). The 2km roadway to the Suites area is still undergoing some major plantings, which is very fascinating to see, and will be more interesting to compare upon our next visit.
    Tipping
  • PRDO & RHE are, in our opinion, very similar, as both resort’s staff do not make you feel as though they are waiting for a tip. On the contrary, both resort’s staff seem surprised, but gracious, when given a tip (CUC) for services rendered.
    Cuban Ambiance
  • PRDO has an elegant, quiet ambiance, which is enhanced with the excellent Cuban hospitality. The experience of enjoying really excellent food, sitting on wicker, rattan or teak furnishings in the open air Lobby, gazebo, or restaurants is amazing. To be surrounded by ponds & gardens, being serenaded not only by a Trio of Cuban musicians or a fabulous Cuban Band, but by tree frogs & other natural fauna, is true paradise! PRDO captures your heart and your imagination like no other resort. Something very special about the place -> can't quite put my finger on it!
  • RHE: If you are looking for intimate & cozy, you won’t find it here. Royal Hideaway’s ambiance is Big, Bold and Beautiful! It is truly stunning; the photos don’t do it justice in regards to how majestic it feels. Marble floors and archways, 30 foot-plus ceilings, chandeliers oversized upholstered furnishings. As previously mentioned, when in the Lobby, rooms, bar or theatre, you feel as though you could be anywhere, as the place immediately gives you the impression that you are in an American style conference centre, only because there is a lack of Cuban architecture, character, artwork, or tropical furnishings (wicker, rattan or teak). It isn’t anything that affected our vacation enjoyment, but just our observation. Will we be back? Of course, perhaps even for two weeks, next time!


Summary
The Royal Hideaway was an amazing deal... for a 5 star resort

Over $1200 cheaper (for the same week) than the Paradisus resort we've gone to the last five times (although we were in Superior rooms there). We really would have a hard time deciding which one to go to next time.

The Paradisus Rio de Oro is wonderful, elegant, and intimate and has real Cuban ambiance and Cuban character. But the Royal Hideaway has two fabulous beaches, beautiful rooms and their Room Service beats the Paradisus, in communication and promptness.

Both have gorgeous gardens, lots of pathways, plenty of a la carte restaurants, although the food at the Paradisus is just a tad better (especially the buffet), we think. It all depends on what is important to you.

For the price, we'd pick the Royal Hideaway again. But if they were both the same price, then we'd probably pick the Paradisus.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Rafal 

March 2008
Welcome to Paradise!

I know this may sound corny but if I had to use one word to describe the Royal Hideaway Ensenachos I would have to say - PARADISE!

This is an excerpt from their brochure... The Occidental Royal Hideaway stands alone on the virgin horseshoe shaped island of Cayo Ensenachos, Villa Clara, in central Cuba. Nature has bestowed the island with two beaches with crystal clear waters - El Megano and Ensenachos; more than 60 Endemic species of flora and fauna as well as aboriginal settlement. Because of this, these are considered a UNESCO Biosphere Reservoir.

If you are looking for a fast paced, party time vacation this is NOT the place. If you are looking for a Romantic, Relaxing, Recharge your soul vacation, with no timetable this is the place.

You actually land in Santa Clara at an active Air Force Base, which the first time seemed a little daunting but they are all actually really nice. As these islands are off the main land there is an hour and a half drive to Cayo Ensenachos. If you are lucky enough to be on an early flight the scenery and villages that you will drive through are so interesting, as you see the way of life in Cuba, the time will seem insignificant. It is like getting a free excursion.

When we arrived at the extremely elegant Marble Lobby we were met in the main office area with glasses of Champagne and warm moist face cloths while we quickly were given our package envelopes. To all of you that dislike the wrist bands at the All Inclusives you’ll be happy to hear you are not branded at this resort.

Room numbers attached to our luggage we were whisked away to our building. There are three sections at this resort. The Spa, The Hideaway and the Villas. Sting recently stayed at the Villa section and apparently they had a special musical guest for Christmas 2007. Though we had a Spa package we ended up in the Hideaway section and were quite happy as we were near to all beaches as well as one of the pools.

THE ROOM was beautiful and spacious. There is a separate walk-in closet with an electronic safe, the bathroom is huge with a bathtub, separate glass shower and a separate room for the toilette. So ladies bring all those bubbly bath products that you never have time to use at home. Each room has a TV and DVD and the hotel has a library where you can borrow DVD movies or bring your own favourite movie. As soon as we got to our room our building Concierge, Yoandra, followed. She was fantastic, a lovely lady, we had traveled with another couple and she made sure our evening Ala Carte’s were always coordinated and that we wanted for nothing in our room. If you go, take care of these people because once they know what you want everything is done and booked for you and little reminders are left for your return from the beach daily, as to where you will be dining that evening or what time you should be at the Spa for your pedicure or massage after breakfast. You have to do absolutely nothing but show up. As it was our 10th year together one afternoon when we returned to the room and there were flower petals everywhere and Champagne and an almond cake were delivered. The only thing that I did not like was the lack of face cloths and no hand towels. Ask your concierge for more face cloths, though but the chamber maids have to be reminded after a couple of days.

THE BEACHES are breathtaking. Powder white sand and crystal clear waters. There are lots of beautiful fishes who follow you along as you walk in the refreshing waters. On Megano beach, the busiest beach, because that is the beach with the bar you will be served by Joe Pesci, he bares a remarkable resemblance. No matter what you order and how many items, he will find you where ever you have parked your butt on that beach and not an item will be missing. The beach is quite extensive with a sandbar at one point which we were able to walk over to with the camera. The water on the sand bar is warm as it is only about three feet and full of Starfish. There is also a small sunken barge which is home to a colourful fishes and Manta ray who gives all the snorkellers a wink. Around 11:00 a.m. there is either a fierce game of Volleyball or Football on the beach and anyone can join in. There are Hobbie Cats and the guys will take you out as far as you want to go. There are also other water craft that you can use on your own and don’t worry, if you go to far and you can’t get back there is a rescue vehicle. My favorite beach which I walked along a few afternoons was Ensenachos Beach. It is virtually deserted as there is no bar but it is about a two to three mile walk one way. The water here I found to be warmer and though it is clear there is some sea weed. This beach leads to the villas so if you do not want to walk back along the beach there is a paved roadway where you can walk between the mangroves or simply flag a golf cart.

THE POOLS were beautiful and its areas beautifully landscaped. We only used the snack bar at the pools so I can’t comment but the people who opted for the pool all looked quite happy.

THE SPA was beautiful and attached was a gym outfitted with the latest equipment, also another pool for lap swimming. For tennis buffs there are two courts and a basketball court.

FOOD - AMAZING - I have never eaten so much Lobster in my life. There is everything for any type of eater. No one can starve. You can be as adventurous as you want or enjoy a pizza at the pool bar. There are four ala Carte restaurants and four visits to ala Carte’s is included. Though I was not to crazy about the Italian, I still loved them all and our Concierge was able to get us back into my favorite one our last night, Cuban Creole where we had again, Lobster. The resort has many places for you to eat all day and if you get the munchies in the middle of the night there is all inclusive room service and they will even bring you your Pina Colada or your breakfast if it was a rough night. Breakfast is at the main Buffet and extensive. Try the Spinach Croquettes, I got everyone I talked to hooked on them, which was a bad idea because eventually they will become scarce. After that there are many places to eat all day long. The Chicken sandwich at the beach was one of our favorites.

ENTERTAINMENT - In the evening after dinner everyone goes to the Lobby where there is either entertainment in the Main Lobby or in the Auditorium. The Host of the evening show my husband swears looks like a young Michael Buffer and he tried unsuccessfully to get him to say ... Are you ready to rumble...The Lobby Bar is the happening place and if you want to continue to party there is a Disco which was lots of fun. The Cigar bar serves 14 year old rum at night but don’t ask her to add Coke, she won’t do it and is insulted. I swear I was not the one that asked. Their international alcohol selection is extensive.

EXCURSIONS - Before leaving I had discussed with a friend at work the fact that my husband wanted the go out on the Catamaran Snorkeling and that I was not that interested. She told me to go as it would be fun and I did and had an wonderful day. Joel, Boris, Miguel and Daniel kept us all entertained all day. English was not Joel’s forte but his parting word to the Snorkellers at each stop was, ‘When I blow this horn get your asses back here fast.’ The cruise had Lobster, again, steamed in white wine and spices. For non seafood lovers the hotel sends a boat to meet them with chicken. KFC delivery. They told us if we were very lucky we may see dolphins and we did, we had four follow the Catamaran for a bit but of course no cameras were ready. We all thought Boris was joking at first. The day came to an end to fast and if you go try to get out one day on this excursion but take your own snorkeling gear.

Though this resort was almost at capacity when we were there, no where was ever crowded and the rooms were always quiet at night. We were there when a large contingent came from France but we were in no way offended by the extras they got as they paid extra for these functions and the service at all the other facilities around the resort remained the same. We always kept asking, where is everyone. The staff at the hotel were always accommodating and everyone was very helpful and very happy to help. The main gardener will keep you for hours talking about the plants, so beware as the sun time is a wasting.

If you are traveling with Transat Holidays go to Lorraine’s information session, in all my travels I found it to be the most informative I had ever attended. The first day when we went to book our excursion the first thing she asked us is if we were happy with our accommodations and had all our information right at hand. We had travelled with family and they had a concern which she immediately took care of and actually followed up. She is a great, busy lady but you will always see her around and she is very approachable and extremely nice.

The first evening at the resort my husband met Agnes, the hotel manager. At first I thought, I want her job. The actually, as our week progressed and I saw the long hours she puts in and how involved she is from morning to night with the running of the hotel as well as over seeing set ups for special events, then at night she still has her Walkie Talkie with her, I thought maybe not. I am quite content with my nine to five. I hope you read this Agnes because we had a wonderful time of our life. We will be back next year for two weeks. Maybe before next year. We have already recommended it to several people a couple have already booked and will be there in two weeks. The resort is magical and we loved our too short one week visit. The staff and the resort are definitely 5 star plus.

To end I must say I will go back in a Heartbeat, anyone going, please pack me in your suitcase. I never wanted to visit Cuba, this was my second year to Santa Clara and I plan to go there at least once a year. I love the people and I love their islands. So as the ad goes... Cuba Si

To check out more from our trip, our extensive photo gallery, resort map, and in-depth information visit our unofficial site at www.royalhideawayensenachos.ca
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Michael 

February 2008
This was our first trip to Cuba. We had previously travelled twice to D.R. (Punta Cana). Our package was with Transat Holidays, and this was also the first time we had flown with Air Transat. The flight down arrived at Santa Clara Airport about 15 minutes early and within about 45 minutes from the time we arrived; the bus was leaving for the resort.

We did not see too much on the drive to the resort since we left the airport around 8:30 p.m. We had our room keys by 10 p.m. and our luggage was delivered to our room, we were in the Royal Hideaway Section.

Our representative from Transat Holidays was Lorraine and her presentation was quite good, she recommended some trips but spent more time talking about the resort/country which was a nice change from previous presentations which seemed to be more about selling day trips.

We met the concierge from our building (#39), her name was Yoandra. She was amazing. She took care of making all of our dinner reservations. We gave her our preferred times and left the rest to her. We would come back to our room after the day at the beach and would have our confirmation for a restaurant waiting in our room. No need to go wait in line to make reservations. We were there for Valentines Day and she gave us a beautiful poem as well. We really could not ask for better service.

The beach is simply amazing. The water was calm even on days where it felt like there was a good breeze. There were a lot of people that were snorkelling and the only time you would see a motorized boat in front of the resort was when the wind was too calm and the Hobie Cats could not move. The walk to the end of the beach and back took about 40 minutes.

We ate at the Seafood, Asian, Italian and Grill (this is the restaurant by the pool on the Royal Spa Section). All were very good, although the service at the Seafood stood out a little bit. My wife does not like seafood, but was OK to go to the restaurant since they had other options. The waiter picked up on the fact that she did not like seafood based on her selections and had a special entrée prepared for her. The buffet restaurant was also excellent, and they serve Spanish or Chilean wine. I drink red wine and found it to be much better than the wine served in the D.R.

We went on the day trip to Santa Clara and found this to be a very nice trip. We were give some time alone to do some shopping at 2 different stops. We had lunch with our group at a restaurant in Santa Clara; it was a busy but very nice day.

If you are looking for lots of activities at the beach you may be disappointed – we were not looking for this we just wanted to relax and enjoy the warm weather. The animation staff organizes beach volleyball around 11 a.m., but they are not pushy – so if you don’t want to play they won’t keep asking you. There are the normal shows in the evening and then some people will go to the disco. We went one night and it was not very busy when we were there.

I would recommend this resort in a heartbeat. After speaking to some of the people at the resort and overhearing conversations, it was obvious that a number of the people at the resort had been there before, so I think that this also says a lot about this resort.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Marie and Dave 
Toronto
February 2008
Arrival - We flew down on Skyservice (Air Transat). The plane was cramped, crappy food, delays, the usual. Air Canada has a flight from Toronto on Thursday. This would be a better bet if you can go Thursday to Thursday or if you are leaving from Montreal.

Once we arrived in Cuba everything was great. We zipped through customs, got on the bus and were on the road withing 30 minutes of landing. We got to the hotel about 2:00am. The check-in was very efficient. They had 5 clerks handing out the check in packages and champagne while we waited. We put our room number on our suitcases and were driven to our room on a golf cart. A nice snack of bread, cheese, ham and fruit was waiting in the room. Our suitcases arrived about 30 minutes later.

Rooms - The rooms are fantastic. Marble floor, walk-in closet, huge bathroom with a separate tub and shower and a big private balcony. The rooms are in a group of 20 rooms in each building. Each block has its own consierge from 9:00 to 5:00. The rooms have a DVD player and a frige stocked with water, pop, juice and beer.

Restaurants - For dinner there is one buffet and four sit-down restaurants, asian, Italian, Cuban and Seafood. All are restaurants are very good. You need to make reservations for the restaurants with your consierge. The Cuban restaurant is the only one that is open air and is the smallest. We really enjoyed the food there, particularly the soup. The Seafood restaurant is the largest. Try to go there early, before sundown, the view is fantastic. The Italian restaurant has a woodwind quartet playing classical music, very elegant.

I hope the management will open up the windows, particularly in the buffet and the seafood restaurant. It would be nice to enjoy the evening air rather than air conditioning.

Bars - One very nice bar in the lobby, on cigar bar with a pool table, two pool bars with swim-up sections and a beach bar. Try a Spanish coffee at the Lobby bar, you get a show as well as a drink. Try a sangria on the beach, very refreshing.

Beach and Pools - The Beach is amazing. It is in a sheltered cove and is shallow for a long way out. There was hardly any wave action while we were there. Most days there are enough loungers and shelters but there is no other shade on the main beach.

There is a second beach west of the Seafood restaurant. It is supposed to be for the Royal Suites section of the hotel but no-one minds if you go there. It was usually deserted but looked very nice and even had a few palm trees for shade.

The snorkelling is excellent at the west end of the beach. There are lots of fish including some very large and friendly Red Snappers. There is a sunken barge about 300 m off the east end of the beach. You can wade out to it. It is full of fish and a few lobsters.

There is a small but busy beach-bar. They also serve hamburges, hotdogs and sandwiches. They will deliver them right to your spot on the beach. Grounds - The gardens are very lush and beautiful. The pools are located in the middle of the buildings but are hidden by the foliage. The gardeners are very friendly and love to talk. They make corsages for the ladies in their spare time.

There are some very large iguana around. A couple hang out by the pool and will take a piece of banana if offered. Activities - Very low key. No pressure to do anything. They have a soccer or volley-ball game on the beach before lunch. You can borrow snorkels, kayaks, peddle boats, windsurfers or a sailboat. The guys will also take you for a catamaran ride, usually about 1/2 an hour, much longer if you are a good looking girl in a bikini.

Tours - Some are offered, but why would you bother, the hotel is as good as it gets.

Conclusion - This is a true five star resort. The best I've been to anywhere.

A few words of advice:
- Be friendly to the staff. They are really nice and helpful and don't make a lot as their base salary. People who don't usually get tips such as maintenance staff, store clerks and bank tellers really appreciate it.
- Buy your liquor at the airport. It is a lot cheaper there and the selection is much better.
- Ask for a tour of the Royal Suites section. They will often offer you a night in this super luxery section at no extra charge.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
My Travels 

February 2008
Great Resort … Great Holiday

We spent a glorious week (January 7th to the 14th) stay at the Occidental Royal Hideaway Ensenachos Resort. We were extremely pleased with the: resort, food, drink, service etc.

The Service
The hotel was at 1/2 capacity (49.3% - 487 guests) while we were there and the service was incredible, grounds were clean and manicured, dishes removed from table (sometimes before you were finished), short lines at the bars, check-in and out were painless. The service was very good and always done with a smile. Tipping did not seem to effect service as some times I would have money in my pocket and other times not.

Food
Food is an individual and subjective thing but as for myself, I found the food superior to any of the dozen Caribbean resorts we have visited. After eating at all four a-la-carte restaurants we found the Italian to be our preferred restaurant. The buffet food is also very good but lack the presentation and having it served to you. The snack bar at the pool was like none we had ever seen before, linen tablecloths, metal cutlery, china plates and a menu which included items such as: calamari, lasagna, Caesar salad, chicken strips along with pizza and hotdogs.

Dress code is adhered to at the a-la-cart and buffet restaurants, gentlemen bring along long pants.

Mosquitoes & Bugs
During the seven day stay we noticed very few mosquitoes 6 or 7. It might be wise to ensure your shots are up to-date. The rooms were completely free of bugs. The warm weather brought out a large number of houseflies that were just bothersome. One gentleman we spoke to had gotten bitten on the beach by what he thinks were sand fleas. He said it was terribly itchy but after taking an antihistamine he was fine after about an hour.

Handicap Access
The resort is very accessible for those who are physically challenged. There are ramps in most places and an elevator in the main building.

Pools
The pools were gorgeous and kept very clean. They were very quiet, calm and relaxing except when the “Animation Team” arrived around 3:30-4:00PM and played loud music.

Beach
The beaches, both Megano and Ensenachos, are as beautiful as described by others. The east end of Ensenachos beach is an “International Beach” where true naturalists were reported seen strolling the beach. On both beaches numerous jelly fish can be seen but I did not hear of anyone being strung by one.

Clientele
The guests there were predominantly Canadian with perhaps 10% to 15% European. I was told that the reason for the small percentage of Europeans is that the Abel Santamaria airport is not long enough for the larger planes and they have to land in Havana and transfer over to Santa Clara. The average age of clientele was grey to balding.

Nightly Entertainment
The theatre/auditorium was very well equipped with lighting, sound, effects (smoke) etc. The seating is very comfortable. The Cuban show (song & dance) was very professional and entertaining. I heard others talk about orchestras, 2 different ones on 2 separate evenings, which were also very good.

Excursions

Catamaran: Two snorkeling opportunities, lobster lunch and open bar on the boat.
Dolphins/ Cienfuegos: Swim with the dolphins at the Cienfuegos delfinarium followed by a show.
Santa Clara: A guided tour through the city and its central plaza. Stop at the Che Guevara museum and memorial center. Also tour Remedios.
Cuban Night: A night in Caibarien including lobster dinner. Then, visit Remedios.
Jeep Safari: Driving your own jeep through thru Cuban countryside and go horseback riding.
Trinidad: A guided tour through Trinidad
Forest Adventure: Hike through the National Park of "Guanayara".
Sunset Cruise: Lobster diner on board a catamaran while the sun sets.
Aqua Bikes: Ride your own sea-doos/jet-ski.
Deep Sea Fishing Charter your own fishing boat.
2 days in Havana: Discover the Cuban Capital. Visit the fortress (El Morro), the Capitol and Old Havana.

If you should wish more info including prices and/or pamphlets on excursions, email: Mytravels at rogers dot com with Ensenachos in the subject line.

Beach Vendors
There are no beach vendors that you find at most Caribbean resorts.

Cleanliness of Resort
I have to agree with so many before, it was spotless. Rooms were cleaned and mopped each day.

Lounges & Umbrellas – Lounges & Beach Huts
There was never any problem finding a lounge at the pool or a place on the beach under or near a palapa (thatched-roof umbrella). Keep in mind they were at 50% capacity and I could foresee problems when it is full-up.

Liquor Drinks
The drinks are very good and very plentiful. As a result of another Trip Advisor review I tried a chocolate martini (on numerous occasions) and they are well worth a try. Another of my favorites was the “Blue Hawaiian”. The Crystal cerveza always went down well. Practice the phrase “Dos cerveza por favor! (translation two beers please). Of note is that they have a wide selection of international liquors (e.g. Gordon’s Gin, Beefeater Gin, Canadian Club etc.) at no extra charge.
Note: Limit your intake of Pina Cholladas or as my wife coined them Pina-poop-a-lottas … they are a natural laxative.

The Rooms
Many before me have described the rooms and I can only agree they are spacious, well equipped and very comfortable. As for thin walls, I did hear complaints about the noise, we however had no problems, we had room 3625 where there was a storage area on the left and on the right our bathroom and the bathroom of the adjoining room buffered any noise.

Exercise Room
From the outside :) it looked very modern, spacious and clean.

Diabetics
Should you be diabetic, you can always find sweetener in the buffet and you can ask your concierge to arrange for sugar-free soft drinks in your bar fridge.

General Layout
The resort is big, very big … so be prepared to walk a lot. It was explained that the reason they designed it with all the space intentionally to give the clients the feeling of relaxation away from the crowds.

The Cons
I had to search long and hard to find the down side. The thing that irritated me most was the “Animation Team” that arrived at the “Hideaway Pool” around 3:30 PM each day and blared loud music in order to try to interest the guests in taking Salsa lessons. I can only assume that it was for Salsa lessons as they never announced what they were there for but one guy would dance by himself and bounce a volley ball for an hour and then pack-up and leave. A nice way to ruin a quiet day at the pool.

Things You Might Consider Bringing
Large thermal mugs: cups and glasses are small and the mugs can be used for coffee in the morning, beer in the afternoon and drinks in the evening. My Tim Horton’s mug holds three of their cups and the bartenders think nothing of filling it with beer or Banana Mammas.

Cord for a clothes line: In the humidity you are always looking for somewhere to hang clothes to dry, a “Dollar Store” ¼ cotton line comes in handy

Summary
I was more than pleased with the accommodations at the Royal Hideaway Ensenachos. I certainly think it is one of the better resorts and ranks right up there with most in the better Caribbean resorts.

Would I stay there again? I would not have any concerns about staying there but if history holds true, this is our twelfth all-inclusive in the Caribbean and each time we have stayed at different resorts just for change sake. I would however recommend this resort to any one that is considering a trip south, it was one of the better resorts that we have stayed at and we only stay at 4+ star resorts.

If you are looking for info regarding excursions, room service menu etc. visit: http://ca.geocities.com/mytravels@rogers.com/Ensenachos

To view pictures of our trip visit: http://community.webshots.com/album/562189420XhaOJt
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Niagara Couple 

February 2008
What a great vacation!! Everything was exceptionally good. Good food, service, cleaniness of the room, concierge, maids....We visited from Jan 31st until Feb 7th. My husband celebrated his 60th birthday, & that day we received room service delivery of a great cake, champagne, room decorated with ballons, flowers on the bed, all courtesy of our conierge, Joandra, she was great and looked after everything we asked for.

The beach is fabulous. Long white sand beaches, were you could walk for a long way...We had 5 la carte meals, with lobster available at most of them. I was alittle concerned about the bus ride (80 min) but it seemed to go by fast, with a guide giving you a little history of each place you pass by. I would suggest taking along something to drink in your bag, as that was the only thing I regretted not having available, We arrived at the airport 9:50am, and it was 12:35pm when we reached the hotel. On the way home the electricity was out at the airport as soon as we arrived, and we had to stand and wait for 2 hours before we could check our bags and clear customs. A long wait for the older people and anyone with children that were from a different resort. RHE is adults only... A great vacation and would definitely go back, hopefully next year....
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Kim 

February 2008
Hi all i can say is WOW. Well ill elaborate for you. My boyfriend and i went to Santa Clara Cuba stayed at the royal Hideaway which is a 5 star resort. The hotel is beautiful the rooms are great snd spaciuos bathroom seperate shower and bathtub and toilet area ,all very clean we stayed on the first floor which was fine. Only when you go out on your deck you see the trees but who cares we wernt there for the deck.Our room was 2505 which is about a 4minutewalk from the lobby and i say 5-7 minutes t the beach, 2minutes from the pool swim up bar etc.. 4minutes to the spa. e food was awesome at the a la carte restaurants the buffet was kind of boring and usually the same but the service was very nice. The a la carte asiatic restaurant was so good we ate there 4 times you dont have to switch restaurants each night you can always go the same one if you want, sea food was reallygood i dont eat seafood i had the beef which was excellent at the asiatic, seafood , and italian restaurant chicken is good to.The service is cuban time nothing fast paced here but excelllent polite and curtious staff. We didnt wait long periods of time for anything but it wasnt super fast. the beach gorgeous,lots of chairs someone to always serve you for you snacks or drinks you dont have to go yourself but remember your not alone.plyed volleyball.Did the catamaran 9-4pm AWESOME there were about 15 of us couples the lunch was lobster or chicken both were delicous and lots of rum and coke wine beer juice or bottled water free included in the price which i think was 60 dollars for the 2 of us beautiful snorkeling 2 times and a little stop at a private beach.No kids are allowed at htis resort and the average age of the people ar aroun 35-65 french and english all the people were very sociable if You wanted to be.This place is if you really if want to chill out,relax be to yourself or meet new people.Its very big resort and you can do a lot of walking but we just chilled at the beach or pool in the evening all the action is in the lobby area wher there is a nightclub (notvery busy) a cigar bar (really good quality booze) a theatre were they do their shows (not so bad) and a lounge were people get together and drink or just the lobby with sofas and chairs nightly musiscans.the bank is downstairs and 2 ala carte are downstairs theres alibrary for you to get books or rent movies you have a dvd in your room.you can bring your own cds or dvd's.. Don't go here if you want to Party yiha style .It's very mature good fun.you dont here people screaming inthe night etcc.....Go here if yu want to realx relax relax get away from it all but be aroun nice people NO Americans.Lots of europeans, paris, sherbrook, montreal ,ottwa people.Ther were no mosquitos but flies yes they bugged me sometimes but you get used to it better than mosquitoes i'd say.Supossedly the hotel next door a 4.5 str is just as nice but with a lots of yunger people and not nearly as quiet.There were no topless but ddn the beach or around the bend theres another beach(no service there though). Loved it would return again any day. The water is fine and filtered supposedly they say this is the best hotel in cuba i agree.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Elizabeth and Robert  
Montreal
January 2008
Top of the line in Cuba!

At least that’s what all the seasoned Cuba hands we bumped into had to say. This was our return trip to RH and fifth in Cuba.

It’s all true. No kids. No loud music. Great R & R destination. Excellent service all around.

Look up Yoany, greatest pool bartender on the island.

Will probably be back soon.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Wil 
Nepean, ON
December 2007
I was apprehensive about the 90 minutes from the Airport as stated in the brochure, but upon arrival, with 8 minutes of touchdown, I was through customs, immigration, and on an airconditioned tour bus on the way to our destination. The first thing that stuck in our minds was how truely beautiful and CLEAN the entire countryside was. Everyone we saw was friendly and cheerful, and we never felt anything but welcome. Our arrival at the cayo was via the causeway which had been built to allow the minimum of impact on the environment, and to keep the islands in their natural states. What a treat!

Our checkin was very quick and efficient, and the services impecable. Our consierge was helpful and efficient as well as very knowledgeable about our options.

The pools were beautiful, and very handy to all the villas. The beach was incredible, as there is a snorkel area just off shore, and there is even a sunken barge to house larger fish. The colours are very impressive, and they love to eat bread and fruit. I was even lucky enough to see a small manta ray swimming in the shallows. There are full sized conch and small, medium and large sea stars, as well as sand dollars galore.

The grounds were nothing short of breath taking, and the rooms were impecable. We were well recieved at all of the bars, and were served quickly and efficiently with or without tipping.

The dining facilities are superb. I have not yet eaten as well as I had in Cuba. I believe that every formal dining location on the resort has its own 5 star rating.

Over all, I this has been the best vacation we have ever taken, in the most wonderful location in the carribean. We are returning with our children in 2009, as well as having recommended it to a plethora of family and friends. I have even convinced a co-worker to get married at the Cayo, and I'm sure she will also write a review on those aspects upon her return.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Casavant 
St Basile Le Grand,Quebec,Canada
December 2007
Arrival - very good

Rooms - excellent

Restaurants - excellent

Bars - excellent

Beach and Pools - excellent++

Grounds - excellent

Activities - excellent

Conclusion - we will recomment to all your friend,it is a excellent choise,we will be back at this destination,thank you
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Ronnie 

November 2007
We have recently returned from a wonderful two week stay at the RHE. (Oct 12th-26th) Despite encountering a few glitches, this resort is amazing. It truly looks and feels like paradise. The grounds are immaculate, the beach is breathtaking, (in our opinion the best we have seen in many years of travel) and the pool is a great place to wind down after a long day of relaxing in the sun.

Due to low occupancy, the Spa suites were closed so we had a lovely room in the Royal Hideaway section. It was bright and cheery with a large bathroom, separate walk in closet and a private balcony. The plush bathrobes were an added touch. The housekeeping services were excellent and included the usual daily towel art, with evening turndown and fresh towel replacement.

Osmani, was our concierge the first week and he was exceptional, always there to greet you and attend to any of your needs. He was replaced the second week by a young woman who unfortunately did not meet the standards he had set and due to her absence our bungalow on a few days was left to its own devices to secure the attention of another concierge regarding dinner reservations, spa services etc.

The food for the most part was quite good. Although somewhat limited in choice we enjoyed the breakfast buffet and usually had the eggs or crepes to order. On the mornings when bacon wasn't readily available we had the chef grill some of the ham slices from the cold meat section and that suited us fine. We always had a delicious lunch in the pool restaurant, calamari was a daily staple but the Cuban soup and Mediterranean salad with tuna were also good choices. Our favorite a la carte was the Gourmet restaurant, a true 5* experience in the Royal Villa section, the Italian and Japanese were a close second.

What really makes this resort work is the exceptional staff. They go out of their way to make sure that you enjoy your time with them. They are friendly, personable, extremely attentive and definitely deserve to be tipped. The general manager, Agnes Yousif, is a daily visible presence, and always there, making sure that everything is running smoothly and that the needs of all the guests are being met.

We would not hesitate to recommend this resort to our friends and are already discussing a return trip in the not too distant future.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Eric 
Toronto
November 2007
My wife and I recently returned from almost a week at the Royal Hideaway Ensenachos. When I say almost a week, it’s because we bought one way tickets and took the first flight back to Toronto that we could get, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

We flew in on Westjet who have managed to fill every available space on the plane with seats. There’s no room whatsoever to wait for the washroom, yet they tell you not to congregate near the washroom. The only alternative I could think of was strapping myself to the wing and waiting, but that didn’t seem feasible.

Our arrival at Santa Clara airport was uneventful. Luggage came out quickly and we were through customs in no time. We took a cab from the airport to the resort, cost us 70CUC + tip. I later found out it should have been only 60CUC. The trip, by cab, took 90 minutes. I think the bus showed up 40 minutes later, so be prepared for a 2 ¼ hour ride if you’re on the bus.

When you arrive at the hotel, you immediately get the impression that you’re in an American style conference centre. Marble floors and archways, 30 foot+ ceilings and piped-in Muzak. Unfortunately, we thought we were going to Cuba. We were immediately struck by how quiet it was- there were only a few people in the enclosed lobby bar listening to the piano player play warmed over versions of “Let It Be” and “My Heart Will Go On”.

The rooms are fine and have all the mod cons. If you have to go here, get a suite on the top floor, otherwise you’ll be looking at 8 foot shrubs from your patio.

I should mention that we’ve been to Cuba about 7 times, mainly to the Paradisus Rio d’Oro in Holguin, which is a true 5 star. We’ve also been to Cyprus, Kenya, Thailand, Spain and Japan, so we have a pretty good sense for what constitutes good value in a resort.

The buffet is okay and offers the usual selection of food. You’ll notice some breakfast items making another appearance at other meals throughout the day and vice versa. For instance, one morning, we had fajita fixings available. Curious.

If you’re a big fan of Wagner or Shostakovich, you’ll love the breakfast buffet. In an effort to maintain a veneer of “high class”, management insists on playing some fairly heavy classical pieces at breakfast, which, again, doesn’t quite equate to the Cuban resort experience. We brought some Cuban music with us on an iPod and speakers and the staff loved it.

Regardless of what restaurant you go to, you’ll notice that the staff will kill themselves pulling out chairs for both men and women while arranging napkins on your lap. After a while, this gets a little tired, especially when the bigger problem is either that there’s no air conditioning in the restaurant (and this resort has no fans) or the table only has 3.75 legs and tends to wobble.

The a la carte restaurants are quite good, the food is tremendous. Trying to order wine off the wine list is pretty challenging though (we weren’t able to make it happen in English or Spanish), you’re better off drinking the house plonk.

You’ll notice that security is quite high at the resort even though you’re literally miles away from anything. I passed a security guard in the lobby on my way to the cigarette machine; next thing I know he’s standing a yard behind me, watching intently. Maybe it’s because the airport is a military airport. We heard about some people on our flight being given a pretty rough time by police off the resort and then upon their arrival being subjected to the complete search at the airport.

You can’t change your money at the front desk, you have to go to the in-resort bank to do that. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. except when it’s not, which is often. Finally we had had enough- we bought a pair of one way tickets to Toronto and headed home.

Summary: It’s a huge resort built upon reclaimed swampland (so expect bugs and lots of toxic fogging), with no guests. The staff try hard, but to call this place a 5 star is being somewhat economical with reality. It might be the best resort in the area, but not in Cuba. It’ll be interesting to see if they’re still around in 18 months.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Janice and Jim 
Brampton, Ontario
September 2007
We just returned from our week stay in paradise! It had been 6 years since we last travelled to Cuba. Previously we stayed in Varadero at Brisas del Caribe. After 5 consecutive years of staying there we took a break. Our choice of the RH was based on a word of mouth recommendation from a friend. It was the most beautiful place we have ever stayed! The very heartbreaking part was that there were only 37 guests in total during our stay. With a staff of 200 working each day, you can imagine the service we received. Of course there were a few modifications to the service of meals, but the resort was wonderful in scheduling us in the a la carte eateries. We ate twice in the Asian and seafood dining rooms. Breakfast was served in the buffet and lunch was avalable at the hideway section pool bar or the beach bar. There was limited entertainment but the piano bar and player were great and the local dancers put on a nice show in the lobby. we often had the entire beach to ourselves.

Certainly we will return to this resort and hopefully for two weeks next year. We would support all of the positive reviews which this resort has had posted.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Nancy 

June 2007
We stayed from May 19-26
Our reviews of the features of the hotel.

Beach 4.5
Layout and Clean 4.5
Pools 4.5
Beach 4.5
Buffet breakfast 1.5
Lunch pool restaurant 3
Asian 4.5
Italian 3
Gourmet 4
Seafood restaurant 2.5
Conceirge 5
Entertainment 2.5
Staff 5
Disco 0 largest crowd 4ppl
Fitness room 4
Value for the money good. You get what you pay for. If you want a true 5 star you must pay over $2000 per per for a week
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Chris and Amy 
Ontario, Canada
May 2007
Travelled April 14th -- April 21st 2007.

My boyfriend and I, 25 and 27 yrs of age, just returned from the Royal Hideaway. We have been together almost 5 years and this was our first trip together. We had both travelled separately to Varadero in the past so we wanted to travel to Cuba again. We decided on this resort based on the reviews posted on this site. We found it extremely helpful.

Check In:
The Airport in Santa Clara is very small but we got our bags quickly and made our way to the bus. The ride was about 80 minutes long but it went by super quick as the tour guide was amazing and made it so fun and informative. We arrived at the hotel, check in literally took less than 5 minutes. You walk into the office, pick up your envelope with your room keys and luggage stickers, go back to the front where the bags are (with your glass of chilled champagne), place the luggage stickers on your bag and that's it. Your bags are later delivered to your room. We had bathing suits in our carry on so we changed and went swimming right away.

The Resort:
The resort was absolutely beautiful. Another review stated that the Gardeners were the hardest working, I completely agree. We stayed in Bungalow 4103 in the Hideaway section. Our concierge was Mikel -- HE WAS AMAZING. Our fridge was stocked on a regular basis, our restaurant reservations were booked for the times we wanted and he answered all of our questions with a HUGE smile. He really could not do enough for us. He asked if we were celebrating anything special and our 4 and a half yr anniversary (yes I count those special days) fell on the Thursday. So he asked if it was wedding, we said no it was just an anniversary of being together. Well, on Thursday after returning from the beach, the maids placed candles around the room, put flowers pedals on the bed and filled up the bathtub with flowers and candles, it was so nice. There was also a poem from Mikel which ended with lettings us know a bottle of champagne would be delivered at 7:30pm. We also went to the Italian restaurant that night and he had a special candlelit table reserved and for dessert the waitress came out and did a whole flaming cake thing right at our table as the band played behind us….So thoughtful….

Food and Drinks:
It's Cuban food…what else can I say. It wasn't horrible but I found that the buffet did not have a great selection of food. Although there was a restaurant by the Hideaway pool and the pizza was great. Your allowed 4 toppings and it was so filling. The Italian Restaurant was good but the portions are extremely small. Unfortunately my boyfriend is deathly allergic to shell fish so we skipped the Asian and Seafood restaurants -- I found it hard communicating that to the staff, so we played it safe. The drinks are great and they use premium brand liquor. The bar at the Hideaway section was never busy and they made the best drinks. Try the mojito, the miami vice and the bahama mama -- so yummy!!! The bar at the Disco was never busy and the service was amazing. I can't remember the bartenders name but he is an artist by day (trying to get into an art gallery on Queen Street in Toronto) and works there by night. Sit down and have a chat with him, he is so knowledgeable and fun to talk to too, you'll learn a lot. Plus he keeps your drinks topped up!

The Pools and Beach:
The Beach is absolutely amazing and rarely busy. The white sands, clear water, different colored water, left you breathless. Our pictures looked like postcards, that's how nice it was.

We checked out the one pool in the spa section, it was busy and we only stayed for an hour or so. We preferred to stay at the Hideaway pool, the bar service was great over there and it was rarely busy. Water was at a good temperature the pool was extremely clean. Very impressed with both the pools and the beach.

The Bad:
The service could definitely be improved. There were certain parts of the resort where the service was so slow. For Example:

The lobby bar - very slow -- waited almost 20 minutes every morning for a cappuccino
The buffet restaurant - very slow -- you were finished your breakfast before you even got O.J Room Service - slow -- depending on what time you ordered, also try to be very clear when ordering, twice we received the wrong thing

Other Stuff:
-We never got to check out the Spa. We got so badly burnt (we are actually tanners and of European decent, never did we think that we would burn with SPF 45) on the 2nd and 3rd day that a massage would have been too painful.

-The resort is huge so depending where you stay you could be a far distance from the lobby, pools, restaurants. There is a map that I found through another review which I found helpful. After looking at the map I actually sent an email through the website of the resort and requested the Bungalow that I wanted -- which I did get.

-Bring an alarm clock with you -- none of the rooms have clocks   -Tips -- we did tip occasionally but never felt obligated -- if the service was good we would leave 1 Cuban Convertible Peso. We also left little gift bags full of toiletries' for the maids everyday.

Overall we had an amazing first trip and we would definitely go back…..
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Jim & Maureen 
Ontario Canada
April 2007
We are a couple in our early 50’s and have traveled a fair bit over the years. We used to spend most of our time in Mexico (1980’s to 2001) but the last few years have we have been vacationing in Cuba. This was our sixth visit to Cuba: twice to Breezes Veradero, three times to Cayo Largo – Barcelo 2x & the Sol Cayo Largo once & now Cayo Ensenachos. Over the years we have met many friends whose company we still enjoy today. Our intention was to go once again to Cayo Largo however at the last minute decided on the Royal Hideaway.

Departure
We have a 2 ½ hour drive to Toronto so we decided to stay overnight in Toronto so that we could be rested prior to departure. Check in at the airport went very quickly with no issues. We actually departed at 06:30 A.M. and arrived in Santa Clara airport at ~09:30 A.M. We were through customs and on our way to Cayo Ensenachos at 10:30 A.M.
The bus ride is ~90 minutes but does not seem that long as you travel through the cities and countryside. Have your camera ready. This gives you a good flavor of how the Cubans live. It is a very interesting & minute look into the Cuban way of life. You then come to the causeway where there is a check point & toll which I will further discuss later. The causeway is 48 kilometers long and there are 42 puntes (bridges) along the causeway. Towards the end of the causeway and on your right your will notice a spit of land being developed for a future dolphinarium . They are dredging the ocean floor on your left (west) and splaying it on your right (east). The Royal Hideaway is about 5 minutes from this point.

Arrival at the Royal Hideaway
Upon arrival your bags are unloaded from the bus. You leave your bags where they are as you will be given a tag with your room number which you then come back and put this tag on your bags. The porter will then take your bags to your room. Do not worry it is all very efficient and you will see your bags in your room.
Back to check-in: You room has already been assigned, we were 3224, and all rooms are very nice. You also receive a glass of champagne upon your arrival. A nice touch. Everyone has a smile and is very accommodating. You will be greeted by you concierge, ours was Hanoy, who will take care of your every need.
As you exit the lobby the Royal Hideaway rooms are on your left and the Spa rooms are on your right. The villas are ~ 1 kilometer past the Royal Hideaway rooms.

Our Room
We were in Bungalow 32 room 3224 which was an upper floor room (only two floors) and we had a partial ocean view, mind you it was a distant ocean view. The rooms are decorated very elegantly. You have a dvd player, a TV, a mini bar (stocked daily with your requirements), a coffee maker, a large closet with an iron & ironing board, an umbrella, your safety box, and lots of room to hang your clothes.
In the washroom you have a Plexiglas shower, a bathtub which has a hand held shower, a weigh scale so that you can watch the weight add up each day…hahaha…….. & of course the square toilet (thought of Sponge Bob Square Pants). There is even a telephone beside the toilet if the need is there.

As you enter your room there is soft music playing for you which is very relaxing and welcoming.
Each day our maids left us a variety of towel art with little accompanying notes.
There is lots of space for your clothing here as well.

Miscellaneous Facilities
There is a well equipped library here that has a good variety of books and dvd’s to be lent out during your stay. There is no charge but be sure to bring them back before your departure. If you have books that you are willing to donate I am sure they will be very much appreciated. Other facilities include: disco, tennis courts, basketball court, spa facilities, a well equipped gym, gift store, a cigar shop, a large checker board, & the bank is located at the foot of the stairs. Have patience it is a very slow process.

Bars
The cigar bar as the name implies is for smokers. So if smoke bothers you do not enter this area. Connected to the cigar bar is the cigar shop which carries a very good variety of cigars and cigarettes. The bar has a pool table for those inclined.

The lobby bar is very well stocked with local and premium drinks, as are most of the bars. Here you will find a piano player who is very good and will take requests. The lobby bar is fairly active after dinner and prior to the disco starting at 11:00 P.M.

Disco bar is the happening place after 11:00 P.M. Again a good variety of drinks and the music and light show is quite good as well.

The beach bar offers limited drinks: beer, liquor, and a few slushy type drinks as well as soft drinks. They also offer hot dogs and hamburgers, chicken on a bun, etc. They also have a small patio area and will deliver your order to you on the beach.

Pool bars also are well stocked.

We did not frequent the spa area so I cannot offer any information here.

A La Cartes & Buffet
We ate at only two of these: Italian & the Seafood. There is a dress code and if the men arrive in shorts they will be turned away. Jeans are ok but we seen only one person in jeans. The same dress code for the buffet. We found both restaurants to have excellent choices and the food was very good. I am a very picky eater and I found there to be enough variety to satisfy me. If you like part of one choice offered and part of another they will accommodate that for you.
The buffet offered a good variety each day and the seating area was very nicely decorated.

Tips
We did tip but not as much as some and more so than others:
Bar tips – 1 CUC per every 4 or 5 drinks
A La Cartes : 3 CUC
Buffet: 1 CUC
Lunch: 1 CUC
Maids: gifts or 1 or 2 CUC

Beaches
The beach here really is amazing. It is all that you expect of a tropical island paradise and more. There are two beaches here: Megamo (the main beach). We counted ~109 palapas, enough for most guests. The Ensenachos beach a sparsely populated beach with no amenities offered. At the extreme south end of the beach there are ~10 palapas offered for the villa area. At the extreme south point you will find a boathouse for those staying at the villas. We did not see any nudity during our stay, however there were a few ladies that did go topless which did not seem to bother anyone. At the north end of Megamo beach and around the bend we did see some conch, a star fish & a sting ray. There are lots of small shells scattered about. It is very windy around the bend.

Tours
We booked the Santa Clara tour for Wednesday (English speaking tour). The French peaking tours are on Tuesdays. The cost was 65 CUC each and well worth the cost. This tour was amazing. We departed at 08:00 A.M. and arrived back at 06:30 P.M.
We first traveled across the causeway and past the toll to the small fishing village of Cabarien. Here were taken to the train restoration factory. They were restoring old steam engines that are still in use today. After a brief period of watching the men restoring these beautiful engines we then boarded one and were taken to Remedios. Here we walked through a 16th century church where the huge alter was made of solid 22 carat gold. They have books dated back to the 1600’s. These books carry the records of births, deaths, & marriages of everyone of the church. Just an amazing story and church. We then a some free time to roam about the village. There is a statue of a pregnant virgin Mary carrying a child.
We were then off again to the cigar factory. We watched a video of how cigars are made and how important cigars are to the culture of Cuba. Unfortunately we could not bring cameras into the factory. Most workers are women and it reminded me of a sweat shop. The workers sit in rows at desks and make the various types of cigars. They also sit in groups: beginners, trainees & the experts. There is then the quality control, the banding and the boxing. Then off to shipping. This is all hands on and very labour intensive. No wonder they cost so much. You cannot buy cigars here. Next stop was for lunch at a very nice Cuban resort area. The meal was very good. A small buffet but very good, even for a picky eater like me. After about an hour we moved on the Ernesto “Che” Guevera museum and square. The Cubans think very highly of Che and it was demonstrated here. You are not allowed to bring your cameras inside he museum. This is a very impressive display.
Next stop was at a store to purchase cigars, coffee or alcohol.
We were then given one hour of our own time to browse through the shopping area of Santa Clara. It was very hot and not very much to look at. You will be approached by beggars so be warned if this is not your liking.
Lastly we were taken to an area where Che and his rebels destroyed and stopped a train lead by Batista’s army during the revolution. I do not know the whole story here so I will leave this one alone. However it is interesting.
We then heading back to the Royal Hideaway. A long day but a very rewarding trip.

Scooters
We did rent a scooter for the day – 26 CUC plus gas. Fuel is 0.95 CUC per liter.
We traveled 300 kilometers on the scooter.
We started by crossing the causeway. There are 40 puentes between our hotel and the end of the causeway. Be warned it is very windy and little traffic on the causeway. If you are unsure of yourself do not attempt this crossing. It takes ~ 1 hour to cross the causeway.
There is a 2 CUC toll at the end of the causeway. Once you pass here turned right into the small fishing village of Cabarien. At the first sight of apartment building turn left heading to Remidios. If you go straight into Cabarien you will see a large cement crab sculpture demonstrating the significance of the crab to this village. Do not hesitated to stop and talk to the locals. They are very friendly and seldom see tourists in their village. We then went on to Remedios and stopped to watch a baseball game. We talked to a number of children, took photos and handed our small gifts and candy. We then headed into town and toured the side streets and again took a number of photos and handed out a few gifts. It was really interesting to see he daily life of the Cubans. We Canadians are truly fortunate for the “luxuries” we have. These are very warm and friendly people. We purchase some fuel here and started our trip back. At the toll area you first are stopped by inspection requesting your passport. Oh oh!! WE only had a photo copy and they did not like this. But once they realized that was all that we had they let us through. We paid our 2 CUC toll then stopped at the side of the road for a small snack that we brought with us. The ride back was extremely windy and we were almost blown off the road a few times.

We then stopped at our hotel for a quick drink (non-alcohol) then headed out to Santa Maria. We just a did a quick breeze through this area. We then headed back to the gas station (~13 kilometers) towards the causeway to fill-up before returning the scooter. A long & rewarding day.

Miscellaneous
How do you describe the service? It was simply the best. From the barmen, to the front desk, the maids, the concierge, the beach bar, the golf cart drivers, etc., all great.
As many other have stated, “simply the best”.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
Susan and Bill 
Ontario
April 2007
We are a couple who have traveled most of the Caribbean and been to Central America and to Cuba 8 times before this. We usually take two tips a yr. Once with a group of friends and the second on our own. We enjoy meeting people and the RHE is a great place to meet others and we have already been in touch with some of them since we returned home.

Flight
On time both ways with Air transat--no problems. When we arrived at the airport it was raining so hard that the ground crew wasn't sure if they wanted us to deplane but the flight crew gave us the choice and of course away we went.
Customs moved quickly although airport is small but we were thru customs and had luggage within an hr. When we walked outside the sun was shining.

Air transat personnel directed us to our buses and we bought beer for the way. There is a covered canopy outside the airport to sit and have a drink while waiting to leave.

Trip to the resort took about 80 minutes but we took it as a tour of the area as our guide spoke good English and gave great info about the region. Passed thru Santa Clara and Redemios and of course over the causeway. Lots of interesting history. The guide on the way back to the airport also gave a great report of stuff we didn't hear on the way. The expansion of the airport is to be done in May.

Check in-
Greeted with champagne in an amazing marble foyer that takes your breath away and then given an envelope to your room. Locate your luggage and then someone will take you by golf cart to your room. Best and most efficient check in ever.

Rooms-
everything that has been described and more. Music playing when you enter the room and a beautiful towel sculpture on the bed with a welcome note. Within 5 minutes Maikel our concierge had greeted us and introduced himself. He was wonderful and so accommodating.
We were in room 4105, which is a 5-minute walk to the beach and to the pool. Exactly where we wanted to be. A bit of a walk (about 10 min) to the lobby and restaurants but we needed the exercise or lots of golf carts to take you.
The rooms are stocked with pop; beer, juice and water, which are replenished each day by letting the concierge, know what you need.
The room also has a huge closet with an iron and board and there is even a weigh scale in the washroom. All rooms have a patio or balcony. With in 20 minutes the suitcases were delivered to our rooms.
Off to explore.

Facilities-
There is a bank, gift shop and library (no need to bring books) as the library had an extensive selection ---over 100 which you could check out and leave your books for others.
There is also a great selection of DVD's
There is also spa, gift store, cigar shop, exercise room, disco, basketball court, catamarans, paddle boats etc

Restaurants and food
We did all the a-la cartes, the Asian, Seafood and Italian. All had amazing service, and great food. Our favourite was the Asian but that is not to say the others weren't great. You are treated like kings and queens. In the Italian restaurant they have a 4 string quartet, which plays most evenings, and they are simply amazing.
The a-l-cartes do enforce a dress code of long pants for the men, as does the buffet in the evenings. Dress sandals were permitted but I doubt that flip-flops would be.
The poolside snack bar was not your typical poolside affair--you ordered off the menu and could have anything from calamari to burgers to chicken cordon bleu. It was all great. You could also have it delivered to your chair if you wanted as servers walked around they pool to take your order. The beach bar also served the best hotdogs (who would ever think that you would brag about hot dogs in Cuba) but trust me just try them. This bar also served the best mojitos I have ever had in Cuba.
The buffet was probably not the biggest assortment I have seen at a resort but the quality was great and food and service again was impressive. We also had a 5-course gourmet meal delivered to our room one night.
They also will deliver breakfast to late night meals to your room. Also any thing you might wish to drink from Spanish coffees to Crisal beer to great Rose Chilean wine.

Bars and drinks
You name it and this resort has it. The pool bar, the disco, the beach bar, cigar lounge and the lobby/piano bar made drinks that can rival any bar anywhere. Where as we have found on a holiday most resorts tend to dump lots of alcohol in the drink so they all taste the same the Royal Hideaways take the time to make the drink special. They serve Spanish coffees and Brazilian coffees and chocolate martinis just to name a few.

Each night the piano bar had either a Cuban duet or a girl playing a baby grand piano. A great place to relax at the end of a strenuous day (lol) and meet people.

Entertainment
we only saw a few shows but the quality was top notch. It was too bad that more people didn't watch but I think maybe it is too late of a start in the evening.

Pools
Large and winding. Never a problem getting a lounger (which they get the cushions and set up for you) any time of the day. Each lounger also has a palapala so no worry about the shade. They also adjust this too. Floating loungers are also a nice touch. Pool was always clean.

Beach
Amazing, Amazing, Amazing. We have traveled many countries and this is the best beach we have ever seen. White talcum powder comes to mind. They say this is the best beach in Cuba and we have visited 9 others and this is the best! We walked the beach each day and did the other beach once. We saw conch shells and starfish. Crystal Clear water. Lot of chairs and shade and they serve you if you want drinks or food. Never crowded even if everyone at the resort was on the beach at the same time.

Service
Simply the best anywhere. We felt so spoiled. From the front desk to the room service to maids (two in the day and two at night)_ Night maids turn down the beds, close curtains, exchange towels and turn on the music to greet you. The gardeners, drivers everyone----the best Cuba has to offer. One of the drivers told us that this resort waited until everyone was fully trained before they opened and it shows. Maikel our concierge couldn't do enough. In fact he even returned at 6 in the morning on the last day so we could check out with him instead of waiting in line at the front desk.

It was also our anniversary and we returned on the last day to our room it was filled with flowers and candles in the tub, a lovely poem written by Maikel on the bed, a heart over the bed, candles burning--so romantic and later that day a bottle of champagne was delivered.

The Royal Hideaways couldn't do enough for you. This hotel is all about service.

To sum it up the Royal Hideaways is a first class resort all the way. I am only glad that if was not our first trip to Cuba because we would be disappointed at everything else (we do like all they other spots we have visited too) but this is a class in its own. We met so many people who have traveled all over and had nothing but good things to say about the RHE. This resort is set in a lush landscape where the resort is built around the foliage. It is beautiful. Lots of walking, but nothing ever seemed too far. While we were there a Saudi prince had flown in for a few days.

We also had the opportunity to meet the new manager who had just arrived a few weeks previous.
This was the most romantic, relaxing vacation we have ever taken. If you want to be spoiled relaxing on the best beach anywhere than this the place to go. You won't be disappointed. Everyone on the staff will tell you this is the best resort in Cuba and they are right.

I could go on and on but I think what everyone else has written describes this resort. I can't say enough great things about it. I am so glad that we chose to go here. We are already saving for next yr even if the price goes up (and I can hope it doesn't) When you leave the Royal Hideaways you leave a bit of your heart there too. As with everywhere in Cuba the people are the best.

The Royal Hideaways is the kind of place you want to tell everyone about but you really want to keep it your secret!
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
David and Mimi 
Nova Scotia
April 2007
Just returned from the RHE and we both would have a great time, except that I worried during my stay, that when I went to the washroom, there would be some employee from the resort come along to help me with the paper work.

Seriously, this is the best resort I have ever visited and my review would just be a repeat of many that have been submitted except for the negative ones.

After reading many of the reviews, my actual experience just seem to be a reinactment of the other people's experience.

I would like to pass on my comments to others who are thinking about going to this resort.

1. The resort map that is available on www.7daysinparadise.com is representative of the resort but the scale and location of the beach, walkways, and bungaelow need to be improved. Just be careful when requesting a certain room or bungalow with proximity to the beach.

2. The electricity is supplied to this resort through a cable buried in the causeway or attached to the side of the many bridges. There are numerous power surges or short interruptions which are noticable if you happen to run your air conditioner at night. I had packed a small flashlight which was useful, during a trip to the washroom during one of these outages.

3. The lobster is not PEI loyster non are the scallops from Digby, but just remember you are not in the Maritimes.

4. At the buffet makes sure all your utensils, cups and dishes show signs that they were used even if they weren't.

5. With this resort practically full, the longest lineup I observed was six people waiting to exchange money at prime time.

Yes, we would go back because the positive reviews previously posted were true.
Royal Hideaway Los Ensenachos
William & Carolyn 
London, Ontario
April 2007
Resort: Royal Hideaway Cayo Ensenachos, Cuba December 1-10th, 2006

It's a little late but we loved this resort so much that we wanted to submit a review...

We are a married couple, aged 40 & 46 (but 25 at heart) who travel roughly twice a year and LOVE the beach. Our priorities are "beach, beach, beach", "pool, pool, pool" and clean accomodation. We realize that no destination or resort can possibly please absolutely everyone so we go away with the philosophy that your vacation is what you make of it; we focus on having a good time and always do, despite the unavoidable minor annoyances that are bound to occur.

In order to put our review into context, please note that we have traveled to a variety of Caribbean destinations ranging from 3.5 to 5+ Stars. We have enjoyed every single one of our adventures, all for different reasons and love the thrill of experiencing something new and different at each resort we visit. Examples of our destinations include St. Kitts, Grand Cayman, Punta Cana (Barcelo Bavaro Beach & Grand Palladium Bavaro), San Andres (Decameron Aquarium), Mexico (RIU Los Cabos, Grand Palladium Mayan Riviera) and, of course, Cuba (Tryp Cayo Coco, Sol Cayo Santa Maria, Sol Luna y Mares Holguin). Without a doubt, Royal Hideaway Cayo Ensenachos is one of the nicest resorts we have had the pleasure of visiting and it was certainly a steal at the price we paid. If you like a relaxing vacation at an immaculate resort, snap this one up now before the regular rates kick in.

Travel:
We always hear of complaints about Air Transat but we have never had a problem with their service. Sure, the flight is cramped, sure the food is rather sad and sure, there are line-ups but we find that to be true with nearly all charters and you can't complain too much if you want fares to remain reasonable in these times of escalating fuel costs etc. If you loathe spending 3 1/2 hours in a small seat with no leg room and hate line-ups then pay the extra and fly Club Class; it just depends on how much the added comfort is worth to you.

They did change our flight time from a morning to an afternoon departure two or three days before we left but they also changed our return flight from afternoon to evening so we didn't lose any of our precious vacation time. I understand that this is not uncommon in December as they are changing from low to peak season and sometimes have to make adjustments accordingly.

Immigration in Cuba was a bit of a wait but not unreasonable and we were efficiently directed by our rep to the correct bus. The trip to the hotel was roughly an hour and twenty minutes which is rather a long haul but we had been to Cayo Santa Maria before so knew it was well worth the wait. Unlike many other destinations with long transport times, we didn't have to stop at other hotels to let people off as they separated us all by hotel right at the airport... a nice bit of forethought there! We arrived in the dark so didn't see much of the Cuban countryside but we did get a good look at a couple of the towns we passed through and managed to sneak a peak into some of the homes as they were all lit up at night. Sure makes one understand how the resort staff live and why we shouldn't complain about small inconveniences when the Cuban people have so little.

Check-in:
Very organized and prompt. We were given welcome drinks upon arrival then ushered into a room off the main lobby which turned out to be the reception. There was some slight confusion about our names and we were initially given the wrong room package but it was quickly rectified and all service was with a smile. We had emailed ahead of time to request a specific building and floor and we received our request to a tee. We were checked in by 10pm and told to go directly to the buffet as they were staying open late to accommodate the newly arrived guests, something we were quite thankful for after the airplane fare! The selection was not huge but more than adequate and we certainly didn't leave hungry. The staff were very kind and still managed to smile even though I'm sure we kept them there much longer than normal with the change in flight time. A couple next to us had a tantrum and refused to eat when they noticed that the table cloth had a stain on it and had obviously been used by others earlier in the evening. We weren't bothered by it as the plates and cutlery were spotless. After dinner, we and our baggage were transported to our room by golf cart, a trip that took all of two minutes as our room was located just down from the lobby. The bellman lugged our bags and snorkel gear up the steps to our second floor room and showed us how to operate the air-conditioning etc.

Room:
Our room was in the Royal Spa Section, building 21, on the second floor and was simply immaculate. Roughly the same size and style as those we've stayed in during trips to Mexico and Dominican and though we did miss the Jacuzzi in the middle of the room from Palladium Punta Cana, there was absolutely nothing to complain about. Ample drawer and closet space, lovely furniture and a full tub with separate glass shower. Hangars were sufficient but I always bring along a couple of pant and skirt hangars which tend to come in handy. Our room faced the ocean (though you couldn't quite see it as the buildings are a bit of a distance from the beach) and was very private. Each two-storey building had about 20 rooms and was serviced by it's own concierge, on duty in the courtyard from 9am-5pm. Our concierge, Osmani, was a fabulously professional and courteous fellow who arranged all our meals, left us little notes in our room regarding shows and activities and answered any questions we had. The location of our room was very central and convenient... steps to the spa and spa pool, a short walk to the main pool on the Royal Spa side, two minutes to the lobby with it's restaurants, bars and disco, and about a five minute walk to the nearest beach.

Money Exchange:
The only currency used for excursions or shopping is the Cuban Convertible Peso so if you want to purchase anything or leave tips, you will need to change your money. Excursions may also be paid for with a credit card but only if it is issued by a Canadian bank, no Citi Mastercard, Amex or MBNA etc. Rates for the Peso are not great and the exchange is worse than the US dollar but there is not much you can do about it. Last time we were here, the rate was better at the hotel and I think this time the rate was slightly better at the airport but it's a negligible difference. You can change money at the airport upon arrival if you have time and want to have some tip money available. Otherwise, the hotel has a currency exchange on the lower floor of the lobby, right at the bottom of the stairs. It is open from 9am-5pm but be aware the line-ups are longest the morning after your arrival when everyone suddenly realizes they need cash. If you can wait until the afternoon it will save you some time. As an aside, we tipped the fellow at the currency exchange every time we used it and he was almost in tears. He told us that he had never received a tip before and we gather this is because most people assume that bankers can't accept tips... not true, and if you're a tipper and appreciate the service you will sure make their day. We also gave him our insulated mugs and a t-shirt when we left and this time he really was in tears and so appreciative of our small gifts.

Weather:
About as perfect as it gets at this time of year! Approximately 27-30 degrees and sunny during the day and about 22-25 degrees at night. We had one night of rain but none during the day, one day with quite a few clouds but still warm and one day that was sunny but a bit too windy to be at the beach. I really feel the cold and often get a chill at night but the only time I needed a light sweater was in the air-conditioned restaurants, never outdoors.

Grounds:
Gorgeous! For a brand new resort, the foliage and flowers were very mature and abundant. Much like many of the resorts on the Mayan Coast of Mexico, this resort was cut right out of the bush, leaving much of the natural surroundings intact. An earlier review complained about this and the fact that you can't see the beach from the resort, itself but we thought it really added to the charm and privacy of the place. The resort is indeed, very spread out and is divided into three sections so it can be quite a hike from one end to the other. However, carts are available for transport upon your request and each section has it's own conveniently located pool and pool bar/restaurant so you don't need to venture far if you're not the exploring type. The walk to the beach can be quite a distance, depending upon your room location. There are two boardwalks to the main beach and the one closest to us took about 2 minutes to traverse, about 5 minutes total from building 21 on the Spa side.

The lobby is centrally located, with the Royal Spa section on one side and the Royal Hideaway section on the other. At the far end of the Royal Hideaway section is the Seafood Restaurant and quite a ways beyond that is the Royal Suites section. As others have mentioned, there is no map available yet so if you enjoy walking it's a good idea to explore a bit the first day to get a feel for the layout. Also, you can always ask your concierge or one of the many passing staff members for directions and he or she will be happy to point the way.

Beaches:
Yes, beaches. There are two of them, well, three really but one is very tiny and only offers water sports (not yet open when we were there). The other two are both long, gorgeous, white sand beaches that rank up there with the best I've seen. One beach, which I would call the main beach, is in front of the Royal Hideaway and Spa sections and runs for a couple of kms. It is in a bay so is quite sheltered and shallow for a ways out. The beach bar and grill is located here and they also provide waiter service to the lounge chairs on the beach. We had no trouble finding chairs and palapas at any time of day but the resort was not full when we were there. I could see it becoming a problem in high season if they don't add more chairs. The beach grill/bar is tiny and only serves a limited selection of food such as hamburgers, hotdogs and sandwiches but it was great for a quick lunch when we felt too lazy to lumber back to one of the pool grills.

The second beach was a bit of hike down a small service road, beyond the seafood restaurant but well worth the trek if you like seclusion. Again, it is a couple of kms long and at the very far end is the upscale Royal Suites section. At the near end is another beach bar/grill that was not yet open when we were there (which was actually nice because the beach was virtually deserted). There were a handful of palapas and beach chairs at the far end and the rest of it was inhabited by a few, intermittent couples laying right on their towels. We ventured over a couple of times and once even had the entire beach to ourselves... what a treat. The only downside of course, was that there was nowhere close by to obtain food or drink but that's what you give up for the seclusion... we brought large thermal mugs with us (Bubba Kegs from Canadian Tire) so we just filled them up on our way there then trekked back to the pool when we got hungry. I think it was about a ten minute walk. Also, an important note, due to the seclusion, most (but not all) of the couples scattered along this beach were naturalists so if you're uncomfortable with, or offended by that sort of thing you may want to avoid this area. This was true even at the Royal Suites end where the beach chairs were. This may change when the resort is completely open but I know there was a naturalist section at our beach at Sol/Melia Cayo Santa Maria, just down the road from here so it may remain this way.

Pools:
Four of them.... all lovely and spotlessly clean. There is a small pool in the Royal Suites section which we briefly visited, enjoying a drink at their pool bar. It was VERY quiet here, literally not a sound and no music. We felt compelled to whisper as everyone was either sleeping or reading and looked very much they didn't want to be disturbed in any way.

There is also another small pool located next to the spa, no bar here and we never saw a soul using it. Serenity music is played here all day so it could be a very tranquil retreat for those who enjoy that sort of thing.

The two main pools are very similar to each other and are located on both the Spa and Hideaway sides. Each is quite large and meandering with a pool bar and attached restaurant/grill that is open during the day... until 6pm, if I remember correctly. Pool chairs were very comfortable (wooden frame with pads on top) and easy to find, though not always in the sun or shade as one desired... again, this may be a problem in high season. There was waiter service to your chair and the bar service was also excellent. We thought both pool restaurants were identical but discovered towards the end that the one on the Hideaway side was the only one to offer pizza, something I had been craving all week. It was delicious too, thin crust and a decent choice of toppings! We found all food at lunch to be quite palatable though not always consistent in it's ingredients. Both these pools played music intermittently, mostly latin but it was never too loud or obtrusive. Though they had volleyball and basketball nets available for pool games we never saw anyone playing nor were we ever approached by staff to participate in any activities. This is a very low key and relaxing resort.

Restaurants:
We tried the Asian once, Italian once and ate at the buffet the rest of the time. Not being picky eaters we can always find something while on vacation so the food doesn't make it or break it for us.

The Asian restaurant had impeccable service and good food. The appetizers were delicious but I had the seafood platter and found the fish to be a little overcooked. My husband enjoyed his meal and we left completely stuffed without even having dessert! You have the choice of sitting in a private room, at a regular table or at the "show table" where they cook in front of you so if you have a preference, be sure to let your concierge know when you book.

The Italian restaurant was very formal and the food and wine were plentiful. The service was first rate and we always tipped accordingly. We did not eat at the seafood restaurant though I wish we had if for nothing else but the view. It was the only one not located in the main lobby building and had outdoor seating available that looked as though it would be quite pleasant.

The buffet was in a very grand room and had adequate though not abundant selection. They were just beginning to work on different theme nights when we were there and I imagine the variety will improve along with the occupancy rate. We usually ate late and even at 8 or 9 pm we found the food to be plentiful. In general, the food in Cuba cannot be compared to that of Mexico or Dominican as they simply do not have the same supply and availability. If food is your thing and you enjoy the spread in Mexico or on the cruise ships, Cuba is not the place for you. If you love friendly people and lovely beaches and food is secondary, then you will not be disappointed. Please try to keep in mind that the food you are complaining about is so much more extravagant than that which the average Cuban has access to and be respectful of the fact that they are trying very hard to please us with what they have available.

The only downside to the a la carte restaurants was that we had to book every day with our concierge for each evening's meal. We gave him a range of times and he would then leave a note in our room with our reservation information. It would have been much nicer if we could have booked at least a couple of nights at a time as sometimes we wanted to be out and going before he arrived at 9am and if you waited until later, it was difficult to get a reservation.

Bars:
Pool bars were great! They had a good selection of brands and very creative bartenders if you were brave enough to give them free reign over your libation. The Bartenders were very efficient and friendly and we never waited long for a drink. The staff seemed to be moving around quite a bit so we did not always have the same bartenders and wait staff but we would often run into them at another location. I think they were still working out all the logistics when we were there.

The Lobby Bar was a nice place to have a before or after dinner drink or to sit and while away the evening playing cards or listening to live piano or guitar music. They had an excellent selection of international brands available. We had the worst service here but there was definitely a slower and a faster end of the bar to sit at. The end by the door was busier and received much quicker service. Not sure about the tables as we never sat at one. There was a cigar bar next door with snooker-sized pool table but we never ventured into it. As an aside, shoes and something other than a bathing suit were required for the lobby and lobby bar... just common sense when you see how lovely it is.

We absolutely loved the disco and this was definitely a high point for us at this resort. We enjoy dancing but often don't make it out as often as we would like because most resort discos don't open until 11pm and by then we're exhausted after a day of fresh air and beach-strolling. Here the disco opened at 7pm and though most people didn't get up on the dance floor until about 9pm, it was early enough to have some fun and still be in bed in time to get up and walk the beach in the morning. The music selection was good most nights, a variety of latin and a bit of rock and old disco tunes. It also had a nice bar to sit at with some of the best bartenders we had during our stay. Your glass would be refilled within seconds of taking your last sip.

Room Service:
The menu is not extensive but the service is sure nice to have if the urge to eat at an odd hour hits. We often ordered a bottle of wine or champagne as the room service carts passed us on our way back from the beach or pool. We enjoyed many a nice glass of wine on the balcony, in the tub or while getting ready for dinner. If you are at all inclined, please be sure to use this service as they are happy to fulfill even your most minor requests. If they spotted you walking back to your room they would stop and ask if you wanted anything and at first we declined, not wanting to be a bother but then we caught on that they were trying to drum up business. Two of the attendants who brought us our nightly bottle mentioned that there weren't many room service requests so they were hoping it would pick up or they would be out of a job and sent to some other detail. They were great, always showing up with a smile and we had quite the comedian who would entertain us with a different joke every night as he opened our bottle of champagne.

Excursions:
We only took one excursion as this was meant to be a holiday of total relaxation after a very hectic year. The Catamaran/snorkeling tour was very good. It was a full day on board a large catamaran with two snorkeling stops, a stop at a secluded beach and a lobster lunch. The snorkeling was quite good, especially our second stop which featured some deeper water and a great variety of fish, including a few barracudas... mostly small ones but a couple of bigger guys! The snorkeling in Cuba is good but if you've been to Cozumel or Cayman, don't expect it to compare or you'll be disappointed. All in all it was an enjoyable and relaxing excursion and the best part is that the marina is only a five minute bus trip from the resort so not a lot of time is wasted in transit.

Tips:
We can't say one way or another if the service differs whether you tip or not as we have always tipped. I put myself through university working in the service industry so I know how hard these folks work and especially here, for what small wages they work. We tip for good service at home so why wouldn't we there? Even though it is "all inclusive", tips for the staff are not factored in and let's face it, the price we pay for a flight, hotel and unlimited food and drink is still a much better deal than you would pay for such a holiday in Canada. Please also try to remember the folks from whom you don't get direct service... the gardeners who work hard all day to keep the grounds beautiful, often with rudimentary tools, the money exchange fellow, the maids who clean the public spaces etc. The wait staff, concierge, maids, bartenders etc. seem to fare better as people tend to tip those who can do something for them like bring their drinks more expeditiously so try to spread it around if you are willing, the people who don't receive much really appreciate it when you do.

We also try to bring down other little extras with us as supply is still very limited in Cuba. First aid supplies, advil etc, things for children, fishing supplies, guitar strings, perfume or cologne, tools, sunglasses etc. are all greatly appreciated. Also, as mentioned, the insulated mugs are perfect for keeping your beverages cold at the beach then make a great giveaway to someone whose service you appreciated while there. We gave our gardener a couple of items, including a cheap, $20 watch and he hunted us down the next day with a thank you note and small gift... the people of Cuba are some of the nicest you will meet and showing our appreciation for their hospitality is both rewarding and humbling when you realize that they have so little but would give you the shirt off their back in return for a kind gesture.

Shopping:
Not a lot to buy here, a fact for which my husband is very thankful and I'm sure, one of the main reasons why he loves Cuba so much! A local craft market was set up once during our stay but with limited variety. Also, there are a couple of stores in the lobby selling touristy trinkets, alcohol, snacks, limited toiletries etc. Cigars and rum are popular purchases and otherwise this is definitely not a big shopping destination.

Entertainment:
No regular shows when we were there. Three nights they had different productions in the auditorium and most nights they had some sort of music in the lobby. Everything we saw was entertaining and you can certainly appreciate the talent and hard work that is involved in the productions. We watched some Cuban singers accompanied by a small orchestra in the auditorium one night and boy, could those guys ever sing!

General:
The only downside were the no-see-ums that came out every day around 4pm and seem to really like me. I am allergic so was covered in welts and though my husband received a few bites, his promptly disappeared. I brought bug repellent but kept forgetting it in the room so I just put up with them and tried to head in before they got too vicious. The day before we left we saw them spraying so this might reduce the population somewhat. It didn't ruin my holiday however, and a dose of "Afterbite" quickly eased the itching. Next time I would be more diligent about using bug spray though.

Overall:
We would recommend this resort to anyone who wants a relaxing, adults only vacation at a gorgeous beach resort with immaculately clean rooms. Definitely a five star resort in our eyes with perhaps, three and a half star food by most people's standards. Again, this will likely improve as the resort works out all the bugs of the first year's opening.