logo Old Reviews - Melia Las Dunas
Melia Las Dunas
St Helems, Merseyside, UK
December 2008
Arrival: September 2008
wonderful arrival all the entertainment staff were dressed in colour cuban dress singing dancing and very welcoming.

the rooms were lovely and clean. the maid left towels each day folded into lovely shapes.

Restaurants and Bars:
large selection of all different food. the Bar staff were really friendly especially a young lady called lisbaisy. she made us feel so relaxed cant wait to go back.

grounds were clean but it was a little bit dark when walking back to the appartment at night

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
acitivities on and off the resorot were plentyfull. pool activities to beach activities.

Other Comments:
I loved it so much the Cuban people were so friendly so much so i felt i had known them all my life. cant wait to go back there in may. Ive booked already
Melia Las Dunas
Toronto, Canada
October 2008
Arrival and Flight
We went with Transat holidays because the price was ridiculously cheap for that one week in June (21-28). The flight there was delayed by about 45mins due to some girls not having proper documentation for travel (passport was to expire less than 6months after the return date or something to that effect), but eventually the four young ladies made it onto the plane and we were off to the beautiful weather of the south! The rest of the flight was quite uneventful. Best tip I read on this site from someone who went earlier - change your cash to convertible pesos at the airport, the rate is about 15% cheaper there!! Almost everyone from our flight was going to either our hotel or the Cayo Coco (next to the Las Dunas) so there were three buses at the airport (if you can call a building in the middle of a field an airport - though very organized) and whisked us away on a 1.5hr drive to the island Santa Maria. Each bus had a Transat rep who provided us with a lot of interesting information about the towns and villages we were passing on our way. We arrived in the middle of the day, so we got to see everything the Transat Rep was telling us about - the bus ride worked like a tour for us. On arrival to the hotel we were greeted by music, dancing entertainment staff and cold drinks. The check-in proccess happened in a large conference hall - so virtually no wait - took about 15mins total. We were told that our luggage will make it to our rooms within 30mins. So we decided to book our a la cart restaurants during this time - it was the biggest headache I've every experienced! The man in charge of taking reservations - took almost 30mins and was beyond rude. More on that in the restaurant section later.

The room we got was on the second floor of building #37 (adult side) was close to the beach (about a 5min walk), but was about a 15min walk to the main lobby and buffet. However, it was not a big deal for us as we figured after all the food and lying on the beach, we should do at least some sort of exercise. The room was huge! There were three adults in the room and it certainly never felt cramped at all! The beds were extremely comfortable, the bedding was very clean and crisp (felt new every time it was changed - happens only by request). Our mini-fridge was not filled with anything when we first moved in, so after a quick call to the reception - we got a knock on the door within 20mins and the fridge was filled with bottled water, beer and soft drinks. All were refilled again every day. We left tips for the maid in the form of cash and little presents, which she told us she loved whenever we saw her on our way to the beach.. Our maid never left us any towel animals, but the room was always spotless and was always cleaned while we were out for morning ocean swim (between 10 and 12.30pm). All the amenities in the room worked really well - and since the hotel is still relatively new, nothing had that damp mildew smell. No bugs anywhere. The bathroom had bottles of shampoo and soap, which was replenished every time it was used up.

So the first day we got to the resort we tried to make reservations at the a la carts. We told the guy at the special table (so no way to request someone else to deal with you) that we need to make four reservations, but he tried to assure us that everyone only gets three. After many words being exchanged and me showing a print out of the transat itinerary he finally conceded to giving us four! There are five restaurants - Italian, Seafood, Romantic, Steakhouse, Pizzeria. We went to all, but Pizzeria. All three of us loved the Romantic one the best - beautiful decor and a french menu. Excellent service, beautiful presentation and great tasting food is all we could have asked for. The other restaurants managed to disappoint us with very slow service, at the Seafood resto we were actually approached by the manager after we waited for an hour for our main course and asked to change our order, because they ran out of things we ordered!!! The food was slow in coming out at all others but not as long of a wait as the Seafood. The food was very tasty at all a la carts, except the steakhouse, which none of us liked - the meat was tough and not marinated well at all.

The buffet was always excellent. I have been to other all-inclusive resorts, but this one is probably the best one yet! They had fresh juices (at least five diff kinds) every morning and lunch. I loved the fresh-made before your eyes, omelets/eggs, and waffles and crepes! At lunch they made pizza right in front of you and pork and beef and different kinds of fish - you just point to the piece you want! The also had a pasta station - you make the selection of sauces and toppings. There was also a fresh fruit stand at breakfast and dinner - the yummiest mango I've ever tried! Don't book an a la cart for Friday - they have lobster at the buffet!

There are no clubs at the resort, so the most happening bar there was the one in the main lobby - piano bar. There you could get a steamy cappucino, and a fancy drink. The other bars were scattered around the resort (though many near the lobby were closed during the day) and had a varying number of people there at any given time. The pool bars never had line-ups although we only saw them on the way to and from the buffet - we hung out at the beach. the beach bars open around 10am and close at 5pm, but always had cold beer and mixed drinks. The beach bar in the middle of the beach area was always busy, but the one on the adult side almost at the end of the beach area was always stocked and had a friendly bartender ready to pour whatever you want - hardly any lineups throughout the day.

Beach and Pools
I can't say much about the pools as I spent only about 1hr by the pool one day, never even went in the water - hate chlorine. The beach is absolutely stunning! Beautiful white sand and turquoise water. The beach is quite shallow for a good 20mins, so you have to walk a bit before you can swim. It seems that there was some water damage to their beach area in the past -that hadn't been fixed yet. Some palapas were broken and were almost unusable. We always went to the beach around 10am till about noon and then again from 4 to 6pm, and were always able to find shade. Most people it seems show up around noon and then leave around 3pm.

Very vast... lots of walking. But it is very pretty. The resort consists only of two storey villas, so it has a little village feel. There are maps and pointers every 5 meters or so, so it was pretty easy to navigate. We saw the little trains a few times, but they were mostly there to drop off luggages or to pick up people with luggage as they are leaving, so I don't think that they give rides to people just walking about the resort. There were lots of flowers and trees that were blooming when we were there. In all it was very pleasing. The gardners were there in the mornings and always handed us girls flowers to put in our hair - we gave them convertible dollar tips and they were exctatic.

Activities and Entertainment
We didn't participate in any of the daily activities offered- mostly because we went on vacation to just chill out and not have to worry about anything. But we saw beach volleyball and passed by the activity center which seemed to have some games set up at all times. Nightly entertainment was just like in other all inclusive resorts - very cheesy. So we didn't care to stay and watch, just hung out in the lobby Piano bar after dinner for a bit. They did have very nice live band playing salsa and merengue and cha cha in the main square just outside the lobby - it was usually around 6pm till about 8.

We didn't do any. The bus ride from the airport was informative enough.

Departure and Check Out
We were a little worried about the check out and wanted to get some more info from the Transat rep. There was someone on site everyday, however the day that we needed to speak to someone she wasn't there. Sure enough the girl eventually showed up and was extremely rude! She was not a local rep (the kind we had on the day of arrival), but a french canadian obviously there on vacation and not acting like she was working - she wasn't helpful at all and in fact made us feel very unwelcome to ask any questions at all. Well we eventually got some info from the hotel staff!!

The check-out was a breeze. The bus was supposed to pick us up at 9am, so we were told to be in the lobby for 8am to hand in our towel voucher (if you got one from the resort) and to pay any balances you may have racked up either room service, or buying wine/champagne in the a la carts. After all is handled you get a check out ticket which is to be presented to the bus driver before you can get on the bus. We went to the beach in the morning to watch the sunrise, then got to the buffet for breakfast - all stations were already open at 7.15am. Had a very filling yummy breakfast and got to the checkout desk at 8am... it was empty! Mainly because the service was so quick and efficient. We then had time for the last cappucino (the best we've had anywhere) at the piano bar. The bus was late and didn't show up until 9.45am. Nonetheless we made it to the airport on time and had about an hour to do some souvenir shopping (although it is very limited - just post cards, rum, chocolates, cigars).

We loved the resort. The staff there was amazing (except the a la cart reservations guy!). The food was superb and the beatiful beach - are the two things which are enough for me to make it a great time! This was the most relaxing vacation I've ever had. We are already planning to go again next year.
Melia Las Dunas
Karine and Patrice 
Montreal, Canada
July 2008
We were at Melia Las Dunas July 19-26, 2008. Family of 4, mid thirties, children age 5 and 10. This is our second time to this resort. We were there during July 2007.

Air canada:
Great leg room, tv in back of every seat, lots of movie selection. The breakfast food is a egg/ham on english muffin. Not very good because it's been in a heater for a few hours, costs: 5$. the sandwiches are much better .No delays! Our flight time from Montreal was between 3h40 -3h55.

Airport Santa Clara:
Fast and new. From landing time to sitting on the bus took 40 minutes! Duty free shop with mostly liquor and cigars on your way home. Not many souvenirs. A little snack restaurant with fries, sandwiches, water ,coffee...

Bus ride:
1h30m. Not that bad. We had someone on the bus give us facts about the country, what we were seeing, so it made for a very interesting trip. We also had a bathroom on the bus, but others didn't.

Check in:
Fast and done in air conditioned conference room. Suitcases were in our rooms within one hour. We all received a welcome drink with dancers and music.

HOT and HUMID! A bit of wind (thankfully) a few clouds, 15 minutes of rain one day, thunderstorm one night, but didn't hear it.


HUGE! . Lots of walking. The buggy system was never there when you needed it. If you wait for it, you'll wait a long time. Faster to go by foot. Would be nice if they just had buggies going around at all times. I was able to hop on one only once. This is one thing they should really improve. Beautiful flowers and greenery. The entire site was open this year, but still never felt crowded.

Pool (family side):
Beautiful! Shallow to deeper areas. Great for kids. Water polo, basketball, volleyball. Water bar, Plastic chairs with the blue netting: comfy. The wodden padded chairs are on the adult side this year. Lots of palapas available till about 9 o'clock. Pool hours: 10 am - 6 pm. No trouble getting towels changed at any hour (till 5 pm). Problem: some think they can reserve chairs under palapa at 7 am, but show up at 3 pm. Show some respect! There are very few mats, but after speaking with some people, they explained that many had been either stolen, or left at the beach and dissapeared. Some guests just sat on them all day and kept them in their room. It's easier to just bring your own. Afternoon activites at 4 pm like dancing lessons, volleyball, water polo, hoolahoop contest...

Great! Friendly. They spoke Spanish, english, french at the restaurants. No need for a spanish dictionary here. The maids and gardeners spoke only spanish, but never did we have a problem communicating.

Beautiful and CLEAN! The marble floors were always clean and dry. Nice water spots. Lots of tables to sit.

Buffet- much better than last year. Open air, no air-con, smoking and non-smoking sections. Great staff. Open for breakfast ,lunch and diner. At breakfast, 2 stations for eggs, 1 waffle, 1 pancake, 1 milkshakes or juice shakes, 3 toasters. Great croissants, sometimes cream cheese, yogurt, great orange juice. Sometimes it was a bit long for eggs, but only when we went a little later like 9 o'clock. Open from 7-10 am.

Buffet: Station for grilling beef, pork, chicken and fish. Pasta station, Open from 1-3 pm for lunch. This year lunch was in main buffet, as last year it was in Steakhouse. Probably because both side were open = more guests. Diner is 7-10 pm. Lobster night is friday

Snack bars: pool offered poutine. That's a Quebec thing. Fries, melted cheese and gravy, pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches.

Ice cream shop. Open till 7 pm. Wish they stayed open later. Great ice cream, fudge, banana split...

A la Carte: 5 restaurants this year versus 3 last year. Excellent food! Romantico and Italian were our favorites. Steak house was also very good. All had air con. 4 reservations allowed at first. Never had to wait in line to reserve between 9 am- 4 pm. The other nights, we just reserve during lunch time for that evening. We could go as many times as we liked, as long as there was availablility. Choice in restaurants: Italian, Romantico, Seafood, Steakhouse and Pizzeria. The pizzeria was our least favorite. No entrée, just pizza (same as buffet) or calzones and then dessert. Seafood we didn't try.

We did the Jeep Safari. 70$/adult, 53$/child. You get in a bus for 1 hour drive then get in a Suzuki Vitara or similar. Don't forget to bring your license if you want to drive. Each jeep has 4 people, so they will match you up if you are not 4 in your group or without a license. We drove on paved road to a chicken farm for a rooster fight (no killing), and visit some animals like flamingos, a croc, iguanas, chickens, ducks, peacocks. Then we drove to a farm to see pigs and milk a cow. The children loved this. We then took a dirt road for at least 1 hour. Gets very dusty! On this road the driving is slower, with children running out of their houses to wave. Perfect opportunity to prepare little goody bags to give away. We then stopped for lunch at a ranch. The lunch was a typical Cuban lunch with amazing pork, sweet patatos, cucumber, rice with black beans, fruit and coffee. At this place we had the chance to swim in a river with a small waterfall (bring water shoes). Many locals were they also. We also had the time for a horseback ride. We took the paved road back to return the jeep. Great excursion. Beautiful landscapes. Clean country side. Well worth doing.

We booked a suite. Received 2121, in block 21 between pool and beach. Great spot, second floor, some ocean view. Huge room with king bed and two cots for the children. Walkin closet, tub, bidet and toilet. NO bugs, very clean, great maid service, fridge with water, softdrinks and bear. Replenished 6/7 days. Maid left us a little souvenir on our last day. Towel art almost every day. No Kleenex. Inluded were face cloths, combination safe, 1 umbrella, bag with soap, shampoo, bodywash, sewing kit, shoe polish, shower hair cap, bath salts, scrub mittens. TV reception was very good with many english chanels. We did get a bottle of rum on arrival. Not sure if it was because we were return guest or because we booked a suite. Not because of Air Canada Vacations.

NO MOSSIES THIS YEAR!!!!! Never did we nead to put spray. Saw only 4-5 lizzards. Many crabs come out at night on the beach, the kids loved seeing that.

Average, nice costumes, no decor. Entertaining. Starts late: 9:45 pm

Much better than last year. Every night a Cuban band with dancing. Beach Party on Thursdays. Kids show on Thursday. For them to participate, get them at the kids club on Thursday 3 pm. Musicians in the lobby.

Lobby bar:
The place to be at night, just by the theatre and disco. Great staff. Get the barman Barbaro to make your a Barbaro special.

Only made it at 8:30 pm for the Mini disco. Kids loved it!

Fantastic and perfect. Aqua to emerald green waters. Clean and clear. Palapas VERY close together. Only 3-4 chairs fit between the poles of each palapa. The family side is perfect, the adult side has had much water dammage to the palapas. The beach is very very eroded. The bridge on that side is blocked. New this year is that they added showers on the bridges close to the beach and bars.

Not bothered by smokers.

Kid's club:
Has improved this year. When my children went for the practice of the kids show, they came back with one of the staff members. Last year they came back alone.

Spa Services:
Great experience. Got a hydrating facial for 50 minutes for 58$ CUC, and a leg massage 25 minutes for 28$CUC. Other examples of prices: 25 minutes of massages is 28$CUC, shiatsu 50 minutes is 58$CUC, wrappings 50 minutes are 58$CUC (and yes they have the chocolate one). Baths are 28$CUC for 25 minutes, facials 50 minutes for 58$CUC, Manicures 10 or 15$CUC (25 or 45 minutes). Wedding hairsyle is 30$CUC.

Gift shop:
Few things. No pails or shovels, so don't forget to bring your own. Good prices, but cheaper at the airport.

6$CUC/30 minutes

Differences from last year:
More restaurants a la cartes, showers and bars on the walkways to beach, no mossies, beach eroded on adult side, food had much improvement. Just gets better and better. At least they listen to the comments received.

Great resort, very big, lots of walking, no buggy service, great a la carte, Geat food even in buffets. Amazing beach, pool and rooms. Really hot and humid in July. Average temp was 40 degrees Celsius if you take into account the humidity factor. Not a snobby resort. Already planning our return for next summer.
Melia Las Dunas

July 2008
This was my 3rd time at Cayo Santa Maria, we normally stay at the Melia Cayo so we decided to do 2 weeks at Las Dunas. Resort was beautiful, great grounds, very clean, but way to big to get from point A to B. Weather was great, the beach is very nice but we knew that from the start, could use a bit of a clean up, add palapas for shades, fix the bridge to get to the beach, we had to jump each time, not safe. Get the beach grill working during the day, needs music on the beach, waiters to serve drinks, hardly saw them.

- My phone didn't work for a week and a half, I complained but nothing was done, my shower head didn't stay up we had to use it as hand held. We had bugs, spiders in the room but its the Caribbean its normal.

- It was my brother in law's anniversary and I have contacted the resort before we went for them to do something and nothing was done. I contacted the front desk twice to request turn down service with something special and nothing was done, for that matter nothing was ever done with our towels in any of our beds and we had 4 rooms in villa 46, this was the first time in Cuba that the maids didn't do anything and we left them gifts or money every single day for 14 nights...

- The buffet got very repetitive for 2 weeks, we're not there for the food but even the resort next door did theme nights were we had a variety. The dishes were dirty half of the time, forks, knifes and cups on the table were dirty.

- A la cart, the seafood was so so, only the salmon was ok, no lobster for a seafood place, the steakhouse was ok for the pork, no steak at the steakhouse, the romantico was worth trying really good, didn't try the italian.

- Alot of our waiters/waitresses were nice but a few didn't show must enthusiasm to help us, I can get away with spanish but some don't and I noticed in this resort english wasn't a big forte for them.

- The shows were pretty bad except the Fantasy one, they really need to improve on this especially if they're seeing people walk out during the first 15 minutes of the show, they need to do movie night, get impersonators, something to keep us awake.

-To use the gym you have to walk all the way to the other resort we normallly stay and use that gym, way to far.

Overall it was a good vacation because of what we made of it, I would not go back to this resort but I'd definetely go back to my usual spot in Santa Maria.
Melia Las Dunas

April 2008
Agroup of friends have just returned form the Melia Las Dunas, we were with Transat, and arived at the resort before noon. We had been given the bracelets and paper work on the bus. That was very nice to arrive and not have to wait in line at the reception. We were greeted with a nice cool drink and smiling young girls. The lobby is huge, very clean and very nice. The bar is also very well stock of different bottles to cater to most of all different tast. Local and international brands. We went to the buffet before going to our rooms for a quick lunch. We were all hungry and the buffet had plenty of choice to cater to all. Then we went to our rooms and were very pleased with the room we were given. We had asked for a second floor with king size bed. That is what we had. Our room was in block 42 on the adult side we also had a corner room, which had a small view of the ocean in the far. We were also very pleased with the location of the block it was close to the pool and the beach entrence. We were nearer to the last entrence where the bar had no beer, but the bar tenders got some caned Cristal ant they put it on ice ( they had it most of the days) . The maid did a good job of cleaning the room but we had to ask for coffe, every time we wanted some. She also never did fancy things with towels, and never thanked us for the gifts and pesos we left every day, but the most importent was done , it was cleaned with clean towel and plenty of toilet paper.

There is plenty of place to eat, most are good, ordinary but good. You have to remember that you are in Cub. For the fish lovers like me I never had a problen except having to decide which one to eat. They were always good and fresh. I also found that they had plenty of different fruits( fresh).

The A La Carte were very plesent except the sea food which uses the beach restauraunt and the chairs in the evening were always wet, du to the fact tha people during the day go in their wet bathingsuit. Don't wear you nicest cloth, you take a chance of getting the dirty. For those who like sushie the Oriental is very good, they have a good choice of sushie.

The pools are very nice good size and clean. the adult side have cushions on wooden chairs and also sort of raised beds under a top for shade. on the family side they are blue chairs , the nylons one.

The beach has plenty of palapas but some are not very usable because the sea has reclaimed the sand under it and the palapaas are way to high. The sand is almost like flower very fine and whith with the different shades of turquoise and blue of the ocean it makes it very very nice. The woter in the ocean and in the pool was nice and warm.We were there for 14 days and the water was calm only 1 day, but it was during the time when there was bad weather in the south of the USA. We had a few showers which lasted from 10 to 30 min. The voley ball cort was not functioning. We went only a few time to the shows, and found them to be fine.

We went on a catamaran and had langouste and open bar , it was nice.

I would recomend this resort, Remember that you are in Cuba. I found that it was not as nice as Pesquero, and that there was nothing out of the ordinary like the pools at Turquesa. But just the same it is a very nice resort . The employees are verry nice and it is plesent to be served by most of them. They work very hard . I would probebly return if it was in my habbit to go twice to the same resort, but I never do that, I like to change every year and see new and diferent tplaces and things.
Melia Las Dunas
Nova Scotia
April 2008
My husband and I spent 8 days at the Melia Las Dunas March 24 - April 1, 2008. This was our 12th time to the Caribbean. We have been to Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Mexico. We have stayed at other Melia resorts throughout the Caribbean and have found them to be of high standards. Las Dunas is a very nice resort also. The grounds are lovely and the rooms were very welcoming. I was disappointed in the buffet restaurants. The selection of food and presentation were below standards for a 5* resort in my opinion. I have been to other resorts where you would see lovely sculptures made from fresh fruit and vegetables displayed in the buffet restaurants. Nothing like this was seen at the Las Dunas. The food was not good and I am not a picky eater. The scrambled eggs were sitting in an abundance of water or some type of liquid.. yuk! The other restaurants on site were pretty good, although if I were paying for the meal directly, I might be somewhat disappointed. The pools were very nice. Like everyone says, you have to get up very early to reserve chairs around the pool. One day we did this, against my best judgment, and when we returned to the pool area after breakfast, one of our chairs were removed with my towel thrown to the side. Apparently it had been removed by one of the million French Canadians that had taken over the resort the week we were there. I noted that Air Transat alone charters 4 flights a week from Quebec City and Montreal . If you are traveling alone like we were, don't plan on meeting many new friends because many of the guests cannot speak English, or choose not to. I must say that at least 90% of the tourists were French Canadians, only a handful of guests were from other areas. The staff at the resort were very pleasant which somehow made up for the others. The resort has 3 beach entrances. The ones on either end of the resort are quieter with beach bars serving mixed drinks, but no beer. The main entrance to the beach has the best beach bar and does serve beer. Also at the main beach area they serve grilled sandwiches at lunch time. Your choice is ham and cheese, or ham and cheese with veggies. They were good. The other thing we ate a lot of was pizza from the restaurant adjacent to the swim-up bar located on the adult side of the resort. On our last day we discovered a nice place to eat a decent lunch - the Seafood Restaurant located in the Family Side of the resort. You could order off the menu, or choose your lunch from the buffet. If you are looking for entertainment during the day, the adult side is NOT the place to be. Everything seems to happen on the Family side of the resort. The night shows were okay. We didn't do any of the excursions. Everyday we were on vacation it was red flag on the beach. This means high waves and undertow. I chose this resort for it's beautiful beach and the outstanding calm, inviting ocean. According to other guests, on a calm day the beach and ocean are like no other you've seen. Unfortunately, we didn't experience one of those calm days, but we did enjoy the beach and spent one day playing in the waves. In summary I would recommend this resort because it is very beautiful and the Cubans are very accommodating. As I mentioned, beware of the language barrier from guests and rudeness that accompany some.
Melia Las Dunas

March 2008
Melia Las Dunas - Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba
Location: Beachfront - 80 Minutes from Santa Clara Airport

March 13 - 20 2008
We (myself, wife and 18 year old daugther and 15 year old son) just returned from Cuba and here is my review for Melia Las Dunas

Arrival – Everything went very smoothly with f light from Toronto...Air Canada plane and Air Canada Vacations . Check in through customs was quick and smooth. It was a long bus ride (90 min.) in the dark, but our guide, spoke about Cuba and the area the whole way so it went very quickly. When we arrived at the hotel we were sent to a room just off the main desk, got our info and room number and we were off to our room which was a little hard to find in the dark. This place is huge

Room – Our rooms were very clean and spacious. Lots of towels, fridge was stocked daily and we always had hot water when we showered. Air conditioner worked very well, but we did not need it since it was very cool at night.

Restaurants – The food was good and the service was excellent. The waiters and waitresses were always there when you needed them. They were very friendly and looked after you. They always made you feel comfortable. Food at the buffets was consistently excellent and we even had one night where lobster was served in the buffets...suggest you find out which night this is, during the week (Friday, I think). If you enjoy lobster (grilled, and delicious) this is for you so don't book an a-la-cart for this night.
The hotel was full, and we were lucky to get our 3 alloted A la carte reservations. Did not get the Italian or Romantica which we would have preferred, and not sure why this happened. Another lady from Canada who checked in on the 14th was only able to get 9 PM reservations, nothing earlier for her and two younger kids. Also heard complaints from other people. We did go to 3 a-la-cartes and the food was excellent, but a lot of mosquitos on two of them. Lot of tables were empty when we got to the restaurant, so not sure if this reservations shortage was "artificially created" so that tips could be generated...hard to tell, but when you looked and saw empty tables, makes you wonder.

Beach and Pools – Again, resort seemed to be very crowded and we had problems finding lounges by pool and beach every day. Had to do the "early morning towel game" every day. After a couple of days, realized that the beach workers were the ones who were reserving the lounges under the palapas (tying the chairs together or putting articles of clothing on the chairs). I guess this was so you needed to ask them for a beach chair and then provide a tip for them. Not very nice and heard other people commenting that the loungers were ALREADY RESERVED, even by 8 AM on most days.
Beach itself was not good for snorkeling, but we had our share of calm and wavy days. The wavy days provided lots of enjoyment and body surfing opportunities.

Grounds – The property was beautiful and very large, so be prepared to walk. The gardens were beautiful, with huge rocks and many different flowers, everything was clean and well kept. The gardeners were very friendly and gave flowers to my wife and daughter every day

Activities – Did not really stay out late at night, but the shows were usually packed and people seemed to be having a good time

Conclusion – We would not return to this resort just based on the experiences with the beach chairs and the difficulty with a-la-cart reservations. Overall it was ok, but would not return due to some of the issues I noted above. We have stayed at resorts once a year for last 10-11 years (Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, DR), so we know what to expect. We have never had the problems with chairs and reservations at any other resort, my experience at MLD left a bad taste and it was not as enjoyable....perhaps I should have just forked over some money and paid the beach guys some money for the chairs ;-) Maybe you will get lucky or these things will not bother you, but we will spend our time and money at another resort next year. Beach and food was still good, but the overall expericence lacked something.
Melia Las Dunas

March 2008
Hi! Sorry it took so long, but here is a short look at Las Dunas on Cayo Santa Maria. We left Pearson on the 29th of Feb. at 6:30 pm ( 2.5 hrs late because of weather ). Flew into Santa Clara. The immigration was fast and friendly, with just enough time to change some money and pick up some Hieneken for the bus ride to the resort. The airport was clean and and well laid out and our luggage arrived in good time. We were the only plane there at the time, so this might have speeded things a bit. On to the bus for the 1.5 hr. ride to the resort. Easy to find the right bus as the Hola sun rep was there to help. They use Gaviota tour buses and they are newer Volvos, quite comfy, including a clean washroom. Everyone was excited and chattering away for the whole ride, so it didn't seem that long. It was dark, of course, so nothing to see until we got to the 48 km long causeway to the island. We got to the resort around 11:30 pm and were taken immediately to a room by the main desk where we were given a welcoming Mohito or rum punch and our room cards and all pertinant info was supplied in an envelope. A quick aside. We travelled with a large group, and one of the ladies had e-mailed the resort a few weeks in advance to reserve tables at the a la cartes. She never got a reply, But our reservations were waiting for us in the welcome envelope. The bellboys were very efficient about getting our luggage to our rooms, while we all headed to the 24 hr beer garden for a relaxing drink. This is where I had my first taste of Cristal, and trust me it wasn't my last. What a good beer! Next morning or later that morning, I went for a walk around the resort to get my bearings. Wow, is it big. Once I figured out the pathways though, it is quite easy to navigate. The lobby and main square are central to everything else,so you can always find your way. We also found that if you can't find a certain restaurant in the dark a worker( no matter who they are will take you there, not just point the way). The adult side(where we stayed) is separated from the family side by the main square and this seems to work quite well. Each side has two beautiful pools with swim up bars and pool restaurants. After my first walk I never ventured to the family side again because I never needed to. The beach is beautiful and well looked after (cleaned every morning). There are three walkways out to the beach. We always took the one near our villa, and it seemed as though only adults used this stretch of beach. The beach in front of the resort is quite long, so there was room for all, and always chairs available. The sand is powdery and never seemed to get too hot. What can I say about the water, except it was clear and warm all week! No jellyfish. One of the girls in our group got a few sandflea bites, but Kate and I were not bothered at all. They sprayed for mosquitoes one evening after a rain, but it didn't waft into the lobby where we were sitting. We never felt, saw, or heard a mossie all week! The room we had was large, with a comfy king size bed. There was a separate room with small dresser, an alcove with sink and mirror, and separate bathroom. The water pressure was pretty good, and the whole room was decorated nicely. Our maid did a great job, and left us little notes every day. Lots of towels, bar fridge stocked every day, a welcoming bottle of rum in the room, even a few english language shows on the tv. The resort meanders through lots of vegetation and we found the walkways to be well laid out and they all seem to lead back to the main square eventually. The bars- if you go thirsty here you aren't looking. Three on the beach(sometimes busy, but they seemed to move you through at a good pace). They also had waiters on the beach that were always willing to do the work for you. The beer garden was great(24hrs),as were the pool bars. My personal favourite, though was the lobby bar(24hrs). This is where I started my day with their great capucino, and lots of banter with the bartenders and other tourists. The lobby is huge, open air, and the bar is well laid out. They had lots of different spirits, including real C.C., Kalua, and Baily's. My favourite was their Havana Club white rum. The lobby also held the bank,cyber cafe, telephone booths, and cigar store. I am no expert on cigars, but the humidor seemed to have a good variety. I got a 20 pack of Montecristo minis for less than14 pesos (very fresh). The theatre was attached to the lobby, and they put on good shows every night. I don't know if the performers are world class but all the shows were fun and entertaining. The animation team works hard all day on the beach, at the pools teaching aerobics and latin dance and keeping the kids amused. Then they do the theatre at night 'til 11pm,then into the disco 'til all hors to dance with the tourists. They are a great bunch with more energy than I will ever have. To the resaurants! Lots of buffet choices, with 2 huge breakfast, 5(I think) for lunch, and 2 for dinner. Lots of food choices, we never went hungry. Not all was to our taste, but all was good quality. The breakfast omelets and crepes were especially good. The dinner buffets were good with a very large choice of food. Now the a la cartes! We actually ended up with 4 dinners at these restaurants, and We have never been treated better. They must have some very good chefs for these resaurants, because the food was top notch,along with the way it was presented. All a la cartes seemed to be adults only (I am not sure whether by chance or design). The atmosphere was romantic and quiet with live music at all of them. Well worth the reservations. They have a wine list that you can choose from and pay extra for, but we stuck with the house wines and they were excellant reds and whites from Spain. From 6pm 'til 9:30pm there was great live music in the lobby, and the main square. The piano trio in the lobby played a variety of songs and did a very good job. There were 2 different groups in the main square that alternated for each night and they played excellant Cuban music, while the animation team got everyone up to dance. This was a great treat every night! Some of our group took a jeep tour onto the mainland for 7 hrs (90 pesos, drive your self). They met lots of friendly people. The seadoo trip was 3 hrs and 43 pesos per couple. My wife and I took a sunset cruise from the nearby marina and it was the highlite of our trip. Friendly crew, great lobster and chicken meal, the rum and cervesa was flowing. It was a nice 20 person catamaran, lots of dancing and the most beautiful sunset this side of Lake Huron. Four hr cruise for only 43 pesos per person, the captain even lets you steer the boat if you want! Boy, I'm long winded ( can you tell it was our first time to Cuba? ). Finally the staff. We took lots of gifts for the maid( and she deserved them ). We never had a bad experience with any of the staff, they were always on top of whatever we needed. It seemed like Pavel and Lillianna were always on duty when we hit the lobby bar and we had lots of great conversations with them. I probably spent too much on tips, but found the service to be so good, that I could't help myself. We don't have another resort to compare Las Dunas to, but would rate very high and would go back again tomorrow!
Melia Las Dunas
March 2008
We are 2 couples in our late 50's and had adjoining rooms as requested in block 41 which is close to beach & next to pool. Upon our arrival which was about midnight, after travelling the 48km causeway in the dark, we were impressed with the lobby, the promptness of getting our info & card key, we were in our room in approx. 10 min. and unpacked. Went back to lobby for nightcap & looked forward to the next day. We were impressed with the cleanliness of the grounds, the 2 large buffets, attentive service. The beach was spectacular...beautiful sand, clear blue water, lots of beach chairs, drink bar close by...what more could you ask for. The next day was cloudy & stormy...not a beach day...although a young couple (the only ones in the water) seemed to be enjoying frolicking in the waves. The rest of our stay which unfortunately was only for 1 week from Feb 8th to 15th, was spectacular. We did go deep sea fishing with the guys as they couldn't find 2 other guys to share the boat...that was a bit too long to be out on the boat waiting for a fish to bite...guys reeled in 2 barracudas...got 2 other nibbles but they got away...would have been more exciting if the girls had gotten a chance to reel one in. Another day, my hubby & I rented a car from the front...only about 83 cuc for 24 hrs...drove the causeway to 2 of the towns we had passed on our way from the airport...Caibarien & Remedios. Walked around & took lots of pictures of the buildings which are spanish colonial styles but unfortunately crumbling. Had a bit of communication problem asking for washroom...which was not very clean, no toilet paper...bring your own if you go off resort.

A la carte restaurants...only allowed 3 for the week so were able to book Italian...very good food & ambiance...our favorite, Grill Restaurant was OK, Seafood was pretty good...got to feed 2 of the resident cats which was entertaining. The buffet restaurants get a bit too much of the same every night so recommend you book a la cartes as soon as you arrive as they book up very fast. Another bonus is that they have a banco in the lobby to exchange your currency into Cuban convertible pesos...C$100 will give you approx. 88 cuc. There's a small market area selling local artisan's wares...some good deals...no other large markets that we were aware of. My hubby & I went to Playa Pesquero a few years ago & this resort is very similar...we found out they were built by same contractor. The nightly entertainment the first 2 nights were Italian singers so we were disappointed but on 3rd night they had entertainment around 10 pm which was usually pretty good...great costumes & dancing...went to disco bar one night but it was mostly younger people...although we did get on dance floor for a few songs...we didn't stay too long. Although it was booked to full capacity, there was never a shortage of places to sit in the lobby, at the pool or the beach. All in all, I definitely recommend Melia Las Dunas as a great resort for families (separate pool for kids), newlyweds, retired people. I would like to go back but for 2 weeks instead.
Melia Las Dunas
Caledonia, Ontario
March 2008
We just returned from Cuba and here is my review for Melia Las Dunas

Arrival – Everything went very smoothly. It was a long bus ride (90 min.) but our guide, (Orlando), spoke about Cuba and the area the whole way so it went very quickly. When we arrived at the hotel we were sent to a room, got our info and room number and we were off to our room within 15 minutes.

Room – Our room was very clean and spacious. Lots of towels, fridge was stocked daily and we always had hot water when we showered. Air conditioner worked very well.

Restaurants – The food was good and the service was excellent. The waiters and waitresses were always there when you needed them. Once they found out I liked ice with my wine, it was on the table as soon as I sat down. They spoke fairly well in English so you could ask for anything and just talk to them. They always made you feel comfortable. We did go to one a-la-carte and it was excellent.

Beach and Pools – We walked along the beach and it was beautiful. We did sit by the pool every day and never had a problem finding a lounge. Activities were great and pool bar had friendly bartenders.

Grounds – The property was breath-taking. The gardens were beautiful, with huge rocks and many different flowers, everything was so clean. It was a pleasure to walk through the resort and see all the different types of plants.

Activities – The Animation team was superb. There were lots of activities throughout the day and the greatest shows at night. We have been to many resorts and the nightly entertainment here was one of the best.

Conclusion – We would strongly recommend this place to families and couples. The only downside was the bus ride and you forget about that very quickly. The trip back seemed long but the airport is very small so there are no line-ups and it was very, very clean, so we didn’t mind the bus ride in the long run.
Melia Las Dunas
Montreal, Canada
March 2008
Arrival - Uneventful, friendly. Bus ride from airport a little long (90 mins) but going through two towns on the way provided some points of interest. Fascinating to see the living conditions, and right into homes as the bus drove down some narrow streets.

Rooms - Clean, decently spacious. We lucked out with a corner room on the second floor, and from our balcony watched the sun set each evening.

Restaurants - Overall fine, but being from MONTREAL, this is not four-and-a-half-star. It is good, though. In eating at four different a la carte places, one gets the impression that all of the food is sourced in the same place, with a few exceptions.
They do try very hard, and I don't want to sound like I am complaining. Wide selection at the breakfast buffet. My wife said the quality of coffees / espressos / cappucinos was spotty (although she always got a great cappucino from the lobby bar).
Some of the lunches were just okay, a little greasy (some of the fish dishes).
And I would regret not mentioning the absolutely hilarious typos in the menus, pretty much everywhere, each one better than the last: "Hamburgers with tomato, cucumber and letters" was my favorite. Get a proofreader! Actually, don't because it is a lot funnier this way. Bars - We're not real drinkers, so didn't use the bars much. The beach bar stands were great, and the service always friendly.

Beach and Pools - Beaches solid, great sand, great water. Windy days were great as the waves really picked up and were great for riding / floating in them, even when the red flag was up. A little windy on a couple of days we were there, and the sun came and went, but all good, all good.

Sat by one of the pools for a little bit, but - are you kidding me? - sitting by the pool when the waves are right there? What a waste, you people! They could use a few more of those floaty mattresses at the pool. And have a quiet zone or something, away from the piped-in, lousy music.

Grounds - Very nice. Gardeners always friendly, especially when they were not working. Nothing against them, as it is hot work, but it was pretty funny as whenever we walked by, there was a 50-50 chance they were just chillin', standing there with a rake saying HOLA especially to the ladies.
Great touch when they offered any woman walking by a flower for their hair.

Activities - Didn't participate in many organized things, actually. Played tennis on our own, using their raquets and balls, which was great. Tennis courts in great shape, and hardly used. (In four visits, we saw TWO other people using the six courts available).

Tours - We did the catamaran / snorkel cruise, which was fine, but not enough time to snorkel, and not much explanation. My idea of a good excursion is not really to sit on the catamaran (which is a sailboat, by the way, that never used the sails, only used the motor), and spend the bulk of the time going TO snorkeling places or a beach, and not actually snorkeling that much! And doing dumb dances with other guests who are hammered is great if you are 19, but...

Conclusion - Strong recommendation. Loved the all-inclusive thing. Great service. Bring stuff to give away as tips, as opposed to just money. Things like t-shirts, caps, toothpaste, etc seemed to be well-appreciated by the various staff. Driving through the villages on the way to the resort, one realizes that they really do not have a lot, so our Western necessities are almost luxuries to them.
Melia Las Dunas
February 2008
Arrival - We went by taxi from Sta Clara. This was not an orgnized trip, we were first in Havana for 1 week, then Sta Clara 2 weeks, then Melia Las Dunas for 5 days, later Varadero 5 days and ended up in Havan for 3 days more. I can add that this was my 5th trip to Cuba, have some family over there.

Rooms - The room was really great. After spending 2 weeks in a hostal in Sta Clara my wife almost cried of hapiness when we entered the room in Las Dunas for the first time. Really great space for both of us and our three kids.

Restaurants - This is, unfortunately a great disadvantage of Cuba, if you don´t eat privately in people´s homes. The food was NOT good. Couple of times they actually served us raw chicken in the paella. I asked for the manager, finally a guy came from the kitchen and listened to me, admitted that the chicke was raw, and then said, "no problem, I will tlak to the chef" !!! What can you do, this is incredible. Also, when we wanted to book a la carte, most of the restaurants were fully booked, but really they were half empty when we came by just to look. I really don´t understand the people who write in this forum about the great food, is is Cuba propaganda people or just tourists from Canada who havent tasted better? I am really puzzled about this.

Bars - Also a dissapointment. Sure, you can have as many drinks as you want but often they were very diluted by water, sometimes even tasted salt (I guess because they did not used bottled water for ice). But again, this is very typical in Cuba in general.

Beach and Pools - The beach is fantastic, I think I never seen a nicer beach, the sand was just as flour, pelican flying all over. Also the pool area was very good. FANTASTIC

Grounds - The whole area is very nice

Activities - I am sure there are lot of activities, we were with children so mostly we took care of them.

Conclusion - As I said, the poor quality of food and drinks spoil a little bit (actually a lot). However our kids had the best time. The island is fantastic. Cuba is a very interesting place. But, AGAIN, when they served food on our plane to Netherlands, for the first time in my life I felt happy about eating on a plane, it was my best meal in 30 days (if I dont count the meals eaten in private homes in Cuba)
Melia Las Dunas

February 2008
We just got back from the Melia Las Dunas. We were there from Feb 7th - 14th and have to say that this Resort surpassed our expectations ! It was fabulous right from start to finish.

We were greeted at the Santa Clara Airport and handed our envelopes that contained our bracelets for the Resort, along with a map and some other information. That meant , no line ups at the reception when we arrived at the Resort. We were able to go straight to our rooms and our luggage arrived IN our rooms, 20 minutes later. What a great way to do it!! Who wants anymore lining up after customs etc???

As requested and paid for, we had a superior room that was very nice, with a couch and chair and coffee table as well as the kingsize bed and desk and other chair. There was a large walk-in closet and full washroom with tub,shower, toilet and bidet. The sink was on the outside of the bathroom which makes it much easier for 2 people trying to get ready and start their day.
We found the bed very comfortable with extra pillows and blanket in the closet.

All the staff, from front desk, to bartenders, reservation clerks, money exchange, telephone office, gardeners and maids were very friendly and helpful.

The grounds were kept beautiful and lush . Always a friendly hola from them when we walked past them. Pools were beautiful and spotless. We stayed in the adult section so can't speak for the family side, but I am sure it wouldn't be any different.

We were in building 52 which was right next to the pool and faced trees and the pool. Loved the location. To go to the beach, we had a short walk in the opposite direction and we were always able to get a couple of lounge chairs at any time. It was the same for the pool.
The Resort was very busy when we were there but never any problems at all.

We went to 2 of the A la carte restaurants, italian and romantica and they were far superior to any, anywhere else we have been. Very nice setting in both and very good service.
The Creole Restaurant is where we had breakfast and there was always something to satisfy us. Omelettes, fried eggs, bacon, crepes, waffles, fruit etc.

The buffet offered a variety of meats, pastas, fish, salads, vegetables fruit, cheeses and deserts. The flambe station was great with bananas or bananas and apples, different liquers, rum .

There was always a different band playing outside every evening, someone on piano at the lobby bar at entertainment at the theatre at 9:45 every night.

All in all, this was the best overall experience we have had at any Resort we have been to and we have been to MANY !!
Melia Las Dunas
Toronto, Ontario
February 2008
Arrival - We were 2 couples travelling on January 24th, 2008. We had a late flight and arrived at the hotel at approx 9:30 pm. There were 3 buses of tourists to arrive at this hotel at the same time. We were ushered into a conference room right off the main lobby and asked to complete a small form - name, passport information, etc. Once this was done, we handed it in to one of the staff, and were given an envelope with information and room keys in it. We were told to go to the lobby and someone would take us, by golf cart, to our rooms. This all took approximately 10 minutes, max. However, one of us has a back problem and walking long distances was quite painful so when I booked the trip, I requested a room close to the main lobby and restaurants. We were given rooms in bungalow #17 - the very far end of the resort. Once I saw the resort map and realized this, I asked one of the staff members if I could speak to someone about changing the room. He radioed to someone and the manager came over. I explained our situation to her and she asked us to follow her over to the front desk, where she left and told me she would be right back. A young lady came over to us, maybe 5 minutes later and explained that our rooms had been changed. She also informed us that she gave my friend a handicap room because this would be much easier for him to shower with a back problem. I thought this was quite thoughtful, since we only asked to be a little closer to the restaurants and lobby. They then gave us adjacent rooms in bungalow #44 - much closer to the lobby, restaurants and pools. We took our new room keys and walked to the front of the lobby where we were met by a sweet gentleman named "Ricardo" who took us to our rooms by golf cart. We literally hopped out of the cart, opened our room doors and stepped inside when there was a knock and it was the bellhop with our luggage. We were in our rooms, with luggage, by 9:50 pm. Five minutes later - another knock. It was someone there to fill our mini bar since our rooms were not originally booked for us so the fridge was empty. We were on our way to grab a bite to eat by 10:10 pm. Incredible!

Rooms - Our rooms were great. We were told that we had been upgraded to a junior suite because of our request to change rooms. This was a huge bonus. Our room was very spacious and bright. We were on the ground level and had a small terrace with sliding doors. There were 2 wicker chairs and a small table on the terrace and we overlooked the back of the pool area. We had a huge king size bed with a lovely headboard and a mini bar (which was stocked each day at 6:00 pm - not the best timing since this was our 'siesta' time), and a very large powder room, separate washroom with bidet and shower and toilet and separate walk-in closet with ironing board, iron and mini-safe. We also had a sofa, chair and coffee table (as well as a coffee maker). The only difference with our friend's handicap room is that they did not have a bathtub - their washroom was all one level with a shower in one corner. Other than that, the rooms were the same. Each day, the rooms were cleaned by 12 noon and if we left anything for our maid, a little note was left to thank us. The rooms were very comfortable.

Restaurants - There are 2 large buffet restaurants in the main lobby - the International buffet which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the Remedios buffet which is only opened for breakfast and dinner. The international buffet had everything you could possibly think of:

Breakfast: Eggs - any way you wish. Omelets made to order, a large assortment of breads for toast, bacon, ham, prosciutto, sausage, waffles or crepes made to order, cereals, fruit, cheeses, fresh juice, yogurt, etc.

Lunch: Chicken, beef, pork, vegetables, pasta bar - made to order, fish and meat grilling station, salads, fish and seafood, soup, cold cuts, fruit, desserts, etc.

Dinner: All kinds of cooked meats (beef, pork, chicken), fish, shellfish, pasta bar, grill, roasts or a porketta, seafood dishes, vegetables, soups,pizza, fruit, desserts, ice cream, etc.
There was another buffet restaurant, the seafood restaurant, opened only for lunch. This was nice for a change - they have a grill and take orders a la carte, as well. There is another restaurant at the pool and this is quite nice. They have good sandwiches and pizza and even poutine! There is a 'beer garden' restaurant that is opened 24 hours. They have burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, etc. They are great in this restaurant - very nice and always very accommodating. We asked if they had eggs (not on the menu) and they made us omelet sandwiches one night at 1 am.

A La Cartes: There are 5 a la carte restaurants:

Italian - did not go
Seafood - very good. We had surf and turf and it was cooked to perfection. Nice atmosphere - outside so bring a warm sweater!
Oriental - did not go
Romantic - A little different! Very nice atmosphere and quite romantic. Food a little odd - but not bad tasting. This is the place to try something new. I had medallions of beef and it was 2 filet mignon steaks - good. The soups leave a little to be desired.
Steak house - did not go.

We were allowed 3 a la carte restaurant reservations per person for the week. Might be a good idea to book all the reservations at one time. We had to wait in line one morning for 30 minutes or so. Just easier to figure out where you would like to dine and when and do it at the same time. They give you a little paper that you have to present at the restaurant at your reservation. With two men, we just found it better to eat at the buffet each night - they could eat as much as they want and whatever they want and we were all happy. I was also told that you could get a sandwich at the lobby bar, but we did not eat there. This is my 4th trip to Cuba - first one to this resort. I have never seen this much food nor this much of a variety of food. We basically ate three meals a day, 7 days a week and were not either bored or sick of the food. The buffet restaurants are also very large - due to the fact that this is a large resort with over 900 rooms. The resort was quite full when we were there, but we never had to wait in line-ups at all. The most we had to wait for was the toast in the morning - maybe 5 minutes or so. You will not have a problem with food at this resort or with finding something to eat - and guess what - no mystery meat! Each dish was well labelled so you knew what you were getting. Very good food.

Bars - The main bar in the lobby was terrific. I just love that everyone is always smiling and friendly. They made the best espresso and cappuccino coffee ever. There always seems to be something going on in the lobby bar - a saxophone player, piano player, band, something. Always full of happy people having a drink and listening to music. A little dancing as well.

There is a great bar at the pool. Rene, Kenia, Raoul and Jorge - thanks for the many drinks and laughs. They made us all kinds of different drinks each day and had some great suggestons. Always smiling and sharing a laugh - very friendly. We had great afternoons sitting by the pool or the bar. There is also a disco at the resort. It is quite nice and quite large. They have their own bar and the music was pretty good - just loud. Most nights, there was a good crowd at the disco. There are lots of little areas to sit and have a drink in the lobby. Again, the resort was quite full and we (4 of us) always found a good table.

Beach and Pools - The beach was to die for! It seemed like miles and miles of white sand and rolling waves. The water was the clearest I have seen and many shades of blue. For a few days the water was quite rough and choppy, but we had fun body surfing in the waves. When the water was calmer, you could swim out quite far and the water was still pretty shallow. It was crystal clear - a wave hit my friend and she lost her sunglasses. Once she was upright (hilarious), she saw them about 20 feet away and dove down to get them, the water was that clear. There are loads of plastic lounge chairs on the beach so never a problem getting a seat, any time of the day. There are a few bars on the beach so it is also quite easy to get a drink, as well. This was one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen.

The pools on the adult side of the resort were great. The whole pool area was kept spotless. There were two pools - one round with a swim-up bar and one sort of oval with a garden in the middle. There were many wooden lounge chairs around both pools. However, it is a good idea to get your lounges early in the morning - I would say by 9 if you have a particular spot you would like to sit in. We would just put our towels on our chairs and then go to the pool after our breakfast. The pool water is not heated so when you are laying in the sun baking, it is 'quite refreshing' to have a dip. Let's just say it cools you down quite quickly. The pools were kept very clean and we noticed the pool men checking the levels of the water a few times per day. They also had quite a few rubber floating mats for the pool, which was nice.

Grounds - This resort is only 1 year old so the palm trees are still small and the gardens are still growing. However, the grounds are spectacular. There are many huge hibiscus bushes with the brightest flowers and huge rocks with aloe plants growing out of them. There are many gardeners working all along the paths keeping the gardens lush and green. They are really friendly and each morning, we had one chasing us to give my friend and I our daily flower. He was really sweet. We gave him a few pairs of gardening gloves and a few soaps and things for his wife and then next morning, he gave us 'nicer' flowers and a little Cuba magnet to say thank you.

This resort is huge and there is a concrete walkway all the way through. After the first day, you will figure out which path leads you where and you should not have a problem. We had no problem getting a lift back to our room at night or to the restaurants, if my friend was too tired or his back too sore to walk.

Activities - The animation staff were great and had more energy than you could imagine. They were at it from 8 am to 1 am, every day. Most of the daily activities were held on the family side of the resort. But in the evening, the entertainers were in the main lobby dancing with all the guests to the sounds of the house band. After this, they would put on their nightly show. One evening, they did songs from the Disney movies: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid and Lion King. It was fabulous. They are very talented and very friendly. Good job!

Tours - There were many tours offered by your tour groups. We chose to stay at the resort and relax, since this is what we came for. However, I did notice that the prices of some of the tours were a little cheaper than I remember in other parts of Cuba.

Conclusion - This resort was fabulous. If you want to relax in a beautiful setting and be treated wonderfully, this is the place to visit. I will assure you that you will want to return to this resort - we'll be back in April, hopefully. Thanks to all the staff at Melia Las Dunas for making this trip great.

Julie-Ann, Amer, Gina and Frank
Melia Las Dunas
Mike and Sarah 
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
January 2008
Tour Operator: Air Transat - guides were informative, entertaining, and spoke excellent english - made the 90min (yikes!) trip from the airport to the resort seem much shorter. The scenery is also pretty impressive: 1700s style architecture in the towns, lots of palms/greenery, and some swimming dolphins along the causeway to Isle Santa Maria. Best to bring some gravol though, just in case - passing the slower 1-hp traffic on the roads can be interesting.

Airline Carrier: Westjet - flight down ontime, pretty uneventful. flight back also ontime - the flight crew is worth mentioning though - VERY entertaining - like going to see Just for Laughs; most enjoyable flight I have ever taken.

Check-In/ Reception: Some dancers, a welcome drink, but most amazing NO LINE-UPS! A reception room next to the front desk was set-up to receive all arrivals at once with at least six staff waiting to check you in. The hotel had already prepared envelopes with all the necessary docs./key cards. They put on our wristbands and called a bellboy who took us and our baggage (which had been unloaded from the bus while we were checking in) to our room. The whole thing lasted 5mins. WOW!

Room: Originally, a standard room, on the fringe of the cabanas surrounding the adults pools. Welcome gift is a full bottle of rum. Room was fairly nice, decent size with king bed, adjacent couch and coffee table, tv, closet in the main room, 1room bath. Noticed some ants on the ground outside our door though and some coffee stains on the wall. Could have made do, I suppose, but have never pressed the issue before so decided to see just how far the management would go to accomodate a guest. Left our things in the room and talked to the front desk - they told us to come back in a couple of hours while they made some calls. After taking in a tour of the pools, bars, and pool bars, we returned to find that a bellboy would meet us in our room in half a hour. On time, he came and took us to a new room - executive room right beside adult pools. The shiznit: relatively same size as original but better artwork, 3room bathroom/powder room/walk-in closet, and prime access to beach/adult pool/restaurants. FREE UPGRADE! As nice as the room was, still not worth the $20CUC/night/person extra if we had had to pay for it ourselves.

NB. tvs are equipped to handle rca jacks - the first time I have ever found this in Cuba. Very nice as you can hook up a portable DVD player to it - none of the rooms come with one. About 25 channels of satellite tv - about half are english and include 5 movie networks, tbs, cnn, espn, disney kids; no nbc, fox, or cbs though - so NO NFL PLAYOFF COVERAGE. HOT water everynight - also the first time I have ever found this in Cuba. No alarm clocks in any of the rooms so bring a travel one if you need help getting out of bed. 220V outlets - our hairdryer/curling iron needed a travel converter but our DVD player worked fine - check the label of your appliance - newer models may work fine.

Maid service usually late morning, mini-bar stocking usually late afternoon. Only 1 missed mini-bar stocking. Room towels (like 12!) replaced as you wish, bed always made and decorated with some sort of towel art. fresh flowers. VERY clean.

Lobby: HUGE! I cannot say enough about the lobby. Polished stone tile throughout, many fountains, pools with secluded daybeds and coffee tables. Huge wood paneled bar. open air gardens and cafe areas. you must see to believe - this in itself is worth the trip (we paid $1800 for 2 people, AI, 1wk, incl taxes). Contains all services such as cyber cafe, phone rooms, money exhange, concierge, front desk, bar, bar, bar, access to buffet restaurants (2), travel desks, amphitheatre, disco/karoke, store, a la carte reservations, and LOTS of lounging, drinking, people watching space. Live music every evening (piano+saxaphone). Worth mentioning is the "last call for alcohol cart!" (last call starts somewhere round 5:30pm and lasts for about 10hours. The guy is hysterical and makes for great entertainment.

Pools/Cabanas: There are 2 seperate pool/cabana areas: families vs. couples. They are located at opposite sides of the Lobby, a la carte restaurants, activities/games bldy, and main promenade (which includes store, ice cream parlour, bar, bar, bar, beer garden/24hr snack bar, local items for sale (the vendors are not pushy at all). Walking from one area to the other once you know where the paths go takes about 3mins. Look out for the golf carts/elect. bikes as this is how the staff travels. Access is completely open and back and forth between areas - they are seperated merely to suit people's preferences for an environment. Each of the areas features 2 HUGE pools including swim-up bar, snack bar/open-air dining, towel service, bathrooms (VERY clean). Unique to Family Pools - one pool knee-deep throughout for little ones, picket-fenced off day clubs for all ages (4 different areas geared towards different age groups from 1 yr-17yrs), seperate whirlpool - HOT water!, all games/activities such as pool volleyball, salsa lessons, water aerobics, variety/staff games take place here, there is plenty of shady areas along the perimeter of the pool deck. Unique to Couples Pools - not much shade and sheltered from the breeze, a great place to bake. Quieter than the other pool area, all of the chairs are quality with little pullouts to hold your drink. There are quality floaties for the pools which are doubled at the end to hold up your head enough for a sippy. Backround music is a laid-back volume and a good mix of local/international tunes. This area is all about relaxing. Due to the distance between the areas, the environments usually do not collide. NB. pools/decks cleaned daily, lots of clay disposal for garbage which everybody seemed to use, water is not heated so hope for hot weather, disabled pool access chair at couple pools.

Cabanas are 2 stories, accessible at both ends with 16 rooms/building. Standard warm-weather poured concrete resort building. Nothing remarkable except not many stairs/very brightly painted.

Beach: The best beach in Cuba by far! No shell fragments - just like walking on powdered sugar. 10km long and shared by only 3 resorts, plenty of lounge chairs (plastic), and crystal waters. Beach accessed at 3 locations (from each pool cabana area and the main promenade) by a boardwalk over some scrub areas (the entire resort is located in a tropical preserve). Takes about 30secs to reach the beach. Beach bars located along the boardwalk in case you can't wait for the bar at the end of the boardwalk/on the beach, 10 secs away. Showers to wash off your feet.

A la Cartes: There are 5 al la carte restaurants. Reservations are made in the main lobby. Reserve EARLY as all of them fill up VERY fast once a planeload of new visitors arrives. Each restaurant has 2 sittings: 6:30pm and 8pm.

Sushi - did not go
Italian - did not go
SeaFood - I hate SeaFood and I loved this restuarant. Down by the beach (beachside grill and lunch buffet in daytime), great ambiance, excellent service, better than expected wine, and spectacular food. Lobster and all the other for the seafood lover and great fish, shrimp, and turf for the seafood hater. So good I proposed to my girlfriend here. Romantic (Spanish) - We were seated and waited 20mins for wine, another 5mins saw me asking for bread which arrived with no butter, and still nobody had arrived to ask after our order. Many other diners looking around lost as well. Dinner went downhill after that. unremarkable food, walked out before dessert/coffee. So glad I did NOT propose here as earlier planned.
SteakHouse - By Far, the best a la carte I have ever been to! A 5star restaurant anywhere in the world.

Buffet/Snacks: The food was exceptional not just by a cuban standard but by an anywhere standard. No matter the time of day, you can always get a fresh cooked or buffet lamped meal/snack (they have both options all the time so go for fresh). The choice is tremendous and includes all the resort staples as well as so much else: one night they had everything & the kitchen sink + rabbit! There is something for all appetites. Another see it to believe it.

Tipping: All tipping included with your package but cuba is a very poor country. Dollar store items are very much appreciated and we were sure to leave a little care package with those staff that made a real impression. We tipped a $1CUC at the bars whenever we had some on us (about 3/4 of the time). It didn't seem to make a difference with the good attitude anywhere. All happy attitude being equal though - when you first get to the lobby bar (it can get very busy at nights), make sure the bar man sees you tip - you'll get faster service later on. NB all tips are communal and are shared equally by the barstaff.

Entertainment/Activities: Very lively. Shows 6days/wk - themes vary. Standard resort stuff but the costumes and performances are quality. And the amphitheatre is extremely impressive - HUGE! Seats about 3 hundred with another hundred along the back in a street cafe motif. Professional lighting/sound booth above. Something for everybody - a see it to believe it Michael Jackson impersonator, a trick-bmx bike demo, and some incredible dancers. Live music in the promenade every evening with salsa; with 3 bars including a non-alcoholic smoothies bar, its a hit with all the kids. For late night, the disco is BUSY. No joking - not the usual 3 or 4 tourists, there were at least 50 or 60 people every night (and this is the off season). Beach party 1 night - neon lighting is very cool by the ocean.

Also offered are sightseeing trips with dinner and local entertainment in nearby fishing towns, swimming with the dolphins, sunset catamaran cruises with lobster dinner on a private isle, etc. Not sure of the quality as we did not go but overheard others saying the sunset catamaran was AWESOME. NB. these activities are extra $.

NB. There's plenty to see and do on the resort but it is relatively isolated. It is NOT Verodaro nor is it Old Havana. It is the essence of relaxation and a place to have fun/recharge, NOT a tourist metropolis/cultural mecca.

NB Judgement based on: fiancee is laid-back and doesn't like to make a fuss; I am anal and like to make a fuss. We have been to Melia Cayo Guierellmo(sp?) - 5 stars and Playa Alameda - 4.5 stars during the 2 previous years

Melia Las Dunas is the best of our Cuban vacations so far. We are already planning our return trip next year.
Melia Las Dunas
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
January 2008
Arrival - Arrival at the resort, after checking in while on the bus, was a beautiful sight. Gorgeous lobby, welcoming drink from the staff and Cuban music. Eveyone was very accomodating considering our flight from Toronto via Air Transat was delayed for almost 10 hours.

Rooms - Our room was a standard room.. with two cots set up for our children which they thought was a great!! Tastefully decorated and extremley clean.

Restaurants - The international buffet was great; The food was as good as it gets in Cuba. Pasta and fish/meat stations . Fresh bread and decadent desserts. Only visited one A la carte restaurant and the food was exceptional as well as the service. We found all waiters/waitresses bent over backwards to make your stay enjoyable. Very friendly people.

Bars - The bars were great and the bartenders were always smiling and willing to please. Our favourite bartender was the one who frequented the front lobby yelling out "Last Call!!!" He would make you whatever you wanted.

Beach and Pools - The pools were great; a little cold due to them being unheated and the cooler nights which Cuba has during January. The beach was by far one of the nicest beaches we've ever seen; very clean; beach chairs always available although a little uncomfortable (hard) some type of padding would have helped.

Grounds - The grounds were impeccable. There was always gardeners working on the grounds.

Activities - Our children visited the kids club and had a great time. There was also an afternoon dancing lesson near the pool as well as the Melia Las Dunas signature dance.

Tours - We did not participate in any tours but did read all the postings regarding the tours and there were quite a few to be had.

Conclusion - Our family had a great vacation at the Melia Las Dunas and we would definatley return in the future. We cannot complain about one thing as everyone went out of their way to make our visit most accomodating. I would recommend anyone with younger children try out this resort!!!
Melia Las Dunas
Tantallon, Nova Scotia
December 2007
Arrival - Arrived in full style via Air canada vacations...luxury bus took us to our resort..90 minute bus ride...drinks awaiting us at the entrance to the resort...friendly staff to immediately take our baggage. the lobby is an amazing first impression...huge clean with lots of fountains, pools lobby bar...gift shops, internet cafe etc. etc

Rooms - Large, clean room, we just had the standard but it was great!! king size bed..gorgeous bathroom, very very clean, tled floors throughout the room, mopped daily...fridge stocked daily between 5-7pm, lots of english stations on the tv's

Restaurants - Wow, 7 resturants, 4 a la carte...very high standards, elgant atmosphere, professional staff, food excellent, huge variety of everything...buffet breakfasts...

Bars - lots of them....3 on the beach alone..incredible staff..."Johnny Boy 2 for one last call" an amazing bartender.

Beach and Pools - Beach great, pool with swim up bar, childrens pool. Large and clean, hot tub also..

Grounds - Wow, beautifully maintained, lots of variety in art, plants, flowers, sculptures, beautiful stone-like concrete pathways...well laid out.

Activities - lots of them, pool activities fun!!! beach activities daily with prizes. Nightly entertainment, discos and stage shows!!!

Tours - lots available, unable to comment on them as we just relaxed and enjoyed the resort

Conclusion - We would return again for sure!!! Christmas at this resort was an experience never to be forgotten!
Melia Las Dunas
Toronto, Canada
December 2007
This resort is an excellent choice for families traveling with babies and small children. My husband and I took our 6 month old with us, along with my mother. Our request (via e-mail) for adjoining rooms and for a crib in our room was honoured. The resort is stroller accessible, with ramps everywhere. There are baby high chairs in all of the restaurants, including the a la cartes. There is a family pool, with a shallow kiddie pool. There is also a supervised baby club and a games area for older children and teens. There were plenty of families with babies and we didn't feel out of place. Our little one had a great time.

The buffet was one of the best we've seen and we've been to Cuba many times, both in and out of season. The highlight was the made to order sushi (yes, sushi!!) station at dinner. The dessert selection was very tasty. The a la carte restaurants were good and a for fee wine list was available with a nice selection of very reasonably priced bottles. We recommend the Barbara d'Asti for 8 CCU.

The only thing to be aware of when traveling to this resort in December is that it can get quite windy on the beach and we had more red flag days than not, which was great for jumping the waves but not so great for the little one with sand blowing on the beach. We've been to the same beach in the summer and the ocean was calm calm calm. Just so you know if you plan on a winter vacation, the ocean changes with the season.

Overall, we had a fabulous time and plan to return again next year with the little one.
Melia Las Dunas
November 2007
9th time in Cuba and definately the most beautiful beaches in Cuba

Rooms - Ocean view rooms are well worth the upgrade. A 5 star room in most countries.

Restaurants - Only did the buffet and 24h snack bars. Surprisingly not only was there selection, but all the food tasted good! From pizza/popcorn chicken/ plantain chips at the snack bars, to grilled meats, fish,... at the buffet.

Bars - Bars are clean, efficient, and classy for Cuba and most big city standards. Especially the front lobby bar. Great coffee!

Beach and Pools - Beach is remarkable. What else to say. Best so far in Cuba. Its a walkers/sunbathers dream.

Grounds - Upkeep is fantastic, but be prepared to do a lot of walking. This resort isnt for the lazy or physically challenged, unless you wait for the carts to drive you around.

Conclusion - Well worth the cost. This place is a Gem. Simple. I have traveled to many places around the world and I would definately go back.
Melia Las Dunas
November 2007
Debbie i sent you a reveiw in Feb about Melia Las Dunas resort we had taken our grandkids with us .Well we just returned home from Melia Las Dunas on Oct 26 and it was great.The airport was finished like people said and its great now.Buy your liquer in airport duty free its alot cheaper...
Melia Las Dunas
Martine & Keith 
June 2007
“Fantastic Place – Highly Recommended!”

Thomas Cook flight
Depart Manchester. Long, long queues at where they scan your hand luggage etc. Make sure you follow all the rules re. liquids. Must be kept separate in a see-through plastic bag, etc. All details can be found on TC website. Flight on time both on outbound & return journeys. Service on board good & enough legroom – more than I have experienced in the past with First Choice.

Santa Clara airport
Is now finished, a small airport, but has all it needs to make your arrival & departure comfortable. On arrival again long queues for passport control, they like to scrutinise everyone’s passport & ask you a few questions. Cases were already waiting for us & we were on the bus within 5 or 10 minutes. I did not see any sniffer dogs, nor did I see anyone being questioned for a long time or any luggage being searched.
Return journey – T Cook stagger the arrival of coaches at the (small) airport, which is good, so you don’t get a queue of 300 people at check-in all at the same time. They charge you if you have exceeded your luggage allowance at 14 CUC per kg. They don’t check or weigh hand luggage so we put some heavier items in our hand luggage to keep the weight of the cases down.
My husband’s case was set to one side after scanning, because they detected a tube containing 2 paintings. They simply asked to see the paintings & the necessary receipts, it only took a couple of minutes & they were very friendly. Make sure when you buy any paintings or other art in Cuba to obtain a proof of purchase for customs (this is for paintings over 30 cm width).
There is now a departure lounge at Santa Clara with a small Duty Free shop (you can get your Havana Club rum here, very cheap, CUC 3.85 for a 1 litre bottle of the white rum, also the lovely and not much else. There is also aJCuban coffee, which I am enjoying right now snack bar & a smokers room. You can also change any left over CUC’s here back into your country’s currency before departure. All in all Santa Clara airport is now functioning very well & is very pleasant to travel to & from.

Hotel Layout – Grounds - Occupancy
Very beautiful grounds, it’s amazing how it all looks so beautiful after only being open 6 months. The Lobby is stunning, a nice place to enjoy having a drink from the beautiful Lobby Bar. Watch the marble floors or small steps here & there, it can get slippery when it rains. Once night after some terrible downpours the Lobby area got flooded in several places, so use common sense when walking round. I can’t personally see how anyone could walk straight into the water features as I read Jbefore, unless having spent too long at the Lobby Bar !

During our stay the hotel was only 25% full (about 500 guests). The adult side of the hotel had therefore been completely closed, and all guests were put up in the family side, which worked very well. It gave us the impression the hotel was ‘pretty full’ although only 2 or 3 weeks earlier they had 1800 guests.
Some of the restaurants were closed due to this low occupancy. We managed to have lunch in the Beach Ranchon on the 2nd day we were there, which was a very nice lunch, after that it was closed for the rest of our stay. But it didn’t matter as there were still 4 other places to go for lunch.

The a la carte restaurants – only the Italian & Romantic were open, but they alternated menus in each of these. The Italian served the Italian menu one night, and Steakhouse menu the next. The Romantic would do both Romantic & Seafood. Again we thought this was a good way to cope with the low occupancy & still offer the guests all or most of the facilities. You could book the a la carte restaurants as often as you liked, they were never overbooked, an advantage of being there in low season. There were also no queues for booking these.

Amazing, the water has beautiful shades of blue & green – Wish I was there still! We found walking on the beach towards the Sol hotel hard work at places because the sand becomes quite soft & you sink in it so walking becomes somewhat more difficult. Walking towards the other side where they are building the new ‘Star’ hotel is easier, you can walk for miles & miles, and not meet a soul. This hotel should be open in approx 1 year we were told, there is currently absolutely no disruption due to this – just the sight of some cranes which don’t blend in too well with the idyllic scenery of the beach & sea.

Weather - Mosquitoes
May to October is rainy season, it usually rained early evening, which is nice & not disruptive to your holiday. It did not rain every night though. We were there for 2 weeks, and the last 2 or 3 days the weather was not so good, it became very windy so you could not go on the beach as it was just too windy, it also rained an awful lot in the daytime on our 2 last days, so most people spent those in the lobby bar! It was not a big deal for us as we had had nearly 2 weeks of beautiful sunshine but for some Canadians who were there for 1 week, they felt like they had had terrible weather on their holiday, it’s a shame, but Mother Nature …..
The rainy season also brings with it : the mosquitoes. We got bitten quite badly, we used all the repellents we brought from the UK, with 50% DEET, did not make any difference. They sell one there in the shop called ‘Repell’ I believe, which seemed to work better, and contains no DEET, and was a lot nicer to spray on your skin. But all in all there is no getting away from them. Avoid walking outside between 6 & 9 am, and approx 6 & 9 pm as well when they are worst, but they are around all day as well, but not quite as bad as dusk & dawn. A lot of the Brits ended up going to see the Doctor there, so did we. We were both given a Cortisone injection which reduces the allergic symptoms of redness, swelling & itching. It did make us feel much better, the Doc also gave us extra tablets to take, Camomile lotion & another cream, all this for 64 CUC for the 2 of us. The Doctor’s office is located at the back of the gym, no need to make an appointment, just turn up & take cash with you.

We found the buffet restaurants of very high standard, much better than most other holiday-hotels. The service was excellent (again due to low occupancy the waiters have all the time to give you the best service you can dream of). Choice & variety of food excellent, some food luke-warm as often in buffets, but there was a good selection of meat, chicken & fish you could choose to have cooked fresh for you. Also lovely prawns.

The a la carte restaurants were lovely in terms of deco, service & musicians, especially the classical music in the Romantico. The menus did not offer a lot, some meals were great, others pretty awful, especially in the Seafood restaurants, it was hit or miss whether you actually received the fish you ordered! The Italian menu only offered basic spaghetti’s & pizza’s – a little basic for a ALC restaurant, we thought. The Romantico food was nice, perhaps very small portions, but it’s not like you’re gonna go hungry in this type of hotel.

Wedding Anniversary
We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary out there, which we had advised TC of at time of booking. Danirka, the lovely lady at Guest Relations arranged for us an extra 2 booking at the ALC restaurants of our choice, at one of the meals we received a bottle of Champagne, and a chocolate cake. Ruth, the TC rep, also sent a card to our room, which was a nice touch.

We had a standard room in block 30 – this was a good location, not too far to walk anywhere. We did not find it far to walk anyway in the resort, maybe because only half of it was open. We enjoy the walks. We considered upgrading to a Superior room, which they showed us, as we did not find it much different to a standard room, slightly bigger, and with a walk-in closet, I believe the bath/shower was separated from the rest of the bathroom. There was ‘seaview’ but the sea looked so far away, it was not worth it, and with the mosquitoes you could not spend any time on the balcony anyway. The upgrade would have cost 20 CUC per night, we stayed in our standard room which was just as nice.

Daytime pool & beach entertainment was fun. They do play a lot of Latin music round the pool, mixed with other styles. But we did not hear any Celine Dion or Brian Adams at all as we read in some other reviews. They do some Salsa dance lessons & other styles which are good fun.
We found the evening shows quite good, they had a resident group of professional dancers, they worked really hard to put good professional shows on, and they did very well. The animation team look after the rest of the program, with some games, and further fun in the Disco after 11 pm, which is small, but has a lovely bar, and it’s so much fun to even just sit & watch the Cuban staff dance the night away!
There was always live music in he lobby bar early evenings & also in the restaurants at lunchtime & dinner, which is very nice.

Staff – Tipping
We found the TC Rep Ruth were pleasant & helpful, she loves Cuba. The welcome presentation on the 1st day was very well done (we usually find these very irritating) we did not feel like we were being pushed at booking excursions as we normally do)
The Cuban staff are so nice & work so hard to please everyone, a lot of the waiters/waitresses are students, but they all try very hard to do an excellent job, and succeed as well. The gardeners are always fun to chat with, and offer guests flowers, little bracelets, Aloe Vera leaves (to put the gel on your mozzie bites, which is a great relief).
I guess we spent more money on tipping here than we have ever done in any hotel in other countries, I was determined before I went to ‘only tip after having received good service’ as we (Brits) are used to. But as our stay went on, we just couldn’t help but ‘wanting’ to tip more & more as the staff are so nice & friendly, and it doesn’t matter whether you tip or not, they still love to be your friend & do all they can for you. They also return gifts to the guests – which is so touching considering they don’t have much money, but they do have a lot of artistic skills, and ‘make’ little things for you, which is so sweet, I will treasure my little gifts forever. Well, we became tipping addicts! Seriously we tipped approx 5 CUC after a meal in the ALC restaurants, once in a while in the buffet, not after every meal. In the lobby bar we chose not to tip every day, but to give a larger tip once every couple of days. We left a larger tip at the end of our stay for all the restaurant staff and same for the lobby bar staff. Please also tip discreetly, they are quite shy & sometimes a little embarrassed at receiving our ‘charity’

I will write a separate review about the excursions we did. If you have any questions on anything or I forgot things, please ask.

Pros: Everything ! (especially Cuban people)
Cons: Mosquitoes

Would we go back? When’s the next flight

We would highly recommend this hotel, it is classed here as a 4*plus, as we would agree with that rating. We only paid £1,320 for 2 of us 2weeks AI ( this is approx 2,800 CAD).

Link to photos
Melia Las Dunas

May 2007
Stayed at the MLD between May 18-25th in building 20. This was our 5th trip to Cuba, and by far the most disappointing.

Positives: Beautiful beach, airport much improved since last year, food was satisfactory and available 24/7, hotel has a great ice cream parlour, rooms were new and well decorated, evening entertainment was typical for Cuba, grounds were well maintained, and music and activities on the beach and competitions and fashion shows by the pool were amusing.

Negatives: Bad weather half the time (clouds, heavy winds, cool evenings, and a lot of rain). But most frustrating was the gargantuan amount of mosquitoes. They were everywhere at all times of day. The only place you were safe was on the beach on a windy day. We couldn't even eat breakfast in peace without spending most of the time swatting ourselves. Tip: Stay home, or if you are already booked, bring a high deet content repellent -we liked the one at the hotel called REPEL; bring long sleeves and long pants; do not go out early evenings (between 6-9pm); insist that the hotel fumigate (apparently they sometimes forget) and when they do, stay out of the way because they have no consideration for passerbuyers; for those who were badly bitten the doctor offers cortisone injections to relieve the irritation ($55). Now, they are not always bad. By the end of the week we were seeing less and according to other guests there were very few during the prior week. It is just hit or miss. Good luck. Be sure to bring your own pharmacy products because this hotel has nothing. I couldn't even get a decongestant.

Maid service was also the worst I've ever experienced. She never swept up, never cleaned any of the bathroom surfaces, tub, or room surfaces. I think all she did was change the dirty towels we were advised to leave in the tub. I quickly gave up hoping for a decorative towel sculture. There were supposed to be umbrellas in our room which were not there and our fridge was empty when we arrived. We tried to phone home but the room phone wouldn't function properly the first night. The front desk staff was curt, unwelcoming, unhelpful, and never smiled. There is also a comminucaton barrier with a lot of the staff.

The resort is too huge. It really requires a map to navigate. We found our room too far from the main services so we often got a bellboy to give us a ride on a cart to avoid the long mosquitoe ridden trails. I advise you study the resort map which you can find on other review sites before going to avoid feeling lost. Also, on the west/left side of the beach you have to travel a long distance to get something to eat or drink while sunbathing. No beach food/drink service. When sun is a rare commodity and mosquitoes were waiting for you at the end of the boardwalk, this was a real inconvenience

In sum, not a bad resort but still has some glitches. I would think twice about travelling to this "cayo" after mid-May since Mother Nature is not always on your side.
Melia Las Dunas
Barry & Trudy 
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
May 2007
Santa Clara Airport
We were part of a group of twenty staying from April 13-27th. Check-in was fast and efficient as we were the only plane to arrive. Expansions to airport are not yet complete. Bus took 1 hr 20 min to arrive at resort. Note: Duty Free shops in departure lounge is very small and although cheaper than resort, is very limited in selection and quantity for cigars, rum and coffee.

Resort Check-in
Check-in was done at room behind reception desk and was quick. Baggage was unloaded from bus during this time. While we went to the lobby bar, porters took our bags to our room, which took about 1 hr.

Resort Complex
The resort is huge and there is a lot of walking to do if you are not central to the main lobby and pool. It is easy at first to get lost, as paths and buildings all look the same. It takes a couple of days to get your bearings. Signage is small and indicating landmarks such as beach, lobby and pool are small and hard to notice. Bigger signs are needed. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and lit at night. There are also many fountains and sculptures onsite. During the first week, the resort seemed to be busy with guests but the second week was almost deserted.

The lobby probably has the largest marble floor we’ve ever seen. You have to be careful as there are hard-to-see small ramps and steps in which you can twist your ankle. If it gets wet, the floor no doubt, becomes a hazard. There are also a number of small pools with water sprays in various areas of the lobby. As a couple of people found out, you can easily take one miscalculated step, fall in and get soaked. The lobby is the centre of attraction day and night and can be quite busy as is the large U-shaped lobby bar. There is often a jazz duo or trio performing evenings. Many chairs, tables and couches are available for people to sit and chat.

Stores and Other Amenities
The cigar shop in the lobby has limited supplies and cigars with no visible prices. It has a humidor that is sometimes unbearably hot and one staff member that is either on the phone or serving a line of customers. To get prices you have to wait in line. The Internet Café has very slow working “high-speed” internet access (6 Pesos per 1/2 hr) with hotmail not working during our two weeks stay. It often took anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes just to log in or access. This was an issue for us contacting family members. They didn’t want to sell us internet minutes for the hotmail problem which we didn’t use anyway. Our rep said was best to avoid the telephones as it is very expensive to phone home. The Currency Exchange, at times, had line-ups but the employee was friendly. The gift store next to the Coppelia had very limited selections of coffee, rum and other things. The Parque Central near the lobby had artisan stalls with the usual beads, earrings and other limited crafts. Tennis courts, though nice, were empty and the gym and spa seemed deserted. We only tried archery at the Sport Club but it also wasn’t very busy for other games. There is an excursion desk, but we rented an 8-passenger van with a driver for a 5-city tour through the car rental agency at the resort entrance. It was cheaper and more extensive than the organized tours though we didn’t get the commentary.

Our room was in building 06 on the “family” side for which we were grateful as we were close to most things. The room was spacious, nicely decorated and the air-conditioning worked well. The king-sized bed, though firm, was comfortable. Bath was spacious though getting out of the shower is a bit dangerous as the tub is rather high and you have to reach over quite a bit to get out. A walk-in closet safe was free and you should take advantage of it to store your valuables. We did have a mould and water stain problem underneath the sink and a patio door malfunctioning lock that, despite maintenance looking at it, remained a problem during our duration.

Room Cleaning and Room Fridge Service
Room cleaning was spotty at times as were replacement of some towels and facecloths. We left small gifts for the maids. I often saw the maids counting their gifts in the room they had by our door. They do well, which is not necessarily the case for other workers on the resort. Fridge replenishment was for the most part good and we got extra beer, pop and water by leaving a little note and small gift. Bottled water is not available at the bars or restaurants though it should be should you run out. Although we had reasonably good room cleaning another of our group on the adult side had horrendous maid service. Note: when you arrive you are given a checklist of the towels provided for your room. If you lose or misplace any, and that goes for beach towels or room key as well, you are charged for it.

Power Outages
This happened twice during dinner at one of the buffets and a few days later around 6 am when the TV came on a few times when the power went out came back on.

The water is a stunning aqua blue, the beach long and sand at times is both easy to walk and difficult at different parts. You can wade out a long way up to your waist. Snorkelling is about a 20-minute walk towards the nude area. The other direction takes you to the newest construction – a 2,000-room resort being built. There were a few red flag days, but mostly they were yellow or green. Heed the red flags as we heard one person almost drowned. Even though our rep said that reserving of chairs at pool or beach is forbidden, it is a fact of life in Caribbean resorts and you have to live with it - so get there early. There is a severe shortage of palapas on the beach and the resort should correct this. There was no shortage of chairs though and we made use of these by creating makeshift umbrellas with two chairs for much needed shade. There is only one beach bar near the middle of the beach. Watersports were available, but the only ones that seemed to get used were the Hobbycats.

We used the family side pool often. For the most part it wasn’t that busy and there weren’t as many kids as we thought there’d be. At the deepest end, water was just past the waist. There were lots of chairs, palapas and umbrellas for shade. Activities were the usual dance lessons and aqua-aerobics and competitions. The pool animation team (Lisi, Victor and Ernesto among others) were always enthusiastic even though patrons may not have been. Swim-up bar is great and the menu selection there seemed more extensive than the lobby bar. Nearby is the San Salvador snack bar with great burgers, pizza, sandwiches and poutine. Note to management: replace the 2 CDs (one of which is Celine Dion) played all day long, every day, at the pool and swim-up bar.

We met some of the friendliest and helpful staff members. Many of them multi-task and put in long hours in order to tend to people’s needs. We found two of the most professional and friendliest waiters/waitresses ever, named Kin, in the Italian restaurant and Yaneisy in the Caibarién buffet. If you take the time to say “Holá” in Spanish they reciprocate. We’ve heard some ignorant comments about the lack of English spoken. Well, guess what? You’re a guest in a Spanish-speaking country – duh! Contrary to other reviews, we never had to tip a bartender in order to get served -ever. There were ignorant, self-important guests who expected personal service for the week by waving a 5 Peso bill in front of bartenders– insulting to say the least. We did tip our favourite bartenders later in our two-week stay as a thank you.

Poorly marked signage and often only seen at the entrance, toilets are few and far between and are small. Most, with the exception of the suites, do not flush properly. There are no washrooms near the beach. The odd thing about some of the resort washrooms is the installation of toilet paper holders instead of paper towel dispensers on the walls in addition to hand dryers. Garbage cans are miniature versions of kitchen ones.

Some of the entertainment was excellent – others amateurish. We would rather see Cuban bands and music than imitation Broadway shows. Some of the costumes were nice others looked cheap.

We ate mostly at the buffets. The food does get repetitious after awhile. For the size of the resort the selection, although some of the best quality food we’ve had in Cuba, is surprisingly limited. There were no food-themed nights like other resorts we’ve been to. The Romantica, Italian as well as the Steak House restaurant (despite other reviews) had some of the best food during our stay. The Coppelia ice cream parlour was not very busy though the ice cream was good. The Mi Conuco restaurant had limited food and did not seem busy. The Beer Garden, often busy, had limited seating but good food. Next door, the Beach Ranchón restaurant, although large, had limited food and wasn’t very busy as well.

Pet Peeve
The biggest issue we had was the spraying for mosquitoes. We had read about this in other reviews and it is a huge problem. There is no warning when two guys on a motorized bike whiz by you enveloping you in huge grey clouds of kerosene-smelling smoke, or you get a taste of it while you’re eating in one of the buffets. There is no reason why they cannot spray between midnight and 6 am instead of making people ill while walking or eating. The first week we had no problems with mosquitoes and we did not see or hear them spraying. Not only is the smoke nauseating, it only serves to drive the mosquitoes out of the bushes and twenty minutes later you are trying to swat them by the thousands for the rest of the evening. Our last night waiting for the airport bus was the worst we encountered. We couldn’t wait to leave. This was the first time we had ever encountered them in Cuba. Employees said it would only get worse because of the rainy season arriving.

We did enjoy our stay but the resort, although very nice, is not the five-star self-rating Meliã claims. Las Dunas’ hasn’t been open long enough to deserve that. There are few resorts in any country that assume that position. To attain that status, service would have to be exemplary – something that Las Dunas does not yet have. For us, this resort was too large for our liking. We prefer smaller ones. We didn’t need to go to the gym as all the walking sufficed for exercise. Although tastes and preferences are subjective, there are areas of improvement and bugs to be worked out in any new resort. Rather than send in our limited comment card at the desk, we preferred to mail it with our review so that the management of this resort can better improve its facilities to become the five-star it strives to be.
Melia Las Dunas

March 2007
Have just returned from a week at Melia Las Dunas - March 16-24. Because I use various review sites a lot, thought it only fair that I record my impressions. This was my third trip to Cuba, having been to the Melia Varadero and the Iberostar Dacquiri in Cayo Guillermo. In case you don't want to read the whole review, I've offered conclusions at the beginning.

After my experiences at other Cuban and DR resorts, I believe that it is in the area of food and bar/food service that MLD must work if it hopes to be a 5 star property, or even 4.5. Being new, and still building, they may be struggling with staff and not quite working out the glitches. Physically, it's an outstanding property, in a superb location, and it really could be one of the best resorts in the country. I hope they work out the kinks and reach their potential.

Would I go back? I tend not to return to the same place no matter how good it is, so probably not. MLD wasn't excellent enough for me to tell others that they must go there, nor bad enough for me to suggest that they shouldn't. All in all, we had a wonderful week, and I would certainly return to Cuba

We were four senior ladies, travelling with Transat Holidays from Halifax with Westjet. No problems at either end - flights were smooth and on time. Airport in Cuba is small, but we didn't have much of a wait for luggage, and were on our way pretty quickly. We were the only flight, late at night, which I'm sure helped. At the resort, the Transat rep was around a lot - very helpful and seemed very concerned about how things were going. Again, no problems when leaving - a bit of a wait in the line to check in, but nothing major, and no problems with immigration.

MLD is physically stunning. The lobby is huge and beautiful. One concern - large expanses of marble tile in the same colour, with nothing to mark changes in elevation or edges of ramps, etc, were somewhat dangerous. Several of us almost walked into ponds or over the edge of the wheelchair ramp, and continually warned one another to "watch the edge." And no, we weren't tipsy!

The whole area around the entrance, with restaurants, ice cream parlour, beer garden, etc, is lovely, as are the grounds in general. Impeccably clean - and everyone seemed to help by putting garbage in one of the many containers at the pool, on the beach, and on the grounds. Even though the resort is new, there is a good deal of mature vegetation, and the flower beds are already really nice. I can imagine that in a few years the whole resort will be spectacular. The newer side (right side of a map) is still not completed, and we were only there at night when one of the staff gave us a little tour in "the limo" (stretched golf car, used for moving people around the resort if they didn't want to walk). We were told that not all rooms are open, and the landscaping was obviously still in progress. The plan is to make it adults only, but I got the impression that this is still just a plan - and that at the moment there is no differentiation.

We had requested adjoining rooms on the second floor, near the pool and beach. We got rooms across the hall (2413 and 2414) on the ground floor, very well located just at the end of the boardwalk to the beach, and very close to the pool. They would have moved us to second floor suites, but they were in the new side with king beds, so we chose to stay where we were. We had a bit of a walk to reception and restaurants, but not really far, and we needed the exercise. Don't be put off by people writing about having to walk for great distances. Not true - I'd guess not more than three or four minutes, and we were among the farthest away. Rooms are really nice - big and most attractive I've seen in Cuba - with comfortable beds, table and two armchairs, nice little patios with comfy chairs, screened patio doors, effective air conditioning, and everything in them that one could reasonalby want. Our only concern was with the bathtub, which is very high and somewhat scary to get in and out of. Grab bars helped, and there was a rubber mat, but still a little daunting. Anyone with real mobility problems would find it very difficult. Contrary to the Transat brochure, the rooms are not what I would call a suite, but rather the standard double pictured on the MLD website. Maid service was great, and there were lots of towels and toiletries.

The beach is gorgeous, with lots of lounges, but somewhat lacking in shade. There is one row of palapas, but no natural shade from trees. You have to find your spot early if you want shade. Sand is very soft and hard to walk in for long distances - might be OK at low tide - and if so, one could walk for a long way both directions. Lots of little bits of coral and shells at the edge of the water, and because of the wave action, high and low spots as you go out. We had lots of wind, and lots of waves. The water was beautifully warm, clear outside the riled up area, with very little seaweed. Hobiecats are new and readily available. We sailed three times in very wet but wonderful conditions.

The pool is big, and was a comfortable temperature when we were there. Some palapas, some umbrellas, and some natural shade from palm trees. When it was windy at the beach (which it was about half the time) there appeared to be a shortage of lounges at the pool - complicated by the fact that, as usual, some inconsiderate souls would claim them and then not show up. We often spent the morning at the beach, then had lunch, then moved to the pool. We did claim lounges early in the morning wherever we planned to set up camp, but when we left for any more than a short time, we took our stuff and hoped for the best later. We were always able to find a spot, but not always with the most comfortable lounges. No big issue! Towel service was great.

Service for the most part was good to excellent. One of our group had a birthday while there, and we got the full treatment - rum and champagne in the room, reservations at all the a la carte restaurants, brandy-soaked birthday cake, etc. Danika (spelling?) at Customer Service was outstanding!

Otherwise, we found service at the pool bar (no pool deck service - had to go to the bar- no big deal) generally good, but less so at the lobby bar. Tipping or not didn't seem to make a difference. We had mostly great service in the buffet restaurants, with some of the most handsome and friendly and accommodating waiters ever. Mini bar service was mixed - always got the water we requested, but bar was not stocked every day. Maybe it wasn't supposed to be - not sure on this one. We had good food and good service in the Italian restaurant, mediocre to bad food and great service in the Seafood Restaurant, great food and very poor service in the Romantica restaurant, and not bad food and good service in the Steakhouse. Food in the buffet restaurants was mixed. We had no trouble finding enough to eat, but rarely felt like raving about the food (except for the roast ham, roast suckling pig, and maybe the turkey.) They seemed to run out of stuff at the carving stations, and if you weren't there early, you missed out. Hot food was generally not hot, except when grilled on the spot, and there were some concerns about the cold food not being kept cold enough. Bread was great, as was cheese. I love Cuban coffee, but it was usually lukewarm. Had to work at getting hot tea. Wine was plentiful and pretty good.

By the way, I read much about mosquitos in the area. We went armed with repellant, which never came out of the bag. Except for the last night, when they were a bother in one part of the main lobby, we saw fewer than a half dozen all week.
Melia Las Dunas

March 2007
Just returned from 2 weeks at this beautiful resort. Everything was great, beach, pools, bars, snack bars, especially the snack bar near the pool where you could get canned beer to go. Would return to this resort without question.
Melia Las Dunas
Pop Ball 

March 2007
The hotel lobby is huge and very well laid out. The staff friendly, the rooms very comfortable, but, as is often the case in Cuba, the meals bland.

The complaints are: All airports in Cuba are too small to handle people in a quick,efficient manner. Las Dunas is no exception. The departure tax is like a slap in the face to people who have spent many dollars in Cuba. "Thank you for coming. Thank you for spending your tourist dollars. Now hand over 30 bucks (Canadian) to depart." Over all we enjoyed our stay at Las Dunas very much.
Melia Las Dunas
Ontario Canada
March 2007
We just returned from Las Dunas.It was really amazing we have been to Cuba quite afew times..Cayo Coco,Hoguin,Santa Lucia.Las dunas was really nice we took our daughter and her 2 children a 4 year old and a 23 month old they had a blast the entertainers in the baby club were amazing they loved all the kids that was there.We are in our fifties and found the hotel was really accomadating they put our friends right beside our room and our daughters across from us (3115,3116,3117).It was right by the pool and not far to the beach.The maid was great made rooms nice and cheery with flowers everyday that the gardener brought her daily he really was nice and told me about his kids....he loved my granddaughter Kyla the 23 month old.The pool guy watched over our chairs and our spring floats when we would go and eat.All the employees were friendly and curtious.We always were giving away little trinkets (decks of cards) they love every little thing it doesn't take much to get hugs and smiles from them.The beach was really nice very clean and no sea weed.Over all it was a very big resort very clean and new . The only real complaint we had was the airport...it was not big enough to hold 300 passangers.We waited over an hour for our suitcases when we arrived .When we departed we were lucky we had the kids they allowed us to go passed people standing outside waiting to get in to check in counter.We were the last bus to arrive there so we passed a lot of people waiting.They are starting to join the arrival building to the departure building (they are 2 different buiding right now)so when its done it will be alot better.We will go back there after that is completed.
Melia Las Dunas
February 2007
returned from my two week escape a week ago tomorrow and held off writing the review for a week to see if my impressions changed after I had been back in the real world for awhile. Although I am not thrilled with the snow outside my door right now, I have to admit I have never before experienced the snow white sandy beaches I enjoyed during my two weeks in Santa Maria.

I am not much of a traveller. In fact this is only my second tropical holiday in 23 of my 45 years on this planet. Keeping that in mind, I may come across as 'just happy to be anywhere that isn't winter!'

We were not able to get much information on the Melia Las Dunas resort from the internet because the facility is so new. We stayed in building 38 on the 'new' side of the resort. It has only been open (depending on what building you are in) since November of 2006. Some of the buildings were still opening during our stay. The 'old' buildings have been open since April!

We arrived at night, to a light mist of precipitation. The second we stepped off the plane the humidity and the cleanliness of the air hit you like a hurricane, (in a good way) after being locked in a sealed projectile for almost five hours!

The airport has undergone some expansion (or so we were told) so it is reasonably capable, but not expediant, at processing the 260 short term residents. In my case, they paid particular interest in the fact I was a police officer which, for some reason, quickly put us from the first to arrive, to the last to leave. I also have a disability that requires a large quantity of medication which did not help speed things along.

Drug dogs wander freely among the passengers and are friendly and unobtrusive. The security personnel did their jobs and despite the fact processing was slow, the staff was professional and friendly, and in fact apologetic when everything was finally straightened out.

A 'tour guide' accompanied the 90 minute bus ride to the island. Unfortunately, his English was weak as was my Spanish, so information came in small bytes. Half way into the shuttle darkness overcame the countryside and we were unable to see where we were going or what we were going through. That was corrected on the return trip to the airport, and quite frankly, part of me wishes it had have been dark then too. This is a poor country and the living conditions of the people that take care of us at the resorts made me feel somewhat uncomfortable with how spoiled we all were.

The resort itself is everything you will ever want in a holiday village. Everything was kept impeccably clean. There is marble tile as far as the eye could see. You were greeted at the entrance by the energetic entertainment staff and your first "all inclusive" drink. After quickly signing everyone in, you are given a map of the resort and sent out into the darkness to try and make sense of it. This is a large resort divided down the middle by the main lobby and piano bar. I never did know which way to turn and would still be wandering around in circles if not for my wife's uncanny ability to get me out of trouble.

There are golf cart shuttles scooting people all over the place so you have to pay attention both in front of you as well as behind while you maneuvre around the grounds, as the electric motors come up on you almost unnoticed.

Our room (#3821) was a spectacular corner unit with a whisper of a view of the ocean on the horizon to the left on the balcony, and spectacular sunrises from the comfort of our king size bed every morning. One canary in particular, composed original scores for each day as it dawned and my wife would be mad at me if I failed to mention its daily serenades.

We were situated a very short distance to the 'quiet' or 'adult' pool/bar/restaurant snack bar, and far enough away from the nightly entertainment so as not to interfere with our enjoyment of the quiet in the evening.

The piano bar was the place to meet everyone in the evening and also the best place to start every morning with a capuccino made by the coffee gods themselves!!

We didn't take any excursions during our two week stay partly because the 45 minute drive off the island just wasn't appealing to us, but mostly because we came in search of beautiful beaches and there was miles of them at our doorstep. We walked from one point to the next every day, which was a good 80 minutes from one end to the other, and would only occasionally come across other beach dwellers (with the exception of a few hundred metres of beach directly in front of the three resorts. If you wanted hard packed white sand go to your right off the boardwalk. If you want to snorkle or walk in a looser more difficult sand to walk in, go to your left for a bit of a workout.

Overall, the resort was going through some growing pains being as new as it is, but there were signs everyday, that they were working on improving service and the grounds. They ran out of towels at times and for about 24 hours, hot water was only available in tea pots.

A la carte restaurants were opening during our stay which was a blessing due to the fact the buffet was mediocre at best.

The booking system for the a la carte restaurants was unnecessarily prolonged (over 90 minutes in line on any given morning) but worth it just to get away from the routine of the buffet.

The music of the islands was around every corner with live performances at the beach restaurant during the afternoon, the piano bar every night, and all of the a la cartes every evening. I would have much preferred to hear recorded latino music of cuba poolside to the overplayed drones of Celine Dion. God bless her gift, but if I wanted to hear her day in and out, I would have gone to Vegas. Cuba is loaded with talented, gifted and passionate musicians like the trio Alter Ego that played classical spanish guitars almost nightly at the Romantika restaurant. With so many talented musicians I question why they play canned music at all.

I know this is getting long winded but I can't close without mentioning the beautiful souls that make Cuba a place you want to come back to. I know most people take notice and reward the waiters, chambermaids and bartenders, but please take notice of the gardeners, security guards and the laborers that can't help but sing while they hoe their impeccably kept gardens, that offer you a fresh coconut drink while they are obviously on one of their own short breaks during the heat of day, and especially the crews that work through the night digging holes to plant palm trees in so that they can be ready for you in the morning. These people are sharing their piece of paradise with us, offering endless friendly greetings to passersby and heartfelt handshakes and occasional hugs when you express your gratitude for their hard work.

Some solid travel advice you may take away from this note is this: Make sure you bring everything you will need, with you. There is almost no shopping to speak of with the exception of the hotel stores. When you are forced to pay $32 cdn for a small bottle of 30 SPF lotion you will quickly understand what I'm talking about.And not so much advice but an observation worth noting is the fact the resort is on the Atlantic side of the country so strong 'breezes' seem to be the rule as opposed to the exception. They will give you a false sense of protection until you get back to your room and stand in front of the mirror at days end. (no, I am not speaking from experience, but rather my observations of many blistered lobsters of the night). You truly will feel like you are living in a post card or travel brochure everytime you lift your head from your lounge chair.The beaches and the buildings are spectacular, but the memorable part of the vacation for me was the people that share everything they have with the rest of us everyday. I will be back.
Melia Las Dunas

February 2007
We just recently returned from our vacation at the Melia Las Dunas in Cayo Santa Maria (Feb 2 -9) and it was pretty darn spectacular on most fronts.

The resort is visually stunning.

The lobby is full of water features and lovely sitting areas that are very inviting to hang out in. The lobby bar was the spot to be in the evenings and made the best Pina Coladas. There was live music most nights, and people were dancing in that area. The disco is small, but lively when we went. The theatre is very big and has lots of wicker chairs and tables to sit at - however the mosquitos are pretty bad during the show (that's where I got most of my bites) even though the fog the resort every night around 6:30pm.

The gardens are fantastic! Flowers everywhere and lots of lovely little features, like the garden that is shaped like Cuba with the word "Cuba" spelled out in flowers on the way to the main pool. The gardener who worked outside my building was always singing to himself and always had a smile and a flower for me for my hair.

The restaurants are also visually beautiful. The food is typical for a resort in Cuba. Only one of the buffets was open at present, and it had something for everyone, but the food was bland (which it probably has to be to please the larger amount of people). You can get Tabasco and HP sauce to flavor things up though, if you ask. Of the 3 a la carte restaurants, the "Romantico" had the tastiest food. Both the seafood and pumpkin soup were excellent, as was the beef with figs and the sweet and sour pork. At the "Italian" restaurant, I would recommend the veal (the pastas we tried didn't have much flavor). The "Seafood" restaurant (which is currently housed in the Beach Grill at night) was okay - but nothing stood out from the dishes we tried. During the day, my favorite place to go was the Beach Grill which served yummy rotisserie chicken, pork chops, fish and meatballs - everything we tried was quite good comparatively to the other food we'd had. The Pool Snackbar served decent hamburgers. The 24 Hour Bar (next to the Beach Grill) had the best french fries. Nobody that I know goes to Cuba for the food - and there was certainly something to sustain everyone, and there will be even more options when the resort is fully open.

The main pool is lovely with lots of chairs, but it got increasingly difficult to get any with shade if you were not a super early riser...we discovered on our 3rd day that the "adult" pools on the new side of the resort are actually open (as is the bar and Snack Bar), so we spent most of our time there. You miss out on the animation team stuff, but we pretty much had both giant pools to ourselves (there were less than 50 people most days). These pools are kept very clean by Frank, who is very good at his job.

The beach is spectacular. Lovely soft sand and beautiful turquoise water. But seating was "saved" a lot, so it was not easy to find shade (although they did get more chairs near the end of our visit). It's too bad that people feel the need to do that at the pools and on the beach when they are not there for hours at a time...but it happens everywhere. Sigh. The rooms varied quite a bit. Although my group asked to be put together, we were on almost opposite ends of the resort (building 29 and 40) which was a bit of a pain in the butt, but not worth fighting over. The maid service in the room in building 40 was OUTSTANDING. Little notes and flowers from the staff each day, and a bottle of rum left mid week. The maid service in the room in building 29 was adequate. It was clean, but no special touches, and the rum came to the door on the last night as if an afterthought. A person I met on the bus to the airport was told there were no adjoining rooms by the resort staff, but my room was adjoining to the room next door. And as I said, they seemed to have issues putting people together that booked together, which doesn't seem that difficult to me, but has happened to me every time I travel with a group! Oh well.

The bus to and from the airport was comfortable and the tour guide was excellent. The Air Transat rep at the hotel was always around and very eager to help people from what I saw. The airport was small, but fine as far as I was concerned. The Air Transat rep told us that we should probably buy our rum/cigars at the resort, as the airport was very small - so we did - but we noticed that the rum was $5 CUC cheaper at the airport and the cigars were cheaper too...and they seemed to have lots of selection the day we departed, but maybe it's not like that all the time.

All in all, the resort was definitely worth the money we paid....and I would totally recommend it.
Melia Las Dunas
February 2007
We just returned from a week (Jan 30-Feb 6) at the Melia Las Dunas Resort.

The resort is beautiful and you cannot beat the beaches in that area. We stayed in the second phase where they have 2 or 3 of the buildings open for occupancy. The second set of pools are now open along with the Aqua Bar and Snack Bar. The second set of pools are not crowded and very relaxing. The rooms were great and all the staff were extremely friendly. A welcoming note from the maid as well as a small gift at the end added a personal touch. The last night, the resort came in and lit a floating candle in the bathroom as well as leaving a bottle of rum. We never experienced such extra touchs at other resorts. The staff at the bars are more than willing to try and put together special drinks although they don't always turn out the way you had in mind but it was fun.

Note to the guys - the blow dryers have a 110v razor outlet so no adapters and transformers are required. There were minor "new resort hiccups" but nothing that took away from the vacation (1 power outage, 1 cold running water outage, pool towel shortages). Our room AC struggled a bit to keep up when it was 30C but was still comfortable. We didn't have maintenance check it since it was acceptable.

We found the 3 al a carte restaurants very good and the entertainment was appropriate in them. The International Buffet food was somewhat bland although there was a considerable variety. With the 3 other restaurants not open until guest capacity increases, we struggled a little with it. Certainly once all are open, there will be plenty of choices.

There was a shortage of chairs at the beach between 10 AM - 2 PM but I'm sure they will add more as they add guest capacity. They certainly have room for more as the beach runs the entire length of the resort. The biggest problem is not necessarily a shortage of chairs but a shortage of Guest manners! 99% of the chairs will be reserved with towels, shoes etc but you can walk the length and 20% are actually being used! If people would just use them when they are at the beach, there would be chairs for everyone. I'm sure some of these people even have chairs saved at the beach and the pool at the same time. I don't know what the solution is as there will always be guests who feel it's their right to tie up a chairs from 8AM until their hearts desire.

Air Transat appears to have solved their representative issue as someone was there everyday. Transportation to and from the airport was good and timely.

Overall, we thought the resort was great and excellent value for the cost.
Melia Las Dunas
Cyril and Debbie 
Saint John, NB
January 2007
Hi Debbie,

Stayed at the new Melia Las Dunas, December 23-30/06.

It was a great place to stay and we would go again.

The beach was really nice and well maintained (seaweed being removed every morning) but at times there was a shortage of chairs so you have to get out early. If you walked past the two other resorts you will find a reef very close (with 10 meters) that runs in towards the beach and you can do some snorkelling here. This is also the area where you may find a few nudists in all sizes and shapes. We really enjoyed our Hobbie Cat run on the windy day.

The food was really quite good at this resort for both the main buffet and the three restaurants. Suggest that you try the lineup for the a la carte reservations at about mid-day the day after you arrive, in order to avoid the lineup which wasn't that long anyway.

Since this is a new place (and about half open), the entire facility is quite nice and the rooms are superb. Very clean and with no major problems. The number will likely double in April when the place is supposed to be fully open.

The nightly entertainment in the theatre is repetitive similar to many other resorts but you can find other ways to enjoy yourselves. My wife was bitten by insects at this venue but bugs are normally attracted to me. Perhaps use some suncreen if you are prone to bites as the cooler evening air if of course the time the mosquitos (or whatever come out).

The animation team at this point were still trying to figure out what to do and stick to the handed out schedule but they gave it a good effort. Sometimes you must be patient.

Staff members were very polite and mostly able to converse or try to communicate with us in English. We really appreciated meeting many of the team including Pedro (at billiards) and Adonnase.

The sport pavillon had two small pool tables, archery, table tennis and air hockey amongst other items. You might want to bring your own tennis racquets as they were impossible to get of hold on the the cloudy days we tried to get them on - you have to walk to the Melia Santa Maria to play tennis. There you will also find the gym(equipped well enough for a holiday stay) and the spa. There is also a small climbing wall over there.

Enjoy you stay when you - this was our third trip to Cuba and it was a good one.
Melia Las Dunas
January 2007
I stayed at the Melia Las Dunas Jan 5 – 12, 2007, considered to be a 4- or 5-star.

This resort is on one of the nicest beaches I have ever visited. Probably 4 miles long and I dunno how deep but deep enough to be well away from the vegetation with plenty of room for all to spread out and walk around, play catch, volleyball etc. The ocean was warm, azure blue, and you can walk out for a long time. There’s no seaweed or beach debris. The sand was like icing sugar - powder white and cool on the toes.

This was my first time on Cayo Santa Maria. As we drove in from the airport I noticed there was no garbage around anywhere. Everything in and out of the resort was so very clean. There are new roads everywhere. The airport is small and stupid but is currently being enlarged. Upon departure please note that the duty free shop is a mere 4 shelves of a few brands of alcohol and cigars. It’s quite cramped in the departure lounge and there is no “first class” area like in the Cayo Coco airport. On the way to the resort dogs, cattle and goats walked freely all over the roads. It was about 28 degrees everyday, but at times quite windy. During my stay the resorts’ guests were almost 100% French CDNs and Italians. The food was lovely but don’t take my word for it – I am the least picky eater I know and will eat anything. There was an abundance of well-prepared, fresh food although not too fancy (like you would get on a cruise ship). Some unusual food: boiled cabbage at every meal, and blood sausage at breakfast (don’t fear – there are usually about 10 kinds of veggies served at any given time, and maybe 4 types of sausages / bacon, etc. at breakfast)! Only about half of the restaurants are open at this time. Everything in the resort is new, yet some things did not work. We experienced “rolling brownouts” everyday. The “Ciber Café” was mysteriously short of computers (and the one they had sort of didn’t work) – however on my second last day I noticed newish-looking computers being installed. The room TV was a shaky contraption with the brand name of “CHANGCHONG” (I am not kidding), complete with THREE Chinese channels, but no Chinese people were anywhere about! There were plenty of Cuban channels, Rai, a German channel, and a few American cable channels but no American network channels. Each time I entered the room and put my keycard in the power slot, the TV automatically turned on to the music channel. This was fine, except when you have a rolling brownout basically every night (sometimes at 4am or 5am, etc,) and the TV blares on when the power returns… it’s a little jarring. There was no clock radio or phone directory in my room. Sometimes the phones did not work to Canada. My blackberry which Rogers assured me would work, didn’t; however, all the Italians’ cell phones worked. My room was in building 9. Although it was a very big room, it did not have a walk-in closet as someone described above, and my bathroom configuration was different as well. However, the bathroom was plenty large, with the bidet, large surface area at the sink, and nice tub / bath combo. Plenty of towels of all sizes. There was always a lounger available at the beach or the pool anytime of day, except around 11am or 2pm. Sometimes there were line-ups at the beach bar (on sunny days at 11am and 2pm). One of my favourite things was the lobby bar. Nice live entertainment every night. The best coffee I’ve ever had (cappuccino, café con leche, espresso), mojitos with plenty of mint, and beautiful Spanish wines and cava (sparkling wine).
Melia Las Dunas
January 2007
I visited this hotel with my family (2 teenage boys) Dec. 26. I am a travel agent so I am critical of hotel ratings. If you have been to Holguin and seen the Playa Pesquero this hotel is a copy. Considering the hotel had only been open for 3 weeks the staff were doing very well. They were very friendly and accommodating.

The resort is beautiful the rooms are large. If you like a hot shower take it late afternoon as it was never hot in the morning. Santa Maria is all about the beach. There is not a lot to do as you are 50 km from the mainland. It was very windy when we were there and I suspect that it often is at that time of the year. The entertainment was very good it just got repetitious. The dancers and singers were the best I have seen in an all inclusive. Food was fine. Pizza at the pool bar was great. The buffet had good selection it’s just kind of bland. The champagne was flowing 24/7 that maybe because it was over the holidays. Wonderful dinner New Year’s eve with lobster tails among other specialties.

If you want to just kick back this resort is a great family resort. Keep in mind it is 90 minutes from the airport