logo Old Reviews - Cubanacan Club Amigo Marea del Portillo
Marea del Portillo - South Shore
Kenabeek, Northern Ontario
December 2008
Arrival: November 20 - December 18, 2008
Almost on time and it was very quick and easy. Much more organized than other years so maybe the customs and immigration people are learning.

Not fancy but lots of room and very clean. Maid service was great. Everything worked very well and in the 4 weeks we were there we never had to get anything fixed other than one lightbulb. We stayed in the ocean front cabanas.

Restaurants and Bars:
The buffet restaurant had plenty of good food although the variety was somewhat limited. We certainly never lacked much other than bacon some mornings. Staff at the breakfast bar even tried some things that we requested that they had never heard of. The Italian a la carte was very nice when it was running although they did close for quite a few days when the kitchen equipment broke down. The bars and service were great as far as I'm concerned but I'm just a beer drinker so don't care about international brands of liqour. All the wait staff and bartenders went out of their way to give us good service.

We love the beach even if it is not white sand. It is well over a km long and great for walking and swimming. The pool area was always lots of fun and kept very clean. The grounds were well maintained and always being worked on.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
The activities staff is always trying to keep things fun. The biggest problem we found was getting the tourists to participate. The shows at night were not professional but always fun to take part in. One of the best activities was the baseball games we helped to organize with the locals in nearby Mota village. The animateurs were great in helping get this going. Hopefully it will become a regular activity. We spent a lot of time off resort visiting friends we have met over the years. The sunset cruise and trip to Cayo Blanco were good times. Horseback riding and jeep trips into the mountains were wonderful ways to spend a day.

Other Comments:
The best part of Marea is the people, both on and off the resort. They go out of their way to make you feel welcome. This area of the Sierra Maesta mountains is also very beautiful. Go to Marea expecting a 3 star resort and you should have a wonderful time. This was our 15th trip to Marea and we went for 4 weeks and we think of it as our second home so I guess you could say this report is a bit biased, but there is a reason that Marea has the largest rate of returnees in Cuba.
Marea del Portillo - South Shore

August 2008
Came back Aug 5....first trip in 12yrs that we were looking forward to be going home. We have stayed in many types of hotels and many 3 to 5 star hotels. We have also stayed at 2 other club amigo hotels in Cuba What's up with this place? So let's start with the bad ( this could be a while,sorry ). This was my 7th time to Cuba.

Arrival: Flew with Sunwing, as usual flight and service on the plane were good Arrived on time, customs was quick, and thank god cause you can only get 1 plane load of passengers in the terminal. Oh ya Sunwing has great flight service, but that is IT. What a bunch of .......... In 7 months we spent $10.000, with these idiots, never ever again. Apparently they just won some award or other and i am sure they bought it at the blue light special at K-Mart, but i'll get back to them later. 1hr45 to get to the hotel, greeted with music and smiling staff, but as previously stated weren't to many smiles after.

Rooms: Exactly as expected, except for the fact our back door was jarred open while we were sleeping and 160 things were missing. Cabana#10 don't take it unless they change the back door. We were moved to #16, no problems there. They can use new shower heads, as we had 2 rooms and they both weren't that great, a/c was great, fridge great. We found the beds to be really really soft as in really old. But this is Club Amigo and as stated, exactly as expected. Room service for us was good. Oh and if you do break a ashtray they will charge you. We did hear that.

Staff: The hotel was filled with the local population, which of course is fine with us as we are in Cuba, and we love the Cuban people, except for the Cubans who think they are gods gift to humankind. Bar service at the pool was a joke, unless you were local. Yes we were tipping even though the service was very very slow for us. One time i am standing there 2nd in line and the Cuban 's would walk right in front of you and get served again and again so when i finally get my drink, i had my 3 peso's on the bar and when he gave me my drink i took it back and he wasn't to happy about that, but hey i don't tip ANYWHERE where they ignore you. Don't the Staff know that the Canadians,other than the Cuban's were the only people who were tipping. Vincent ( public relations) i think explained that to them because after a few of us complained, about the way we were being treated it did change. Exception was the taller thin gentleman at the beach bar who was just fantastic.( sorry i forgot his name ) Now when i had a problem with the door being opened i was asked to make a formal complaint, which i really did not want to do. Me and 4security guards, kinda intimidating i'll tell you that .After explaining what happened 1 guard said to me that i told him that i went out and that i left my back door opened. Ah ya right.. Vincent was there and thank god he was. Vincent thank you.

Oh boy. When we got to the hotel i think it was around 6 or 7ish. We were kinda hungry so we headed to the buffet. My pics will tell the story. It did get "better" on the last 2 days. Soup was excellent though, even though it was basically the same soup but with different leftovers , but i really liked it . I lost 9lbs, and am kinda happy about that, so if you want to lose weight go there.. The bread in the morning was a case if you got there in time and the person in front of you didn't put in 30pieces you would get some.Once gone it was gone. The same person who would put 30pieces in would also empty out the butter dish. In his situation i understand, just wish he was more courteous of others.Generally the food really sucked big time.

Drinks. I knew beforehand that you wouldn't get the blender drinks, but almost every dayi would ask for a cuba libré and hear "sorry no more coke" ok then vodka and 7up "sorry no more 7up" ok a shot of tequila "sorry no more tequila " you had to go buy the coke and 7up at the store. Why couldn't they do that i asked myself? But that's Cubacana hotels for ya. Not the end of the world but frustrating. Oh ya back to the food i think their sandwiches at the snack bar were the source of the people getting sick there because 3 of the 4 of us did not eat then but our friend guy, J.P. ate one and he was sick for a few days. Hot dogs were norm.

Excursions: Did the Caya Blanco trip the food there was wayyyyyy better than the hotel. The lobster tails were huge and delicious. I wouldn't want to go more than once though. People if you think that place is beautiful which it was nice , you have to go to Cayo Largo. Went diving once, it was ok. Every dive is a good dive.

weather: freakin hot, just the way we like it. 5 1/2 days out of 7 were sunny, showered once i think.

Overall i would never go back there or recommend it to any one especially if you have younget kids 10-17. There was no kids club there. Maybe in the fall you get better service and food but i don't know that. If you are a single male, things outside of the hotel could be fun for you. We met some great people,Judy , J.P some names i forget, sorry really bad with that.

We also ate 3 nights at the house of some very fine Cuban people. If you stand at the front entrance to the hotel, and look just a bit to the left you will see some mud flats, stick to the sides and walk 4min, you will see some houses, we had 3 fun filled nights there, brought some beer and rum and ate and danced and laughed We gave them tons of clothes and stuff wish we could have brought more. Vitamin C.. These Cubans were some of the best i have ever met, and will miss them because i can't go back to that hotel.

Sunwing. What a bunch of dummkoph's Can't take simple reservation instructions, dont' care that you spend thousands of dollars, don't care at all just give us the money. Next time i would even take Air Canada over those bunch of losers Even though we spent 10 grand with them they really don't give a care about the problems they caused us. In January their rep in Varadero ( he was their rep in varadero so he is their employee he yelled at my kids made them cry,and they are not little kids, he was very rude and aggressive, lied to our faces. Sunwings customer service reps told me "we will look into it " what a bunch of bull. This time i asked for repeatedly over the phone " I want the cabana room with thew vip upgrade" several times and paid for it and got nothing like that at all. Fool me once shame on you,fool me twice shame on me NO MORE MONEY from me you idiots
There was that problem which costed me another 80.00 so we could go to cayo blanco, think they give a care in the world, no they don't. Also when we got to the airport 3 1/2 hrs before departure, we checked in put our luggage through went and grabbed some beer and then went outside to enjoy the last hour in the sun. ******** (rep) SHOULD have said to us "can you please go into the departure area as the customs agents wanted to go home" as we were the only plane leaving that day. Instead he told the 4 of us to go inside and we said no thanks we want to enjoy the last hour outside in the sun, and then the lie came. He said " its ok there is a place to go and sit in the sun in the departure area. Sunwing shafted us again, as there is no such place.
Sunwing he is your employee, you should stop telling lies to your customers

Anyway we still enjoyed our stay because of the people we met, thank god for them, and i will be back to Cuba in October, but no way back to Club Amigo Marea del Portillio. Do not go there in July, Aug, as for the other months i cant speak for those. The place sucked.
The other review mentioned stuff about the pool which was accurate

P.S. There were 161 things missing from my room, and oddly enough, there it was ( 1 thing ) in Toronto coming out of the baggage pick up area all by itself on the conveyor belt.......mmmmm strange. All my luggage was locked so it didn't " fall out
Marea del Portillo - South Shore

July 2008
We are a professional couple in our mid 30’s with multiple trips to the Caribbean under our belt Cuba by far being our favorite Island destination.

We have previously stayed in accommodations rated anywhere from a 2* through to 5* and always adjust our expectations accordingly. When choosing our vacations we typically try to decide on exactly the type of holiday we are after first then research our options accordingly.

For this particular vacation we were looking for a basic, no frills, non-touristy resort where we could spend quality time with our kids in a location not previously visited.

Thanks to all the previous guests who took the time to write a review on this resort we were well prepared for our visit to Marea Del Portillo and can honestly say this resort met or exceeded all our expectation on every level.

We flew into Manzanillo De Cuba via Varadero with Sunwing Vacations. I have to admit our experience with Sunwing was absolutely exceptional.

Everything from the VIP flight service (hot towel, hot meal with wine, champagne, comfortable chairs, plenty of leg room) to the on-site representative Elaina was spot on, I have no complaints what so ever and would go as far to say that we will actively try and book our future trips with Sunwing.

As mentioned, our flight stopped in Varadero in order to off-load and re-load passengers before continuing on to Manzanillo. All passengers were required to leave the plane in Varadero for approximately one (1) hour to allow the flight crew time to clean the plane and reorganize for the return trip to Toronto.

This turned out to be a great advantage for us as we were able to change our CDN dollars into CUC at the Varadero airport.

A quick one (1) hour flight from Varadero finally had us arriving at the Sierra Maesta Airport in Manzanillo.

As only 53 Canadians arrived on our flight, going through customs was a breeze. Daniel the Marea Del Portillo Reservations Manager met us just outside the luggage claim area and gave us our room key and bracelet prior to boarding the bus, basically covering the “check-in” process at the airport as opposed to the resort, which is always a nice touch.

I should also mention that you do have a chance to purchase a few drinks for the long road trip to the resort while you wait for others to fill the bus!

The traveling time from the airport to the actual resort was approximately 2 hours in length, which may be too long for some people, however, the bus was a large, air conditioned coach complete with a washroom for those who didn’t take advantage of the airport washrooms prior to leaving.

I would advise people to try and sit close to the front of the bus as by the end of the trip, the stench from the bathroom really did begin to waif through the back of the bus.

Honestly, the two-hour trip seemed to fly by, as the actual scenery was spectacular. The resort guide who accompanied us on our journey from the airport used the time wisely giving us a running commentary about the local area and attractions we were seeing as we drove past

When arriving at the resort we were greeted by dancing and singing staff welcoming us to the Marea Del Portillo, tons of cheers, laughter, heart felt “welcome home” to the many repeaters who were on our flight. I have to admit, I was a little taken aback with the amount of repeaters who joined us this week, I would say at least 25% of the guests had been to this resort before.

We were offered a rum punch in the lobby as the porters gathered our suitcases and before we knew it, our porter had found and gathered the luggage and brought us directly to our rooms.

The Rooms:
We decided to book the Room/VIP upgrade which automatically meant we were upgraded to a Cabana, which I may add is the only way to go at this resort.

Included in the VIP package was: Three trips to Cayo Blanco (white sand beach) c/w a lobster lunch, Lagoon Tour, Sunset cruise and a stocked mini fridge (2 waters, 2 Bucanero, 2 Tukola, 2 fruit bars, 1 bottle of Cubay Rum and one bottle of Sorora Red Wine).

Due to the age of our kids we ended up booking two (2) Cabanas. I emailed the resort prior to arrival and requested adjoining rooms on the second floor. Although we received the adjoining Cabanas, our rooms were on the first floor. v At first I was disappointed, however, as soon as I opened the curtain and realized that we were approximately 10ft from the beach, my opinion quickly changed. We LOVED our room allocations couldn’t have asked for a better location. For those interested we were in Cabana’s 10 and 13.

Both Cabanas were really in need for some updating, the word “rustic” comes to mind.

Patched paint/plaster, cracked tiles, uncomfortable beds, TV with really only 2 stations that come in clearly (thankfully one was a movie channel). The bathroom appears to be slightly newer, however our shower just would stay connected to the wall.

Water pressure and temperature was fine all week, the air-conditioning worked well, the fridge was nice and cold. The room came equipped with a pretty powerful hair dryer and two very nice lounge chairs.

We did seem to have a few power failures, however the recovery was quite quick and never caused us any hardship.

Cabana # 10 did not seem to suffer from the usual musty/moldy problems we have seen at some of the older resorts in Cuba, however, Cabana #13 was practically unbearable for me. The kids didn’t even appear to notice the smell, so they chose to stay in #13 (thankfully).

All in all, the condition of the Cabana’s are poor, however, the location made up for the shortcomings.

The rooms were thankfully very clean and armed with my trusty can of Raid, relatively bug free (we did have a few ants on an occasion).

The Grounds:
The resorts foliage was actually quite dire indeed. I suppose we were expecting more of a lush environment, however, with the terrain being semi-arid I suppose any natural growth would be quite difficult to nurture.

The Marea is set on a small area of land, with the majestic Sierra Maestra mountainside as its backdrop. The area surrounding the MDP is quintessentially Cuban Campo. We had the delight of many local farm animals visiting us on a daily basis; pigs, horses, sheep, goats and the occasional dog would just wander right in. I did notice the staff didn’t require the farm animals to wear an AI band.

The Beach:
The Beach in front of the MDP is indeed charcoal coloured sand, and yes it can get very, very hot to walk on, however, just bring along a pair of cheap flip-flops and you should be fine. The sand is actually quite deep, soft and for the most part free of debris, the total length of the beach I believe is 4kms long and can be quite a nice walk at sunset.

The resort also offers a shuttle three times a week to a private island, Cayo Blanco, here you will find a white sand beach and the water toys, however, we really did not enjoy this beach trip at all. The sand was white but coarse (crushed coral, seashells), very, very little shade and bathroom facilities are pretty much non-existent.

The boat leaves for the island at 9:30 am and does not return until 3:00 pm. In our opinion this is far too long of a day to be stranded on Gilligan’s Island.

The 3 trips to Cayo Blanco are free for VIP guests, however I believe there is a cost of 25CUC for everybody else. There is a makeshift bar available for call drinks and they did provide a small buffet lunch. On Friday’s, and only on Fridays, part of the lunch buffet will include Lobster Tails for those who pre-order (you pre-order your lobster at your welcome meeting).

Needless to say, we only visited Cayo Blanco once, which in our opinion was probably once too many. When we return to the MDP and we will, I don’t think I would bother going back to Cayo Blanco, not unless they shorten the trip by a couple of hours.

Resort Facilities:
Please keep in mind this resort is only rated as a 2.5 or 3* resort thus as expected the resorts facilities are quite limited.

The MDP has only one small activity pool and one very small child’s pool (both with shade and plenty of loungers/tables).

Two bars which closed by 11:00 pm daily (Pool and Beach), one (1) buffet restaurant, one (1) Italian a la Carte restaurant (which was closed the entire week due to air-conditioning issues), and a beach snack bar which served French fries, ham and cheese sandwiches, hotdogs and later in the week hamburgers.

I should mention the MDP had a Dive Centre (which was closed the entire week due to poor visibility/dive conditions), a poor excuse for a beauty salon, one (1) ping-pong table with no balls or paddles, one (1) badly damaged pool table which for most of the week only had the one (1) cue, a Physicians office which was opened 24hrs (the better place to receive a massage) and entertainment/stage area where most of the daily activities and nightly shows were performed.

We found the resort staff completely different from any other resort we have visited in Cuba.

For the most part everybody was helpful but you really need to make an effort here. Let me tell you, no kowtowing from the staff at this resort, which was nice to see for a change.

Once the resort employees realize you are going to treat them with the respect and professionalism they deserve, they really begin to warm up to you.

We did note at this resort large amounts of tips would NOT guarantee you better service, but manners, a smile and a gracious attitude will.

Another point to mention, yes, it did appear as though the repeaters were treated a little differently by the staff, a little more welcomed and a little more included, however, as first timers we really didn’t feel ostracized or left out, maybe just a little awkward at times.

The animation staff was quite engaged and did have a daily program by the pool, which, they tried to follow, however, for the most part the guests just didn’t seem too motivated to join in.

As for the evening programs, I have to admit we only stayed for the nightly program one evening.

We were so busy during the day coupled with the oppressive heat we really were just to exhausted. Actually most evenings we retired to the comfort of our air-conditioned Cabana by 9:00 pm.

I will say the one show we did see (the talent show) was pretty good, unfortunately the comedian was lost on us as he only preformed his skit in Spanish, although judging by the laughter of the Cuban guests he must have been pretty good.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the band at this resort, 14-person orchestra from Pilon, which besides very, very loud were actually quite talented, and I would say somewhat wasted on the resort crowd.

The one problem we did find at the resort is after dinner there was a “dead time”, with nothing at all going on.

In order to beat the food frenzy at the buffet we would try and time dinner for 7:00 pm, however, by having our meal so early we found ourselves looking around for something to do until the show would start around 9:30-10:00pm…

You could go to the pool bar and listen to tapes of Gheorghe Zamfir, however Pan Flute music is NOT what I was looking for in Cuba. In the early morning the eclictic classical music CD was much more to my taste, however I would have liked to hear more Cuban music played during these “off hours”..

Speaking of music… Holy geez, the contsant blaring of rave/discohall music by the pool during the day really began to wear on my nerves by the end of the week, this complaint coming from a person who never spent one full day at the resort!

The music was so loud that you could hear it everywhere on the resort, and then again once the evening show started the live Cuban band was even louder.

My husband and I joked that we didn’t need to sit by the pool to watch the shows, we could just park our lawn chairs outside our Cabana and listen from our room.

Seriously I don’t know how people staying in the main building could tolerate the loud thump, thump, thumping all day and in the late evening. We were so glad we had a Cabana to escape to!

The food
Okay, some people may think I am crazy for saying this, but I really did enjoy ALL my meals at this resort, seriously, I can’t think of one meal which disappointed us.

People often make the comment “you don’t go to Cuba for the cuisine” and after reading some of the reviews about this resort I thought it best to bring my contingent of spices and condiments from home, I even brought snacks (Pringles, cheese and crackers), expecting the worst…

Oh boy was I wrong… well, except for one very good tip I received from a fellow reviewer, NO Ketchup at this resort, none whatsoever.

Thanks to that tip, we brought our own from home and I have to tell you we were the envy at the beach grill… French fries with ketchup for this family everyday!

Seriously, besides the lack of ketchup and decent salad dressing (we brought our own salad dressing as well), we really couldn’t have wanted for anything else.

Each evening they had limited salad fixings (tomato, cucumber, cabbage, peppers, no lettuce). As well as a fruit selection consisting of sliced mango, melon, guava and a few other fruit varieties, cold salads and a cheese and cold cut selection.

Hot dishes consisted of two types of rice, pasta (no make-to-order pasta), potatoes, a chicken dish, a pork dish and a beef or fish dish.

The only cooked vegetables seemed to be squash and mashed plantain (which they called banana). They also had something at the grill, generally a roast turkey, fish or pork.

I should mention one fault with the protein here…

There is no way anybody visiting this resort could end up with food poisoning due to undercooked meat…

Each and every piece of meat I had at this resort (including the lobster at Cayo Blanco) was extremely over cooked; I mean we are talking to the point of sawdust in some cases.

I appreciate the effort on behalf of the chefs to ensure proper food safety precautions however I believe the chefs at this resort have taken the “cook till you kill” approach to whole new level.

The desserts didn’t seem to ever change, generally a few different types of cakes, rice pudding, custard and AMAZING Bread pudding yummy!

They also had ice cream a few nights, which caused a huge commotion with people practically knocking each other over to get to it…

Please, the ice cream was good but not that good!

If all else fails, they also had a wonderful bread table with fresh homemade butter, which was absolutely delicious…

Lunch was almost a mirror image of dinner so to prevent boredom I would avoid the buffet at lunch. We preferred to have a large breakfast and hit the Beach snack bar around 2:00 pm for French fries if we were really hungry.

Breakfast, had everything you could want for breakfast, including a chef who would fry your eggs anyway you prefer.

Fellow Guests
One of the most unique features of this resort and probably our favorite aspect of the Marea Del Portillo is the blend of guests here.

I would say at least 75% of the guests staying at the MDP were Cuban, which we thought was absolutely amazing. We truly enjoyed and felt privileged to be able to share the resort with so many wonderful Cuban families. Honestly, the Cubans we met were all so friendly, polite, animated and a true joy to be around.

However it was not just the vacationing Cubans at this resort we enjoyed being around, truly, with the exception of a couple of 20 something’s that were sorely out of place here, I would say all the guests visiting the MDP during our stay were absolutely fabulous…

A very good mix of families and couples, and for the most part everybody seemed to get along wonderfully.

Saving the best for last…

The MAIN reason we chose this particular resort was due to its location and its proximity to the Sierra Maestra mountain range.

We are not beach people (which is a good thing here), but instead love ecological outdoor adventures.

Everyday we had an excursion booked off the resort, everything from guided horse tours, jeep adventures, hiking, boat tours, a rigorous trip to Pico Turquino (Cuba’s highest peak) guided walks, visit to local farms, anything and everything you can think of that involves the Cuban Countryside can be arranged for you, either through your Sunwing representative or the Cubanacan rep at the resort.

If interested you can also book tours into Santiago de Cuba or the Bayamo City tour, which will give you a little insight to Urban living in Cuba.

Really, for guests who need to be active and have a real desire for outdoor adventure this resort offers so many choices, one week is not really long enough (maybe that’s why they have so many repeat visitors).

Our personal favorite had to be the guided off road jeep tour into the mountains where you are brought to a beautiful waterfall, have an amazing outdoor lunch prepared for you and finally a quick stop to the chefs home afterwards for some fresh homemade mountain coffee.

I could go on and on about what a wonderful excursion this was, truly one of the best tours I have ever had in Cuba.

In Summery
The Marea Del Portillo should be rated as a solid 2* based on amenities, condition and its relative isolation. However please don’t let that deter you from considering this resort as a vacation destination.

No, you wont have the typical bells and whistles that many have come to expect from an AI resort in Cuba, but what you will get is a chance to have one of the most unique and diverse Cuban Ecological/Campo cultural experiences that can be offered on this Island.

The area surrounding the MDP is nothing short of breathtaking and the adventures we had as a family were second to none (trust me this family has seen quite a bit).

The achievements/ accomplishments of the Cuban people from this region especially in the face of diversity really shone through. Everybody we met had a story to tell, an experience to share, opened their hearts and homes to us freely expecting nothing from us in return. It really is as though time has stood still here, as tourism has yet to spoil this little piece of paradise.

I would recommend the MDP to the most experienced of travelers, those who understand the value per dollar scale, feel comfortable leaving the confines of the resort, enjoy the countryside, can appreciate Cuba for what Cuba has to offer, and are willing to roll with the punches.

As a family, despite the fact that I have given the resort a 2* rating we would absolutely consider returning. Really the MDP offered everything this family wants and needs in a vacation and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

If interested you can view some of our vacation photos here:

Marea del Portillo - South Shore

February 2008
We booked our trip on the Sunwing website for Jan 24th ,2008, and booked a Cabana at Marea del Portillo in Manzanillo because it came with a lot of extras, like a sunset cruise, 3 trips to Cayo Blanco, late check-out etc. When our flight got changed to an evening departure instead of morning, I called to be sure we arranged the late check-out, only to be told by Sunwing that we did not have those extras, since only VIP bookings included those. So I spoke with a manager and showed them on their web-site where it was worded that booking a Cabana came with the extras and although she advised me it was a typo, we were upgraded to VIP with all the extras and had no trouble with this throughout the trip.

Arrival at the hotel was a 2-hour bus ride, not 1 1/2 hour as stated, but we were smart enough to change our money over at the airport and to buy enough beer for the bus ride to make the trip bearable and fun! (warning-get any money off of credit card you need at the airport as the hotel will only change over Canadian cash and cash advances from credit card must be done at the bank in Pilon-not something I ever want to do again. More about that later).

This resort is the last one we will ever go to, meaning we were working our way around Cuba but have found paradise and will probably come back here again and again. We are in our fourties but we stayed at Marea where most of the older tourists stay and it was beautiful and quiet. There is plenty of shade for the loungers and chairs around the pool, unlike the Farallon pool, where you have to bake in the hot sun. We had the bottom floor of the Cabana and slept with the door open all night to hear the surf, and I even slept outside on a lounger a couple of times. I had the usual number of mosquito bites around my ankles, a few on my arms, but saw some people up at the Farallon with quite a few on their upper body. I heard someone mention they thought they were bedbug bites and had to laugh because at night you are either too drunk or busy to notice being bitten by the tiny mosquitoes and when waking up the next day is when you get itchy, so some people assumed they were being bitten in bed!!

Anyway the food is the usual Cuban fare, the lobster upset my stomach as usual but I love it enough to torture myself. We went on the 'Fiesta' trip at night to Pilon which was great. We brought lots of toys, crayons, glow-bracelets for the kids and were mobbed when we got off the bus! We were escorted by our new 'friends' to the outdoor bar, where my husband bought a 40 ouncer of rum and some pop and we and all our new friends shared a shot or two. Others who came on the same bus were not prepared for this and sat back in the fringes, watching, not sure what to make of this, but we even got into the bathroom at no charge!! We met a couple of Cuban families who we befriended and will visit again at Christmas, and I seriously recommend you do this if you want to really begin to understand the Cuban lifestyle. Our young couple live in an up-scale home made of cement and do better because the husband works as a cook on one of the resorts. His brother and mother live with them too and they have one child. Their out-back neighbour lives in what we would call a 'shack'-all put together from left-overs because her husband ran off to Venezuela and she has only one income. However, we could take a lesson from the way they help each other out and support each other. And might I add that Cubans are colour-blind when it comes to race which is really nice. We went back to visit by taxi later in the week ($22 round-trip) and were treated to a lunch with chicken, fish, lobster, shrimp, beans, rice, and cabbage that had been sprinkled with lemon which made it really nice as it is usually plain and tasteless, but went quite nice with the fish.

Our 20-year-old daughter came with us and although every Cuban male in the place was interested in her, she happened to fall in love with one of the young entertainers at the resort, so we are now faced with all that comes with such a thing. If you don't know what l am talking about, I suggest you leave it that way as it will boggle your mind once you start investigating what is required to continue such a relationship!

One of the entertainers suggested we seemed the type to be up at the Farallon with all of the younger tourists, but the walk to the beach there is down a thousand stairs! However the music group there, Charanga del Caribe was superior to the Marea, so we made our way there each evening, and then down to the Disco which was fabulous! Glow bracelets and white clothing are terrific under the blacklights, and although the free bars close at 11, you can buy beer there for $1 and shots for $.55, so really, who cares?

We took one of the entertainers, Henry on our horse-back ride into the hills to swim in the waterfall (arranged just across the road for $10) and I recommend you go over and make the arrangements yourself so that the owner of the horses gets your money. If you arrange it though the hotel, he doesn't see a penny. He was so grateful he gave us some coffee which is great, both whole bean and ground and very tasty. Take candy and gum for the locals who will join you for a swim there.

The entertainers at both resorts are some of the nicest people we have met so far; funny and genuine and very helpful. We needed money from our Visa so decided to get it on our trip to Pilon to visit our friends. We got to the bank at a quarter to 11, not knowing it opens at 11, and had to get into a long, hot line-up. However, when the doors opened a young lady came to get us and took us in first, ahead of all the locals! (arranged by our cab-driver, unknown to us) I felt so awful! You can tell these people are used to it and that bothered me even more. We had no trouble, just make sure you take your passport as ID. Next time I will deal with it at the airport when I arrive as there wasn't even a lineup there. Most people don't know to go back into the building after passing through customs and gathering your luggage to do so. You have to wait until the bus is loaded before you leave anyway so there is lots of time.

Cayo Blanco is nice but boring. You get there by boat and we went twice, once to check it out and the second time for our lobster lunch. The food is great, the snorkelling so-so. The trouble is, you are trapped there all day until 3pm. If you want to just lay there, fine. otherwise you can have to amuse yourself. We need to find the right place here to snorkle. By the way, the white sand of the cayo is just as hot on the feet as the darker sand at the resort!

On of the truly amazing things for me is that this resort is also frequented by vacationing Cubans. They stay in one block of the Cabanas and are even allowed to eat in the restaurant! Although they tend to stay to themselves, if I knew more Spanish, I'm sure there would have been more communication between us. Also note, the young men here cannot get enough to eat, so if you can slip them a burger along the way, they are most grateful. Some even like a drop of rum or two!

Just make sure you tip the entertainers, waitresses, band members, etc that you connect with before you leave as they depend on this, and $5 is nothing to us, but half a month's wage to them! They work 28 days straight, sometimes 12 or 14 hour days before they get 5 or 7 days off, yet are always willing to go that extra mile for us, no matter what we want, and do so with a smile on their face, so we need to show them a little appreciation at the end of our wonderful, restful vacation.

This truly is a little slice of heaven and I recommend the resort if you are the type who does not need the fast-paced night life in Havana, hardly any shopping ( the best souveneirs are at the airport when you are leaving-and there is a bank there so you can get the money to buy them), and jyou ust want to relax and enjoy the sun and fun!!
Marea del Portillo - South Shore

January 2008
My family went to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo (Manzanillo de cuba) and stayed at the Farrallon Dec 6-13,2007. I am not much for returning to the same place but we would go back there in a minute. I loved how un-crowded it was this time of year. At times we were the only ones in the ocean. The water temperature was quite warm so you could stay in for hours. The waves were fun! The snorkeling was bad. The excursion to Cayo Blanco Island had some tropical fish but not many.

The food was simple more authentic Cuban food. Breakfast had bacon, eggs, fruit, hash browns, yogurt drinks, cereal, juice, toast, some of the best cheese and bread I have ever tasted. Lunchtime had fish, pork shredded beef, chicken, fruit, salads, bread, cheese, black bean rice. I was not a fan of dessert. It was quite bland. The only thing good was the ice cream. Dinner would be similar to lunch turkey, pork, chicken and rice. I would suggest you go to the Italian restaurant once and have the pizza. We had a lobster dinner, however it wasn't great. Nothing beats a Canadian lobster! Bars were great. Coffee was really good I just wish they had cream.

The jeep excursion was fantastic. This was well worth the money. Bring a tip for the driver. I would also recommend an hour horse back riding. Bring money, toys or clothes to trade for jewelry.

In short it was a great place that I plan to go back soon.
Marea del Portillo - South Shore

January 2008
Just got back from a trip during Christmas Break to Marea Del Portillo. Though it cost an arm and a leg because of the time of year (over $1000 each for my girlfriend and I), it was a fantastic experience. I hope I can help others who aren't quite sure what they think of this place, figure out whether it is for them - I know the previous reviews helped me immensely in my decision making so... here it goes:

LOCATION - Marea Del Portillo is located in the mountains about a 2 hour drive from Manzanillo airport. We drove in at night so we didn't get to see the surrounding landscape, but it is through small communities, forests, farms and mountains. It is grueling though, and if you are prone to car-sickness, its not fun, especially with the roads in Cuba.

THE HOTEL - We stayed at the Marea Del Portillo section, in the actual hotels. There are actually 3 different options available - the Farralon which is up on a hill away from the beach, Marea Del Portillo (the hotel section, which is on the beach) and the Cabanas at Marea, which are two story buildings scattered along the beach as well. The rooms were very clean - no bugs, no weird smells, no dampness, and no cracks in the floor or walls. AC and fridge both worked perfectly. Every room at Marea faces the beach even though the view may be obstructed by palm trees, and the beach is literally steps away.

THE BEACH - From the previous reviews and what I had heard, this was what suprised me the most about Marea. I thought the beach was beautiful - the sand wasn't white, but it was very, very soft. The water was sometimes turquoise, extremely clear, and very warm. You didn't need water shoes or sandals either because the bottom was soft and pretty weed-free. I didn't experience many sand flea bites - there were a few around, but they didn't bother me.

THE FOOD - A decent variety of meats, fish, and fruits. Some vegetables, two types of rice daily, a pasta, and a soup. It wasn't Milestones or the Keg, but that's not what I was expecting. It did get boring after a while, but I didn't get sick and no one else that I talked to did either. New Years Dinner was a bit nicer, and I ate at the Farallon restaurant a few times, but it was much the same fare.

THE POOL, BARS, and ENTERTAINMENT - The pool was clean and large enough for the resort. Nothing special - I didn't spend much time there. There were two bars - one near the pool and one near the beach. Both had fast friendly bartenders and the selection of drinks was fine - the beer on tap is Cristal and its not bad... a bit weak, but fine. The screwdrivers were different, but not disgusting. And the other tropical drinks were great - BRING YOUR OWN CUP. I brought a stainless steel one and it kept my drink cold and they fill it was as much alcohol as you could ever ask for. There was an old pool table and ping pong table near the pool - not state of the art, but serviceable. The entertainment throughout the day and night was good. The staff were funny, talented and extremely friendly. If you go in with an open mind, and expecting to have fun, you will.

EXCURSIONS - We did the Jeep Mountain Tour (cost $49 CUC). It was amazing. We saw Cuba in its rawest form, and people living off of the land with very few luxuries. The waterfall you could swim in was amazingly clear and cool... and the views from the different stops were fantastic. Again, if you are prone to getting car sick, this isn't for you. There were trips to Cayo Blanco (an island with crystal clear waters and white sand) for $35 CUC, and horseback riding moutain/farm tours for about the same price. The excursions are what I enjoyed most about Marea, and what separated it from other resorts I had considered - you get to see a different Cuba than the urban development of Havana or Varadero. I guess it depends on what you want more - if you are looking for the nightlife and shopping available in big city tourist areas, then Marea Del Portillo isn't for you.

I was warned that I shouldn't consider a three star resort in Cuba - that I wouldn't get value for money, especially during Christmas break, where prices are so much higher. Those people were wrong. I got more than I paid for at Marea Del Portillo, but only because it was the type of vacation I wanted. I wanted the eco-tourism and to experience the rustic life of everyday Cuban farmers and labourers who live in the country. I left Toronto to escape the high paced stress of big city life, so Marea Del Portillo, its amazing staff, and its proximity to nothing but unspoilt wilderness were the perfect escape.
Marea del Portillo - South Shore
Martina, Larry and Jason 
December 2007
We just returned from a one week vacation at the Mareo. We booked the resort only 3 weeks ago and were able to book a cabana room. The resort is split into three sections. The Mareo which is located directly on the beach which has a section of rooms in two storey long buildings and then the cabana rooms. Those are a little further away from the action (ie: pool and entertainment area), however are more quiet two storey building with four units in each of them and are also directly on the beach. We were lucky to get a cabana with an ocean view. The cabana rooms seem a little larger and have a bigger balcony or terrace. Then there is the Farallon section of the Hotel which is located about 1/2 mile from the Mareo, up on a hill. It's a long and steep walk to the beach and the beach also didn't seem to have any loungers etc. The Punta Piedra section is located about 5 km from the beach and by driving by did not look very impressive. The resort has a dive centre located on the beach and also operates a catamaran and a couple of kayaks out of there. My husband went diving every day. The boat comes right to the beach by the dive centre and offers shallow and deep dives and day excursions. My husband went on a day trip to the see one of the spanish ships that sunk 1898 and loved it.

Service with Sunwing was good. No delays and transportation from the airport to the resort was fairly efficient. Everyone received their bracelets and room keys before boarding the bus which made for an efficient check in. The bus ride was long and took about 1 1/2 hours. Unfortunately we didn't arrive in Manzanillo until 9 pm and you could not see a whole lot in the dark. We had booked a triple room and found only two beds in the room when we arrived. Staff promptly made arrangements to bring us a third bed. Booking a cabana also provides guests with VIP service which was nice to have. It included a stocked fridge with beer, pop, juice, a bottle of rum and wine. We also received a Sunset Cruise, Lobster Dinner, 3 trips to Cayo Blanco (an island with wonderful white sand) nearby. Those trips no cost $25 pesos per person. For VIP these were free and also included a delicious grilled lunch on the island. VIP also provided us with late check out (4:30 pm; the bus departed for the airport at 5:30 pm).

There are the usual day tours to cities nearby etc. We opted for the Jeep Safari which was amazing. High up in the mountains to a farm house and a beautiful waterfall.

The location of the resort is absolutely spectacular. Here you have the ocean, beach and the high Sierra Maestra in plain view in the background. Gorgeous! The beach is wide and fairly long. The resort is located in a bay and the water seemed rather calm all week. The drawback is the sand is not white. It's quite dark and got extremely hot during the day. The water was warm and fairly free of any debris and rocks. We never needed watershoes or anything.

The food was sort of your typical cuban fair. Repetitive and not a huge selection. However we found there was always something to please. The Mareo has an italian a la carte restaurant. We ate there twice during the week. Both times they offered the same menu. Again, I think you have to keep in mind you are not feasting in Italy! The Farallon has a cuban a la carte, however we did not eat there. While staying at either hotel you can make use of all their facilities, including the restaurants which was a nice change. We ate dinner at the Farallon several times, however found their spread to be the same as at the Mareo. However it was a nice change of scenery and the view from the terrace of the Farallon is amazing!

We have been going to Cuba for many years all over the island and found that the staff at this resort were particularly friendly and accommodating, more so than we have encountered anywhere else. You also could not help but notice how clean the grounds and the facilities were kept.

The hotel offered nightly entertainment. We didn't really attend and I can't comment on that. The last night they had a big fire on the beach with music and dancing which was nice.

Being there over Christmas the hotel put on a special dinner on Christmas Eve. Otherwise the rest of the holiday was the same as every other day.

If you are looking for a great bargain and don't expect a lot of luxuries this is definately a resort we would recommend and return to. We paid $615 plus taxes each for our cabana room. I'd say that that is probably the cheapest Cuba vacation we ever had and we enjoyed every minute of it.
Marea del Portillo - South Shore

December 2007
Home after 4 weeks at Marea del Portillo, Nov 1 - 29

Each time I return to this quaint, isolated, lovely place, it gets better. Enveloped by Sierra Maestra mountains and facing the Caribbean, the scenery is unsurpassed --- I compare resorts across the country to this place (from Havana to Holguin to Santiago de Cuba) and Marea remains my favourite. Plus, it's always a few degrees hotter in this southwestern corner of Cuba, than the north and eastern coasts.

Flights in and out Toronto-Manzanillo are Thursdays: we arrived midday (apparently flight times change in a few weeks to night arrival) to the music, cheers and smiles of long-time friends, our Cuban families. Sunwing is a far superior airline/host than the former carrier, Sunquest/Skyservice: better service, food, sweet little perks (hot towels and champagne are nice touches) and best of all seats on the plane are more spacious. Homeward bound: limited duty free, and no magazine or catalogue listing items.

Luggage didnt make it for 2 couples, and one wife's suitcase didnt make it although her husband's did. Will never figure that one out: how luggage can be lost on a direct flight.

Customs and immigration is notorious at Manzanillo Sierra Maestra Aeropuerte for cashing in on excess baggage weight (the big scale is steps away from the tiny luggage carasol, which was a ridiculous addition when the airport was renovated a few years back). DVDs and other previously prohibited items sailed through (I had 2 portable dvd players and my laptop) but they were curious about my Not Just Tourists suitcase. The guys went through the suitcase checking out all the meds and supplies so carefully packed---happily, they did not charge me, but suggested everything be packed in zip locs, rather than tossed loosely in the suitcase. Some items were wrapped in plastic bags, other items were loose. I had letters from NJT and permission from Sunwing, arranged the weeks before via email and letters I printed to present. A man on the flight the following week had to pay extra--but i think his luggage far exceeded the 20kg limit to Cuba. It's a cash grab pure and simple: a friend paid $19, others paid $200 or more.
Judy brought 2 bicycles, second hand, at $50 each, but wound up paying $180 in import taxes as well as to cover transporting it to the hotel. Seven years ago, there was never a charge to bring a bike.

The bus ride from the hotel is 90 minutes or less. Have the camera ready, if you arrive in daytime — each village, town and city has its own charm. People wave their welcomes all along the route. Dont forget to tip the driver.

Marea resort has a reputation as a sleepy boring "old people" hotel, where wheelchairs and walkers are most common mode of transportation (sorry, no scooters, mopeds or bicycles anymore... rental cars only and not so many; book early) but I'm 48 and I find peace and tranquillity when i need it as well as all-night parties with wild and crazy 20- and 30-somethings when i seek that. It's a place which offers whatever you want, whenever you want it, and often when you least expect. The beach is outstanding---many are put off by the dark sand, but it's a massive beach, wide and long, powder soft and the water is amazing. Always remember the flipflops (or crocs): the sand is hot on the way to and from the water.

To escape poolside politics and gossip and typical resort activities (which are fun the first few years) I rent a car/jeep and travel the country. Roads are in terrible shape, potholed and rubbled and heaving pavement, but within 2 minutes, you're deep in real Cuba, with real Cubans, and for me, they are what make the vacation.

The hotel was full, and most of us repeat guests; I stopped counting after 15 visits, but we met couples and singles and groups who've been four times and 40 times. There were 70+ at the repeat dinner the first week. A first-time one-week group from Port Colborne/Ridgeway/ Fort Erie is already planning a return trip for two weeks next November, they enjoyed the place and the people so much. "It's like going to the cottage, and being with your extended family," noted Claudette, who just loved every minute.

There is a main 2-story block of rooms---first floor back doors open to the beach, second-floor balconies face the ocean. The cabanas (or villas) are the primo rooms at this resort---past the pool, a little more private, bigger patios and balconies, more spacious rooms, newly tiled bathrooms, and yes, a hair dryer. It costs a little extra but I find they are worth it. I stayed in a room this time, since I planned on doing so much travel, I didnt spend a lot of time there. Sunwing has added a new VIP upgrade which was super for folks I met during week 1 and 2 (green bracelet instead of regular blue) but prompted some confusion for others in week 3 and 4. Upgrading to a cabana doesnt automatically mean you get the VIP package--it costs $40 or $60 extra. Be sure you've booked and paid for VIP if thats what you expect. It sounds like a great package: stocked bar in room, lobster dinner, some boat cruises including a couple days at Cayo Blanco, a island spit of white sand and turquoise water, lunch included, great for swimming, snorkelling, sunning (it was once free with the hotel, then $7 per person, now its $25/pp) and other perk services.

The food is buffet basic --- pork, chicken, fish, rice and beans, veg including lettuce, cabbage and typical sliced and diced cukes and carrots. Reserving the morning of or day before secures a table up at the four-star sister hotel Farallon, where the food is similar, but more of it and better presented. We enjoyed lunch (no reservations required for lunch) up the hill at Farallon where the view is spectacular over the bay and bartender Castro makes an exquisite cappuccino. There is an a la carte Italian restaurant (reservations required/no extra charge) in a glass room adjacent to the pool bar at Marea: lasagna, spaghetti, beef steak, canelloni, shrimp cocktail, vino tinto; a lovely candlelit full-service change from the buffet restaurant. I think it's Cuban fare for lunch, but we preferred sandwiches and burgers at the beach bar, between 11am and 5pm.

Some people prefer the Farallon, the 4-star up the hill, which is architecturally superior, a lovely 4-storey hotel with a view to die for, but it's a hike to the beach, and the beach is far superior at Marea. It's a super morning walk along the beach, more than a kilometre, and every morning as the sun rises, people walk there and back along the shore, where the waves kiss the sand. Many guests just stay at Farallon and hang around the pool and swim-up bar and dont bother with the beach. There were only about 80 people at Farallon; it will be full this month and next. Marea seems to be full all the time. If you want the Farallon you have to book "superior room" at Marea.

It rained 27 straight days — including every day week 1. Sunny in the morning on the beach, and by noon, hard, steady, big, tropical rain. It was still 30 degrees, but so much rain rain rain. Roads were washed away, rubble and mud blocked access in many places, rivers overflowed, bridges were underwater... by week 2, water drained away quickly, but high water marks in river valleys and fields were evident. Apart from understandable high-water hassle on transportation, all that water meant so many mosquitoes. I was eaten alive Week 1, but by week 2 i was bite free. The mosquitoes and hehenees switched from me, covered in bug dope every time i left my room, to the new flesh and blood of weeks 2, 3 and 4. Dr. Barbara was kept busy tending to pussy bloody legs and backs.... It was the worst I'd seen or experienced in years. Take bug spray and use it!

Bill, aka Guillermo, one of the group of divers who return to Marea year after year, said he was concerned the water would be murky and messed up with all the rain and rivers washing into the sea. When diving resumed after tropical storm Noel and all our week 1 rain ended, he said they enjoyed the best dives they'd had in years — colours of coral and schools of fish he'd never seen in them thar parts... mid-afternoon at the beach bar, he'd regale us with tales of groupers and barracudas and brilliant reef fishes at 30 and 50 and 80 feet where the sun still illuminated the crystal blue depths

There are several super excursions: city tours to Bayamo and Manzanillo are totally worth spending the day (try to alwasy book 2 weeks; 1 week goes so quickly). There are horse and buggy tours, horseback riding, sailing on the catamaran, but the best trip, if you can only do 1, is the "jeep adventure." The ride alone is exhilarating, but add the sites and sounds of the mountains, the visit to the farmer's house and plantation, and the swim at the waterfall —you'll remember it the rest of your life.

We enjoyed several days at the carnival in Pilon, the nearby city where the majority of the hotel staff live. The carnival moved to Niquero, and then Media Luna. November is carnival time in Granma province, and it really is a popular time at the hotel, and for Cubans who come home to Pilon from across the country. We met people from Havana, Holguin, Manzanillo, etc....

When its not November, or carnival time, night life from the hotel include the "Saturday night street party" in Pilon. For $5/pp the bus takes hotel guests to the central park in Pilon and you can dance and drink and party with locals until midnight. There was a disco set up after "The Show" at the hotel every night at the beach bar in Punta Piedra, another sister hotel 5km west of the resort. That lasted about a week — transport problems with taxis and buses and sound systems...

I have to mention the amazing house band at marea del portillo: integracion sonora its a 14- or 15-piece band and wow, they are such talents, each and every one

The after-show disco, complete with blacklight and reggaeton, Donna Summer, Boney M, AC DC, you name it, is at the beach bar/restaurant at Farallon— a beautiful walk along the beach under the stars or along the road under the streetlights The Show ends about 10:30pm, the disco starts about 11

It was an awesome, amazing 4 weeks.
Travelling anywhere in Cuba, you learn to roll with the unexpected, unanticipated...
And you learn about karma: what goes around comes around, baby I had hot water every day, all the time, but some guests did not, even though new solar panels to heat water were installed last year and as recently as this summer I didnt mind that the sandwich lady ran out of chicken (there was always ham and cheese) or that there was no ice cream every day (we had some week 1, then none until week 4 and we scooped it every day)

The animacion/entertainment staff is the best team in Cuba — Edgar, Arnaldo, Luis, Chacho, Olga, Katie, Henry, Bussy, Lissandro (i know i am forgetting a couple others...)—each has their own special gift, and they make you feel so special. It always blows my mind how they can remember everyone's names, week to week, year after year... They work so hard for us, long days, longer nights: they are creative, talented, personable, and if you dont love them all, there will be one or two you'll love forever

Marea is a magical place, yet not all succumb to its spell That's ok — they'll find their own magic elsewhere
Marea del Portillo - South Shore
Stanf & Jane 
November 2007
Destination: Marea del Portillo Resort, Granma province, Cuba

Date of visit: October 18 to November 1, 2007

Arrival/Check-in: The most organized, easiest check in we have ever experienced. The Reservations Manager, Daniel Sánchez Guerra, had our room keys, wristbands, literature, etc. ready for us in individual envelopes at the airport. We picked up the envelope as we boarded the bus, sat back and enjoyed a 1½-hour bus ride with commentary by Nelson. Bumps, potholes and washouts were courtesy of the heavy rains the area has recently experienced. We arrived at the resort at around 1:30 in the afternoon (Toronto departure @ 06:30!), were met at the door by management (special hello to PR Exec. Vincente - thanks for the invitation) and animaçion staff and went straight in to have lunch while our baggage was unloaded and staged in the lobby. After lunching, we were shown to our room by a couple of bellhops. Into our swimsuits and on the beach by 2:30.

Room: We opted for a cabaña room. These are located about 50 yards from the main block of ‘hotel’ style rooms, beyond the pool and entertainment area. The cabaña rooms seemed to be a little larger than a regular room and were in blocks of either 4 rooms, or 8 rooms, 2 stories high. Most cabaña rooms had a small balcony or patio that faced the beach. From our balcony, palm and sea grape trees obscured a clear view of the beach. They also effectively blocked out the sun for the early morning. Room was equipped with shower only, a hairdryer with cord too short to reach the socket, safe (no charge), bar fridge (empty), cable TV (3 or 4 stations in English), 2 fairly firm twin beds, air conditioner, etc. Housekeeping by Mirdelis was excellent.

Beach: As has been mentioned by others, the beach at Marea is of dark sand. It isn’t black and it certainly isn’t white. What it is after about 9:00 in the morning is HOT! Run as fast as you can from the plentiful shade to the water’s edge. There were always enough loungers available, although, once or twice after a late morning start, someone else had claimed ‘our favourite spot’. The beach is fairly wide – maybe 40 or 50 yards from the trees to the water. Once the onshore breeze starts up, be prepared to get somewhat roasted if you are on a lounger. Best remedy for that is to keep up the intake of fluids! We’re not positive, but it didn’t seem like there was any snorkeling from this beach. All the time we were there (pre and during Noel), there were pretty good waves. OK for short body surf rides. Made a nice sound all day and night too. Be prepared for noseeums when there is no breeze.

Food: In our opinion, typical 3 star fare. Always a variety of fruit, salads, entrees, sides and desserts. Custom omelettes at breakfast. Wine with lunch and dinner. We are not picky eaters, so were always satisfied with the offerings. As I told the Head Chef, "I was never disappointed by a meal". We only wish that there were a few truly ethnic and/or local items on the buffet every day. By the way, all of the fish served was absolutely delicious! We did miss the fresh squeezed orange juice machine that we have seen at other resorts. During the day (‘til 5:00) the Beach Bar offers hot dogs, hamburgers, ham and cheese, chicken sandwiches and fries. Excellent for a late afternoon snack. The best coffee comes from the Pool Bar until the Beach Bar’s espresso machine gets fixed. The specialty Italian restaurant, Amici, makes a nice change from the buffet. There was never any problem with booking a table for 7:00, so we went twice. The restaurant could do with 2 things: menus in English and a little mood music. Other than that, service was great and the food good.

Locale: Marea del Portillo is on the south western shore of Granma province, 12 km. from Pilon and about 175 km. from Santiago de Cuba. It is on a large bay with curving beach and is backed up inland by the Sierra Maestra Mountains. For those of us who live in relatively flat terrain, it made a nice change to see hills and mountains. The village of Marea is about 3 or so km. from the resort. The town of Pilon is about 12 km. In the opposite direction.

Entertainment: This resort has a 14-piece house band!!! 14 piece!!! They are great! The dance troupe of about a dozen or so are also very professional. All the shows we saw were well rehearsed and presented. Poolside bingo daily for a bottle of rum or liqueur as well as daily contests for similar prizes.

Pool: The pool is a reasonable size and is deep enough to shallow dive into. There is also adequate natural and man-made shade around it. The Pool Bar is conveniently nearby. Be prepared for noseeums when there is no breeze.

Excursions: Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances (lack of, or miscommunication and hurricane Noel), we were not able to go on as many excursions as we had wanted to.

Bayamo day trip (55CUC each) – This is a long day. Almost 12 hours in total, about 6 of which are spent on the coach. The visit to the province’s largest city includes a tour of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes home (now a museum) lunch at a nearby restaurant, a visit to a taverna for some Cuban music and about ½ an hour free time. Back on the coach and off to the city of Manzanillo. Stop there for a walk around the city square and some shopping at a souvenir store.

Cayo Blanco (7CUC) – First of all, be aware that you have to make your own way to where the boat is docked (we didn’t know and had to almost run to make it). This is about a 12 minute walk. A half hour boat ride (fishing included) takes you to Cayo Blanco. White sand, lots of loungers, shade, open bar, cooked lunch, snorkeling and pleasant conversation (only 8 of us plus crew!) made for a very enjoyable afternoon. We would have gone back, but Noel cancelled that thought.

Local horseback rides (5CUC) – a great way to get away from the resort for about an hour and a half. We especially enjoyed going up into the foothills. That trip included a refreshment stop at the guide's parent's house. Very edifying. Summary: We enjoyed our stay at Marea del Portillo. If the weather hadn’t interfered for a couple of days and we hadn’t had a misunderstanding about the VIP package, it would have been a most enjoyable experience. In the travel forums, I asked Marea returnees why they go back there. Hollydog gave me the best summary for this resort: "No blaring music, late night parties and booze ‘till you puke parties. Staff who are genuinely happy to see you and go out of their way as best they can (with the limited resources they have) to make you feel special. An animaçion/entertainment team that will take "no" for an answer. Local neighbours who are not nosy, rude or trying to sell you absolutely everything. If you want to rest and relax, in a cozy, if not fancy part of Cuba, Marea del Portillo is the place". I will add that it is a bargain to boot!
Marea del Portillo - South Shore
August 2007
Check-in in Toronto was a breeze, arrived three hours prior and breezed through. Kudos to Sunwing counter personnel.

Flight was uneventf

  • ul with a nice meal of chicken Teriyaki or pasta served along with complimentary champagne, and audio headsets. Flight crew friendly and efficient.

  • Unloaded and reloaded in Jamaica without incident.

  • Short flight across the bay to MDP.

  • Arrival a little chaotic as there is one small carousel and everyone trying to get their bags ‘first’.

  • Immigration a little tense, but not unusual for a communist country (I have traveled to China).

  • Drive to MDP was long and somewhat bumpy. Three passengers caused most of the problems. Two insisted that we stop for a smoke break, the Sunwing Rep asked the other passengers if that was O.K. After a resounding “NO” we continued on our journey, and these two inconsiderate individuals ( who later came to be known as Mr. Johnny Cuba and Mr. Shorty pants”) decided to light up anyway! A lot of shouting ensued and they grudgingly butted out. The third individual was throwing up all the way from the airport to the resort. She apparently did not know it was going to be a long ride…Don’t people with this problem read the brochure? The sounds, and smells were enough to make other passengers want to throw up as well.

  • Arrival was very nice with music and staff clapping to welcome us

  • Snack in the room upon arrival (11:00 p.m.) consisted of a ham and cheese sandwich and a pop. Some guests thought this was gross, I personally thought it was fine.

  • The location of this resort is truly special. The mountains circle the bay, and the view is amazing in every direction.

  • The ocean is warm, with a soft sandy bottom. No weeds or coral. You can walk out about 50 feet before it gets deep.

  • The first few days provided great boogie-boarding for the kids.

  • The weather was HOT and humid. Do not recommend to older clients or those with breathing difficulties.

  • Staff at the resort were friendly and efficient. We had a Nintendo DS stolen from the room on the second day, and after complaining it mysteriously reappeared on day 5. My eldest daughter had her bathing suit stolen from outside the room where it was put to dry. This was the case with other guests as well. My advice would be to lock everything in your safety deposit box and bring a lock for your suitcase and lock up all your clothes as well. Don’t leave anything outside the room as the locals appear and raid the patios in the middle of the night.

  • The food. I am in the food business so I tend to be a little more critical than most people. The food here was very good. It was 100% Cuban with lots of pork, chicken, and local produce. Pork is most widely available, so you may want to mention this to some of your Muslim and Jewish customers. Breakfasts were awesome with sausages, bacon, ham, made-to-order omelets, lots of fresh bread, fresh fruit and smoothies. There were always a couple of kinds of cereal as well. I honestly don’t know how somebody could complain.

  • Snacks were a bit weak, with hot dogs, and chips available at the pool bar from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. long lineups and they frequently ran out of food or equipment would break down.

  • With three teens that are constantly hungry, I think that the snack service needs improvement.

  • Bar service was reasonable, however no servers. You had to get your drinks at the bar which was a pain.

  • The lobster dinner was amazing. Huge lobster served hot, fresh and very tasty.

  • I definitely recommend the VIP package, it is well worth the money.

  • The tours were hit and miss. Jeep safari was awesome, probably the highlight of our trip. The “Sea day” was pretty boring as we just trolled up and down the coast for 4 hours (fishing) and then stopped for lunch and snorkeling. Definitely not worth the money. The Fiesta on Saturday night in Pilon ($5) was horrible. You basically get a bus ride for $5, dropped off in town and left to fend for yourself at a large street party. We (and all the other guests) were constantly harassed by local mutes and mentally ill people for money, beer and deodorant. What a waste of time and money.

  • I heard from other passengers that the trip into Bayamo for shopping and sightseeing was a grueling 13 hour day on a bus with 7 hours of bumpy roads.

  • Mr. Shorty Pants caused a lot of problems with smoking everywhere, rude behaviour, unreasonable demands from the staff and his really ugly, gross, disgusting tight fitting Speedo. We had to laugh at him, otherwise we would have not enjoyed ourselves. He had to be one of the most inconsiderate people I have ever met in my life. Guess who was sitting next to me on the flight home?

  • The highlight of our trip was the people we met from Ontario. I think we have made some lifelong friends.

  • Flight back was changed so that we stopped in Jamaica, this was a bit of a disappointment as we had to leave the resort at 3:00 p.m. instead of 6:00 p.m.

  • Please tell your customers to bring toiletries and old clothes and shoes for the locals. The people are very poor and appreciate everything they receive.
  • Marea del Portillo - South Shore
    Jim and Karol 
    Bristol, Quebec, Canada
    February 2006
    We travelled to the Marea the last week of January 2006. Selloffvacations was great.

    I will not bore you with all the comments about the trip.Westjet out of Montreal was great. Save to say it was uneventful and well organized, until we got to Cuba. 30 minute power outage in airport while going through security. Another 45 mins. to an hour sitting on bus while someone got things organized. Seemed to be no one in charge.

    Arrival at Marea was fine. Precheck in on bus is good. Straight to room without line ups.

    We had booked standard room at Marea but were given Superior Room at Farallon. Very nice room.

    Pros- Scenery, Staff, cleanliness, affordable excursions especiallly the scooter rental and ride up coast. Do this if you like scenery and have a blast on the scooters. Lots of fun.

    People. Mostly older Canadians with a bit of a mix.If you want party don't book here.

    Solitude. you can walk up trail and be in total isolation. Very beautiful area.

    No vendors except the kids on the trail. Not pushy. just say non Gracias. Ocean is warm and clean. Beach huge and very uncrowded. not your typical white sand Caribbean beach but really nice.

    You are totally isolated. cannot be reached or get word out. this may be a positive but take it into consideration.
    Food is a bit repetitive but it is Cuba.
    A number of people got stomach problems, myself included.
    No see ums when there is no wind. Still scratching.
    take lots of canadian cash, take new bills. They won't take a marked or ripped bill.
    They do not give VIsa/Mc cash advances. TAKE CASH!

    We would go here agin but think we can do as well other places.
    For questions e mail thompsons@295.ca
    hello to all our friends we met in Cuba.
    Marea del Portillo - South Shore
    January 2006
    We went to this beautiful Cuban location for Xmas 2005 and had a wonderful time. There are 2 hotels, one much nicer than the other. Both look like they've just been extensively renovated after the hurricane. The rooms are not what one would expect from a 4 star in Canada, but it was still very good. THe views from the front door of the room as well as the sliding glass doors was stunning. One side had a large rock cliff with iguanas, the other view to the garden and the bay where the hotel was located on the hill. The beach was black sand and clean. Just a bit further around the bay were coral beaches, great for scavengering for shells. The food at this hotel was incredible. If you like fresh fish and fresh free range beef, pork and chicken you're in for a treat. The selection of food was wonderful, great fruit and main dishes. Deserts were ok, and the cookies absol! utely devine.

    We went on a few side trips, jeep adventure - off roading into the mountains with lunch with a typical Cuban family- which was quite an eye opener. A very modest home but clean, hospitable and the food was awesome. We also went Horse back riding into the mountains. Again the views were aweome, waterfalls were beautiful, and food great. We also went to an island about 12 miles off shore towards the town of Pilon. This was a white beach, quiet and tranquil, great for scuba diving. Again I mention the fish, wow! There were other excursions into Pilon for the Saturday night party, which was great fun as well.

    The people who took care of us were gracious, friendly and very educated. No one harassed us for anything. They love to dance, sing and drink. The song! s kind of got to us after a while, towards the end of the week I was sick of La Bamba and Guarantana mera.

    We went for a few walks around the resorts, watched the local people racing their horses and saw how the people lived. They all seem very poor but everyone waved and said olha. It was fa bit startling to see pigs, goats, cows and horses just wandering around.

    All in all we had a great time. One thing to remember, after you get off the plane, you're in for a treat, a one and a half hour crazy drive by bus to the resort. Depending on what time you get there it's a bit alarming. The view in the morning is definately worth it.

    Don't plan on buying much in the way of soveriers at ! the resort. Both hotels have a limited supply of things. The airport on your way out of Cuba has a small selection for a few trinkets and are very resonably priced.

    Have fun! Enjoy!