CAYO GUILLERMO: IBEROSTAR DAQUIRI
Nancy & Family
Just got back from a fabulous week with our two kids (ages 2 & 4), and both sets of grandparents and had a wonderful time. My parents are still there – they opted to stay for 2wks (wish I could have too). This was my 4th time in Cuba, and my parents’ 8th and we would all go back again.
The food was great, the beach was great, and the staff were out of this world. Everyone at the resort went out of their way to make us feel at home. Since most of the staff are young with families of their own, they totally understood what it was like to have young kids and made us feel relaxed even when our two year old was tearing through the restaurant or trying to climb on stage with the dancers.
As for beaches – to us it seemed like our IB beach was the nicer of the Melia and the Cojimar. The Melia seemed smaller and the Cojimar was nice, but the water was rockier with coral and marine life.
The kids loved the pool and we loved the beach. If you walk down towards the other hotel (Cojimar) on the beach, you’ll find crabs, starfish and sand dollars (live ones). But the water at the Iberostar is much too sandy for much marine life.
Lucy who ran the kids club was great and there is a little playground made of all Little Tikes climbers and swings that little kids can play on.
If you are interested, get the guys that run the paddle boat/boat and kayak place to book you on a snorkelling tour of the reef. It was 16 pesos each for an hour and worth every cent.
Cuba has the 2nd largest coral reef in the world and it was much more vibrant and alive than many others I’ve seen. There is also a cool WW2 submarine propeller that you can snorkel around.
I read some not great reviews about this place, but I would definitely go back. As for the bug complaints – we barely noticed them. Each of us did get a few bites in the evening, but nothing like most Canadians are used to on summer nights. They were hardly noticeable. Didn’t use our bug spray at all.
As for the food….there were several meat and fish dishes every night, pizza, a pasta bar, salad bar, fruit bar, cheese bar (fresh cheeses – how often have you had fresh blue cheese?) dessert bar for dinner (with fresh ice cream using their heavy mild – yumm) and lots of veggies and fresh bread. We even had crab a few nights and fresh calamari! Lunch was the same but we usually ate at the beach restaurant with the kids for burgers and fries.
Breakfast includes fresh juices, yogurts, cereals eggs (any way you want them), fruits, breads, pastries, sausages, pancakes….
Tip for parents: If your kids are into peanut butter and jam, bring your own – you won’t find any PB and very little jam and most are flavours little ones don’t like and if you’re kids are addicted to Cheerios, bring your own because their version didn’t pass the toddler test. PB is the only thing I wish I had taken because our two year old is a fussy lunch eater but then then after we taught the cook how to make grillled cheese for him – he was fine.
BTW, both my kids arrived with a cold that got worse and half way through the week my two-year-old had a bad cough so we took him to the doctor, who was wonderful and examined him better than I’ve seen in a while. We got some antibiotics for him and in a day or so he was right as rain. There is a doctor there 24hrs/a day. Tip: Bring your own kids’ meds – they don’t have a lot of decongestants, tummy things for young kids like we have here – I’d bring at least some decongestant, Benadryl (for allergic reactions), Gravol and Pepto Bismol.
We went to the Iberostar Daiquiri (ID) Jan 11- 18/08 and had a great time. We had read the positive and negative reviews online, and to the nay-sayers I say this: if you are looking for luxury accommodations and fine food, go elsewhere and please be sure to pay more. For the value, this place is right on track. The food is pretty good, not amazing, but who cares?? The beach, weather and grounds are nothing short of paradise and that is why you should go there. My goal is to make this review a little different, so here goes…
Beach – The tide seemed to go out for about 3 hours each day making the beach 10-15 times as wide. They groom the beach daily for seaweed. The water is super shallow, warm and crystal clear- just fabulous for children. If you take bananas from the buffet you can feed the little white fish in mid-calf water by hand- they seem to just come out of nowhere. Beyond the crystal clear water where most people swim, the ocean bottom turns into light sea grass which contains lots of starfish and live shells of all sizes. Fun snorkeling! You can borrow a non-motorized boat for an hour each day and I recommend snorkeling from it. The dive “shack” will also take you out on a catamaran for about 14 pesos per person to a WWII prop and bit of reef for an hour of snorkeling. We didn’t see a lot of reef, but maybe you would see more on an excursion, which we didn’t do. Lots of fish though especially when we handed out banana.
Facing the ocean, the Melia is to the left and looked fine too, nice beach and pier in front (still not repaired from last hurricane). Incidentally, you can arrange with ID front desk to have your hair beaded at the Melia hairdresser for about 35 CUC- no one was braiding on the beach. Way to the right were the Cojimar , etc chains which did not look nearly as nice as ID or Melia. The water had more rock (and brick and concrete pieces?), but maybe had more marine life.
Rooms- The rooms are standard and the air conditioning will leave your bedding feeling a little damp. We had lots of hot water and water pressure. Ladies, be advised that the outlet is 220 volt which means you need a special adapter if from Canada – even with the adapter I would recommend checking with an electrician friend to make sure your appliance will be compatible. I could use my curling iron, but not flat iron. The maid kept the room spotless and we had lots of towel creations daily. If you have a late flight you can arrange at the font desk to rent your room for an extra 5 pesos per hour past check out.
Gardens – The gardeners stole our hearts (especially one named “One” pronounced “O-Na”). They are the hardest workers there in my opinion. We took them leather gloves and gum, but wished we’d brought more. If you have softball hats kicking around, bring them, they will love you for it. (Staff also appreciate western t-shirts, etc.) Besides the fact that the gardeners keep the grounds impeccably manicured and lush, each morning they make the kids little palm animals on your way to and from breakfast. Every afternoon the gardeners go around with wheelbarrows and a machete offering fresh coconut. They don’t expect anything in return….which reminds me about tipping….
NONE of the staff we encountered expected a tip, but it is appreciated. We were told that all tips received from staff are pooled and shared between all staff members. 1 CUC is a really nice tip to them as we were told they make the equivalent of 10 CUC per week.
Money – The exchange rate to a CUC was about 1.17 to 1.00 Canadian $ at the airport, 1.18 at the hotel- there is also a bank on site that we were told would be same as airport- didn’t bother to visit. Do not take American$- you will pay a big penalty to convert. Vendor prices were very fair and they are not aggressive at all compared to other parts of the Caribbean. There are 5 little stores on site plus a cigar store (which had slightly better prices than airport). There are also a number of vendor carts which change everyday.
Mosquitoes – If you are Canadian you will laugh in the face of the reports calling them “bad”. They were comparable to those found on a warm late Aug evening. Take some repellant anyway as we saw people with bites, but my hubby and 4 year-old had none- I had maybe 5 bites at week’s end. The resort had been “fogging “ for them in the early morning hours, so maybe that helped.
Pilar – The only excursion we took besides the local snorkel trip out front was to Pilar Beach. 5 CUC for cab round trip per person -catch a cab easily at the front desk. Pay the driver on the way back – it is the norm. We had read that Pilar was so phenomenal, but really it’s not much nicer than ID’s beach. Quieter though. There is a small bar there, no food, oh and a man who will rent you a lounge chair for 1 CUC. A boat had come the day we were there offering to take us for 11 CUC each to Half Moon Island (within eyesight) where I am told you can snorkel the reef/ fish right from shore in a metre of water . Some people said the snorkeling was great, others were upset they had been cut by the coral as it was a little rough that day.
Food- You’ve no doubt heard all about the food and restaurants, so I won’t reiterate other than to say to take peanut butter and maple syrup…and our toddler had to have apple juice- none of which are served there. They have ketchup, mayo and a type of Dijon mustard (sometimes), but no relish. Honestly, the food is quite edible and our picky toddler was happy all week. You will be serenaded each night by fabulous singers. We bought their CD for 15 CUC and it works fine at home.
Animation Team -The animation team has some great shows from what we’ve seen before which start a little late if you’ve got little kids- 9:30 most nights- but it is preceded by salsa lessons or free dancing most nights at 8:00-8:30. It takes place in an air-conditioned theatre. The Mohito bar (main lobby) had this awesome local band in a few times and they are wonderfully animated performers- don’t miss them.
Mini-Club – One disappointing factor was the mini-club which is virtually non-existent. One day I came back each hour to trying to find someone to supervise, but kept being told “she” was practicing for the show tonight. One afternoon there was a planned activity for the kids for about ½ hour, but hey we have a great beach and 3 pools!
Other small tidbits: take insulated cups- they hold more, keep the sand out and drinks stay cold. We like the “bubbas” from Canadian Tire. Take lots of sunscreen, Immodium (my hubby had some stomach upset near the end of the week), bug spray/Afterbite, and washcloths. ID provides good beach towels. In summary, go to the ID if you want a great family vacation, just remember they do the best with what they have and you are not paying for anything above and beyond that anyway.