SOL CAYO SANTA MARIA
Corinne & Family (baby 19mos.)
We had a fantastic week at Sol Cayo Santa Maria. It was not perfection, but Cuba never is and we certainly can’t complain considering the price we paid.
Firstly, we flew Sunwing, and it is totally worth the extra money to upgrade to their Elite Premium Package. Just sailing past the insane line at the airport in the wee hours of the morning was worth the extra $100 per person right there. The extra legroom meant my 6’7″ husband could sit in comfort, and we all had some extra wiggle room, which is nice when you’re traveling with a baby.
The ride from Santa Clara airport is long, and I was hoping the kids would sleep but no such luck. I actually loved looking out at the countryside and villages we passed, but once on the causeway the view, although beautiful Caribbean blue, was a little monotonous 😉
The Sol Cayo Santa Maria is definitely not a 4-star resort, as advertised. Definitely more like a 3 – a CUBAN 3. Our room was small and appeared to be in mid-renovation, but it was clean. The first room we had to refuse as it was on a second floor and the railings on the staircases were falling apart. Actually, a lot of the resort is falling apart. It’s clear that the parent company is sinking the majority of its resources into the new resorts being built on the island, and letting this one crumble in the meantime. The grounds were in similar shape as our room – clean but sparse but could definitely use a facelift.
Our bed was pretty hard, my son’s crib was in decent shape, but my daughter’s rollaway cot had definitely seen better days. The room had a fridge that was kept stocked with bottled water, and our requests for extra from our housekeeper (accompanied by a tip) were always met. n addition to the spectacular daily towel art, she actually left us a handmade craft on our last day.
The beach was fantastic, and although the pool and surrounding area is in a bit of disrepair, it is also very clean and the kids loved it. We kinda steered clear of the clothing-optional section, as sometimes on a beach there are things you can never un-see.
If you were looking to utilize the baby club as advertised, you may be disappointed, as the room is not air-conditioned, and all the Little Tikes outdoor toys are basically broken. We played there with the kids a few times, and even though the ladies working there were lovely, we did not feel comfortable leaving our children there without us.
I don’t want this review to sound entirely negative, because we actually had a fantastic vacation. But we knew what to expect going in and weren’t expecting luxury. We wanted sun, beach, and quality time together – and that’s what we got!
Now the resort is understaffed, but the staff they do have is amazing. Everyone was so lovely and friendly, and I’m not sure any of us would have eaten a complete dinner if not for the delightful waitstaff in the dining room entertaining my son. I actually found the food to be quite decent, but we are not foodies. The pizza was pretty good, and the ice cream never disappointed! The cafe con leche was awesome as usual in Cuba, as were the mojitos! One thing of note – my son would not drink the milk in Cuba. At this particular resort it was pasteurized but it was not homogenized, and it had a different taste By day three he simply refused to drink it. I made up for it by offering smoothies disguised as milkshakes and offering lots of yogurt and cheese, but I did worry for his calcium intake just a little. Luckily on the Sunwing flight home they had milk, and he drained the bottle straight away.
For day trips we hired a taxi and went into Remedios for lunch, and then on to Santa Clara for the Che Guevara memorial and the site of the last battle of Santa Clara. We would have loved to have spent more time in Santa Clara, and plan on doing so one day sans kids!
The ride back to the airport was a bit of a disaster. We were told to be in the lobby for 6:00am (1hr before breakfast started) but the buses didn’t show up until 7:30. There was absolutely no concern for missing our flight, but that extra time in the morning would have been better spent sleeping and eating, instead of trying to corral the kids. I’m glad I ordered and saved an extra two pizzas at dinner the previous night, as we had that for breakfast & snacks in the morning.
We had a fantastic family vacation at Sol Cayo Santa Maria. We paid next to nothing, and were not expecting much, but we’d rather spend less money and go away more often than spend a fortune on just one getaway per year.