Varadero Trip Reports: Cameleon Villas Jibacoa (Villa Tropico)

Cameleon Villas Jibacoa, Villa Tropico, Cuba

Cameleon Villas Jibacoa (Villa Tropico), Cuba

Cameleon Villas Jibacoa (also known as Villa Tropico) Official Site

February 2008
Sprock & Family (babies 6 & 18mos)

My husband and I and two children (6 and 18 months) stayed at Cameleon Villas Jibacoa in January of 2008. We were very pleased with the resort overall. The staff were exceptionally friendly and helpful and the resort was well cleaned and maintained.
This review will be somewhat brief, relying on the other accurate reviews here I have read.
We loved everything about this place for kids. There is no kids club, and that was fine with us. If you are looking for a resort for some relaxing family time, this is it.
The pool was terrific. Our 6 year old swam for hours every day in the shallower pool with no worries (two large twin pools, impeccably kept – one a metre deep and the other went from shallow to deep). There were always plenty of pool chairs, tables and shade. Our toddler kept busy in the wading area and playing with other children. The ocean was lovely, warmer than the pool actually. Lots of shells. It was very calm a few days which was great for the little ones. However, on the rougher days, the jellyfish were plentiful so we avoided the beach those days. The snorkelling was great. Lots to see even in shallow water.
The meals were good. Great fruit, ice cream, soups, great rolls, always good meat and the fish was excellent. Bring a bottle of ketchup if your kids love it. The ketchup they had wasn’t plentiful, and wasn’t the same as we are used to. They had one high chair for the whole dining room, so if your kids require one, I suggest bringing a booster with you. We had an ongoing joke with the other young families as to who would get to the dining room first. The dining hours were my only complaint. Breakfast was fine, from 7:30 to 9 am. Lunch started at 1pm and dinner at 7pm. This would be perfectly fine for anyone with older kids or adults. Everyone there with little ones had the same complaint. There is no food available anywhere else but the dining room between those hours (except a hot dog or sandwich at the pool bar in the afternoon). Lunch and dinner were both about 2 hours too late for little ones. Most kids were fit to be tied or falling asleep in their soup. Many just had to “picnic” in their room because it was just too late for those used to earlier lunches and dinners. Luckily, the fridge in the room was handy and I brought a bottle warmer to warm up things I brought from home for our youngest.
The milk is powdered there. The water is fine everywhere, even right from the tap in your room. Even my toddler drank it everywhere and none of us had any problems. The drinks were great. My girl loved the virgin “chocolate monkeys”, Pina coladas etc. The Spanish coffees were great, as were all tropical type drinks. The bartenders were very good, often working for 16-18 hour shifts at a time.
The room was very good (after we moved). Our original room was in a block behind the disco. Not good for light sleepers of any age. Unfortunately, this is where the “family” type rooms are. We were all beat from travelling our first day there and just falling asleep when the disco began at 9 and ended about 1 am and IT WAS LOUD!!!! I spoke to the Nolitours rep the next day and insisted that we be moved that day. At first, I was met with resistance. Had the Nolitours rep not been involved, I don’t think we would have been moved. As a bit of advice, when you check in, see where the room is on their map. If you think that loud music will be a problem, try to move right away and save yourself the restless night. The room they moved us to was #29 facing the dining room, which was quiet and central and great. No complaints after that. The a/c worked well, lots of hot water and very quiet. They also delivered us a full size crib, which was great, complete with pillows etc. One thing I would suggest to everyone, is to bring a can of Raid for ants. We Canadians have mosquitoes, Cuba has ants it seems and they just travel in under the door. I am sure a good spray of Raid along the baseboards and threshold would keep them out, or at least at bay. Most adults were not bothered by mosquitoes or ant bites, but I did see some bites on the babies and kids. I guess they are more delicious.
The massage therapist on site is dynamite. He is extremely well qualified and gives a fantastic massage. A 30 plus minute back massage was 10 pesos.
Overall, we will go back for sure. The atmosphere and charm of the place is really remarkable. The grounds are spread out over many acres with beautiful beach (even nicer than the Breezes I think). The staff are professional, very very helpful and friendly. The scenery of rural Cuba is amazing. Well worth the short drive from the Varadero airport.

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November 2007
Corinne & Family (Baby 23mos)

We’ve just returned from a wonderfully relaxing week at the Cameleon Villas Jibacoa (aka Club Tropico) in Jibacoa, Cuba. If you know what to expect, and aren’t anticipating luxury, you can’t beat this place for the money. Our week there was kind of like a week at the cottage, only in Cuba.
Flights & Transfers We did not book a package this time around – as the charter flights were at awkward times and my husband does not fit in the seats. We booked our Cubana flights to Varadero through my friend who is a travel agent and I booked our accommodation online through Vacacionar Travel. Our departure flight was delayed for 4hrs (looong day at the airport) but the flight home left and landed early. The flights were very civilized, with decent leg room, friendly attendants and even the option of a baby meal (which we hadn’t requested in advance). I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Cubana again.
Booking a hotel online was a little unnerving, but we had good communication, as well as phone and contact numbers to use if we had any problems in Cuba. Vacacionar Travel has an office in Havana, which alleviated my apprehension somewhat. All our requests to the hotel via Vacacionar were granted, and I would recommend them if you’d like to book your travel to Cuba independently.
After changing money at the airport, we hopped into a cab (large red one) to our hotel, which was about 45min away. The cabs are new and fitted with proper rear belts to install the car seat – no anchor for the tether strap, though. With hindsight being 20/20, we should have arranged with our driver to bring us back to the airport the next week, but we were shattered with the long travel day. The cab the hotel called for us for our return transfer was tiny, and it was a pretty impressive effort to fit us + car seat + luggage + baby gear all in. The fare from Jibacoa to Varadero airport is $50 CUC and we tipped $5 CUC.
The hotel & rooms: The hotel is not fancy but it is clean and functional. The rooms are all little bungalows scattered throughout lovely and well-maintained gardens. Our room was spacious enough for the three of us, with a Queen-size bed and hotel-supplied crib. The crib and mattress were brand new – never been used. It was very sturdy but the bars were kind of far apart. A younger baby could probably get their head stuck so you’d want to bring along a portable cot. We did but since our daughter was bigger we just used the crib. Apparently they do have a couple of larger rooms if you have 2 kids.
In hindsight, I’d arrange with the front desk to have our room made up early. A couple of times the chambermaids came during my daughter’s nap time so we just exchanged towels and supplies. Bring your own facecloths and toiletries.
The bathroom had a shower only but it was quite big. We showered with our daughter but it is large enough to fit an inflatable baby tub if that is what you prefer. Be careful – the tile floors are very slippery when wet – even on the little verandah outside. I took a pretty spectacular spill on the steps outside after our one afternoon of rain.
We had a few tiny ants in the bathroom that got kind of bad after washing bottles and dishes in the sink. Our neighbours, who were traveling with their adorable 10-month-old daughter, suggested making a paste with the hotel-supplied bar soap and rubbing it over the sink and counter once you’re done the dishes. Voila! No more ants. Be careful with spills and crumbs in the room since the ants magically appear very quickly. We kept all snacks in Tupperware and other food and drinks in the fridge and we had no problems.
The beach is beautiful but unfortunately we were on the tail-end of Hurricane Noel so the sea was quite rough. We were able to splash a bit and my husband snorkelled once. Apparently the reef is quite lovely but he said it was a real workout and visibility wasn’t great due to the conditions. A few jellyfish washed up here and there so you just had to be aware. A few guys got stung pretty badly while snorkelling.
The grounds and gardens are lovely and my daughter enjoyed running around looking at the flowers and birds. Bring insect repellent for the evenings as my husband and I got pretty chewed up by mosquitoes and no-see-ums. My daughter didn’t receive any bites so I think they are just out at night when we would sit on the patio as she slept. I did bring some repellent but we were pretty lax about applying it. The evenings were lovely and breezy and if the rooms had screened windows, we would have left them open with the air conditioning off.
There are two pools and one had a zero-entry area that my daughter loved to play in. It’s small, but it’s a small resort and there was plenty of room for all the little kiddies to play in (and parents to supervise).
One thing that was a bit of an issue was the lack of high chairs. They are expecting to get more, but during our stay there was only one to use between several families with babies and toddlers. Our timing was lucky enough that we were able to use it for most dinners, but the few meals where it was not available for us were the meals our daughter wouldn’t eat. Our daughter eats well at the table but only when she is properly restrained in a booster or high chair. Had we known this would be an issue we would have brought along a travel booster-seat.
Food: We found the food quite delicious – it actually tasted homemade. There is far less selection than larger more-star resorts but I find at those places that everything tastes the same. One night there was a delicious octopus stew and every night there was a tasty homemade soup and a couple of grilled or roasted meat options. There was always lots of rice, pasta and pizza. The deserts tasted like someone’s Cuban grandmother made them – they were sooo good!
The meal times are quite staggered, so that was sometimes awkward with a toddler. Lunch fell during her nap time so one of us would go to the buffet and load up the Tupperware for later. Before lunch you can get hot dogs or ham & cheese sandwiches at the pool, so that would tide us over (they were really good!). Bring lots of snacks from home – crackers and such. Dinner didn’t start until 7, and at home we usually eat around 6. We modified our daughter’s night time routine and bathed before dinner instead of after, so she was still in bed at the same time.
The coffee and drinks at all the bars are great. The mojitos are fantastic but be careful – they are delicious and deadly! In the evenings, the bartenders would make some pretty fancy specialty coffees. They were also delicious and deadly. Most drinks are served in the requisite tiny plastic cups. Large bottles of water are available at the front desk for $1 CUC, but after a few days we just refilled ours at the bars. None of us had even a twinge of travelers’ tummy. In fact, we felt great!
Surrounding area: The area around the hotel is very rural, and great for a walk. We brought along our jogging stroller, so the rougher terrain wasn’t an issue. Just 10min down the road and you can see cows, chickens, goats and people going by in horse-drawn carts. The odd bus comes by, but since the road isn’t busy, you have plenty of time to get out of the way. It can feel a little isolated, but renting scooters and heading out wasn’t an option for us with a toddler.
Jibacoa is less than an hour from Havana, and apparently a cab there and back (and with you for the day) costs $90 CUC. We were planning on doing a half-day there, but were just too lazy. Our daughter was kind of cranky in the morning, so we decided to give it a miss. Had we not already been to Havana the year before, we would have made more of an effort – as it is a must-see.
Overall impressions: Cameleon Villas Jibacoa offers great value for the money. It isn’t fancy, but the people are wonderfully friendly without being intrusive, and I loved the fact that it was a small, casual resort without too much going on. If you like lots of action, people, and things to do, this isn’t the place for you. We noticed a few very disappointed-looking single people, but mostly very relaxed-looking families and couples who were enjoying their vacation.

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March 2006
Yvonne & family (baby 22mos.)

Cameleon was awesome. We had a great time (including our little one). It was a great place to relax and enjoy the absolutely beautiful surroundings.
Food/Drink Food was good/okay (some days were really good/others just okay), there was always a lot of selection. I am vegetarian, and was always able to get a balanced meal. A lot of the traditional Cuban dishes were vegetarian and delicious. Remember it’s Cuba, and this is a low star property – your expectations should be considerate of this (though the food in my opinion exceeded what I have had at a 4.5 star in Cuba before). The drinks were good at the bars. The alcoholic coffee drinks (made at bar near reception) were awesome to take back to your patio after dinner to enjoy as after dinner drink….warning a lot of coffee and a lot more alcohol)
Accommodations Our room/bungalow was perfect for us. We could look out at the beach or the greenery around us. We had our own little patio to hang out on in the evening and have drinks. If you have little ones, you can put them to sleep and then hang out right outside on the patio.
Beach/Surrounding Area We loved the beach and the snorkeling. The walks around the surrounding area, a long the beach were beautiful. There was a lot do if you are an active person (bicycle tours, paddle boats etc..). Or you can just lie out on the beach….there was always a lot of room since the resort is only sharing with one other resort a distance away).
Trips Out Make sure you take the Choo Choo tour (totally misrepresented by name and description). The tour guide is totally knowledgeable about the area history and provides a lot of social commentary on the side. He does a great job…hint hint tip him well if you have brought anything from home, he seems to be forgotten. Everyone in the group loved the trip. The Havana trip was good too (a must do, if you haven’t been to Havana – what a beautiful city…wished we had more time there).
We would totally recommend the property, especially for families with little ones. I just hope that the price doesn’t get really high in time and put the property out of reasonable limits.

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March 2006
GH & family (baby 22mos.)

We just got back from Cameleon Villas Jibacoa. The resort is fabulous. While it’s not terribly fancy, it is very clean, spacious with beautiful grounds and lots of trees, and it’s not crowded at all. We never had trouble finding a shady spot on the beach. The staff are extremely friendly, the beach is beautiful, and, best of all, the snorkeling is awesome! I really am bummed to be home.
We brought a pack ‘n play for our son to sleep in as I don’t think they supply cribs. We also brought a sun/swimming suit, which came in really handy, otherwise, we’d have to put sunscreen all over him several times a day. One thing we didn’t bring but wish we had, was sand toys. We even brought the stroller but found we didn’t really need it. It was handy, though, to haul all of our stuff and snorkeling gear to the beach every day! Our son is a big milk drinker so I brought a few extra bottles and filled them up at breakfast each day. There is a mini-fridge in the room so I could keep the milk cold.
The buffet had lots of food our son ate: fruit, veggies, fries (his favourite, unfortunately!), bread, fish, eggs (breakfast), pasta, fresh-squeezed o.j. (breakfast), and, my favourite of all, really, really good ice-cream. I loved the food and our son ate lots. The only thing you might want to bring is a couple of plastic containers for food in-between meals. Keep all containers, empty or not, in the fridge to avoid the tiny ants from coming into your room.
The bus ride was fine, it’s only 45-50 minutes. We didn’t bother with a car seat because we didn’t plan on taking a car anywhere. In fact, we didn’t even leave the resort. Our flight times were good. We arrived at the resort around 7ish and left about 3:30 to catch our 7:00 flight.
The Cubans were very appreciative of the little gifts we gave away. We just gave away all of our son’s toys that we brought with us plus a couple of baseball caps, kids clothes, etc. I can’t say enough about how wonderful the Cuban people are. I wish we had brought more gifts, we just didn’t pack for it. We did, however, tip generously. They are kind, considerate, and LOVE kids. Our son got a great deal of attention from the locals.
Our travel agent told us that everyone, regardless of age, would have to pay the $25 convertible pesos departure tax. This is not true. Kids under 2 do not have to pay.

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