Our group of 6 friends stayed at Melia Las Americas from August 3rd to 10th, 2013. As none of us had ever visited Cuba before, we did as much preparation as possible before we arrived. After months of looking up which resort to stay at, we decided on Melia Las Americas because it is an adults-only resort - a factor that definitely made our stay THAT much better. Once our vacation was finalized and booked, we emailed the hotel manager to request a few specific things, including renovated bungalow rooms (which we did not end up getting but which was fine all the same - see below) and late checkout for one of the 3 rooms. He was very kind and accommodated my requests as best as possible, so I definitely recommend getting in touch with the hotel manager before your trip if there are any questions or requests that you may have. Now, on to our actual stay ...
One word: paradise. The grounds are immaculate and the staff are very kind and welcoming. The maids serviced our room each day, making lovely towel animals for us to come back to. The drinks in the fridge were also refilled every day (1 big bottle of water, 3 cans of pop and 2 bottles of beer), which was very important for us when it came time to excursions. The beach is less than 500 feet from any part of the hotel and is absolutely beautiful, with clean sand and crystal blue water. Because August is low season, both the pools and the beach were relatively quiet, and there were more than enough pool (and beach) chairs to go around. The pool by the bungalows is the only pool with a swim-up bar, but the other pools near the lobby have bars that are only a couple of steps away. There were nightly shows put on in the theatre by the dance and entertainment crew, and while most nights focussed on specific types of dancing (i.e., Cuban dancing, ballet, etc.), Friday night's show was by FAR the most entertaining. The theme was disco/retro night, and the crew performed dances (some of them very hilarious!) to popular english songs. Julio, the entertainment coordinator, does such a fantastic job promoting these shows - he dresses up in ridiculous outfits every night and walks around reminding people to attend. Keep an eye out for him - he is a great guy and definitely a sight to see!
The 6 of us stayed in three separate bungalow rooms that were less than a 30 second walk from each other. These bungalow rooms were MUCH bigger than we had expected - there was a living room with a single and a three-seater couch as well as a coffee table, a dining area with a round dining table that sat 4, a small kitchen area with cupboards and a sink, a bathroom with a toilet and a bidet, and a very large bedroom with two queen beds pushed together. We were also on the second level so we had a large balcony with two chairs and a table - not something we used much as we were rarely in the rooms, but something nice to have if you wanted to relax outside in your own private space. The a/c worked well and was such a welcome relief after a long day in the Cuban sun. As I stated above, we had asked for renovated rooms but were placed in non-renovated rooms when we arrived. This did not phase us much as we were already very happy with the rooms we got, and honestly speaking, it didn't matter much whether we got nicer TVs or an electronic safe rather than a lock and key safe. The beds were pretty decent as far as hotel beds go and the pillows provided good neck support. I had no problem falling asleep in the beds, although one of our friends did complain on a couple occasions that the bed was hurting his back. As these things come down to personal preference it's hard to please all guests, but I thought the beds did their job as I was always refreshed the next day!
The main buffet is situated in the lobby area and serves a wide assortment of food. The selection can be repetitive at times, but it is important to remember that they must mass produce this food and serve upwards of 400 guests a night! The pasta bar is definitely something I highly recommend - I frequented this station up to 4 or 5 times a day! Juan Carlos was my favourite pasta chef. He remembered me after only one visit, and we became fast friends from then on. The buffet also has a made-to-order meat and fish station, with a chef cooking a large assortment of fish and meats to your liking. On top of the fact that I am not a big meat or fish eater, I found that the meats and fish were often overcooked, so I only visited this station once or twice during my stay.
Upon check-in to the hotel, we were given three tickets that told us what a-la-carte restaurants we were to eat at on what day and at what time. In past all-inclusive hotels that I've stayed at, I have always been allowed to choose what, where and when I wanted to eat when it came to the a-la-cartes, so this was a bit of a change. It would have been nice if we were allowed to pick the restaurants ourselves, but in the end it didn't really matter too much. We ended up eating at the International restaurant first, which was a quaint restaurant with mediocre food. My favourite part of the restaurant was the string quartet - it was absolutely wonderful to have beautiful, live music accompany our dinner! We ate at Il Limoncello (the Italian restaurant) second, and out of the three a-la-cartes this restaurant had the best food. We opted to go for the tasting menu so we could try a bit of everything, but because most of the guys in our group are big eaters, the tasting menu didn't offer enough food to fill us up. The restaurant is right beside the beach and on nice days, all the widows are wide open, giving the restaurant a peaceful atmosphere. The last a-la-carte we went to was the seafood restaurant, which was by FAR the worst food we ate our entire trip. The appetizers were extremely fishy, the tuna and lobster were dry, and the menu was a set menu with no choices. The only thing I ate that meal was the little cake for dessert, so needless to say we visited the buffet after that a-la-carte. All in all, the a-la-carte restaurants were pretty disappointing - I was definitely expecting more, but the buffet more than made up for the a-la-carte food!
We went on three excursions and thoroughly enjoyed them all. We booked them through our Hola Sun representative and paid her in Canadian dollars. She gave us the same exchange rate as the hotel (1CAD to 0.90CUC), which was helpful since at that time we hadn't had time to exchange our Canadian dollars into CUC yet.
Catamaran & Dolphins - This excursion was a must for me, as I have always wanted to do a dolphin excursion! The catamaran takes you out to a dolphin enclosure in the middle of the ocean, and you get to touch the dolphin, watch it do tricks, let it kiss you, and take a picture with it. You can also swim with the dolphin for an extra 10CUC - looking back at it, I wish I had paid the money to do it. They deliver the pictures to you at the hotel and you can buy them for another 10CUC. Our pictures turned out amazing (my friend and I did one each individually with the dolphin and a third picture together with the dolphin), so we bought all three. This excursion also takes you snorkelling (which isn't as good as the jeep safari snorkelling, but we did get to keep the snorkel as a souvenir!) and to a white sand beach for lunch. We had a fabulous time, with the open bar on the catamaran topping it all off!
Jeep Safari - The first thing to know about this excursion is that you MUST have someone in your jeep that knows how to drive standard! It is 4 people per jeep, and we were lucky that one (and only one) of us in our group of friends knew how to operate a standard car. The remaining two of us were paired up with a couple from Chile who, luckily, were pro at driving stick shift, so we didn't have to worry. The jeep safari takes you into some serious off-roading ... and by serious, I mean unpaved roads in the middle of a random fields with pot holes the size of craters! As part of the excursion, we got to drive speed boats down a long river below the tallest bridge in Cuba (incredible amounts of fun as I have never personally driven a speed boat before), visit an old coffee plantation for lunch, do some horseback riding (or bull riding, if you prefer), snorkel in the most beautiful coral reef, and swim in a natural freshwater pool inside a cave. We also got a picture taken during the snorkelling session which we bought for another 10CUC. This excursion is definitely more for those who are active and/or enjoy adrenaline rushes - one of my favourite excursions of all time!
Havana - Our tour operator suggested that we do a private tour of Havana, since we were a group of 6 and could easily fit into a van. We gladly took her advice, and let me tell you, it is DEFINITELY the way to go if you want to visit Havana. We had our own private car, driver, and tour guide, and we spent a lovely day visiting the tallest bridge in Cuba from the top, as well as both modern and old Havana. Our tour guide was a student at the University of Matanzas by the name of Chabely Prado, and she did a wonderful job. She was incredibly kind and knowledgeable, and catered our tour to what we wanted to see. In brief, we visited Revolution Square, Capitol City, a cigar store where we were able to purchase cigars and liquor, a flea market in modern Havana where we got all our souvenir shopping done, the streets and churches of old Havana, and a coffee shop to purchase some famous Cuban coffee. Chabely booked us a reservation at a traditional Cuban restaurant, and though the food was good it wasn't included in the amount we paid for the excursion. It was a long day of walking so we took advantage of the 2 hour ride back to Varadero to relax. Definitely a worthwhile excursion!
A few helpful tips:
- Exchange your money at the airport if you can! They have the best rates (1CAD to 0.98CUC) versus the hotel (1CAD to 0.90CUC) and the bank at the strip mall just beside the hotel (1CAD to 0.92CUC).
- The bungalows are a pretty far walk from the main area of the hotel. If you foresee this as a problem, ask the manager to situate you closer to the lobby, if possible. If not, go for an oceanview room - I've been told that they are just as nice, though not as spacious.
- The 24 hour snack bar is a great spot, and where a few of our friends spent most of their nights. Amelio is a great bartender (he makes the best hot chocolates!).
- For the younger folks that want to enjoy the Varadero night life, the dance/entertainment crew often go out to the local clubs after the show. We went to Havana club with them one night and they helped us hail taxis and bargain with the taxi drivers. Also check out The Cave - we didn't get to go there this time, but we've heard amazing things about it!
All in all, we had an extremely wonderful vacation. We would most definitely recommend this resort to anyone visiting Varadero, but just beware that it will set the bar pretty high for anywhere else you stay!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Meliá Las Américas is the premier Golf Resort in Cuba and it is also the only one with direct access to The Varadero Golf Club. Located on The Varadero Peninsula, a tropical paradise jutting into the clear waters of the Caribbean on Cuba’s northern coats. Poised between the beach and championship golf course, the 5-star hotel is an upscale all inclusive adults only (over 18 years). ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Melia Las Americas Hotel Varadero
- Melia Hotel Varadero
- Melia Hotel Las Americas
- Melia Las Americas Varadero