We've never used the Iberostar brand before but have heard good things, so we were looking forward to this trip. We've been far afield before to Mexico and the Maldives so we were excited about another long haul destination and Cuba didn't disappoint! Thomson/First Choice however did, but that's another story, the hotel itself was fantastic!
Set at the far end of the Varadero strip, the resort is quite substantial, the buildings are within pretty gardens with lots of amenities that are free for guest use, such as watersports equipment, pool table, cigar bar, jacuzzi, many pools and the lovely beach. While the hotel was quite booked up, it was easy enough to find a spot on the beach (our preferred place to be!) Previous reviewers mentioned an issue with the towel availability - we had no such problems, so that was a positive. To be perfectly honest, we only changed them two or three times, as they dried quickly in the gorgeous weather and really, they don't get that much use in a week to require changing every day unless you have OCD! We had a little issue at check in regarding the distinction of "twin" and "double" and the problems this pose for a "married couple" but I blame the tour operator and the issue was sorted in half an hour.
First off, the rooms are lovely. Very modern and tasteful, clean and well maintained. No ripped bedding or towels or dubious stains. The air con was good and very welcome! Occasionally (twice for us) the hot water for the shower was only tepid, but hey, it's Cuba. It was warm enough for a wash so not a real issue. The rooms can smell a little musty, but it's a humid climate (we experienced similar in the Maldives) and if you sniff the soft furnishings/bedding it's all clean and fresh and simply in the air. Open your patio doors to freshen it and it does the trick. The maid service was good, but the re-stocking of the mini bar a little erratic. All you had to do was ask though and it was sorted. They appreciate a peso a day and we supplemented this with a pack of chewing gum or sweets which we'd brought with us from home. She even wrote me a little thank you note, which was lovely.
The food was a pleasant suprise, good quality and a great variety. I use my husband as a barometer for cleanliness and hygiene standards, he gets sick easily on holiday as he really does have OCD and he was absolutely fine here. (As for Egypt and Turkey can't say the same thing!) I hear people say "repitious" about all inclusive places, but that's because we all like to help ourselves to a bit of everything, where at home you would have one meat at a time and some veg. It's bound to be repetitious if you have a bit of chicken, beef, pork and fish all in one sitting every night! The drinks were the best part - hit the cocktails for some great flavours and the beers are palatable too. Nothing to complain about here! Drop in a peso or two for a tip as they work hard and it's much appreciated. We didn't tip on every occasion, but if you want efficient table service, it greased the wheels a bit. You can change money readily at the reception, rates ok, but not the best, but it is a closed currency, so you take what you can get. There are no ATM's on site, so take enough cash and GBP had the best rate of exchange. There is an ATM in Varadero which is a bus ride away. Make sure you take snorkelling equipment if you plan on doing this, they do not sell it ANYWHERE!! Hard to believe, but my friend found this out to her detriment. The beach offers no real snorkelling opportunities, compared to Egypt it's rubbish. But it wasn't why we were here, so that was no issue. It looks nice enough, not the best beach I've ever seen, Mexico tops it, but still pretty.
They have a few buffet restaurants and some speciality restaurants. Book them on the first day to guarantee availability. The best for us was the Tex Mex and the Japanese, both very good! The tradiitonal Cuban was dubious and our waitress surly at best, avoid! The theatre entertainment was popular and quite good and the nightclub tiny, but a bit of a laugh! I suspect Varadero may be more fun for a night out. Taxis are readilty available but costly, (and directly proportional to how vintage the car is!) whereas the sightseeing bus is every half hour and 5 CUC for a whole day, running 9am to 9pm. The little markets in Varadero are good and the vendors friendly and not pushy. It's so much better than the aggressive nature of Turkey or Egypt. The fish restaurants are really nice too, get your laughing gear around the lobster - delicious! There's a Beatles bar, Al Capone's house (now a restaurant), Josone park all with easy reach. I'd also recommend a trip to Havana, it's not to missed! We took a private hire taxi guide and that meant we could go at our own pace and see what we really wanted to see. Brilliant! The cigar factory trip is ok, but theres not a lot to it, the shop after selling cigars is good though and we spent about £40 and have nearly £160 worth of cigars for it. Rum is cheap as chips too, apparently according to our guide Santiago de Cuba is the best.
Finally my only other top tips would be watch out, the mozzies are about on a night! Avoid the Dolphinarium, it looked crap and from what we heard from other guests, is exactly that, let's say the dolphins are not their first priority. Keep your eyes peeled for the pelicans on the beach (they're awesome!) the many curly-tailed lizards and agamas, and my favourite thing, the hummingbird who lives in the lobby! I kid you not, she's fantastic, a beautiful Cuban Emerald hummingbird and she has made her nest in the branches of a pot plant in the lobby. Leave her in peace and she's a real privilege to watch. Overall it was great holiday and we'd love to go back one day.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on a beautiful stretch of Varadero's Beach. Approximately 160 km from Havana and 20 min. from downtown Varadero. 814 rooms allocated in different buildings, 24 are suites and 8 are for handicapped. Reception 24 hrs. open, currency exchange, internet 24 hrs. Buffet restaurant with show cooking and 4 a la carte restaurants and Ranchón near the beach. Lobby bar, Cigar bar, aqua-bar, and 2 snacks bars at the pool. Conference rooms, SPA, gym, and beauty salon, 2 tennis and paddle court. Ice cream saloon, animation theatre and disco. 5 outdoor swimming pools. Miniclub (4-12 years). ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Laguna Azul Hotel Varadero