My wife, 7 and 10 year stayed at the Iberostar Varadero on Jul 6, 2013 for 7 nights. We had a great time. The ride between the airport and hotel is approximately 30 to 40 minutes depending on how many drop offs to other hotels are done. We were last to be dropped off which was fine by us because we like to check out other lobbies from neighboring hotels. I have to say, our lobby and circular driveway had the biggest wow factor. We were immediately greeted by the bellboy and proceeded to check-in. The check-in was very smooth and the greeting was warm and pleasant. I was told that by others who had visited Cuba (not at this hotel) that they were required to leave their passports with the front desk and that it would be returned the following day. This is not the case here. Our passports were immediately returned to us as we checked in. The lobby was nice with its high vaulted ceilings and marble floors (no air conditioning here but a nice breeze). When booking your room, keep in mind that restaurants, pool, and entertainment are closely located to the lobby (front of the resort), We were escorted to building number 15 (furthest from the lobby and is at the back of the resort), a 2nd floor room on the exterior side. We requested a quiet location and this was perfect. Obviously, you will give up convenience for quiet.
My wife and I understand that in the Caribbean and developing countries, star ratings cannot be compared to North American ratings. A 5 star is really a 4, 4 star a 3 and so on. So be careful what you book and keep your expectations realistic.
Grounds - ****
While we walked to our room, we admired the nice, clean and well kept grounds that is maintained daily. This is not the most beautiful resort we have visited in the Caribbean but it was very nice and from what I heard probably one of the best in Varadero.
Buildings - ****
Rooms are located in 3 story high buildings that circle the property behind the theater. They are painted in your typical Caribbean pastel colors. The furthest buildings are number 15 and 16. Building 18 and 19 are actually closer to the lobby and main pool and are located right behind the outdoor theater. The buildings are not linked by a covered walkway so you will be exposed to rain and sun. You will find umbrellas in your room closet provided by the hotel.
Rooms - ****1/2
The style of the room is typical of the Caribbean. The room provided was very large and had marble throughout with 2 double beds (not queens), a flat screen TV, balcony and a stocked mini bar (maximum of 2 bottles of beer delivered to your room per day), This was one of the best rooms we have stayed in the Caribbean in terms of comfort. The room was clean and the ventilation worked quietly and efficiently (no noise, humidity or damp sheets).
The beds were comfortable with clean, white sheets and decent sized pillows. The best sleep we have enjoyed down south.
If you have problems climbing stairs, be aware that there are no elevators in the buildings so you might want to consider a lower floor. We decided on a 2nd room floor because we had heard that the lower floors were susceptible to musty odours and insects.
There are a good number of TV channels (approx 30) but most are in Spanish with English subtitles.
The only problem we had was the design of the shower stall, which constantly left a significant puddle of water just outside the shower door that we had to clean up. Other visitors had the same problem. We got around this issue by rolling up a towel and laying it across the inside bottom of the shower door.For some reason the quality of work by tradespeople in the Caribbean are very poor. Tile and grout work, painting and repairs always looks as if it was done by a DIY.
Wifi and Internet - 1/2
We had pre-purchased a Caribbean cell phone package thinking that we would receive cellular reception in Cuba - wrong!. The good news is we couldn’t connect to work. Wifi will cost you ~ 2 peso per minute and is very slow and unreliable. You can purchase 30 minutes of surfing time in their little computer room that houses ancient PC’s for 5 peso per 30 minutes - again, veeeeeerrry slow and pointless.
The Food - ****
We had heard horror stories about Cuban food. This was NOT the case at the Iberostar Varadero. Overall, we really enjoyed the food. A few families that we met on this resort also had similar views. The focus here at Iberostar Varadero was not on providing a massive variety but on quality. I have gone to other resorts where the variety was so huge, the food sat out way too long and were served again for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We met another family from a lower line Iberostar and they mentioned that their food was not very good. Food quality obviously differs at each establishment. My kids are picky eaters and they had no problem finding something they enjoyed.
My wife and I love seafood and there was plenty of it at this resort - whole grilled salmon, snapper, grouper, shrimps, calamari prepared at the food stations a batch at time to avoid having it sit out too long. There was grilled chicken breast, pork chop, french fries, a customized pasta station and thin crust pizza. There was fresh tropical fruits like, mango, pineapple, papaya, watermelon and guava. I loved the desserts that were cut into bite sized pieces that were tasty and not too sweet. For breakfast they served real eggs and not of the powdered variety - poached, hard boiled, fried, customized, etc, - pancakes, deep fried crispy pancake rings, etc.
If you are looking for a 12oz sirloin steak and North American standard food, unfortunately you just landed in the wrong country.
There are 2 sit down restaurants (Mediterranean, Japanese), 1 buffet restaurant, 1 pool area snack buffet (International dining sit down service in the evening) and a seaside grill that served charcoal grilled hotdogs and hamburgers (very good). Keep in mind that you are only allowed to make a maximum of 1 reservation at each sit down restaurant for your entire stay. Of the 3 sit down meals, we enjoyed the Mediterranean the most. If you skip the other 2 sit down meals, no big loss. We enjoyed the Japanese dining the least and you can basically find the same food for Internationally dining at the buffet station. Adult males are required to wear long trousers and is enforced at the sit down dining - I know, because I had to wear one of their supplied trousers when I forgot the rules one evening.
The Service - ****1/2
The service was very good from check-in to check-out. Cubans are very warm and personable and the servers at the Iberostar is no exception. The only minor service glitch was the cigar store keepers who seemed too engaged in conversation to serve and appeared uninterested to sell. Most servers were able to communicate in both English and Spanish.
The Entertainment - ****
There is a nightly show at the theater from 10 pm - 11 pm to allow guests to finish their dinner and attend. I would have rated the overall entertainment 5 star but I found, the poolside and beach activity not as numerous or grand as my stay at the Majestic Colonial in Punta Cana. Not much music or entertainers during the day. The evening entertainment at the outdoor theater however was the best I have experienced at a Caribbean all-inclusive. The “Star Friends” entertainers work really hard and it shows in their well performed choreographed singing and dancing. The lineup of shows included competing couples on stage, celebrity night (Michael Jackson look alike), boogie night, rock night, cuban night, Lion King, etc. There are drink servers wondering the floor, which I thought was very convenient.
There is also a disco located beside the lobby bar that opens from 11:00PM till 2:00AM.
The Beach and Pool - ****1/2
The beach and pool was the best part of this vacation. You never had to fight for a lounge chair anytime or anywhere at this time of year. Reserving chairs was strictly prohibited and is enforced.
My kids had a blast when the ocean water was slightly rough because it was like a giant wave pool. When the water was totally calm, you could see right down to the bottom - absolutely pristine and the best I have experienced so far in the Caribbean. There was no seaweed on the beach or in the water. We did notice however, broken seashells get washed up on shore so consider bringing water sandals or slippers because it can get a little prickly on the feet.
The pool with swim-up bar at the Iberostar Varadero will never be able to compete with the spectacular pool at the Majestic Colonial, Punta Cana. However, the design is still very nice and ample room during the summer season. I could see where overcrowdedness and shortage of poolside lounge chairs could be a problem during peak season in the winter months.
The kids waterpark area is ok but certainly nothing to rave about. It is located between buildings 15 and 16. My 7 year old thought it was too small and played in it for 20 minutes. That was it for the entire trip. This area will probably be enjoyed by younger children and adults would probably dislike it the most since there are no umbrellas to shade you from the sun while you keep an eye on the kids. I would not make this a criteria in deciding your room selection.
We booked two day trips; a catamaran trip to a little island called Cayo Blanco and a day trip to Havana. We loved both and thought they were great value. Both were booked through our WestJet hotel representative.
The guided Havana bus tour started at 8:00 AM and returned at 6:00 PM. It included a lunch and 1 free drink.
The Catamaran trip included 45 min snorkeling, swimming and lunch on the island, free use of paddle boats and kayaks and an open bar on the boat and on the island. Kids 6 and under are free. For an additional fee we let the kids take a picture with dolphins. You can purchase the video and picture CD’s taken by the tour guides for 20 peso. The guides were extremely friendly.
I highly recommend both trips.
The Iberostar is a very nice and clean resort. In my opinion, it is good value for the money and I would definitely recommend it.
- Buy your cigars from the cigar store during the Havana tour. They are more fresh than the hotel and airport.
- You give up convenience to the pool, restaurant, and theater for quiet time by staying further from the lobby
- Convert only cash that you will use because you cannot convert back. During our stay 1 dollar Cdn = 0.88 tourist peso.
- Bring some repellent and AfterBite. Although you won’t get swarmed we were bitten during the evening shows.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Directly on the beach of Varadero. Iberostar's first 5 star hotel in Cuba. Luxury and comfort in an elegant atmosphere. Top gastronomy and excellent service. Equipped for every kind of meeting, gala dinner, party, etc.. Ideal for groups & incentives. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Varadero Hotel Varadero
- Iberostar Cuba
- Iberostar Varadero Cuba
- Varadero Iberostar