I loved Don Lino. I was there from April 15 - 22, 2014 and had the best vacation ever. It was exactly the right size and environment, just what I had hoped form and expected after reading all the reviews. Small, quaint, comfortable. If you're looking for luxury, pampering and all the comforts of home then skip Don Lino and head to a 5 star instead. If you're looking for lovely staff, clean rooms and a relaxing holiday then Don Lino will not disappoint.
There isn't a Bank to convert your money at Don Lino so be sure to go to Bank located in the Departures terminal of the airport before heading to the resort. Be sure to take enough money so that you can take a taxi (15 - 20 CUC) into Santa Lucia for a meal at El Tulipa one evening. The food is excellent. Entrees range from between 12 - 17 CUC. You need a reservation, which the front desk staff at Don Lino should be able to help with.
The property is well laid out and easy to get around. The pool is small and could be bigger and/or deeper but still very lovely and clean (except for on the very, very rare occasions...read further). I laid by the pool and read my book every day. Some days it was tough to get a lounger, because people would save them and then wander off but most of the time it wasn't a problem.
The first part of my week there I met a lot of lovely people and it was great to meet guests that were Cuban too. They were all so friendly and kind. The second part of the week was slightly different. A new group of Cuban guests arrived and they were very different from the first group. This second group took over and made quite a mess in and out of the pool. Food and drink everywhere, cigarette butts and garbage strewn about, even in the pool. It was a poor representation of Cubans because everyone else I ever met was not like these people. It was heartbreaking to the poor manners and destruction because the staff at Don Lino work so very hard to keep things nice. Omar, who takes care of the pool, takes great pride in caring for it, so seeing it disrespected in such a vulgar manner was upsetting. He worked very hard every day and always made sure people were comfortable and had what they needed. Be sure to say hi to him and help him practice his English, which is good but could be better. :)
I didn't go on any excursions or participate in any entertainment/activities, though the staff were wonderful. Dani and Manuel are wonderful. Manuel's English is perfect and he is always willing to help answer your questions. I did go into Santa Lucia on two occasions, having a beautiful meal at El Tulipa and enjoying a local "cantina" (patio bar). Those were definitely highlights of my holiday.
The food at Don Lino was ok, some days it was better than others. There was not a lot of variety, and often the food was "recycled", for example, if it was served at breakfast, you likely saw it incorporated into lunch, etc. So if this is your first time south, you will probably be disappointed. To be honest, for me, I eat less in warmer climates so it didn't make much difference to me. There was always a few things I could eat (and I have food allergies to worry about) but if I didn't fancy what was offered at the buffet, I would just get a grilled ham and cheese sandwich from the snack bar later. It was always delicious. Saying all of that breakfast was always delicious and the only thing I can really say is I missed butter! They only had a mayo available for your toast. If you are a snacker, take snacks or buy them at the shop in reception.
Things everyone should know:
- bring toilet paper, it is often not available in the public washrooms.
- If you lose your beach towel the cost is $20 to replace it.
- the new 2-story bungalows are lovely but if you have noisy neighbours it makes your stay a little less enjoyable. Not all people are considerate. Sad but true.
- there will not be any bottled water in your room - you can buy that from the little shop in reception. And there won't be a bottle of rum either, as advertised by some tour operators. That was fine by me but other guests commented they were disappointed by this.
- take a really good bug repellant if you plan to spend time on the beach in the morning or evening. Some people had terrible reactions that got infected. So be sure to also take some sort of allergy meds, Benadryl and definitely some Afterbite and calamine lotion. You won't regret it. Better safe than sorryl
- if the snack bar has hours posted and it should be open but there is no one behind the counter, nip into the kitchen to find a chef.
- if you're a fussy eater though, you will just have to suck it up or stay home.
All in the all, the Don Lino ticked all the boxes for me. It was the friendly, unassuming staff that really made my vacation. Everyone was friendly but no one was pushy. By the end of the week the Don Lino felt like home and it was so nice to be greeted with warm smiles and friendly "holas!" wherever I went. I'm planning on returning in October or November for two weeks and I can't wait.
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- Also Known As:
- Villa Islazul Don Lino Hotel Rafael Freyre
- Hotel Islazul Don Lino
- Islazul Don Lino Hotel
- Islazul Villa Don Lino Cuba/Holguin Province