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We vacationed in Cuba at the all-inclusive Coralia Club - Playa de Oro in Varadero (March 14-21 2002). The resort is large but not too big. Lucky for us it was not too busy. There were only a few kids and we could hardly see or even hear them.
It was very nice, lots of flowers, very clean and colorful. Free Beach chairs, parasols and beach towels. Located on the beach, with incredible light beige sand and warm crystal green Atlantic Ocean with no coral, tropical fish or sea weed. The Mojitos, Ron Punch and Havana Specials where the best all you could drink local beverages (There are no diet sodas but Soda water and juices). There are 3 different bars in the resort at the beach, pool & lobby where there are 2 free billiard tables). The pool bar and Jacuzzi were closed.
The staff was kind & dynamic. The service was good, accommodating & friendly. Even if the food was not so great, the choice of 3 included restaurants made up for it and it got better as the resort became fuller and days went by.
All the water sports were available even on days when it got too windy. It was SO HOT!!!! Although not accessible 24/day the pool was big & clean with life guard services.
Our hotel room was large and clean with balcony, fridge, big closet, free safe, phone, satellite TV with CNN, HBO and Showtime.
We had to switch from a room on the first floor to the second floor due to a smell as if 1st floor room were not used often.
The resort has dynamic 24/7 on-site Animation and a sports team. With little shows every night and on-site nightclub till 4am. We didn't bother going to all the shows. It was easy to be left alone and be a couple and not dragged into all the activities and sit by ourselves at meal times.
Approximately 50% of the guests were Montrealers, the rest ranged from other Canadians, Portuguese, Cubans, Spanish, French Europeans and a few Americans. Although Cubans, the staff spoke English and French.
Varadero does offer other beautiful beaches; still this resort was on the nicest, softest & cleanest one. You could walk on the beach for miles.
There were nice little sea shelves to collect, and although no fish, coral or seaweed there were some non-threatening umbrella jelly fish washing up shore at times.
At a 4km walk away is the Varadero golf course and a 2 floor indoor mall called ''Plaza De Americas'': great for cheap rum and tourist style shopping. (Be aware that the Diet PEPSI tasted awful).
The excursions were nice but pricy as usual; we did the Day trip to Havana. It as great and included a visit to a cigar making factory, (we bought a whole bunch of fresh Cohibas and Monte Cristos for dirt cheap), they then took us in an old 1960s car ride in the streets of Old Havana, we stopped at the flea market, were they sold nice statues, domino games, jewelry, books, beach clothes and very colorful paintings. (You can bargain but only $2-3 down if you buy something else as well, cus it's already cheap and if you get a painting as for a certificate of authenticity). We also went to the Plaza de la Revolution where Fidel makes his speeches to the population. We also went to the famous ''Bodeguita del medio'' Cafe where Hemingway wrote ''Whom the Bell Tolls''.
The locals were so nice, calm and seemed to be happy. Havana was so clean and surprisingly rich in culture and the architecture was magnificent.
The most impressive tourist site I ever saw in my life was the ''Saturno Cavernos'' during a half a day snorkeling trip we did at Coral Beach. Along the road at a ''pit stop'' there was a middle ground white water cavern where you could swim and snorkel as if you we're diving in an underground cave.
There is Internet access for tourist in Cuba. The resort offered it but it was very slow. But you will find Internet/Phone booths right outside the Playa De Oro Resort and on the side of the roads in Varadero & Havana, and the speed was decent in late afternoon early evening.
The resort also offers free tennis lessons and free bikes. You can rent cars and right outside the hotel you can rent scooters, but bring a helmet as they do not provide them.
Varadero's TROPICANA club offers a great show as a night time activity and the MAMBO club is a fun thing to do as well.
We flew with Cubanna which was fine despite de delays.
All things considered, aside from the usual mosquitoes at night this was definitely not a disappointment and if returned to Varadero again we'd stay at Playa de Oro cus the hotels we saw in downtown Varadero looked terrible and the ones around it seemed similar.
Thanks to Brat for this trip report ...