Last year we went to Sandals and this year to Princesa del Mar, mostly because we couldn't decide between the two, and Varadero presents an easy to reach [ from Toronto] clean and warm destination for a winter relaxation break. And, unlike so many places now, it is safe.
Both of these hotels are excellent value, wonderful for couples who don't want to have small children running around, and five-star, that is, Cuban five-star.
Here is our comparison of the two:
Both involve a few yards walk through the barrier vegetation. Both are excellent, with warm water and clean sand and lots of places to sit out. I would give a slight edge to Princesa, because it is huge and very long and seems a bit more isolated
The Beach Restaurant
Sandals definitely has the edge. It is open is one of the evening specialty restaurants, and during the day it is much more accessible on the seafood is much better. The Princesa restaurant is fine, just not quite as extensive a menu, and a bit further back from the beach
at Princessa the pool is kept absolutely immaculate, there are more palapas and lounge chairs. At Sandals the pool is lovely, especially the tiny tiles shading from green to blue, but was not quite as large and it not kept quite as clean. On the other hand, the large hot tubs worked at Sandals, but were part of the renovation process at Princesa.
Swim up Bar
Sandals was better. As usual they have the higher grade drinks available everywhere, if you ask. The staff at Princesa swim up bar was a little slow at times, maybe just because one bartender seemed more interested in chatting up other staff personnel.
probably about the same at each. We were in the concierge level at sandals, and so had a lovely quiet room. You can't really see the beach in any event, because of the barrier trees at both. At Princesa we had upgraded to an ocean view, and they put us in one of the hilltop suites, from which you get an credible view of the ocean, except that right in front they are now undertaking construction of a new suite area. We thought we would asked to be moved after a day or two, but found the few great, the noise fairly limited even at night when work continued, and the late afternoon observation of the workers hilarious. So we stayed in the lovely to room suite . One night there was a bit of a sewage smell, probably because of the construction, but otherwise it was great.
the concierge level sandals was well worth it, because of the champagne in the room and the easier access to the specialty dining. They also had a rum tasting event one evening that was very well attended and a lot of fun, just for the concierge guests. The Butler at Princesa did get us our dinner reservations, although he was never able to obtain one for the French restaurant, and there was only beer and pop in the room. Hard to compare because the Hilltop Level service is not available.
about the same at both hotels, amusing but not something you would go out of your way to see.
Still, this year, they are allowing groups to produce their own records, and that was good to see.
it's Cuba. The food is getting better compared to several years ago, but still not at the level of five stars at other Caribbean locations. The fancy restaurants were about the same: Italian, French, Japanese. However, for some reason there was rarely any lobster at Princesa whereas it was frequently on the menu at sandals. We were there at the same time of year, but maybe the catch is down this year.
Overall I would say that the food was quite good at both but definitely more variety and better seafood at sandals.
Absolutely wonderful at both. We felt they were genuinely friendly and interested in our well-being, as we have always found in Cuba. The Sandals does allow tipping, unlike Sandals in other countries, and at both places staff are very grateful. Whatever your politics, or views on bringing gifts, I have and continue to find stuff grateful for gently used clothing, base ball caps, and other items they can't get.
beautifully tended, with hibiscus and bougainvillea everywhere, even in this dry season. Sandals has some very interesting local trees, and the gardeners are willing to talk about them if you speak Spanish. At Princesa, you will find a gardener named Alexis, who was always working amazingly hard and meticulously. He made us a small cricket from palm leaves, and has the most joyous smile when you speak to him. Do say hello/hola.
it's slow. The Cuban people are denied access to the Internet, which is sad. You may want to bring them any Spanish newspapers or books, or even English books as English is now taught in schools as a second language.
At Sandals there is Internet in the lobby bar, but you need an access code from the front desk. There is also a Internet room if you didn't bring a laptop or iPad. At Princesa there is no wireless anywhere, but there is an Internet room, even slower than the one at sandals!
Would we go back?
Definitely. Probably to sandals, but then again, by next fall when the new area is finished at Paradisus...... it will be hard to pick. You will definitely enjoy a relaxing vacation at either place.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Resort & SPA is located in Varadero Beach, the Cuban sun and beach tourist destination for excellence. This stunning Ultra All-Inclusive 5-star hotel is designed for adults only over 18. The property houses 630 rooms equipped with modern comforts and provides a varied gastronomic offer, daily activities, swimming pool and meeting rooms which convey an ambiance of quietness and service. Discover the magical peace of this paradise, recommended for weddings, honeymoons, incentive trips and spa/wellness. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Hotel Varadero
- Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Resort And Spa
- Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Varadero
- Paradisus Princesa Varadero
- Princesa Del Mar