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“A great location with a Cuban feel”

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Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria
Ranked #4 of 15 Hotels in Cayo Santa Maria
Certificate of Excellence
Toronto, Canada
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“A great location with a Cuban feel”
Reviewed 1 April 2012

This was our first trip to Cuba. We went with two young kids and were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food. The staff were great and genuinely friendly. Of course they perked up when tipped, who wouldn't when your monthly salary is the cost of a steak. The beach was idyllic and the buffet and bars well located. We would visit again and found the low rise less developed area added to the enjoyment of the holiday.

Room Tip: bungalow 15 great location for beach, pool and snack bar
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled with family
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4 Thank marcus b
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Hamilton, Canada
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed 31 March 2012

Just got back from the Gaviota Cayo Santa Maria. I have to start out by saying that the staff was fantastic. They went out of their way to please you...that being said, the rest of the experience was not so great. The food at the buffet was the same bland things every night and the service was super slow. Line ups for pasta, rice, meat, omelets. pancakes etc. The shows were on the boring side. They don't start until almost 1000 P.M. We felt that they should start a little earlier, maybe 900 P.M. They don't have a sign telling you what or where the show is going to be. One night, people were waiting in the theatre for the show to start only to find out that it was a water show at one of the pools. By the time we walked down there, all the decent seats were gone. The bank is still closed, so you have to exchange your money at the front desk. They were giving 93 pesos for $100, the bank at the pueblo was giving 96 pesos and the bank at the airport was giving 98 pesos. There are four ala carte's. We went to three of them, The Asian, Seafood, and Italian. The Asian was the best of the three. The Italian was the worst of the three, and the Seafood was O.K. The beach was very narrow and very crowded. Just like other resorts in the area, people go down very early and put their towels, or sandals on the chairs and reserving them until they feel like going down. I have never agreed to this and feel management should not allow it. We booked the exclusive package which was a ripoff. We had no welcome drink or cool towel, no bathrobe (they said they ran out), they stuck us in bungalow #6 which is the farthest from the lobby and the beach, so other than the extra ala carte and the bottle of cheap rum it is not worth the extra money.The resort is new, but did not have the Cuban feel like other resorts that we had been to in the past (Melia Las Dunas and Royal Hideaway). We are truly going to miss the staff especially Miralize at the snack bar, and Pasqual at the Lobby Bar, but I don't think that we will be going back anytime soon.

Room Tip: Try to get a room close to the lobby.
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank Chuck M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Joanna2310
Level 3 Contributor
5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
Reviewed 30 March 2012

My boyfriend and I, as well as another couple stayed at this hotel March 17-24. When I read some of the reviews before we left I got alittle nervous but reminded myself that we paid under 1000 and realistically you pay for what you get. But after a couple of days, the four of us wondered if we were even at the same resort as the bad reviews! Here we go...

Room: We booked the Exclusive club room with Air Transat...not worth the money. Basically you're paying extra for a bottle of alcohol. The rooms were very nice and had plenty of room. Yes 50% of the white towels had what looked like rust stains. Apparently the towels are not washed on the hotel grounds but shipped somewhere. No they don't look the greatest but they were definitely clean. If they really bother you, you can ask the maid when you see her to switch them, she had no problem doing this. The beds were firm, but not horrible. This is coming from someone who sleeps on an ultra plush pillowtop mattress. I didn't have a problem sleeping.

Resort: absolutely beautiful! the grounds for the most part are filled with beautiful flowers and plants. The only area that was lacking a bit of vegetation was near the newest buildings they just opened recently. There are numerous gardeners working hard all day in the sun making this property beautiful. This isn't Costa Rica..You're not in a rainforest so don't expect it!
The pools are awesome and located all over the resort. Workers would walk around and clean them. Never a lack of loungers.

Beach: the beaches are quite narrow in the morning but by midday they were significantly larger. No problem getting a lounger, at least 2 workers constantly grabbing chairs, setting them up and brushing the sand off for you. Water was super clean and warm. Took a couple walks down the beach toward Melia Las dunas. The sand gets much coarser the further you walk way from the resort beach.

Food: I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised with the food. Knowing how much we paid I figured I wouldn't be eating much. I'm a picky eater so I can't say that every item at the buffet was to die for but I can honestly say that at every meal I found something I absolutely loved. Made to order eggs, pancakes, waffles, smoothies, meat, seafood, pasta, and dessert. How people can honestly say they didn't like ANYTHING is beyond me. Its actually ridiculous! The four of us spent the entire week bringing up quotes from ridiculous reviews and wondering who these people were. Oh and the line-ups...these apparent long line ups? The longest I waited in any of those stations was 10min. The 24hr snack bar will cook you up pizza, fries, eggs or a sandwich at anytime of the day or night. Can't say I received that when I stayed at the Riu Palace in Cancun. The only place i'd have to say I didn't really enjoy was the beach buffet. Food was pretty cold. Apparently they have a menu you can order from but we didn't know this unfortunately.

Employees: I found the staff at this resort were very good. Everyone was friendly and tried to make your stay a good one. Special mention goes to Pascual at the lobby bar and Abel at one of the quiet pools. Mareyi, a manager, was absolutely amazing. She knew it was our anniversary and made our vacation as special as possible for us with many little surprises left in our room. The animation team was pretty good. Michael was amazing, usually at the beach during the day. Lots of dancing lessons and games. The only thing I wished was that they advertise nightly entertainment off the resort like i've seen at other resorts.

Excursions:We did only one excursion, the catamaran dolphin trip. Costs 99 pesos per person. Bus picked you up at 10am. The dolphinarium was the first stop, a 5min bus drive. Went in the water with the dolphins. They did tricks and you got kisses from them and rubbed their bellies. No dolphin swimming here like Varadero. Photographer takes a photo, costs 10 pesos. You then eat a lobster or chicken lunch which was really good. Then there is a sea lion show. At approx 1pm the catamaran picks you up from the dolphinarium. First stop is snorkelling near a reef for approx 45min. After, it makes a stop at a beach where you can walk out approx half a km out and the water is ankle deep. That was really nice. Then you head back to a marina and are back to the resort around 530pm. We weren't on the catamaran as much as I expected but the trip was well worth 99 pesos.

We went to the Village "Estrella". Some souvenirs to buy, food and drinks. There was a spa and bank. Make sure you bring ID if you need to exchange money. There was also a disco and a bowling alley which were fun. Not very busy though. Make sure when you hop on the bus you make sure it is heading towards the Barcelo resort, if its going the other direction you will be on it for a very long time. Bus costs 1 peso per person. If you take a cab its the same cost so we took a taxi for the most part.

Would I stay at this resort again..ABSOLUTELY! Had an amazing time and couldn't have asked for more. We wanted to extend our trip an extra 3 days but couldn't because of work. Looking to come back maybe in the fall.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me :)

Room Tip: I stayed in building 3, seemed to be the furthest building from the beach. I would recommend buildin...
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank Joanna2310
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Halifax, Canada
Level 3 Contributor
8 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 45 helpful votes
Reviewed 30 March 2012

My husband and i stayed at this resort from March 17-24th and let me tell you it was amazing!! I can't believe people would give it such a bad review. The service was outstanding, they never stopped. I would agree that the few working in the snack bar are a tad unfriendly but other than that they still serve you-just a little slower.
We booked with Hola Sun and the only issue we had was flight delays...we joked that we were on Cuba time. It wasn't delayed much an hour there and an hour back. Flight was good with Cubana, thought it was neat that they serve Cuba food on the flight and served Cuba rum/beer...at Cuba prices might I add which I was very impressed with ($2 beer and $3 pop hahaha) Hotel Check in was quick. We stayed in Building 3. All the buildings are in a close walk to everything so it doesn't matter where you stay. Unless you are looking for an ocean view room. This resort is laid out perfect. I don't spend much time in the rooms but mine was clean, fresh and just as it shows in the pictures. The pools were clean, lots of beach chairs/loungers. The beach was great, staff is ready to carry a beach chair down for you and brush the sand off. I was shocked, I've never had staff do this for me at a resort. Two thumbs up on that!! Some seaweed on the beach but hardly any in the water, no jelly fish, it was crystal clear. The restaurants are great. I don't know why people are complaining about cold food?? Everything was yummy, hot and they had an excellent selection. We ate at the Creole Restaurant and the Italian. I loved the Creole, the Italian was o.k, didn't love it but didn't hate it either. The Snack bar has amazing pizzas, fries and burgers. One thing I was impressed with is the drinks, I have been to a few other resorts over Cuba and they always mix them so strong that I have a hard time drinking. I like to drink and not taste it so much. I asked for coconut rum in my drinks and they were PERFECT!! There is no disco on this resort-you have to bus it to the Market. We didn't go, just decided to hangout in the lobby and have drinks instead. I'm sure it would have been fun if you were going down with a group of people. We did use the buses and taxis quite a bit. To go to the Market was $2 so not bad at all. We also went to the Dolphinarium and it was $5 to get there and $3 each to get in, if you want to interact with the dolphins it's more (not sure how much) It's important to go before noon so you can interact with the dolphins or at least watch other people do it. At 12:30 there is a Sea Lion show that you can watch too. It's only once a day as far as I know. The internet is $6/30 mins and it is very very slow. Took about 20 mins to update a facebook stat. I don't spend much time on the internet anyways so I didn't care so much but just though I'd mention for those that plan on going on to chat with family members. Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have!!
TIPS:
-Bring a pillow if you have neck trouble (they are hard) I didn't mind them but hubby did.
-Bring your own face cloth/shower puff (no face clothes provided)
-Get up early if you want a sun shade there are some but they go early.
-Try a Pina Coloda with Coconut Rum (YUMMY)
-Take presents that are unisex (you might get a chamber boy!!)
-Take a peek in the gift shop (cheap rum)
-Take snacks from home if you like to snack when you drink (I bought a sm.can of pringles in the gift shop for $4 ouch!!)
-Smile and have fun :)

Room Tip: Building 3 is right in front of a quiet pool, with a bar at the other end :)
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
5 Thank Alleycatz12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Arnprior, Ontario, Canada
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed 30 March 2012

I went to Gaviota March 14-21/12 with my youngest son 14 and my friend and her daughter age 13. We all had a great time and I can see this hotel only improving. They have hired a new chef but he is going through red tape with paper work. There were also interested buyers checking out the hotel from Europe. If this happens this resort could in fact be the best on the island. I will admit the food was just O.K. but always found something to eat. Breakfast at the snack bar with Lattes..and the Asian were my favorite places to eat. My room in block 2 was clean and perfect location. Lots of pools to pick from with beautiful lounge chairs. Kids loved the slushy drinks and ice cream. There is nothing wrong with this resort.... They are working on it. Everyone tries hard to please. The beach is beautiful and loads of new of chairs stacked up if the beach is busy.
I was impressed as I drank pink champagne all week and when sitting around the pool a server would take our order. This happens at high end hotels people!! So, this little 4 star is trying to serve and impress. I didn't go on vacation to gain weight but the pasta was really yummy with garlic and basil and your choice of toppings to saute with the sauces. Don't be afraid to try this hotel. I have been to the best of the best and I still had a great time!
Shelley Potter/Owner Carlson Wagonlit Travel Arnprior Ont.

Room Tip: I think that AIr Transat Holidays have a great block of rooms.
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
9 Thank Shelley T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Edmundston, Canada
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 29 March 2012

We have been to Cuba 3 times and this is the first time that I had a marvellous trip, people are friendly you ask they gave you what you want, if you stay in building 15 or 7 your right in the middle of the resort --- snack bar open 24 hrs with music all day--- if you want to relax stay in another building the food was good for us don't forget to give pesos for tip and they will reconize you and your gonna get an excellent service even at the beach.For us there is no negative to say about that hotel. If I would return yes anytime.

  • Stayed March 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
5 Thank Beethduke
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Burlington, Canada
Level 4 Contributor
36 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
Reviewed 28 March 2012

Cuba is Cuba - If you want a true 4 or 5 star pay an extra 5-10 thousand and go elsewhere. The people do very well with what they have, which is very little.
It is a beautiful, new resort. The staff is willing to help in any way possible. It is very clean and the rooms are nicely decorated. They could use more staff - many work 12 - 16 hour days! In the Snack Bar - Brady and David were awesome. The food here was also very good (pizza, bacon cheeseburgers, chip fries). The buffet had lines - what buffet doesn't? There was lobster, great pizza made to order as well as pasta made to order - you just had to wait. The worst part were people butting in line!
The panini bar on the beach was also great - Rodney was always cheerful tip or no tip. The buffet on the beach at lunch was great and the waiters on the far side were extremely helpful (sorry I can't remember their names).
We had a great dinner at the Italian a la carte (beef is tough, but pasta was great) and the Mediterranean was good.
The drive from the airport in the morning was lovely and the tour guide was quite informative - we did change our money at the airport, but the hotel received money at various times (sometimes they had money and sometimes they didn't). This wasn't a huge issue for us.
We took the Dophin/Catamaran tour and found it both entertaining and well worth the cost.
Overall, relax people - if you want to have a good time, you will. If you want to find problems, you will.

Room Tip: Oceanview - bungalow 7 or 15 - great! Book when you get there - an extra 20 cuc per night
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled with family
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
6 Thank Jaw3_11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria

Property: Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria
Address: Las Dunas 5 | Cayo Santa Maria, 50100, Cuba (Formerly Hotel Gaviota Cayo Santa Maria)
Region: Caribbean > Cuba > Villa Clara Province > Cayo Santa Maria
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 15 Hotels in Cayo Santa Maria
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:5 star — Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria 5*
Number of rooms: 769
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