I was at Gaviota from March 30 to April 6 and had a great vacation. I did extensive research on here so thanks to the reviewers who posted detailed reviews as it helped me prepare for my trip.
I booked with Westjet and flew out of Ottawa with a connection in Toronto. All flights both there and back were on time and I found the staff on all the flights very pleasant. There are ample channels to watch on the small tv on the back of the chair in front of you and snacks and beverages were provided. While not much, it is at least something to hold you over if you are hungry.
Once arriving at Santa Clara Airport, customs was fairly quick and in no time I was on the coach that would take us to our resort. The coach is air conditioned and the seat are very comfortable. Beer and pop is for sale both outside the bus and inside. They will take a toonie for a beer if you do not have convertible pesos yet. The washrooms were functional both there and back although I never went. The ride is amazing as you go through three cities/towns and get a little history lesson along the way. The guide/rep (Joel and his partner) were very nice and I really enjoyed the stories and humour. The ride is approximately 1 hour 45 min but goes by fast.
Once at the resort check in is fairly quick. I was in my room within 10 minutes. A bellboy will bring your luggage to your room. It was the only time I felt the expectation of a tip during the trip, but had read that in previous reviews, so just had a canadian $5 ready.
The room was clean and new and towel art was on the bed which my wife liked. The fridge was stocked every day with a large bottle of water and 3 pops and two beer. The maid did different towel art everyday and seemed to do a good job cleaning. Yes a few towels during the week had little stains, but they were clean and occurred during the laundry process. No biggie for me.
The grounds are well landscaped and vegetation is growing in nicely. The pools are very clean. The bar service is excellent. I never had a rude server during my stay. There were little to no wait times at any bar and in the lobby bar if you were seated a bartender would always come around to help you within minutes. I always tipped a peso per round, but saw alot of people that didn't and they always received good service as well. I know no spanish and could always get what i needed with no difficulty. The coffee and baileys in the morning is highly recommended as well as the cappuccinos. The wine was decent for Cuba and if you like Heineken as I do, it is 2 pesos for one, but I must say, the cuban beer is pretty good.
Getting money at the front desk was pretty easy, but they sometimes don't have any. Take the shuttle to the Peublo on your first day and get some if you don't want to check with reception a few times. The front desk has money every day, but if you go too late they may run out. I always got change from the bar staff and never had an issue.
The food was pretty good. The buffet for breakfast was very good. Omelettes are awesome and I never waited more than 5 minutes. The bacon was well done everyday, so they must of got the memo. Nice sausages as well. The fruit selection is a little weak, but i always found breakfast very good. The servers will give you orange juice and coffee and were always very good offering more. I always tipped a peso because the service was always good. The snack bar is good for fries and the grilled chicken sandwich there is really good. They also have burgers and omelettes so if you need a snack or want to skip the buffet this is a good place to go. The playa ranchon buffet is open for lunch and is located beside the beach. Same average food as the dinner buffet with less selection, but they have a menu as well with burgers and sandwiches. The menu is the better option.
The dinner buffet is hit or miss. The lines were never bad, they must have improved this area because i never waited long. The freshly grilled meats were a highlight as well as the pizza and pasta station. Some food in the trays is lukewarm, but I always found something decent.
The cuban and asian ala cartes were really good. We enjoyed both places and had great service at both.
Beach is awesome and yes a little narrow, but no issue for me. I am an early riser and really enjoyed the morning walks watching the sunrise. I got shaded palapas three days that I tried. Twice we went at noon and lucked into two and one morning I reserved one but went right after breakfast as I would never reserve something I didn't plan on using shortly after. Very relaxing and a beach bar is right there as well as a hut that serves paninis. The have ham & cheese, sausage and tuna and all were very good. Service there is always good and friendly. The animation staff did aqua fitness in the ocean which was nice and getting a ride on a hobbie cat is free and fun. Out of 7 days, 5 were green flag.
The night shows are ok, but need some polish. The dancers are awesome. I agree they need to advertise the shows better, but at the buffet entrance they do during dinner hours as well as on the mic during the day at the main pool and on the beach when they are there, but it is not consistent. One evening an awesome cuban jazz band was playing in the sports bar. This was a great show that I lucked into seeing, but it wasn't advertised anywhere. On Saturday night they did a beach party instead of a show. It was fun, but please wear reppelant if you go. My wife got bites there and at a few night shows as well. The bugs were only present at night, but never bothered me. Once you get bit, if you don't have after bite, see the lifeguard at the beach. He put some stuff on my wife that relieved her instantly he was happy to help.
Overall impression... Loved the Cuban people. The resort is a steal at the price it is going for. Drinks, food, rooms, grounds, beach are were all good and i feel i would go back once I explore a few more places first. Great place to unwind with spouse if you are not looking for nightlife. Child friendly as well and definitely french friendly, as staff cater to both french and english as best they can. Go. Enjoy!