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“Vacation exceeded my expectations” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria

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Hotel Playa Cayo Santa Maria
Ranked #3 of 14 Hotels in Cayo Santa Maria
Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
8 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Vacation exceeded my expectations”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 8 April 2012

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!

  • Stayed March 2012, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
4 Thank kane40
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
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  • Rooms
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  • Service
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
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Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (1,123)
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English first
Level Contributor
29 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 39 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 2 April 2012

We stayed for the March break and had a great time. This is my 2nd time to Cayo Santa Maria in less than a year and although enjoyed staying at the Sol and had no complaints, Hotel Gaviota was by far superior. The hotel is large but the layout of the hotel is well done and gives it a smaller feel. There are so many pools that we did not even get to one of them! The drive from airport is a bit long but very enjoyable. Reservation manager Ery is truly the best! He surprised us with a nice upgrade to building building 15 with ocean view and rooms are truly beautiful. He went above and beyond to make our stay memorable. We were celebrating our anniversary and everyday Ery and staff left a nice surprise in our room - white rose and champagne so nice - thank you!! Food is very good for Cuba and don't miss the Mediteranian/Seafood - it is incredible and the manager "William" was more personable and accomadating than any I have experienced here at home - don't miss a meal here! We were lucky enough to have two thanks to Ery and William! Pizza is excellent at snack bar and the servers are wonderful. Pools are beautiful - those that are quiet or one that has entertainment. We travel often and what brought me back to this island was the beach - it is incredible - crystal clear and blue/green - nicer than Aruba! As for day trips don't miss out on the catamaran trip - $99. and worth every cent. They take you out on the boat with a great spot for snorkelling and another Island with a very unique beach. Last stop was at dolphin aquarium where you get in with the dolphins and then have a fantastic fish and lobster lunch - it's a must. I have heard mention of people being hounded for tips - we did not incurr this at all. Just like home you should tip if good service and not if service is poor. Never did I feel that we "had" to tip - we found service was good whether you tipped or not. Service may not always be as fast as some would like but it isn't at home either - and give them a break - they are working as hard as they can for a lot of people who often don't appreciate it. Your on holiday - what's your hurry?! Please do not take them your old dollar store jewlery and junk - cash tips are best - or nice name brand hats/clothes. Had a great stay and will be back in future! Any questions pls feel free to e-mail me.

Room Tip: building 15 poolside was superb - great view and relatively quiet - well worth any extra price you m...
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
11 Thank annacoll
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Calgary, Canada
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 2 April 2012

Was there March 17 to 24...I have stayed at Barcelo 3 times before, and prefer this hotel...smaller, beautifully decorated, awesome staff. Bungalow 8 is next to the quiet pool...after a day at the windy beach I would go to relax at the pool and some days at 4pm I would be the only one there! Don't miss the show nights in the theatre when they have the big dance numbers...the dancers and musicians in the shows are awesomely talented. Solo traveller who booked last minute getaway, I found this place to be totally comfortable and not too awkward. Table for one?? Hey did anyone get any pics of the dance competition on March 20? This is paco...or as you may know me, Contestant #7. hahaha

  • Stayed March 2012, travelled solo
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
4 Thank paco-paco7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Toronto, Canada
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles 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
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
4 Thank marcus b
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Hamilton, Canada
Level Contributor
5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles 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
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Chuck M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Joanna2310
Level Contributor
5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles 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
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
4 Thank Joanna2310
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Halifax, Canada
Level Contributor
6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 37 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles 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
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
5 Thank Alleycatz12
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 #3 of 14 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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