The good...... The view is like a photoshoped version of a vacation catalogue. 180 degrees of beautiful beach and ocean view. You will have no trouble finding a beach chair. White sand and very easy to step into and swim. The resort is only 5 years old, our rooms were nice, some shower issues to begin with but they fixed it. The highway they built to get to our resort was one of those man made wonders that took them 10 years to build, when going through it was a sight seeing opportunity begin with. Faculties, the lobbies were nice. GYM was up to date for Cuban standards . They should have a game room. They have a billiard smoking room.
The bad..... Since they want use Canadian coins for tip. They expect you to tip them. I had this sense that you get stared down if you don,t tip. Thet think we are all filthy reach and can give them at least one such which is about a buck fifty Canadian on average. One waiter actually chased me down after we left the buffet and asked was everything o.k. meaning he was indirectly saying where is my tip. The next few days he gave us some stare downs which is notvtipical in Cuba. And in our resort there was a famine of sorts and I will explain in the next section what I mean. If u tipped the waiter he would secretly ask the chef to get you pasta, fries, salmon steaks, bananas, so unfortunately this resort has that feel of a Dominican republic resort, where the waiters can be pushy for tips etc.. and if you pay extra you get treated differently and they go to the chef for your requests.
THE UGLY. The food was terrible. Only one type of bread, no pasta, no fries, and very salty food. It really felt like a famine there. I Was starving for any food when ingot home. I don't like eating meat at resorts so there was really no variety is you like fish and vegetables. Not having pasta, fries, and variety made me have really bad indigestion and heartburn since day 1 of my trip. I Was refered to this resort by a friend who went 3 years ago when the food was edible. When I skyped him the food selection in the buffet he was shocked to see that they went from a great buffet with lots of variety to a buffet that was limited in food choices. I saw a lot of parents with their kids at the snack bar to get sandwiches. There was pizza if you wanted to wait 30 plus minutes. Linked up for cooking some meat on the grill was 30 plus minutes, cooking fish on the grill was led them 10 minutes. Someone told me that management changed and they hide the staple foods like pasta, fries so that they can pay extra to the waiters for items you need. The al a carte restaurants were just o.k. not great. When I came back on the way to the airport some people were telling me that they had not 1 but 3 different pasta, fries was always there, burgers, etc.. I felt we got stuck with a really bad hotel manager who is skimming off our food which we paid for in our hotel fee. It was so bad the food that I fed the wild cats with their meat etc,,, and sometimes they would enven go near it
My suggestion is if you are there for the amazing view , and don't mind waiters etc.igoring you or giving you bad looks, if you don't tip, and can survive of a substandard food shortage.... famine than you will love this beach
We just returned yesterday from the Golden Tulip. We have been to Cuba four times, to various locations. Overall, if your expectations are in check, this resort is great! Go with the mindset of enjoying the sun, and remember you didn't pay for the Hilton, and you will have a great time!
The Pools and the Beach: Beautiful beach, an abundance of beach chairs at the beach, great pools (some are missing tiles on the floor but how can that change your experience??), an abundance of chairs at the pool, a number of options for pools (four main pools). This was one of the main features of the resort. Also, the number of shells that wash up are incredible, and next to no seaweed. Dolphins can be seen swimming in the ocean.
Infrastructure: Most things were quite well maintained, nothing really falling apart etc . There was the typical Cuban experience: shuffleboard court but no discs, giant outdoor chess but no pieces, kayaks chained up but not in the water because "the manager isn't here" (note: they have flags showing the water conditions and availability of the kayaks and boats, but the flags were non-existent) etc. There were tennis courts that were functioning, but the basketball court was not functioning (it was being used as a soccer pitch). It looked like the indoor gym had a number of machines and weights, which appeared in good working order. So, overall, it was pretty good.
The food: Not very diverse, and always a surprise. The main buffet had a variety of items, many of which were repeated a number of times in the same buffet line. Fish/seafood and rice were the staples, along with some pork items. At dinner time they also offered chicken and fish. There was almost always a "meat" line (i.e. the egg line at breakfast became a chicken or beef line at dinner time), as well as a "fish" line where they would cook items to your preference. I think, on average, the wait in the lines would be close to 30 minutes. Brussel Sprouts were offered for both breakfast and dinner! One day they ran out of eggs for the omlette station. Some times they ran out of bread for sandwiches (which is the main item at the 24hr grill). However, it seems they innovated wherever possible, and tried to offer an alternative. However, I think the resort is very dependent upon Venezuela for food items, and thus (due to Venezuela's political problems) there isn't much coming to Cuba. The beach grill -keep our expectations in check, as it isn't a "grill" in the conventional sense.
They serve drinks, pizza (if you wait 45 to 60 minutes, and if they happen to have the ingredients that day), and on one day they had burgers and fries. But, it was mostly grilled sandwiches, which varied from one to three options (whatever ingredients they had on hand that day) . Overall, even for "Cuban resort standards" I would consider the food as below-average. If you have picky kids, bring snacks! Maybe bring salad dressing, peanut butter, ketchup, hot sauce etc, Those things were not available, only mustard and oil/vinegar dressing.
Cleanliness: We didn't notice any hygienic issues at the main bar, the 24hr grill, or our rooms. Our rooms were cleaned daily, although there was not actual approximate time the room would be cleaned. One time they came to clean at 4pm...which is kind of late! Towels would be made into decorations, mini-fridge would be restocked daily (separate person, who would knock on your door to stock). In particular, the bathroom in the main lobby was very, very clean, as was the bathroom by the 24hr grill. It looked like there was a person dedicated exclusively to cleaning those rooms. So, that was all good.
Other: Staff -found them to be friendly and helpful. They offered rides in the golf carts around the resort, they obliged with a ladder to get my son's ball off of a roof, they remembered your previous drink order etc. The staff appreciated tips but didn't actively solicit tips. We do think, however, one of the maids or somebody with a room key was eating our snacks (yes, not joking!) Yep, mosquitos or "no-see-ums" are at the resort. Simple solution: bring bug spray, and anti-itch medication. It worked for my wife who is quite prone to bug bites. Towels and toilet paper: There didn't seem to be a lack of these items, which was an issue at a different resort we stayed at. I did notice people waiting around at the towel station for what appeared to be a fruitless exercise in exchanging towels. Solution: Bring camping towels. The items that made our vacation quite good included: snacks (to supplement the limited buffet), camping towels (to remove anxiety about having a dry towel b/c they dry quite quickly), bug spray/anti-itch cream, and insulated mugs (less refills a the bar).
This resort has the infrastructure of a 5 star resort. Given the food issue (which I don't believe can be controlled by the actual resort) I would rate it as a true 3 star. Keep your expectations in check, and travel with friends and you will have a very memorable time!
We would return, but bulk up on the snacks!
This is the first resort I have been together they don't serve pasta, fries, hot dogs, and burgers. If you are going with kids or you are a vegetarian/pescatarian it's a big no no. My kids survived on the 24 hour snack bar sandwiches,ice cream, cake, and pizza , which u have to wait in line at least 30min to an hour. We have been to many resorts in Cuba and the kids can at least eat hot dogs, burgers, fries, and pasta. Don't bring kids especially if they r picky eaters.
As for the rest of the food. It was the same old stuff over and over again. I was hoping they have a variety of fish dishes here but no. I did eat grilled wild cought salmon once, grouper, but all the other days it was cod or whiting. They did have muscles one day but was not into that. All their soups were salty. It was like eating soup made with ocean water. They had fresh cooked eggs at breakfast, Line up was 30 min. dinner they had fresh cooked fish , line up was 15 min. Fresh cooked meat. Line up was 30min. They did have amazing Spanish flan, and their deserts were made very well , not too sweet , just perfect.
As an adult you can probably get by with the food they have in the buffet. Booking the al a cart restaurants was not easy . It was pre booked , probably because people got sick of the same old thing in the buffet.
Friendly staff all around the resort. No beach peddlars like Dominican republic , jamaica, mexico. The beach is the best. But it was a bit rough to swim, the winter in cuba is like that. You get 2 or 3 calm ocean days out of seven.
Entertainment was good, the gym was good, and the resort is only 5 years old which looks beautiful all around.
WiFi is available throughout the resort. I was able to Skype with my friends and family even all the way up to the beach. They loved the view as well from their phone. U get 7 free hours adult.
If the food had more of a selection and tasted better it would easily be the best resort we visited in Cuba. But because the food was horrible I would give it a 3.
So if u are going with picky eater kids , be warned they do not have the basic fries burger, hot dog , and pasta kid diet.
This was our second time at the beautiful Cayo Santa Maria hotel, the Golden Tulip, formerly the Eurostar. We have been to many 4 stars resorts in the area and none treated us as good as the Golden Tulip. You get a lot of attention here in the off season from the staff. You get to know the staff and other travelers. Very few lineups for anything. Some days the service was better than others, depending on the number of guests. We wouldn't want to be at this big complex during the peak season.
The beds are comfortable, the rooms spotless. They seem to have an honest, caring and polite staff. Our room maid always put together some towel art displays. They have free safes in each room, entertainment nightly, and a mini-shuttle service that takes you to different parts of the resort. The lobby bar staff was very attentive. Andy, our favorite waiter, was super attentive to our beverage needs. At times the waiters were extremely busy, other times they were more than eager to fetch you a new beverage. A lot of different coffees were also available. The bank at the hotel had similar rates to the one at the airport. Water and soda/beer were delivered free to our room each afternoon. Each day there was a BBQ lunch buffet at the Ranchon. Special thanks to Chef Vladimir for a great lunch selection. Rafael, captain for the Ranchon, did an excellent job keeping his staff and the Ranchon running smoothly. The gym is well appointed with great air conditioning. The hotel has a large sandy beach with many palapas.
Building 12 is an excellent location for the Kids Pool, the beautiful sandy beach, marina, towel service, beach pizza hut and beach bars and even the Main lobby bar and buffet.
The weather in mid June this year was excellent.
The Manager and his Staff are roaming about the property all the time. Mention your concerns to them.
A few things we didn't like:
1) the Snack Bar is bleak with terrible snack choices with disorganized and unhappy workers. Worst we've seen in the Cayo Santa Maria area!
2) The a la carte restaurants are usually a highlight of the hotel's culinary foods and theme decorations. We found these dining rooms to be bland just like some of the foods on their menu. Great service but mystery meals. Also a little extra cleaning in those rooms would be wonderful. Start by cleaning the windows/window ledges,etc. Our favourite meal selction was at the Italian.
3) A new practice at the Golden Tulip and many of the other Cayo Santa Maria hotels in the off season, seems to be an invitation to Cuban Nationals to join the tourists on weekends. On our 2 weekends it was a stressful event. So much so the staff was swamped and the tourists were left bewildered. A few of the nationals acted more like "invaders" than guests at a 4 star hotel. They were very rude, aggressive and wasteful. What a contrast to the polite hotel staff. If you are going to book an a la carte, the weekend is the best time to do it in order to avoid the stampede in the main dining room! In our other experiences when Cubans were guests at the tourist hotels, they were polite, happy, friendly and cordial. This wasn't the case at Cayo Santa Maria!
When we were there this June, more than half of the tourists at the Golden Tulip were from Britain.
Be sure to bring medicines that are not otherwise available in Cuba: calomine lotion, immodium, lomotil, sunscreen, Deet (for the Mossies as the British call them). Don't forget any prescription drugs that are a necessity. it is always recommend that travel insurance outside your home country is a smart idea.
On our departure, we booked the VIP service from our Sunwing rep. Well worth the price, especially if you are flying late in the day.
We hope to return in the near future.
I always make note that you have to have reasonable expectations when traveling to Cuba and if you understand the situation of the country then you should have a great time.We stayed here the week after March break for 6 days on a sunwing package. Fourth time to Cuba first time in Santa Maria. it was a last minute decision and I did minimal research but this resort came up in the top of my searches and at a decent price with at least 4.5stars.
FOOD- My families main complaint is always food as my children are not adventurous eaters, my husband will eat any kind of meat and I always manage to find something to get by. We ate as well as we did in Dominican last year which was suprising however everyone says they trade the 1.5hr bus ride from the airport for better food and I would agree that for some reason the food is better than varadero, keeping in mind you don't go to Cuba for food you go for the people and beaches. They had donuts, omelets, "Cuban fruit loops", fruit, toast with jam,PB, honey, meats, yogurt etc. It's mainly imported from Spain and it tastes different but it was fine and a lot of selection. If you went at the end of breakfast time was there less choice yes but I don't think thats unique to Cuba. We only found out on the last day that we were always entering through the side door not the main doors and that there was a whole other side of the restaurant with more seating and food choices. We ate lunch mainly at the beach buffet which had a lot of choices, bbq hot dogs, hamburgers(sometimes), chicken, pork etc. Salads, pasta, French fries 3/4 of the time, rice, soup, and most notably the desserts were much better especially the brownies. The snack bar which was open 24hrs was menu service which had only some items, kids had a delicious chicken sandwich on first day which we could never find again, pizza only 2 days and a buffet lunch on the other days during lunch time. At all the buffets they were quick to replace empty food and didn't really have any issues. French fries at the snack bar always which made kids happy, but prefer the consistency of beach buffet. The food was repetitive with some variations but I don't know what people expect here. They have an elaborate drink menu for adults and kids which was nice as in past I have never had one in Cuba, as always cappuccinos always delicious. We did not take advantage of a la carte but you are guaranteed 2 of the 3 and they always seemed open and lines weren't that long.
ROOM- we were in building 19 3rd floor and we paid for gardenview but got a room with garden, pool, ocean view, we had three beds for the four of us, bathroom was nice, great water pressure, flat screen TV, with several English channels, lots of space, great mini fridge where the same friendly staff came each evening asking what we would like in our fridge. You could brush your teeth with the water, lots of storage.
BEACH/POOL/ENTERTAINMENT- beaches gorgeous, working to rebuild shade canopies but we make one out of extra chairs, lots of space, bar waiter on beach, water sports available and great snorkeling in some parts. 2 pools one with kids pools with water features and the second main pool had 3 levels shallow areas nice for kids with swim up bar for us, great lounge chairs with canopies we usually only see in vip areas. Towels always available and u can trade as often as you like. The animation team had scheduled events but not all day long, not aggressively grabbing you out of your lawn chair and no blasting music all day long was very peaceful and opposite of every other Cuba experience. We played tennis and borrowed raquets which you get for the whole day and find in the gym. Should note that there were a lot of families especially those with young children and babies, other families without but this was a very tame group of resort guests, not at all a party resort. They had mini disco for kids, shows in evening (dance,magic etc), only saw a couple which were decent but I have seen better. Nice lobby bar area. Wifi in lobby, buy a card from the office $1/1hr my husband had to check workemails and it took a long time to load the weeks worth of them but the next day no problem so it is unreliable as they said. Bank at resort similar usd exchange rate.
Misc. This island hosts 16 resorts, doctor office and 3 markets, water sports dock that's it, nobody lives here. It's a distance to do tours but they offered a
handful. You can take the bus to markets for $2 cuc each way or a cab for about $5 cuc (ask the driver when u get in) we did not make it off resort but
people spoke about the pizza shop and bowling alley which is a nice break from beaches. On our last day we got to pay $10/hr to keep our room later since our bus pick up was 5:30pm and they don't offer unless u ask and only if someone isn't waiting for your room. They let you keep your towels and offer a shower room. The airport is small and offers limited food choices I recommend bringing some snacks from home if u have late flight as we did with resort pick up at 5:30 for flight at 10:30pm and purchase a wifi card at resort you can use in airport as I don't know if u
can purchase them at airport. Great family resort experience!