An honest review of the Iberostar Laguna Azul:
Rooms: The location of our room was horrible, we were in block 15 on the 3rd floor right next to the main lobby, so we had tons of foot traffic always outside our front door. We were right next to elevators so at night when trying to sleep we always heard drunk people yelling and running. On our second day we asked to be moved, but were told the resort was overbooked and there were no rooms available. To fix this problem we slept with earplugs every night. In terms of the actual room, it was very nice, large and spacious…and VERY clean. Our maid was awesome, always left extra towels, flowers and towel art. The room was cleaned spotless every day. On our first day we left her ten dollars, and then every day after that we left her gifts we brought down, she was very appreciative. In all, the rooms are great. If you want an ocean view room make sure you are on the 3rd floor or above.
Beach/Pool: Gorgeous. The beach was stunning, crystal clear blue waters, smooth sand. You can rent paddleboats or kayaks for free which is a lot of fun. Bring your own mask and snorkel ( so you don’t have to pay to rent) and jump off the paddleboat in the middle of the ocean to see some super cool colourful fish. The pool was awesome, huge and nice water temperature. There was always a place to sit at both the pool and beach; however there was not always a place in the shade.
Staff: All great and very helpful. Cubans are truly some of the nicest people I have met, they work extremely hard to ensure you have the best trip possible. One day I was feeling sick and at lunch time only wanted a banana but they did not have any, so one of the chefs went into the back and brought me a bunch of them. So kind. Onay working in the Cuban restaurant was amazing. We had an issue with our sliding door one day and a mechanical staff arrived at our room within 15 minutes of notifying front desk. We ended up having a great conversation with him about life in Cuba, which made me realize truly how hard these people work every single day. These are some of the most genuine people around.
Entertainment: We only saw 2 shows, the magic show and the Cuban show. They were very good. Don’t miss the magic show. Keep in mind smoking is allowed almost everywhere except for in the buffet area, so if you are sitting in the theatre, main lounge or bar for a drink you are constantly surrounded by smoke. If you are not a smoker this is really gross. If you are a smoker, please don’t exhale your smoke directly into the people sitting next to you.
Food: I got sick on this trip from the food, which is the only reason I haven’t given the resort 5 stars. This was the only problem I had with this trip. It is more of a country wide resort problem however, as you can’t avoid the bad food in Cuba. I got sick right after the sushi dinner, and unfortunately remained sick until after I got home. I have travelled all over South and Latin America and did not get sick there, so it was curious I got sick here. I also took Dukorol. Anyway the a la carts were decent, tex mex was good, Cuban (we got lobster) was good but very small portion, and sushi was disgusting. If you are a true sushi lover you are going to be so disappointed. I literally got sick 2 hours after eating the sushi, so did my boyfriend. Terrible. In terms of the buffet though, there was always something to eat, however there is absolutely no taste in anything, and some of the foods were not edible—you couldn’t even tell what it was. You could eat a chocolate pastry and a beef dish and they would taste exactly the same. No flavour at all, no seasonings, which was a disappointment. Almost all of there vegetables are canned. Now I did not go to Cuba expecting good food, I did however, believe there would be more options of things I would eat. I had brought my own seasonings with me, but ended up giving them to one of the staff members before I had the chance to use them. Some of the choices that were good were their thin crust pizza, some pasta, bread selection, and grilled chicken and fish. The people on this site who say that the food was outstanding must literally be able to eat anything—from what I saw at this resort most people barely had anything on their plates, and most people talk about the poor quality of the food. I am not picky and found it hard to find food options here that tasted and looked good. Fruit was good. Room service meals were terrible, don’t even bother with room service as nothing is cooked when you get it and the food looks as if it’s been mangled about. I have stayed at several other Iberostar resorts and the food has always been outstanding. If only the food in Cuba could be comparable to other Caribbean destinations such as Jamaica or Barbados, more people would visit—this was literally the only thing that makes me question if I will go back. One week with food that is not good and makes you sick is not fun. I understand it is hard for them to get certain food products, but I ate at a restaurant in Matanzas city and the food was OUTSTANDING. So much flavour and great quality, so I know they have the capabilities to make good food. It’s the resorts that have crap food, Cuba itself has GREAT food.
Excursions: We went into Varadero on the hop on hop off bus. You may not want to do this, even though it’s cheap we had to stand the whole bus ride which should have taken 20 mins to get to; however you stop at every single stop there is so it ends up taking you 45 mins on a bus where they stuff everyone in like sardines. It was uncomfortable and didn’t seem that safe. In Varadero we ended up taking a coco taxi back to the hotel, something I recommend everyone do. It’s an awesome experience and cost only 10 CUC. If you don’t know what a coco taxi is, Google it. We wanted to do a tour of some kind and inquired with Judith of Transat Vacations, she told us our options, all of which were quite expensive and in a 40 person tour bus stopping at different hotels along the way. Right outside of the hotel there are a bunch of cab drivers waiting for customers, and we totally lucked out with a driver we used to go into Varadero one day to the flea market. His name is Alejandro and he said he would take us wherever we wanted, so we agreed on a tour of Matanzas City for 60$$ inclusive for the both of us, he brought us wherever we wanted, showed us some very cool sites, brought us to an amazing restaurant and stopped at a cool market. They are private drivers so they can go wherever you want. Transat vacations wanted $67 dollars per person for the same trip, and of course you go with 40 other people. I would HIGHLY recommend Alejandro; he was AMAZING. He is a university professor at a local university teaching industrial engineering, he spoke English almost perfect and this trip with him was the highlight for us. Such an incredible individual. If you want his contact info message me and I’ll be happy to give it to you. When Alejandro found out my boyfriend loves fishing he actually brought us to his house in Matanzas City and showed us pictures of different fish and sharks he has caught. This is the real way to see Cuba, not on a tour bus. Please do not stay in the resort the whole time, Cuba is VERY safe and there are so many beautiful things to see.
*Also note that the exchange rate at the hotel is not the greatest; you have the option of going into town to a bank and getting a much better rate, but you will wait in line forever. The hotel also has several shops to buy souvenirs here, go into Varadero-- everything is half price. For example, this resort sells key chains 2 for 1 CUC. In town it was 4 for 1 CUC. The hotel sells wooden cars for 10 CUC, in town they are 3CUC.
***Keep in mind this is a huge resort with over 800 rooms. I have been all over the Caribbean and never stayed at such a massive resort. When I went on this trip, February 24-March 3rd, the resort was completely full, which meant standing in line at the buffets for breakfast lunch and dinner, and waiting a while for drinks to be served. There were a few meals we had where no one ever asked if we wanted a drink. Kind of disappointing but I understand the staff was very busy. Also, while the staff do rely on tips to supplement their income, they also love receiving little gifts of things such as chocolate, toothbrushes, gently used clothing, soaps, etc. Don’t just think about the maids, they get everything. Divide any gifts you bring to others such as servers and even front desk staff. They are SO appreciative. Don’t forget about the door men and gardeners as well, very nice people who receive very little attention. We gave them packs of juicy fruit gum and they were so happy.
Overall this is an excellent resort, I would definitely return, however unfortunately since I got sick it makes me a bit hesitant.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on a beautiful stretch of Varadero's Beach. Approximately 160 km from Havana and 20 min. from downtown Varadero. 814 rooms allocated in different buildings, 24 are suites and 8 are for handicapped. Reception 24 hrs. open, currency exchange, internet 24 hrs. Buffet restaurant with show cooking and 4 a la carte restaurants and Ranchón near the beach. Lobby bar, Cigar bar, aqua-bar, and 2 snacks bars at the pool. Conference rooms, SPA, gym, and beauty salon, 2 tennis and paddle court. Ice cream saloon, animation theatre and disco. 5 outdoor swimming pools. Miniclub (4-12 years). ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Laguna Azul Hotel Varadero