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Reviewed 22 April 2018

Now, this resort is NOT the best one in Cuba, but it's NOT the worst.

Room: 4 stars
Clean but have LOTS of moths flying in the hallways at night so keep your door shut. Cleaning twice a Day, very nice.

Beach: 5 stars
Nice one. Just stay on the right side; it has rocks on the other side and like 3 on the right so stay on the right.

Food: 4.9 stars
Nice food and service. People ACTUALLY cock there!

Overall it was a nice hotel!!!

  • Stayed: May 2017, travelled with family
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank Maxim V
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
WCSM-Management, Director Comercial at LABRANDA Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this reviewResponded 23 April 2018

Dear,

We are very pleased to receive your comment through the traveler community of TripAdvisor, our team gives special attention to all the opinions issued by customers from all sources of opinion, as it is a fundamental element in the continuous improvement of our services.

We offer our sincerest thanks, we hope to see you again in future vacations.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 April 2018

As a group of 5 colleagues, our visit to Hotel Lagunas del Este (Lagunas) between April 13 and 20, 2018 was our 4th group trip to Cuba (my own 9th, the 20th for our most frequent visitor and 2nd for the least). We picked Lagunas for the great price and were not disappointed with our experience. We noticed from prior reviews that the resort seems to operate at low capacity despite good reviews. To our delight, we discovered that Lagunas is a great resort that has suffered, based on what we heard, from some unfortunate branding experiences.

Resort

The resort itself is in very good condition, having been completed around May 2015. Based on its condition, it rates a 4-4.5* rating. Of note, the resort seems to have recovered almost completely from Hurriance Irma, with no visible damage. The photos you see posted accurately show the condition of Lagunas.

Our rooms were as seen in posted photos and, quite frankly, were the best that I have seen in any of my Cuba trips. The bed was comfortable, the fridge was stocked daily (beer, water, pop), there was plenty of hot water and a functioning (broad) shower head and a very large shower stall. The rooms were clean and did not have a mildewy smell, which sometimes happens in Cuba. The air conditioning worked well in each of our rooms.

The lobbies were attractive with a great deal of open space. The grounds were attractive and colourful. (When I looked at the photos, I thought the pathways looked like bare dirt given their colour. In fact, the pathways are earth-coloured stone.)

Beach

The beach is beautiful. We recommend using the beach at the west side entrance of the long and wide beach. Each of the three entrances has a bar nearby, but the west side beach also has a snack bar and bathrooms, making it a complete destination for the day.

The snack bar is excellent, and we fully concur with the great reviews of the food served there. The grilled fish and pork are exceptional. I've never had pork so tender and tasty.

The staff are very friendly and make for a fun day day at the beach.

There are rocks along portions of the water line but those can be easily skirted to get to the rock-free water on the west side. Water shoes are not required in this area, though there are small shells or pieces of coral on the beach itself. The other two beach areas have rocks in the water, so water shoes are advisable but not required.

Due to the winds, the current was moving on most days, which stirred up sediment and reduced visibility in the water, which further impeded any attempts to snorkel. However, on the last day, the water was still enough to be clear, and we could watch some fish around the rock formation at the middle portion of the beach.

There is little if anything in the way of snorkling around the beach, so if you don't want to pack flippers and snorkel, you won't miss much. The water is clear (unless the current stirs up too much sand) and beautiful, which makes it great for swimming but it is "sterile" as far as snorkeling is concerned. The drop-off from the beach is not steep but neither is it a shallow depth beach.

There is a nautical centre shared with the next resort, though it is a 5-minute walk to get there. We went on 2 hobie cat trips and 1 paddle boat trip. The staff were great.

We spent our days at the beach. There are plenty of coverings, and with the snack bar, bar and washrooms so close, there was no need to leave. Nor was there any concern about leaving towels or personal effects unattended.

I wish I was there now...

Food

Anyone who has been to Cuba knows to manage your expectations with the food. Lagunas is no exception. That said, we enjoyed the Italian and Fusion a la cartes in particular, and the resort snack bar pizzas (not the beach snack bar). The Italian had enough variety to please different tastes, and the pasta was among the best we have experienced in Cuba.

If you like fish, as I do, then Fusion - a Cuban take on Japanese cuisine - is a definite must-try. The presentation was uniquely Cuban, making it a joy to behold Cuba put their own flair on the dishes.

l love to have fish when in Cuba, and had it at every a la carte (grilled salmon at Italian and Mediterranean) as well as the beach snack bar. My colleagues had the pasta or pork dishes. We came away happy from the a la carte meals.

The buffet was good for breakfast, with fresh omelettes the main attraction. We avoided the buffet otherwise due it is limited scope and concentrated on lunches at the beach or resort snack bar, which made great pizzas. The Hawaiian pizza with fresh pineapple was a personal favourite.

Social

First of all, the resort was indeed at, at most, 20% capacity, including Cuban families on vacation. The advantage of the low capacity was no waiting in line for food or drinks, and there was no problem getting a spot on the beach. In fact, the beach was barely at 25% capacity. Despite the low capacity, most if not all of the services were available as expected.

The nightly entertainment went on even with sparse attendance. We particularly enjoyed the lounge performers who went on before the night shows. The weekly rock band was the best (and loud!).

There was a disco on some nights, but it only lasted to 11:30 pm at the latest. If you are looking for a lively night life, this may not be the resort for you. Still, despite the low capacity, there were plenty of opportunities to socialize.

Why the Low Capacity?

As I said, we went to Lagunas wondering why the resorts talked about so few people being there. And why was such a nice resort rated 11 of 16 in Cayo Santa Maria (CSM)? If you are now wondering the same, here is what we learned: as we talked with staff and repeat visitors, two theories emerged to explain the situation.

First, the ratings were affected by a delay in fixing hurricane-related damage that affected CSM. That meant people were slower to return to Lagunas. If that is the case, you would not know from looking at Lagunas that there was any damage at all. For example, we were told that the resort not only restored but improved the beach size and rebuilt the west snack bar. If you are worried about storm damage, don't be. Nor did our rooms show signs of damage or leaks.

Second, and this comes from a person who visited Lagunas 11 times, is that the resort had an unfortunate incident during its first Christmas season. Apparently, it was at capacity during that first Christmas and could not handle the load. One day the water stopped working and was out for 3 days. Of course, that meant a rather unpleasant experience for all concerned. That experience resulted in reviews from which Lagunas has never recovered.

These two theories are the reason for the title of my review. A few unfortunate experiences have hindered the reputation of an otherwise lovely resort. We heard that Lagunas is going to be rebranded in the very near future but didn't catch the name. The resort deserves a second chance, as it has a great deal to offer. (I say that despite my self-interest in attending Lagunas while it is at low capacity, which made it so much easier to be served, and because the price is presumably low in order to attract new visitors.) That said, I hope they will be able to handle a larger capacity in the future.

If you are drawn to Lagunas by the price but wary of why it is at such low capacity, don't be, unless you prefer more fellow travellers around. The capacity also makes it attractive for single travellers, of which there were several, and whom we befriended. I am seriously considering returning for my next solo trip.

Pool

We didn't spend much time at the pool. However, the pools are clean, enjoyable and recommended if you prefer using the pool. The pools are relatively close to the rooms, the snack bar is near, and there is a pool bar.

Items to Note

The walkways are not well lit at night. A flashlight can be of benefit.

Pay attention when exchanging money on the resort. While this can be said of any resort, the resort was not consistent in giving receipts when exchanging money. One of us noticed a discrepancy after exchanging some funds and went back to the "banker" to address the issue. The banker refunded the discrepancy without question, but the incident alerted all of us to be careful that we are getting an accurate exchange.

The washrooms and our rooms had plenty of toilet paper. (If you have been to Cuba before, you know why I say this.) The public washrooms usually did not have soap.

The bars had what would be considered top-shelf liquor in other resorts, including Jameson's and Havanna Club 7 year old.

The top-shelf liquor combined with the low capacity, which made for easy access to the beach and pool, effectively meant that Lagunas had features that I would pay extra for at other resorts in the form of "privilege" or "club". In that sense, the current low capacity of Lagaunas has its advantages, because it is like getting privilege access for the regular price!

There is a small plaza down the beach, about a 20-minute walk to the east. There is a larger plaza down the road, Plaza Estrella, that is accessible by bus or taxi (10 minute ride). There are a number of restaurants and lots of souvenir shopping available there, including a cigar shop with an in-house roller.

The bus ride between the airport and resort is between 1.5-2 hours. There was an in-bus bathroom to the resort but not on the return trip. Check-in was quick.

The staff were friendly. Like any resort, the friendlier you are to them, the better the service.

There is an on-resort store, but it is very small, accommodating one or two people at a time. The selection at the resort and airport stores for liquor or cigars is somewhat limited if you are looking for souvenirs. You may want to visit Plaza Estrella for more variety.

Although the resort has a large footprint, travel did not feel onerous, especially given the pleasant ground-keeping.

Overall

Overall, we had a great time at Lagunas and are very happy that we chose this resort. While it deserves a better reputation, there are advantages to attending while it is still at low capacity (assuming their rebranding will be successfull). The resort is beautiful, the beach is great, and the staff are friendly. If we don't return, it is only because we enjoy trying different resorts. If the capacity continues as-is, I will likely return on a solo basis.

I am open to taking questions if you would like to post any.

Room Tip: The rooms by the pool are nosiest. Many buildings are not even occupied. 3 & are well-situated to the west beach and main resort.
  • Stayed: April 2018, travelled with friends
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
3  Thank notquitenicknolte
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
WCSM-Management, Director Comercial at LABRANDA Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this reviewResponded 23 April 2018

Dear,

First of all thank you very much for offering your opinion to the travel community of Tripadvisor, we are proud to know that your stay was so pleasant.

The description of all our services will help other customers choose us as the destination for their vacations.

We will convey to all the workers and departments involved the most sincere congratulations for such painstaking work, without doubt the satisfaction of the customers who visit us is the main premise and the objective for which we work.

We hope we choose us as the destination for your next vacation. Best regards.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 April 2018 via mobile

We visited Cuba for the first time. After a 1.5 hour bus ride, which felt like 20 minutes due to the knowledgable host and beers available for purchase. We were the only ones dropped off at this resort. Apparently at this time, this resort was not getting the promotion it so well deserves after the recent hurricane. It was a quiet occupancy at the time when we were there, but that wasn't an issue. The staff was so fantastic to us! They all were always so happy and excited to see us and make sure we were having the best experience!
We were lucky to be situated in building 9 with our balcony over looking the main pool and entertainment with a side view of the ocean. Our housekeeper Giselle was the best! Always left us welcoming, cute notes and towel decorations which made us feel at home. Our room was always spotless!!
For breakfast, we enjoyed fried eggs or omelettes cooked right in front of us !
At the pool, the bartenders Luis and Michel, treated us and all like gold! Our drinks were never empty. They even walked around the pool side to personally bring drinks to patrons.
For lunch you must visit the beach bar and get a chicken sandwich from Miguel. Kept us going for the day! Also bartender Armando had a refill for you before you were even done your beverage ! So much fun at the beach !!
When you have dinner at the buffet, go see Alexander at the pasta station. He cooks right in front of you and makes a show out of it!
The lobby bar, Mario was always attentive, always making sure my wine was full as I watched fantastic entertainment!!
Also, don't forget about the snack bar!!! It's open 24 hours for food and booze!! Yasser played all my favourite music for me! And Hoyt and chef Lenier (sp) loved talking about soccer with me!
I didn't get all the names from the very helpful staff at the front desk, coffee bar, beach side or buffet, but every member of this staff was truly amazing and I thank them all for making this my favourite trip!! (Sorry if I misspelled any names)

Stayed: April 2018, travelled as a couple
1  Thank annamp77
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
WCSM-Management, Director of Sales at LABRANDA Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this reviewResponded 21 April 2018

Dear Anna

First of all thank you very much for offering your opinion to the travel community of Tripadvisor, we are proud to know that your stay was so pleasant. The description of all our services will help other customers choose us as the destination for their vacations. We will convey to all the workers and departments involved the most sincere congratulations for such painstaking work, without doubt the satisfaction of the customers who visit us is the main premise and the objective for which we work. We hope we choose us as the destination for your next vacation.

Best regards.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 April 2018 via mobile

The resort is well laid out to maximize access to the beautiful wild beach.

Every morning there is opportunity to see lovely marine life. Conch shells, shorebirds and lovely stretches of sand.

The food choices were plentiful and we enjoyed the people. We needed a quiet rest and achieved that to recharge batteries.

Stayed: December 2017, travelled with family
1  Thank Kauniskodu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
WCSM-Management, Director of Sales at LABRANDA Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this reviewResponded 21 April 2018

Dear

First of all thank you very much for offering your opinion to the travel community of Tripadvisor, we are proud to know that your stay was so pleasant. The description of our services will help other customers choose us as the destination for their vacations. We will convey to all the workers and departments involved the most sincere congratulations for such painstaking work, without doubt the satisfaction of the customers who visit us is the main premise and the objective for which we work. We hope we choose us as the destination for your next vacation.

Best regards.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 April 2018

What is there to say about this resort other than amazing!
This was my second time. I stayed from April 7th – 14th. It was even more amazing than last time. I understand that the hotel is going throw a change in ownership and it a bit slower right now I do hope it pics up as this place is my heaven on earth.
ROOMS:
I arrived at the resort in the afternoon and had a quick check in. I was helped to my room and with my bags. My room was on the second floor with a king bed. I was put in building 8 close the pool witch I loved. The room was very clean and tidy. My maid was amazing did a quick efficient job and would write nice notes. Julio who filled the fridge with beer and water was amazing. Always friendly greeting with a smile. Always made sure I had what I needed. He was defiantly the best!!
BEACH:
Last year when I was here there was a bit of rocks to the beach. After the hurricane it seems most of the rocks are all gone. I did not have to use water shoes. They have a a lot of nice spots with shade and the guys working on the beach are very helpful with carrying anything you need and running for drunks. The only down side I found was there was no washroom on or near the beach. You had to walk back to the pool (3 min walk)
POOL BAR:
Well I am a pool person and the pool bar is where it is at!! Luis & Edwardo both work at the pool bar and are the absolute best!! Even though when I was there the swim up part was closed they still came down to make sure you had everything you needed. Not to mention there drink making skill are stunning. There are both very friendly and really made my stay that much better. A lot of the reason I came back to this resort a second time was because of them. They truly are the best.
BUFFET:
I know people say you don’t come to Cuba for the food, but honestly I thought it was all very good. The fried rice and pasta was my favour! I feel bad as I don’t remember all of the staff’s names but everyone form the kitchen staff to the waiters where so amazing and very accommodating for anything we needed.
NIGHT LIFE:
In the evenings there was a show just about every night. Form a rock band to classic dancing. All wonderful shows. They also had a DJ in the down stairs bar for a mini disco. They even had a hose band a few night at the bar. Very entreating.
SNACK SHACK:
It is 24 hours and has a nice bar. I would go in the afternoons for lunch and normally have a hot dog and chips. At night after the show I would come to the bar and hang out. They sometime had music videos playing on the tv or if you had a speaker the would let you play your own music. Some of the workers would even play there music witch was very nice. My bartender Hoyt (I’m so sorry I know I’m spelling it wrong) was very friendly and a really go singer. Addel (Puma) the cook made the best food!! He was very friendly and was super funny. I was alone most of the time so I would go sit with them and chat. Never felt lonely or let out.
OVER ALL:
I’m in love with this resort and all of the staff. I feel right at home here. I am defiantly returning and brining more friends!
Also I forgot to mention Yaslet who works in the main lobby. She is the sweetest person you will ever meet. Make sure you say hello to her!!!

  • Stayed: April 2018, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Service
1  Thank Haley B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
WCSM-Management, Director of Sales at LABRANDA Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this reviewResponded 19 April 2018

Dear Haley

First of all thank you very much for offering your opinion to the travel community of Tripadvisor, we are proud to know that your stay was so pleasant. The description of all our services will help other customers choose us as the destination for their vacations. We will convey to all the workers and departments involved the most sincere congratulations for such painstaking work, without doubt the satisfaction of the customers who visit us is the main premise and the objective for which we work. We hope we choose us as the destination for your next vacation.

Best regards.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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