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Sol Cayo Largo
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Reviewed 24 April 2012

April 6 to April 20, 2012. Fourth visit to Cayo Largo, second stay at the Sol Cayo Largo. This is the first time we have stayed for 2 weeks and it was overall another wonderful vacation.

To be honest we are unable to be completely objective in our assessment. We are total Cayo Largo converts. We have worked out all of the kinks and know what to expect when we come here. We have seen some negative reviews from first timers, and some of their comments are warranted when compared to non Cuban resorts. The SCL is our resort of choice and we plan on returning in October. We do take notes and here are a few.

BEACH: Fascinating to track the size of the beaches from day-to-day. The first week of our stay, the beach directly in front of the beach bar was at least 100 feet wide and very deep, concealing the reef rocks. To the west past the nude section the beach was huge, with large clear tidal pools interspersed. We walked all the way east to the Playa Blanca and were amazed to see the transition. When we stayed there 3yrs ago the beach was quite large, with plenty of palapas and deep sand. Now the beach is virtually nonexistent‚ maybe 10 feet to the surf if that.

Week two, a big wind storm pounded the beaches relentlessly for 3 days and completely transformed it. Half the palapas were knocked down and we lost about 80% of the sand. And then there was FOAM! Apparently there was some sort of algae bloom in the ocean, combined with the high wind this produced knee deep foam, which blanketed the entire shoreline. The Cubans had never seen this before in 25 years and we heard they brought in experts from Havana to suss it out. First time guests who were there for that week were quite upset as they had heard so much about the pristine beaches. Amazingly on our last day the surf and beaches were back to normal.

We were always parked in the "naturist" section and we never had any trouble getting a palapas and loungers, even after the storm when there were fewer to be had.

Food: We found the buffet to be excellent. Who knew the Cubans could make an awesome lasagna! Standouts: amazing cheese, ice cream, eggplant ratatouille, breads and conducts. The A-La cartes again were disappointing.
Drinks: Excellent Mohitos and Cappucinos at the lobby bar, mmmm!

Room(S): We had requested a quiet second floor room near the west end. We were given room 2924, which was excellent, with a partial ocean view. Day 5 we had no hot water and had to move rooms. We were a little miffed but our new room was even better 3422. At the far west, very quiet and a newer quieter AC unit was appreciated. A complimentary bottle of rum and a note of apology from the manager was delivered to us. However the roof did leak down one wall when we had a sudden downpour.

Maid: As per usual our room was made up every day without fail. Clean towels and sheets in abundance. My wife was ill one day and they couldn't make up the room‚ they did leave us towels though.

Waiters: We struck up a relationship with two great waiters in the buffet, (Nestor and Cesar) who took care of us expertly, always seating us right away and ready with our drinks.

Gym: We used the gym a few times. Very clean, open air concept. The equipment was all fairly new. The bench press bar was really rusty, needs to be replaced. Some of the weights are oil coated to keep them from rusting, be aware, had to stop and wash my hands a few times.

Currency exchange: We always scoot to the Banco at the airport as soon as we arrive. They give you the up-to-date exchange rate and are meticulous in their accounting. A printed receipt is issued. To contrast, we saw people exchanging at the front desk, with no rates posted or even calculators seen to be used. Not sure how they arrived at the transaction, so be wary.

Tipping: A lot of reviewers have been complaining about the perceived inequities of service with regards to tipping. We expect and received excellent friendly service from virtually all the staff and we always tip accordingly. The fact that we do tip may have an influence on the attention we get, but we do not begrudge the few extra pesos, they work really hard and we budget for this.

Yes there are mosquitos, at dusk and dawn they are ravenous. Fogging is moderately effective for a short while but stay indoors while they are doing it, cough cough, and do not forget bring bug spray. Yes there are many cats, be nice to them, feed them discretely but not at the buffet.

We toured all the other resorts and are not sure why the SCL has dropped down to number two on TA. For us it is numero uno!!!

  • Stayed: April 2012, travelled with family
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10  Thank Hardesign
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
HGeneralManager, General Manager at Sol Cayo Largo, responded to this reviewResponded 19 August 2012

Dear Mrs,
We really appreciate your opinion that you have published on Trip Advisor. It is important to know your experiences to improve our work and services.We are pleased to know your positive opinion about our hotel and would like to thank you for your loyalty and we are happy to welcome back soon.

Best Regards
Thomas Lehnhooff
General Manager

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 April 2012

We had a two-night stay in all-inclusive land during our visit to Cuba, namely to Sol Cayo Largo.
First of all - if you're thinking of going to Cuba, don't just stay in Cayo Largo or Varadero. Visit at least Havana or Trinidad on a (two-)day-trip. Otherwise, what you're going to get will be pretty much indistinguishable from what similar resorts elsewhere offer. Except you get a Cuban band playing at dinner, and the local souvenir shops sell Che Guevara t-shirts, cigars and rum.

Now, regarding Sol Cayo Largo itself.

ROOM:
We thought the room was nice, bright and clean - in that context, the missing toilet seat/lid was a bit weird, although nothing we weren't used to from other places in Cuba. We probably could've complained and got a replacement, but we didn't bother because we weren't really bothered (but can see that it might irritate others).

SERVICE/STAFF:
Our room was ready way before check-in time, which was a pleasant surprise after a pretty short night.
That said, though, service at the reception was so-so. They seemed really focused on Italian tourists in particular, so chances of the reception staff understanding you were significantly better if you spoke Italian. English works but will take longer.
It was pretty pointless to ask for assistance regarding airport transfers for example - we had checked the official schedules at the usual blackboards, but our flight was missing from it. So we asked at reception, who simply refered us back to the schedules. Nobody offered to make any calls or check for us. (It should be pointed out that we had booked the flights ourselves, not as part of a flight/hotel package.)
Other staff friendliness varied - waiters and chefs at the buffet dinner were much better than the staff at lunchtime. Overall, staff seemed to have got very used to extremely generous tipping (generous not just by Cuban standards), and there was a perception that better-tipping patrons got preferential treatment. I always thought that this should work the other way round - if the service is good, you get a tip.
We rented bicycles to get around the place a bit (which was free). We found them to be way too small for us, with their brakes being less than reliable. Not great.

FOOD:
Breakfast buffet was plenty, although I found it a bit hard to find something resembling a well-rounded meal. Sausages, tortillas, sprouts and danishes?
The lunch buffet was pretty drab. Definitely had a feel of cattle being hoarded towards the trough.
Dinner was a lot better, mostly because there were some "live cooking" options, with fresh pasta and pizza made to order. Regarding the pasta - if you're vegetarian, you shouldn't be squeamish, as your sauce (with ingredients you get to choose) will be cooked up in the same pan as the sauce for the guy before you, who might have gone for meatlover's delight, so a little dice of ham may find its way into your sauce as well. Other than that, it's a standard-fare buffet with the usual problems that come with it. Less-popular options end up being very dry indeed thanks to being kept hot for hours, and while there's a lot of choice, there aren't any real dishes with the sauce really matching the meat etc.
There's also an à la carte restaurant, but that requires reservation and we were too late for that both days.

DRINKS:
Pretty much every drink (with the exception of some top-shelf whiskies and gins) was included. The mojito was decent, the daiquiri much less so. There are also marked differences in drink quality between the different bars at Sol Cayo Largo, so there's no harm trying around a bit.

BEACH:
Very fine sand, although there was also a good amount of seeweed. Towards the West, there's Cuba's only official nudist beach (although we saw nudists at other beaches further East as well), and a bit further even, the beach gets really empty and also a bit rockier. Don't expect any natural shades.
All-in-all okay, but I have to admit I'm not one for roasting in the sun for hours.

EXCURSIONS:
We did a half-day catamaran excursion, which was decent. It visits exactly the same places as the full-day excursion, but doesn't include the lobster dinner (although we got a nice lunchtime lobster on the boat for an extra 10CUC). The catamaran was small, which was nice given the crowds we usually encountered in the restaurants or on the main beaches. The iguana colony was funny to visit in a twisted sense, as it was basically crowded with tourists trying to take snaps of the animals. Definitely felt like a really touristy place to visit, rather than - as purported - a kind of iguana breeding station.
Snorkeling was okay, although I was fighting with the one-size-fits-all goggles. If you have your own, it probably won't hurt bringing them.


Overall, it's a decent all-inclusive place I guess. Having said that - we were happy to return to the "real" Cuba afterwards, unfriendly public toilet staff, old Ladas, and all.

Room Tip: * Don't choose a room too close to the pool if you want to avoid the noise of mid-day animation
  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank anfromme
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 April 2012

Like many visitors of this resort one tends to return to this wonderful geography! Beaches for miles, sun and all inclusive with nightly local shows. This is not Varadero, this is not American style. Don't go if you need to be entertained at any given time of day! Peace and quiet is the game here.I have returned 03/2012, was there in 05 and 06. The place had not changed, The landscaping had totally grown trees and lots of bougainvillea. Massages for $25, and a section of the beach is "au natural". Remember you are visiting a Spanish speaking country with well integrated multi racial population (Most beautiful people) You will feel more like in Europe food wise with a Spanish station at the buffet, there was Canadian turkey night as well! Multi culturalism abound, you can try speaking spanish, italian and Quebec french!
Now the room: Spacious, room 1921 A/C would growl sporadically, ceiling fan did not work, the place is 12 years old and needs mechanical update, You must understand Cuban economics, they don't have access to replacement parts like we do. So, if something is broken, well magnana...
Otherwise I would give 4 Cuban stars to this resort. This is beach lover land...

Room Tip: Rooms around the pool would listen to music and activity. Some rooms face away from the pool they are more private. At check in inspect A/C and fan. If they don't function properly ask to be moved immediately!
  • Stayed: April 2012, travelled as a couple
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7  Thank ross086
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 April 2012

We have just arrived home from Cuba. We spent about two weeks in Sol Cayo Largo. This was our first time in Cuba and it is the first country I don’t want to visit again. I can’t say that everything was awful. No, there were some good things…Sun, nature, guests, dinner and breakfast, a swimming pool, ice-cream, fitness centre...

As for the bad sides...

The beach

During our staying there were 3 days when the sea was calm and clean. We even saw THE BEACH those days. The rest of the time the wind was so strong and the waves were so high that nobody went to the beach. We hoped that we could swim on Playa Sirena but it wasn’t as clear and calm as all the photos showed. Even there the water was very dirty and cold, very cold. Once my husband decided to swim… It took him two minutes)) He was frozen immediately. So, all the people spent the days at the swimming pool. But when the weather had changed the sea calmed down and for 3 days it was was very clear. We preferred to stay at the hotel beach. It was OK. The resort provides lots of beach chairs. You can find free chair even in the afternoon. May be if the weather were better my emotions would be better too. MAY BE!

The resort territory

It's quite big but absolutely scrubby. There is a pond. It's so dirty and stinking. You have to hold the nose while passing. The water is brown in it.

The food

I was very disappointed when I came to the restaurant to have lunch. Depend on your food likings you can find it good or bad. As for me I respect myself and I don’t understand why the lunch was so poor. Defrosted vegetables, rice, legumes and meat. The dinners were much better. The choice of food was really good but is it a good for people’s health to serve such hearty dinner and poor lunch? The only decent a la carte is Fish A La Carte. The rest are awful. A sort of roadside snack bar. We went to the Italian and regretted that missed an excellent dinner in the buffet.

The staff

Not bad. But they always wait you to give them money. They don’t want to work without your dotation. For example, when we arrived the towels in our bathroom were vary old, brown and torn. After we gave a CUC to the maid she replaced them with the clean and white ones. You have to wait until someone serves you water or wine in the buffet too.
But the worst thing in the hotel is stealing. There were stolen two things from our room. First, my jacket. It was the only warm thing I had there. The evenings were quite windy and I used to wear it every evening. Once I didn’t find it in my room. I went to the receptionist. She told me they would look for it. But of course they didn’t find it. I was very sad but didn’t want to blame the maid. I preferred not to spoil the rest of the holiday. After 3 days I found out that my earrings weren’t in the room. There is a man in the hotel who tends to help guests to solve some problems. He speaks different languages and knows everything and everyone in the hotel. My husband asked him for help. He called for a Security man. We showed him the earrings photo and wait in the lobby until they were talking to the maid. Then we went to the room and found the lost earrings. They were put stealthily while we were waiting in the lobby. The next day my husband asked the staff man to get back my jacket in the same way. But he said it was too late and the jacket wasn’t in the hotel. I was amazed their impudence. I had to hide my clothes in the suitcases till the end of my holiday.

Well, I think it’s the most important information I have to inform you.

I do not want to dissuade you from going to Sol Cayo Largo. I just want to let you know that the sea could be awful, the food isn’t as good as it could be and that it would be good for you to hide the things and clothes you don’t want to be stolen.

If you have already bought the tour trip to the hotel I wish you a good journey and really hope you won't be faced with such unpleasant situations as we did. Goodluck!

  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled as a couple
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18  Thank MrsMalena
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 March 2012

We stayed at Sol Cayo Largo from March 16 to 23, 2012. It was a disappointment comparing to our stay there four years ago and last year’s stay at Sol Pelicano. Firstly, the resort is definitely not worth the price that is being charged. It might look nice on the outside but the rooms show serious neglect. The lock on the balcony door did not work properly, also the door was very difficult to slide. I had to use a considerable force to move it just a crack, but considering that the lock did not work this was probably an advantage. However, there are worse things than the door. Both I and my husband were sick from the food. I was sick twice and still suffer from the effects of food poisoning. The first time we were not sure of the source but the second time we figured it out. It was the undercooked meat from the beach side barbeque. I suspect that it was the same the first time. Do not eat anything from the barbeque, there is usually a lineup and the cook is probably rushing and not cooking the meat long enough. In both cases it was the chicken. Also be careful with meat from the grill in the main buffet. On two occasions the chicken and hamburger that I ordered were partially raw. Do not rely on the cook, make sure that you are comfortable with the amount of time the meat is being grilled or barbequed. We found that we were not the only ones that were sick, on the departure day we have spoken to a number of people from the same flight, out of approximately 14 people, at least 6 were sick at some point.

Another problem at this resort is the number of cats roaming freely the restaurants and buffet area and begging for food. Normally, I am a cat lover and have one at home but this was totally inappropriate. Because of the open concept, the buffet and especially the beach restaurant are infested with flies. It is really disgusting as flies are on every platter with meat, bread, fruit and dessert. Initially they cover the dishes with saran wrap but it is impossible to keep it on all the time and eventually the dishes stay open. In the evening it is impossible to eat your dinner without being constantly bitten by bugs, it is extremely annoying as the bites are very itchy. The service is another thing, unless you tip the staff in advance, you are mostly ignored. We resorted to getting our drinks ourselves from the machine. In conclusion, I do not recommend this resort, and if you decide to go, be very, very careful what you eat.

Room Tip: First floor rooms are more comfortable in terms of temperature. There is no insulation from the roof, so the top floor rooms are stifling hot.
  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled with family
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10  Thank Lucyna S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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