This is pretty delayed but last week was super busy and sort of got away from me. I still have a lot of Cuba-related things to talk about, so here we go!
First I want to talk about our resort. I put a huge amount of research into where to stay in Varadero and TripAdvisor reviews are definitely helpful, but I would have loved to find a detailed blog post when I was looking for information. So, hopefully this helps someone if they are deciding between hotels in Varadero. When I was researching I found some horror stories about other hotels in the area: flooding, missing toilet seats, horrible food and sketchy food preparation in general, no hot water for a week, no towels — resorts in Cuba have come a long way but you still should do some research because sometimes standards are not what we’re used to. I can not picture those problems happening at our resort, our staff were amazing. They went above and beyond. We had two minor issues when we were there (the safe in our room needed a new battery and we lost our room key) and both were rectified immediately.
We stayed at the Starfish Cuatro Palmas and I notice there are a few negative reviews on TripAdvisor lately but we absolutely adored it.
It is a small boutique resort (only 280 rooms) on beautiful Varadero beach and also right downtown Varadero. I have found that I really prefer staying at a smaller resort over a mega resort. We got to know the staff, it was quick and easy to get around, and when we came back from adventuring off the resort it truly felt like coming home! It is by no means fancy, but it is clean and comfortable. The only things I could possibly complain about was that our bath towels were very small and the shower was sort of a weird setup so that if the door wasn’t in the right spot water would leak onto the floor. Other than that it was great, and I thought the best hotel we’ve stayed at so far in Cuba (previously we have stayed at the Iberostar Mojito in Cayo Coco and the Brisas Guardalavaca in Holguin). We actually liked this resort so much that we are thinking of going back there for our wedding (Dawn and Mark’s amazing Jamaican wedding sort of sold me on a destination).
I didn’t get a picture of our room, but we stayed in the Colonial building just off the main building, and it looked exactly like this.
Again with the two double beds. This always happens and we just push them together but sleep on one, no biggie. It was cute, the A/C worked well and it had no musty smell (that’s a plus). Our building definitely had a colonial feel to it.
Our balcony is on the second floor, the one closest to the middle with two beach towels.
We didn’t have an ocean view, we faced the street and I loved it!
We could sit and watch all the old cars drive by and see all the action that was happening. On the mornings I went for a run I stopped by the lobby bar and got us both coffees so we could sit with them on our balcony.
LOVED their coffee. It is so good.
We spent so little time in our room though, so onto the rest! I should quickly mention that if you book an economy room, those buildings are actually on a side street a block and a half away and not on the beach. I don’t think that would be a big deal to me, but I definitely would want to know that in advance.
The most important to me is the beach, and that was beautiful.
It wasn’t quite as beautiful as our beach in Cayo Coco last year but it was pretty close. And I should mention that you didn’t have to get there at 7am to get a chair in the shade, which is a big problem I have found at other resorts. We had no problem getting a palapa, and the beach staff is always there to help you if you can’t find one. We spent a lot of time on the beach. We wanted to swim in that delicious ocean every day!
You could also get the beach crew to take you to a reef for snorkeling off the resort in a little Hobie Cat for $20 CUC (as we did last year, and unlike last year the snorkeling wasn’t great off our beach, you’ll only see sand and the occasional fish, but that is okay). And you could borrow (for free) paddle boats and kayaks and take those around
The three guys on the paddle boat were from Italy, and obviously the guy standing up was the leader. I liked to call him the Rooster. As we watched them paddling around Evan and I were telling each other what the Rooster was saying and it was mainly “PADDLE FASTER, PEASANTS!” It was also hysterical to watch them try to mack on the ladies in the lobby at night while we played cards and pretended to not watch. It was like a soap opera. Highly entertaining.
One day a guy came onto the beach with a cart of pineapples that he cored and then filled with pina coladas. Um, yes please. Best 5 CUC I ever spent.
We also, as I mentioned, had THE BEST sunsets on the beach.
We watched the sunset almost every night.
The pool was very nice too. The pool guy Mikael really took pride in his work and was cleaning up around the pool all day long.
No swim-up bar but whatever. People probably just sit around and pee there anyway. The bar is very close by and we had our Bubba Kegs. We spent a few afternoons at the pool, usually around 4pm until it was time to get ready for dinner. It’s my favourite time of the day.
The entertainment staff during the day were pretty awesome. They made sure to include everyone in their activities and I still have “HeyyyyyyyyyyAYYYYY BABY! (HOO! HAH!) I wanna knowwwwohhhh woahhhh, will you be my girl?” in my head because they sang it all the time. We always end up having a takeaway song from our vacation, and that was this year’s.
Just picture them singing that song while the bridge parade was happening.
The entertainment staff did a lot of games during the day and had bottles of rum as prizes, like BINGO, who can stay on top of a beer keg the longest in the pool (not kidding, I enjoyed watching that), and a ring toss game down on the beach, which as you know, Evan won.
We hung out in the lobby bar most night after dinner playing Rummy before we went to the beach bar and then out adventuring in the town.
And in the lobby bar every night there was a live Cuban band playing, so we enjoyed listening to that. Sometimes there was a conga line. I am the jambon so I can’t resist.
On Fridays it’s Cuba day at the resort so they put up a big flag, have Cuban coloured streamers everywhere, an outdoor barbecue and live music Cuban music and dancing all day.
Last year in Cayo Coco we watched the evening entertainment almost every night, but our resort was in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t a whole lot to do. This time we did a lot of downtown adventuring in the evening, since there was so much near us, so we barely watched the night entertainment. But from what I did see, it looked pretty good. Much dancing.
The drinks were great. It’s all-inclusive and you know we got our money’s worth. There were four bars and the lobby bar was 24 hour. Best mojitos I have ever had.
Especially from our man Abel at the beach bar.
Abel’s bar by the beach was only open from 6pm until midnight but that was his domain and he rocked it. He had multiple disco balls and Cuban music videos playing on a little TV, so it felt like another world in there. He made THE BEST drinks.
He also had Montreal Canadians paraphernalia everywhere. My dad likes. And Hemingway pictures (Hemingway LOVED Cuba, more on that in my Havana post). We mostly sat outside because it was so nice and there was a great view of the ocean, but there was a pretty interesting back room.
We are such dummies and didn’t sign the wall!!!
And now, the food. It was fantastic! Best food I’ve had in Cuba so far! Still not quite the variety I found in Jamaica, but they switched it up a bit every day and the things they focused on they did really well! I was impressed.
Breakfast was eggs to order…
Also scrambled and hard boiled eggs (that I watched them scramble on the grill, so they weren’t those freaky ones in other buffets that have been made from who knows what and have been sitting for who knows how long). Lots of cheeses and different breads and pastries (all very good). They didn’t have bacon every day, but they usually did. Evan and I loved their crispy sausages, and I loved their little croquettes (fried balls filled with potato and cheese).
Every lunch and dinner had various grilled meats and fish to order, and the lineups were minimal, so that was good. I ate a lot of grilled chicken, pork, and fish.
Even grilled salmon and mussels and crab legs.
I would not have trusted that, or the mussels, at other resorts in Cuba I have stayed at, but here I did. All was delicious.
They also had an entire large salmon out every day that was absolutely to die for. I got it on the side of my dinner every night. And there was a pasta bar of course, which previously I would stick to at a Cuban resort because I didn’t trust a lot of the other food, but that was not a problem here and I switched it up a lot more.
This is also the first time I have seen cucumber on a Cuban resort. And they had good salad dressing, and also various oils with vinegars. This is also something that I have found to be lacking in the past, so I was a big fan.
One afternoon we went to the beach restaurant for lunch. Not quite as much variety as the buffet but they still had grilled meat and fish to order. And paella, which was delicious.
They also had burgers, hot dogs, fries and pizza over there.
And it had a great view.
There are two a la cartes, Cuban and Italian. We ate off the resort a couple of times, but one night we hit up the Italian restaurant. It’s at the same location as the beach restaurant.
I got the spaghetti bolognese.
And it was not too shabby at all.
In our opinion, the resort is fantastic. It was so great to be downtown where the action is as opposed to being way out on the peninsula (and a $20 CUC cab ride each way to downtown). That brings it up a star level for me. And then add the actually good food, drinks and the ridiculous beach, and I don’t know what more you could ask for, especially for the price. I loved it and I wish I was back there right now.