Varadero, Cuba has one of the best beaches that I have ever been to. Cuba was the first vacation I ever had when I was 21 and it was amazing. So I may be biased but of all the beaches I’ve been to in my lifetime (and I’ve been to a lot) Veradero is still my favorite. The water is calm with light waves later in the day, it’s always crystal clear, the sand is white and soft and the sun is always shining.
We stayed at Barcelo Solymar, a huge resort which is a combination of 2 resorts, Arenas Blancas and Solymar. While staying at Solymar, we also had access to everything at Arenas Blancas and vice versa.
When doing research on resorts in Cuba we wanted:
- Lots of young people
- Party Environment
- Good location to the city and clubs
- Good food and accommodations
- Under $800
The last time I went to Cuba I remembered Barcelo Solymar as the “party resort” and it definitely still is! This trip was for Andrew’s Champagne Birthday so he definitely wanted to party it up!
The resort had 3 pools, 2 buffets, 4 a la carte restaurants, a games room with billiards and ping pong, beach volley ball, pool volleyball, pool basketball, a gym, tennis courts (we never used it because it was so hot!) and bars all over the resort.
There were also a bunch of water sports included like kayaking, paddle boats and catamaran rides which I love! They’re just so relaxing and fun.
I have been to Cuba 3 times now and this is definitely one of the best resorts I’ve stayed at by far.
There was beautiful landscaping, flowers and trees everywhere. There were rooms in the main building and also rooms all over the resort called the bungalows. We had a king bed room in a bungalow. The rooms in the main building were very upscale and looked like a regular North American hotel which was really impressive for Cuba but no A/C. Our room was pretty basic, but all the bungalows have A/C so we were happy.
People always say that the food in Cuba is so horrible and usually they’re right. The first time I came here I literally only ate bread and ice cream.
However, the food here was actually pretty good. Each buffet had a live cook station where you could get fresh made to order pasta, fish, chicken, shrimp, pork or beef.
We ate from these stations most of the time as the premade buffet food didn’t look as appetizing. There was always a large arrangement of cheese, deli meats, salad, breads and desserts at the dinner buffet as well.
(pics from dinner buffet)
For breakfast there was always 1-2 people stationed making fresh omelets or you could have your eggs made fried, scrambled or however you liked. There was always an array of bread, croissants, cheese and deli meat.
There was a large variety of food to choose from so even the most picky eaters could find something they liked.
To read more about the food, a la carte restaurant meals we tried and more click here.
The Party Experience:
Every night at 9pm people would start to congregate near the lobby, play beer pong and get drunk before going out to the club. People brought their mini speakers and played music and it was a fun time.
One guy even had a funnel with two ends so people could chug beer. It was pretty awesome. I believe he said it was passed down to him, and he was to pass it down to someone else when he was leaving. I don’t know how many mouths have been on the thing or if it’s ever been cleaned…but I didn’t drink from it even though it looked fun lol.
There were beach parties which we awesome, Havana Club is within walking distance and every other club was about a 10 peso cab ride away.
Overall the people at this resort were super friendly, fun and drunk. Definitely a good time.
To read more about each party we went to click here.
I’m always cold, so I could live in the hot sun and warm ocean. I was out everyday having a great time while Andrew wasn’t. He is normally always hot so being in this weather was hard for him. He sweats a lot and he also has really heat sensitive skin and eczema so he preferred to stay indoors until late afternoon when the sun was less intense.
As a result, I was alone for most of the day and learned how to be okay being alone on vacation.
Even though it was June and supposed to be the rainy season, it only rained once during our trip and it was a light rain that lasted about 5 minutes.
The heat was intense from 12-3 but if you were cooling off in the pool or ocean it wasn’t bad. The sand was burning hot so you would see groups of people running to the ocean lol it was quite amusing. I would wear my flip flops and leave them at the shore but one time I forgot them and found myself doing the mad dash too.
For some tips on how to beat the heat and protect your skin click here.
Unfortunately the currency exchange isn’t great anymore. At the hotel $1 CAD got you $0.74 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos). Because of this, we had to be on a tighter budget then we wanted to be. We walked to the bank to exchange so money because typically you can get a better rate but only got .03 cents more for each dollar.
The rate was much better for American money $1 USD = $0.87 pesos but since our Canadian dollar is so low (1 Cad = 0.80 USD) the exchange isn’t worth it.
There are two currencies in Cuba. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Non-Convertible Peso (CUP) . Tourists can only CUC. 1 CUC = 24 CUP.
The Excursions & Things to do:
There are a lot of excursions that Cuba offers such as the following:
- $$$$ Seafary Cayo Blanco Plus – Catamaran, snorkeling and swimming with dolphins
- $$$ Guama, Steam & Sugar – Ride a steam engine from the last century, visit an old sugar refinery, tour a replica of an indisginous island and visit a crocodile farm.
- $$$ Jeep Discovery Tour – Drive your own jeep (if you can drive standard), drive your own speed boat on the Canimar River, eat a typical Cuban meal on the ranch, snorkel and go cave swimming. We did this one!
- $ Veradero City Tour – Visit Al Capone’s former residence, free time at the craft market and a coacktail at the Xanadu mansion’s rooftop bar.
- $$ Snorkelling at Coral Beach
- $$$ Visit Havana – Day Tour of Havana with option to see the Tropicana show or visit a cigar factory. In my previous trip my sister and I did this excurion and it was awesome!
- $$$$ Trinidad Cienfuegos – Tour Cienfuegos and discover Trinidad a city in Cuba declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and visit a pottery factory.
- $$$ Boat Adventure – One hour adventure on a speedboat or jet ski
$ 5-34 CUC
$$ 35-59 CUC
$$$ 60- 74 CUC
$$$$ 75 + CUC
Excursions can become quite expensive really fast so I would suggest doing one or two and then doing some less expensive things like the following:
- Explore and walk to the city
- Rent a scooter for the day and ride through the city it’s 30 pesos for 24 hrs and 18 pesos for 2 hours so it’s more worth it to do 24 hrs. between two people that’s only 15 CUC each which isn’t too bad.
- Use the free water sports offered at the resort – Catamaran rides, kayaking, paddleboats
- Some resorts have snorkeling trips for much cheaper than with the major companies. At Solymar they offered one that was 2 hours long for 20 pesos. It included a 30 min catamaran ride out to the ocean, an hour of snorkeling and 30 mins back to the resort. If we weren’t doing snorkeling with the jeep safari I would have definitely done this.
- Get a group together of 4 people minimum and hire a personal guide/driver to Havana. When you split the cost 4 ways it ends up being much cheaper than buying it from the hotel tourist companies
- Try a local restaurant and eat real authentic Cuban food
For a review on the Jeep Safari Tour we did click here.
Hope you enjoyed this brief review on our stay at Barcelo Solymar in Cuba! There are more detailed reviews and posts too so make sure to check them out.