WHO WE ARE. Married couple – 70+ years old. Joe and Karen.
CARISOL LOS CORALES HOTEL. There are two separate all-inclusive hotels here, the Carisol and the Corales. If you stay at either, you can consume at both properties. This would be our second visit to this three-star property. On our November 2012 visit, right in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, we were assigned to the Carisol side as the Corales section was closed because of wind damage. This time we were assigned to the Corales hotel side which we are now reviewing. This was exactly what we hoped would happen as it would give us a chance to see what both properties had to offer. The Corales side, just like the Carisol side, is a very nice, quiet, laid-back, no-frills property, not really luxurious in any way, just comfortable. Both properties definitely have all the basics that you would need for a quiet and relaxed midwinter vacation in an almost guaranteed, dry, hot and sunny, seaside location. The CLC hotel is situated 70 km east of Santiago de Cuba city in a very quiet rural location. Most of the friendly and outgoing vacationers at the Carisol Los Corales are Canadians in the 50+ age range with a high percentage being return guests. At both properties, there were a few younger families with children.
TOUR OPERATOR AND CARRIER. We booked our one week budget priced holiday with Sunwing Vacations. Our February 20, 2013 6:20 AM, YYZ to SCU champagne flight with breakfast, was on time, landing in Santiago de Cuba just around 10 AM. Nice smooth flight with great views of the Sierra Maestra mountains as we landed. After a one-hour bus journey east through the beautiful Sierra Maestras and along the Caribbean coastline, we were at Carisol Los Corales check-in.
HOTEL CHECK-IN. Hotel check-in was quick and easy and we were assigned a room close by the Corales pool. But since our room wasn't ready we changed to more suitable warm weather attire. Then, after abandoning our luggage in the lobby, we enjoyed a nice cold Cristal beer at the lobby bar before heading out and about to explore Corales and it's facilities. We were very happy with our initial view of all the main Corales facilities. On checking the room location we were more than happy with it as it was in the same vicinity as the room # we requested from our travel agent. A good start to the holiday.
OUR ROOM. Which was ready at 1 PM, was a ground floor end unit of a two-story room block. Our spacious, air-conditioned room, was simply furnished with two three-quarter beds, 2 bedside tables with drawers and bedside lamps, two wicker chairs. In addition to these there was a wicker writing table with seating, a small table on which was perched a flatscreen TV with about 10 channels (at least two in English and one in French). There was also a small bar fridge for keeping cold beer or pop. There were 220 V standard plugs and 110 V standard plugs in the room as well. There was also a luggage rack for our suitcases and a good-sized closet with a dearth of hangers (bring your own hangers ). The closet housed a programmable security box (safe) and a chest of 3 drawers. Our good-sized bathroom with granite top vanity and lower cupboard, large mirror, 110 V outlets, had a nicely tiled shower stall with lots of hot water all the time. The room was within earshot of the disco which went on until 2 AM, however, the white noise from our air conditioner seemed to block out the music and we slept well. Our housekeeper, Ana Rosa, was indeed the master of towel art, she made our room a wonderfully clean, neat and comfortable place to come back to everyday, she always made sure we had everything we wanted. We really loved our room because as you opened the front door you had a great view of the Sierra Maestras and then on opening the sliding doors to the patio, there was that beautiful view of the palm trees, the sea grape trees, and beyond those, the ocean. We loved getting up every morning and with our home brewed coffee in hand walking out on the patio where we were always greeted by clear blue skies framing a beautiful sunrise. Here also sitting in our 2 comfortable high-back chairs we enjoyed our lazy afternoons listening to music and having a Mojito or two from the pool bar which was close by. Now! If the pool bar only had delivery, we would have been truly spoiled LOL.
DINING. If you are looking for four-star gourmet food and wines, this is not the place for you. Plain ordinary 3*** food and quite palatable wine and beer is the order of the day here. BUFFET DINING. We had the majority of our meals buffet style in the main Corales dining room, here the food is Cuban 3*** basic. THE BREAKFAST, buffet style, has a small variety of cold meats and cheeses. There was also sliced tomatoes, scrambled eggs, cooked potatoes, a couple of types of sausage rounds, some vegetable mixes, some cereals, crepes or pancakes, pastries, slice your own breads, and bread rolls, cold juices, cold powdered milk, some cereals, and sliced fresh fruits, coffee from a machine. From the very busy grill, you can have eggs any style and nicely cooked crispy bacon. AT LUNCH, the cold salad table consisted of chopped lettuce, shredded cabbage, sliced cucumbers, sliced beets, some cheeses, cooked beans, other cold vegetables, pasta salad, mayonnaise and oil and vinegar dressings. The supposedly warm dishes were potatoes, squash, cooked yellow or white rice, some sausage, chicken pieces in tomato sauce, pork pieces in sauce, shredded cooked beef in sauce, various pasta dishes etc. Lunch time at the grill you are offered grilled diced pork, pork ribs, pork chops, chicken, fish, or a combination of those grilled to your satisfaction.There is, in another room adjoining the buffet, a pasta station where you can have spaghetti and sauce or pizza at lunch. DINNER was a mirror image of lunch except at the grill they did have a roasts of beef on two nights and very good roasts of pork on two nights and grilled chicken and fish on the other nights. The buffet food that was supposed to be hot, was consistently cold or lukewarm, it's why we stuck to salads and meat from the grill for our main meals the whole week. A very cost-effective solution to the food temperature problem would be a bank of three microwaves. We have seen this used successfully in other Cuban hotels. All in all, as we are not gourmet foodies, we had no problem getting something to eat at all meals. SNACKS. There is snacks available during the day at the beach tent/Ranchon. Hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries etc. Sandwiches also available at the 24-hour bar at Corales. There were a few problems with running out of plates and coffee cups at the buffet dining during the week. The coffee machine was broken quite a few times as well. We would say if they provided the servers with thermal carafes full of coffee in the mornings, it would save them lining up for that, ever so finicky, coffee machine.
POOL AND BAR. Corales pool bar was open from 10 AM until late in the evening. Good drinks and excellent service here throughout our week. Carisol pool bar which is open 24 hours and serves coffee any style, a good variety of cocktails, beer etc. great service here as well, everyone had a can-do attitude here. The lobby bar at Corales, open from 7 AM until 11 PM was a fairly busy place with good drinks, good service and friendly staff. We enjoyed our after dinner Havana Club here. The lobby bar at Carisol open from 7 AM to 11 PM was a wonderfully quiet place during the day and you could relax and have different types of coffee and any cocktail of your choice, including Mojitos. Good service here all the time as well. There was a 24-hour bar at the Corales as well. Here you could have basic drinks and coffees of your choice. You could have sandwiches here at any hour of the night. A great place for to get your early morning coffee if you are an early riser.
THE BEACH. Both properties together have a total shoreline of about 1 km. Most of the shoreline is coral rock with the ocean having a rocky bottom. Of the 1 km of shore that both hotels share, there is only about a 80-100 m stretch of slightly coarse sand of a crushed seashell pebbly nature. The ocean in front of the properties with a reef edge line out about 150 m in the ocean, is a wonderful place for snorkeling, but you definitely need water shoes for to go swimming as there is a fair amount of seaweed and sometimes sea urchins on the bottom. There seemed to be lots of sun lounges on the beach and there was some shade under the sea grape trees. They really do need a few more palapas and umbrellas for a little more shade on the beach. All in all though, it is a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the mostly cloudless blue skies and constant 30°C days. There is some wonderful views of the Sierra Maestra mountains from the beach as well.
HOTEL AREA: we really enjoyed the hotel area. We had early morning walks every day through the whole area. Most walking has to be tackled very early in the morning as by 10 AM the temperature is pushing the 30°C mark. Walking to Bacanao Park is quite doable, there is great sea and mountain scenery on the way, the return journey takes approximately 2 1/2 hours. There is no admission fee to the park. You can also take a horse and buggy ride at 3 CUC per person each way and enjoy a 1 CUC cold Cervesa when you get there. Across from the Carisol on the north side there is quite a good walking road up past the cell phone towers that you can take to the Bacanao Lagoon. That walk will take about three hours return and you will see how the local Cubans live, work and play. It's very safe to walk and nobody seems bothered by your presence. We were greeted warmly by most residents and we had no hassles.
CARISOL HOTEL. At the end of November last, we wrote a review of the Carisol side of the hotel. If you're interested in reading it you can search this under our Tripadvisor profile, I would say that review combined with this one, will give you a little better overall idea of the amenities, or lack thereof, of both properties.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE: we exchanged $CDN at both Carisol and Corales receptions during our week. We were happy with the rate of exchange, we didn't find any difference between the exchange rate at the Santiago de Cuba airport and the exchange rate at the hotel.
TOURS: there are many tours available through the surrounding area. They vary in price from one week to the next depending on how busy the hotel is and what the market will bear. We paid 63 CUC per person to get an all-day tour of the city of Santiago de Cuba. For us, the price was well worth it, and it was quite interesting visiting Morro Castle and several other national monuments and graveyards and residential areas. We had a wonderful seafood lunch (included) at the Marina restaurant in the Santiago de Cuba bay and a nice boat tour around the bay and around Granma island . While on board the boat tour we got some wonderful photos of Morro Castle from the mouth of the bay. We enjoyed some free time in downtown Santiago and we especially liked going to the Roof Garden outdoor restaurant of the Casa Granda hotel, here we had a nice cold Cristal for 2 CUC each whilst enjoying a magnificent view of Santiago de Cuba and the surrounding area. It was a very good day.
ANIMALS ON THE RESORT: Dogs and cats are constantly begging at the dining room tables. People!! Please don't feed them at the table, when you do, believe me, those animals become a nuisance to other guests and the management, and you most certainly have signed their death warrant.
OUR OVERALL IMPRESSION. Absolutely great value for money spent. Despite dining room shortages of cutlery and dishes here and there and the food temperature issue and some questionable service at the buffet, we had the very nicest time at this hotel. We certainly have the greatest respect for a lot of the staff who worked quite diligently to make our stay comfortable and memorable despite all of their own hardships recovering from hurricane Sandy. It was also nice to see everything getting back to normal in the general area of the hotel. Most of the roofs on private houses were repaired and a lot of the trees were recovering and have sprouted new limbs and leaves. They are also well on the way to cleaning up the small public park and public beach area east of Corales. We hope to see it all finished by next February when we will, if fate permits, be back.
RETURN FLIGHT. Our Sunwing flight #661 from SCU to YYZ left about 30-40 min. late because of weather related problems with the initial incoming flight from Toronto. We had a very quick flight back and were only 20 min. behind schedule arriving at our gate at YYZ. It was a well fed, well watered smooth flight. We were very happy with all the flight services.
ADDITIONAL INFO LINKS FOR CARISOL LOS CORALES
For a Google Satellite view map of the Carisol Los Corales Hotel CLICK HERE
For a printable PDF map of both resorts click here CLICK HERE
For a printable PDF file for Carisol Los Corales hotel info CLICK HERE
For a printable PDF file of local area tour info CLICK HERE
For to read our review for Carisol Los Corales November 2012 CLICK HERE
For a great Carisol Los Corales Facebook Page. FB members only CLICK HERE