CAMELEON VILLAS JIBACOA. March 28-April 4, 2013. Joe and Karen.
CVJ HOTEL, set in the rural countryside 60 km from the Varadero, has
all the usual accoutrements of a comfortable three-star beach resort —
Sun, sand, sea, palm trees, warm breezes, good basic Cuban food and
good basic drinks. On calm days there is also pretty good snorkeling .
For us, Cameleon Villa Jibacoa is an easy on the budget, sunny and warm
vacation destination out of YYZ.
THE CVJ AREA with its Sedona
colored soil and green fields dotted with King palms and huge pines, is
a very quiet and scenic place out in the Cuban boonies. A hike through
the countryside here is more than a nature walk, it is really a
cultural experience. Most of the locals here are quite friendly and
will greet you with a 'Hola' and a smile.
THE GOOD. We had another
wonderful vacation at CVJ. We love the friendly atmosphere at CVJ. This
budget priced resort is a convivial, hasslefree, sun/beach/snorkel
destination for lots of friendly and outgoing Canadian guests. Here at
this resort you can spend your days shading or sunning yourself on the
beach, reading, contemplating life, snorkeling, hanging out with
friends or new acquaintances (which you will surely make if you want).
Or, if you want to be more active, you can hike or jog on the many
small roads and trails that are in the area. You really need to have no
safety concerns as far as the area is concerned. Lots of bird watching
as well (the feathered kind of course, OK, LOL). Basic good three-star
accommodations in both the bungalows and conventional rooms, good basic
food, good basic drinks, very attentive and obliging staff as well. The
accommodation is spartan but comfortable. All the basics are here for a
good holiday, the only ingredient needed is one's willingness to have a
good vacation. If you are a high maintenance person looking for a four
or five-star hotel on a three-star budget, this is not the place for
you. It's definitely not a party place either.
THE NOT SO GOOD.
There was a big shortage of lounges and chairs at the pool and at the
beach. A lot of sun lounges on the beach were broken as were the
lounges and chairs at the pool, these all need to be replaced, after
all, sun lounges to relax by the beach are an integral part of a beach
holiday. As well, the pool area pavers need a good scrubbing. Starting
renovation on the main lobby exterior is not a good idea when the hotel
is at full capacity. Leaving the construction materials and rubble
piled up by the lobby bar wasn't very cool either, the hotel management
should show a little more respect than that to their paying guests.
However, all that said, we will return to CVJ again next year. But,
we're counting on having somewhere to sit by the beach or pool where we
don't have to rough up some other guests to get a lounge!! :-)
Management!!, new lounges please!!
OUR ROOM, a
garden view bungalow with a very nice patio. The room was clean,
comfortable, and spacious enough for the two of us. Good housekeeping
and towel art all week, flowers from the gardener everyday. The room
was furnished with one chest of drawers which was in the closet, two
bedside tables with a drawer, two three-quarter beds, a writing table
with television (lots of watchable channels) on top, fridge
underneath. We also liked having a safety deposit box which was
housed in the closet (14 CUC per week). You had to pay for the
safety deposit box at the front desk, the safe was opened with your
room key. Our bathroom was excellent, it had a good-sized vanity
with sink, toilet, shower stall only, lots of hot water all week,
standard 110 V and 220 V plugs. Lots of towels also. We were very
happy with our room.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS. There is one buffet
restaurant and one à la carte restaurant. The buffet was our choice of
restaurant for the whole week. The food at the buffet was typical
three-star Cuban buffet food. For breakfast there was usually
eggs any style, pancakes, toast, cold cuts of ham, cheese, sausages
some mornings, assortment of fruit flavored drinks, coffee. For us it
was a good breakfast. Lunch and dinner were mirror images of one
another. They usually served fish, chicken, pork, beef on occasion,
burgers on a couple of occasions, boiled potatoes, mixed vegetable,
stew. There was rice, beans, some pasta dishes, salads. We
enjoyed our salads, they usually had shredded cabbage, cucumber,
tomato, shredded lettuce, beets etc. homemade mayonnaise dressing, 1000
island dressing. Lots of tomatoes this week, we certainly pigged out on
those. For dessert there was ice cream, cakes and some fresh
fruit. All in all we were happy with this simple fare, we were
not looking for a gourmet wine and dine experience as we didn't pay for
one. Also, as we ate early in the dining hours, we didn't face any
lineups for food.
BARS, there are two bars, one lobby bar and one
pool bar. We certainly enjoyed all of our drinks at this hotel.
THE LOBBY BAR service was mostly good except for a couple of the
bartenders who looked and acted like they would have rather been
somewhere else. The lobby bar which we jokingly call 'the pub with no
beer' because of its asinine rule not to serve beer until after 5 PM.
We can never figure out the reason for that rule, as by 5 PM the
temperature has cooled off and the need for cold beer is diminished.
The lobby bar though is quite a nice spot to relax after dinner and
have a Mojito or two. The lobby bar is open from 7 a.m.-7:30 a.m. to
around 10:30 p.m. THE POOL BAR is open around 10 a.m. and stays open
until the disco closes around 1 a.m. Beer and simple cocktails are
served here all day. Great service here for the whole week. SNACKS are
served in the a la carte restuarant by the pool bar from around midday
until about 4 or 5 p.m. Here they serve toasted cheese sandwiches, hot
dogs, french fried plantain chips (mmm-mmm!!, good!,) Also, on
occassion, they serve hamburgers (mixture of pork and beef,) as snacks.
Much better menu and service here this year over previous years.
The beach at Cameleon Jibacoa is about 500 m long and 50 m wide. The
length of the combined beaches of Jibacoa including both hotels and the
campismo next door is about 1.5 - 2.0 km long. There is lots of shade
trees at the Cameleon Villas beach. You can snorkel right off the beach
as well. This year we found there to be a lack of sun lounges on the
beach, there was a lot of broken lounges. Maybe the hotel will get some
new ones for next year. TWO SIDE-BY-SIDE POOLS at CVJ. Normally, one
pool is used for water sport activity and the other pool just for
swimming and cooling off. The pool area was never too busy while we
were there, a very lucky thing as there was a severe shortage of chairs
and lounges here also (or maybe that's why the pools weren't busy).
Hopefully this will be also remedied by next year. The pool bar was
busy but seem to be able to handle the crowd, really good bartenders at
the pool bar this week. A lack of seating near the pool bar also (lots
of broken chairs,) this also needs to be remedied. The whole pool area
needs a good scrubbing as well. THE GROUNDS have lots of
flowering shrubs and flowering trees (in April). The hotel is set
between a beautiful beach and ocean to the north and heavily forested
hills to the south. It really is quite a lovely property.
ON AND OFF THE RESORT/HOTEL. We definitely wouldn't recommend this
resort as a 'place to party', it is really more of a place for rest and
relaxation, beach and pool activity, doing a bit of snorkeling, doing a
bit of walking etc. If you want to take in the sights and sounds of
Havana it is about a one hour taxi ride to the west of CVJ. There are
lots of private taxis at Jibacoa. Between both hotels, Breezes Jibacoa
and CVJ, there is at least eight private taxis for hire. They will take
you wherever you want to go and all prices are negotiable. There are
lots of good guide and driver combos available and their motto is
'everything is possible'. Having, in the past, toured Varadero, Havana
and Pinar del Rio from CVJ by taxi, this year, we opted for a four hour
tour of the local area at a cost of 50 CUC. We had a good driver and a
very informative English speaking guide named Giselle. We toured the
whole area surrounding CVJ including the Hershey Gardens and Hershey
Factory area.. We especially enjoyed a walking tour of the town
of Santa Cruz Del Norte. Santa Cruz Del Norte isn't really a tourist
destination, but it was just wonderful seeing everyone go about
the business of living and enjoying life in a small Cuban town
atmosphere, it was also great seeing where a lot of the CVJ staff live.
From CVJ, there are many other organized day tours available through,
Roberto, the Nolitours representative. Happy vacations.