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CAMELEON VILLAS JIBACOA.  March 28-April 4, 2013.  Joe and Karen.

THE 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.
BEACH/POOL/GROUNDS. 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. 
ACTIVITIES 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.