Sol Pelicano Cayo Largo Cuba Jan 4- Jan 18 2013. Joe and Karen.
WHO WE ARE: older couple early 70s.
SOL PELICANO HOTEL. This year Pelicano was our choice for both weeks of our usual two-week January Cayo Largo stint. For Karen and I, this three-star hotel offers a friendly, comfortable, laid-back Cayo Largo stay, this without breaking the bank.
ON ARRIVAL, after a 10 min. bus ride from the airport, we were assigned a third-floor room in the 44 block of the Sol Pelicano Hotel. As it was an early morning flight, the room wasn't quite ready. But, after a leisurely cold Cervesa in pre-chilled glasses at the lobby bar, a tour of the property, a quick hello to all the staff and a short walk on the beach, we were in our room opening our French doors to enjoy the warm breeze and the sight and sounds of the Caribbean Sea.
OUR ROOM on the third-floor in the 44 block was ample sized and simply furnished. The room had 2 bedside tables, two three-quarter beds, a blanket box/luggage shelf, a writing/makeup table with mirror, a shelf unit with television set on top and fridge underneath. The main room also housed a good sized closet but with very few hangers (bring extra clothes hangers). The closet also had a safety deposit box which opened with your room key, 3 shelves and 3 drawers. Very nice indeed was our newly refurbished bathroom with granite vanity basin, walk-in shower with full flow showerhead, plenty of hot water,110 V grounded plug (great for our own little coffee maker), hair dryer, large mirror, good lighting (not a good thing at our age)!! LOL. In the main room, we enjoyed having our wide French doors open out onto a good sized balcony. In the afternoons, it was more than blissful sitting on the balcony soaking up that hot Caribbean sun, maybe listening to Fleetwood Mac or Guns N' Roses or guitarist Liona Boyd if we were feeling mellow after a Mojito or two. Life at the Pelicano was certainly good!!
THE BEACH. Pelicano has a wonderful beach area where many an evening we strolled and watched a beautiful Caribbean sunset. There are three wooden walkways over the eco-fragile dunes to the Pelicano beach. When we arrived the beaches were as wide as I have ever seen, we enjoyed this beach phase for about 4/5 days. After that a very strong east wind came up, that made the sea quite rough and the dry beach area became quite a bit smaller but still negotiable and accessible. There was lots of room for beach lounges in the dry area, this weather went on for the next five days. The last few days of our holiday the wind shifted to the north, the beach came back, calm conditions prevailed. But since the wind was blowing quite strong for several days, it did dampen the spirits of some beachgoers. Of course you could always go to Playa Sirena by beach-train or taxi, that beach is usually quite calm even in windy conditions. So there is almost always a choice of beach on Cayo Largo island. Your beach holiday on Cayo Largo will never be a washout.
PLAYA SIRENA BEACH ACCESS. This year, because the Sirena/Paraiso Beach road was quite rough, the Playa Sirena free beach-train went by the main road to the village marina, from there you took the free ferry boat to the Sirena Beach. The boat ride doesn't take a lot of time. It is, in our opinion, a much nicer route to Sirena with a lot less bumps and much more interesting scenery. Other means of transportation to Sirena were by road taxi $. These taxis charge 2 CUC fare each way per person for the 15 min. journey. This road taxi route is a little more adventurous, but in a bumpy "pass me the Gravol' kind of way!! LOL.
2 POOL FACILITIES are in a central location at the Pelicano, 1 ADULTS POOL with hot tub. A nice large 2 section saltwater pool. The pool has a good amount of lounges, fair amount of shade, midafternoon being the busiest time around the pool, lounges are then at a premium. There are lots of adult pool animation activities during the day. 1 KIDS POOL. Very nice kids pool, lots of room, lots of lounges and shade, Kids slide. KIDS CLUB is adjacent to the pool, babysitting services available. Children's play area also adjacent to the pool,
THE ANIMATION TEAM are quite friendly and fun, they ask and want you to participate in their activities, but they are not pushy about it. There are lots of various activities to do if you want to participate. The dancers on the ENTERTAINMENT TEAM are quite talented and all are passionate about their profession. THE MUSICIANS on our week were a group called Yahuma Son and are just wonderful to listen to, they entertained us at most of the dining venues. They were the official guest welcome band as well. We thoroughly enjoyed all of their music at all of the venues.
OTHER FACILITIES. A clubhouse with some games, a chess area and a small workout area, beach towel services. Pool table in the lobby bar. Sports area with football facility and tennis courts on the east side of the property. A pharmacy, a massage service behind the pharmacy, a small store that sells beer, wine, rum, cigars, souveneirs and other sundry items. Jeep rentals and scooter rentals $$. There is a fairly good sized entertainment theatre with nightly shows.
TOUR REP FACILITIES are to the rear of the main hotel lobby area, there you can buy the different catamaran $$, snorkeling $$, diving $$, deep-sea fishing $$$, sunset cruise tours $$, offered by the different tour companies.
BUILDINGS-GROUNDS. This compact hotel has a nice layout and it is quite easy to get around with no facility being more than a 7-9 min. leisurely walk away from one another. All of the buildings are two or three story and are close to all the dining, drinking, beach, pool and entertainment facilities. The Pelicano tower, over three stories tall and a visual focal point on the property, has a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. Because it is a desert island, the grounds are not lush, however, they are very well kept. Certain facilities are in need of refurbishment here and there but they are working hard to bring them up to snuff, these shortcomings won't make or break your holiday.
DINING. With a choice of buffet, pizzeria, Zun Zun snack bar, and 2 a la carte restaurants, there is something to suit most palates at all meals.
THE BUFFET where we ate breakfast and lunch, is quite a nice air-conditioned dining room with four separate dining areas. Service here is impeccable and hard to beat. The food is typical three-star and is wholesome and varied. We had no problem getting what we wanted over the two week period. We enjoyed our breakfast and dinner here. Breakfast you could have eggs any style and cooked bacon was available every day. Lots of juice, good coffee, a big variety of pastry, cold meats, some fruit, really no shortage of anything. Dinner was really good as well. We enjoyed several fish dishes, chicken dishes, pork chops, pork leg, whole hog off the barbecue spit, carved turkey, etc. etc. There is also a pasta station. Lots of vegetables. An excellent variety of desserts as well. Depending on hotel occupancy rates, a couple of sections of the buffet are open for lunch. This may vary from week to week. There were two sections open while we were on vacation, however, we didn't try them so can't comment on the food selection.
THE RANCHON, as always, is our favorite place for lunch. And, as we liked a certain seat that offered us the perfect viewing spot of the beach and ocean, we usually arrived about 11:30 AM. Here we were able to enjoy a nice cold Cervesa or two before lunch and savor thoughts of the upcoming lunch with choice of calamari, grilled fish, grilled chicken or pork, while taking in the perfect ocean view. Lunch here this year was excellent, the table service was tops (as always). For lunch, at the side salad table there is bread , a good assortment of al dente cooked chilled vegetables like cauliflower, green beans, brussels sprouts, beets etc. well cooked cooked black and white beans. There is also some tapas, green and black olives, cucumbers, shredded cabbage, some lettuce. In addition there is tomato compote, mayonnaise, or some other dressings. For your mains you have a choice of either fish, chicken, pork, or burger, grilled to your specs. At lunchtime you can either serve yourself or have table service by a great group of waiters. Note: by 12:15 PM the beach crowd starts to come for lunch en masse, you may have to wait for an inside table at the Ranchon. If you are impatient or in a hurry, there is some covered picnic tables between the beach and the Ranchon where you can sit. From there you can serve yourself from the salad bar in the Ranchon. It's actually a wonderful place to sit, have a leisurely and unhurried lunch and take in the sights and sounds of the beach, the ocean, and the beach activities.
ZUN ZUN SNACK BAR. A very busy place throughout the day. Lunch and snacks here are from a menu with choices of hamburger, hot dog, pork sandwich, ham and cheese sandwich, these entrées are usually served with fries. At around 1 PM they have chicken, pork, or other meat (rabbit) barbecued on an open barbecue situated adjacent to the Zun Zun. There is also a table with a small variety of salads and breads. We had fries and pork sandwiches on two occasions here, excellent. There was always a good crowd here and the table service here this year was far superior to last year.
PIZZERIA. A nice place to have a snack on any afternoon. A great place to have a pizza of your choice. Despite a couple of glitches, the service was fine here. There was a choice of several different varieties of pizza, a choice of beer or wine for an accompaniment.
BARS. There are three bars at the Sol Pelicano. The Lobby Bar, the Zun Zun pool bar, the Ranchon beach bar.
THE LOBBY BAR. This is a 24-hour bar, it is busiest from about 6:15 PM on for predinner drinks and post-dinner drinks, and then for the nightly entertainment crowd. In the off hours during the day it is a very quiet relaxing place to have a beer or cocktail. It is our favorite bar at the Pelicano. Really good service from the staff at this bar.
THE ZUN ZUN BAR is a busy place throughout most of the day. Here you will get some basic cocktails, liquor. Cuban beer on tap as well. The service at the bar is good and because the bar is situated right by the pool, these bartenders are kept very busy throughout the day. A nice place to have an afternoon drink and watch the pool animation/guest participation activities.
THE RANCHON BAR is open from about 10 AM till 5 PM. Another very busy place when the beach is crowded, extremely busy during the lunch period. A very good crew on the bar here and you won't have too long to wait for your drink, even in the busy times. They usually serve basic cocktails, liquors. Cuban beer on tap as well. The closest bar to the beach.
MOSQUITOES AND SAND FLEAS are present on Cayo Largo. Around dawn and dusk are the most likely times that you will be bitten. Because the wind was coming off the ocean for most of our holiday in January 2013, we only had a couple of bites through those two weeks. When the wind comes from the North across the island, you are more likely to get bitten. It's best to be safe and wear the bug protection of your choice both morning and evening if you can. If you are allergic to bug bites bring some antihistamines, calamine lotion etc.. We do bring those supplies just in case.
SMALL QUIBBLES. There is a marked difference between the bank exchange rate in the village bank and the front desk exchange rate at the Sol Pelicano. Pelicano front desk quoted me $.92 CUC to the Canadian dollar but at the bank in the village where we exchanged we got $97.4 CUC to the Canadian dollar (on the same day). To us a little bit too much of a difference. $.95 CUC per Canadian dollar would have been a more fair and acceptable exchange rate.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS AND THOUGHTS. Absolutely great value for money spent on our two week escape from the frigid winter weather in Canada. We used and enjoyed almost all of the amenities available at the Pelicano (there are many). Some of the Pelicano buildings and other facilities, are showing their age, but if management follows through with good room refurbishments like the ones they've done in the the 44 block, where we stayed, the future would indeed be bright for the Sol Pelicano hotel and its clientele. All of us returnees are hoping the new manager Alejandro doesn't just mark time and let the place slide back into decay again. To Alejandro we would say "this hotel has fantastic potential through its location, wonderful beach, high number of returning guests, extremely professional and friendly frontline staff who all have a terrific 'can do' attitude. These are very powerful ingredients that are at your disposal, the ball is in your court now, go for it, make it a better place". If fate permits, we will definitely be back again next year as we thoroughly enjoyed our holiday. Anyone interested to see some photos and videos of Sol Pelicano Cayo Largo just copy and paste this link http://joeandkarentravelphotos.ca or Google Joe and Karen Cuban travel photos.
CANJET FLIGHTS. Very happy with the flights and the schedule. 3 hours 15 min. YYZ CYO on time flights both ways. Smooth flight, good service, wined and dined both ways.