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SOL CAYO GUILLERMO CUBA. Joe and Karen. October 22-29 2012.

OUR HOLIDAY STARTED WITH A HURRICANE WARNING. Unfortunately or probably fortunately!, we weren't aware of the hurricane Sandy warning until we landed in Cayo Coco. Although from the giddyup we were aware of an impending tropical storm, the news that greeted us there of a full-blown hurricane Sandy heading toward Cuba came as a 'nasty surprise'. However, in the heel of the hunt, everything considered, the holiday worked out amazingly well. We had a very pleasant, windy and warm first evening at SCG. The next day was blustery but part sunny and reasonably dry and we enjoyed walks on the beach and watching the crazy kite-surfers, then the rest of the afternoon sun bathing on our patio. On the Wednesday the stronger winds came and it started to rain heavily, it continued blustery and wet into Thursday night. Although the rain was very very heavy, these downpours were not unpleasantly cold, kind of like a lukewarm high velocity shower. A good day on Friday, cloudy with sunny spells and mainly dry. Then Saturday Sunday and Monday were sunny and warm, those three glorious days more or less saved the weeks vacation, weatherwise that is. On both rainy days, we did manage to keep ourselves busy and having a good time, we decided that in our own best interest, no hurricane was going to spoil our vacation. However though, we did have a few 'Mary Poppins Moments' with our hotel supplied umbrella and almost ended up in Cayo Santa Maria. :-). So, if you find yourself in Cuba in a tropical storm or wet weather conditions, the SCG is probably a good a hotel as any to be at.
THE SCG HOTEL…offered just what we wanted — a laid-back, no-frills, economical, beach holiday that was a short 35 min. hop from the airport.  As we had been to SCG before in October 2010, we knew it had all the accoutrements of a typical Cuban all-inclusive…a beautiful white beach, warm winds, soothing quiet surf, palm trees, Cristal beer, Havana club 7 rum, wine, simple evening entertainment, song, dance, disco sometimes, reasonably good food, good service. This time, as before, the hotel atmosphere was friendly and inviting, service was tops. On the overall, at the end of the week, we weren't disappointed with this hotel as it again offered us excellent value for the price we paid Sunwing Vacations for our all-inclusive package.  Life at this hotel, this week, was indeed a beach, although for a couple of days, a very high surf beach.
CHECK-IN… Check-in was quick and easy as we were the only guests arriving with Sunwing. Within minutes of our quick sign-in, the bellhop and his trusty golf cart had us and our luggage whisked to our room, and what a beautiful ROOM #501 was. This bright and airy accommodation had a nice lived in comfortable vibe, we felt instantly at home. We were really thrilled by the closeness of the beach (80 m), you could hear the ocean crashing on the shore as we entered the room (high surf compliments of hurricane Sandy). Lovely Palm trees right in front of the room with 2 beach lounges already on our lawn, those lounges were left there courtesy of the guests before us, this meant we didn't have to steal them from the beach as we always do. :-). As we opened our patio doors and surveyed the view, right away we knew we were really going to enjoy our weeks lodgings to the fullest extent, and so we did.
THE AIR-CONDITIONED ROOM was furnished with two three-quarter size beds, television, fridge, a good amount of drawer space, good size closet which housed a wall safe (opened with your room key), ironing board, iron, large umbrella (a savior from the wrath of Sandy's torrential downpours), lots of hangers. The adequately sized bathroom had a toilet, bidet, good sized shower stall, marble vanity counter with sink, hair dryer, 220 V plug sockets, two bath towels, two hand towels, soap and shampoo. Our great housekeeper, Mayzu, a friendly, efficient and attentive person, looked after us very well throughout our stay. On a daily basis, our housekeeper continued the practice of picking us a nice spray of tropicals for our room. She really spoiled us. This immaculately cleaned room room, was always nice to come back to every day for our afternoon Mojito or two and then a siesta on the patio.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS. THE BUFFET. We had seven breakfasts, seven dinners, and three lunches at the buffet. We were again quite happy with the food, it was typical 3-3 1/2 star basic Cuban hotel food, the food was nicely prepared and nicely presented. The main problem we had all week was restraining our appetites at each meal.
BREAKFAST, here you could have eggs any style. There were several hot tables containing scrambled eggs, potatoes, pancakes, beans etc..There were cold meats, cheeses, lots of good bread, toaster to make your own toast , yogurts and milkshakes, fresh fruit, cereals etc. etc., a good breakfast assortment we would say.
LUNCH, here they had quite a few choices of fish, chicken, pork, some cooked to order or already prepared, different stewed meats were available at the hot tables as well. There was a good variety of breads, salads, pasta cooked to order, lots of desert cakes, four varieties of ice cream. White or red wine or beer served with lunch.
DINNER, it was a mirror image of lunch with the added, chef carved, lamb, chicken, beef. White or red wine or beer with dinner as well.
THE WAITSTAFF were excellent. Ana, who handled her job so professionally, waited on our table for lunch and breakfast. We sure didn't want for anything at either of those mealtimes. Roberto, who most nights waited on our dinner table, was one of the better waiters that we had ever had in Cuba. Both these servers were so professional and efficient and yet they both found the time to give you a personal greeting, have a short friendly chat to make everyone feel at home, then always were right there when needed throughout your meal. Employees like this are the reason this hotel gets a lot of repeat guests, the job done by both these people is what good restaurant service is all about.
THE RANCHON by the beach served lunch on three occasions while we were at SCG, it was open from about 12:30 pm. until 3 pm. We loved our lunches there. Good food, great service, wild ocean sounds (courtesy of hurricane Sandy), great views of the many crazy surfers with their colorful kites, . LUNCH there was a fixed choice menu of five items… fish, chicken, pork, burger, pizza. These items were served with potato and veg. There was a salad table with some good choices and then a dessert table with a limited amount of pastry choices. Several flavors of ice cream as well. A good lunch. You could have burgers or hot dogs at the small grill that was adjacent to the Ranchon, usually this grill was open around 12 PM.
BARS, most of the week there were only two working bars. Bar Tocororo was the main bar, it was adjacent to the lobby, this bar was a constant all week. At the Tocororo they have a good variety of mixed drinks, a nice rum selection, beer, Mojito's (when they have mint, which they didn't have this week). The second bar that was open changed location on a couple of occasions. At the moment they are fixing up the Cubanito Bar by the beach and have a temporary bar set up in the same hut. But for reasons not explained (probably hurricane Sandy), this bar was shut for a couple of days and a temporary bar was moved up to the lobby area. For us, the temporary bar set up in the lobby area was a big hit. It was so nice after dinner to go to a quiet place in the lobby and sip a nice Havana Club Seven, this without all the hubbub that goes with the main Tocororo bar. Maybe they will make it a permanent feature, that would be just lovely.
THE BEACH in front of SCG is quite nice even if a little narrow at high tide. The ocean is a beautiful color and is shallow and warm, a great beach if you have young children. There is ample lounges and shade on the beach for a lot of people. We had no problem at any time getting a lounge and shade, of course SCG was maybe at 50% occupancy, this beach may be a little more crowded in high season. In October 2012 the beach was cleaned by hand. For our week at this hotel, we didn't see any mechanical cleaners like there was in 2010.
THE POOL is very nice indeed and is cleaned early every morning. We had a daily dip in the freshwater pool, even for our early morning swim, the water was a very nice temperature. We experienced no shortage of lounges although there were people who saved lounges. Although there was a drink service for people in the pool area two years ago, we didn't see that this time. It was something that we thought was a great idea, too bad the idea is gone by the boards.
THE GROUNDS are so very beautiful, we loved our extensive everyday walks through the property just ogling all those beautiful tropicals. The gardeners, all of whom have their own way of greeting you and making you welcome, are still keeping the whole property in very good shape. If anything, this time around in October 2012, the gardens were more lush.
ENTERTAINMENT. Quite simple entertainment, nice friendly entertainment crew. During the day they had trivia games, competitions, darts. They were good at just getting the guests involved and entertaining the kids. As we are early risers, we didn't go to the evening entertainment, we more or less had a nice quiet drink in the hotel lobby area after dinner, then called it a day.
MOSQUITOES AND SAND FLEAS. This hotel is built on a marshy wetland Peninsula and there is a certain amount of mosquitoes at all times, especially in the wet season. It certainly would be in your best interest to bring a DEET-based mosquito and sand flea bug repellent or some homeopathic bug repellent of your choice. Although we didn't get a lot of mosquito bites, we did get bit by the no-seeums or sand fleas. The bites only lasted a couple of days and didn't bother us too much. They did fog the perimeter of the property for mosquitoes both morning and evenings. Who knows how effective that is? We surely don't!. Though it does smell like it would kill bugs LOL.
SHOPPING. At SCG, there are two small stores. One store is strictly souvenirs. The other store has souvenirs, T-shirts, other small items of clothing, small food items, cold beer and liquor. A small section of the latter store is devoted to cigars.
There are more shops in the other hotels, these shops you can get to by walking the beach and visiting the hotels. We would say that the better stores were in the Iberostar Daiquiri, it's the second hotel down the beach from the SCG.
BANK-CADECA. The SCG has no Cadeca. But, although we did not, I am sure that you can change money at the SCG front desk. On a daily basis at the SCG reception, they do post exchange rates for all currencies. If you want the official Cuban bank rate of exchange, the BANK is situated just a short walk down the beach from SCG (15 min.), it is in the front parking lot of the Iberostar Daiquiri. From the beach , you can walk through the hotel to the front lobby of the Iberostar, then straight out, then to your right in the parking lot at the front of the Iberostar you will find a bank partially hidden among the trees. Official Cuban bank exchange rates are given here. You will need your passport in order to exchange your cash to CUC. Always count your money back to the teller. You should ask for and you will receive a printed transaction statement, it makes for good bookkeeping and keeping track of your budget.
SWIM WITH THE DOLPHINS. This is new at Cayo Guillermo and is about a 20 min. walk away from the hotel, you can also take a cab there. We're not sure whether it's open now (Oct. 29, 2012) or will be shortly. It looks like a nice building and it looks like it's ready to roll.
POWERBOATS. These are available at the bridge by the causeway from Cayo Coco to Cayo Guillermo. We didn't try them we just had a look.
WALKING the area beaches in October 2012, for us, both mornings and afternoons was a must, weather permitting of course. There are a couple of what I would say were "virgin beaches" 2 km west of SCG. There is a well-defined path to these beaches, the path runs along a very interesting coral and limestone shoreline. The path can be easily negotiated to these beaches, it's an easy, no stress walk. These beaches are really littered with flotsam and jetsam and sea shells of all kinds, the beaches are deserted on most occasions and you are usually the only one on the beach. It was so nice to walk on the beach and imagine that we were the only residents of the island. The seeming remoteness and loneliness of the trek add savor and romance to the walk. It's well worth a couple of hours of your time.
ODDITIES. Seeing some crazy tourists head bobbing in the wild surf, swimming nonchalantly some 100 m offshore, this in the middle of crashing waves and high winds from hurricane Sandy. Also, seeing some other kite surfer out in gale force winds and being told later that somebody had to go out to rescue him and his kite. Talk about crazy Canucks (yes, they were Canadian).
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS. Like before, this hotel ticked off all of the right boxes for our budget getaway – white sands, palm trees swaying in the warm breeze, great gardens with lots of tropical flora and fauna, nice beaches to walk on, good food and drinks. We especially enjoyed our room 501, it had a view to die for. We loved our patio where we spent early mornings watching the sunrise and listening to the ocean sounds and the myriad of birds singing, the patio was also a great place to spend lazy afternoons soaking up what sun there was and having a few Mojitos. Unfortunately, we didn't get to finish our official "to-do list", so now we have a "next time list". Going back again to SCG is definitely in the cards. Just Google Joe and Karen travel photos Cuba for more info and images of Sol Cayo Guillermo.
OUR FLIGHTS AND PACKAGE. Our very affordable package holiday was with Sunwing vacations and we had on-time flights from yyz both to and from the Cayo Coco destination. Arrived home tired but happy after another great week in Cuba.