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