Melia Las Dunas
We had a very enjoyable time at Melia Las Dunas with plenty of food, drinks, beach, pool and sun.
Melia Las Dunas in Cayo Santa Maria is a lovely all inclusive resort in the Caribbean on the north shore of Cuba, 90 miles directly south of Florida. This resort is a 1 1/2 hour bus ride from the nearest airport of Santa Maria.
Everyone should consider at least one Cuban holiday.
Cuba relies on tourism for survival. Canadians are represent about half of all tourists. They rest are European and South American. We met people from Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Argentina and others.
Cuba is an extremely poor country with wonderfully friendly appreciative people. Cuba is not Punta Cana, Cancun nor Panama. It certainly is not Sandals or anything like that.
Melia Las Dunes resort was built about 10 years ago. It has multiple two story villas each containing 8 to 16 air conditioned spacious units. The buildings are separated by extensive plantings of flowering shrubs and palms arranged over a large area, meticulously landscaped, and connected by pathways giving privacy between each building. Our second floor unit was a suite overlooking the ocean. It had a living room, 2 balconies, sofa, TV, table, chairs, fridge, kettle, safe, bedroom with king bed, 2 full baths, TV, and balcony. Each bath had toilet, bidet, vanity, and tub/shower.
The resort has a large open lobby with bar and barista with bistro tables and chairs many of which were rocking chairs. The best drinks were espresso, Spanish Coffee, beer, rum on ice (Cuban aged rum right up there with Scotch). We found most mixed drinks too sweet.
Facilities included a huge family pool, two huge adult only pools, with swim up bars; entertainment amphitheater, breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, 3 a la carte restaurants, grill snack bar, and beach bar.
The beach is one of the gems of the Caribbean. It is soft white sand stretching for miles. The ocean is clear turquoise aqua, warm and shallow.
There were plenty of loungers available everywhere. (Perhaps because the resort seemed to be only partially occupied.) Beach towels were supplied and could be exchanged daily.
The employees we met were extremely friendly and went out of their way to offer help. Once you greeted them as a friend they reciprocated, often showing pictures of their children and family. Many of the guests we met have been returning to the same resort for years.
My review :
Beach 4-5 star
Pools 4 star
Grounds and landscaping 3-4 star
Room overall 3 star
Room cleanliness 4 star
Restaurants/buffets 2-3 star
Entertainment 1-2 star
Where did they lose stars?
Grounds and landscaping suffered hurricane damage 3 years ago which has not all been repaired. Some pathway lighting missing.
Room water pressure very low to barely adequate. Water was only lukewarm at best. Insufficient water pressure to operate bidet. Towels and linens clean, but some small stains on sheets. Air conditioning controls sub standard. No lighting in the halls one night.
Restaurants and food.
Food tended to be bland. Cubans apparently are not into spices. Nothing very fancy.
Breakfast buffet offered eggs cooked to order except for 1 day. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetable. Fruit juices way too sweet.
Supper buffet offered fresh chicken, pork, beef and fish grilled to order. Pasta table. Bread table. Plenty of salads and fresh vegetables. Dessert bar had fresh fruit and pastries.
Entertainment was like amateur hour. They tried hard.
Other comments. Though wifi is advertised as available it generally doesn't work. Even though our devices showed strong signal strength and were connected by password it generally would not upload or download data. We were only able to retrieve our mail twice in the two weeks we were there. If you really want to stay in touch buy a prepaid SIM card in the lobby for your smart phone (US$100 and up).
What to bring if you go to Cuba? Plenty of sunscreen, hats, bathing suits, sandals, shorts and casual tops. (We brought insect repellant, but didn't need it.) Dress up for dinners optional but fun. Don't flash expensive jewelry.
All inclusive resorts include pretty well everything. However cash tips are usually given. $5-10 a day for maid service, $10-15 day for bar, restaurant, towel boys, chair attendants, baggage handlers.
Bring $5 and $10 dollar bills and maybe US$1 bills. Loonies and toonies are not exchangeable at the local bank. What most guests do is change your $10 and $20 bills with the bar tender for loonies and toonies which can be given as individual tips. Do them a favor and buy back the change from the servers before leaving for home. They will appreciate it.
Canadians are aware of the economic difficulties facing ordinary Cubans and many bring gifts. Items that guests bring are either locally very expensive or simply not available. Most sought items include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, first aid items, lip balm, topical antibiotic, toothpaste and brushes, feminine products, nail files and emery boards, bar soap, and deodorant. Other items include retractable pens, note paper, playing cards, infant clothing and children toys, especially baseballs and tennis balls. What we discovered is chewing gum was a big hit - they invariably refer to it as Chiclets. If you want to bring a special gift bring a Domino set.
Overall we had an enjoyable holiday. We particularly loved the pools and beach. We drank plenty of cerveza, vino tinto, and aged rum. My wife developed a taste for Chocolate Tequila (a local liqueur). We met and shared stories with guests from around the world and bonded with many of the local Cuban employees. Seeing the struggles of the people, especially those outside of the resort makes one appreciative of our privileged life in Canada.