My daughter and I went to Varadero in August of last year and I wanted to offer some information about our vacation there for anyone who is looking for a great place to stay or for feedback on the Hotel Riu Varadero
The resort offers three sections, hotel rooms, superior rooms and Royal Suites. We stayed in a Royal Master Suite which was amazing, but my son went in October and stayed in a Superior Room which he said was wonderful too.
If you decide to spend a few extra dollars and stay in a Royal Suite it is definitely worth the investment. Upon your arrival, you are taken to the Royal section, which is nearest the beach, to check in. They have an air-conditioned office there, where one family/group at a time are checked in and you are given a glass of champagne to enjoy at the same time. They have already booked you into three of the restaurants for dinner, during your stay, where as with the standard rooms and superior rooms you can only book into two restaurants for the week.
Our room was extremely large, consisting of a hallway with a 2-piece bathroom, a sitting room, a bedroom and a bathroom with shower and hydro massage tub. It had a large balcony, overlooking the Jacuzzi by the pool, an open style wardrobe, self-controlled air-conditioning and a wall safe. The air-conditioning was fabulous. We kept it at 17°C which was perfect for cooling off from the intense summer sun and for sleeping.
There are three pools in the resort, but the pool in the Royal section is only for the use of those staying in the Royal Suites. You are given a specific colour wrist band to wear when you arrive and this identifies which section and type of vacation package that you chose. The Royal section is also located closest to the beach, so if you prefer to be nearer to the restaurants and the stores then both the standard room section and superior room section would work well for you.
FOOD AND DRINKS
There are two buffet and six à la carte restaurants to choose from. The main buffet restaurant, in the centre of the resort, I thought was just wonderful. There were so many different types of foods to choose from, and even if you are a picky eater, I am sure you could find a couple of things that you liked. There was always rice, different types of potatoes, spaghetti and either a hamburger or hot dog available, especially at the buffet restaurant that was close to the beach. So even if you don’t appreciate the Cuban way of cooking, you are not going to starve. Plus, they have their 24 hour restaurant open, which serves your typical fast food, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and chips. So even the pickiest of children are going to survive the week.
I hear so many people complain about the food in Cuba, but I absolutely love it and truly do not understand why this is. I love their fish, their vegetables, the terrific amount of choice you are given. They have a variety of egg styles to choose from for breakfast, poached, boiled, scrambled, freshly made omelette. Even though they may cook some of their food in more butter or oil than I would normally eat. It was only for a week out of my life, I was not making a lifestyle change. Sometimes I found it hard to choose what I wanted to eat, as I wanted to try everything, but could only so much at one sitting.
When my son went to this resort later in October, he went with three friends who had not been to Cuba before. I made a point of asking him what they thought about the food and he told me they loved it. What can I say. But please remember I heard other people who were staying at the hotel complaining about the food, this is the same food which I am telling you is amazing; so please bear this in mind if you are planning on going there.
The à la carte restaurants are Ging Seng – Asian, La Orquidea – Gourmet, Los Lirios – Seafood, Mar Pacifico – Creole, La Violita – Italian and Ave del Pariaso – International. The Ave del Pariaso is exclusively for the Royal section though and you can eat all your meals there if you wish. My daughter and I enjoyed the fare at the Ging Seng, La Orquidea and Los Lirios and they were all exceptional. The Los Lirios is part of the buffet restaurant close to the beach and if you do not like Seafood, I would suggest you do not book to go there. You would think that was obvious, but I am mentioning it because when we were there, a couple came in to eat and then left because there was only Seafood on the menu. Hmmm, I wouldn’t have thought that would have been a surprise, go figure!
As far as drinks go, they were available 24 hours a day and there was always a good selection. Typical for all-inclusive resorts, the usual Crystal beer which is light and refreshing, which was usually my first drink of the day at around noon. House wine – red wine that really does taste like Ribena and to be honest I am still debating whether I believe it has any alcoholic content LOL!. All types of cocktails, Spanish coffee, spirits and soft drinks are there for the asking, my favourite libation being a Mojito. There was only one time when they ran out of fresh peppermint so I was a pretty happy camper.
THINGS TO DO
For entertainment there was always a band or singer playing in the restaurants and bars. There was a very talented female singer/pianist in the main bar one night, who was simply fabulous. Plus there was a duo – singer, playing the keyboard and a bongo player, who entertained us nightly in the main buffet restaurant who we really enjoyed listening to. I would have bought their CD if they had one.
There were some nightly shows I do believe, but for the guests of the Royal Suites there was a private Club House and Cigar Bar which is where we spent most of our evenings. We loved it because it was not as busy, had wonderful air-conditioning and you could buy better quality wine etc if you wanted too. The usual drinks were still available for free and we sat in comfy chairs and played cards or chatted to other quests. I have to say that this in itself was worth the extra few dollars.
There are market stalls that were open at night where you can buy jewelry and the usual trinkets and keep-sakes that are usually hand-made. It was always nice to browse around after dinner for a little exercise. They do have a disco for all night dancing, but unfortunately I cannot say if it was any good as we never went.
There were the usual excursions that you could go on and my daughter and I did go on the catamaran trip to swim with the dolphins. It was only for the morning and sailing on the catamaran was very relaxing and we both got to a cuddle with a dolphin and were pulled along holding onto his fins. Very cool indeed. They are such lovely creatures and when you hug them all you can feel is that they are all solid muscle!
The games room really didn’t have anything to offer, except a pool table, which was usually busy.
POOLS AND BEACH
There are three swimming pools in the resort, but as I mentioned earlier the pool in the Royal section is for Royal guests only. The other two pools had swim up bars and the one nearest the standard rooms had a type of waterfall which was really nice. There are plenty of pool side beds and you could get a clean towel to use by the pool or on the beach every day.
The beach was simply beautiful and the water was clear and blue. There were plenty of beach beds available and even though it was often busy we never had trouble finding one. There is a bar tucked away just off the pathway on to the beach where you can get beer, rum and coke and basic type drinks. I did make sure to take a few CUCs with me, so I could tip the beach barmen, as most people didn’t take money with them, which is understandable.
There are beach activities like wind surfing etc., and my daughter did get her hair braided by one of the locals on the beach; but she had to go into the bushes to have it done as the security guards are there to prevent the locals from pestering the guests.
I am sure there are some things that I have forgotten, but hopefully this will give you a feel for the resort. The people were all lovely and friendly and we personally didn’t experience one problem. For the official details see links provided below. I would go back again in a heart beat and I am wishing I was there now. I could murder a nice cold crystal beer and soak up some lovely warm sunshine. Plus, if you look at the photo below, this is what the weather is doing outside in Burlington, at the moment!