Occidental Grand Playa Turquesa – Holguin Cuba
January 21 – 27, 2008
Its my first time to Cuba and the Tropics, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect and I likely spent way more time then necessary in choosing my destination and resort. I ended up picking an all-inclusive package in Cuba mainly due to price in particular. It was one of the least expensive places to go solo. Many resorts add a significant single-supplement on to their base prices, but in the off-season and shoulder season periods, the packages to some Cuban resorts will waive the single supplement. In this instance, I found a Holguin package that waived the single supplement for a January visit and jumped at the chance to leave Ottawa winter weather behind and head for Holguin, Cuba. The Holguin region, as it was described on-line and in the brochures is a nice relaxing location somewhat off the beaten path for most tourists but becoming more popular each year. I found the facilities to be more than adequate for my needs and interests.
I chose the Occidental Playa Toursita which ended up being a really nice hotel. I’m an Engineer by training so like to evaluate things so, for my resort decision, I considered a number of factors in addition to price:
1. Swim-up Pool Bar – Drink and swim without getting out the pool for me is a major plus. When their is a bar or refreshment stand near the pool, one does not have to leave the pool area (potentially losing one’s chair in the process) in order to get a beverage.
2. Number and type of pools – although I didn’t expect any large pools, the fact that this resort had so many meant that I could drift from a noisy pool to a quieter one, if necessary (and vice versa).
3. Building style – It was nice to have a number of low-rise (2 & 3 story) buildings for rooms, rather than a huge hotel-like complex where you need to go up and down many flights of stairs to get to your room. Unlike modern city office buildings, resort buildings often do not have elevators and going up and down many flights of stairs can become tiresome regardless of how nice the weather or the resort happens to be.
4. Clientele: Some resorts cater more to families, some cater to the eco-tourists and still others cater to a more elderly clientele. In their advertisements, this resort indicated that it was not ideal for persons with limited mobility due to its location on a hillside and numerous stairs. This didn’t deter me since I was looking forward to getting some exercise anyway. It had a note about there being a bunch of stairs and not ideal for those with limited mobility. For me this meant less seniors and I’d get more exercise, in fact this resort it very much on a hill.
Now being off the beaten path did mean a few interesting things.
A. My flight had an arrival time of 12:15AM. Add in driving time of an hour from the airport to the resort and I finally got checked in at about 3AM!
B. At Holguin,there is very little around the resort by way of external infrastructure for tourists – no towns, no markets, etc. They did rent bikes, however, but from talking to couple on the first day, I quickly learned that you can bike for hours and not see anything more than farming and scenery. The resorts where isolated by a significant distance from everything touristy. A bonus for some who like it that way but a drawback for others who might like to be in locations with more infrastructure catering to tourist needs.
C. The warm water in my room (shower) didn’t work for 3 days of the week; for me, no worries – just cold showers – others where a bit more bothered by it.
The atmosphere of the hotel (activities, friendly staff) and a long list of extra off-resort activities went a long way towards offsetting any of the negatives.
Since the resort is very isolated, on-site entertainment is a must, and what they did for Holguin was bring in external talent (bands, stunts performers and magicians from around Cuba. They even had some Canadian music talent who played at the pool side for people. There were also some in-house performances which were also good especially the clowns. Food was good, the resort had a wide selection of a-la-carte restaurants one could visit and we could go to 6 over the week. This worked out quite well although sometimes the buffet had a broader and better food selection. If you go to the Asian restaurant, order the two person fish, everything else is blah :-). Desserts at each restaurant were excellent.
I was ready for a holiday in the sun and this was going to be it.
I really enjoyed my time swimming with the dolphins and going on a Jeep safari tour through the countryside and eating those desserts :-). A couple of the outings are covered by separate blog entries here: