The best all-inclusive hotels in Cuba, according to a Canadian website, have been ranked in a top 10 video production published by iKeepThinking.com. Under the motto “Thoughts live, they travel far” this peculiar website has different sections on thought-provoking issues under the categories of Travel, Top 10, Vacation, Music, Food for Thought and Guest Posting. But it is one of their Top 10 lists that interests us this time, as it’s about Cuba’s best all-inclusive hotels in the eyes of worldwide visitors.
iKeepThinking.com’s video presentation of Cuba’s top 10 takes viewers on a popularity ranking journey from number ten to number one. The hotels shown were selected after compiling reviews across various websites, although there may be some Canadian bias as the people behind the video’s production are Canadian and thus more likely to highly value Canadian-managed properties.
Royalton Cayo Santa Maria
Unsurprisingly the one that takes the crown is the overall favourite by past guests and critics alike, not just lately but for the past three to four years consecutively. The Royalton Cayo Santa Maria has consistently won award after award and recognition upon recognition since its opening in 2013, putting other all-inclusive Caribbean resorts to shame in the process. In 2014 it was declared the absolute number one winner after securing the number one spot on TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards – Top 25 All-Inclusive Caribbean Resorts, and in following years, despite newer, more sophisticated competition coming into play; it has managed to remain in the list, at a very decent number 11th ranking in last year’s 2016 edition. So, what’s so special about it then? Well, what isn’t? From its All-In Luxury signature concept to its Diamond Club, its stylish design and sleek layout, its spacious and modern rooms, its warm, attentive staff to its quality world-class cuisine, this is one captivating property on all fronts.
Melia Cayo Coco
Yet another adults-only hideaway that is also set on an offshore key with a thriving coral world at its doorstep, this beautiful property is one of the oldest in this list, yet has managed to not lose an ounce of its appeal to visitors, many of whom are loyal repeat guests. Conceived for the ultimate relaxation and pampering of adults, this stunning resort is just footsteps away from an amazing marine world and as such is ideal for keen scuba divers and even amateur fisherman wanting to indulge in a spot of fishing.
The beach is so crystalline and the sands so pristinely pure you’ll feel like a castaway, only with modern comforts. Furthermore, the Melia Cayo Coco is one of the very few hotels in Cuba to have bungalows on stilts over a natural seawater lagoon. It’s currently ranked number one of all 12 resorts in Cayo Coco by TripAdvisor and was this year’s recipient of Travellers’ Choice Awards 2017. Last year it was included in TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Best All-inclusive Resorts, ranking at number 16. So this one, has been a consistently good choice for years and it shows no signs of its popularity waning, even in the face of new, fiercer competition to come.
Paradisus Rios de Oro
The only in the list to be found in Eastern Cuba, far away from the mass tourism appeal of Varadero and Cuba’s central northern keys, this gem of a resort has won numerous accolades throughout its many years of history (it has over a decade of existence). Perfectly facing a privileged stretch of Playa Esmeralda in Guardalavaca, Holguin, the Paradisus Rios de Oro has been exclusively designed for adults, right from its very start. The property’s romantic appeal leaves no one indifferent and it helps that it boasts no less than eight different dining venues and seven bars. There’s also a beautiful botanical garden for the most romantic strolls and a fabulous Yhi Spa with signature treatments. It describes itself as an “ultra all-inclusive 5-star eco-resort” and a “world apart, simply exceptional”, and justifiably so, as it managed to captivate the hearts of visitors and critics, being ranked number one of all Cuba hotels on TripAdvsor’s Top 25 All-inclusive Resorts 2016 and taking 11th place among all Caribbean properties in the list. To further enhance guests’ experience Paradisus Rios de Oro also offers its signature Royal Service with 24-hour room service and much more.
Sanctuary at Grand Memories
The first in Varadero and the only one in this list to not be a hotel but a section within one, the Sanctuary adults-only area at Grand Memories certainly has guests talking. This adults-only paradise caters exclusively to grown-ups in search of a more pampering experience with complimentary butler service, round-the-clock room service, an elegant a la carte restaurant solely for adults and an equally exclusive bar and pool. The most amazing thing about this child-free haven is perhaps the fact that it exists next door to child-friendly facilities, yet one section doesn’t get in the other’s way. They both perfectly coexist side by side. Ranking at number four I’d say they have achieved the perfect balance between offering bespoke superior luxury treatment and striking the right note with parents.
Also in Varadero, this adults-only property was famously known as the former Sandals Hicacos. Since the Blue Diamond Group took over in 2013 and relaunched it 2014 under their Royalton brand, it has gone from strength to strength, repeatedly earning accolades and distinctions (such as being ranked sixth in the Top 25 All-Inclusive Resorts in the Caribbean by TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards 2015, and managing to remain on said list in the awards’ 2016 edition, though in a lower ranking). It continues to be adults-only and woos visitors with its new facilities, such as additional beach beds, newly refurbished bars, professional fitness classes (with certified Zumba and yoga instructors) and an expansion on the number of restaurants. At present the Royalton Hicacos offers a total of 404 rooms, six restaurants, six bars, three swimming pools, a spa, wedding packages and their signature All-In Luxury concept.
Pullman Cayo Coco
The third in this list to be found in the stunning Cayo Coco island paradise, this one outdoes all others in terms of number of rooms (522), swimming pools (there’s seven!) dining facilities and number of bars – it has 10 of them! With eight restaurants catering to every palate, every craving and every fussy eater, no one goes hungry at the Pullman, seriously, no one can. Even the fruit here is praised as better and more varied than at any other Cuban resort! The fact that this hotel only opened in February 2016 explains its modern facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, refreshing design, chic décor and overall spanking new feel. It’s split into two sections, the hotel’s main grounds and signature adult-only area – The Collection by Pullman, with suites and a private Golden Villa. Aside from the adult-only section this is a family-friendly resort that welcomes children of all ages and offers no less than four different mini clubs (according to age), a playground, video game area, animation programmes, one baby pool and one kids’ pool.
Iberostar Playa Pilar
The only one in this list to be located in the beautifully pristine Cayo Guillermo key, this new resort only opened a little over a year ago, and it’s been proving its worth ever since. It’s ranked number one on TripAdvisor’s list of Cayo Guillermo hotels (there’s only six in this paradisiac and remote enclave) and brilliantly caters to young families as well as adults of all ages. It features direct access to the beach from every one of its 482 room (with rooms housed across 15 independent buildings near the sea) while perfectly placed Balinese beds face the shallow turquoise lagoon and the pool, add to the luxury feel. The nearby golf course is a plus for golf enthusiasts and there’s also a Spa Sensations on site, a fabulous water park for little ones, mini playground and two kids’ club. Five restaurants and five bars, as well as a variety of fitness and sports facilities as well as recreational options complete the picture.
We’re actually surprised that this one hasn’t ranked higher on this list. It’s a Premium Gold five-star property, praised for its excellent dining options at its five restaurants, its atmospheric nightclub and nightly entertainment (both for kids and for parents). It´s also got some of the best children’s facilities in all of Varadero, from a dedicated animation team, to two age-appropriate mini-clubs (one for 4 to 7-year-olds and another for 8 to 12-year-olds) to kid-centred entertainment, a playground, babysitting services and mini pools with a pirate-ship themed mini water park. But Iberostar Varadero is not just about pleasing families and as a result child-less adults absolutely adore this resort too (if in doubt, check its amazing TripAdvisor ratings). Here you’ll find a nice mix of guests of all ages having an absolute blast of a time. It has 386 rooms in total, five bars, five restaurants, three swimming pools, a myriad of sports facilities and more.
This enchanting four-star property has a long list of pluses with very few minuses. It has changed to welcome only adults since November 2016, which means only those aged over 18 can now enjoy its popular facilities. There’s nothing remarkably special about this resort except that it ticks all the right boxes at the right price – a great all-rounder offering extremely good value. Its ample entertainment programme is a favourite among guests as is the range of complimentary activities and sports on offers, as well as the wining and dining options, including a 24-hour snack bar at the beach. Blau Varadero has 395 rooms, three restaurants, four bars and one mega-large swimming pool.
Melia Las Americas
This large five-star resort might be at the bottom of iKeepThinking’s list but it has legendary been one of Varadero’s most prestigious over its many decades of existence. It’s also one of the oldest and in recent years has changed its concept to welcome adults only. Lying adjacent to the Varadero Golf Club (Cuba’s only championship golf course…for now) this resort is the island’s finest for golf lovers as guests enjoy exclusive direct access as well as receiving special golfing perks. Beyond golf, there’s plenty to do as the resort also sits next door to the Plaza America shopping centre. It also celebrates unique annual events such as the Varadero Golf Tournament in September and the Singles Party, typically taking place in spring or summer. The resort has 305 rooms, five restaurants, four bars, four swimming pools and Wi-Fi is offered at additional charge.
Food for thought?
Whilst indeed this list includes some of Cuba’s finest all-inclusive hotels, we must take these results with a pinch of salt, as after all it was an independently-created, non-expert ranking and therefore subjective and likely to have some bias, especially where Canadian holidaymakers are concerned.
Having said that, there is indeed value to this Top 10 list, as Canadians comprise the largest foreign group of visitors to Cuba, with over one million of them heading to the island every year.
Plus, this selection is not only backed by thousands of positive recent hotel reviews but by international accolades like TripAdvisor’s annual Travellers’ Choice Awards. So, there is little doubt that these are really some of Cuba’s best all-inclusive hotels. A stay at any of these (or at the very least at the top five) is unlikely to leave anyone disappointed.
The challenge in finding quality family-friendly resorts
Seven of the all-inclusive resorts ranked here as best in Cuba are adults-only, so are kids really spoiling the experience for couples and adults? Well, the key seems to be in creating separate havens for the two groups under one single roof (figuratively speaking, as resorts are often made up of several different buildings and blocks) to keep everyone happy; something that the Pullman Cayo Coco masterfully does, achieving the perfect balance of family bliss and adult sophistication.
Understandably, a tantrum-free, squeal-free and mess-free environment is more appealing to most than a chaotic one, and as such the challenge lies in resorts stepping up to keep nuisances at bay and providing dedicated attention to both groups, families and couples. Iberostar Varadero isn’t doing too badly a job of it, despite not having different sections for each group, so perhaps their model is an inspiring one that more resorts should take note from.
Room for more?
While all the hotels named here are indeed solid, well-established choices, over the last year a few could be driven out of the top spots as newer all-inclusive properties open their doors throughout the island. The Iberostar Bella Vista in Varadero just opened its doors in April as another Premium Gold property and by the looks of it, it might soon outdo others. For one, it boasts an incredible mini water park for kids, much in the style of the popular Iberostar Varadero, only this property is even more modern and elegant than the latter, with even more dining choices included a kids-dedicated restaurant. Still in its early opening stages, there might still be some glitches to iron out but in a year’s time it might move to the top of Varadero’s all-inclusive hotel list. Similarly, the new Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria by Banyan Tree, open since January 2017 is also expected to quickly move up in the rankings over this year and the next.
There are quite a few more all-inclusive Cuba hotels in the pipeline, due to open sometime between this year and 2020, so, in around three years’ time, or even sooner, this list might change significantly. Some of the most awaited include Banyan Tree’s second Cuba property at Cayo Buba and the new Gran Paraiso Hotel in Cayo Largo, expected to open in 2018. And there will be more, as well as new golf resort complexes dotted all around the island. Keep checking back here, as we’re sure to keep you in the loop with the latest and freshest.
In this Top 10 list, there are three Melias, three Blue Diamond (owners of the Royalton and Grand Memories brands) properties and two Iberostar resorts – so perhaps we can conclude that overall these are your safest brand bets when it comes to Cuban all-inclusives, although of course, all the ones mentioned here are five star or five-star plus, so no wonder! It might have something to do with the brand and a lot to do with their category.