Sunday, April 22, 2018

(Not the) Last Resort

As established, Audrey and I have no basis for comparison when it comes to resorts. I can tell you that while the combination of embargoes and hurricanes appears to have made maintaining a high standard of upkeep extremely challenging, our room was always clean and the staff always friendly.

I also appreciated the fact that our resort, ROC Arenas Doradas, was not very high density; it's a set of 11 two-story buildings with about 30 rooms in each.

With less than 350 rooms, they had the same footprint as a number of high-rise hotels in the area, one of which we saw under construction with 900+ rooms anticipated.

Being tourists meant that the omnipresent geckos were a feature, not a detriment.

Our residence wasn't fancy, but as soon as we stepped out of our room we were outdoors, less than a minute's walk from the pool.

The pool also features a nearby restaurant for casual dining, with only a moderate dress code:

We only visited the pool once, because I desperately needed to experience a swim-up bar, but we vastly preferred the beach. The beach bar, Los Pelicanos, was a little further away but the beach seats were quieter, prettier, and the salt water was far superior to the chlorinated variety.

We spent a couple of evenings at the lobby bar as well; it was the only spot on the property with wi-fi reception (1 peso/hr), but was also a nice space with interesting decor...

With interesting people dropping through from time to time.

The resort also offers a free shuttle to the nearby town of Varadero, but it was suggested to us that the 5 peso bus was a better arrangement, since it drives the length of the town and you can hop-on, hop off at will, which we did.

You get to see a bit more of the other resorts, and can even view some scenery without ever stepping off the bus, although some of it can be deceptive. For instance, this Spanish-looking tower and accompanying Quixote-esque sculpture... actually a modern construction built by a nearby restaurant in order to conceal an ugly water tower. Full marks for ingenuity!

Varadero itself feels like it was designed from the ground up for tourists, which is not far from the truth, since almost all the developments came when they opened the area up for tourism in the late 90s. In addition to the market stalls and eateries though, you still come across hints of authentic Cuban life and history.

If we were ever to return to Cuba, part of me would like to try a different resort, perhaps closer to Havana, where I would love to spend more time. On the other hand though, Roc Arenas Doradas is a known quantity now, with a lovely beach and extremely friendly staff, so I'd also be inclined to stay there again.

Hopefully it won't take another 25 years before the two of us return to Cuba, wherever we might end up staying!

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