Standard rooms are dated compared to executive ones
Some bathrooms are small and dated
Little in walking distance
The upscale Melia Varadero has a lovely beachfront location half way up the peninsula of Varadero. The 490 rooms are split between two categories: The standard rooms have an old-fashioned look with dated bedspreads and bathrooms, while the executive-level rooms look far more chic with dark-wood furniture and stylish artwork. But all rooms have balconies, and some offer truly stellar views. Features are in line with other upscale resorts including two pools with a waterfall feature, five restaurants, and basketball and tennis courts. A kids' club and kiddy pool appeals to families, and business travelers can use the meeting rooms or Internet cafe. One thing to note: Wi-Fi is available in both public areas and rooms, a rarity for Cuba. Travelers could compare rates and amenities with the neighboring sister resort, Melia Las Americas.
An inviting upscale resort appealing to a broad range of guests
Opened in 1991, the Melia Varadero was the first hotel of the Melia brand to open in Cuba. At the time, Melia Varadero was the luxury property of the area, but now its sister property Paradisus Princesa del Mar Resort & Spa seems to hold that title. Still, this resort has much to recommend it. It's less sprawling and more centralized compared to other neighboring resorts. (There's no need to be transported in a shuttle from one end of the resort to the other.) Past a wide rectangular check-in area with arched ceilings, columns, and marble floors, the lobby opens into a soaring six-story atrium bathed in natural light. A central water feature is surrounded by lush landscaping, and white balconies ring around each floor rising to a circular skylight. The lobby's glass-walled elevator faces out toward this view.
The action is centered around two freeform pools, which are enhanced by a rock wall and a waterfall feature. Piped in Latin music was playing softly around the pool area during our visit. Some of the poolside restaurants are equally inviting, such as the Trinidad, which has thatch-style roofs, tile floors, and vaulted ceilings with a crow's nest, giving it a bit of a pirate theme. The back half of the hotel opens onto a garden with striped hammocks, cafe tables, and wicker chairs all facing the ocean.
The hotel has an executive floor, The Level, with its own exclusive check-in desk. This area of the hotel is a bit more sleek, with futuristic white-on-white furniture including white leather chairs on casters and illuminated planters by the elevators.
Guests run the gamut from families with children to solo travelers and couples. The majority of the guest here are international visitors, many from Canada, Latin America, and Spain.
Beautiful beachfront location with little in walking distance
Melia Varadero is located about halfway up the peninsula of Varadero by white sandy beaches on what is widely considered some of Cuba's most lovely coastline. It's surrounded by other resorts, with the Melia Las Americas right next door. A small shopping arcade, Plaza Las Americas, is about a 10-minute walk away and offers a bank, souvenir shops, a market, and restaurants including a pizzeria, but there's little else in walking distance. Most guests rely on taxis and the hop-on, hop-off bus to get around. For golfers, Varadero Golf Club is a short five-minute drive away. The town of Varadero is within a nine-minute drive, offering dining, nightlife, and an artisan market. Havana is a 70-minute drive from here, and the José Martí International Airport is another 10 minutes farther.
Rooms vary from dated to chic, all with furnished balconies
Guest rooms at the Melia Varadero are split into two general categories -- standard rooms and executive-level rooms -- and each has a very different look and feel. The standard rooms are rather old fashioned with checkerboard tile floors and solid blond-wood furniture. Bedspreads in a burgundy-and-green vine pattern look particularly dated, and there's nothing in the way of artwork, though mirrors and some Art-Deco-style lamps add a little decorative touch. All rooms come with minibars, air-conditioning, electric kettles, safes, free water bottles, irons and ironing boards, and flat-screen TVs. All rooms have balconies, either furnished with patio sets or sunbeds. Sea, garden, or pool views are available.
Simple bathrooms are decked out with beige tile with burgundy or orange trim. Diamond-shaped mirrors hang above the vanities. Some rooms have bath/shower combos, others have shower stalls, and some bathrooms have bidets. All bathrooms have magnifying mirrors, individual toiletries, and hairdryers.
Suites on the executive floor (The Level) have a far more chic and streamlined look with drum pendant lights, dark-wood furniture, and canvases of tropical flowers adorning the walls. Bathrooms here have stylish gray tiles, walk-in showers, rainfall showerheads, vessel sinks, and other luxe touches. But the best aspect of these rooms are their massive balconies that have truly incredible views looking out over the Bay of Cardenas. The top-tier rooms here have two bathrooms, smart-phone docks, and L-shaped balconies. Wi-Fi is available in rooms, and on our visit Melia Varadero was the only property in the area with that amenity.
Gorgeous beach, two pools, five restaurants, and activities for kids
The Melia Varadero offers the wide range of features expected of an upscale property, but it stops just short of being full-on luxury. The hub of the hotel is its two pools, one of which has a kiddy pool. It's connected with two small footbridges and anchored around a palapa-topped poolside bar. The water is surrounded by blue-and-white loungers, sunbeds, and lush vegetation. The pool has a volleyball net stretched across the water. There's also two basketball courts and two tennis courts sitting nearby. Tennis lessons are available, and the property also offers diving lessons in the pool.
The resort's white-sand beach is outfitted with blue fabric loungers and umbrellas. Non-motorized water sports are included in the rates. Outdoor showers are located nearby to shower off seawater before returning to the resort grounds.
The property has five restaurants, one buffet and four a la carte, including the Salon de Santiago, Restaurante Trinidad serving Caribbean food, and a Japanese restaurant, Sakura. Five bars are also on hand including a piano bar, a snack bar, and a poolside bar. One restaurant is exclusive to guests on the executive floor (The Level) serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and drinks. A private dining room is also available with room for eight people. Room service is available, but it incurs a small additional fee.
A fitness center is also on-site, though this was closed during our visit. A beauty salon is also on the grounds, and beachside massage treatments can be arranged.
Evening entertainment is provided regularly, and the property includes a small stage for performances. For families, babysitting and cribs are available on request, and a kids' club (Club Amigos) provides entertainment for younger guests. A playground is on-site as well.
Wi-Fi is available in both public spaces and rooms. (On our visit, it was the only hotel in the area to have Wi-Fi in rooms.) Cards connecting guests to Wi-Fi are for sale in the lobby and cost 3 Cuc each. And an Internet cafe is also on-site providing computer workstations. Several meeting rooms are available. Weddings are held on-site as well.
An on-site art gallery sells original artwork by local artists. A tour desk is available, as is car, bike, or motorbike rentals.