Some complaints of towels not being changed frequently enough (common for area)
There can be long lines for a la carte restaurants
Following new U.S. State department regulations issued November 9, 2017, American travelers are prohibited from staying at this hotel. Read the full list of restricted businesses here. The 420-room Ocean Varadero El Patriarca is arguably the most modern family-friendly all-inclusive in the area. Its rooms are truly upscale, its a la carte restaurants don't require reservations (a rarity), its coffee bar serves first-rate brews (not often found at competing properties), and there's great evening music at the swanky piano bar. Unlike at the larger, neighboring Paradisus Varadero, there are no rooms with ocean views, but guests seeking a more intimate environment and more stylish room decor will be happier here.
The Ocean Varadero El Patriarca is one of the top resorts in Varadero, and its decor is the most modern we saw during our trip. It probably helps that this is one of the newest resorts in Varadero; it opened in 2012, and since then has already undergone some renovations, indicative of the level of care and maintenance the management puts into it. The result is a property that is truly stylish and upscale -- and not just by Cuban standards. (Varadero resorts are known for bland food and datedness issues.)
The open-air lobby has streamlined red furniture, a vaulted wood ceiling with chic hanging wooden light fixtures, and potted plants. Past the lobby is a reflecting pool, and preserved natural vegetation, enhancing the relaxed, Zen vibe. Though the resort is family-friendly, the atmosphere was decidedly sophisticated and grown-up, and we didn't notice any small children. Most guests, hailing principally from Canada, the U.K., and Germany, spend their days lazing on the beautiful beach (where the animation team leads volleyball matches in the morning), hanging by the swim-up bar in the big free-form pool, drinking iced coffees at the excellent coffee bar, and munching on snacks at the pool and beach restaurants. In the evening, lines form at the a la carte restaurants (no reservations are required, and seating is first come, first served), and after dinner many guests crowd into the intimate, swanky (and air-conditioned) piano bar off the lobby. There are also quality shows in the open-air theater (though no AC).
The property is large but manageable, and it's possible to walk everywhere (though there are buggies on hand for those who want a lift). Rooms are housed in 34 two-story bungalows inspired by local early 20th-century architecture, which face little short pathways that lend the feel of a suburban neighborhood. Unfortunately the layout is such that none face the ocean.
At the far end of the Varadero peninsula, about a 20-minute drive from downtown
The Ocean Varadero El Patriarca at kilometer 18 along Autopista Sur, the main road on the Varadero peninsula that runs parallel to the beach. It is about a 20-minute (approximately 20-CUC) drive from the craft markets, bars, restaurants, and shops of downtown Varadero; the Beatles bar and Calle 62 are especially popular. Guests can also pay 5 CUC for a day pass to the hop-on, hop-off bus. The oldest resorts tend to be located closer to downtown, and the newer ones toward the tip of the peninsula that's farthest away; El Patriarca, built in 2012, is one of the newer options. It's about a two-hour drive from the Havana airport, for approximately 100 to 120 CUC.
Unlike at most resorts in Varadero, rooms at El Patriarca are actually a high point. They're modern and stylish, with streamlined dark laminate wood furniture, cheerful Caribbean color palettes (usually green and white), tile floors, and bathrooms that have separate showers and tubs even in the standard category (not the case at the Paradisus Varadero). Flat-screen TVs have 27 channels including CNN and ESPN in English. About half have two single beds and half have king-size beds; an extra bed can be added, and rooms with king-size beds have sofa beds. They can fit three adults, or two adults and two kids. They're spacious, starting at 42 square meters (about 450 square feet) -- just slightly bigger than the 40 square meter rooms at the Paradisus Varadero. Minibars are stocked with free drinks.
There are 72 Privilege rooms located around Privilege pool, near the beach. These are for adults only and well worth the upgrade -- mostly thanks to the in-room Wi-Fi (extremely rare for Varadero). The Privilege Deluxe Rooms are slightly larger (45 square meters) and have a different color palette (usually red rather than green). The Privilege Suites are the top option, at 71 square meters and with a separate living room. These rooms also get a bigger room service menu, butler service, perks such as luggage unpacking, restaurant reservations (other guests have to line up), and access to a private lounge with an a la carte breakfast and top-shelf liquor.
Towels are exchanged in-room, which some guests find annoying, especially those who like to hit the beach in the morning before the rooms are cleaned.
A big pool with swim-up bar, a beautiful beach, and no reservations required at the a la carte restaurants
The buffet at El Patriarca was one of the cleanest and most modern we saw in Varadero. There are two omelet stations in the morning, and pasta, meat, and fish stations for lunch and dinner. Varadero in general isn't known for its food (it is typically bland), but the offering here is above average. There's also an open-air a la carte restaurant near the beach (with nice views) offering lunch items such as skewered fish, pork, pasta, mac and cheese, and boneless chicken. The a la carte dinner options include Italian (the most popular; options include pizza, lasagna, and pasta with different sauces), Asian (also good, with items such as pork lo mein, chicken satay, and beef with oyster sauce), and gourmet. There's a 24-hour snack restaurant by the pool that sometimes becomes a Caribbean a la carte at night during high season. The coffee bar near the lobby is a highlight; the coffee isn't nearly as good at most competing resorts.
Activities tend to be pretty low-key, which suits the guests here just fine. Expect volleyball or stretching on the beach, aqua aerobics by the pool, dancing classes, and the like; winners of water sports competitions get an award at the evening theater show. (The Michael Jackson show and water ballet are particularly popular; there's also a magic show.) During our visit some guests casually tossed a football in the pool while Latin music played quietly in the background; most were reading or lounging. At the beach a staff member on a microphone tried to solicit hollers from "all her beautiful people" from different countries (Columbia, Canada). The disco stays open late but usually doesn't get too hopping; many guests prefer to take excursions to Havana for an evening show of Buena Vista Social Club music.
The beautiful white-sand beach is a highlight, and there's a long stretch with a volleyball net at one end, 350 loungers (more in high season), and a good number of palapas. There's also a ledge in the sand, though, which we didn't notice as other area beaches, but it's a minor inconvenience. There were far more guests at the beach than at the pool. Water sports equipment such as kayaks and catamarans are included.
The big gym with good AC has three treadmills, multiple bikes, two elliptical machines, and strength training machines. The spa has a central courtyard with natural landscaping (think: cacti) where a cool jetted tub is located, as well as two saunas, two steam rooms, and a cool tile room with mood lighting and a sensation shower. There are four indoor and one outdoor treatment rooms.
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