Spa offering massages, facials, and couple's treatments
Business center and four meeting rooms
Wi-Fi in public spaces
No kids under 18 allowed (pro for some)
Food can be underwhelming
Wi-Fi only free for Royal Service guests
Some rooms are smoking (pro for some)
Little in walking distance
Following new issued November 9, 2017, American travelers are prohibited from staying at this hotel. Read the full list of restricted businesses . The Paradisus Princesa del Mar is a rarity in Cuba -- a true luxury, all-inclusive resort in Varadero, known for its picturesque beaches. The resort is split between its standard accommodations and its upper-tier Royal Service wing. Its 798 rooms opt for elegant, subdued furnishings. All rooms include balconies or terraces with either ocean or pool views. Royal Service rooms include additional perks like jetted tubs, butler service, and some offer direct pool access. The action here centers on the beach and the resort's three pools, two of which have swim-up bars. There are also seven restaurants, though some guests find the food underwhelming. Tennis courts, live entertainment, and a cigar bar add to the resort's appeal. Be aware that this is an adults-only property; families could consider the Paradisus Varadero Resort & Spa as an alternative.
A true luxury hotel offering two distinct levels of service
Paradisus Princesa del Mar is a rare resort -- a true luxury property in Cuba. While that's hardly difficult to find in other Caribbean destinations, in Cuba they're in short supply. The resort itself is split into two camps, one offering a standard-level of service and accommodations, and another wing offering Royal Service, with more luxe accommodations, a private pool, separate dining options, and an exclusive check-in. Guests arriving to general check-in walk into a massive open-air lobby topped with citrus-colored tray ceilings. White columns frame the back staircase that descends into the main pool, the heart of the resort. This undulating body of water is crisscrossed with footbridges and surrounded with loungers and hammocks for lounging. From here winding paths break off to a small town-square-style patio with a clock tower and a central three-tier fountain surrounded by restaurants. The paths also snake around the green, landscaped grounds toward the rooms, lemon-yellow or coral-colored buildings with colonial arches.
The Royal Service has it's own dedicated lobby that departs from the colonial look for a streamline, Asian-inspired one, with a small square reflecting pool dotted with tropical flowers at the entrance. The Royal Service pool is a long ribbon of water that flows past the rooms gathering in pockets around bridges, sunbeds, or the swim-up bar. A second, smaller pool set up on a hill offers sweeping views of the grounds. But many guests simply opt for sunning themselves on the beach, a gorgeous stretch of white sand with several palapa umbrellas, cobalt-blue loungers, and a handful of daybeds.
The entire property has a decidedly romantic air, with most guests being international couples on a getaway. Note that the property is adults only and doesn't admit children.
A removed beachfront resort, a 22-minute drive from the town of Varadero
This beachfront property set out on the peninsula of Varadero with gorgeous white-sand beaches, but little else in walking distance. A small marina is about a two- to three-minute drive away with a pharmacy, supermarket, and a handful of eateries. But the main town of Varadero is a full 22 minutes away by car. There, travelers can find a wide variety of restaurants, an artisan market, and several nightlife spots including the Beatles Bar (popular with locals). A hop-on, hop-off bus stops outside the hotel to take guests to town, and a trip costs 5 Cuc. For golfers, the Varadero Golf Club is 12 minutes away by car. Havana is two hours and 15 minutes away by car, and José Martí International Airport is 15 minutes farther.
Sophisticated rooms offering two levels of service, both with balconies or terraces
Paradisus Princesa del Mar swaps out the usual bright Caribbean colors for something a bit more sophisticated and subdued in neutral hues. Dark-wood furnishings, sand-hued walls, burgundy bedspreads, and purple bed runners give a classic look. Small camelback sofas provide seating, and turn-leg desks add work surfaces. Many walls are adorned with artwork depicting local street scenes. All rooms have balconies or terraces furnished with wrought-iron tables and chairs. Views are either of the pool or beach. Bathrooms clad in tan marble tiles have vessel sinks on roomy countertops and glass walk-in showers with rainfall showerheads or shower/tub combos. Hairdryers, magnifying mirrors, and an ample supply of individual toiletries come standard.
Amenities include air-conditioning, safes, beach towels and beach bags, umbrellas, bottled water, coffeemakers with coffee/tea supplies, irons and ironing boards, bathrobes, and minibars with free drinks and snacks (premium beverages cost an additional fee). At the time of our visit, Wi-Fi was not available in rooms, but routers were being installed with the plans of adding Wi-Fi shortly.
Rooms in the Royal Service wing either maintain the same decor but add on more space and dining tables, or they swap out the traditional look for something more modern and streamlined. Two-poster headboards are replaced with rectangular walnut-hued ones framing leaf prints. Color schemes here are also simplified, with purple and burgundy switched for tans, beiges, and dark browns. Amenities in these rooms are upgraded to include pillow menus, free Wi-Fi (in public spaces), and butler service, which covers packing and unpacking suitcases and drawing baths with spa-like bath salts. Some terraces here also allow for direct pool access. Bathrooms here have jetted tubs and separate walk-in showers. Some include jetted tubs outside on the patio.
Note that rooms are both smoking and nonsmoking, and handicapped-accessible rooms are available as well.
Three pools, seven restaurants, and ample sports, activities, and entertainment
Paradisus Princesa del Mar has features that are firmly centered on relaxation -- either beachside or poolside. The heart of the resort is the main freeform pool surrounded by canopied sunbeds, loungers, and hammocks. Footbridges and lush vegetation add to the pool's appeal, as do its 24-hour snack bar, lattices with ivy, and soft piped-in music. A swim-up bar sits in the middle for drinks. Two other pools are exclusive to the Royal Lounge, one unspools around the rooms offering pool access off the rooms' terraces. It, too, has a swim-up bar. Another is a small, lagoon-style pool perched up on a hilltop with views over the resort.
Another spot for sunny relaxation is the hotel's stretch of white-sand beach, which is outfitted with loungers, sunbeds, and palapa umbrellas. Lifeguards are on duty to watch over swimmers.
There are seven restaurants on-site covering a wide range of cuisines from Cuban to French to Japanese. Each space has decor that reflects its fare, such as the Japanese restaurant Sakura with large photos of orchids and square bamboo plates, or the French restaurant Marseille with a navy-and-white color scheme, medallion-backed chairs, and baroque flourishes. Some of the restaurants are exclusive to the Royal Service wing, such as The Hill Top restaurant. This restaurant provides a fine-dining atmosphere with white damask tablecloths layered over burgundy ones, beige and rose-colored walls, white columns bordering the room, and French doors opening onto a small terrace that faces the waterfront. Occasionally live piano music plays here. But all of the restaurants aside from the buffet ones require reservations, and some of the guests find the food to be underwhelming. Room service is included in all-inclusive rates and operated 24 hours. A cigar bar is also on-site and it's the only indoor place (aside from smoking rooms) where guests can smoke. The bar has a dark and moody atmosphere with ebony wood, burgundy chairs and tables, and a copper-colored, curved bar.
Lively entertainment is a regular feature with events like water ballet and live rock music in addition to the usual Cuban music and dancing. The resort includes a stage where variety shows take place, and dance lessons are also on offer.
Volleyball and tennis courts are on the grounds and an instructor is on staff to lead guests on lessons. Loaner tennis rackets and balls are provided, and the courts are open 24 hours with lights at night. The Varadero Golf Club (not a part of the resort) is 12 minutes away by car, and some packages include admission and golf instruction. There's also a giant chess set on the grounds, ping-pong tables, pool tables, and foosball tables.
The fitness center, in a standalone building by the pool, is fully equipped with treadmills, spin bikes, weight-lifting machines, free weights, and steppers. The room is surrounded by mirrors and flat-screen TVs. On our visit the air-conditioning was under repair. Next door to the fitness center is the spa with cabanas for massage, couples treatments, facials, and a hair salon. (Royal Service guests get a 30 percent spa discount on services.) But the spa was closed for construction during our visit.
A business center includes computers with Internet connections and phones. Wi-Fi is available in the lobby and some public spaces by the pool with plans to expand it to the rooms. Cards connecting to Wi-Fi are for sale at reception; guests in Royal Service receive cards freely with no charge or limit. Four on-site meeting rooms can hold up to 300 people, and wedding services are offered.
There's an on-site gift shop selling the obligatory rum and cigars along with gifts, beach necessities like sunscreen, and snacks. A money exchange window is also on the grounds, and luggage storage is available. Car rental and motorbike rentals are available, and a tour operator is on-site.
Note that Paradisus Princesa del Mar is adults-only and no children under 18 are allowed.
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