Big main pool with swim-up bar, bridges, two hot tubs, and
lots of daybeds
No rooms with ocean views
Mosquitos can be a nuisance (common for Varadero)
Rooms not up to international luxury standards
Layout can feel a bit maze-like at first
No elevator to rooms (just to buffet), but accessible rooms on ground floor
This 404-room luxury all-inclusive resort is easily one of
the best in Varadero, and arguably the best adult-only option. There’s a true
emphasis on personalized service, there are ample activities ranging from yoga
to the weekly foam party, the beach is perhaps the biggest and best stretch in
Varadero, and just about everything is covered by the all-inclusive package,
from butler service, to top-shelf liquor, to access to the spa facilities, to
lobster at the seafood a la carte restaurant. Rooms have big king-size beds but
aren’t up to advertised five-star standards; for the option of ocean views, consider the also adult-only Melia Las Americas.
A luxury adult-only resort with lots of all-inclusive perks
It’s no wonder this former Sandals, opened in 2003, draws so many repeat customers. There’s a true emphasis on personalized service here, with butler service for every guest, lots of events to encourage mingling (Monday dinners for repeat clients, Wednesday dinners for Diamond Club members, Friday sunset cocktail parties with management), trees planted for guests who come back 10 or more times, and few of the nuisances found at most all-inclusives (no wristbands or towel cards here).
Check-in begins in the chic open-air lobby, which has modern white furniture and a high thatched roof, for a feel that’s part Miami, part rustic luxury. There are no check-in lines, just three desks for seated service. Guests will receive a cocktail, get introduced to their butler, and be shown around the property while a porter whisks bags to the room. This sets the stage for the level of attention guests can expect throughout their stay.
The layout of the property is a bit maze-like at first. The lobby, lobby bar, and main pool form the central section, and there are room blocks to the east and west side, each with a smaller quiet pool. All the poolside activities are held at the main pool, from water aerobics to the rowdy foam party held every Thursday, where a machine blasts foam into the area near the swim-up bar while the animation team encourages singing, dancing, and splashing. Those who don’t want to participate can easily find quiet; a big waterfall feature in one area of the pool drowns out the music. The 17-square-acre property has a low-key vibe and never feels crowded.
The room blocks are painted in colorful Caribbean hues, and the exterior design is inspired by Varadero fishermen’s huts. The buildings follow the line of the beach (so no room is too far from the sand), but as the resort is surrounded by a natural park, forests block the ocean views.
At kilometer 15, just over a 10-minute drive from downtown
Almost all of the 60 or so hotels in Varadero are located along Autopista Sur, which runs along the peninsula and parallel to the beach. Royalton Hicacos Varadero is at kilometer 15, a little over a 10-minute ride (about 15 CUC by taxi) to downtown Varadero. Downtown, guests will find a crafts market as well as a few bars, restaurants, and clubs (the Beatles Bar, Calle 62, and Salsa Suarez are all popular). The airport in Havana is about a two-hour drive, typically between 100 and 120 CUC.
Rooms have colonial style and living areas, but no ocean views
All but three of the 404 rooms are Junior Suites. These have separate living areas and sunken bedroom areas, almost all with true king-size beds -- not two single beds pushed together (this used to be a couples-only resort). This is rare for the area and a selling point for romantic couples. There are 25 rooms with two twin beds available, and all rooms fit only two guests (only the Presidential Suite can fit four). There are adjoining rooms with a shared entryway that can be requested, but no connecting rooms.
Bathrooms are a decent size, with separate tubs and showers, but no bidets. As most guests here are from Canada (where bidets aren't especially common) this typically isn't an issue. All rooms have balconies or terraces with views of the pool or trees, but not the ocean. The flat-screen TVs have 32 channels, including options in Spanish, English, Russian, Chinese, German, and French. Free minibars with beer, soft drinks, and water are restocked daily. Pool towels are provided in the rooms, and butlers can draw petal-strewn paths upon request. The classic colonial style is appealing enough, if not at the level of luxury found at other advertised five-star resorts in the Caribbean.
The Diamond Club members get the same rooms as everyone else, but with special perks (50 rooms are reserved for the Diamond Club). Extras include 24-hour room service, a 20 percent discount at the spa, 20 percent discount on laundry service, unlimited reservations at the a la carte restaurants, an exclusive beach area, a dinner on Wednesdays, free check-out at 1 p.m. if available (it is normally at 12), and nightly turndown service. There is also a separate dedicated butler team for Diamond Club guests.
At the time of our visit, adding Wi-Fi to the rooms was in the works, and a small portion already had it.
One of the bigger buffet selections in Varadero, and one of the best a la carte restaurants
Varadero resorts aren't known for their food (it's typically quite bland). But the buffet here has one of the more extensive selections in
the area, with three main stations: one for Italian, one for seafood, and one
for meat. The dessert station is in the center, where guests can order crepes
with their choice of filling. A fries area has both ketchup and poutine sauce to please Canadian tastebuds. Live music plays in the corner near the bar, and
there is also outdoor seating with lovely views of the resort. Though the buffet is on the second floor, there is elevator access.
El Caribe, serving Caribbean fare, is the most popular a la
carte restaurant -- and the most formal, with long trousers required for men. It’s
a large, round room with a thatched roof, white tablecloths with nice
tableware, a big water feature in the center, and a wine cave with one of the
more robust wine selections found anywhere in the area. The cave itself can
be rented out for private dinners of up to eight guests, with a special menu
(this does require an additional charge). The seafood restaurant (with the free
lobster) is almost equally as popular. There are also an Italian restaurant and a beachside grill.
The lobby bar is open around the clock, as is a casual bistro at the end of the row of shops, so guests can grab a late-night bite (expect burgers, pizza, and the like). There is an adjacent creperie, and the nearby ice cream counter (where a popular always-smiling staffer is usually on duty) has gelato made with ingredients imported from Canada and Italy.
One of the most generous all-inclusive packages in Varadero
The all-inclusive plan is one of the more generous
available, with just about everything included in the price. Every guest is
assigned one of the 37 butlers on staff, and the butler handles any request,
from arranging special baths for honeymooners to a la carte reservations at the
restaurants (the resort tries to ensure guests can get two a la carte
reservations per four-night stay). Top-shelf liquor, including aged Scotch, can
be ordered at the bar, and scuba diving lessons and even a dive are covered
(the first immersion is free, the second cost 70 CUC during our visit). Non-motorized
water sports, daybeds by the pool, the steam room and sauna at the spa, and even
the lobster at the seafood restaurant don’t require an extra fee. The specialty
wines at dinner are one of the only things that cost more, but there are
quality bottles for reasonable prices, and the Chilean house wine is included.
The beach at the Royalton is phenomenal. It's massive -- 600 meters long, and 80 to 100 meters deep depending on the tide -- and there are plenty of loungers and palapas to go around. Loungers are of the blue mesh and white plastic variety, and there's a beach bar where guests can snag drinks. Active guests can participate in volleyball competitions. Diamond Club guests have their own dedicated section with a separate beach bar and daybeds, some suspended from ropes. A guard enforces the separation.
The water is turquoise and the temperature is perfect -- refreshing but not cold. Non-motorized water sports are included, as is a scuba lesson and the first scuba dive immersion.
A massive main pool with activities and lots of Balinese beds
There are three pools at the Royalton, but most guests congregate at the large main pool, which has a swim-up bar, bridges, big waterfall, and tons of loungers and daybeds (specifically, 116 Balinese daybeds, probably the most of any resort in Varadero). There are activities such as water aerobics held here, and during our visit we witnessed the raucous weekly foam party by the swim-up bar. Those seeking quiet should snag a lounger by the waterfall, which absorbs noise, or head to one of the two quiet pools.
A late-night disco, lots of daytime activities, evening shows, and a popular piano bar
The most popular evening spot at the Royalton is probably the stylish and intimate piano bar; the pianist, Lissandra, has become beloved by many repeat guests. There's also a chic disco with white furniture and a Miami-like look, but as many guests are older it's not usually hopping late at night. It has a big projector screen and can double as a sports bar. The cigar lounge is attached to a cigar shop. Daytime activities range from zumba to yoga, and the resort brings in some Canadian instructors. There are multiple weekly dinners or parties to encourage mingling -- one for return guests, one for Diamond club guests, and one for all guests. Live performances are held nightly in the theater, and guests can also watch from the second-floor outdoor seating area of the buffet.
The Royalton has a quality gym open 24 hours with room key access, tennis courts, and even a squash court (rare for the area). The small spa has two rooms for couples and five for singles. It's relaxing and perfectly nice, but lacks the wow factor of the Spa at the Paradisus Varadero.
Wi-Fi is available in the lobby, and at some sections of the pool and beach. In the row of shops called the Calle del Medio, guests will find a pharmacy and a post office.
There are multiple wedding packages available.
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