Free water-sports equipment plus PlayStation 2 and Wii games
Gym opened in 2015, with modern equipment and fruit-infused water
Meeting rooms available
Wi-Fi in the lobby (for a fee)
Maintenance issues ongoing (common with Cuban resorts)
Old-fashioned, somewhat dated decor
Romantic atmosphere can be overrun by boisterous families
Romantic Bungalow showers share a footprint with toilets
The all-inclusive Sol Palmeras is a family-oriented three-pearl resort that’s hardly high style, but it is boisterous and big on activities, especially the kid-friendly variety. Free water-sport rentals, a game room with Wii and PlayStation2, and a shooting range join the typical diversions of sun and sand, including Varadero’s notably beautiful beach and two pools. The 408 rooms and 200 bungalows are excellent for families, with multiple bedrooms, mini-kitchens, dining spaces, and interconnecting rooms available. Some couples do come to stay in the Bungalow Suite Romance units, but given the atmosphere here, those travelers might prefer the adults-only Melia Las Antillas, another mid-range resort in the area.
Colossal resort with loads of activities for families
The horseshoe-shaped Sol Palmeras is a sprawling resort
clipped to the side of the Varadero coastline. The resort is notable first for
its sheer size: Its 608 accommodations are serviced by six restaurants, seven
bars, and two massive pools. Guests can elect to walk the breezy paths lined with palm
trees, though getting from one side of Sol Palmeras to the other is a hike, so
often shuttle rides are required.
The other defining aspect of Sol Palmeras is how
enthusiastically it caters to families, and specifically their littlest guests -- kids. In addition to splashing around the beach or the pool, families can
sample a dizzying array of activities including free water-sport rentals,
diving classes, a shooting range, and basketball courts. But it’s the details that
the resort really gets right, such as the resort shuttle that’s shaped like a vintage
steam train. On our visit, the driver selected a kid “copilot” and let him ring
the faux trolley’s bell.
Maintenance issues do exist here (on our visit, the elevator
wasn’t working), but unfortunately, that’s a common issue with most resorts in Cuba. And while guests here are far and away families on vacation,
some couples, including honeymooners, also join the mix, though the romantic
atmosphere can get a bit overrun by energetic families.
Sol Palmeras is located right along the shoreline of
Varadero, bumping up against the white sandy beach, considered by many to be
Cuba’s finest. But the beach is pretty much the only attraction in walking
distance. It’s an 11-minute drive to the Varadero
Golf Club and a seven-minute drive to the town of Varadero, with its bars,
restaurants, and shops. The Delfinario, a small dolphin aquarium with a sea
show that appeals to kids, is a three-minute drive away. Havana is just under two hours away by car, and the José Martí International Airport is another 15 minutes farther away.
A variety of Caribbean-colored rooms and bungalows, most catering to families
Accommodations at Sol Palmeras are split between two categories: rooms, which include Standards, Suites, and Junior Suites, and bungalows, which include one-bedroom Bungalow Luxe units, Bungalow Suite Family units, and Bungalow Suite Romance units, favored by honeymooning couples. Interconnecting rooms are available as well.
Decor isn’t fashionable, but it’s pleasant, with white-tile floors offset by stucco walls in Caribbean-colors like sunny yellow or burnt orange. Bungalows sport terra-cotta tile roofs, triangular pop-out windows, and wood beamed-ceilings. Wicker furniture, like blond headboards and woven pendant lamps, and bamboo-style tables give a beachy touch. Artwork reflects various Cuban themes, like landscapes of tobacco fields. But the textiles are often in dated ‘80s patterns, like the yellow-and-blue floral curtains in the Junior Suites. And occasional nicks in the furniture also make the resort look older than it is.
All rooms include air-conditioning, writing desks, electronic safes, minibars, clock radios, electric kettles and supplies for tea/coffee, and irons and ironing boards. Rooms also have flat-screen TVs with satellite channels; bungalows have them in both bedrooms and living rooms. Some rooms have nightstands with old-fashioned built-in radios complete with a radio station that informs guests of resort events. Suites, Junior Suites, and Bungalows include sofa beds. Some bungalows have small kitchenettes with sinks, and dishes, utensils, and electric burners on request. Family Bungalows have dining spaces, but dining tables have just two chairs, which won’t suit larger families. All room categories have balconies or terraces furnished with slat-wood folding chairs, loungers, and pedestal tables. Views can either be of the pools, the gardens, or the beach.
Simple white-tile bathrooms with shower/tub combos, hairdryers, and bidets (in Suites), also include massive full-sized toiletries that should be sufficient for a whole family.
The Bungalow Suite Romance units add various romantic details like white linen swags above the beds in a canopy style, trompe l'oeil painted headboards, and old-fashioned dressing tables. But the rustic showers with a glass roof dampens the amorous effect with a toilet sharing the shower’s footprint and the glass ceiling covered in twigs, seeds, and other debris.
Extensive family-friendly activities, multiple restaurants and bars, and a gym opened in 2015
Sol Palmeras has oodles of family-friendly features. Cribs are available on request as are kids’ menus, high chairs, and babysitting services. The kids club for the 5 to 12 set offers toys and activities. And all ages can enjoy mini-golf (for a fee), ping-pong, basketball and tennis courts, and a shooting range where guests can test their aim at archery and rifle shooting. A game room off the lobby also has PlayStation 2 and Wii games. A volleyball court is on the beach, and water-sports equipment is free to borrow including pedal boats and catamarans. Free bike rentals are also available. Diving lessons are also free. Entertainment is ongoing, including nightly animation, shows, and festivities such as themed “Back to the ‘70s” dance parties.
In addition to the abundant activities, Sol Palmeras offers the usual diversions of beach and pool time. The resort's bungalows are connected to the beach via a wooden boardwalk marked by yellow rope. The beach, a long stretch of white sand, is outfitted with white plastic loungers in cobalt-blue fabric, palapa umbrellas, and outdoor showers. Kiosks by the beach sell local artisanal goods such as handmade sandals, crocheted dresses, and carved woodwork. Other spots to take a dip include the two pools, two whirlpools, and a kiddy pool, also with several loungers and umbrellas. Kids and adults alike appreciate the poolside ice cream stand.
The sheer number of restaurants and bars point to the resort’s size. Six restaurants serve a range of cuisine from Italian to Japanese, with a buffet restaurant service all meals. And seven bars cover all manner of drinks and snacks, including a 24-hour lobby bar and beachside and poolside bars.
One recent addition to the resort is the gym, opened in late 2015. The space was gleaming on our visit, with new treadmills, weight machines, free weights, mirrors, and lockers with a sauna. Fruit-infused water is on hand for thirsty exercisers. A beauty salon and treatment rooms for massage are also available. Guests can connect to Wi-Fi in the lobby for a fee. (Hourly Wi-Fi cards are purchased at the front desk; on our visit, they were 2 Cuc each.) Meeting rooms with air-conditioning are also available. Wedding services are available with a gazebo on the beach being a popular ceremony spot.