Review of Melia Las Dunas- Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

cayophoto-4So before I begin I should post a disclaimer.  Last year I did some SERIOUS high end travel, staying at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai and the Westin Moana Surfrider in Oahu. We rented a luxury Condo in Maui for a week, spent a week in fabulous Martha’s Vineyard and had a visit to the Waldorf in Manhattan. (I checked in the day Barrack Obama checked out!) This trip to Cuba was not about high end luxury travel and I will not be comparing this resort to other resorts I have stayed at. I will be giving you a review of my stay here and what I think of the property.

The purpose of this trip was to get away from the 2014 Polar Vortex that we were experiencing in Ontario. I had a limited budget, since I had blown a ton on our Hawaii trip so I was looking for value for money. I expected  great weather and a beautiful beach. Other than that I had NO expectations. Our Budget was CAD$ 1100.00 Per person. That is for flights, accommodation and food and drinks so an All-inclusive package to the Melia Las Dunas was the perfect price.


Transfers from Santa Clara Airport to – Cayo Santa Maria

It is a 1 hour 45 minute drive from the Santa Clara Airport to Cayo Santa Maria. It was quite an enjoyable scenic ride, the roads are excellent, it is pretty much a straight ride so no need to worry about motion sickness. Compared to the bumpy, twisting two hour drive from Cancun to the Mayan Riviera this was a pleasure.

Arrival at Melia Las Dunas

Check in was smooth, no problems there. We were given two rooms in the 21 block of the “family” section.  The resort basically has two sides “Adults only” and “Family” With most of the amenities in the middle. The first impression I had of the rooms were;  spacious, overlooking jungle,  a little tired but clean. I was happy. My room had a king bed and the Kids room had a king and a single. There was an amenity kit in the bathroom which was surprising, as well as a nice bottle of Rum to welcome us. The mini bar was overflowing with Beer, Sodas and Water.

The Beach

sunrise in cayo santa mariaIn a word the beach was PERFECT. This picture shows my  attempt at Yoga at 6:30 AM (what can I say I am an early bird!) The beach is seemingly endless, the sand is like talcum powder, the water absolutely crystal clear. It is one of the most beautiful beaches I have visited. We walked the beach for hours and had to turn around because we were tired, rather than running out of beach. The Melia las Dunas was 100% full when we were there so there was a lot of people on the beach. You had to get up early to “reserve” a spot in the shade, but there were always beds available in the sun and as long as you were up early (as we were) you could always find a great spot.  There is no drinks service on the beach, so you have to get up and walk a few hundred feet to get a cocktail. This is kind of like work, so if you are expecting cocktail service to your loungers you are not going to get it but honestly, what has this world come to if we can’t walk to the beach bar and get our own drinks 🙂

There was a beach grill that did Panini’s and Burgers, it was awesome. I like nothing more than getting to the beach early and spending the day there and this is exactly what I did, all day, everyday. My teenagers were happy as there was beach volleyball, watersports and other activities as well as an area close to the main beach bar that was pretty festive and had beach activities.

Casyo santa maria beach shot.fwShot of my boys, playing ball in the crystal clear water.

The Food

The food was fine. I can’t say it was great but it was fine. You had to know what to get and where to go. Most people who have traveled to Cuba will tell you, the food is different, but there was always grilled fish at the beach bar, and dinner buffets, freshly squeezed orange juice and grapefruit juice at breakfast as-well as great omelets and delicious oven fired pizza at the pizzeria. The espresso in the lobby bar was excellent! There was a ice-cream parlor that the kids would visit several times a day. If you are a picky eater you can eat french fries and burgers 24 hours a day at the snack bar. My only criticism is that other than the grilled fish most of the food is high carb and high fat, not great if you are trying to stay healthy. All that being said, we all ate a lot and enjoyed ourselves.

The Resort

The resort is huge. 900+ rooms. At 100% capacity it didn’t feel too overcrowded because it is so large.  It did feel huge, however! It took about ten minutes to walk from our room to the lobby. If you don’t like walking don’t stay here! Every night at around 7:30 the resort had an open air, live band and dance party under the stars for about an hour. It was quite charming. The music was excellent and the guests were encouraged to dance and enjoy the Cuban rhythms. After this they offered entertainment in a weird amphitheater, we went one night and the entertainment was so bad that we left. So trust me if you are looking for excellent shows etc forget it, it doesn’t happen here. That said, the open air dancing and music 7:30 – 9:00  was awesome and by 9:00 I was ready to retire anyway.  I did not experience nightlife beyond this,  there is a piano bar and night club, we just never made it.

The staff at the resort were lovely, friendly and welcoming. We took a suitcase of old clothes and shoes with us to give out to the staff, they were so thankful as it is really hard to get anything in Cuba. Please, if you ever visit the island, take clothes and shoes with you to give to the local people.

Overall, we had a great time at this resort. Would I go back? At $1100 per person in the middle of winter, yes! I would not go here if I was looking for high-end luxury or anything beyond a beach vacation as there is little to do near to the resort. The Melia Las Dunas is a solid choice for a beautiful beach, great family time and a break from awful winter weather. 

Travel Tips

– Take lots of suntan lotion. If you run out like we did its $22 per bottle to replace. OUCH!

– Take a ball to throw around on the beach. Take your books and magazine from home.   You can’t buy ANYTHING in Cayo Santa Maria.

– Get a cell phone package for email BEFORE YOU GO. I got a $40 plan so that I could check email everyday.  The internet is slow there so if you don’t have a plan the bandwidth used just to check email could cost you a fortune!

– The currency is Convertible Pesos. Don’t bother taking US$ they don’t want it.

– Tipping is not compulsory, but I would suggest you take money to tip. The local staff earns very little and you can really help out by leaving a small tip to your servers, cleaners etc.

– Know why you are going to Cuba, and know what to expect and you will have an amazing vacation…we certainly did.



Published by Victoria

I am Victoria Renton. Professor at Sheridan College, Pilon School of Business. I am a Tourism Marketing specialist with extensive international sales, major airline negotiations and tourism development expertise. I started blogging when I went to Europe with kids in July 2010 as a way of sharing my adventures with friends back home. As a Digital Marketing Professor, I like to try new technologies with students and stay current with Social Media Trends and this Blog has been a great home base for that. It is a place that I share my travels, ideas, success and failures. I am glad you stopped by.

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