The Cuban island resort of Cayo Coco in the province of Camaguey in Cuba is one of the two resorts of the Island of Freedom, where direct flights from Russia are operated. Together with agents PEGAS Touristik we toured Cayo Coco, visited many hotels, figured out many nuances of staying here. We share with you the “instructions for use” of this resort in two parts. Now – the first.
The warm gentle ocean, fine sand, comfortable climate and safety make Cayo Coco a popular holiday destination for 30 years.
The high season here lasts from November to April, when a pleasant breeze blows, it is not so hot at night. In January and February, the north wind blows and the water may be slightly cooler. And in the summer months it is calm and hot here (but, say, cooler than in Turkey in August).
Cayo Coco is a typical beach resort, it’s best to go here from November to April. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
This is an ideal place for a secluded beach holiday, which, however, has its own characteristics, which it is better to know in advance in order to get maximum pleasure and not expect what cannot be here. And also not to believe the myths from the past.
Tourists often still think, for example, that there is almost no Internet in Cuba. Indeed, just a few years ago there was no Internet here at all, and even cellular communication did not really work.
A lot has changed for the better since then, the Internet is there and works fine, both hotel and mobile. New modern hotels are growing like mushrooms, and Turkish management, highly appreciated by Russians, appears in some of them.
But the main thing is the hospitality of Cubans, wonderful incendiary music, the best cigars in the world, as well as the magnificent rum that is offered here at every step without restrictions – all this has remained traditionally unchanged.
Together with the travel agents-partners of the tour operator PEGAS Touristik, who came to a large-scale workshop in Cayo Coco, we studied the features of recreation at the resort.
HOW TO GET TO CAYO COCO FROM RUSSIA: FLIGHT AND ITS FEATURES
Direct scheduled flights to Cayo Coco are currently operated only by Nordwind Airline, two flights a week. The tour operator PEGAS Touristik has a guaranteed block of seats on the flight.
The flight takes 14 hours and to make it as comfortable as possible, it is worth knowing a few important things.
The flight is operated by a Boeing 777-200 ER in a 3-4-3 layout, all 440 seats are economy class.
Seat selection is paid and closes the day before departure. Planes fly with a full load, so it’s better to register for convenient seats immediately when buying a tour, directly through a travel agent – otherwise everything is quickly disassembled.
Kayo-Coco flies a very large board in terms of capacity. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
, the free baggage allowance is 10 kg, and all hand luggage is sent to the calibrator at check-in. If necessary, you can buy luggage at the airport.
They give free water, tea, coffee and juices, twice per flight. Free hot meals, of course, are also provided. If desired, you can order additional meals in advance (online on the airline’s website or directly when booking a tour).
To charge gadgets on the plane, be sure to bring a full power bank with you.
Cayo Coco Airport with the CCC code (Cayo Coco Jardines del Rey), where flights arrive from Russia, is very compact, designed mainly to receive small aircraft. A huge Russian Boeing 777 is “moored” right next to the terminal. Therefore, you can simply walk to passport control: there is no need to wait for teletraps or buses.
Cuba, Cayo Coco Resort Airport. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Since the plane is really very large, and the airport is small, then get ready that you will have to spend about half an hour at passport control: therefore, change in advance inon the plane in light clothes, it’s hot in Cuba, the tropics.
After passing the passport control of tourists, PEGAS Touristik employees very quickly seat them on buses and the long-awaited adventure in Cuba begins. The transfer to the hotels is fast.
HOW CAYO COCO RESORT WORKS
Cayo Coco is perhaps the most isolated and remote resort in Cuba from big cities. What we call the “Cayo Coco resort” is actually the Jardines del Rey archipelago (translated as “The King’s Gardens”), consisting of several islands connected by a highway.
This dam gets to the islands from Cuba. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Until 1988, it was possible to get here only by sea. But after the construction of a 27-kilometer dam connecting Cayo Coco Island with Cuba proper, the islands began to be actively developed, because in this part of Cuba there are the best beaches.
The archipelago itself is declared a protected nature reserve. There is really perfectly clean air, almost complete absence of cars and the most natural nature and marine life for this region.
On the island of Cayo Paredon (Cayo Coco resort, Cuba). Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
In addition, it is safe for tourists here. There simply can’t be any “random” people on Cayo Coco: to get to the islands, you have to go through a special checkpoint. Only tourists and Cubans directly connected with their service (hotel workers, guides, etc.) are allowed to pass.
The westernmost island of the archipelago is Cayo Guillermo, famous for its instagrammed Playa Pilar beach and the Iberostar, Grand Muthu, Starfish and Kempinski chain hotels located on the island.
The same instagrammed beach of Playa Pilar on Cayo Guillermo. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Ernest Hemingway loved to visit this island and it is here that the action of his novel “Islands in the Ocean” unfolds, describing the heroic struggle of Cubans for independence.
The central island is Cayo Coco proper, with the Jardines del Rey airport, the only small shopping center on the islands and hotels of the Melia and Pullman chains.
The only shopping mall is located on the same island as the airport. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Further to the east is a small cozy island of Cayo Paredon, where there is a beautiful lighthouse, next to which various performances take place from time to time.
Gaviota Festival at the lighthouse on Cayo Paredon Island, Cuba, Cayo Coco resort. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
And there is also a wonderful beach and three fairly large new 5* level hotels – Grand Aston, Woovo Playa Hermosa (exclusive PEGAS Touristik) and Villa Gale, opened just a couple of weeks ago.
The wide beach of Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredon Resort 5*, Cayo Coco Resort, Cuba. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
From hotel to hotel here you can walk right along the beach: the maximum distance is 20 minutes on foot. Another hotel is currently under construction.
And the last big island is Cayo Cruz with the Iberostar and Valentin hotels. The starting point of all excursions on yachts and catamarans.
On Cayo Cruz Island, Cayo Coco resort, Cuba. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
A red double-decker tourist bus runs between all the islands of the archipelago. He stays in all hotels and near the main beaches. By buying a ticket for $ 5, you can ride it at least all day.
Tourist bus plying the islands. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
A total of 28 hotels are located on the islands of the archipelago, 24 of which can be visited with the tour operator PEGAS Touristik. These are:
- Pullman Cayo Coco 5*
- Melia Cayo Coco 5*
- Sol Cayo Coco 4*
- Hotel Mojito 4*
- Tryp Cayo Coco 4*
- Muthu Colonial Cayo Coco 4*
- Islazul Aparthotel Azul 2*
- Melia Jardines Del Rey 5*
- Playa Paraiso 4*
- Memories Flamenco Beach Resort 5*
- Memories Caribe Beach Resort (Adults Only 16+) 4*
- Playa Coco 4*
- Islazul Villa Gregorio 2*
- Starfish Cayo Guillermo 4*
- Iberostar Daiquiri 4*
- Gran Caribe Camino Del Mar 5*
- Gran Caribe Vigia 4*
- Grand Muthu Cayo Guillermo 5*
- Grand Muthu Imperial 5*
- Iberostar Playa Pilar 5*
- Grand Aston Cayo Paredon 5*
- Iberostar Coral Esmeralda 5*
- Iberostar Selection Esmeralda/Coral Level 5*
- Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredon Resort 5*
CAYO COCO HOTELS: WHAT ARE THEY LIKE?
The hotels in the resort of Cayo Coco, which we managed to see, frankly, made a very pleasant impression.
Almost all of them are level 4* and 5* and work on an all–inclusive system around the clock, so you can enjoy your favorite cocktail, delicious coffee or something to eat at any time of the day.
Cocktails on Cayo Coco can be ordered at any time. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Over the past few years, many of the Cayo Coco hotels have been completely renovated, employees have been trained and now the quality of service is many times better than what it was before.
Yes, this is not quite the “wild” Cube that was 10 years ago. Some of the color is gone. But it has also become much more comfortable to rest.
Playa Pilar Beach on Cayo Guillermo. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
The beaches are cleaned, the sand is sifted, the rooms have huge flat-screen LCD TVs and have all the necessary amenities including slippers, an ironing board, a safe and an umbrella.
Hotel room Iberostar Selection Esmeralda Coral Level. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
The restaurants have a very diverse, by the standards of Cuba, food. And delicious. Interestingly, the gyms in all the hotels we visited turned out to be very decent, with modern equipment.
Animation in hotels in Cuba is always incendiary. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Cuban music and dancing in hotels will be every day and at every step. Even at breakfast there is always a live performer with a guitar, flute or saxophone, and in the evening animators teach Cuban dances to everyone.
Live Cuban music is an indispensable attribute of rest in Cayo Coco hotels. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Hotel areas and even beaches are regularly pollinated by insects.
Hotels on the islands, by the way, have appeared very different over the past few years. And for family holidays and 18+ and even “themed”, if you know what I mean.
It is important that they are all very different. Not only management, personnel, design and location. But also by the audience. Therefore, only a travel agent who knows the nuances (and, preferably, was here) will help in choosing here.
So, located next door and very similar to each other in appearance, Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredon Resort 5* and Grand Aston Cayo Paredon 5* radically differ in the composition of tourists, and accordingly, in the type of entertainment offered.
If 97% of Russian speakers are in the first, then less than 10% of them are in the second, and the rest of the guests are mostly couples from Canada. This affects, for example, the entertainment program.
Evening entertainment until late at night is only available in hotels for Russian-speaking tourists. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
In the first (“Russian”) there is a “movement” almost non-stop, whereas in the second it is rather quiet and calm, and at 23:00 all entertainment stops and people go to bed or continue to chat in the round-the-clock bar.
Moreover, from time to time, guests of the “quiet” hotel go to the disco to the neighbors from the “cheerful”.
And of course, where there are a lot of Russian-speaking tourists, there will also be Russian-speaking employees, whereas in hotels designed for Canadians, you will have to communicate only in English. Or in Spanish, if you happen to know him.
TOP HOTELS OF CAYO COCO RESORT
According to the sales statistics of the tour operator PEGAS Touristik, the most popular hotels among Russians in the resort of Cayo Coco are:
- Melia Cayo Coco
- Playa Paraiso
- Memories Flamenco Beach Resort
- Iberostar Coral Esmeralda
- Grand Aston Cayo Paredon
- Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredon Resort
We visited some of these hotels in person:
The hotel Grand Aston Cayo Paredon 5* is located on a really picturesque two-kilometer beach with white sand. Located next to the Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredon Resort 5*.
The territory of the Grand Aston Hotel in Cayo Coco resort, Cuba. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
In terms of service and entertainment activities, it is designed mainly for Canadian tourists, it assumes a relaxing holiday. Transfer from the airport – 20 minutes drive. The hotel consists of a main building in the shape of a horseshoe and several compact bungalows distributed around the pools and facing the sea.
The hotel Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredon Resort 5* is a novelty, the second exclusive PEGAS Touristik in Cuba. Opened on November 1, 2022. The hotel has 594 rooms.
One of the pools of the Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredón Grande 5* hotel, Cuba. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
The hotel works only with Russians and Belarusians. There are 4 24-hour restaurants with different cuisines, a cigar bar and a sports bar, a beach bar, three swimming pools, a children’s club. We told you more about the hotel with photos in this article.
Hotel Iberostar Coral Selection Esmeralda/Coral Level 5* is actually two hotels of a famous Spanish brand on the same territory.
At the Iberostar Coral Level Hotel, Cuba, Cayo Coco. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Coral Level is an 18+ hotel with two–storey villas and individual pools, and Coral Selection Esmeralda is a family hotel. Coral Level guests can use the Coral Selection infrastructure, but not vice versa.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM FOOD IN HOTELS IN CUBA, AND WHAT NOT TO EXPECT
“Sanctions against Cuba were imposed in 1960, and I was born in 1961. We can say that I have lived under sanctions all my life,” says our guide, Raymond. And it’s really a miracle that with such long and rather tough sanctions, modern tourism is not just “there”, but is actively developing. And an even greater miracle is that there are so many interesting, delicious and beautiful things.
In order to avoid incorrect expectations among tourists comparing Cuba with Thailand or Vietnam, we will tell you how everything works here.
But almost nothing of what is needed for the tourist business is produced in Cuba itself. Only sugar, rum, coffee and cigars are exported. In 2021, private enterprises were allowed to open in Cuba, but at the moment all this has just begun to develop.
You can’t just order something for the hotel – Cuba is stillIt is under severe sanctions, and their circumvention is quite complicated and expensive (unlike Russia, Cuba is an island in the sea). But this does not mean that there is a shortage in tourism here: the state orders everything imported for hotels. Centrally. The products are transported mainly from Europe.
Cuba also produces its own soda, a substitute for Coca-Cola. Pretty good. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Hotels of the archipelago islands receive all products, equipment (and even garbage can lids) from state warehouses. For example, if shrimp were brought to such a warehouse serving the “bush” of hotels, they appear in hotels until they run out of stock. And so it is with all products.
Interestingly, bed linen and towels at all hotels in the archipelago are also supplied and washed centrally, at one of the two laundry factories.
At a laundry factory serving more than a dozen hotels in Cuba at once. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Therefore, it is not worth being surprised that in the bar of your hotel, for example, Coca-Cola for the Cuba libre cocktail suddenly ran out – it just hasn’t reached the hotel warehouse yet. And to be indignant – even more so.
Rum stand at Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredon Resort 5*. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Firstly, you will be offered a lot of other cocktails and drinks – from rum and liqueur to coffee. Secondly, the missing components still appear after a day or two. The main thing: do not think that if your hotel does not have something at the moment (Coca-Cola, shrimp, etc.), then they are in abundance somewhere in another hotel, for example, for “Western” tourists (this is not true, although myths are walking, even among travel agents).
Due to centralized logistics, the assortment in all island hotels will be approximately the same. Bypassing the official warehouse from which deliveries are made to all island hotels, you can only bring something with you in a suitcase.
As we have already said, almost all products on the state warehouses from where products are delivered to hotels are imported. Delivery is carried out by sea, so all meat, for example, will only be frozen.
The fruits will be bananas, very tasty papaya, guava, watermelons and seasonal melons, mangoes and pineapples. But apples, for example, are worth their weight in gold here (as, by the way, in many Asian countries). Juices from exotic fruits are also very tasty in hotels.
Typical selection of fruits and juices in a hotel on the Cuban buffet. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Let’s say right away – it’s wrong to expect an “abundance of seafood” from Cuba, and even more wrong to orient tourists to it. This is not Thailand, Sri Lanka, or even Turkey.
There is no established tradition of seafood cooking in Cuba, since Cubans themselves simply do not eat them.
At the Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredón Grande 5* hotel, Cuba. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Everything except fish is imported to the island exclusively for tourists. In hotels in Cuba, fish, shrimp, shellfish and something like squid ceviche are most often presented. From time to time, even lobsters are grilled on the grill, but it’s still not worth counting on them to be in your hotel every day.
Seafood in Cayo Coco hotels, there are, and often. But it’s not worth waiting for their abundance every day. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
But quite tasty cheeses and sausages are always available, even pampered with Spanish jamon.
Jamon slicing, Villa Galle Hotel, Cayo Coco Resort, Cuba. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
The selection of cheeses in Cayo Coco hotels in Cuba is also quite good: everything is brought from Europe. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Alcohol does not end at all – there is always a really delicious Spanish sparkling wine, a good light beer, a wonderful assortment of local rum and imported vodka, gin, whiskey and tequila.
A number of hotels have all kinds of vermouths and sweet liqueurs. However, drinking something other than rum in the homeland of rum is somehow not even interesting.
Cuba is the realm of rum-based cocktails. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
The quality and variety of food is mainly influenced by the personal skills of the cook. Local chefs are not spoiled by the assortment of products and historically know how to cook well mostly simple dishes like scrambled eggs or sausages with pasta, which tourists in 5* hotels in Cuba are very surprised by.
This was one of the reasons why PEGAS Touristik, for example, specially brought a chef from Turkey to its base hotel Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredon Resort 5*. This made it possible to please the requests of tourists accustomed to the Turkish type of “all inclusive”.
This is how tourists are treated at the Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredon Resort 5*. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
EXCURSIONS TO CAYO COCO: WHERE TO GO?
Of course, you will not see the traditional Cuban flavor with colonial buildings and colorful retro convertibles on the islands of the archipelago – for this you need to go to one of the major cities or, at least, to Camaguey, located three hours away from Cayo Coco.
But the major cities of Cuba, such as Havana and Trinidad, are located very far away and not everyone can stand a few hours by bus. Therefore, it is best to take two-day excursions with a short flight by local aviation from the tour operator there. Almost no time is spent on the road and you can see much more interesting things.
According to the tour operator PEGAS Touristik, the TOP 5 excursions that Russians choose at the resort include:
- Havana (with airfare)
- Topes de Collantes National Park and Waterfalls + Trinidad (for 2 days)
- Jeep safari, where a tourist is driving a jeep
- Sea excursion on a yacht
- Sightseeing tour of Camaguey
Snorkeling during a yacht tour of the islands. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR
Also, from the hotels of the Cayo Coco resort, you can go on an excursion to the cigar factory, to the crocodile farm and buy a boat tour through the mangroves.
In the next part of our “Instructions for Use” of the Cayo Coco resort, we will talk about money issues: what to take with you, how much the connection and Internet cost, how to pay for purchases and what to buy and bring from Cuba.
Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR