Evergreen / #HonestReview: A week in Melia Las Dunas in Cayo Santa Maria

I'm here to spill some Pina Coladas

Written by: Serean Bechara


 

Hello travellers, and welcome to my long-awaited review of Melia Las Dunas in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba! I’m here to tell you the good, the bad, my recommendations for your stay, and my recommendations to Melia!

Without any further ado,

 

Let’s jump right into it…

 

First Impression

I arrived in the evening but immediately, I was stunned at the “lobby” (I don’t know if I can call it that). First of all, it’s huge. Second of all, it’s completely open concept. Third, did I mention it’s huge?

Oh yeah, it’s also gorgeous. I may have spent too much time there just taking photos while drinking Pina Coladas.

Don’t just take my word for it though, check it out below!

 

 

Why we love (and basically lived in) the lobby!

Now before you start asking me why we spent so much time in the lobby (of all places) on our 7-night stay at Melia Las Dunas, let me get ahead of your question with some questions of my own…

 

1. Do you like coffee served with a smile in the morning with a sugar cane stick and little biscuit on the side?

2. Do you like to start the day by sitting with your fellow travellers, planning what you would like to do that day then walking 5 steps away to execute those plans with Gaviota or Sunwing or Air Transat or Hola Sun Holidays?

3. Do you like having a little spot to call your own when you’re on vacation?

 

If you answered yes to any of those questions then you’re starting to understand! If you didn’t answer yes, then shun the non believer!

I’m kidding, I won’t actually shun you.

In fact, I would invite you to go with me next time so you can meet my favourite bartender in the lobby so you can have experience like this (video below) and then you can tell me you don’t get it.

 

 

That, my dears, is called skills.

But seriously, the staff at this resort are unbelievably light-hearted, fun, kind, and generous (and I’m not just talking about their alcohol portions).

 

So, what do you have access to from the lobby?

• Fully-stocked bar open 24/7
• Plenty of lounging space with a variety of chairs, tables, and couches
• Snacks like fluffy doughnuts and other pastries
• Reception desk 24/7
• Access to the bellhops when you’re too tired to walk to your room
• Reservation station for all your a la carte needs
• Tour operators and airline tables with your representatives

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

• Office where you can use the phone ($) and get WiFi (1 CUC or 1 USD per hour)
• Beautiful gazebos (where my spot is – pictured below – which is the BEST spot, just saying)
• Currency exchange (opens at 8am)
• Souvenir shop
• Live entertainment and theatre (It was quite spectacular, check out details below)

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

The entertainment

There is never not something to do. Period.

I applaud Melia for being very organized in the way they plan their events because you can do everything in order and not have to choose one activity or another. It’s also ordered in a way that works for families to end their night a little early but still get entertainment that is family-friendly.

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

Here’s a breakdown of a typical night for myself:

Dinner at 6:30pm in an a la carte restaurant because we really wanted to pack in our activities in the evening. All of the restaurants are walking distance to the lobby and the theatre which is fantastic.

Drinks at 7:30pm at the lobby bar. We would walk up to our favourite bartender and ask her to make up a random colourful concoction before heading over to our usual spot in the gazebo.

There’s also a couple little stations for special drinks. One night their specialty was mojitos, another night it was (my favourite) Pina Coladas where you could see them cutting open the coconuts and pouring in rum!

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

Fashion Show at 8:00pm in the lobby and in view of anyone seated at the bar, around the bar area, coming up from the entry way from the restaurants, and from the gazebos.

I actually worked in the fashion industry before transferring to travel. Why am I bringing this up? Because the models in Cuba are incredibly professional, their runway walks were timed impeccably, and they were some of the best models I’ve ever seen in my life.

Unfortunately, the models don’t get paid to be there unless they make a sale. Everything they’re wearing during the show is immediately for sale afterwards and all the clothes are made by local Cuban designers.

Please support local designers, it will benefit the models and the designer in a country where (just like North America) people tend to look for bargains. I’m one of those people but I like small businesses as well because you can do both (if you have the ability and the means to purchase)!

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

On the flip side, there’s also…

Salsa Dancing Lessons at 8:00pm at the same place in the lobby but now it’s a dance floor! Don’t worry if you don’t know how to salsa, my friend didn’t know how to either but even she said that one of her favourite parts of the entire trip was just letting go and dancing!

and then…

The Show Begins at 9:00pm in the theatre right beside the bar! You can watch the show from the tables behind the theatre near the bar, from a bar stool, from the chairs set up in the theatre audience, or wherever you want. There’s no protocol, you can walk-in and watch whenever you want and leave whenever you want.

What can you expect from the show? It was different every night!

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

There was a loose theme for each night so there was a day where they had a singer belting out “New York, New York” but then there was another day with sultry Moulin Rouge-esque dancers and then another day where (even though you don’t want to, you can’t help it) you’re singing along to “Despacito.”

My favourite part? The dancers, hands down. They’re truly spectacular and just like any other person at the resort, they seems to have a genuine good time which led me to have an even better time because it was a sense of feeling that everyone was enjoying themselves.

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

Disco at 11:00pm

So here’s the thing, when I found out I was going to Melia Las Dunas, I did some research on what they had available so that I could make the most of my vacation.

The. Disco. Was. Not. Mentioned. On. The. Website.

To my lovely travel professionals at Melia Hotels in Cuba, please tell them to add it here!

It’s listed as ‘Fun Pub: DUNAS LOUNGE’ but that’s not the actual name of the disco on the signage and it’s out of the way for people who don’t know their way around the resort yet! It’s located near the gym, across from souvenir shops, close to the pirate-ship bar (pictured below) that I also can’t find on the website.

There’s also a lot of people who were going to other discos at other resorts with friends they made on excursions so ask around!

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

Paradise by the ocean and the pool

The ocean at Melia Las Dunas is beautiful, romantic, lively, and by far one of the best beaches I have ever been to. It’s incredibly large with a wide range of activities like paddle boats and kitesurfing.

If you follow us on Instagram then you’ve already seen a few of my photos admiring the beauty that is the ocean and their adorable cabanas and pathway to the beach.

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

I spent most of my time on the beach jumping into the waves, collecting shells, and trying to teach my friend how how to swim.

 

There’s just one thing…

As I just said, my friend doesn’t know how to swim, and so don’t a lot of people. So one day, we decided we wanted to try out the paddle boats.

Pretty standard, we asked about getting my friend a life jacket. The lifeguard on duty and the person in charge of the water activities then proceeded to give her a life jacket that was 3 times too big, was ripped, and that didn’t close.

When I expressed my concern, one of them just tied 2 pieces of the broken buckles together and said, “See? It’s fine.”

Here’s the thing, no it is not fine. Yes, it’s true that probably my friend and I would be fine in our paddle boat but that’s not the point. I wanted to make sure that she felt safe so that she could enjoy her time.

I then proceeded to enter into a heated argument with both of them about this when I realized that there were more lifejackets attached to each kite surfing station.

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

So I said, “Can’t she have one of those jackets?”

They said no.

I asked why.

They said, “that’s for people kite surfing.”

I said, “No one is using it and she needs a life jacket, you can’t just say ‘no’.”

 

They then proceeded to get into another argument with me until they finally let her have one of the life jackets. They then told me that they don’t have the budget for this and that we should complain to Melia Hotels directly because, “we don’t like having to tell people to use these life jackets.”

It’s not like they didn’t know these life jackets were unsafe and completely worn out. They know, but they’re just doing their job.

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

However…

The other life jackets buckled (at least) but as you can see in the photo below, they are still not appropriate whatsoever.

So if you’re going to this resort and you can’t swim, or your travel companion, or your kids can’t swim, call ahead of time and make sure that they will have you covered somehow because on my excursions with Gaviota, they also had issues with this so I want you to be prepared for that.

If you work at Melia and you’re reading this then I urge you to look into it because this needs to be addressed for the safety and well being of your guests.

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

Other than the beach, I really want to highlight the activity pool because it was so much fun, very clean, and has a swim-up pool bar. We spent a lot of time there drinking Pina Coladas (surprise, surprise), playing beach volleyball, and dancing.

Also, on really hot days, it’s fun to just to take a dip in for a few minutes to feel refreshed!

 

A week in Melia Las Dunas, and why it's basically it's own city

 

That is where I’m going to end today’s review because there’s still a lot more to talk about (like the question on everyone’s mind, WHAT ABOUT THE FOOD?). I’ll get to all of that, the accommodations, and more in my next article that will be a deep dive into every restaurant we went to at this resort.

Until then, I recommend you read my piece on everything I wish I knew about Cayo Santa Maria and see the hottest news coming out of Cuba.

 

Have any questions, comments, want to share your own experience? Feel free to email me at sbechara@wheelsupnetwork.com.