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Last summer, my boyfriend, 3 kids, and I enjoyed an all-inclusive beach vacation in Cuba after a long (and grueling) school year. We really needed a trip with NO agenda, non-stop tourist attractions, or pressure to see as much as we could – just sunshine and ocean!
Because of the kids’ other summer plans, our travel dates weren’t very flexible, and I had trouble getting award flights and hotels in the Caribbean to line up with our schedule. If you’ve ever found yourself in that situation, don’t despair! There are ways to book paid travel with flexible points and no blackout dates – even package vacations.
In this series, I’ll share how I booked the trip and our flight and hotel experiences. And give you tips about traveling to Cuba, especially with kids!
A Family Vacation to Cuba Trip Report Index
- Part 1 – Introduction and Planning
- Part 2 – Sunwing Flights to Holguin
- Part 3 – Memories Holguin Beach Resort
Memories Holguin Beach Resort Review
Getting There and Checking In
The Memories Holguin Beach Resort isn’t actually in the city of Holguin (though it’s in Holguin province), so it’s ~1 hour drive from the airport. Our tour package included airport transfers and there was an air-conditioned bus waiting for us on arrival to bring us to the resort.
By the time we got to the hotel it was well after dark. There were about half a dozen other families on our bus, so we had to wait ~20 minutes before we could check-in and get our wristbands.
The resort is sprawling with different buildings scattered on various levels of the property. Owing to it being nighttime, the hotel staff shuttled us to our building in a golf cart. In the darkness it was hard to get a feel for where we were or just how big the resort is! But the next morning, we were able to get a better sense of our location.
We were assigned 2 interconnecting rooms, each with 3 single beds that could be pushed together. The rooms were brightly decorated and very clean, with ice-cold air conditioning, a mini-fridge, and satellite TV.
Every day the room attendants made the beds up slightly differently, which the kids thought was neat!
Each room had its own balcony with comfy chairs and a small table. It didn’t take long for our rooms to turn into an explosion of swim gear, bathing suits, and kids’ messes! Ugh.
The bathrooms were tidy and functional with a separate stall for the toilet …
… and another for the shower. One day there was (briefly) no hot water but otherwise everything worked as it should.
Each day, the room attendants left several liters of bottled water in the fridge, so we were never short. And you could ask for more to be delivered if you needed it.
Being an all-inclusive resort, all meals and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) were included. There was a main buffet area where we took most of our meals, plus a handful of snack bars, a beach bar, and several a la carte “fancy” restaurants you needed to make a reservation for. While the upscale meals were also included, we were limited to 4 dinners at the a la carte restaurants over the course of our stay.
There were also options to pay a bit more for extras, like a lobster lunch at the pool bar or premium cocktails made with top-shelf liquor.
One of the things we’d read on TripAdvisor was that the food here lacked variety. We didn’t think that was the case at all! And even my picky son always found something he could eat.
For breakfast, there was always fresh tropical fruit, rolls, pastries, cereal, juices, cold cuts, cheeses, and (amazing) coffee. Hot options always included an omelette station, different types of eggs, sausages, bacon, and usually some kind of stew with rice.
Pro Tip: Peanut butter is uncommon in Cuba, and their jams and jellies are different from what we’re used to back home. So if these are your go-to items at breakfast, it’s a good idea to bring your own.
The buffet stations and food were always nicely arranged and presented with carved fruit and vegetables as decoration …
… and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many varieties of ham in one place.
Lunch and dinner always consisted of similar fruit, cheese, and cold cuts. There were always several hot stew or meat dishes, rice, potatoes, and vegetables.
Plus, there were stations for grilled meats, burgers, hot dogs, and fish, a pizza bar, and a create-your-own pasta bar.
Oftentimes for lunch or snacks we’d just order from the beach bar. Again, the pizza was a hit with the kids.
The staff at all the restaurants and bars were outstanding and super friendly, constantly coming by to refill drinks and check on the kids. On Canada Day, they put on a special event at the buffet with Canadian-themed decor, desserts, and drinks. Not surprising, because the resort is Canadian managed and gets a ton of visitors from Canada.
We visited an a la carte restaurant once during our visit. I wasn’t actually super impressed – despite there being more varieties of seafood and fancier drinks, we all preferred the selection and quality of the buffet.
The only time any of us had any tummy trouble was actually after this meal! So we stuck to the buffet for the rest of our stay.
A few other tourists complained the food was bland. We’d made friends with a Canadian family who’d visited Cuba before, and the hubby had his game down to a science – he brought his own jar of hot sauce to every meal to spice things up!
All told, we thought the food was decent and there was certainly enough variety to keep from getting bored over a week. It’s not 5-star resort food by any means, but we didn’t pay 5-star prices either.
Around the Resort and Activities
The Memories Holguin Resort is humongous and there are lots of stairs. If you’re mobility impaired or lugging around a stroller, it’s probably not a good pick. But the grounds are beautiful!
My daughter was intrigued by all the banana trees on the property …
… and there were plenty of winding trails and pathways to explore.
We were most impressed with the multiple cascading pools on several levels …
… and the beach was generally quiet with it being off-season, so there were always plenty of spots to set up and relax. I can still feel the white sand between my toes!
While there were some weedy patches in the water, hotel staff were out there each morning clearing out debris in the popular swimming areas.
The beach bar was a popular spot with all kinds of cocktails and snacks. A lot of guests congregated on the beach in the afternoons to enjoy a few drinks and chill out.
Non-motorized water sports are included at the resort, so one morning we went for a sail on a Hobie Cat. My boyfriend has a similar boat back home, but the staff wouldn’t let us take it out by ourselves (understandably).
The kids had a blast and were amazed at how fast we went – although we all got a little soaked.
Every afternoon, the hotel activities staff set up a different event at one of the pools. The kids especially enjoyed the kayak races around the big pool.
And the swim-up bar was an especially popular spot in the mid-afternoon. The kids were fans of a multi-colored “Superman” cocktail the bartender made for the little ones.
We’d brought inflatable toys from home, so the kids spent a lot of time floating around and relaxing. This pool was their favorite owing to the waterfall effect.
Before dinner, we’d usually check out the lobby bar which offered a much better selection of cocktails and spirits than the pool bar. It was a cooler spot to unwind after a long day in the sun. If you were feeling splurgy, they offered imported beer and liquor (European and Mexican) for an upcharge.
Most evenings, the resort put on a different musical show in their open-air theater. Often these were interactive and they’d get folks up on stage to dance and sing with them – some of the shows were really elaborate! The entertainers were very talented and really went above and beyond to include the kids.
There was a small disco which was open late, but we never checked it out because after dinner and entertainment we were usually pooped.
All told, we felt like we got incredible value for our money at the Memories Holguin Beach Resort. It’s not luxury by any means, but the grounds are gorgeous, the rooms were clean and comfortable, and there was no shortage of things to do around the property.
And the food was good – not outstanding, but there was plenty to choose from and none of us got sick except for a bit of tummy trouble after one meal. The beach bar and swim up bar were a huge hit with the kids!
If you’re ever booking a package resort stay (anywhere), remember you can use miles from cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® to erase most travel purchases.
We did manage to check out the local area a couple of times, but I’ll share that experience in the next post!