Royalton Cayo Santa Maria
The Royalton Cayo Santa Maria is an adults-only resort located in the Cayo Santa Maria tourism area of Cuba. Located about 90 minutes from the Abel Santamaria Airport in Santa Clara (SNU), it’s a bit of a trek to get to, but completely worth it.
Name: Royalton Cayo Santa Maria
Location: Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba
Closest Airport: Abel Santamaria (SNU)
Rooms: 122, arranged in two-storey buildings
Pools: 2, one upper and one lower
Restaurants: 3 (1 is re-purposed for breakfast)
Marketed to: Adults (18+), Couples, Singles
Since the hotel is only 122 rooms in size, refreshingly small compared to the mega 800-room complexes around the Caribbean, check-in was very personal and quick. We were all seated in the lobby area and served welcome drinks while the front desk manager retrieved our room and butler assignments. Within 5-10 minutes at most, we were handed an envelope and introduced to one half of our butler team (the hotel assigns two, alternating each day). From here we are walked to our room with our luggage safely being taken by the room porter. At this time, the butler explains the hotel details and the amenities which are included as well as asks about any special considerations such as food allergies and if we were celebrating anything special. This is a great time to establish some rapport with your butler and let them know about your needs.
The great part about this hotel is that there are only two real room types (three if you consider upper floors vs lower floors). There’s the standard room which has a King bed or two Doubles and of course the suite, of which there are very limited quantities (2 at the time of this writing). We opted for the ground floor King room which was spacious and clean – Cuba like most of the Caribbean, has the annual hurricane season to deal with so yearly hotel damage is a common occurrence at any hotel. The Royalton puts the effort in re-tiling and re-painting the rooms regularly to keep them looking clean.
The bathroom is spacious with a rain-head shower and bath amenities. There is also a sitting are towards the back of the room with. a small sofa and coffee table, although we had no intention of sitting in the room while one of the best beaches in the Caribbean was sitting outside our door.
Take this time to double check things like the toilet flushing and hot water availability (although your butler will explain this to you – they use a solar heating system) so your butler can address any concerns up front.
One advantage Canadian travellers have had over the United States is the access to Cuba and its pristine white sand beaches. We’ve travelled to many beaches and are still amazed by the powder-like sand and the crystal clear ocean. You won’t be disappointed in Cayo Santa Maria – on calmer days, you can walk out far into the ocean and still be only waist deep in water.
There’s a beach side bar for drinks and food – we highly recommend getting the made-to-order soft tacos which will be brought to your beach lounger. Getting chairs here is also no issue as there’s a staff member with a pile of loungers who will set you up in an empty spot on the beach which is very convenient. The ocean has no visible murkiness and if any seaweed washes ashore it is taken care of quickly.
If you’ve been to Cuba before, the typical bar offerings are a little difficult for us non-europeans to understand from a brand perspective. Since you’re travelling in another country it’s a treat to try brands which are not available to you back home, so take that into consideration. The Royalton, however takes extra care to stock some top-shelf items in their lobby bar, including a Chivas Regal 25-year (although the availability can be limited) along with the entire offering from Havana Club.
There are 4 other bars apart from the lobby bar: the upper pool bar, the lower pool bar, the beach bar and the bar at the outdoor restaurant. Considering the smaller size of this resort, you’ll never have any trouble getting a drink when you want it.
The Royalton has a regular nightly show, like other resorts. The real difference is in the intimate setting of the shows. Everything is up close and personal and there is rarely a time where you won’t have a great view to the various performers.
Because the resort does not have an amphitheater, items like the Michael Jackson show and the Rock and Roll shows you’ll find at much larger resorts, but we felt that there was no difference in quality or performance. In fact, when a live band performs at the Royalton, its a perfect opportunity to jump in and dance along (or learn to dance for that matter!). While there isn’t an on-site disco, you will find one in the adjacent pueblo, which also has the various vendors, shops and bank.
The daytime is more relaxed, but there are plenty of options such as volleyball, salsa dancing, beach games and poolside activities. Just a note, as a Royalton guest you are able to a access all the facilities at the adjoining Memories resort along with their activities, restaurants and services.
Technically there are 3 restaurants on site at the Royalton. One is the open-air restaurant, suitable for lunch and dinner which typically serves North American style fare. For a quick bite in the middle of the day though, nothing beats the tacos on the beach (the big plus is that the food comes to you!). Nothing particularly stands out about the open-air restaurant, but you’ll get a filling meal.
The two restaurants attached to the main building host dinner every night, changing menus and themes nightly. A large perk about the restaurants at the Royalton is the personal service. The chefs are always willing to make small adjustments to the dishes and love to surprise you with things. If you have food allergies, let them know and they’ll take care of it. One night we were speaking with a server at dinner about a traditional potato dish from Africa, and before we knew it, the server brought it to us during dinner on the next night! It’s little things like that which make this resort fun for us.
We enjoy every trip we take to Cuba and will return many more times. The Royalton Cayo Santa Maria is a great choice for a resort if you’re a couple or a single. The service goes above and beyond many other resorts in the area and the small size lets you get comfortable quickly. If you enjoy resorts with a party scene or lots of foam parties in the pool, this may not be the best option for you.
For those with families, the nearby Memories might work although since we’ve never stayed there, we couldn’t in good conscience, mention it as a recommendation.
I sincerely hope that this resort keeps up the high standards so that it can be enjoyed for many years to come.