This blog's title means "Cuban-hearted woman" (very loosely translated!). I settled on this name because it had a nice ring to my unschooled ear and, more importantly, because I think the Cuban people seem to have so much
heart, and they're in my heart for that reason. In general, the people I've met in Cuba are quite consistently open-hearted and big-hearted in the way they relate to each other or to visitors in their beautiful land. A piece of my heart now resides in Cuba, with the warm, wonderful friends I've made there. This blog is not intended to be a guide to Cuba, just a forum for my eclectic bits of writing – poetry, opinion pieces and information gleaned from my personal experience and reading.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Marea – the little resort with the five-star heart!

My friends and I LOVE Marea del Portillo! I just returned from my sixth visit to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo. For this trip, I organized a group of almost 40 women to travel with me to my “happy place.” This may be only a three-star resort but it has a five-star heart, thanks to the top-notch staff.

I visited Marea del Portillo for the first time in April 2009, with one gal-pal, and we both had a very good time. Because of my enjoyable experience, which I couldn’t stop talking about, three other girlfriends decided to join me for a trip in late October 2009. (My arm was easily twisted to go again!) My personal assessment, combined with the photos I took on my first trip, helped my friends to feel comfortable about going to this small Club Amigo resort. Two of the friends on this trip have significant physical challenges, so knowing they would feel safe and that the beach was easily accessible was important. They had a wonderful time, as we all did!

We particularly appreciated the gracious, courteous staff who were ready to assist at any time, even late at night when one friend was locked out of her room. They quite literally leaped to our aid – one brave fellow leaped from my upper cabana balcony to my friend's, when we noticed that her balcony door was ajar. This gave her access to her cabana room without waiting for someone to arrive with a key. It was very gallant of him but not recommended to anyone except Spiderman! Even the maid, who was also trying to assist, shook her head at him for attempting such a risky feat – thankfully, he didn't slip. If you look at any photos of the cabanas, you'll see that they are staggered and there is quite a daunting distance from one railing top to the next.

You will note that I've rated the resort "Excellent" in all categories. That doesn't mean everything was absolutely perfect – what place ever is? – but it was perfectly wonderful. My review was bumped up to "Excellent" by the people, both the resort staff and the local villagers we encountered during our stay. I have never felt so warmly welcomed in any place I've visited, internationally or here at home in Canada. I live in Muskoka, so I've seen tourism from both sides of the cloud, and I can tell you it's not easy to maintain the genuine warmth and helpfulness that the people of Marea del Portillo consistently demonstrated.

Elena, the unflaggingly patient Sunwing on-site representative, works hard to keep guests smiling. She repeatedly encourages visitors to tell her if there is any problem, no matter how small, and she will do whatever she can to resolve it. She means it. During the October ’09 trip, some people felt the buffet was looking a bit tired, even in the first part of the week. Several long-time repeat customers said the food service seemed to have taken a nose-dive, and they told Elena. She spoke to the management and the kitchen staff promptly pulled up their socks. There was a marked improvement in the buffet offerings for the remainder of the week.

Since that time, I’ve felt the buffet has always been more than adequate. They have begun offering mutton, for instance, which is something the people of the area typically eat, as well as fish and pork. When I travel, I like to dine on local cuisine as much as possible, so I was happy to see sheep added to the menu. Also, within the past two years, the resort has added two outdoor grills (on the dining room patio and adjacent to the Marea pool), where you can have food made to order – yummy!

The "let's keep improving" attitude at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo is part of what makes it a truly excellent place to stay. Combine that with the natural scenic beauty of the landscape, the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere of the resort and the interesting, quirky "wildlife" encounters (random goats, sheep, pigs and horses sometimes stroll about the grounds) and this place is a hands-down winner for travelers like me, who do not want cookie-cutter experiences.

It's not a five-star resort but, to me, it's better. If you enjoy making personal contact with people – local residents as well as other like-minded tourists – this is a great place to do so. And, you simply can't beat the scenery – the majestic Sierra Maestra mountains flank a picturesque horseshoe bay with gently sloping beaches fringed by palms waving "Hola!" in the slightest breeze.

I will definitely return, again and again – twice a year, in fact, as I have been doing since 2009.


  1. Jenny, I agree with you whole-heartedly. The resort provided a relaxed and casual atmosphere, which made it a perfect choice for a yoga retreat. The opportunities were there to venture out on low cost excursions and thanks to the guides, these proved to be very educational. Now if you were seeking a more subdued vacation, you could just as easily stay on the beach or by the pool and participate (or not) in the daily activities. I am not usually one to visit the same place more than once but if there will be yoga on the beach next October, then count me in. Carol MacDonald

  2. Thanks, Carol! Yes, indeed, there will now be yoga on the beach with every group I organize, thanks to Wendy Martin. We are tentatively planning trips after Easter and after Thanksgiving each year. The October trip will be for women only but the April group is open to both sexes, and it will have a loose theme of "art and spirituality" in 2012.