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.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Marea del Portillo resort is getting a makeover!

My favorite little resort has been undergoing a lot of renovation work recently. I was very impressed with what I saw during my 2013 Yoga Posse trip. 

Here's a Trip Advisor review I wrote afterwards, along with some photos of work being done. There are more photos with my review on the Trip Advisor site.

New & improved features at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo

Sunrise from Farallón hotel room balcony.
I have been to Cuba’s Club Amigo Marea del Portillo 10 times but this is the first time I’ve stayed in the Farallón del Caribe hotel. Previously, I’ve chosen to stay in the Marea hotel or cabañas, mainly because I am lazy. When I tumble out of bed at sunrise for a morning swim in the ocean or yoga on the beach, I don’t really want to stumble down a big hill and back up again.  But, on this occasion, the Marea section was closed for renovations during the first half of my two-week visit. So, I “endured” the Farallón.

Towel origami.
I say “endured” because the Farallón hotel is actually quite lovely and I enjoyed it more than I expected! Yes, it is a bit of a hike to/from the beach, especially if your room is on the fourth floor, as mine was, but I elected to view it as part of my Cuban holiday fitness program. For anyone with mobility issues, the stairs and lack of an elevator will present a challenge; I would not recommend it for someone in a wheelchair. However, for everyone else, the incredible view from every well-appointed room is worth the extra exercise!

In addition to the glorious vistas afforded at the Farallón, this hotel has a larger dining room and buffet, a brand-new à la carte restaurant, a slightly bigger/better gift shop and a pool with a swim-up bar, as well as some other “superior” amenities. Nonetheless, I still prefer the beach-front Marea section of this small resort complex. But, to put it in perspective, if you have to walk from one hotel to the other, it will take about 6-7 minutes, on average. And, if your accommodation is in the Marea hotel or cabañas, you are welcome to dine, swim or whatever at the Farallón, and vice versa.

Most of the cabañas have been freshly painted.
 During the second week of my most recent trip, the Marea section was reopened, so I relocated to a cabaña and resorted to my usual slothful ways…strolling out my back door and lolling in the ocean before breakfast without working up a sweat. This trip provided the best of both worlds, in my opinion, and moving down the hill by golf cart was only a minor inconvenience. The resort provided patient, polite and strong men to assist all of us who were doing the hotel shuffle.

Some of the new garden features.
Besides lugging our luggage, the folks at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo have been doing a lot of heavy lifting with respect to renovations. However, they haven’t neglected lighter-weight nuances like nametags for all staff – those based at the Farallón as well as in the Marea area. This is a big boon for guests like me, who find names a struggle!

Stained glass & iron.
Beyond that small but significant touch, I observed many improvements and talked to an assortment of people (other repeat visitors, managers and support staff) to compile a list of completed and still-on-the-go projects. The most notable work has been done in the Marea dining room. This includes the installation of a new buffet with a better steam table, wrought iron accents throughout and stained glass panels surrounding the open-air dining section to provide protection from sun and rain. The outdoor grill has also been upgraded and fresh paint abounds.

Barbara is very proud of Marea's new dining room buffets.

Many of the cabañas and other parts of the facility have been repainted as well – the Marea stage and pool bar will be most noticeable to anyone who has visited before. Other noteworthy elements include more beach-front showers, extensions to the patios/landings of each beach-level room of the Marea hotel and a sidewalk along the road between the hotels – all still in progress while I was there Oct. 29-Nov. 13. The resort’s driveway has been repaved too, as well as much of the highway between Marea and Pilón, the nearest town one passes through when traveling to/from the airport in Manzanillo.

New beach shower.
Something new for the swingers!

Additionally, the Marea pool infrastructure (filters, pumps and whatnot) has been completely overhauled and the doors/locks on the cabañas are gradually being replaced so all will eventually have electronic card keys. There are also new coolers in the bars and overhead fans to keep the bartenders cooler, name plates to identify some of the indigenous flora and other natural elements, plenty of decorative plantings (those gardeners have been very busy!), a pair of free-standing swing-sets, a vastly improved bar and food service area on Cayo Blanco (the idyllic island with the white sandy beach everyone loves), a completely new à la carte dining room at the Farallón del Caribe and sundry thatched structures for shady activities, so to speak!

Cayo Blanco's new bar & food service area is a big improvement!

As well, genial general manager Diomedes noted that 90% of the resort complex now has flat-screen TVs. Including a third hotel called Punta Piedra, which is located several kilometers from the main resort (along the highway, about halfway to Pilón), the facility has 286 rooms – that’s a lot of new televisions! While chatting with Diomedes, I asked him what he felt were the best things about Club Amigo Marea del Portillo. His answers mirrored my own sentiments. First, he said, “the people” and, with only a moment’s reflection, he added that the combination of the mountains and the sea is unsurpassed.

I wholeheartedly agree. This resort is not new but it looks great, and it is truly a special place due to the beautiful natural setting and, more importantly, because of the warm, wonderful people on staff – whom you can now call them by name, thanks to those handy new nametags! 

Another beautiful day at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo & Farallón del Caribe, Cuba!

For more about what I've been up to lately, please visit my Cuba travel website:

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