Everything I loved (and hated) about the Iberostar Bella Vista

A resort vacation isn’t real travel — at least, not for me. But I still try to take such a vacation fairly regularly, because it’s a fail proof way to force myself to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Mom has been hospitalized for nearly four months now, and so last month’s vacation in Varadero, Cuba was more than a little necessary. It was hard to leave her for a week, but the trip had been booked back in December and I was close to burnout. (I still am. Hello, month four.) If I didn’t go, I’d lose $1,500 and my friends would be stranded.

Wait, why am I trying to justify this? Fuck that. I needed a trip.

I travelled with two of my best friends, Lesley and Ashley, and Ashley’s friend Sam. My last few trips down south were for big weddings, so it was fun to be travelling with a smaller group this time. Plus we were all really good together. I was so lame most of the time, but no one cared about me being boring. And no one tried to force me to do things I didn’t want to do. I partied for one night, and the rest of the week I was in bed by 10pm every night. I was zonked.

The good

The Iberostar Bella Vista is pretty new, so the entire building is pristine. The resort’s modern design and decor was refreshing — all bright pops of colour and spacious rooms and endless chairs. On only one day did we have to wrestle a bunch of old people for their sun loungers.

The a la carte restaurants were great. We signed up for the Cuban restaurant, the Italian, and the Japanese. We were all pretty shittered at the Japanese restaurant, but sitting around a grill with a bunch of Quebecois tourists is always a good time. I enjoyed the food there, even if I don’t remember what I ate. Rice, maybe. Sushi? I think so.

The best restaurant, however, was the Panorama Bar at the very top floor of the resort. It’s not included in the all-inclusive package, so you have to pay $30+ for a meal. But we befriended the friendly chef at the pool one day, and he invited us to join him for an epic four-course meal. He served us a spicy soup, lobster and steak, bread with dipping sauce, and dessert. It was by far the best meal we had in Cuba, and one of my most memorable meals period. The panoramic view is seriously beautiful up there, with a view over the entire resort and the ocean. The servers were also not stingy with the bubbly at all.  

The snack bar was good, too. I hate eating Canadian/American food when I’m travelling, but I didn’t have a whole lot of choice sometimes. The burgers at this spot were decent. My stomach was a constant gurgling mess, anyway.

The service was quick and super friendly. Compared to my resort experience in Jamaica last year, the service at the Iberostar Bella Vista was top notch.

I loved the size of the resort. This was one of the smaller resorts I’ve been to, with just one buffet, a snack bar, one swim-up bar, and no discotheque. But I loved that it was always easy to find my friends, and it was easy to meet other people too. We often congregated at the lobby bar in the evenings before going out into town.

The catamaran excursion was awesome. No matter what resort I’m on, I always book a catamaran tour. This one was oddly low-key until we hit Cayo Blanco. We were served a lobster dinner and I drank rum out of a pineapple. Enough said.

It’s super close to bars and restaurants in Varadero. I didn’t mind not having a disco at the resort, because Varadero’s awesome bars were all just a quick ride away. On my first night into town, we spent a fair amount of time at the awesome Beatles Bar (an outdoors rock music venue). My friends continued their bar crawl long after I went home. (Like I said, I was lame.)

The swim-up bar is where it’s at. Usually when I’m on vacation, I spend all my time at the beach. The beach at the Iberostar Bella Vista was epic, but really, really quiet. We spent one day there before relegating ourselves to the pool bar for the rest of the trip. We met all kinds of fun people there and hosted our own dance parties. We were probably obnoxious, I dunno. No one seemed to mind.

We picked a perfect time to be there. We stayed at the Iberostar Bella Vista from April 7-14, one week after Easter vacation. Prices were good, there weren’t too many small kids around, and the weather was perfect. It didn’t rain at all during our trip.

The bad

Our room setup was totally weird. We had asked for a room with two beds, which obviously should indicate that Lesley and I weren’t travelling as a couple — but the bathroom’s shower had a glass wall facing outward into the room. And it wasn’t frosted glass, so Lesley and I could literally see each other showering. Like, who designed that?

This is a ridiculous complaint, but the swim-up bar closed too damned early every night. Our welcome package told us the bar would be open until 6, but the staff closed it at 5 nearly every day. One day, we were still hanging out at the pool, and the maintenance guys came along and poured buckets of chlorine into the water…WHILE WE WERE STILL IN IT. THANKS FOR THE CANCER.

The buffet’s food was almost unbearable. I mean, I know that resort food doesn’t really do a country justice, but this was extreme. Most of the time I didn’t know what I was eating, or I went hungry because my stomach couldn’t tolerate anything. By the end of the trip, I was suffering a case of Castro’s gastro that I couldn’t seem to get rid of it. It took me two weeks to recover.

Finally, and this is the worst part — their towel service scheme is awful and I don’t really understand it. Me and Lesley knew that there was a penalty involved for losing our towels, but someone literally stole ours while we were at the beach (on day two of our trip). We just did without it for the week, and kinda forgot. As we were leaving to check out of the hotel, our maid chased us down the hallway wondering about our beach towels. Apparently, if we lost them, SHE would have to pay for them (??!!!!!). Anyway, it was a huge fucking ordeal, and the maid had to bring us to the front desk, then to customer service, and then security was called, and I had to sign some sort of contract (??!!!!), but eventually she got those damned towels and me and Lesley didn’t have to pay. BUT WHAT IS THAT EVEN ABOUT?! Does Iberostar really penalize its maids for the GUESTS losing their towels?! Or is this all some elaborate scheme?

I am so spoiled.

Overall, a 8 out of 10. I’d go back!

  • May 14 2018

    I wouldn’t worry about eating burgers and fries, it’s what Cubans eat too. Although usually the beef goes to resorts and they have to eat this weird mix of pork + beef (if they’re lucky) and some kind of weird filler.

    • May 29 2018

      Oh god, “weird filler.” I don’t wanna know. (But it was tasty.)

  • May 15 2018

    Thanks for the info.for me and my clients
    This hotel is new and i offer to my clients.
    90% of the hotels in Varadero ar very old.
    I like Melia Las Americas but is just for 18+

    • May 29 2018

      I like the idea of 18+ :)

  • May 15 2018

    Yes its true that the hotels in Varadero do make their staff pay for towels. They take inventory of them daily. We have been to a few different resorts and staff have told us that its so resort staff does not take them home…so staff is nor stealing from hotel.

    Great review too. Thank you
    I am a travel agent and this is extremely helpful.
    Thank you

    • May 29 2018

      Ugh what a terrible policy. As if they have any control over what guests are doing. Good to know, though.

  • May 21 2018

    Wow, I really love the place..Its so nice…Someday I could come there to experience the loveliness of the resort…Thank you and God bless.

  • May 24 2018

    hi, we were at that resort from April 24-May 1, a group of 12, we too had an excellent time! We found the bartenders and servers very accommodating to all our requests (you would not believe how many bottles of champagne you can get for 10 cuc). As for the towel issue….it was indicated on a card in our room of the fee associated with loosing one! ($20.00can I think) None of us had any issues with the food or our stomachs….and yes, the catamaran was well worth the cost. I do agree that the beach and swim up bars closed to early….but I thinks we may be heavier drinkers than some, lol. The resort had exciting nightly entertainment but not much happening after 1 am. We too would definitely recommend this resort to others. It was a blast!!!

    • May 29 2018

      Lol!! Damn, wish I had known about the champagne thing haha. My stomach never seems to agree with food south of the border. I should have been better prepared with medication.

  • June 20 2018

    Great article. This place is heaven on earth.

  • May 29 2022

    Great & informative review! I have a few questions though. Is the panoramic restaurant up top the only place you get seafood at the resort? Do they serve premium liquor? In what currency did you tip? Last question, do you have to pre book the Al la carte restaurant‘a ahead of time or do you just show up?

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