My Family Spent ~$480 Each for Flights + 7 All-Inclusive Nights in Cuba: Part 3 – Memories Holguin Resort Review

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!
I did NOT use miles and points to book the trip (yikes!).  But we saved a LOT of money by stacking discounts and choosing the right season for Cuba travel.
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.
The Memories Holguin Beach Resort Is Massive! You’ll Do a LOT of Walking and Stair Climbing If You Stay Here
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.
Someone’s Tired!  Getting a Wristband to Wear for the Week
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.
Rooms at the Memories Holguin Beach Resort Are in Smaller (~12 Rooms Each) Buildings Scattered Throughout the Property. We Had 2 Interconnecting Ground Floor Rooms
Rooms
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.
The Rooms Weren’t the Fanciest We’d Ever Stayed in, but Were Super Clean With Tropical Decor and Everything We Needed for a Comfortable Stay
Every day the room attendants made the beds up slightly differently, which the kids thought was neat!
The Kids Got a Kick out of How the Beds Were Made Each Day
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.
Vacation Apparently Means Your Can Throw Your Stuff Just About Anywhere
The bathrooms were tidy and functional with a separate stall for the toilet …
The Bathrooms Were Clean and Recently Re-Done
… and another for the shower.  One day there was (briefly) no hot water but otherwise everything worked as it should.
Nothing Fancy, but Just Fine for Our Family
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.
Food
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.
Here’s the Main Buffet at Memories Holguin.  Did I Mention It Wasn’t Busy?
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.
Pancakes With Chocolate Syrup for the Win
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.
My Typical Breakfast at Memories Holguin – Custom Omelette, Papaya, Rolls, Cheese, and Very Good Coffee
The buffet stations and food were always nicely arranged and presented with carved fruit and vegetables as decoration …
There Was Always Fresh Tropical Fruit Available – the Papaya Was Especially Delicious
… and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many varieties of ham in one place.
If You Don’t Eat Pork You Might Have a Trickier Time
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.
There Was a Good Mix of Local-Style Dishes and International Options
Plus, there were stations for grilled meats, burgers, hot dogs, and fish, a pizza bar, and a create-your-own pasta bar.
There Was a Pizza Bar at Just About Every Meal
Oftentimes for lunch or snacks we’d just order from the beach bar.  Again, the pizza was a hit with the kids.
Poolside Lunch! The Kids Thought This Was Very Civilized
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.
O Canada!  The Resort Did It Up Big for Canada’s Birthday
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 Seafood Restaurant Wasn’t as Spectacular as We’d Hoped – Here’s the Shrimp Cocktail
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!
The Kids Had a Blast Exploring the Resort
My daughter was intrigued by all the banana trees on the property …
Banana Blossom! The Kids Thought This Was Pretty Cool
… and there were plenty of winding trails and pathways to explore.
The Resort Is Well Maintained and Has Lots of Nooks and Crannies to Check Out
We were most impressed with the multiple cascading pools on several levels …
No Shortage of Pools for Little and Big Kids to Splash Around In!
… 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 Was Usually Pretty Breezy, so We Stuck to the Pool Much of the Time
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.
The Tropical Drinks Were Mostly Heavy on the Cuban Rum, Which Was Excellent
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.
Gone Sailing! This Was One of the Highlights of the Resort for the Kids
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.
The Hotel Staff Kept us Entertained Each Afternoon With a Different Pool Activity
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.
The Kids Took Full Advantage of Unlimited Kiddie Cocktails at the Swim-Up Bar
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.
Life Is Good When You’re on Your Float!
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.
Hanging in the Lobby Bar Like They Own the Place!
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.
The Musical Performances at the Memories Holguin Resort Were Surprisingly Well Done
There was a small disco which was open late, but we never checked it out because after dinner and entertainment we were usually pooped.
Bottom Line
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!
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Every City Should Have Lots of Airbnb Apartments — Except Mine. Here’s Why.

Scott:   I am an Airbnb hypocrite — because I love to travel.
Airbnb makes travel more affordable for tourists but renting more expensive for locals.  Is this really true?
Has the Popularity of Airbnb Driven up Rental Prices in Popular Tourist Cities?
There have been various studies and investigations that say so.  Of course, some of these may or may not have been corrupted with hotel sponsorship money.
But I’ll go with my intuition / common sense on this one.  Have rents in (insert popular tourist city here) gone up because of people snapping up apartments to list on Airbnb for more money than they could get from a tenant?  I’ll say YES… in the popular neighborhoods of those cities.
It’s supply and demand.  I’m NOT talking about the person who lives alone in a 2-bedroom apartment and rents out their spare bedroom on occasion.  This is about the person / business who buys or rents an apartment (or many!) then makes it into a mini-hotel.
Airbnb has been a big part of how I’m able to stay so long overseas.  I like to rent a regular place in a convenient area, but not on the main tourist strip so I save money and get a more authentic experience.
Then I’ll use points to splurge for a fancy weekend hotel stay.
I Rented an Airbnb in Cancun (Away From the Main Tourist Area) for 5 Weeks, Then Splurged With Points to Stay at This All-Inclusive Resort for a Couple of Nights
I can’t imagine all the Airbnb apartments for rent do NOT drive up rents for locals.  It seems to me that it’s a great business for the locals who participate and not so great for those who don’t.
For instance, I stayed in Krakow, Poland, where my host had apparently created a network of apartments all over town — and with multiple units in our building.
You can’t tell me that kind of thing doesn’t cut some of the supply and thus raise prices… unless there’s just a glut of affordable housing in the area.
One argument I do NOT buy is that hotels lose a lot of business to Airbnb.  Because they’re totally different experiences.  And because — take my situation for example — I want to stay 6 weeks in a city.  I’m never going to buy 6 weeks at a hotel.
But I have purchased 5 weeks at an Airbnb and added on a week at a hotel using money and points.  So the hotel got business it wasn’t going to get if I didn’t have a way to stay longer in that city.  And local businesses got more of my tourist spending and so on.
So I like all that for MY neighborhood in MY city, but naturally I don’t want that to increase rents.  Unless of course I decide to become a landlord…
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