Pampering, Cuban style
Visitors to Cuba can look forward to a delicious combination of unspoiled beaches, spirited nightlife and endless opportunities to explore the vibrant cultural history of this tiny island. In recent years, luxurious spas have begun to appear at popular resorts and, while Cuban spas are unique, they offer a delightful opportunity to relax into the vibe of a Caribbean vacation.
During a recent vacation to Cuba, my husband and I visited two spas on Cayo Santa Maria – one at Las Dunas and the other at Buenavista. Both resorts are managed by Melia which owns 26 resorts in Cuba – and more than 350 hotels worldwide.
They have luxury down to an art form.
Melia Buenavista’s YHI SPA
Melia Buenavista is on the higher end of 5 star resorts in Cuba – everything here is just a little more luxurious. From the moment you step onto the property, you’ll notice the smiles are brighter, the food is fresher and the pampering of each and every guest is the primary goal.
Set apart from the rest of the resort, entering the YHI spa felt like escaping to a secret garden of relaxation and delight. Appointments are spaced out to give guests privacy as they transition from the openness of the resort to the very private sanctuary of the spa. During our visit, my husband and I were taken to the same dressing room and were the only guests there while we slipped out of our resort clothes and into robes. The only noise above our whispers was soft and haunting spa music.
While waiting for our treatment, we soaked in an outdoor hot tub and chatted uninterrupted with each other. As with many things in Cuba, the hot tub was a different experience – the water was unheated. Considering the temperatures on the island, the cool water was a welcome surprise.
Our couples massage took place in a very Caribbean-style cottage, with aqua-colored walls and ceiling. After enjoying a blissful, relaxing hour at the hands of our masseuses, we realized that the fine of art of massage is well-taught in Cuba. Reviewers on TripAdvisor.com agree with us – the Buenavista YHI spa has earned an 85% satisfaction score and is the top-ranked spa on Cayo Santa Maria.
If you go, remember to take a towel from your room as they don’t provide towels to spa visitors. Also, make time to soak in the Jacuzzi and spend time in the steam room and sauna. Tipping is encouraged, so bring Cuban convertible pesos with you to give directly to your attendant.
Melia Las Dunas’ Aguas Claras Spa
Also a 5-star resort, Melia Las Dunas offers spa goers a similar – is somewhat busier – experience. The spa building, perched on the edge of the property is a healthy (and appreciated) distance away from the noise of the pool. Las Dunas (925 rooms) is an older resort with more of a party vibe than the Buenavista (105 rooms) – and the spa reflects those qualities.
When we visited the Agua Claras Spa at Las Dunas, the lobby was bustling with guests – a beauty salon opens to the side of the lobby, which adds to the more energetic vibe. After changing into our swimsuits (the change rooms are unisex so we changed in the bathroom stalls), we waited outside by the pool. Tall grasses blowing in the breeze and the late afternoon soon flitting through the bamboo slats in the patio roof helped bring about the relaxation we sought.
GoGirlfriend recommendation: Try the Roasted Coffee massage at Agua Claras. The natural antioxidants and moisture retention properties – not to mention the decadent aromas – made for a great massage experience.
Our massage was equally enjoyable as the Buenavista but there’s no doubting the more animated atmosphere created a different experience for us at the Las Dunas spa. The same rules apply here with towels so come with one from your room. Tipping is encouraged, so bring Cuban convertible pesos with you to give directly to your attendant.
Unlike Melia Buenavista, the Spa Aguas Claras isn’t rated by itself on TripAdvisor.com but you’ll find plenty of resort reviews. Visit Melia Las Dunas online or join their communities of Facebook and Twitter.