When Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria opened in December 2016, it leveraged its white sandy beaches, stunning landscapes along the Caribbean Ocean, and warm beautiful people to appeal to Canadian travellers.

It is the first property by Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts to enter Cuba, and the first and only all-inclusive lifestyle resort with a private beach in the area. “Touting its chic design, an idyllic location and an edgy vibe, CT Magazine wondered how this new property was living up to the hype. So, we tracked down a few recent visitors and posed the question: What were the top experiences of your stay at Dhawa? Read on to hear what they had to say so that you might understand its appeal and get a sense of how to position the property to different types of travellers.

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Adult male #1:
For me, the top experience was watching the kids’ reactions to seeing the lobby for the first time, their room, the buffet and restaurants. If I had to pick another experience, it would be the catamaran day. The boat trip itself was great, but specifically snorkelling with the fish and being able to touch a dolphin were highlights for me.


Adult female #2:
Everything was so amazing. The adventures were great, like the catamaran trip to the dolphins with snorkeling stops along the way; hobie cat rides at the resort – getting sprayed with the ocean water as we zipped along; and the trip into Santa Clara to immerse ourselves in the culture and highlights of the city, which was topped off with an incredible lunch at Casona de Jover. These moments were all made so much more memorable because of the people helping us at each point – so friendly and kind, both on and off the resort. The food was also very notable. Everything was delicious, especially the desserts (like the bananas in caramel sauce and the meringue with chocolate pudding).


Adult male #3:
For me, the top three things were: 1. The people: Everywhere we went, we met friendly happy people. Whether it was on the resort or in the towns, everyone seemed to be happy to see us. 2. The food. Despite what we heard from others before we left, the food throughout the resort and the towns was amazing and full of flavour. 3. The calmness of the pace. There was no stress whatsoever as we went from activity to activity on or off the resort. Time seemed irrelevant and we could truly be on vacation.


Adult female #4:
Three favourites are so hard to determine but if being forced, I would say: First, the relaxing days spent in a beach chair by the pool or ocean enjoying the view, the drinks and the great food. Second, the fun evenings spent sitting on the comfy sectionals in the lobby playing games with family and friends. And third, the people. They were kind, helpful and hard working individuals who went out of their way to make sure we enjoyed our trip. They were excited to share their love of Cuba and its culture.

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17-year-old female:

One of my favourite things was the family-like atmosphere. Throughout our stay, we got to form a personal connection with the staff. They always remembered us and our family, and always had a positive energy. Another thing I loved was the activities; every day, all day long, the activities director and his coworkers were putting 110 per cent into creating fun things for everyone to do, ranging from sports games to dance lessons to pool activities. The catamaran boat ride was another top moment for me. The experiences I got to have while on that boat were amazing. We were able to learn and understand more about dolphins and how the marina helps with the rehabilitation of animals, while also playing with the dolphins. We were able to go snorkelling in some of the most magnificent spots, while forming connections with people from all over the world who were experiencing the same things with us. The catamaran gave me the opportunity to do so many amazing things in one day while enjoying non-stop amazing views.


14-year-old male:

Cuba was amazing and there are so many memories; it’s difficult to pick my favourites! Yet if I had to pick my top experiences from the trip, one would be getting to ride on the back of a dolphin as I swam around! Another one would have to be all the food. I ate at least five meals a day and it was awesome. The third is that every time I walked into our room at the resort, there was the most beautiful view of the ocean.


18-year-old female:
My favourite experience on our trip to Cuba was the day spent on the catamaran. The snorkelling was beautiful with diverse marine life and coral. Meeting the dolphins and learning about them was an incredible experience. But what I loved most was laying at the front of the boat or sitting on the side, just enjoying the sunshine and spending time with my friends and family. Another thing I loved about the trip was going into the cities and getting a small taste of Cuban culture. We walked the streets and looked through vendors selling their goods. The buildings were brightly painted, making the architecture very distinct. Visiting museums allowed us to have a better understanding of the history of the country. Lastly, I loved the friendliness of all the people working at Dhawa. It made our entire trip memorable and enjoyable. I got to practice my Spanish and get help with it and I loved that. 

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DHAWA CAYO SANTA MARIA BY THE NUMBERS:

- There are 516 rooms at Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria.

- Ocean views are available from half of those.

- Room categories include: 246 Superior Rooms, 122 Deluxe Ocean View Rooms, 120 Premium Ocean Front View Rooms, 16 Junior Ocean Front View Suites and 12 Premium Ocean Front View Suites.

- Hungry? Find five restaurants on property.

- Thirsty? There are four bars to choose from.

- Stay occupied with the two swimming pools, a fitness centre, a Kids Club, two tennis courts and a basketball court.

- A 545-seat theatre offers complimentary daily ‘live’ entertainment.

- Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria is a 90-minute drive from Santa Clara International Airport. Air Canada Vacations, Sunwing, Transat, HolaSun & Caribsol are currently featuring the resort.

 

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