Despite the damage done by 3 consecutive hurricanes in the fall of 2008, the Oasis Brisas has rebuilt quickly and remains one of Cuba’s Atlantic Coast hidden gems. Being some distance from the airport in Camaguey and being a flight away from the hustle and bustle of Veradero and Havana, Santa Lucia is a peaceful and friendly place unparalleled in Cuba.
Location: Santa Lucia is a small strip of resorts on the northern coast of Cuba. It is 90 minutes from the closest airport in Camaguey. The Brisas is a fairly small resort and all rooms are relatively near to all activities, restaurants and bars.
Rooms: The rooms are modest but quite adequate. As with many resorts in Cuba, plumbing, electricity and air conditioning are subject to breakdowns quite often. This is a way of life in a country so cut off from a number of ‘western’ countries. See it as part of the romance and appreciate what these people have to go through on a regular basis dealing with what we consider small problems.
Restaurants and Bars: The food may be bland as it is at most Cuban resorts. This is more their interpretation of what North Americans and Europeans want than what their traditional food is. However, the food is plentiful as is the booze. There is a bar open 24 hours per day and there are others open until varying hours. Cristal is the only beer available and may start to taste a little disgusting after 5 or 6 days. Everything else is based on Rum. A common complaint about Cuban resorts is that bar service is slow and unfriendly and the bartenders don’t appreciate tips. They do appreciate tips but they appreciate being talked to and treated like human beings even more. Take the time to learn a few Spanish phrases and try to converse a little with these folks. You’ll find it will go a long way.
Beach/Pool/Grounds: The beach at the resort is beautiful. Straying off the grounds will find you walking through garbage. The water is amazingly clear and do bring snorkelling gear if you have it. There are patches of coral reef within an easy swim of the beach that are teeming with tropical fish. There is only one pool. It is fairly large but the water may be cool. The swim-up bar is worth the cold water, though, as this is where you will get the best service!
Excursions: There are not many off-site excursions available and the ones that are available are the usual that you will find at any resort. You can fly to the major tourist centres in Cuba which would involve overnight stays. There are sporting trips such as snorkelling, catamaran trips, sailing, deep-sea fishing, diving, ATVing, etc. You should take a walk down the main road to visit the workers town. It’s a good education on how the resort workers live and you can get in on some great hospitality for a few pesos.
Common Complaints: The usual complaints always arise when people post a review of this resort. The staff are unfriendly. Well, no they aren’t. They don’t speak your language and it is hard to be friendly to someone who wants an instant answer and who thinks they are of a superior society. The rooms are poorly maintained. It may seem this way, but they are trying as hard as they can with the minimal resources they have to keep the resort in working condition. The drive is too long from the airport. You knew this going in and if you didn’t, the bad review goes to your travel agent and not the resort. The further you drive from an airport, the more exclusive and real your resort is going to be. It is worth the drive.
In all, the Oasis Brisas in Santa Lucia is a great resort for anyone who wants to get away from civilization and relax. The resort is small enough that you will form friendships with the staff and entertainment crew. In fact, this is the only resort I’ve been to where the entertainment crew intermingles with the customers all day long until their evening performance. Don’t forget your sunscreen, snorkelling gear and gifts for the local people.
Hint: If you want unlimited coconuts and speedy service from the maintenance and grounds crew, money talks, yes. Rum speaks much louder. Discretely take the maintenance and grounds crew drinks from the bar that you’re getting for free anyway and you will be treated like kings and queens!