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Hidden Paradise: Review of Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort in Curacao

Bradley Wint
Jun 6, 2019 7:12pm AST

While passing through Curacao, I could not pass up the opportunity to visit the Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort. Tucked away in the Nieuwpoort/Newport area, the resort is the perfect getaway if you need to take some time away from the daily hustle.

Interestingly enough, this property was once managed by the Hyatt group, and was called Hyatt Regency Curacao. However, the owners forced Hyatt out in 2012 after alleged contract breaches, and changed the property name to “Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort”. It is currently under the management of Benchmark Hospitality International.

The resort is rated 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

Booking

While looking for places to stay, I actually came across a sale and was able to pick up a “Premier Room, Sea View” for $160 a night via Expedia. At the time, the price was actually a bit lower than what was offered on the website. However, there are rooms going for as low as $120 a night non-refundable.

Location

As mentioned above, the ocean front resort is located in the Nieuwpoort/Newport area (depending on how you want to spell it). One of the common complaints was that this resort is located too far away from the city center and airport. It’s a roughly 40 minute drive from the airport, and about 25-30 minutes into the city.

As it is not easy to get to the hotel by public transportation, you can either take a really expensive shuttle service or rent a car (which is much cheaper). I can understand why guests complain, but if you have a set of wheels, the journey should not be too much of a hassle. Where I live, there is so much traffic, that it takes about the same travel time just to drive only half the distance.

However, if you are looking for a getaway and don’t mind lounging around the resort and beach front for most of the stay, then you’re good to go.

Check In

Once I parked the car, there was a short walk to the centrally located lobby. As I had pre-paid for my room, the check in was more of a formality to get information and a credit card number on file. During the process, I was also offered a complimentary drink. The bellhops were extremely eager to take my bags to my room, but as I only had one small bag and a carry-on, I didn’t see the need to utilize their service.

Once checked in, I got my room access card and an extra pass for complimentary pool towels. An extra key card was given to me for room power, as air conditioning and light switches become inoperable without them. The front desk also provided me with a pamphlet outlining weekly activities as well as restaurant opening days (which vary by season).

Room

I was assigned room 1302, which is on the upper level at start of the West wing. Thankfully it is on the same level as the lobby, so there was no need to go up and down stairs or the elevator.

While the rooms carry a slightly dated look from the Hyatt days, I still loved the very Caribbean vibe of the louver wood doors, cream wall colors and patterned tiles.

The room offers 410 square feet of space, and in my case, feature a king sized bed. There are also double bed options for this room style.

As I mentioned above, the extra key card is used to operate the power and aircon functions. Note that once the balcony door is opened, the A/C is automatically turned off to save on electricity and to prevent the unit from being overworked. Both the room and balcony have ceiling fans which provide sufficient air flow.

The room comes with all the essentials including a work station, entertainment system and lounge chair.

There are a number of Type F 220v power outlets, but only one Type B 110v outlet near the desk, as well as another in the bathroom.

The TV features cable channels and access to YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and Pandora.

There was a coffee maker, as well as some basic coffee and tea choices. Two sizeable bottles of complimentary water were also included, but the card suggests refilling them with tap water (cost saving technique I assume?). The cupboard contains a safe, ironing board, robes, and hangers.

Like most other hotels, there is also a mini-fridge. Looking back at the photos, I only realized long after why the bottles kept falling over.

The bathroom area featured an open concept shower and bath tub, as well as a toilet with its own door. The bathroom itself did not have a door, but rather a heavy curtain for privacy.

The bath itself had soap, shampoo, and conditioner dispensers, so it was convenient given that I was living on little containers of soap that were almost finished after day 6 of hopping around the Caribbean.

The only complaint I had was that the extraction system took a really long time to remove any lingering smells.

As my room sat on one of the corners of the block, the balcony space appears to be slightly larger even though I don’t have the stats to confirm that. There is also a small ceiling fan that delivers quite a bit of air for its size. If you do plan to spend a lot of time out there, be sure to reset the timer ever so often as you can only keep it on for two hours at a time.

My booking called for a Sea View, but it seems it might have been more of a partial sea view as the trees somewhat obstructed the view of the ocean. Regardless, it was still a great sight for the two days that I spent there.

Food and Drinks

There are a variety of restaurants to choose from, but note should be taken about opening days. I was unable to visit them all because of my short time conflicting with the closing days. The restaurants are as follows:

  • Medi – Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mostly Italian items including pasta, pizza, as well as soups, burgers and other appetizers
  • Shore – Fine dining (dinner only)
  • The Great Room – Serves a limited menu of sushi and salad items, as well as cocktails.
  • Splash Bar and Grill – Located next to the pool side, they serve mostly burgers and small bites, along with a very decent selection of mixed drinks and wines.
  • Bella Italia (operated by 3rd party) – Serves a variety of Italian dishes as well, but in a less formal setting.
  • Burgers + Beers (operated by 3rd party) – A food hut styled restaurant serving grilled items and drinks.

As I only spent two days at a the resort, I was only able to sample meals at Medi, Bella Italia, and drinks at Splash.

Buffet breakfast is not included in the base room prices, but can be added on for an additional $15 per day. I decided to buy it any way as I really did not have an alternative as I was too lazy to leave the resort. However due to a billing error between Expedia and hotel management, the breakfast charge was not included even though they acknowledged it would be added on.

I had breakfast and lunch at Medi, but I can’t say the food was outstanding.

I only tried the drinks at Splash. They were mixed pretty strong, and the service was good, however the prices were a little bit on the higher end compared to other resorts.

I actually bought dinner from Bella Italia (instead of Medi) as they both serve Italian dishes. As this outlet is operated by a 3rd party, the design element does not conform to the rest of the hotel. Not a big deal of course. The food was very reasonably priced and tasted much better than what was offered at Medi.

Amenities

Unlike many other big names that tack on Wi-Fi as part of a “resort fee”, it is included as part of the base fee. Unfortunately I got the crappy end of the stick as the coverage in my room was appalling. However, I think this was more about positioning as I got exceptional signal from other parts of the resort.

Now that the bad stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about the other things to do.

The hotel itself features a large swimming pool next to the sea side, with accessible beach towels (complimentary), chairs, and cabanas.

Guests can also bathe in an enclosed section of the beach area, with drinks service available via Splash Bar. The only problem here is that the water is really shallow as it it cordoned off to protect swimmers from passing jet skis. Further up the shore line is a dive center where guests can swim down to the near by reef as part of a paid tour, or can even taking diving lessons.

Jet Ski rides are also available from third party hosts.

Santa Barbara Beach

Heading inside, there are the usual facilities expected with a resort like this including a business and conference center, spa services, a gym, and even table tennis boards near the upper entrances to the elevators.

Located near the west wing is Camp Arawak, a kids camp for children between the ages of 4 to 12. They offer planned activities including arts and crafts, board games, beach art, snorkeling, water games and more.

For the adults looking to get in a sweat, there are two tennis courts a short drive from the resort, as well as one of the best 18-hole golf courses in the Caribbean. There are also hiking and bike trails.

Service

Service was almost top notch. My only difficulty was with the language barrier at the restaurant. As I could only speak English, there was some confusion on the first day when I came for breakfast. That aside, I was well attended to. Service was just as good during the lunch period as well. Front desk staff were also quite helpful and accommodating, but unfortunately when I was checking out, there seemed to be some confusion with the final bill as my prepayment had not registered on their end.

As I knew this wouldn’t have been easily sorted out at the front desk at 4 a.m., I decided to pay what was supposedly outstanding and gave Expedia a call later that day. The matter was resolved in 5 minutes and the excess funds were refunded to my credit card that same evening. The hotel also acknowledged their mistake, which apparently originated on their end.

Conclusion and Rating

At points during my short stay, I felt out of place given that I paid well under $200 for a slice out Caribbean heaven. With a beautiful ocean view, well appointed room, and friendly staff to back it all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time away from reality.

As this is generally not an all-inclusive resort (even though they do offer some semi-all inclusive packages), many of the activities do come at an additional cost, but this should be expected.

The only shortfall really is its distance from the city.

8.2/10
9/15
Location
22/25
Room
13/15
Amenities
15/20
Food/Drinks
23/25
Service
What we liked
With a great view of the palm trees and ocean, a well appointed room, and very attentive staff, the experience was well worth it especially for those looking for a getaway from the daily hustle of life.
What we didn't like
Wi-Fi was terribly bad. Even with full connectivity to the router, the connection to the web was extremely spotty. Food at the Medi restaurant was just average.

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