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Thread: Traveling to Cuba with the family. Any last minute advice ?

  1. #31
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    GM all.  I'm back from my trip... 

    Cuba trip (short notes)

    Day 1: 
    arrival at the airport - Security lines were not bad at all even though there were 3-4 fights coming in at the same time. Small inconvenience to mention.. we are a family of 4 but yet custom asked us to go one at a time. Transportation guy (Ramon) was waiting outside sign and all. Getting pass the crow reminded me of my many trips to DR. Good to great overall experience at airport. Ride from airport to hotel - No traffic. Drove pass a few monuments including the plaza de la revolución and the impressive and I mean impressive Havana university entrance. We got news on the way to the hotel that our travel agent changed our reservation from the plaza to the nacional. That was a pleasant surprise. 
    Checking at the hotel - Our tour guide (Claritza) waited for us at the hotel lobby. She was friendly, went over the itinerary. My wife and kids connected with her right away. Checking in at the hotel was easy. We lucked out that we were the only ones checking in when we arrived.

    1st night: 
    Dinner - Ramon  took us to a local paladar .. walking distance from the hotel. Very good food. Average of $20 cuc per person. Dinner for 5 plus 2 beers and 3 bottles of water $95cuc.  After dinner - walked right across the restaurant to a bar/rest in the 33rd floor. Beautiful. I recommend the paladar (where Cubans were eating not tourists) and the bar.  Back at the hotel stayed at the patio for some nice music and a walk through the hall of fame (small room with pic of famous visitors from Traficante to Putin to Fernandez). 

    Day 2:
    Breakfast at the hotel not bad. Claritza was waiting for us at the lobby to take us to old Havana for our tour/walk through old Havana. It made me feel like I was in cuidad colonial but at a larger scale. Beautiful city in general; lunch at a roof top paladar in old Havana was good; visited the Hemingway hotel room and his favorite roof top bar. I would go back for a drink just for the view. In general I recommend old Havana. Great tourist attraction. A ride in a 50s convertible through the malecón, up the plaza revolutionaria and back to the hotel. Rest of afternoon at the hotel pool where the beers are priced reasonably at $3cuc and a burger is $7cuc. H) dinner at the buena vista social club. Show and dinner $60cuc/pp. 

    Day 3:
    Breakfast at the hotel.  
    Ride to varadero: 
    Taxi picked us at 9:30 right on time. Ride to varadero along the coast very similar to ride from the airport to the capital, some parts are just like the ride to punta cana. The Vegetation along the highway is the same as the eastern part of DR. Cops everywhere controlling the speed. We stopped at the pina coladas mirador right before the highest bridge in Cuba. Beautiful view. F) after the bridge you pass the town of matanza. Going  through matanza is like crossing San Pedro de Macorís or Bani or puerto plata or villa altagracia when the Duarte highway used to cross right thru them with one major difference, no crowds, very orderly and Like the Cuba I've seen so far, it's clean. Checking in at hotel (Barcelo solymar):
    Arrived at around 12 a lot earlier than the 4pm check in time. The front desk is crowded with people checking in and out and not enough reps behind the counter.  We checked in and were able to use the facilities including having lunch, drink and use the pool before our rooms were ready. The beach is beautiful. The sand and clear water reminds me of cayman island.

    Side note - the oldest of our kids got sick (low grade fiver). It appears that he got sick when the all morning walk in the heat at the old Havana the day before, maybe sun poison. He did not wear a hot and that might've done it. 

    Day 4: 
    Breakfast non eventful. Can't go wrong with fried or egg whites.  The hotel reminds me of a soviet era Eastern European hotel/building you see in tv. The beach is great, clean, clear, no waves and quiet. We did snorkeling. It was worth it. Fish all size and colors were abound. Rice, black beans and grill chicken for lunch; I) mid afternoon snack at the second restaurant, which you need dinner reservation for (but you could only make reservations of you are staying more than 3 days) was ok. The pizza, fries and salad were ok.

    Day 5:
    Breakfast non eventful. Can't go wrong with fried or egg whites.  Lay down at the beach for an hour or so. Went up to shower and had lunch (French fries). We checked out on time and the plan was to hang out at the pool or beach for an hour or so but changed our minds and as a result were ready to be picked up by 2 instead of 3. The ride back to Havana was beautiful, nice weather. Stayed at a casa particular at Havana this time around. After the dinner we took a long walk through old Havana. Visited a lot of the places we visited on day 2. Live music at every corner, good music. It was worth the after dinner walk. 

    Day 6:
    After breakfast the taxi pick us up at 8:30 to take us to viñales. Another beautiful ride that reminded us of the trip from Sto Dgo to Santiago to puerto plata.  Stopped on the way to stretch out at a gas station that had, as one would expect, better prices. We bought some rums, water and a cola (tucola, the national cola brand). Our first stop in viñales was at the mirador. Beautiful view of the valley and mountains. Next we stopped at the cigar farm where we were given a little history of how to grow, cure tabacos and roll cigars. We bought a pack. Next we stopped for lunch at a house/restaurant. Good food. We had fried chicken, crab meat, white rice, moro and yuca. All good, really good. Next we stopped at one of the cuevas which had an under ground river. It appears that had been raining a lot because the water was dirt dirty.  By the time we came out of the cave it was drizzling. The next stop was the prehistoric mural but by the time we got there it was raining hard and we couldn't get out of the car. Our tour guide tried to get the guard to let us in just take a few pics without paying because it was raining but he did not go for it.  One of my kids was able to take pics as we made a u-turn.  The Valley, the mountains, the drive to/from viñales is a most do for tourists.  We stopped for mangoes on the way back. We made it back to Havana at around 6-6:30. We ordered pizza from RingPizza which turn out to be kind of good. Took a quick shower and head it out to the fábrica de arte cubano (FAC) unfortunately it was closed. FAC is only open Thursday to Sunday (today is Tuesday).  Returned to the BnB in the same taxi by way of a slow ride through the malecón.

    Day 7:
    Breakfast at Ramon's. 
    Taxi picked us up at 10 to take us to the airport. We got to the airport with plenty of time to check in, buy a few more souvenirs. We arrived at JFK 20 mins earlier. We survived Cuba!

    Summary : I would do it all the same all over again. Our tour guide, Claritza, was superb! and transportation guy, Ramon (who appeared at the end and in retrospect to be looking out for his own business interest) and his drivers were friendly and safe drivers. Big big thanks to the travel agents at Cuba305 in the US, Alex, and in Havana, Sadi. 

  2. Likes aname4me, AlterEgo, AnnaC, dulce, Uzin and 2 others liked this post
  3. #32
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    Nice report, thanks for the feedback, perhaps next time try to fit in a trip to Trinidad, although a bit further away from Havana it's also a really nice place to visit in Cuba....

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  5. #33
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    Thanks for the report. Doubt I would ever go there myself.

  6. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uzin View Post
    Nice report, thanks for the feedback, perhaps next time try to fit in a trip to Trinidad, although a bit further away from Havana it's also a really nice place to visit in Cuba....


    Thanks Uzin. I'll make sure to include Trinidad on my next trip. I wonder if this the place where crabs are everywhere during certain time of the year. 

  7. #35
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    thanks for the update ...maybe worth a visit in the future

  8. #36
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    Thanks for the report. I must return there in a near future.

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