In April one of our Destination Experts, Anna Rushbrooke travelled to Cuba for the first time. She was not disappointed by her W&Onderful experience…
As a Destination Expert I’ve been lucky enough to travel throughout the Caribbean, Far East and the Indian Ocean, but until this year Cuba was a destination I had yet to tick off my wish list. From the classic architecture and fascinating history to the glorious beaches and scenery, I was so excited to experience all this iconic island has to offer.
As soon as I arrived, my distinctly Cuban experience began. I was met in Havana by a classic, bright pink car – one of the 1950s American models that are ubiquitous in the country – and enjoyed the transfer to my hotel with the roof down; a great way to travel and take in some Cuban air after the long flight!
The following morning, I was up early for a walking tour of Havana. My guide, Roman, was great; really funny and hugely knowledgeable. My highlights were visiting Plaza de la Revolución, where Fidel Castro used to address more than a million Cubans for hours at a time and La Bodeguita del Medio - the bar that invented Cuba’s most famous drink, the Mojito! I could have spent days wandering around taking in the architecture and art. Sculptures pop up everywhere and there are open art houses and murals all around the Old Quarter.
In the evening we dined at Paladar San Cristobel, the restaurant where none other than President Obama dined on his recent trip to Havana. There are more and more restaurants and paladars (the Cuban term for independently owned restaurants) opening in the capital now, although the choices of food can be limited (many Cubans are still on ration books and imports are restricted). This was followed by a great night’s entertainment at Tropicana, Cuba’s oldest and most famous cabaret show. The costumes and dancers were spectacular and it’s an experience I’d certainly recommend.
There was another early start the next morning, for our two-and-a-half-hour transfer to Vinales, where I visited a traditional tobacco plantation and sampled a local cigar. I also walked through incredible caves and stunning countryside. The hotel I stayed at, La Ermita, is set up high above the town and has wonderful views. Vinales itself has great markets and is full of shops and paladars.
Next stop was Trinidad. It’s a long drive so we broke the journey stopping off for a wander around Cienfuegos and the beautiful beaches of Playa Rancha Luna and Playa Ancon along the way. Not to be confused with the Caribbean island, Trinidad is a Cuban town whose cobbled streets and perfectly preserved 19th Spanish colonial architecture have seen it named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Arriving at our hosted house, Casa Vieje was a delight, as our lovely hosts welcomed us warmly into their home with cold beers & olives. The sound of music is never far away and we had a great evening visiting various music houses and watching the world go by.
Our final stop was Cayo Santa Maria, where I was hit by the bright blue of the ocean and powder white of the sand on the beach at the Royalton Cayo Santa Maria. The drives can be long in Cuba but there is always something to stop and see along the way. We took time to stop off at Santa Clara, where we were lucky enough to see the Fiesta de la Danza going on, and Remedios, a brightly coloured town with lots of lively Sunday church services that sounded more like Saturday night parties! The national highway was incredibly clear, with not a car in sight and then suddenly a cowboy would appear or a horse and cart!
We spent our last night in on the coast in Varadero at Paradisus Princesa Del Mar, where we were treated to the Royal Service wing which offers guests an exclusive area of the beach, an additional swimming pool and an exclusive hilltop restaurant - a perfect end to a fantastic week discovering Cuba!
Sound like your kind of holiday? Check out our Cuba Multicentre Holidays or Cuba Tours. Alternatively, speak to Anna or one of our other Cuba Experts on 0203 131 5080 about arranging a tailor-made holiday to Cuba.