CUBA - HOT ISLAND
Trip Start Apr 30, 1970
27Trip End Dec 20, 2007
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Where I stayed
I visited Cuba five times from 2000 to 2003, total 10 weeks
the first trip was an appetizer: just Varadero, a nice peninsula
less than 100 km east of the capital La Habana, a long white sandy beach with palm trees
and 4/5 stars luxury hotels; cubans are not allowed to enter from the little
town of Varadero to the touristic district after an Italian tourist had been murdered by a local
anyway the main reason is not the safety of the tourists, but the safety of Fidel Castro
and his friends: the cubans must not know that the cost of a mojito cocktail
is as high as a month salary of a cuban worker
he tries to keep the tourists separate from the locals
that can not enter in Varadero, Guardalavaca, Cayo Largo an all the cayos (islands)
at some miles far from the northern coast of Cuba (while only Cayo Largo is on the southern coast together with Isla de la Juventud)
anyway the vacation was beautiful in that 4 star hotel with 4 swimming pools
a nice beach, cabaret shows, all inclusive for beverages and cocktails, salsa dance,etc..
I spent a nice day on excursion by katamaran to some little islands and enjoyed, music, sun, lobster, dolphin show, mojito and beer, snorkeling, etc... nice day but costing 70 dollars!
I also took the bus (10 usdollar)to the capital, avoiding the expensive excursion (from 70 to 120 usdollar!!!) and could visit the best colonial city of central America, the Malecon (ocean road) with its old colonial houses under restoration with international money support, the alcoholic tour of Ernst Hemingway (Bodeguita del Medio for mojito, Floridita for daiquiri), the interesting cathedral, the castle, the Capitol (copy of the Washington D.C.), the handicrafts market, the Museum of the Revolution, etc..
After that I decided to come back and to visit alone this beautiful island
so the following years I just bought the return flight, arriving in Santiago or Camaguey or the capital and went around by bus (Via Azul Company or Astro).
Santiago is the second big city, important for the revolution, the carnival, the santeria, condomblè, music, dance, full of black people as in New Orleans or Bahia in Brasil, same history: esclaves taken from Africa for sugar cane cultivations!
I enjoyed this beautiful city going around by private car that I paid 25 dollars for a full day, gasoline inclueded, visiting not only the city but also the surrounding places as the Baconao Park with its giant prehistorical animal statues, nices beaches, an old car museum, the castle at the sunset when they shoot cannon balls in the moment the sun touches the sea level, the Casa de la Trova, considered the best of Cuba (but the best in my opinion is in Baracoa), the mountain of Pedra behind the Baconao Park with view on the valley and even on Jamaica island, the big prison where hundreds of political prisoners await for democracy, the old church, the Bacardi museuem (yes, it's there while the factory moved to U.S.A.), the carnival museum, many nice old squares with gardens and colonial houses, etc...
From Santiago I took a Via Azul bus (for tourists, with air condition, you pay only by dollars, not expensive, the best cuban facility) and arrived after 5 hours in Baracoa, through a beautiful road climbing a mountain and passing rivers, wooden forests, etc..
Baracoa is one of my favourite places together with Trinidad and Vinales.
It is the oldest city of Cuba, seen by Cristoforo Colombo (he is italian from Genoa!!!) when he arrived there and noticed the strange mountain with an anvil shape.
The citizens have dedicated him a statue along the Malecon (road on the ocean)
in front of the low and little castle with an interesting historical museum.
Baracoa is a very simple town and the stupid tourists just stay there a couple of days, without discovering its wonderful and amazing nature, the best in Cuba as the place is wet and therefore rich of vegetation
I rent a bike and went along the ocean to the countryside, meeting a lot of rivers, little villages, students, peasants, revolutionary advertissments along the roads, hills, flowers, cocoa, coffee, banana trees, a campsite, some beautiful white sandy beaches (Maguana is the best at about 20 km north of the town), a canyon on the east side at about 25 km where is the Yumuri river foce.
I joined a trekking with some cuban boys, walking along the river, bathing inside it, meeting campesinos, having lunch at their homes, jumping into the river from the bridge, buying a lobster from a fisherman, buying exotic fruits on the beach, snorkeling, swimming, drinking mojito and beer, dancing in the discoteque on the hill, singing on the stage the song Guantanamera together with other tourists at la Casa de la Trova, trying to learn and dance salsa..... I enjoyed a lot and recommend Baracoa to everybody
After that I went to Guardalavaca on a adventure trip (no local buses, only collective taxi not allowed to tourists, paying a lot of usdollars against their risk to be checked by local policemen, ant that happened, but the man was corrupted and let us go without any problems)
the beach is nice but very, very touristic with big luxury hotels
I stayed at a fisherman village and was not allowed but by just paying about 10 dollars you can have a room close to the beach and eat with them seafood and lobsters!
The risk is not on you but on them and they accept the risk in order to earn some dollars!
I passed the long central road, stopped in Camaguey, a colonial city full of old churches and beautiful squares. I rent a private car and reached Coco beach, not far from Santa Lucia seaside resort town that I avoided.
I stayed again in a fisherman house and relaxed on a solitary white sandy beach, eating fresh grilled fish and seafood and watching millions of star in the amazing sky by night.
I then visited Santa Clara, the nice end elegant city, where I visited the heritage place of Che Guevara, his big monument and grave on a giant square.
The next city was Sancti Espiritu another colonial city very interesting and rich of churches, a river with an old bridge, coloured colonial houses,etc..
I arrived in the best place of Cuba: Trinidad the colonial town that has a lot of beautiful old houses, a nice colonial square with an old church, the Romantic Museum (I suggest you to visit it, it's amazing with old memorabilia, furniture, potteries,etc..)
There are a lot of places where you can listen to salsa music, watch the cuban couples dancing in a amazing way, afro-cuban shows, discoteque in underground caves, etc...
You can go to the nearby beautiful Ancon beach by bike (1 hour ride) or by coco-taxi and beach out all day, take a boat to the island, practice snorkeling,etc..or try a trekking to the waterfalls and jump into the natural swimming pools after walking through an amazing countryside, or take an historical train and go along the valley where they cultivate sugar-cane (that was the richness of Trinidad in the old centuries) and visit an old tower from which the guardians used to check the esclaves working in the fields.
You can also go to the various rivers and swim inside its fresh waters or meet the friendly cuban people, used to touristic presence as Trinidad is the most touristic attraction in Cuba
The following visit was the beloved city of Cienfuegos along the southern coast.
It possesses the most beautiful giant colonial square with a church, theater, museum.
You can walk along the old porches and reach the laguna and visit the Valle Palace, an arab style kitschy palace where you can see a strange show performed by an old actress dressed in a colourful way
You can also reach the the best botanical park of Cuba or visit the old castle on a little lake and then beach out on the nearby beautiful Rancho Luna beach.
About 100 east of La Habana, the capital, there is the beautiful and green Province of Pinar del Rio, the tobacco region, with its amazing valley of Vinales, considered a World Heritage.
The town is very little but wonderful; it has a beautiful old church and theater, some nice restaurants and bars where you can spend your nights dancing and drinking and meeting locals but the highlight is the nature: a green valley with rivers, the mogotes (rounded hills made of stone), old caves, gardens and a beautiful countryside.
I rent a bike and went along the valley in different directions, always meeting interesting and beautiful places, reached even the northern coast where I found a white sandy beach.
I told my five trips in Cuba all together but I did not follow the above indicated itinerary.
Anyway Cuba is a very beautiful island and the people are very friendly and nice. Just take care of the commissioners,, youngsters dressed in western modern way who try to have your money on different ways, even scams, rip-offs,etc...and learn spanish, it will help you a lot as only few cubans speak english.
Be confident on the locals who consider these commissioners corrupted people and called them in a depreciative way as horse riders....
There is a lot of prostitution and many alcohol addicted, but where in the world you can not meet this calamity? Here more, as cubans are poor and the leader try to keep them poor not allowing them any kind of business connected to the private economy.
Just five tables in little restaurants (paludar) and some rooms they can rent to tourists (casa particular)but they have to pay a lot of taxes to the government, so many are obliged to close.
I suggest you to stay in these casa particular, in this way you help the cubans, can meet them and have dinner at their home, eating better and paying less.