Joey and I are both first time visitors to Cuba. Although we still have a lot to learn about this beautiful country nestled in the heart of the Caribbean, we did get the chance to see a lot of sights.
1. The Bus:
The resort had a complimentary shuttle that drove to and from Varadero everyday between 8AM to 5PM. The shuttle was an amazing way to get off the resort and explore the local city (Varadero) for no cost. If you’re weren’t patient enough to wait for the hourly shuttle to Varadero, for 3 Pesos per person you could hop on a double decker bus instead. This big red bus traveled from resort to resort, pulling over at designated roadside stops, picking and dropping tourists off downtown. The double decker bus was a great alternative to the regular shuttle. The bus pass that we purchased was good for the entire day and it stopped right outside our resort. It was kinda nice not to be constrained to travelling to and from Varadero between 8AM and 5PM, after all when you’re on vacation who uses a watch.
2. The Old Fashioned Cars:
If you’re an automobile fanatic and want to take a look at some classic 1950 cars, I would highly recommend vacationing in Cuba. Brands like Chevrolet, Ford and Oldsmobiles are among some of the many vintage models that you will get to see flying by you on the highways as you tour the country. You can thank the grudge that Cuba’s late leader, Fidel Castro, held against the United-States for this step back in time. During his reign, trading and foreign vehicle imports with the United-States was banned even though Cuba sits a mere 150 kilometers from Florida. Castro also placed a ban on selling and buying replacement vehicle parts, leaving Cuba to fend for themselves when any of these old cars break down. Because of this the cubans have become quite handy at making improvised car parts. Talk about innovation! While on vacation there we thoroughly enjoyed this frozen in time rolling car museum.
3. Scuba Diving:
My husband and I are both strong advocates for scuba diving. If you are not a diver you’re missing out and you should considers getting your certification. If you are a diver then you will understand when I say; any opportunity to see the underwater world is one worth taking. Even though Cuba is not renowned for its diving, we went anyway. We booked two days with Barracuda Divers, and in those two day we got a variety of diving under our belt. We did shipwreck and reef dives, we dove from shore as well as from a boat. Being on the north east side of the island it was easy to dive in the Atlantic ocean, it was pretty much on our doorstep. We also powered through one long cross country bus ride to visit and dive the Caribbean sea on the other side of the island. It did not disappoint! Despite the fact that the Caribbean was a few degrees warmer than the Atlantic, both days of diving boasted an incredible amount of sea life and left us wanting more.
4. The Jeep Safari:
While in Cuba we splurged on a few excursions offered through the resort. Our favorite excursion by far was the Jeep Safari. During the excursion not only did we drive jeeps around parts of the country but we also got to snorkel a reef, swim in a cenote, explored a local farm, indulge in an authentic cuban meal, race motor boats down a scenic river and sample fresh peanut butter. Being scuba divers, the snorkeling was kind of a let down, our group was very large and we needed to wear these bulky inflatable neck vests. Following the snorkeling, we drove to a jaw dropping cenote. Stairs lead us into a huge cave with 50 to 70 feet of pristinely clear water that we could swim in. Our only regret was having forgotten the gopro in the jeep. After the cenote, we drove to a farm in the middle of a nowhere. Chickens, dogs, fresh fruit and peanut butter samples greeted us upon arrival. I’m not a peanut butter fan, but we bought 2 slabs of peanut butter to take home with us. The traditional cuban lunch consisted of soup, rice, beans, veggies and meat that did not disappoint. For dessert we were served delicious cheese and jelly squares that tasted absolutely heavenly. Still digesting our lunch the guides whisked us off to the next activity, a boat ride on the river. While preparing for our boat ride costumed performers displayed a traditional cultural dance. In groups of 3-4 people, we embarked into speed boats and explored a local river. Unfortunately we didn’t see much wildlife but we did get some serious speed. Overall it was a long action packed day that we would definitely do again.
Through our resort, various water sporting activities were made available to guests during their stay. Joey and I never turn down free fun. Of all the options we could select, what we really enjoyed most was going out on the mini catamaran. The boat was only about fourteen feet across and twenty feet long with a central net suspending guests over the water between two pontoons. After signing up for the boat ride, it took about ten minutes for the rigging and lines to be set up. Boy could the catamaran move across the water. We took off in the blink of an eye and in no time we were kilometers down the beach. The guide, who was sailing the boat, did not speak very much, but he truly made sailing look like an art. We sliced through the waves like butter and almost felt like we were flying over the water. The tour lasted about thirty minutes, fifteen in one direction and fifteen minutes heading back to the beach. It was a short stint but well worth it to feel the wind in your hair and the waves sprinkling your sun kissed skin.
6. The Giant Chess Board:
What’s a vacation without stimulating a few brain cells. Joey and I are big gamers loving everything from backgammon to Settlers of Catan. We sniffed out the giant resort chess board on day 4 of our week long vacation. Almost every day after that, Joey challenged me to a chess match. He would usually be white and I would be black. I am proud to report that he was defeated almost every single game we played. It must have looked like fun beating Joey because a little boy asked me to teach him the game. You can’t go wrong with a little healthy competition while on vacation, and Joey and I both got our fill of it.
Joey and I traveled to Cuba without knowing very much about the country or the people, and left a week later with a wealth of knowledge. Though we were always cautious while traveling, unlike most southern countries, Cuba always felt safe and we did a lot more than anticipated. From pre-planned excursions to onsite resort fun in the sun, Cuba left us with tanned skin and a relaxed spirit after our vacation to this tropical paradise.
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