I went to Cuba with a company called Insights Cuba. I wouldn’t recommend them, but I made it back alive and safe, so it was okay in the end. The company had us stay at the Melia Varadero, which is a very moderate, old-fashion hotel. There are some nicer hotels around Cuba, especially on the beach, but it was good enough for a long weekend.
I flew to Varadero’s airport, Juan Gualberto Gomez airport. I got there early afternoon and went straight to the resort. The next morning we went to a sugar cane museum, which was nice, but it’s no longer a working sugar cane factory, so it was less interesting than it could have been.
We walked around a nearby town for a bit. It was pretty and colorful, but also sad because you could tell how poor it was.
That afternoon we walked the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve, which was gorgeous. It was right near our hotel and felt like a mini jungle. A guide brought us through and told us about the various plants and species. If you like doing outdoorsy things, I definitely recommend this hike.
The next day we drove to Havana and on the way stopped at one of Ernest Hemmingway’s old houses. Again, this was another “culture” aspect of the trip which wasn’t exactly right for me, but both this and the sugar cane museum were loved by most of the others on the trip. It just depends what you’re into and what makes you tick.
When we got to Havana, we did a walking tour of Old Havana, which was so cool to see. The entire little city is a UNESCO Heritage Site, and when you see it you understand why. You feel like you’re transported back to the 60s. I ended up tearing away from the group and spent at least five hours just walking around – down little alleys and streets.
Later that afternoon we met up and did the Havana Vintage Car tour which was super fun. It was fun to be in the old cars, but also pretty awesome and impressive how well maintained they are. After the car tour, they dropped us at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, a historical luxury hotel, for a drink. I think a lot of people who stay in Havana enjoy staying there, so it was cool to see. There’s a room where they have pictures of all the famous people who have visited over the years, which was interesting as most of them were from before the Cold War.
That night we drove back to Varadero, and then I had a lazy beach day the next day. The beach was gorgeous, but it felt more like a European beach; partially because of the clientele, but also the way in which it was maintained and open to the public.
Cuba really interesting to go to for the history, plus the beach and sun, it made for a good mix of a vacation. I realize my experience isn’t a rave review, but many people have had incredible trips there!