With winter in full swing, wind howling and the first serious cold snap so far. We know there is some place you would rather be. Somewhere with sun, sea and sand. May we suggest:
Cuba has been very good to Canadians, providing amazing holidays for every budget, a place in the sun. Basic and beautiful. But times are changing fast in Cuba, those ’56 Chevy’s may be seeing their last hoorah. Then again, nothing is for sure in Cuba. According to the most recent Lonely Planet Guide on Cuba, there are still 35,000 pre-1959 American cars in the country.
Over the years, I have seen Cuba, the grand old lady of the Caribbean, forced into iconic 50’s Shabbiness via: politics, lack of foreign exchange and embargos, thrive as Canadian and European hotels change its coastal landscape.
Cuba, is how you say ” sympatico”. If you want to find a spot like Hemingway did, to drink hard and be creative, you can. If you want to have fun in the sun, on an all-inclusive budget holiday, you can. If you want to explore the flora and fauna of the Sierra Maestra mountains, you can do that too.
The people, are descendants of European and Africans brought together under a former slave economy. With a history of insurrection and resurrection, Cubans now work together for the same goal that we all do – economic empowerment. You will find that the hotel employees are invariably teachers, lawyers or other professionals who view employment in tourism as the most financially viable option.
For a quick, economical (cheap) holiday, you can’t beat Cuba. The food does get a bad rap but remember, the country’s resources are still limited and Cubans would be horrified to know how much food we waste in North America. Apart from the all you can eat on most budget holidays, there is all you can drink, a very popular aspect of a Cuban holiday. I am always leery of the swim up bars where people never seem to leave their spots, and next thing you know the pool is closed. Just an observation.
The party place, Canadians invariably run into someone from home on this archipelago, because if you are not in Florida in January, you are in Varadero. There are over 50 hotels here and some of the best beaches in the country. Cubans love to party, after all this is the country that gave birth to: the salsa, mambo, and rumba. Try to visit the country when there is a major festival, it is pure carnival.
Holguin province was my first experience of Cuba, back in 90’s when Cuba was testing the waters of commercial tourism with the help of Spanish and Canadian investors. The people were kind and warm, it was a great introduction to the country. Guardalavaca, the resort area just northeast of Holguin has blossomed and now has some of the swankiest hotels in the country. Beaches, coral reefs and lush green carpeted hills. Visit the Museo Chorro de Maita an archaeological site of the long gone indigenous people, the Taino.
This province has some fabulous spots, not the least of which is Playa Santa Lucia, and a flamingo nesting area, Refugio de Fauna Slivestre Rio Maximo. This area is a local holiday spot and a must for scuba divers. Resorts here are popular with the locals, Columbians and Canadians. While staying at a hotel here I remember speaking with a Cuban guest. She told me her trip was a present from El Presidente. Lost in translation, it seems it was an incentive reward. I wish I could get one from El Prime Minister.
Santiago de Cuba
Everything comes together here. Although the area is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. A local guide explained that Santiago de Cuba, because of its location is usually sheltered from the worst of any hurricane that comes through. This time that didn’t happen, and it ripped through city and resorts in the area leaving devastation. Ever resourceful, the Cubans are rebuilding and tourism is returning to normal in the area. Things to do here include: a visit to El Moncada, the site of Fidel Castro’s first insurrection in 1953. Cycle along the coast road to El Uvero. Check out the city itself, very vibrant and bustling, don’t be surprised if you are offered guide services on the fly in heart of the city. Use your best judgment and hold your valuables close.
There you have it fellow Empty Besters, travel tips to wash away the winter blues. Book it!