Cuba is a beautiful Caribbean island filled with decades of history. This history has stopped United States citizens from enjoying the lush green country side, the fresh mojitos, the cigars and the people of this country. During these years many people from countries around the world have visited what we, Americans, can now experience under special liceneses and approved agencies. Go sooner than later – the timelessness is priceless and worth the experience. You will NOT be disappointed.
Havana or Habana is a lively city with music playing, artist showcasing their paintings and of course rum flowing from the fountains. Ok maybe the rum isn’t flowing from the fountains, but on one of our first nights – they just handed us the bottle – serious greatness!
Take a walking tour in Havana both with a guide (Will if you can get him he was the highlight of history and love of his country) and then do a self-guided tour to experience the vibe of the city. You will fall in love instantly. There are a few people that might want to sway you into their shops but they are not too bad and won’t push the issue. The streets have little shops, restaurants and casas where you can find everything you need including a good night’s sleep. The music that fills the air is intoxicating.
We used Cuba Adventures to get us from point A to point B. They provided the transport between cities and arranged lodging. The government run casas or homestays were very nice. A clean individual room, en-suite bathroom and breakfast were provided each day. Dinner if you wanted also. The breakfast’s consisted of fresh fruits, breads and eggs the way you like them.
After departing from Habana we took a beautiful ride over to Viñales. Viñales is the town of great cigars and salsa dancing. Rachel had a great time dancing with a few locals and even made her way up on stage to play the cow bell for a song or two. Nothing shocks me anymore when it comes to Rachel and her networking abilities. She leans over to me and says “I’m going to go get up on stage and play something.” And of course, she did play the cowbell and danced with the salsa band called Vargason. I bought a CD and have to say they are pretty good plus every time I hear a cowbell now I think of Rachel and her jam session.
After kicking it with the band and getting a good night’s sleep, we all went for a 8km hike into the coffee/tobacco farms of Cuba. Once we got to the tobacco fields, our local guide took us to the tobacco farmer. We got to see the drying leaves, watch him roll a few cigars and walked away smoking an artisan cigar rolled in Cuba.
Our hike took us further along and deeper into the countryside, where we got to see some beautiful creations from Mother Nature.
We made our way onto another farm which had a little restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. There was a pond for swimming, a bar for drinking and Cuban sandwiches for eating. Oh the cuban sandwiches are something you have to try. You can make them at home, but something tells me it won’t be the same. A cuban sandwich has ham, cheese, vegetables like peppers, cucumbers and other veggies that just taste good – all on a toasted bun or bread. Sounds like a regular sandwich right, but truly there is something about it that tastes different. Then you have to have some coffee – why – because it’s so fresh!!
Once we had a nice cup of coffee, the rain started to “bucket” down and we still had a several kilometers to make our way back to the homestays. It was slow going but we made it back all safe and sound and got ready to travel again. Our next stop was the “Bay of Pigs” and Cienfuegos. I didn’t take any pictures at the Bay of Pigs due to soon traveler’s tummy issues “butt” I will never forget the place. 😀 Cienfuegos was probably the best home stay we had during the entire trip, it was like an old school motel – pretty cool – with a roof-top terrace and everything you might want.
Next on the tour, we visited Trinidad. We found plenty of live music, more mojitos and beaches for snorkeling and scuba. While we planned 3 months in advance for scuba diving with the CubaAdventures Tour Operations team (THEY WERE AMAZING) our local tour group leader Yaima FAILED us with her lack of coordination skills and yet amazed us with her honed skills in disappearing on a daily basis when she promised to be available. Disappointed that we were not able to scuba or snorkel we did enjoy the beach and great conversations with new friends.
If you’re interested in scuba in Trinidad, do some self research to be prepared for your expedition, especially if you are unfortunate enough to have Yaima as your tour guide. You would get more interaction with a head of lettuce than with her – so keep your expectations low if she’s your tour guide. Be prepared for her to argue with you on the bus publicly and loudly after you ask her about why she did not coordinate even with 3 daily reminders and then have her ignore you rest of the trip. Highly disappointed by her lack of leadership and professionalism.
Believe it or not, our journey to Cuba was coming to an end. We were heading back to Havana. Back in Havana, we were able to go to a brewery, an art show, enjoy some more great foods, listen to more music and enjoy our last day in Cuba with our new friends while touring around.
Before we part, we want to share a few more fun pictures and special thanks to Cuban Adventures operations team for your pre-departure coordination efforts and Cheers to our new friends for making the trip so special. We do recommend the tour group, the country and the people and the food, especially the seafood, was delicious. The bus drivers were very good and really in our case was all that was needed to get us around the country.
Also, be sure to plan your own farewell party with your other group participants as our guide slithered away without saying goodbye. Luckily we were able to coordinate amongst ourselves.
Side Note: Our group bonded well together and gained additional information from a Lonely Planet book that someone brought along and would often give the details because our guide was too disinterested in sharing the history of this beautiful country and her people.
Until next time – Happy Journeys, Safe Travels and May Your Days be Filled with Adventures
S&R aka TravelingMileMarkers