We are often asked where to stay in Cuba, this is a good question but depends on what you are looking for from your holiday.
Each region offers a variation so it is not an easy question to answer, but with our knowledge from regularly travelling to Cuba, we will always try and answer questions as honestly an open as possible. Everyone always thinks of Havana when they speak of Cuba and most want to visit Havana at least once. Havana is a beautiful City with splendid architecture and it is true that Havana, as is the same as most of Cuba, is currently in a 1950’s time warp (except what people wear!) but for how long it will remain in this era, is yet to be determined, Cuba is changing with Government reforms happening every year.
Havana is however, a city. So if you enjoy Museums, history, architecture and walking then Havana is a fantastic city to visit, it is on the north coast of Cuba and there is a promenade of which you can stroll along during wonderfully warm evenings, but it is a city and therefore visitors must remember that although crime is extremely low in Cuba, there are ocassional snatch and grab incidents that occur in Havana the same as any other city in any country around the world.
You can visit Havana easily from Varadero as it is approximately 2 hours drive from the beach resort or you can opt for a twin centre whereby you can stay in one of the prestigious Hotels in Havana for 3 nights and then transfer to your beach based Hotel. Flights are only direct into Havana with Virgin Airways and only from London Gatwick but this does not mean you cannot stay in Havana if you prefer to fly with other airlines it will just mean that you have to transfer from either Holguin, the Cayo’s or Varadero by road or internal flight.
Varadero is the longest established tourist resort in Cuba. It is situated on a peninsula on the northern coast of Cuba and is an All Inclusive Hotel based option that some people prefer to take as they can access the capital easily from Varadero but enjoy the miles of deep white sandy beaches at the end of a long day visiting Havana. If you can have a commercialised Cuba, Varadero is it. There are plenty of Hotels to choose from, from 3 star ratings to 5 star adult only hotels with Spa’s. You can walk out of your hotel in Varadero and there are shops, bars and cafe’s to visit outside but with the abundence of All Inclusive food and drink in the Hotel’s, a lot of visitors, especially if visiting for the first time to Cuba, tend to stay Hotel based and go on excursions laid on by tour representative and the Cuban Government’s tourism company, Gaviota. Varadero is a year round destination with flights from London Gatwick and Manchester (Manchester May – October only).
Along the coast are the Cayo Islands of Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Santa Maria. These islands used to be inhabited by Cuban fishermen but when the Government decided to open Cuba to tourism the fishermen were relocated on the mainland so now there are no residents that live in the Cayo’s and there are no shops, cafe’s and bars to walk out to. Everything is hotel based and affords a really relaxing holiday for the whole family or for couples in the adult only hotels. So if you are looking to get away from it all and just want a beautiful beach based totally relaxing holiday with water based activities, then perhaps one of the Cayo islands is for you. The Cayo’s are joined to the mainland by causeways and take quite a while to drive over due to their length and also if travelling to the mainland from the Cayo’s, do not forget to take your passport with you, you will need it to show to the border control when you want to get back to the islands. Cayo Santa Maria is the newest of the three islands you can stay on and also has one of the best and unspoilt coral reefs in the world so if you enjoy snorkelling or diving, perhaps Cayo Santa Maria may be the choice for you. Flights to Cayo Coco including Cayo Guillermo are all year round and from either Manchester or London Gatwick (May – October) but Cayo Santa Maria is only available from Manchester and from May until October.
Further down on the north east coast of Cuba is the province of Holguin. The main tourist areas here are Playa Pesquero and Guardalavaca. This is personally our favourite area. Santiago de Cuba, the city where the Cuban Revolution began, on the southern coast of Cuba, is easily accessed from this area and is steeped with history. You can also easily access the Sierra Maestra Mountain range here, where Fidel and Raul Castro, Che Guevara and Frank Pais masterminded the Cuban Revolution from their hideout in the mountains under the protection of thick tree canopies. We can also offer Cuba Tours so you can visit the Sierra Maestra Mountains combined with a beach hotel stay or a twin centre with Havana from this area. Internal flights to Havana are necessary as otherwise it is an uncomfortable 11 hour drive by road to Havana. if you opt for a twin centre from Holguin to Havana and then the remainder of your holiday back at one of the beach hotels, your first night will be in the 4 star premier Playa Pesquero Hotel regardless of your final beach hotel combination, then the following morning you are transferred back to Holguin airport for the flight to Havana. After your 3 nights stay in Havana you will be flown back to Holguin and transferred to the beach hotel of your choice for the remainder of your holiday. Please do note though, 25cuc departure tax is applicable for internal flights as well as International flights so if you opt for this twin centre, please ensure that you change your currency from sterling to Cuban Convertible Peso (cuc) as soon as you arrive at the Playa Pesquero hotel, there is a Bureaux de Change at the front of the Hotel.
The beauty of this area is unsurpassed, with green vegetation, hills and mountains, it is a breathtaking area and the Hotels are mostly all located directly on the white sandy beaches with the clear blue turquoise Atlantic Ocean easily accessible and safe for children to swim in, with sand underfoot as you enter the sea. This is more like real Cuba than other tourist areas, the local people are extremely friendly and lifelong friendships can be easily made with the people here, nothing is too much trouble and the Cuban people will share whatever they have with you. There are not too many shops, bars and cafe’s outside the Hotels at Playa Pesquero, you would need to get a horse and cart or a taxi to go out and about but this does not deter people at all as it is not expensive to go to Guardalavaca from Playa Pesquero, there is a free ‘tractor train’ and Taxi’s and horse and cart will take you to Guardalavaca for a few cuc. The City of Holguin can be taken as an excursion or by Taxi the cost is approximately 40cuc each way. In Guardalavaca there is a small market that is open everyday for tourists to wander round and there are also a few shops, bars and cafe’s. There are also some bars and restaurants along the beach to visit as well.
Alternatively, if you did not want to stay in an All Inclusive Hotel, there are ‘Casa’s’ available in Cuba which are privately rented rooms in Cuban family homes, we have not advertised them on our website but we can book them for you if you would prefer one of these, they are usually quite basic and it would help if you can speak Spanish, these are mainly preferred by Canadian travellers wanting to stay in Holguin City or for tourists who are used to travelling in Cuba but if you would prefer to experience real Cuba, these are ideal and are legal accommodation through the Cuban Government but privately owned.
If you would like more information on where to stay in Cuba and which Hotel’s are available, please take a look at our Cuba Hotels page, for the latest Cuba late deals we have a page dedicated to our best late deals with fantastic prices or if travelling a little later in the year, take a look at our Cuba Holiday Offers page. To book your holiday to Cuba or for any more information please call us on 0800 810 8959.