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Cuba - Independent reviews


I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Reviewed by Sarah & Chris Bland family

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
We had so many great adventures travelling with 2 small children (age 3 and 6). We all loved the home stays (casas paticulares), meeting Cuban families with children, Havana's decaying splendour, the coco taxi's, meeting tobacco farmers, desert islands, swimming in waterfalls, Villa Guamas hotel in the lake on stilts, rowing boat trip and bird life at sunset, riding with cowboys, hermit crabs and iguanas..the list goes on!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
We hired a car so felt completely independent which was perfect with children. Be prepared to ask for directions as there a few road signs and mind the pot holes and animals on the road! A compass would have been useful which we didn't have. We often took some breakfast items with us on long journeys as difficult to come across food shops in case the kids got hungry. The journeys take longer than you think, you have to factor in the time for getting lost but that's all part of the adventure. We felt incredibly safe with a young family in Cuba, everyone was so wonderfully welcoming and I would encourage anyone to do it with a family. Speaking Spanish is essential, lots of sun cream and go with the flow. Kids are so adaptable and they made this trip a special one as they got so much lovely attention from the locals, we received minimal hassle as well.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
I feel local people benefited from our stay, especially when we were in casa paticulares. We left tips and presents as well as eating with the host family every night. We always gave tips to cleaning staff, tour guides etc as well. We flew to Cuba and drove around for 2 weeks so not great for the environment but we left minimal footprints whilst we were there.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
I would rate this holiday EXTREMELY highly. We had a truly amazing time and I would not hesitate to recommend Latinamerica Journeys to anyone. Marcel was incredibly efficient and gave good practical advice and a comprehensive Cuba Manual along
with excellent customer service. 5*!

 

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Reviewed by Amelia Shepherd

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
There were so many highlights, where do I start?! Havana's quiet back streets are definitely worth a wander through-we stumbled upon an impromptu jamming session with about ten musicians squeezed into one small space who were making incredible sounds. There is also a wonderful Camera Obscura at one of Havana's plaza's which gives an incredible view across Havana and you might even get the space to yourself as we did. On the way to Trinidad in our hire car we stopped at a beautiful beach called Caleta Buena with the most amazing snorkeling. Trinidad itself is a fantastic location to base yourselves for some time. Steeped in history but pulsing with life, every building seems to tell a story here. As with Havana, do wander off the main streets and mingle with the friendly Trinidadians. From Trinidad you can easily explore the surrounding countryside. Latinamerica Journeys organised a days walking for us in Topes des Collantes where we spent the day with an incredibly knowledgeable guide who told us all about the flora, fauna and wildlife in the tropical forests. To complete the day we had a late lunch at a hidden Hacienda with delicious fresh home cooked food and a glass of rum on the veranda- a serene and peaceful end to the day.

Cuba's beaches are simply exquisite and we made a point to try and see quite a few of them! Sometimes getting to Cuba's beaches might be a case of travelling a good hour by car but they are well worth the trip. Perhaps the most memorable beach was Las Iguanas- also organised by Latinamerica Journeys. The boat ride there is memorable as is the island where you will be greeted by more iguanas than you can count! An amazing site.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Definitely stay in Home stays. Latinamerica Journeys helped us come up with an itinerary based around what we had researched and then they booked the home stays for us. Staying with a family is a wonderful insight into Cuba. Home stays are a little like B&B's where a family are allowed to rent out 1 or 2 rooms in their house for tourists. You will find that these are always the best rooms in their house, with the best facilities (often with an ensuite) and often with a fridge-which can be very useful.

Cuba is fascinating and can seem confusing at times but it's worth every minute. Do get about in either a hire car, local transport or private taxi and see the country-don't just stay at a resort-you'll experience virtually nothing of the real Cuba if you stick to a resort. It might seem beautiful at a resort (Cuba is a beautiful Caribbean Island after all) but you'll really see the country and understand more about it if you travel-not to mention the benefits this will have for all the local people you encounter and spend your money with rather than pouring all of your money into a large hotel...

Do learn some Spanish and have a good dictionary/phrasebook and don't be afraid to use it as you will need it. Especially if you are driving around or travelling independently as you will need to ask directions on the roads all the time.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
As already mentioned, you will get a far far richer and more rewarding experience staying with families, not to mention the immediate benefit to local people as the money goes directly to them. We ate most of our evening meals with families or in Paladares (where locals open up a room in their house to run a restaurant with a few tables) and we found that the food and service were far better than that of state run restaurants and hotels. You pay the family directly too therefore assuring your money goes directly into their hands. We also tried to spend money on local produce-fruits and vege and bread wherever we could. As far as the environment is concerned, using your 'travellers' common sense will help as far as re-using water bottles and not leaving litter is concerned. Havana was by far the most traffic-laden city but it isn't a patch on most European cities in terms of traffic pollution. As soon as you are a few miles from the centre you realise how vastly un-used Cuba's roads are since there is a miniscule amount of cars to people compared to anywhere else I have been. People get around on bikes, trucks and lift-share all the time. Of course this is down to the countries economy rather than environmental policy but never the less it does mean that the environment is impacted less.

I think the more people who travel to Cuba responsibly, staying in home stays, booking with local operators-the better it will be for tourism in Cuba in the long run. The right sort of tourism will totally benefit Cuba and its people and this is the sort of tourism that needs to be promoted for Cuba so it continues in a positive way for those living there and those visiting.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
***** 5 stars without a doubt. The more you understand Cuba the more there is to understand. I would love to go back.
 

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Reviewed by Maire and Anne O'Carroll

The secret to having a wonderful time in Cuba is to stay exclusively in casas particulares. We made good friends and had fun meeting our hosts’ friends and neighbours. Secondly, learn as much Spanish as you can in order to get full value from your stay. (A little Irish whiskey goes down very well.)

Pride of place must go to the local guide in las Brujas. He was a fund of interesting conversation and information. Visiting the small, well-equipped rural school was charming. The gracious lady in a coffee farm made us up a delicious tisane of ginger and a local green vegetable/herb. Delicious! The highlight of our trek was lunch in an old plantation house. There the lady of the house and her son treated us to rum cocktails, fresh coconut drunk through a bamboo straw, a variety of fresh fruits and the most delicious meal of our holiday cooked over a wood fire in the yard. It was a long, lingering lunch, enlivened by great conversation. A wonderful day. Thank you.

Sierra Escambray was also a joy. Our friendly local guide took great care to look after all our needs. Highlights were sleeping under the stars on the hacienda verandas and plunging into the cool mountain pools after hot and sticky treks. The eucalyptus-fired barbecued suckling pig at Guanayara will be dreamed about for years!

The advantage of having an individual guide was that he could tailor our trek to our abilities. (I am in my 70th year and would have been conscious of holding other people up if I couldn’t keep up.). Also, we had good opportunities for talk and discussions.

Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

***** I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on

 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Philippa Widman

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
We really enjoyed Vinales. Our guide there was really informative and it was great to chat with him about Cuban life. The scenery was stunning and we loved the views from our hotel (Jazmines). We also really enjoyed the casa we stayed in in Trinidad. The family were very welcoming and friendly.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
We hired a car which was a great way to see a lot when you're a bit short on time and you can go to some more out of the way places. Many Cubans have to hitchhike just to get to work and we gave quite a few lifts along the way which was a good way to meet people. However, many of the roads are in a terrible state and there are very few road signs so be prepared to get lost and have to ask for directions frequently!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Staying in casas particulares and eating there hopefully benefited the family. Hiring a car probably wasn't the best for the environment but we were able to give quite a few lifts so hopefully that helped local people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
We really enjoyed it - saw some great sights and met some very interesting people. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall? **** Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend.

Latinamerica Journeys response:
The state of the roads is relative, depending on where you live & what you have experienced before. Most stretches on a West & Central Cuba itinerary are actually quite good in our opinion, also taking into account the economic situation of Cuba. Here and there some stretches off the usual route are not as good and may have holes. The highway outside Havana is almost empty and is an unusual experience. The only road we can not recommend driving is between Baracoa and Moa in the East of Cuba. We advise people to learn some basic Spanish before going to Cuba, so they can ask the way to locals on their way and also chat a little about Cuban life if they decide to take hitchhikers with them. Some warnings about robberies by hitchhikers are reported in and near the big cities, and/or for deviating clients to other homestays rather than those booked by us. This last issue is reported from all over Cuba nowadays and families ask us to inform travelers. If you travel by bus the house owners will pick you up at the bus station and accompany you to your homestay; if you travel by rental car you can call them the day before and arrange a meeting point & time, or drive directly to the indicated address.These themes are explained in detail in our Cuba Manual, which clients receive upon booking. In Havana clients receive a briefing from our host as well.

 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Sharon Goodsell

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
I can't single out one memorable experience as the whole holiday was unforgettable. We had an amazing time with a wonderful mixture of city tours, wildlife treks or simply relaxing by the beach or pool. Cuba is a beautiful country. Within the cities there are building which are architecturally stunning, the beauty not lessened by the peeling paintwork and crumbling concrete. And the lush green valleys are peaceful, tranquil and picturesque.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
There is so much to see and do in Cuba, make sure you have the time to do what you want. In our case, this will probably involve a return trip to the country. The holiday worked on a "voucher" system which were given to us at the beginning of the holiday. It is worth checking carefully that the vouchers are correct.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
The holiday certainly helped local people. We stayed with some local families, and ate in private houses which help to boost the income of these poor people, as does the purchase of food, drink and souvenirs from street vendors. Travelling around we used the local coach company, a far more environmentally friendly way to travel than private car.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
We had an excellent time. The Cubans are warm, friendly people open to foreign visitors and happy to share their homes and life stories with you. We have come home with some wonderful memories of the people we met, the places we visited and the trips we undertook. Seeing Havana in a 1950's Chevy, swimming in a deserted subterranean cave pool, listening to the beat of Cuban music and visiting a macabre crypt underneath an old church are just a handful of the experiences we will remember.

 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Elanor Gill

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Staying with families in the 'casa particulares' in Trinidad and Vinales, Cuba.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Definitely would recommend hiring a car, but allow sufficient time in each place to relax as the driving distances are quite long. Would also highly recommend a few Salsa and Spanish lessons before you go - as allows you to really get to know the Cubans.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Yes, I think we benefited local people through encouraging staying in casas rather than hotels - which not only helped them but really made our holiday for us. Not sure how the holiday minimized environmental impacts though given we hired a car and did a lot of driving.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
We had a fabulous time - a really good mix of sightseeing, walking, diving and being on the beach. We wouldn't have been able to fit everything in in the time if we had organised it ourselves when we were out there. Everything that was arranged for us by the operator went really smoothly and we got really good service.

 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Choon Huat Tan

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
It was a family holiday and it was our first trip to Cuba. Everyone had a memorable time in Cuba. We agreed that the uniqueness and the special culture of Cuba intrigued us. We travel with a driver and a tourist guide. They gave us a good understand of the people, the culture and the history of Cuba. We especially like the experience of their ordinary activities like having a leisurely lunch in a hacienda, walking in the country side, visiting tobacco farmers and having tea with them. It is a good time to visit Cuba now as I believe this will change as Cuba is taking more and more tourists and allowing more access to internet.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Traveling with a tourist guide and a driver for the first time visitor is the best way to go. We could plunge into local scene as soon as we arrived. We were fortunate to have very good and interesting guide and driver. They were flexible and they provide the bridge for us to interact with the locals.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
With doubt, the local people are benefited by our holiday. As far as we can, we ate at small “local” restaurants and purchase crafts and CDs from local artists.
 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Anne Pascall

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Difficult to say which was the best - all was good. Havana and Trinidad very interesting and also walking near Vinales and Soroa. There was one disappointment which was the catamaran excursion to Cayo Blanco. The boat was crowded, there was not enough shade or places to sit down; the crew played music loudly on the way out and way back and above all the snorkeling was very disappointing. The reef was almost totally dead although there were a fish; it was a pity because there are good places to dive and snorkel in Cuba - just not at Cayo Blanco, near to Trinidad.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Go now before Cuba gets too westernised.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Yes, I think it benefited local people a little,

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Very good, Cuba interesting place to visit and good to talk to local people who are quite forthcoming about the political situation there.

Latinamerica Journeys response:
We always try to offer an excursion to Cayo Leguano (in this particular case the catamaran was in repair). The catamaran is smaller, there are less people on the boat and it is much more cosy. The trip takes about 5 hrs for a return trip to the island and there is only one catamaran available. On this island there is much more to see and experience then on Cayo Blanco: nice beaches, abundant shallow waterfauna & flora, mangrove forests & large populations of leguanos and tree rodents (hutias); besides you have a more interesting reef to visit when the water is clear and calm. On both islands you need to know where to find the coral reefs, unfortunately some times people do not pay attention to the boat crew (who only speak Spanish) on where to go and stay snorkeling around the boat only. On Cayo Blanco you can see many fish and interesting corals but you need to swim 4-5 minutes away from the boat with flippers towards the coast. Above the reefs of Cayo Blanco once I had a meeting with a group of squid fish which curiously kept on watching and following me when I moved slowly away. I have snorkeled all over the world but never saw this on any other snorkeling trip so far. For snorkeling you need to explore a little bit away from the boat in the indicated directions and be lucky that the water has not been turbulent the days before so that the water is clear for good sights. The excursion to Cayo Leguano needs to be booked ahead to be sure of your place.
 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Roisin White

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
The fantastic people in Cuba, friendly and very helpful, as we did not have a lot of Spanish.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Probably no need to rent your own car, road signs are not too numerous, and hire of taxis is always available.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Yes, we did feel that we were helping some people, but hard to know how to reach the people who are really in need.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
As we were planning for 4 months, I would say it is most important to prepare, and ask the tour operator if you are going to Cuba.

Latinamerica Journeys response:
We arrange tailor made travels by rental car, bus and/or taxis according to everyone’s preferences. You will experience more freedom & contact with locals while travelling with a rental car. All people have arrived to their destinations so far. There are very few road signs on Cuba but with a good map, good sense of humour and laid back attitude, some Spanish phrases and some travel intuition you will find your way and enjoy it fully.
 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Spencer Simmons

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
5 piece band playing on the balcony of our casa particulares whilst we had a candlelit (enforced by a power cut!) dinner for my wife's 50th birthday.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
You must have a laid back attitude as things will go wrong!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Benefited local people. Minimal impact on environment as we picked up people in our car as that is the Cuban way of travel.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Had a great time.

Latinamerica Journeys response:
For every destination in Latin America the best travelers attitude is to be relaxed, open to enjoy your travel fully, to be alert and go with the flow all at the same time. Cuba is, given its specific historical & difficult economic situation over the last decades, not a country where you can expect that everything goes perfect as it does in Europe. Best indeed is to have a laid back attitude on Cuba and enjoy eg a dinner with candlelight when there is for instance a powercut of several hours, to accept and enjoy the help of friendly Cubans when you have a flat tyre, when you can not find the way or things do not work as you had planned or are not as expected.

 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Laurianne Smiley D'Arcy

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
All of it, Casa's, walking tours, beach resorts. Can't pick a favorite.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
It is easy to travel around Cuba on your own. However, it was nice to have all accommodation, transportation, and individual tours pre-booked and travel time planned.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Tourism is greatly helping the local people involved. How this will change things on the whole, who can say. My trip should have been a low impact on environment, even the resort hotels strive for low impact on the environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Very good, interesting to say the least.
 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Steve and Mary Fisher

We requested an unusual trek in the real Cuban Country and 'boy' did we get one! The Director of the Environmental Group in Mil Cumbres picked us up and was so passionate about his country, the land, mountains and the people. We arrived at the hostel and were greeted with smiles great food and glorious views. After local food, drink and Cuban songs the night became pitch black with only the sound of insects to sing you to sleep. We slept in the same room that Fidel Castro uses when he has his annual birthday walk.

Our guide for the walks spoke very little English but we understood each other through sign language. They took us to the real Cuba. To families, farmers, in into the wild up to the highest point in Mil Cubres. This was not an easy trek, may be 7/10 for difficulty. Our guide was like a mountain goat and very quick but happy to slow down when asked. We had our trendy trekking gear which helped but we were worn out on the return. Our guide had shorts, a tee shirt, old shoes and a carrier bag with his sandwich. We were his first customers that morning. He was doing the same trip in the afternoon!

If you like the raw basics being with the real Country Cubans, great company and experiencing the real history of a proud and beautiful people, bring your Deet, hat and silk liner to sleep in and stay a couple of nights in Mil Cumbres.
 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Sally Hooton

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
The diversity of even a small part of one region in Cuba

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Get out on your own

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Hard to say - we did spend time with families both in bone fide arrangements and spontaneously when asked to go to a home for a meal - so hopefully they gained financially a little. We selected a small car but flew to the island so not brilliant environmentally.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Fascinating! A great experience! Seeing socialism as work - despite all the hardships they are stalwarts.
 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend /
Reviewed by Stuart McCletchie

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Cuba's way of life is so different. Seems to be much more happiness around despite the economic and political issues. Breath of fresh air to visit a country that is not being slowly 'Americanised' and isn't overrun by all things commercial. Great to see landscape and scenery uncluttered by ads and billboards.

Walking through Vinales valley with an excellent local guide - staggering scenery, friendly local farmers, hand-made home grown cigars, coffee and bananas. Hospitality and friendliness of the Cubans. Particularly in Casa Particulars. Their genuine pleasure from our gifts and our gratitude.

Coco taxi running out of petrol in Havana. Cayo Legauno - surrounded by iguanas and then being calmly approached by a tree rat (about 2ft long exc. tail!) Music - everywhere. Pineapple and banana smoothie made by Ana in Trinidad - Yum. Black beans and rice made by Esther in Vinales - Yum. Jose at the end of the road in Trinidad

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Get there before it changes! With uncertainty about Castro's tenure there is always a risk that it may change from the unique place that it is now. Make sure that you stay in a casa particular with Cuban people. We stayed in two during our trip and the food was excellent. The hospitality is superb and you get a better insight into Cuban life. You can also pick up tips as to where to go and do the more 'local' thing. From an economic perspective it also helps these families supplement their income.

Vinales is a fantastic base for visiting the tobacco fields and exploring the countryside. You probably need two to three days to do the area justice. Cienfuegos is not worth an overnight stay but handy for a refreshment stop on the drive from Vinales or Havana to Trinidad (note it does have a mad one way system though!)

Near Trinidad try and take the catamaran excursion from Ancon to Cayo Legauno. Great trip and amazing surprises when you arrive ! Don't be concerned about the driving. Okay, there may not be road signs, but the roads are quiet and Cubans are courteous, cautious drivers. Even in Havana the traffic is relatively calm by UK standards. You can't beat overtaking a horse and cart on the motorway! Hotel Raquel in Havana is fantastic. Situated in the old town it has a great feel about it, the staff were great, and both rooms we stayed in were spacious. Good Mojitos at the bar.

Take a trip in a Coco taxi in Havana - uncomfortable, noisy but great fun. It feels like you are doing about 80 mph through a pedestrianised area in a kids pedal car. Visit Hemingways hotel room in Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana. Small, low key, but somehow engaging. Don't forget the 25 convertible pesos per person airport tax on departure. Walking city tour of Havana was excellent. Recommend Mariela from Cubatour.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Overall yes to both. Obviously, the flight is an exception. Staying in casa particulars is a great way of helping out the locals. For the Cubans we left some gifts of items that are more difficult to obtain in Cuba. We spent a lot of time in the countryside and contributed to the up-keep of the local national parks

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
**** and a half. A great trip and an excellent itinerary from this operator Latinamerica Journeys. Get to Cuba before it changes!
 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend /
Reviewed by Barbara MacLeod

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
We loved Trinidad, it's a special and picturesque little town with lots of music, close to hill walking and beaches. You can't ask for much more. Overall, I think we enjoyed staying in the casas particulares most, which gave us an opportunity to understand the lives of some (not necessarily ordinary) Cuban people.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Get everything organised before you go. The stress of arranging things once you arrive is only worth it if you're there for a long holiday. Make sure you stay in some casas particulares as well as hotels.

Avoid the developed tourist beach destinations on the North coast. We went to one for the day. It's the only part of the holiday which we disliked. Do take useful stuff like soap and pens and paper and be generous with them. We took lots of pens which we gave to the doctors in a local hospital.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Yes, but (and it's a very big but) the tourist dollar is not spread evenly throughout the country and its people.

Give a tip of two convertible pesos to the taxi driver and it's worth two days' salary. Look at the costs of fairly basic stuff like soap, given in convertibles, and see how unattainable it is for Cubans who only receive the basic state salary in local pesos. We spent three days in Hotel Moka, and felt that was fairly helpful to sustaining the local environment (reforestation which has created a local tourist trade). We used a mixture of buses and taxis for travel, which was probably marginally less impactful, and certainly less stressful, than hiring a car.

4. Any other comments?
Brilliant, we thoroughly enjoyed it. **** per your grading.
 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Mike Love

We had two weeks in Cuba with a tailor made holiday through this operator. They were great – sorted us out at very short notice and everything went according to plan.

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
The people! Staying with Cubans in casas particulares was the best.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Outside Havana try and eat in the casa particulares or in paladares. We found hotel and restaurant food mediocre at best.

3. Do you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Staying in people’s homes obviously benefits them, especially if you eat there too. We did three great guided walks in bio reserves so I guess that supports their maintenance and development.
 

Some wonderful memories, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend
Reviewed by Paul Bolger

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
The trekking in Sierra Escambray was fantastic and one of the highlights of our trip. Along with the wonderful scenery and swimming in an underground cave our guide was excellent; he was extremely and had a tremendous knowledge of the flora and fauna of the forest. We had a very nice meal at the Hacienda Codina as part of this trip also (in the middle of a tropical storm). We had to stay for a few extra beers until the storm passed!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
I advise travellers to Cuba to (a) take everything they need for the trip with them as it is very difficult to get Western-type travel items in Cuba
(b) take lots of mosquito repellent for yourself and pens/soap/old clothes to give to Cubans
(c) stay away from state-run restaurants; they have very poor service and food quality.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Definitely with one exception: on a catamaran trip to Cayo Los Iguanos the captain dropped anchor on the top of the coral reef and provided no warnings to snorkellers to be careful around the reefs. I have told the tour agent about this and he will contact the company.

4. Any other comments?
Thanks for helping us to book the holiday. You offer a fantastic service that allows the public an opportunity to travel in a social and environmentally responsibly manner and yet have a great choice of destinations.

Latinamerica Journeys response:
The boat always anchors aside of the coral reef and not on top of it. However on the boat there is only a boat crew and not an ecological guide or supervisor in case excursions are individual and no group travels organised by us. The boat crew is not well educated in ecological issues and also does not give snorkelling instructions. That is why we have mentioned this issue esp. in our Cuba Manual what to do and also how to instruct other individual travellers in order to avoid that people damage the ecosystem and step or touch the coral. It is true that the anchor causes some damage on the bottom of the seafloor, but also severe tropical hurricanes that have passed over this area recently have caused a natural damage of the corals and fauna. When you go ashore on the island you will see that the island is built up of debris of coral and that this is part of a natural process. We have asked to the Cuban state company that organizes the catamaran tours if it is possible to instruct the boat crew better, so that they can instruct individual travellers and give everybody a good feeling of taking care of this fragile ecosystem.

If people take mosquito repellent with them, we advise in our Cuba Manual to take one that is not toxic to humans / yourself, which is nature friendly & that works too. There are some very good Cuban state restaurants on Cuba that can compete in price and food with private house cooking & paladars. We give culinary suggestions in our Cuba Manual.

Some stories to tell the grandchildren, I would not hesitate to recommend it to a friend Cuba tours, reviewed by Kiran & Jesse

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Most memorable part was going off the tourist trail with two of our guides in Trinidad. After a day of horseback riding we got caught in a tropical rain shower and since we were already wet we decided to go swimming in a local stream. It was one of those unplanned and spontaneous moments and it was a lot of fun! Overall, we were impressed with the variety of activities that Cuba had to offer...no two days were the same!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Tips: be streetwise but courteous at all times also. The Cuban people are very very friendly and they like to talk and laugh a lot. It's good to join in and mix with the locals but don't be surprised if you're expected to buy drinks or lunch for anyone who offers to show you around or even walk you down a block. Tourists shouldn't feel like they're being hassled. Cubans simply don't make enough money, that's all.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Very much so. We were glad to being staying in 3 star hotels or local families as we felt that they would benefit more from our tourist dollars than the 5 star hotels who were already receiving plenty of trade. A more even distribution of tourist dollars should be encouraged and we would travel the same way and stay in the same types of accommodation should we return to Cuba.

Very enjoyable
Cuba tours, reviewed by Claire & Dipen

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
All the places we went to in Cuba were very enjoyable, but it was most memorable for the people we met in Cuba. Other highlights of the trip were the sounds and colours in Havana, and the beach in Cayo Lavisa was breathtaking. The local representative from the operator was extremely helpful and knowledgeable and made sure everything was as planned.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Book well in advance and do your research so you can pick exactly where you want to go and stay. The travel representatives were very helpful with suggestions and ideas. Also stay in the casa particulares whenever you can as they are so much better than the hotels. The hosts are friendly, the food is awesome and the local tips they give you for things to do and see are very useful. e.g. private salsa lessons, horse riding excursions.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Staying with local people in the casa particulares meant more of our money went to the local people, and travelling by the local coach network meant we minimized the environmental impact as much as we could.

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