Cuba has been on top of our bucket list forever, so in 2018 we decided to pamper ourselves and book an all-inclusive Christmas holiday break to Cuba. It was an exciting trip for the 3 of us, because not only we would have a sunny break while everyone freezes back home but also our little princess was celebrating her 5th birthday that holiday on New Years eve.
This was a perfect holiday for a lazy holiday planner like me 🙂
We flew directly to Varadero, Cuba and selected a resort where everything was included and planned for. We chose Varadero over Havana because we wanted a hotel right on the beach, rather then in the heart of the city. Varadero has its own airport too, so it was a short drive to the hotel.
While booking our trip we noticed that there was not much input and guidance on what to consider and prep for as an ‘all-inclusive holiday traveler’. So here are some points that you might find helpful as you jet set to a lovely sunny break.
I must add that this was our best holiday ever!
Select your timing to go
Christmas holiday break is very popular is Cuba because its not too hot and humid, clear blue sky and warm sea water. This holiday good period carries on until March. Summers get very warm. Avoid August through October because that is hurricane season.
Select your hotel
Take some time to actually look through all your hotel options. Especially take the reviews on that hotel at the end of the page very seriously. The number of stars of the hotel is pretty meaningless and not consistent with what you might expect from a hotel back home. So make a mental list of what you are looking for and pick your hotel accordingly. We were looking for a family friendly hotel, hence found a place with entertainment, pools, play areas and activities for children.
Your checklist before travelling
There are a few things you should know and plan for before you leave, so have a look at my note on how to prepare for your holiday in Cuba. You will find that useful.
Everyone screams tourist trap
Just ignore comments about all-inclusive holiday breaks in Cuba being too touristy. Who cares if the sun is out, the beach is gorgeous, service is great and everything else is taken care of. Aren’t all popular travel places touristy – give me a break, and catch some sun 🙂
Booking your day trips and activities
We noticed that booking our day trips and activities through our travel company was painful, disappointing, disorganized and expensive. The travel company shuttle simply forgot to pick us on one trip and my little daughter was so disappoint, and of course my husband was mad – and their excuse was that the email may have never reached :/
So we booked everything through the hotel and had a much better experience. We ditched the bus trip to Havana, and instead hired a vintage car for the day with our own guide. It was a very reasonable price (much more reasonable than we expected), awesome and personalized! Our guide and drive were so friendly and informative.
Keep in mind that you are better off booking your activities as soon as you can, so that you can pick the dates you want to do things.
We found this chart extremely useful: essentials
We didn’t want to spend too much time travelling and sightseeing for once, and preferred sitting at the beach more. However, we couldn’t leave Cuba without seeing Havana. So in the middle of our trip, we took a day trip to Havana in a super cool 1957 vintage ford with a private tour guide. It was so exciting to sit in this vintage car, an absolute treat. We went through the much sought after ‘must see’ list of Havana, including buying a ton of all the popular Cigar brands we could think of.
Tip: All along the way in between cities you find Pina Colada stalls, serving this popular cocktail in carved out pineapples, so keep some place in your tummy for that 🙂
Now this is something I wish we knew before taking off. In all-inclusive resorts and hotels, they serve drinks in tiny cups and its quiet a walk to get a refill, hence carry a drink flask or a larger cup with a cover so that you can fill up and save your self walking back and forth at least 5 times. Don’t worry about getting too drunk after 5 drinks or so, because the drinks are pretty watered down. We did the Hemmingway trail and ate at local haunts.
We do wish you an awesome holiday in Cuba! ENJOY