Cuba customer reviews
We are very proud of the feedback that we get from our trips and are pleased to share reviews from past travellers. These are kept as up to date as possible. Please have a read through to get a real sense of the kind of experience that you might have on a trip to Cuba with us. And please do ring if you’d like to talk with someone who has been there and has firsthand experience of travelling with children.
Crassaris Family (with children aged 6 and 10)
Travelled Easter 2019
Kelly – We had an amazing time with Tony (our guide) and Fidel (our driver) and all the Cuban people we encountered along the way 🙂 All the hotels were great and food was really good. Maybe Hotel Sevilla is a bit dated and would need some TLC but it does make up with the quality of people, service and food. Cuba was great. The visits we enjoyed very much and loved having Tony as mentioned in one of my emails already. We all enjoyed the zip line very much. I loved Vinales and the surroundings.
Corey Family (with children aged 3 and 8)
Travelled January 2019
Oh, it was amazing Charlotte. Best parts – having the package of all of our accommodations / transportation so well organised, everyone was on time / expecting us. There was one small glitch with the car rental — they had it ready in a different location that was in Vedado by accident, but we just grabbed a convertible and had a nice drive through the city again to that other location. Honestly, it was most likely easier to find our way out of the city from there.
Havana, Vinales and Cayo Levisa made for three great contrasting locations. We enjoyed them all, and the schedule / pace worked really well.
I would say the only thing that was off-putting was that the family in the first casa smoked in the house at times. It was not terrible as it was in a separate area, but just something we are not used to here in Canada. I’m guessing this is pretty common from what we saw in Cuba on the streets — i imagine that non-smoking is not really a thing in Cuba.
Thanks again for a wonderful trip!
Robinson Family (with child aged 7)
Travelled October Half Term 2018
Our holiday all ran perfectly to plan. Every Casa was of a high standard and lovely to stay in and the hotel that you’d described as basic, we were more than happy with. The people were amazingly friendly and it was a fantastic experience. A massive thank you to you Kelly and the team who helped you organise our trip.
Birkitt Family (with children aged 15, 17 & 19)
Travelled Summer 2018
Hi Helene. We had a great time in Cuba, thank you for all your organisation, everything went according to plan and we loved having Andres and Fidel as our guide and driver, they were great and really helped us understand the country and people better.
Exiting the airport was predictably slow which meant we didn’t get to the hotel until early evening just in time to go out to dinner. So on reflection I think we would have liked to have had 2 full days in Havana, although the guided tour was very good and I think we saw all the highlights. We could possibly have missed out the night in Las Terrazas, especially as we went through it on the way to Cayo Levisa and could probably have stopped and done the zip-wiring then.
Cayo Leviso was beautiful and the accommodation was better than I thought it would be, but the food was dreadful, which was such a shame, luckily the cocktails were good!
We really enjoyed our time in Vinales, especially the riding to the farm and the cigars! Our casa stay worked very well – great breakfasts and everything was nice, also a good location to get into town and we found a couple of nice restaurants, we especially enjoyed the dinner at the eco restaurant which was in such a beautiful location and they were so friendly.
The Casa in Trinidad was lovely, probably the best place we stayed once you got inside, but it was on the outskirts of the town and the area around felt very deprived, so we wouldn’t have walked into town even in the day which was a shame (thank goodness for Fidel & Andres!). Trinidad itself was really interesting and beautiful and we also went and did a jeep safari up in the hills, which was a good day out (although quite expensive 55 CUC each plus tip).
Our few days in Varadero were good, nice hotel, beautiful beach and free drinks – what’s not to like! Although we wouldn’t have wanted to be there for any longer and we didn’t leave the resort as we felt we’d seen most things by then. It was amazing the number of people we met who only did the all-inclusive – I don’t think they can really claim to have been to Cuba!
This is going to sound stupid but, although we of course knew Cuba was communist, we were surprised by the general state of the country and how deprived it felt, especially in the rural bits, which we saw driving through the country…
We loved the cocktails, the cigars (nicotine-free), the music, the landscapes, the old cars, the friendly people and overall the trip was fascinating and we’re so pleased we chose to go to Cuba, thank you for all your help in making it such a success.
Pearce Family (with two children aged 8)
Travelled Easter 2018
Hi Kelly – I’d just like to thank you for putting together such a brilliant itinerary – we didn’t want to come back, but all good things have to end. Highlights were too numerous to mention, but top of the kids’ list (and ours) were the horse and cart trip (and Vinales in general), zip-lining at Las Terrazas, Playa Larga & El Nicho. CSM was a nice way to relax at the end of the holidays, although it is pretty devoid of Cuban culture and the enforced jollity in the pool every day is not really our thing (the kids did enjoy eating pizza and pancakes every day though and the catamaran sailing was amazing).
The driving was also interesting and we managed to get the car back, suspension intact (no thanks to the Cuban potholes!)….
The casa choices were all superb (we got a bit of a tired room in Havana on night one, across the road from the main casa, but this was rectified by the rooms we got on our second stay).
All in all we had a fantastic holiday and will have to go back again to do the other half of the island.
Musa-Betts Family (with children aged 5 and 7)
Travelled Easter 2018
Firstly, I’d like to thank you for planning and arranging our holiday Helene – it was truly wonderful and we all had a great time. I know it wasn’t easy with all my chopping and changing but we got there in the end!… It was a great tour of lots of sites all around the country – we really felt we got a flavour of the place.
– It was the best choice to fly from Norwich – I know we’d been thinking about the Iberia flights from London but we found our flights more convenient. One drawback was on the flight back – we were really tired from our flight back from Havana, having had a really early start to drive back to Havana from Cayo Santa Maria and the long layover in Schipol was really tiring (for both us and the children).
– When we arrived in Havana we were delayed by L having lost her luggage (KLM left it in Schipol). Once out, we were welcomed by our Cuban Rep, Ray, who was keen to get us to our first Casa. We were mindful that we wanted to change money in the airport and were keen to go to the exchange upstairs but Ray assured us that we could d this easily once at our Casa. This was a problem due to the time we arrived so about 1600 and having rather fractious children; that is, once we got to our Casa, settled in, thought to explore and find the Barcardi Building – we couldn’t find an exchange that was open.
Fortunately we managed to stumble across a cash machine… We think a useful thing to include in your very detailed guide would be a note that it is difficult to find exchanges past 1900 in Old Havana (even the hotels!) and detail of nearby ATM machines in Old Havana.
– Thank you for our welcome pack we received at Casa Maribel, which was very detailed and helpful! Casa Maribel was our first exposure to the Casa system. It was very comfortable and the owners were kind. We think that in light of the fact that we had little ones with us, more prominence to the fact that buildings in Old Havana are spacious upwards, with steep stairs to match means that heavy bulky suitcases may not necessarily be the most appropriate choice of luggage could be put on the information booklet. We definitely would have advised backpacks in retrospect. We would recommend Casa Maribel as a comfortable, reasonable and well situated place for going around Old Havana.
– We enjoyed our tour the next day – the cars were gorgeous and we spent the afternoon roaming around Old Havana and getting caught in a rainstorm. Our tour guide in the morning was very knowledgeable and informative. A key tip is to visit the Camera Obscura with the children.
What a gem Andreas is! We loved him and he became part of the family! From when he picked us up in Havana to dropping us off in Cayo Santa Maria – Andreas was helpful, friendly, informative, kind and patient with the children and nothing seemed to be too much trouble for him. A helpful tip for other families with small children is to ensure that they have some sort of booster seat (or luggage to sit on) to help the children see the countryside as they drive to prevent car sickness (both our children suffer from this) and boredom.
– We didn’t appreciate how big Cuba is and hence how long the car trips were – we loved getting to where we were going but again the aforementioned little children issue.
– THE CHILDREN LOVED CASA KIKI! They literally ran straight onto the beach from the moment we got there – and we made some lovely friends! Andreas recommended a great restaurant in Playa Larga – but we can’t remember the name. Handy tip! Food portions at the Casa are humongous – one meal can feed two or three easily. They were so happy and friendly here – it was a real pleasure to meet them. L’s case finally arrived and she was pleased as punch!
– Trinidad was really nice and really liked Casa Cubata – again they were really welcoming. I thought the rooms were lovely and it was nice having the little outdoor patio and spiral staircase that the kids kept running up and down. Andreas quite rightly changed the itinerary to suit the weather (not going to El Nicho when it was raining) – the sugar plantation and the tower were interesting. Casa de la Musica was a definite hit and the restaurants in Trinidad were multiple and varied.
– El Nicho was one of the highlights of the trip for us! I cannot recommend this enough – the water was freezing but so lovely! Everybody should go! And the restaurant was exceptional – we were really impressed by this.
– Santa Clara and Che Guevara’s tomb was very educational, interesting and moving.
The drive along the 60km road BUILT IN THE SEA (!) is absolutely amazing! It’s a road! In the actual sea!
– The Hotel Melia Santa Maria was beautiful – we’ve never been to an all inclusive so this was a wonderful introduction to this.
– For our return journey we got up very early so not to miss the taxi driver. This almost happened as we were waiting in the lobby but the driver did not make himself known. Perhaps a sign? We asked the taxi drivers who were there when we arrived if they were there for us and our driver appeared to be with them and therefore we thought he wasn’t. He made fantastic time tough!
All in all we had the most amazing and fantastic time! Cuba was beautiful and certainly different – our experiences were so much fun and A was exceptionally pleased that we’d made this trip.
Once again, I’d like to thank you for planning and organising this whole experience. Please send our love to Andreas. We’ve been in touch with him by email and would like to send him a thank you gift. Because of the postal difficulties he has recommended sending something via future clients – do you think this is workable?
Chin Family (with children aged 5 and 7)
Travelled Easter 2018
Hi… we’re all settling back into normal life. It was an amazing holiday and experience. Thank you. We really liked NOT staying in hotels, although the boys’ main complaint was usually “oh but there is no swimming pool”! Having the closer interaction with host families and their staff provided a much more intimate perspective of the country we were visiting.
It reminded me of B&Bs in England back in the 80s! The twin bed room also suffered from a lingering sewer smell and was windowless. I liked the location – near enough to Havana Vieja but was more neighbourhood-like (not touristy). Surprised at how little English was spoken here; only the lady who seems to administer bookings (she works for the family) spoke conversational English. It wasn’t an issue but given this is Havana, I thought that Nora and Junior might have more English than we experienced. Nora is lovely though, always with a smile and hugs for the boys! It’s amazing how much you can manage to converse in broken Spanish and hand gestures.
Casa La Gran Familia, Vinales – we loved this place. Fantastic host family, really nice location and nice casa (big rooms, comfy beds, roomy bathrooms and the roof-top was fab for stargazing). No problem with water pressure here – I think Samuel had installed a water pump. Was really surprised at the level of amenities provided; hairdryer, soap and shower gel! Super buffet-style breakfast in a dining room with a view of the “village” (dirt tracks, horse carts, chickens, kids playing football barefeet!). Dinner portions were enormous – the largest of all the casas we ate in. And we really liked Vinales and would have happily spent another day or two here. Samuel and Elisabet are so friendly and warm.
Casa Los Sauces, Soroa – very different in terms of style and location. Again, a nice casa with big rooms, comfy beds and roomy bathrooms. One of the rooms we had was actually like a one bedroom flat although the kitchen wasn’t equipped – it had a sitting / dining room area and a separate bedroom. Both rooms were on the first floor with lovely terraces (Tito and his family lived in the ground floor bit – there are four generations of the family living together!).
Didn’t realise how remote Soroa is – it wasn’t a problem for us but may be worth noting so that other travellers don’t mistakenly plan to stock up on essentials while in Soroa. We asked Tito to take us to the “town centre” and he told us there was nothing there 😀 So he took us to the park where the waterfall and orchid gardens are located. Food at the casa was very good. Tito is an excellent host and speaks good English – he had papaya juice prepared specially for one of the boys when he learned that said child didn’t like guava juice! He was always checking with us to make sure everything was okay.
Hostal Rosy – this is a very pretty casa and well equipped. It was almost impossible to find as there is no signage at this casa (other than the casa particulares logo on the door). Perfect for families of four as the two available rooms are together on the first floor and you then basically had the run of the place. The host family lives on the ground floor. Meals are served on the top floor where there is also an outdoor terrace. Be aware that nobody here speaks any English at all.
One thing intrigued me about this casa – none of the family was involved in the running of the casa. They had staff to do everything. Although the other casas also had hired help, they were also hands-on if that makes sense. Nothing here, which looking back, could be the reason why it felt a little distant as we basically had no contact with them other than to say hello or goodbye as we left or returned for the day.
Hostal Kiki – Unlike the other casas we stayed in, the host family doesn’t live in the house so at night, there is a night watchman who comes and locks up the gates to the property and is on duty through the night! During the day, Kiki or Daylena would pop in for a couple of hours and the staff who are there throughout the day were great (although they don’t speak English, they were extremely patient with our patchy Spanish!). Kiki works really hard – he was tidying the garden one night at about 10pm! The breakfasts here were in generous quantities. We had a few dinners at the casa and these were the best casa meals we had tasted during our travels in Cuba. The portions were large too. Food for two adults was more than enough for all four of us. The lady who does the cooking is an absolute credit to the casa!
Overview of our experience of the planned excursions:
– Vinales horse cart tour to tobacco farms – it was great fun and very informative. The driver we had spoke almost no English but was just so helpful and enthusiastic about all the places he wanted to show us! He took us to the tobacco farm which was not that far from the casa (10 minutes ride), then took us to another place deeper in the countryside where it was basically a place set up to sell local coffee, liquor and honey to visitors (there was no hard sell and it was a nice place to stop, plus it had toilet facilities).
He was then keen to take us to the Mural Historico, which was actually quite some way away on a horsecart and was going to take us to a ceramic art museum place (can’t remember) but it was getting too hot for the boys so we asked to return to the casa after seeing the mural (divide opinions in the family about this – half of us thought it more graffiti than art). By the time we got back, it was a good half day we’d spent with him. I think I was only expecting a couple of hours and we were pleasantly surprised that it was much more.
– La Terrazas zip wires – we loved it. I thought it was going to be one zip wire so you can imagine the boys’ delight to discover it was SIX (though F nearly died from the shock it was six!). We all did it and all of us, including the scaredy cat, really enjoyed it. There was some confusion as to where we were meant to be dropped off by the taxi. The voucher said Hotel Moka but we were dropped off at Rancho something, where apparently we had to go anyway to exchange our voucher for the zip wire tickets. That was a good “mistake” as it’s a bit a walk between the ticket place and the actual zip wire activity base.
Observations about places:
Havana – it’s much more expensive than we had expected! Especially when it comes to food because simple cafes serving simple sandwiches were really hard to find. We blew 180CUCs on food in the 1.5 days at the start of our holiday! Our first meal was a bit of a disaster. Jetlag and tired children meant we kind of forgot to apply some common sense, and agreed to have a meal in a restaurant which had a top floor terrace overlooking the bay. No surprises then that the food was mediocre and the price at London levels! With TripAdvisor comes a lot of pitfalls – popular places get even more popular with tourists and suddenly, you have over-rated and over-popular places getting a lot of attention, with prices heading north really quickly.
Vinales – a lovely sleepy town where we could easily have spent a few more days. To satisfy the boys’ craving for swimming, Elisabet (such as knowing woman!) had sent us up to the state-run La Ermita hotel which had a pool. I think we paid 3CUCs per adult and 1CUC per child for access. Not the cleanest or safest pool (locals drinking from beer cans in the pool or neat rum at poolside) BUT a pool nonetheless and the boys were happy. The best thing there was the view.
Trinidad – Such a pretty place! I could spend days and days just walking round and round Trinidad. The boys would be happy to do that provided they’re allowed to run around and fed ice cream every two hours. There are free guided walks of Trinidad, lasting 2 hours, that start from the little square (Plazuela del Cristo) next to the San Francisco de Asis church (opposite Don Pepe café – great place for a coffee by the way). When we were there, these were at 0930 and 1400.
You can easily find or book taxis for excursions by yourself – there are always taxi drivers hanging out on street corners to the southwest of Plaza Mayor offering shared taxis to Havana etc. We found a taxi to drive us around the valley of the sugar mills for over 4 hours, for 35CUC (he wanted 40CUC as his opening gambit!). The taxi was a 1957 Opel Rekord! I’m not really sure you need an English speaking guide – if you know you want to visit then if you do some research beforehand and bring some of the information with you on the day.
Streets in Trinidad can be confusing as they have 2 names – we learnt that’s because there’s the pre-revolution names which tend to be religious or Spanish in nature (Carmen, Gracia, Jesus Maria, Alameda) and then a new post-revolution name (Frank Pais, Simon Bolivar, Marti). We asked the locals which they tended to use and most of them said the old names! Must be confusing when arranging to meet someone on a particular street?!
A word of caution about the tobacco / cigar factory in Trinidad. It has been written about on many websites but worth a reminder that cigars that you are offered for purchase at tobacco / cigar factories or farms are unlikely to be high quality or the “real thing” (e.g. it will be a fake of whatever brand label that is on the cigar). We were offered cigars at the tobacco farm though to be fair, the farmer there never claimed they were anything other than just cigars. At the cigar factory in Trinidad, they offered us “Cohibas” which weren’t real obviously.
Playa Larga – I know we had some emails exchanges about the quality of the beach at Playa Larga. You are absolutely right that you just wouldn’t go to Playa Larga for the beach / sea. And we were fine with that, as discussed, because we just wanted somewhere reasonable by the sea that the boys could enjoy and where we could chill. The “issue” with the sea and beach in Playa Larga and Batey Caleton (which is where Hostal Kiki is located) is the high level of fine (and slightly muddy) sediment in the seabed. On the day we arrived, it was quite windy and there were lots of waves.
It was still quite windy the following day but the winds suddenly eased that evening, and the next day the sea was flat as a pancake and the water clarity was great.
Baley Caleton has a nicer sandy beach than Playa Larga beach (which is a 25 minute walk away) on the other side of Playa Larga town. However, the water tends to be calmer over in Playa Larga which means there is less sediment churning around and therefore better water clarity. In all honesty, you wouldn’t come to Batey Caleton or Playa Larga for crystal clear waters or fine sandy beaches. Both beaches are okay but suffer from its proximity to the estuary of the Zapata national park, which means the sea bed has a high concentration of fine sediment which is easily churned up. And there is a lot of what my boys called “sea junk” i.e. sea weed, rotting leaves. twigs. The sea generally tended to be calmer in the morning so water clarity was better then and the level of “sea junk” was lower.
However, the clear waters off the coast between Playa Larga and Playa Giron are easily accessible and I’d recommend a daytrip down to the Cueva de los Peces for a spot of snorkelling or just swimming (note there is no sandy beach there though!). It is beautiful there, see picture alongside. You do need those snorkelling rubber shoes as it is a coral shelf all along the coast between Playa Larga and Playa Giron, which can make getting into and out of the water a bit painful otherwise!
Other observations – food, drinks, laundry and cangrejo:
Just because an item is listed on a board in a shop that is no guarantee they have it in stock! And just because you saw something stocked in a shop one day, it doesn’t mean you can come back the following day and still find it available (this was bottled water in Vinales!). The state-run ice cream place Coppelia was out of ice cream the three days we were in Trinidad, hahaha!
You will find drinks and snacks at half the price you’d normally pay, in the cafes and bars the locals frequent (unfortunately you’ll also have to deal with horrific toilet facilities if you need them). I’m not sure what they are called but they can generally be identified via a floor-standing billboard with items priced in CUPs. As an example, we were paying at least 1CUC for a can of refresco everywhere we went. These were 10CUP in the local cafes (next to a long list of rum options). Again, you could get cheap sandwiches for 15-25CUP here. We had no difficulty finding food that was right for the kids – they loved the fresh fish and grilled meats. We even found places that served hamburguesa natural (something like reconstituted burgers but hey, we’re on holiday!) and pizzas, which were both actually a lot cheaper than the standard Cuban fare of grilled meat with rice and beans.
Budget for buying water! It can become quite a significant outlay – anything from 3 to 5CUCs a day for a family of four like ours. We take it for granted that we can just drink from taps, so this was a bit of a shock to the purse.
Laundry can be expensive (it was 10CUC in Vinales which I thought was alright and then 20CUC in Trinidad for a load that wasn’t much larger) so I think it makes more sense to bring what you need and then leave behind the stuff you don’t want any more if you need to make room for your shopping!
Travelled Summer 2017
Dear Liddy – Thanks for asking. Yes, we had a great time thanks. No major incidents – the hire car broke down, maybe from overheating because I’d been driving it too fast in the heat of the day. I’ll attach a couple of photos that you’re welcome to use if you like.
Davidson Family (with children aged 2 and 5)
Travelled Spring 2017
Hi Helene… we were delighted with the holiday – I know from experience how much is involved in organising… Tony was an excellent guide and was fantastic with the kids. His vast historical knowledge also made the trip interesting. He took us to a number of “out of the way” “local” places for food, which was also good.
Comments on the trip:
The car and walking tour on the first day in Havana was great and our guide for this was good and knowledgeable. Casa Colonial was nice and the hosts very friendly – an excellent breakfast…
Our guide Tony contacted me at the Casa early on the Monday morning and told me he would get the car at 5pm and then come to see us. He took us out to see the sunset, then a trip to the Hotel National that was great and then down to the Malecon to hear the canons at 9pm. This evening drive was great as we wouldn’t have been able to do this otherwise having the kids with us.
Vinales was great and Casa Maravilla was nice.
We ate at the El Paraiso restaurant one night and it was as good as the review in the trip notes.
Day 4 – I had a 6am start for bird watching – Tony had organised the guide at the visitor centre when we first arrived. Tony picked me up at 6 and then we got the guide and drive 20km to an area of the national park. Tony dropped us there and then came back for us 3 hours later. The guide was excellent and I saw some great stuff.
The trip notes have Day 5 as a free day, however Tony took us for a trip to a viewpoint that was excellent, then for lunch and a visit to the botanical garden in Vinales. We were finished with these activities by early afternoon and then had the rest of the day at the Villa. As per our discussion we thought that it would have been better to have gone to La Moka that afternoon to give us a whole day there. I am not sure this was changed to accommodate my birdwatching, however in reality doing the birdwatching for 2-3 hour early in the morning didn’t really impact our other activities.
The hotel La Moka was fantastic with great views – the full height windows in the bathroom meant that it was the first time that I had done birdwatching from the shower. Tony took us to a small local place in the wood for our dinner where we had some excellent food.
Playa Larga was great and again the Casa here was excellent and right on the beach. The Casa had organised the birdwatching for 9am, which would have been a bit late. Tony spoke to the owner and we managed to reorganise this for 7am. Another great guide and some fantastic endemic species. Again Tony picked me up early an drove both myself and the guide to a variety of places
The crocodile farm was great and we also took a speedboat trip out to a replica Indian village which was good.
Our guide Tony was a retired history teacher so he had a fantastic knowledge of all the historical issues of the Bay of Pigs.
We enjoyed Trinidad – as per our discussion we didn’t go to the El Nichos waterfall as Tony had been there a couple of weeks before – we did go to a different waterfall that was impressive.
The Casa in Trinidad was also great and very friendly….
Thomson Family (parents and a grandparent with children aged 9, 12 and 14)
Travelled Easter 2017
We had an amazing trip and thoroughly enjoyed it. The children preferred this kind of holiday to any other!! All of the casas were great but the one in Viñales was by far the best and everything ran very smoothly apart from a slight communication hiccup with our driver, which was quickly sorted out. I would most definitely book with you again and recommend your company to all my friends.
Pillai Family & Friends
Travelled Easter 2017
Hi Kelly – Just about getting over the jet lag…we did have a good time. Pity we did not book 2 weeks… Overall the trip was well organised and arranged. All the casas were good.
Although one of the casas had good facilities the access was very difficult and anybody slightly older or had any walking difficulty would have found themselves in an impossible situation. Climbing 3 floors with ever narrowing stair case with suitcase is no easy task. I guess this feedback should be given to your local partners who were excellent. Overall it was a good trip.
I will be contacting you in the near future for a trip either to Masai Mara… or Peru. Hope you do these countries as well.
Hancock Family (with children aged 5 and 7)
Travelled February 2017
Hi Kelly – We are back to the land of the living and enjoying telling all our friends and family about our amazing trip and showing all the photos. We absolutely loved Cuba. I have a new favourite country!! …. I was very happy with your planning, advice and notes and you were a pleasure to book with and deal with. There were a few hiccups when we were there but nothing to spoil the holiday and we loved Cuba so much that we weren’t going to let anything spoil it.
The first hiccup unfortunately was on the arrival. We found the representative easily enough and she gave us the vouchers we needed and introduced us to the drivers who would be taking us from the airport to the hotel in Havana. This was two classic cars. We were dropped off at the hotel and the drivers unloaded the luggage and left. Imagine my surprise when we gave the voucher to the lady on reception and she said, “its not this hotel”. Fortunately she was very helpful and phoned Kenia for us who then phoned the cars to return to the hotel, pick us up and take us to the correct hotel….
The Park View Hotel was nicely located and was a short and easy walk to the old town. The corner room we had so that all 4 of us could stay in the same room was a good size. I didn’t however find the reception staff very friendly or helpful and it was the only place we stayed that didn’t have hot water!
The classic car tour and walking tour with the guide on day two was very good and our guide was excellent.
Vinales was stunning. We had lunch at a place just outside Vinales called Balcon del Valle. The outdoor seating is on platforms in the trees overlooking the valley. The food was wonderful but nothing could rival the amazing view.
The Villa Maravilla was a lovely casa. The hosts were very friendly and helpful even though they didn’t speak any English. The room was a good size with 2 double beds and a stocked fridge. The breakfasts were fantastic. It is nicely located a short way out of town amongst the fields. However, it is easy enough to walk into the town of Vinales from the casa which we did on the first evening and there is a footpath most of the way.
The next hiccup came on day 4 when we were supposed to do a horse cart ride though the surrounding area. The person came to pick us up at the casa and we walked a short way through some fields and back tracks to what we were told was the starting point. Unfortunately when we got there, there was not a horse cart but rather 4 horses… Eventually with the help of some other guests at the casa, the problem was understood and we did the excursion. Once it was all sorted, the excursion was good and very interesting. We went to a tobacco farm, a cave where we did a guided walk through the mountain to see stalactites and stalacmites and also went to the Valley of Silence where we were shown around a farm that grew different spices and other exotic things.
The rest of the afternoon we spent at the pool at Hotel Los Jazmines (which the children loved). It is a lovely big pool and is beautifully located overlooking the valley. It was only 3CUC a person for the use of the pool and the children were free.
That evening we ate in a place called Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso. Wow, wow, wow!! They grow all the food on site and as you walk up the restaurant there are beds of vegetables and you are able to walk around the gardens to see all the stuff growing. The restaurant is located on a small hill just outside Vinales so has beautiful views over Vinales and a stunning sunset. There is no menu. They simply bring plate after plate after plate of food. Everything from chicken, fish and pork to soup, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and all sorts of veg that we had no idea what they were but was lovely to try.
At one point we did start to wonder how many more plates we could actually fit on the table!! There was way too much food to physically eat and the meal was finished off with coffee and Cuban crème caramel dessert. The whole meal including cocktails and fresh fruit juices for the children came to 30 CUC!! The place does get extremely busy though and we were lucky that our guide was able to phone and plead and make excuses and get us a table. It is amazing and such an experience and worth going to but definitely needs to be booked in advance.
Las Terrazas is beautiful and Hotel Moka was lovely. The room was nice and big and the kids loved the “bath with a view”. The mini bar in the room is included at no extra cost. The kids were delighted to find that there was a swimming pool on site. Which was a lovely big pool. A point to note here for people with younger children is that the hotel restaurant only opens for dinner at 7pm.
We opted to spend day 6 at Las Terrazas and we spent the morning walking around and exploring the village. We went to Café Maria but at the time there was a cycle group there so was very busy. We did discover that it was open until 10pm in the evening so we returned that evening after dinner and had the place to ourselves which was lovely. The afternoon we asked our guide to take us to San Juan waterfalls. We didn’t have to pay as it seems if you are staying at Hotel Moka you don’t have to pay entry. Even though they haven’t had much rain so the falls weren’t as big as usual, the children loved it and spent the whole afternoon happily playing in the falls, rock pools and ponds.
In Cienfuegos, Casa Pachy was nice. The rooms were a nice size and the breakfast was lovely. I would however say that it is a little way out of town with no restaurants really within walking distance. It wasn’t an issue for us as our driver took us to the old town and then on to a lovely restaurant overlooking the harbour for dinner, but something to bear in mind if people do require this.
The swimming with dolphins at Rancho Luna was amazing and my youngest daughter was in her element with the dolphins. My eldest daughter enjoyed it but was a little more hesitant and unsure and joined in with the first half but opted to sit on the pontoon and observe after that which they were happy for her to do. I know this isn’t being offered anymore which is a shame but I am sure if people would like to do this, it is easy enough to book independently.
Trinidad was our favourite. Such a lovely place to explore. We opted to spend the full day of day 9 exploring Trinidad and enjoying the town. We could quite happily have spent a day or two more here. The Hostal Gran Cana was lovely and brilliant located just two blocks from the main square. The owners were fantastic. So friendly and helpful and very accommodating. The first night they booked a table at a restaurant on the square for us which they recommended and was lovely. The second night we had dinner at the casa. We were asked the night before what we would like to have for dinner the next day. He listed a whole range of options so I opted for lobster, my husband fish and the children asked for pork. Every meal was amazing, tasty and again huge portions. We had dinner in the same place as breakfast which is up on the rooftop with a beautiful view. Also to note at Hostal Gran Cana, although it said we were in two rooms, we in fact stayed in one very large room with two double beds so were all in the same room.
On day 10 we asked if we could drive directly to Cayo Santa Maria rather than going via Santa Clara. Hotel Melia was fantastic. The staff were all extremely friendly and helpful. The rooms were huge with our room having two double beds and two additional single beds for each of the children. We had a room at the bottom end closest to the beach, which was really nice. The beach was amazing and whilst I have swum in many places and pretty clear water, I have never swum in water so clear! There is a very big pool area with two huge pools and a separate smaller children’s pool which we didn’t actually use as my children were more than happy in the big pools and on the beach. There is a large buffet restaurant but then also 4 additional restaurants which are also included but have to be booked once there. It was a lovely place to finish off.
The transfer back to Havana was smooth and efficient and he also made a stop in Santa Clara for us to see the Che Guevara monument and mausoleum. It was a nice reminder that the agency phoned the hotel the night before to remind us what time we would be picked up the next morning.
We spent the last morning exploring a little more of Havana before our transfer to the airport. Check out at the Park View Hotel is noon which was nice and they have a luggage room where you can leave your luggage until pick up….
Useful tips: The queue for currency at the airport was enormous. When landing after a long flight with younger children, the last thing you want to do is stand in such a long queue. We opted to just exchange some cash at the hotel and found that the rate wasn’t that different. In fact, during the whole trip, we found that queues at the banks were extremely long and you waited a long time (the only exception being the CADECA in Las Terrazas). The CADECAs also seemed to have some random hours and no matter what the guide books say, they are not open on Sundays! We found it far more convenient (especially with children) and time efficient to just exchange money at the hotels. The difference in rate was not that much that it made it worth standing in bank queues. In fact, the rate at the banks when we were there was 1.2 and the worst rate we got was at the hotel in Havana at 1.1 with other hotels being better. None of them charged commission the rate is just less.
After the first couple of days we very quickly learnt that the portions in Cuba are MASSIVE. Very often we shared 2 meals between the 4 of us (which was plenty for everyone) or if we were very hungry then we each had a meal and the children shared a meal. There was no shortage of food and I don’t think there was a single meal where we could finish everything. If you have younger children unless they are massive eaters, it is definitely worth them sharing a meal or eating from yours. Everywhere was more than happy for us to order one meal between two and bought us an extra empty plate to share.
O’Brien (two friends)
Travelled February 2017
We loved Cuba and had a wonderful time. All of the transfers worked well with great taxi drivers, polite and courteous. Hotels also great, the Raquel right in the middle of the old town, which was great for sightseeing and getting in the mood of Cuba with music on every corner! Our guide in Havana was wonderful, knowledgeable and with great English. Our trip in the 1953 Chevrolet was magic.
To Trinidad where the Casa de La Fruta and the owners were so welcoming and a fridge in the room for Jean! The walking tour of Trinidad and the guide Nelson we enjoyed so much, wonderful person and the Canchanchara was especially nice !
We had an amazing holiday in Cuba loved Havana and Trinidad and while the Blau Varadero was great we felt we could have been in any luxury complex !!
Thank you so much Liddy for organising our holiday we had an amazing time, freezing cold back in Belfast !!
Henry Family (with children aged 5, 8 & 11)
Travelled Christmas 2016/17
The trip was fantastic thanks.
Turvill Family (with adult children aged 20, 23 and 25)
Travelled Christmas/New Year 2016/17
Hi Kelly… a very happy New Year to you from the amazing Bolivian salt flats! Cuba turned out to be amazing and we are still missing it – can’t adequately describe how, but it really does get under your skin; all five of us absolutely loved it and my daughter was very sad to have to leave first, as well as miss the zip wire! My youngest, J, wants to come back and work, as well as bringing his Sax! I hope we all manage to return in the not too distant future.
Upon our arrival at our first Casa at 9pm-ish, we were told that we needed to be moved to another one as they had no water! Just 100 yards round the corner to one which was certainly not of the same standard in terms of rooms and eating area, but run by an amazing lady who took a big shine to my eldest boy who is fluent in Spanish!…
Transfer to Trinidad was fine and an absolutely wonderful Casa (our favourite) with host who spoke English and couldn’t do enough to help, including organising a great horse-ride up in to the hills.
Enjoyed Trinidad and had a family salsa lesson!
When we arrived at our casa in Vinales, the owner informed us we were all staying in his most inferior room as his grand mother’s funeral had just taken place and he had family staying! We were somewhat underwhelmed but he offered to refund the cost of the unavailable room – what can you do?! We were promised one of the nicer rooms for the second night – they looked out directly onto a typical Vinales view beyond their own tobacco fields – location hard to beat… hired bicycles the next day which was great apart from a slow puncture that nobody seemed able to fix.
Las Terrazas was a nice finish, enjoying both superior facilities, the pool and the zip wire although we felt we could have been almost anywhere in the world!
Returned hire car successfully after a further puncture experiences! Fantastic last night Casa – lovely owner and shame we had just one very short night with her – of the three in Havana, the one we would recommend the most.
Despite not expecting much, we had some exceptional meals in both Havana and Trinidad at very sensible prices, in addition to enjoying numerous cocktails in numerous little bars playing some great music.
So, a few minor gripes, but overall a very fantastic family holiday. Still very keen to explore the east of the island but you certainly helped us make the most of the inconvenience caused by the hurricane! Overall, a great success and many, many very happy memories and photos – thank you for all your perseverance and attention to detail!
Bolivia is proving to be amazing and again, will be recommending, together with Cuba, to our friends. Lovely people, fascinating and scary history combined with the most wonderful natural wonders – couldn’t recommend Torotoro or Uyuni too much!
Will call for a chat upon our return in April, but a big thank you from all the Turvill’s for organising a fantastic holiday!
Family R (with one child aged 3)
Travelled February 2016
We had a great time in Cuba and really enjoyed the trip. We are still getting through the unpacking and sorting, but nearly there now. I’ve tried to summarise our feedback below. Overall the holiday suited us well and was just the break that we needed.
The accommodation was overall good, and always impeccably clean. The hotel in Havana had helpful desk staff and the rooms varied a lot (the first room was tiny and water supply was awful, the second was lovely with a view and always had hot water!). The Vista la Valle Casa in Vinales was amazing. This was certainly our favourite accommodation, with a lovely room, amazing location and good food and welcoming hosts.
The swimming pool was a real surprise and treat! Hotel La Moka was an experience, and we are really pleased to have had the opportunity to stay there, and was a nice hotel. Casa Bertica in Playa Larga was unusual. The hosts were incredibly welcoming, and really made such an effort to look after us. The food was good. The location was simply a bit disappointing as it was on the wrong side of the road for the beach and therefore using the outside space was limited.
We really appreciated having some of the day trips booked already from the UK, and liked being left with plenty of opportunity to do other things as suited us when we were there. There was a bit of a problem with the classic car tour as they went to the wrong hotel to collect us, and so some of the tour seemed to have been missed, but it was not a major issue.
Our main driver and guide for the trip outside of Havana Tony was excellent. We simply cannot praise his care of us enough, and he always had plenty of suggestions of sights to experience. He gave us a lot of information about the country and culture, and his English was of a very high standard. He made a real effort to ensure Teija was comfortable with him, and also helped a lot in expressing our thanks for our hosts and guides etc. Having such a highly skilled and enthusiastic guide allowed us to relax completely and enjoy our precious time together as a family, knowing that all other aspects (navigation, planning, translation) were covered by him. This was invaluable.
Of note, the departure tax is no longer charged – it is apparently now included in the flight ticket price. There also appeared to be a number of ATMs in Havana, although we didn’t try to use them. We did always find long queues at any CADEC to change money, even outside of the airport. Your suggested budget for cash to take was good and accurate – we had plenty left having followed your upper number.
I’d like to thank you in setting this up for us, we have wanted to travel to Cuba for many years, and are pleased to have been able to combine a cultural, adventurous and family holiday together for all of us to enjoy. We will of course be recommending your expertise.
Family G (with three children aged 5, 10 and 14)
Travelled Summer 2015
We had a fab time! Would be very happy to fill you in on the details of what was good and what could be done differently…. will definitely ring and bore you!
Family H (with three children aged 9, 11 and 18)
Travelled Easter 2015
We had a great time in Cuba, the weather was amazing – lots of adventures but that’s why we wanted to go there. I loved Havana and M had a contact who works in art and she took us to visit 3 artists in their home who are going to be exhibiting a big exhibition in May out there so that was fascinating.
We loved Casa Nenita. They were such a welcoming family, brilliant with the children and so caring about cooking for R. I also loved our hotel in Havana for its situation (the reception are not the most friendly) but it’s so convenient for walking round the old town and has a great feel… thank you so much for your help.
Family R (two adults, no children)
Travelled Easter 2015
We had a fantastic trip and really enjoyed it all, so many thanks to you and Kenia for making it all a success. We particularly enjoyed our driver (Tony) who was wonderful – very intelligent and informative and great company. We also loved the casas although the Milagros in Trinidad was a little more out of town than we would have liked. However, we still enjoyed staying here. Lovely hosts.
…Some comments that might be useful for other guests.
We were able to use ATMs throughout the country and didn’t need to rely on cash. I’m not sure if we were just lucky, but this was not an issue for us at all.
We were planning on changing money after customs at the airport, but in fact there was nowhere to do this. The only moneychangers were before customs and the queue was very long, so we didn’t bother. In fact we changed money at the hotel so this was fine.
We really liked the Cayo Levisa and the beach was gorgeous. The food was a bit basic but it is apparently being developed. Also a new restaurant is being built that will be more attractive and more ‘in keeping’ with the other buildings, to replace the current cement building. This should be finished in the next few months. This will make it even better. We saw some of the huge all inclusives and were very glad not to be staying at them.
We had been thinking of doing some diving at Cayo Levisa but after seeing the equipment decided that it was dangerous – all a bit antiquated.
We booked a fishing trip from Cayo Levisa, which they loved. Highly recommended.
Hotel is Havana (Hotel Habana 612) was great.
That’s all for now, let me know if you need anything else.
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Cuba in pictures
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