Pete and I got hitched on April 8th!
We decided to visit Cuba for our honeymoon since we have a family history there and thought it would be a new and interesting trip. We rented a car and drove across the center of the country in order to hit a few key points and really take in the scenery and way of life across the board.
We started in Camaguey of which we flew in and rented a car called a "Greely". The car was stick shift as most were. They told us we had to get the gasolina especial for this car when going to the gas station to fuel up.
Tip # 1. Thoroughly check your paperwork, make sure you have a spare tire available and tools to change a tire on the road for an unexpected emergency.
Tip # 2 Make sure that the gas in your tank matches what the salesmen writes on your paperwork. We read it was common and it happened to us where they wrote we had 15 liters in our tank upon pickup and we had about 1 liter, so when we went to drop off they tried to charge us for it and we refused and they basically backed down and said ok. Other than that, the experience was fine. With a bit of a communication barrier at the rental agency we were still able to get by. We left a $200 deposit cash upon arrival of which we didnt account for because we thought it was on the card. It was legit, it was just an unexpected expense that reduced our cash on hand for the trip. So take this into account when bringing money over with you.
We drove straight to Cayo Guillermo of which was a beautiful Island and vacation spot full of all inclusive hotels. You could also just fly into the airport "Jardines del rey Cuba airport" to get to this place and stay here for an all inclusive trip if this is something you are interested in. We booked the "Sercotel" which was known for kite surfing, beaches, and flamingos :) There was also a public beach at the end of the Island Of Cayo Guillermo that we stopped at on our way out called "Playa Pillar". A great day spot if you have a car, with a restaurant and bar and had a South Beach feel where umbrellas and lounge chairs were available for rental.
From here we drove south to Trinidad and La Boca and stayed in an Air BnB with Elsa our host for the next two days. She was amazing and recommended a beach a few miles down the La Boca strip called "Playa Ancon". This beach was remarkable and had snorkeling 200 yards out, beautiful rocks in the water, a sunset to die for and a natural pool lake right in the beach at this other hotel/restaurant called "Club Amigo". Looked like a nice spot to stay, but we just trespassed on their beach instead :)
The following afternoon we trucked up the mountain to go hiking in the park just west of the city to "Sendero Vegas Grande" of which we mapped out a trail to a waterfall of which you could swim, snorkel and dive a bit. Not much to see underwater but refreshing cool fresh water and a waterfall just among a shallow cave was a nice change of scenery from the dry roads. We also encountered other tourists on this hike since it deemed to be a popular spot. We met people from New Zealand, Seattle Washington and Portland Oregon.
On the way down the mountain we picked up 2 girls that were hitchhiking for a ride back to the base of the mountain where they were staying in the city of Trinidad. They were from Norway and had some interesting insight as their experience and travels were largely based on arranging cars and taxis of which they had to bargain with each time for the best price in rides. We were glad to have the car rental which gave us the freedom to stop and go, explore and change plans at a moments notice. Not to mention we were able to see many towns both large and small, even if it was just to drive through and see all styles of living.
Just before we left the city of Trinidad, we filled up on gas and also had to fill our back passenger side tire with air for the second time. We discovered there was a small hole in the tire and this gas station on the outskirts of the city was luckily full serve and charged us 20 CUC to plug the hole. We were satisfied with this price, didn't feel anyone was getting one over and were grateful to have it filled rather than experiencing a flat on our next drive north to Mantanzas.
Off we went, driving north, first along the southern shoreline then up to Mantanzas, Veradero area. We arrived here late afternoon to meet Gilbert our next Air BnB host. Gilbert was great, recommended some nice restaurants to us and suggested the drive out to the tip of the Veredero peninsula. The night of arrival we dined at his first recommendation, La Regresa. Our entire meal cost about 25 CUC including tip. We had appetizers, entrees and two drinks. The service was amazing. There was also a cute little beach 3 blocks away that was perfect for hanging in the afternoon and exploring the rocks and the waves.
The next day we started with a trip to Cuva Saturno which was a cave near the airport "Juan G. Gomez Aiport". Similar to the waterfall, this was also a popular spot. I would suggest arriving around 8 or 9am. We arrived around 10am of which many tourists joined us shortly after, coming from buses and tour groups. This was super worth the 5 CUC. You could snorkel in this cave, swim around, dive and relax on the upper deck as well. The space also entailed a restaurant, bar and bathrooms which was nice if you wanted to take a break in the shade.
After the caves, we drove down to the end of the Peninsula of which we found a huge marina cull of catamarans, cruise ships, entertainers, fine coffees and restaurants and hotels. This marina was called the "Melia Marina" named after the Melia Hotel Chain. Cayo Libertad was another name for the surrounding neighborhood. It was an interesting encounter and very unexpected, a hidden vaca spot on the edge of town.
On the drive back we also found a look out point on one of our maps, "Maps.me".
Tip # 3 Download the city of which you are traveling on Maps.Me because even though we had no cell service or internet, the GPS apps and maps still worked. You can route out a trip in Maps.Me. On google maps you could follow your GPS location but could not map out a route. This was still a super life saver, as there were very few street signs in most of the city until you got to Habana.
On Maps.Me we used the "lookout" binoculars symbol to find some amazing viewpoints. The one we found in Veradero ended up to be located on this golf course, where there was a beautiful beach for miles of aqua water, looked as though several hotels were based here to the east end of the beach and more kite surfing was available.
After Veradero we drove on to our next city of Havana AKA Habana. We found an additional lookout point about 30 minutes west of Mantanzas where there was live music, restaurant, ice cream, views for miles over the mountain tops and pinacolodas in real pineapples for 5 CUC.
Tip #4 Bring your own toilet paper and purel everywhere. Most restrooms do not have toilet paper, or have an attendant with paper outside the restrooms where you could purchase paper for a tip. Running water, soap and flushing toilets are hit or miss, so always be prepared!
We arrived in Habana late afternoon of Easter Sunday. Beautiful drive on the northern coast. We had about $1 or 1 CUC to our name when we arrived and unfortunately with the banks closed on Sunday we had a hard time exchanging some moeny to then get some food and supplies for our next Air BnB. Luckily we started trying the hotels and a big hotel in the main plaza was where one gentlemen hooked us up with $200 of change. We walked the streets of Habana Vieja, and found a boulevard of craft vendors, kids activities and artists selling their work. This was a great way to really see the city, by walking and seeing the fantastic Cuban art. We walked Melecon Ave on the waterfront area as well until we met our Air BnB host around 4pm.
The city was culturally very interesting with something different on every corner. Many streets were built up and had tourism attractions, museums and shops. A few neighborhoods were more isolated and worn down. Several avenues had no electricity, or proper plumbing. We did visit Ernest Hemingway's apartment where he did a lot of his writing. Although we did notice that there was a separate house of which was a full homestead museum just outside the city about 40 minutes and this was his solo apartment he would use to focus and write away from any interruptions. it was neat because it was located on the 4th floor of a pristine hotel where we paid 2 CUC for a private tour. On the main floor a pianist played some classic tunes whilst being accompanied by a flute player. It was super relaxing to sit in the lobby with an espresso and listen.
The last night we ate delicious chinese food in Chinatown at "Tien Tan". Serenading us we had a musicion-guitarist with amazing vocals. It was a fantastic and festive way to end the trip with a savory spice our last night. We highly reccomend. it is located on Chinatown in Habana on "Zanja Ave". There is a small side street for pedestrians only where the lights are red and gold, and it is a quaint street with restaurants.
For more picutres and videos of our trip click the link below, or email me for any questions or advice on your upcoming trip!! We are happy to share our experience with others!