Cuba, the island of a thousand colors!
The natural colors of this island contrast with those of vintage cars. Around every corner, there always seems to be another color that we hadn't thought of yet... And as for the color of seawater, it's simply a shade of blue that the Cubans invented and only exists here!
But let's do it in small steps, finally Cuba! Located just over 140 kilometers south of Florida, it is the largest island in the Caribbean that I love so much! Located at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, visiting it was a unique experience. It's like stepping into a time machine and finding testimonies of a past that still remains in the present! Strange? I will show with pictures what words cannot.
The flight this time was by Orbest from Lisbon to Varadero. The 9 hours or so of travel were smooth. As we arrived at night, we saw the lights of Miami and Key West, which almost touched Cuba. Upon arrival, I felt the humid heat so characteristic of the Caribbean.
At the airport in Varadero, the girls from the border service take individual pictures of everyone who arrives in the country. At first, I found it strange, but then I began to understand that this was indeed a very different country than what I was used to. Nothing serious, let's take the photo and enter Cuba.
The hotel chosen was the Meliã Marina in Varadero. Located at the end of the peninsula it's just amazing. Good facilities, well located and with a view from the rooms...
The hotel blames a little the fact that we are in Cuba, but for me the criticisms I had read on the web are unfair. Here are some photos of the Level rooms where we stayed.
At the marina, the sunset was always worth enjoying.
As usual, I didn't spend much time in the room, but when I visited it, I couldn't get enough of the landscape, at any time...
At the tip of the peninsula, the atmosphere was very pleasant.
In the background, on the right, the entrance to the bedroom, and on the left, the bathroom. Between the window and the sink was a bathtub...
This was the view from my room.... the marina below and Varadero beach in the background.
The hotel is relatively new and, considering Cuban standards, it is excellent. It would be unfair of me to rank it on the same level as other hotels I've visited, but the Meliã Marina in Varadero will always be my choice if I ever return.
One afternoon we went to watch the sunset on the roof with a cocktail at the invitation of the hotel's management, which allowed us to meet and congratulate Director Francisco Farinha, for the excellent work that we were able to witness during our stay.
But if there are moments that I appreciate in the Caribbean, they are the sunrises. Here in Varadero, it is particularly beautiful and that is why I leave you with some photos that I took on different days and in different places.
The swimming pool, although I had only taken 3 or 4 dips, was always clean and the water had a very pleasant temperature. On the weekend it was full of Cubans and it felt like we were in another hotel...
On the beach, we can enjoy some beautiful walks and take some beautiful pictures... sailor style...
Varadero, like other places in the Caribbean, has a generally calm sea and warm water with very fine sand that delights tourists.
At Meliã Marina in Varadero, we can enjoy magnificently themed dinners, with this night view.... as a friend of mine says: "there are better lives than this one, but this one isn't bad at all..." LOL
The LEVEL restaurant is at the top in the center. The play of lights at night is very pleasant, creating an atmosphere unique.
Every night on the ground floor there was nightly entertainment with people performing and dancing.
In terms of the buffet, it is true that there are other places in the Caribbean with more variety, but what the hotel offers is more than enough for a one week stay. It only gets more complicated when the weekend comes and Cubans fill the bars and restaurants.
As long as this gentleman is in charge of this hotel, it is a guarantee of quality. Congratulations!!
Varadero - One of the most touristic areas in Cuba
A few years ago, Cubans themselves were prevented from entering this peninsula, this being a place practically exclusively for tourists (of course, all those who were native to Varadero or worked in tourism were also allowed to enter, but they were a minority). For that reason, I realized that Varadero is not Cuba, although the small town deserves a visit for its "mercaditos" and for the "parade" of vintage cars that make us travel to the past!
Havana, ooh na-na!
On the way to Havana
Whoever visits Cuba for the first time either sleeps in Havana or stays in Varadero and visits Havana (this was my case).
There are countries I've visited more than once but I still don't know the capital, but here that would be unforgivable.
As usual, while still in Portugal, "we did our homework" and agreed on a trip to Havana in a classic. The contact for anyone interested: Cubaguia!
On the agreed day, after a nice breakfast, the car that would take us to Havana was waiting for us in the hotel lobby...
This was the machine I was talking about. More precisely a 1962 Chrysler Newport... With a Mitsubishi truck engine...
This car belonged to the Canadian Embassy but is now used for tourist tours. Very comfortable, with radio (with a pen) and air conditioning because it's always very useful around here.
The road between Varadero and Havana.
Going down to Matanzas.
Puente de Bacunayagua
It is a true work of art!
It has a total length of more than 313.5 meters, a height of 103.5 meters above sea level, and is considered one of the seven wonders of Cuban civil engineering.
This is a very touristy place where it is "mandatory" to stop and enjoy the views. They say that around here they drink the best piña colada in Cuba...
Here with Boris and Osman, our guides in the Cuban capital!
Without them, the visit would not have the same quality. Great details!
Walking through the interior of Havana makes us understand that sometimes things are not quite as we hear in the news in our country... We always get used to hearing that the Cuban health system is quite advanced... however the pharmacies that we found in Havana had half a dozen medicines and the shelves were almost empty, and from what they told us, there is a significant lack of hygiene and equipment in the hospitals.
Cristo Redentor de La Habana - With panoramic views of the city
The construction of the Bacardi building ended in 1930 and culminated in the transfer of the famous company's administrative part to this location. After the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro's communist regime confiscated the Bacardi family's businesses and they were then forced to seek exile in Puerto Rico.
One of Ernest Hemingway's favorite places in Havana, where the famous American writer sought inspiration, opened in 1817 and is famous for its Daiquiris. I am referring to Floridita, which owes its name to the large number of tourists from Florida who visited it. This is an emblematic place with a lot of "life" that is worth visiting.
The contrast of an Adidas store with the poverty along the street... details.
This is an area of the city by the sea where people usually get together to socialize. I was unlucky because of the fact that it had rained a lot before visiting the Malecon, even so, I could feel and imagine that walkway full of Cubans relaxing and strolling at the end of a hard day at work! A very interesting place.
Before arriving in Cuba, I was told many times that this was a different country because of the communist regime and the embargo. I confess that, despite this, I never imagined that seeing those old cars driving along the Cuban roads and seeing posters advertising the regime would affect me so much. Seeing those classics whenever I left the hotel made me feel like I was in the past and seeing the advertising posters made me think that in fact there are places in the world that work in a completely different way than what we are used to...
In addition to Havana, we also decided to visit the Matanzas area. We started by visiting a farm, but what fascinated me the most was seeing the daily lives of those people and the reality of this country. Here are some photos so you can understand a little better how that city and the "villages" around it work.
Playa Coral is located halfway between Varadero and Matanzas, it has a coral reef of about 2 kilometers where we can find more than 500 species of fish of all sizes and colors and with 30 different types of corals. Even close to the coast, you can already see a large amount of fish but for those who feel more comfortable, the ideal and most recommended thing is to swim a little further out.
Puente Antonio Guiteras
Puente Antonio Guiteras is located on the Canímar River, one of the largest that flows into Bahia de Matanzas. It runs between mountains and offers a virgin landscape where the colors and sounds transport us to a paradisiacal environment. From its banks, we can see children climbing the mangroves to dive in the warm waters.
I had the opportunity to go up the river in a boat, a spectacular experience.
Cueva Saturno is located on the road that leads to Varadero Airport, so it is easily accessible from any point in the province of Matanzas. It reminds me of the cenotes in Mexico because the water is totally crystalline.
Cuba is indeed a special place, where people reciprocate with simplicity and friendliness and it's easy to find a smile in any corner.
The Return, already wanting to return to Cuba.
As a final shot, Cuba for me deserves a visit with a different perspective from other Caribbean islands. Its political situation conditions its natural development, which on the one hand makes it attractive for tourists, but makes life difficult for most locals.
I will certainly come back because I loved this trip and I had the feeling that there is much more to Cuba to discover than what I visited.
Hasta Siempre dear Cuba!