Sally

Cuba was a nice place to get away from being connected all the time - Jan 16 - Jan 20, 2020

Traveler: Sally P. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

Cuba was a nice place to get away from being connected all the time. The great weather is a huge plus.

Usually, I personally prefer mid-budget, backpacking style trips, but I was with family and saw that Cuba is easier to see with a guide, so I opted for a guided tour. For my first time in Cuba, I wanted to see a little bit of everything, so I asked for an itinerary which included Havana, Viñales, and the beach. This itinerary is a very common one, and the price appears to be similar to tour packages I found on other sites. Since it is a private guided tour with taxi for the whole stay, it is pricey. There was a mix up with the prices (I received the wrong pricing), and my trip was almost canceled last minute, but Kate from KimKim reached out to me and we resolved the issue.

In Cuba, Darián, who was our guide for Havana and was with us for the early part of Viñales, was very professional and knowledgeable. He used to be a professor so his history and ecology knowledge was immense. If we had any questions, he was very helpful, and went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable at all times. The driver we had was also very skillful, always on time and prompt, and always had water for us in his car which was great. He also took us to a beach for the last day. Beach was beautiful and mostly locals only. The guide at Viñales was great. I recommend the walking tour over the horseback riding tour if you only have a day as you get to see more in detail, have a chance to climb up a steep mountain and walk through a cave as well. Bring some cash as you stop by a farm on this tour which sells homemade cigars and coffee.

The casa particular we stayed at was a bit far from Old Havana, but walkable to the Hotel Nacional and the Malecón, near a popular restaurant and a park with wifi (very spotty/poor), and was very clean. There were two bathrooms (with new towels provided upon request), and the breakfast prepared every morning was very filling and excellent. Also, we asked about beach towels, and they went above and beyond by providing sunscreen as well (we were actually running pretty low). The beds were mostly okay, nothing outstanding, but we were usually tired after a long day, and slept fine. Next time would probably prefer to stay closer to Old Havana.

Overall, the days were packed and busy. We got to see a lot in a short time. I would say this is good for anyone looking to get a taste of Cuba. Definitely would've liked a tad more time in each place we went. I appreciated that we were not really taken to shops (unless we wanted to go) since on other tour packages, I always feel pressured to buy something. The old car tour was just okay, tad disappointing. The places we went in the car tour were not very interesting, and we definitely weren't prepared for it - bring sunglasses and maybe hair tie. I think driving even a short while along the Malecón would've been nicer, and getting some pictures taken with a better background. Plan to come back, but it will be more leisurely paced and hopefully, a longer trip.

Side note: I had baggage issues where Air France/Delta lost my baggage, and Karin and Darián did their best to keep me updated on the bags. I am very grateful for their part in this as the lack of internet access had made me very worried. Unfortunately, I never got those bags until more than a month later, but that is the airlines' fault 100%.

Karin Eckhard profile photo
Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Sally, thank you for taking the time to write a review especially after so much time has passed, one year in fact. And thanks for sharing your photos! I was pleased to read that you and your family had a good time and were able to sample a bit of Cuba in a short time. There is certainly a lot to see in Cuba and a longer more leisurely pace is ideal.

I wanted to respond to your comment about the location of the casa particular in Havana. The casa you stayed in is located in... read more

Hi Sally, thank you for taking the time to write a review especially after so much time has passed, one year in fact. And thanks for sharing your photos! I was pleased to read that you and your family had a good time and were able to sample a bit of Cuba in a short time. There is certainly a lot to see in Cuba and a longer more leisurely pace is ideal.

I wanted to respond to your comment about the location of the casa particular in Havana. The casa you stayed in is located in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana rather than Old Havana and there is a reason for it. Old Havana is lovely with its cobbled streets and historic buildings but it's filled with tourists, not Cubans, other than those working in the bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Vedado is a real Cuban neighborhood and the place to be if really want to get to know Cuban life. In addition, it is a more modern and affluent neighborhood, but it is still packed with bars, restaurants, music venues and, best of all, regular Cubans. There are hundreds of fun things to do in Vedado. Old Havana is a short 10-minute ride ($3) from Vedado. I understand that you would have preferred to be in Old Havana but I wanted to give a quick explanation as to why we use a particular location in Havana.

In regards to the classic car ride, you should have definitely been driven down the Malecón! That is the point of the ride. If this was not done, my apologies as it should have been. If you had mentioned it to Darián at the time, I am sure he could have rectified it.

A quick mention about shops, our guides never bring travelers to shops unless asked as you have mentioned. While the trip is booked as a package (i.e. organized), all our trips are customized to each traveler so activities are not part of any type of ¨tour group¨.

It was a pleasure helping you create and plan your family trip to Cuba. :-)