Some folks hate it, some love it. You can’t be stuck on a resort and assume you’ve seen it all. You haven’t!
Cuba is an amazing country once you venture out of your comfort zone. The people, the simple food, the atmosphere, the music, the culture, its all so simple! Yet some Cuban’s strive to survive as jobs are subsidized by the government. If you’ve been to Cuba and all you have done is stay in a resort, laying on the beach like washed up driftwood sipping drinks out of bubba mugs, then you my friend are a typical stereotype. If that’s what you like, by all means enjoy, but I’ve heard from way too many people that they think Cuba is boring. What else would you except if you cant venture out?
I’ve been to Cuba four times now, and each time was in Varadero, the main tourist area filled with All Inclusive resorts. For the first timer, this is the place to go, it’s a good introduction to the country. March to May is the time snowbirds flock to Cuba, its only 3 hours away and its relatively cheap. You land in Matanzas and take a tourist bus, usually one through your package provider (Sunwing, AirCanada, Transat etc) and then take about a 45 minute ride to Varadero.
Varadero is situated in Hicacos and there is only one way in, and one way out if driving. Some things you will notice is how clean the roads are, the old cars, the resorts and new resorts being constructed. Seems like there is always something new being built. But this post is not much about the resorts but about what I think of Cuba and the people.
Havana is roughly 2-2.5 hours away from Varadero. I’ve always recommended to friends who go for the first time to try and get an older classic car with a driver. It is well worth the experience. The ride may be a bit hard since these cars are from the fifties-sixties era, heavy and are like tanks. Cubans take pride in their classic cars, although you may see some type of frankensteined surprises, like a VW engine in a Lada! The drive at times hugs the coast and passes through smaller towns such as Santa Cruz del Norte, Guanabo. The main highway to Havana is Via Blanca.
A stop for all tourists is at Puente de Bacunayagua, about 70km from Varadero past Matanzas and known for their Pina Coladas. It’s very refreshing especially on a hot day! And for extra taste, get it with Havana Club 7 Ans.
Cuba is rich in Oil and as such Oil wells can be seen off of the highway in certain areas. Foreign countries Like China, Japan, Italy and even Canada have partnered and invested in Cuba to extract oil. Pipelines can be seen hugging the roads as to move the oil to the refineries.
As you come to the small town of Santa Cruz del Norte, you can see the main Havana Club factory. Havana Club is one of the more popular Cuban Rums, but a couple others to note is Ron Cubay & Santiago de Cuba – which are both great for Mojitos as well!