Varadero Journals

A week in a Communist Land

Best of IgoUgo

A November 2001 trip to Varadero by kiminhalifax

Oooh!! Barracuda!! Photo, Varadero, Cuba More Photos
Quote: One week in Cuba was enough - but the weather and beaches were incredible!!!

A week in a Communist Land

Overview

Quote:
A trip to Havana is a MUST!! If you don't see Havana, you don't see Cuba (in my humble opinion).

Quick Tips:

Tips = Service, even if you're staying at an ultra-all-inclusive resort that prohibits tipping!!!

You can see more photos at http://www.pbase.com/kiml/varadero_cuba__dry_land

Best Way To Get Around:

Within Varadero resort area - taxi
In Havana - walk

Varadero Beaches

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Beaches Varadero"

Quote:
The hotel is nice to look at, but the service is not what I expected from a resort run by the Sandals people. Service was just not there unless you tipped beforehand. I am not used to this concept - tipping is for a job well done, not to get you to do a good job. Besides this, the Beaches website ( Beaches) states that tipping is strictly prohibited at their properties. Surprise!@!@! The maid service is OK, but one day my bed was not made, toilet paper was scarce, and the floor was always sandy (even though I couldn''t see the beach from my room). I would say that if you are going, spend the extra $ and get a concierge suite...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on December 18, 2001

Varadero Beaches
Varadero
Varadero, Cuba

Quote:
OK - the US has a trade embargo with Cuba. This is a huge problem. The country is not exactly rich agricultural land. All imports must come from Mexico, Canada, other Carribean countries and Europe -- a long way away!! Food is limited. Things we buy at home for $1 is $5 in grocery stores (and only available at the tourist stores!!). Besides that, Cubans do not know what a spice is. The food is bland. They overcook every meat, except chicken (which they undercook and leave pink). You cannot tell that the food used to have legs!! Vegetables are OK - squash/pumpkin is quite tasty, potatoes are good. But they have a knack for dressing up normal veg...Read More

Member Rating 1 out of 5 on December 18, 2001

Market

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Varadero City market"

Market Photo, Varadero, Cuba
Quote:
Wooden sculptures, leather belts ($4), leather purses ($15), pottery, paintings -- all at unbelievably low prices. The market in Varadero is a smaller version of the one in Havana. All stalls are run by the craftspeople. One of my "finds" was a painting by a diminutive man - afflicted with a disability (perhaps polio at a young age). When I asked how much for the canvas, I was told $6US. Well, not only could I not bring myself to bargaining with him, I bought another and gave him a tip of soap, gum, and a baseball. The look on his face was incredible - especially for the gum!! You can bargain with stall owners in the markets, but government stores are off-limits for bar...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 18, 2001

Market
Varadero
Varadero, Cuba

Havana Day Trip

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Day trip to Havana (pt1)"

Havana Day Trip Photo, Varadero, Cuba
Quote:
We leave the resort at 8am and drive for 2 hours to Havana. The sights on the way are saddening. The poverty is overwhelming – just remember, no matter how hard these people choose to work, they will never have more money, they will never have a better life. The small houses have running water and electricity, but that’s about it. The houses are crumbling, the cars (the families lucky enough to have a car) are rusting and from the 50s, the people’s clothing is old and stained. We start off with a 3 hour walking tour of many famous squares in Old Havana. The sights are amazing. A lot of buildings are being reconstructed to bring them back to original condition. They look nice, but yo...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 18, 2001

Havana Day Trip
Havana
Varadero, Cuba

Havana Day Trip

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Day trip to Havana (pt2)"

Havana Day Trip Photo, Varadero, Cuba
Quote:
Then it’s off to lunch – undercooked chicken anyone? The restaurant is right next to the "Floridita" – Hemingway’s favorite bar & birthplace of the daiquiri, so we go inside to gawk. Very classy place, you can get a $6US drink here, where the average monthly wage is $40US. We stop at the "flea market" for some shopping. I have brought along a few t-shirts, bars of soap, and gum, so I bargain myself free mugs and musical instruments!! I also purchase a wall hanging and pottery piece. We continue on – this time driving through Havana – see the art deco buildings (are you sure we’re not in Miami?), see the water, see how the salt water spray has eaten away at the art d...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 18, 2001

Havana Day Trip
Havana
Varadero, Cuba

Diving after Hurricane Michelle

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Oooh!! Barracuda!! Photo, Varadero, Cuba
Quote:
Mediocre is the best word I can think of to describe the diving I experienced. We must keep in mind that I was there only three weeks after Hurricane Michelle hit -- and it showed. The reef is damaged greatly – dead and broken coral is lying all over the bottom. There are not too many fish; did the hurricane claim them as well? I managed to get three dives in while I was staying at the resort: - the first and third dives were at Claraboyas Reef. The first day I was upset that I wasted my time. Visibility was limited to about 15 feet. The water was rough, and the damage from the hurricane was more than obvious - dead coral everywhere. Ou...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on December 18, 2001

The Beach Photo, Varadero, Cuba
Quote:
Saturday, November 24, 2001 4am – alarm goes off. Why am I going to Cuba? By 5am I on the way to the airport for the 6:10am flight to Toronto. At the airport, every second piece of carry-on is hand-searched. It doesn’t even go through the x-ray machine. Therefore, it takes 20 minutes to pass through security. The flight to Toronto is 25 minutes late landing. The couple next to me are on a flight to Bermuda (poor souls) that is leaving 15 minutes after we land in Toronto – good luck!! I have 2½ hours, so there’s lots of time to relax. Finally the flight to Varadero leaves and we are on our way. The sky is clear, so the pilot takes it upon himself t...Read More
Quote:
Tuesday, November 27, 2001 I am supposed to dive today, but it is cancelled due to rough weather – it is rough off shore, but as calm as a mirror at shore. Within two hours, we see the storm moving past the island – you can literally see the line where the storm starts and ends. Since it seems as if rain will visit, Anne Marie and I head into Varadero to the flea market. We spend a couple of hours looking at artwork, leather belts, shoes, toys, and musical instruments. The prices are practically free. Bargaining is accepted at the flea market. When I decide on a painting, I ask the man how much he wants for it. I expect to hear $20-30, but when the little man, who needs a crut...Read More