LOTS HAPPENING IN CUBA
LOTS HAPPENING IN CUBA
Have you noticed everyone wants to know about Cuba these days? What is happening people ask? In a word: Lots! American Airlines are taking reservations for flights from Miami to Havana at a discount even though the approvals from the Cuban Government haven’t come through yet. The restricted round-trip economy fare from MIA to Cienfuegos is $285.16. It will serve as American’s inaugural commercial flight to Cuba.
Customers can book the new Cuba flights just the way they would any regularly scheduled flight, but travellers are asked to confirm that they fall into one of 12 categories approved for Cuba travel by the US government, for example humanitarian, family and people-to-people visits designed to encourage meaningful exchanges with the Cuban people. Other types of travel, like beach vacations, are out.
Who is going to monitor this I wonder?
A large “ Four Points by Sheraton” sign makes the Gaviota 5th., Avenue Hotel close to the waterfront, one of two hotels that Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide will manage. Some dates are already sold out.
A Miami bank is offering Master Cards that are now accepted in Cuba.
So yes, there are lots new.
Something new to me was a visit to the province of Pinar Del Rio. I’ve done the Varadero, Havana trips many, many times, and I’ll bet many of your clients have done it too. A lesser-known province is Pinar Del Rio.
It is Cuba’s westernmost province and contains one of Cuba’s three main mountain ranges. These mountains form a landscape of steep sided limestone hills called mogotes and they surround flat fertile valleys. Europeans have discovered it, but most Canadians haven’t explored it yet. This province is magnificent, just ask Eloy Govea director of the Cuba Tourist board based in Toronto. The Vinales Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Eloy was born in Sandino close to the coast, and the gateway to the Guanahacaibes Peninsula, a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. Now he lives in Vinales, when he isn’t in Toronto. Tell your clients to take a day tour, or rent a car and stay a night or two. “ Traffic from Havana is light” said Eloy.
The Prehistoric Mural, one of the largest in the world represents the life of the first inhabitants of the Cuban archipelago. Painting began in March, 1960 and it took Cuban painter Leovigildo Gonzalez four years (and 8 helpers) to finish it.
It is simply mesmerizing…
In fact I took so many pictures, I forgot to take pictures of anything else. It isn’t just to look at -you can climb it as well. They do ask you to wear shoes. Close by and new this year is the Canopy zip line tour. A memorable outdoor activity course available as a one day trip, which includes around 1km of inter-joined treetop ride between no less than eight elevated platforms spanning a vivid and colourful backdrop of tobacco plantations, meadows, virgin forest, limestone hills and the meandering rivers that make this region so fertile and distinguished.
Yes, there are hotels in the area, or your clients might be interested in a B&B experience.
Los Jazmines Hotel gets rave reviews for its views, less for the rooms. It does have a nice pool. Guests suggest trying the local paladars, (restaurants in private homes).
“This is tobacco country, the best in the world.” Says Eloy. The Vinales Valley is completely surrounded by mountains. These mogotes, that look like sugar loaves are like stone guards keeping watch over the corn and tobacco fields. Add the royal palm trees, and the red earth and your clients will be happy their camera is digital and that you sent them.
The southern part of the province is tobacco country and harvested in the old traditional ways. Ecco tourism is outstanding here. And of course there’s horseback riding, birding, and cockfighting. Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas is the largest network of caves in Cuba and Latin America.
Two and a half hours from Vinales is Maria La Gorda. This destination is famous for snorkelling and a diver’s paradise. The water in the Bahia de Corrientes is usually calm and clear, with excellent visibility, and impressive reef wall, spectacular corals and sponges, canyons and swim through, with plenty of tropical fish. It is considered to be the best diving on the main island. You almost need a rental car, as buses will only go if there is a certain number of passengers. This area is isolated so your clients who want “ things to do” beside sun and snorkelling or diving would be wise to pass.
The northern coast opens to the Gulf of Mexico and is lined by the Colorados Archipelago, a string of cays and isles developed on a reef barrier. This 30 kilometer of white sand beach, and 40 hectares of land called Punta Colorada and Marina will be a joint venture with a golf course, marina, and hotels, stables, spas, cabarets and residences.
Yes, indeed there is lots new but the friendly Cubans we Canadians love so much are still as friendly as ever.