Going to Cuba as a family has been on my bucket list for a while. I felt the pressure was on to get there before it changes forever. Presuming other avid travellers would feel similar, I was surprised to get on a half empty Havana bound plane. Especially as there is only one direct flight per week! I booked a trip through Cuba Holidays for the three of us, our daughter Esmé is nearly two. We wanted a variety of Cuban experiences and that’s exactly what we got. From the vibrant buzz of Havana to staying in a casa (house) with a local family in the Viñales countryside, we got a good cross section of life in Cuba. So, can I convince you to get it on your bucket list? Viñales
When we arrived in Viñales, a cute little town in north central Cuba, it was like stepping back in time. Locals live in one-story wooden houses and many have a horse and cart out front. Locals open their homes up to tourists as the main source of accommodation in the town. We stayed with Tatty and Renee who were amazing hosts. As with many houses in Viñales, it was equipped with the iconic rocking chairs on the porch to sit and watch the world go by!
Viñales is encircled by mountains and dramatic rock formations; perfect for the adventurous hikers and climbers. It is also known for tobacco growing, the fields look incredible with the mountainous backdrop and Cuban’s trekking through on horses. We went horse riding with a local, which our daughter loved. My partner and I agreed it was the most stunning scenery we had ever seen. Our thoughtful tour guide Yaniel tailored to our needs with a toddler and took us in a classic car stopping at non-touristy tobacco farms and an underground cave! We saw ancient stalactite and stalagmite formations and drifted along in a boat on the underwater river. It was incredibly tranquil and cooling from the hot day above ground. Yaniel can be found online at: discover-vinales.com.
The town has many restaurants with a good standard of food compared to Cuba’s culinary reputation. Many of which are casa paladors (in peoples own homes). Our favourite was El Paradiso, which is an organic farm with incredible views and good quality food. It is advised to book in advance of arriving to avoid disappointment.
Whilst in Viñales we also had a family salsa lesson in the town hall. They specifically assigned us to a teacher who also had a little girl with her. Our daughter was shaking her maracas with the teachers little one whilst we awkwardly stood on each other’s feet and laughed aloud.
The next stop was Varadero, renowned for its pristine white sandy beaches and glorious aqua blue water. Many of the accommodation options are all-inclusive on the beach, one of which is the Iberostar where we stayed. I have always been an ‘all-inclusive snob’. I don’t really feel you get an authentic experience. However, on this occasion my mind was changed with the addition of a toddler. I can see why so many families choose this option due to the endless activities, entertainment and amazing swimming pools! Our little one had so much fun. The entertainment always had a Cuban theme to it so we didn’t feel too far removed. We enjoyed our fair share of cheeky mojito’s whilst soaking up the rays and relaxing.
The last and final stop was in the colourful and vibrant Havana! The crumbly paint on old buildings with intricately detailed windows and classic cars are a photographer’s wonderland. Live salsa music can be heard everywhere. Locals can be seen spontaneously dancing on the street; our daughter had no problem getting involved! In Havana, we stayed in the Iberostar, which has the most amazing roof top pool. The views over the city are spectacular. We definitely needed the pool to escape the dense heat of the city. Not to mention our little one would spend the whole day in the pool if we let her!
With a female majority in our family, we were compelled to hire a tour-guide with a pink classic convertible to whip us around the sites of Havana. Making stops at places such as Revolution Square and the National Hotel we brushed up on our Cuban history. We took a trip for two hours to ensure it wasn’t too long for our busy toddler. However, she was quite reluctant to get out of the pink car at the end of the trip!
We availed of the hotels babysitting service on the last evening. We strolled along the popular pedestrian only Obispo Street. We listened to amazing live music coming from every restaurant and watched professional salsa dancer’s show off their moves whilst sipping on rum-based cocktails. It was a perfect finish to a perfect trip.
When travelling around Cuba with a young family, I feel it is best to go by private transfer for both comfort and reliability reasons. Unless of course, you want to hitch-hike. Apparently it is mandatory for vehicles to pick up hitchhikers if there is space!
Top tips for parents:
- Bring as many baby supplies as possible. Nappies and branded products are not easy to find. This also includes sun cream. However if you do run into trouble there is baby shop in the Savillas Hotel in Havana.
- Pre-arrange your visas.
- Ensure to bring proof of your travel insurance.
- Bring plenty of the local currency
A friend of mine wrote an amazing guide to Cuba, albeit aimed at couples rather than families it is still an amazing read with some great tips that you may be interest you.
Thank you to the amazing Cuba Holidays for having us as their guests.