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Cuba Vacation - Holguin
For those of us that are economic vacationeers, Cuba is a little taste of paradise that doesn't take a big bite our of your wallet. More specifically the south eastern part of the island near a city named Holguin.
Holguin is also the name of the province which has the third largest land mass in Cuba at 9300 km2 and a population of over one million. Holguin is located in the Eastern part of the island on the Atlantic side geographically south of Cayo Largo making it extremely warm over the winter season. The province is also rich with history and tradition making it one of Cuba's top tourist destinations. Much of the tourism and scuba diving is located in Guardalavaca which is about 45minutes north east of the city Holguin.
Do you prefer to book your vacation "in Person" or "online" ?
Pick you Resort Wisely
Its sad to say , but travel agents are a dying breed which is such a shame because I would have loved to be one. Nowadays most people take to the internet to find the best deals and reviews. This shift in travel planning has its ups and downs. For example some people are very leery about making payments over the internet though this has become much more secure of the years. On the other hand there are now so many first hand accounts and reviews of locations it makes it easy to find exactly what you want out of a resort. This has also cause the resorts to step up their game cause a bad review online can cost them big bucks. I am going to talk about the company I book with because I had a great experience both online and with their customer service representative over the phone.
- "Always ask the agent if they can give you a better price. There is always some degree of bargaining that can be done while on the phone. Weather its 5% off or and upgrade to a better room, if you don't ask you wont get it."
Now just so we are clear, I'm not getting any kickbacks by talking about this company, nor did they approach me to write for them, I honestly just had a great experience dealing with them and only think its right to return the favour by recommending them. I am also sure that if you scour the internet you will find some bad reviews about them. I think there are many factors that cause either a bad or a good experience when booking a trip and you can increase the chances of it being a good one by doing your due diligence, and know what you want and the right questions to ask.
Itravel2000 constantly has great deals on their website and their customer service was great. Since we were booking a larger party we decided to call in and book instead of doing the online process. Some agencies charge more for this however Itravel did not. We wanted our family to all have rooms on the same flloor/ building which they helped us to procure and were also able to give us some further discount simply just by asking.
Arriving in Cuba
- " When you arrive at the airport don't buy any beer from inside the airport. Just outside but the busses there will be guys selling the same beer up to 50% cheaper! Grab a few cold ones for the ride to the resort.
- "Don't drink to many on the bus because they generally don't have washrooms and its a 2 hour drive"
If you are staying at Playa Costa Verde you will have to fly into Holguin International Airport and a tour bus provided by your resort package will take you to your destination. The guide will try to charm you and provide you with as much information as he can. Make sure you listen to them because they are full of good tips and information on what to see and do while you are out there. The bus ride there is a good chance to see some of the landscape, so if you plan on not leaving the confines of the resort during your trip make sure you take a few glances out the window along the way. The bus will stop at each of the major resorts letting people off at their destinations which does make your trip longer but you get a chance to see some of the other resorts to give you ideas for you next trip.
Playa Costa Verde
Once you arrive at the resort you will have to go to the front desk and check in. Get ready to be handed a cocktail immediately as a welcoming gesture. Make sure you have a copy of your printed receipt. This is extremely important for if you don't have a copy of this they will not admit you to the resort, so they say. I am sure eventually after a lot of arguing and hassle you could figure something out but its just eliminates the entire situation by having a printed copy. Its good to have a bunch of 1$ bills on you to use for tipping, for its common practice to tip the workers for just about any thing they do. The tipping process will start when you take your cart ride to your room.
The main lobby is beautiful with a impressive open concept. There is a large bar here when we spent a lot of time, usually after dinner as well as pool tables and other games. Also if you are planning on booking any out of resort day trips you will do this here at the concession stands near the front. Generally people will do one or two extra activities just be prepared to spend at least $80 a person for your tickets. At night time there are various shows which are free however I was not to keen on them. Some of them were pretty lame. We usually just went to the beach or had a few drinks at the night club. My favourite activity as well as cheapest activity was renting scooters.
Renting Scooters in Cuba
Some think that renting scooters in Cuba is a bad idea however I must agree. As long as you are comfortable with driving motorized two wheeled vehicles there is not to much to worry about. If it your first time ever driving a bike, due to insurance reasons maybe pass on this one. However if you are comfortable with your skills on a bike its a great experience. We were able to talk the guy renting the scooters down to $30 for a half day rental. We toured around the coast zipping through various small towns and went for lunch at Guardalavaca beach. We took a few detours and drove around some banana plantations until we were chased off the property. Its probably a good idea to make sure you don't wonder off onto private property like we did. On a plus side gas is extremely cheap there and it only cost us about 3$ to fill the tank up from what we used.
Our room was big, clean and had a nice sized balcony on it. It was everything we needed, not to fancy but big enough to make the two of us feel comfortable. We spent most of out time out of the room anyways however I do like large rooms for it makes it easier to dry clothing and get ready for evenings out. Each room had a small coffee maker as well as a mini fridge and safe.
Have you rented a Scooter in Cuba Before
- " if you like snorkelling, look for the large scuba diving boats. There is one dive site that is not to far out and you can swim to it. There you will find a large shelf that you can easily free dive down to and explore along side the divers."
To get to the beach you have to take the board walk through the bird sanctuary. its a unique feature of this resort and is really beautiful. Right before you take the board walk you will see a little hut. This is where you get your towel and can book sail boat rentals or snorkel gear. The beach at Playa Costa Verde is simply beautiful spanning for as far as the eye can see. There is one large bar at the main access to the beach that serves alcohol as well as a small bar menu. If you plan on spending the day at the beach its important to go early in the morning and reserve some seats by putting your towels on them. The water there is very warm and clear, great for snorkelling and just relaxing. We had brought a few inflatable floating chairs and would fill up our cups with beer and just float in the ocean for hours!
Snorkelling & Diving
I enjoyed my time snorkelling at Playa Costa Verde even though there was not a lot of live reef to look at. The clear waters and occasional sting ray made it worth it. Also I discovered that if you swim further out then most you will find a lot more ocean life and some pretty neat drop offs. Snorkelling gear is free to rent here just make sure you get your set early in the morning for there is a limited number. As for the diving I did not enjoy it as much however I set my diving standards pretty high since I have been all around the world diving. I dove three different locations all which were riddled with dead reef and a lack of aquatic life. The rugged sea floor was interesting and there was some neat valleys and small tunnels. The price was not to bad, pretty standard for resort diving and the equipment was in good shape. Apparently I was told that the diving on the caribbean side of the island is much better, so if you are looking to do a lot of diving I would recommend checking out resorts on the other side of Cuba.
Taxi to Holguin
Another fun activity to do is to take a tax from the resort to the city of Holguin. It costs about 80$ but the cab can fit 5 people so its pretty cheap when you divi it all up. The driver will take you into town and show you some of the popular attractions then let you out to walk around the down town for 2 hours. After he will pick you up and take you back to your resort. It was cool to drive in such an old car and see the other side of Cuba.
" Remember to keep $25 to pay the airport tax upon departure."
Overall my time at Playa Costa Verde was awesome. For $900 it was well worth it and I recommend anyone looking for a low budget getaway to check out this location, especially if you are the type that just wants to relax on a beautiful beach and drink and eat all week.