Varadero – As it says on the box

It was a really interesting 2-hour (CUC50 – NZD60) taxi ride from Playa Larga to the northern beach resort of Varadero.  Our ride was an old American classic and we cruised through small town Cuba, which was a real eye opener.  The further we are from “civilization” the more basic life becomes.

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Varadero is Cuba’s premier beach resort and caters for Europeans on package holidays.  It is also the home of Cuba’s best beach.  The iridescent waters of the Atlantic are certainly beautiful, coupled with its perfect temperature and shallow water it’s a perfect spot to finish our Cuban adventure.

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The added benefit of Varadero is decent medical care.  We all came down with a virus in Playa Larga.  Trina, Dominic and I self-medicated so we were just ok, but Callum required some medical attention.  We found the medical clinic and waited our turn.  The Doctor quickly saw us and we were ushered into a surgery that reminded me of a M*A*S*H hospital, all done out in a scrubs green.  The equipment was certainly 1970s but clean and the English spoken was perfect and comforting.  Callum was quickly diagnosed as having a reaction to the UV rays – it has been incredibly hot here and was issued with some medication.

There is an open-top bus trip you can do which takes in the entire peninsula so we thought that would be an ideal way to get our bearings.  The advertising highlighting that this trip would leave lasting memories reinforced our decision to hop on board.  The advertising was wrong.  There are no sights in Varadero just old hotels and new hotels and hotels being built.  You couldn’t even see the beach as the hotels dominate the coastline.   The trip went on and on stopping only at hotels to pick up/drop off passengers.  In the blistering heat we were worried that it was never going to end.  The lasting memories are one of being totally pissed off!

Once again, we stayed in a casa, which was again pre-booked for us by our previous hosts.   The casa was located in the “local” side of Varadero and directly across from the beach, however the room was not part of the main house and we had no interaction with the owner at all.  The room was also small and had little windows, not the ideal place to hang out when we all weren’t feeling that well.  We only stayed there for two nights before deciding to check into a hotel for the last two nights.  We managed to find an all-inclusive deal, which offered room, three meals per day and all your drinks (spirits, wine and beer included), for CUC85 (NZD100) per night.  I was also discreetly advised by the bar staff that ladies were also part of the package if required – it truly was “all inclusive”!

The hotel was ok.  Tired and dated but had a great pool and was right on the beach.  The fact that all of us were a bit unwell also didn’t help with our demeanor or with our desire to do much so we just hung around the hotel watching Europeans and Canadians get their moneys worth at the bar and buffet.  The weather also turned against us for the last couple of days which made keeping Callum out of the sun a much easier task.

The 2-hour bus ride back to Havana for our flight out was highlighted by a stop at a rocking roadside bar for Pina Coladas.  It was great to see our bus driver not missing out on the fiesta as he knocked back a refreshing creamy cocktail before getting back behind the wheel – only in Cuba!

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It was a bit of a limp finish to Cuba, which had been up until Playa Larga excellent.  Our time spent in Havana and Vinales was a perfect exposure to Cuba with our choice of casas adding to the experience.  Cuba is now a memory but a great one.  Adios.

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