3 independent reviews for Cuba homestay vacation

These full and frank independent reviews are from travelers who have booked directly through Responsible Travel. They are not edited by us or any of the companies we work with. Find the real story, from real travelers below.


review 1 Jan 2017

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Sleeping in the cabanaos at Banos del Rio San Juan and having the river entirely to ourselves for a morning swim. Having our hire car fixed at the roadside by some very friendly locals when we broke down some way off the tourist track. The driving and travel days became as much a part of the vacation as the tours and casas, I'm so glad we opted for self drive.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Definitely stay in Casa particulares; each is individual and the owners are friendly, helpful, offer lots of local knowledge and provide an insight into Cuban life that you smply won't get in a hotel. Try and learn at least a few Spanish phrases before you go, it will be really useful to you and much appreciated by others. If self driving (which we thoroughly recommend), take a compass, snacks and do consider buying a good road map before you travel!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Certainly our accomodation and meal choices directed our money to local people. Many tourist areas seem to be managed with an eye on conservation, Las Terrazas is an obvious example but huge areas are designated as national parks and bio reserves. Whilst it would have been more environmentaly friendly to travel by bus, self drive hire cars are modern and consume less fuel than the local traffic and are better then opting for private transfer where each journey is twice the distance by the time the driver gets home. One concern is the massive boom in unregulated, non-approved, construction work in many towns as the tourism regulations are relaxed and the impact this will have on landscape, pollution, waste and already overstretched public services in future.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Wonderful. It was an adventure rather than a vacation, which was great for us. Had an amazing time and wish we'd been able to stay for longer. Our tour operator were really helpful with plenty of local knowledge and good advice. Their service from first enquiry to arrival home was faultless (we even got a call the day before our flight to check we had everything we needed!) and they were extremely flexible, allowing us to organise the itinerary exactly as we wanted, chop and change tours, collect and drop off our car at different locations and take extra days where we wanted them. Really helped us make the most of our time away. Wouldn't hesitate to use them again.

review 21 Mar 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Hard to pick! Hopping in a Coco taxi in Havana? Playing on stage with a band in Trinidad? Zooming down highways on a rented scooter? Haggling for tomatoes in the market in Cienfuegos? Dancing to reggaton in the Government-run CD shop with the assistants? Meeting a tree rat? Having a coffee with an 82-year old tobacco farmer in his farm?

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Go as soon as you can! Havana's really busy and vibrant - try to spend as much time as you can way from the big squares which are increasingly filling with cruise ship parties. There's loads to see and do in the rest of the city. You probably only need one night in Las Terazzas, or do it as a day trip from Havana. It is a beautiful and interesting concept, but it's pretty small and there's not loads to see. Varadero and escaping to the beach at the end of the trip seems like a nice idea, but all the mega-tourism is a bit of a shock after spending so much time locally with real people - I would probably have swapped it for more time in Trinidad. Trinidad, Cienfuegos, VInales and Havana are all amazing. Trinidad probably comes as close as you can to the stereotypical Cuba - music everywhere in a beautiful French-colonial cobbled setting. Don't even think about spending time in a hotel - casa owners will make you breakfast and take care of you, and become little bit like you local consultants on the town - just tell them what you want to do while you're there, and it will happen exactly like you want it - and then some!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Definitely, all three. By staying with Casas and even using taxis you are putting money into the hands of local people, who almost always reinvest it in the community around them.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

I can't recommend this trip enough. We booked accommodation and transfers with a UK based operator, and absolutely everything they were involved with was perfect. The accommodation they had chosen was fantastic. Always safe, clean, and run by incredibly passionate people who were incredibly keen to ensure that we had a fantastic time. The transfers were always on time (in a country where that's in fact quite rare!) and our drivers were incredibly interesting to talk to about Cuba and their lives more generally. Cuba's not quite what we'd expected - it's not all mojitos and cigars, guys - but it's even better because of it

review 11 Mar 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Time in Havana was fantastic, the city is so vibrant and full of music on every corner. Another high point was going to the city/town of Trinidad which is amazing. The homestays or 'Casas' were really good without exception and the owners really chatty and welcoming ...it all worked including the taxis taking us between locations which all arrived on time with great drivers.Also contrary to all the info the food especially in Havana and Trinidad was great

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Think about whether you want to stay in the all inclusive resort at the end of your schedule. This was a disappointment after such a wonderful taste of Cuba...it is an international western first world idea of a place and is absolutely huge with thousands of people staying...not really what we had planned and not really much to do with Cuba either. Cant say I objected to the easily available cocktails though...just avoid the dinning room as its like a school canteen with a scrum at the servery

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Everything except the all inclusive resort was connected to local people and we especially enjoyed the horse riding in Vinales and bike tour in Trinidad. It also seems really important to pay tips as everyone is on really low wages and then the money goes directly to local people. Cant say too much about the resort as it was totally artificial and ruined a good beach, non stop canned music though it did give lots of employment to locals I guess and was very clean and ell run...if you like that sort of thing

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Really good..... take more time than 2 weeks as there are loads of places to see and also really well organised by the operator. I will definitely book with them again

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you so much for your wonderful review, we are really pleased you enjoyed the meaningful travel experiences we offer, the Casa's and their owners are certainly firm favourites with our travelers. It is very difficult to offer a beach stay in Cuba that isn't the all inclusive hotel you describe particularly on the quieter more remote beaches and we do try very hard to manage peoples expectation of this part of the trip, your comments are extremely helpful and constructive for us and for our future customers.

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Unedited reviews from other travelers

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
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