17 independent reviews for Cuba homestay vacation
Reviews for Cuba homestay vacation
Justina Frankowska review 2 Feb 2019
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?Driving around Havana in classic car & horse riding in Vinales.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Take with you some snacks and warmer clothes for the evenings. As the internet it's very slow download movies & tv series before your departure to watch in the evenings or when traveling between locations.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?Yes.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?Great two weeks traveling around Cuba. It's definitely enough to see the variety this country is offering.
Shirley Waller review 2 Feb 2019
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?It was all amazing. From the sites smells and sounds of Havana to the tranquil and beautiful beach resort of Caya Levisa. Seeing pygmy owls and fruit bats in a cave, horseback riding to the tobacco fields, the classic car rides and the abundance of music made it all a very worthwhile visit to Cuba.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Go with an open mind there is a huge amount of poverty but the Cubans we met were lovely friendly people. Take cash sterling as ATM exchange is then changed to dollars then to sterling. I was charged £117 on my Halifax credit card for 100 cuc!!! There are shops in Havana but not really elsewhere other than tourist ones.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?Yes I hope it benefited local people but not sure about anything else. The litter everywhere was awful. The tourist areas were better but if you moved off the beaten track and explored a bit the poverty and conditions some people lived in was appalling. Overflowing bins that never seemed to get emptied were a health hazard and the smell indescribable!
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?It was a brilliant vacation and I would recommend it to anyone. The only place we did not like was Las Terazzas, Hotel Mokka. It is a lovely hotel and everyone very friendly but right behind is a dreadful housing area for local people and workers and we felt very uncomfortable looking out at the overcrowded and awful accommodation these people had to live in. We also were distressed by a poor wee monkey on a tiny island in the middle of a pond. We were told her mate died 2 yrs ago and she is isolated there and fed by the locals!
Read the operator's response here:
Hi Shirley, Thank you for your review and lovely words. I am happy to hear that you had a wonderful time in Cuba and that you enjoyed the trip we put together. It really sounds like Cuba has captured you and that you share our fascination and love for this in credible country and all the highlights it has to offer. We do agree that the best way to explore Cuba is with an open mind. Staying in the local casa particulares is certainly a great way to support the local community. Cubs is certainly a country in transition that has to learn how to cater to a Western world. As the environment is as important to us as it is to you, we also wish that their waste management will improve in the future and it's important that we as travelers lead with example and try to leave as less of a footprint as possible. Eco-projects like in Las Terrazas are few and far between in Cuba, so we are happy to support them and the local artist community that lives in the surrounding. Even if it is somewhat counter intuitive we always advise to take as much sterling as will need for your trip in Sterling with you as it can be difficult (and expensive, as you experienced) to try and take cash out. Thank you again, Shirley, we hope to welcome you to your next adventure soon! Warm regards, Jules
Hannah Roberts review 23 Mar 2019
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?I felt closest to Cuba and had my questions answered about what it was like living there on the bicitour of Trinidad. I didn't honestly feel that we got very close to Cubans at all. The 'homestay' element of the vacation was overstated throughout and in Varadero I recommend that you discontinue using the place we stayed in. It was very far out from the center. In no way could it be described as a home - the owner lives in Havana and the room is rented out, you just meet other tourists (this was true throughout in terms of breakfasts). The property standard was of a student hostel and it wasn't cleaned on the first day
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Ask questions about exactly what you will be getting and what the casa is like. The one in Trinidad was nice (loved the courtyard and a good room) and central but really a small hotel. In Cienfuegos we were again a long way from the center so location worth checking. Don't go to Varadero unless you like a resort with nothing to do - we couldn't find anywhere to hire umbrellas from so squatted in an all inclusive beach front. It really wasn't for us and I think we should have been asked more questions about what interested us rather than being sold a pre packaged tour. Also check about access - all of our rooms were up stairs, some up a lot of stairs.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?No
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?I am glad I went to Cuba - it is an interesting place. All the arrangements worked and we got where we should have been although some of the taxi drivers didn't seem to know where they were supposed to take us. We did get changes made to the itinerary and the operator arranged what we asked for but despite doing research, I think they could have responded more when I said we were interested in the politics and social issues. Varadero was never going to work for us. However, I don't think this measured up to the description on the web site or what was sold to me to be honest and I came back feeling disappointed and that this was a lost opportunity as I won't be going back!
Read the operator's response here:
Hi Hannah, Thank you for your review and your feedback over the phone just now. I am happy to hear that you had a great time in Cuba overall, even though it was not fully what you expected. The casa particulares in Cuba are local bed and breakfasts rather than homestays where you spend time with the family and eat with them. In many cases - such as your accommodation in Havana and Trinidad - the owners live in the same building, however, it’s not guaranteed. We do recommend staying in the local bed and breakfasts as your stay will benefit the local people directly, rather than the government run hotels. For travelers that do not fancy staying in the big all-inclusive hotels in Varadero, we therefore suggest a casa in the more quiet part of Varadero town. Whilst the standard of accommodation is generally lower in Cuba, I can only apologise that your room was not cleaned on the first day and I have forwarded your feedback to the casa owners to help them improve in the future. We will also add your advice to our travel documents to bring your own travel sun umbrella when staying in the bed and breakfasts, so you can enjoy the quieter parts of the beach without having to rely on the facilities of the all inclusive resorts. We are sorry to hear that your personalised travel plan did not meet your expectations of what we put together for you and your son. Cuba’s political and social situation is very unique and we try our best to give travelers the chance to connect to the local community to learn more about their lifestyle during the excursions we included for you, e.g. the countryside excursion at the Eco-bisophere Las Terrazas, the bici-taxi tour in Trinidad or the stopover in Santa Clara to visit the Museum of Revolution and the Mausoleum. Again, thank you very much for your feedback, Hannah, which we do take very seriously. Warm regards, Jules Travel Specialist
Richard Patterson review 30 Mar 2018
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?We had an excellent vacation and so it is difficult to pick out was most memorable, but we did particularly enjoy the horse ride and visit to the tobacco fields and our stay on Cayo Levisa. But we also loved Havana and Trinidad.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?We found that arranging to have private car transfers to be very time effective in enabling us to visit so many places in the relatively short time (10 days) that we were in Cuba. All of the drivers were very friendly and always right on time for each transfer.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?We feel that it benefited local people in that we stayed in Casa Particulares and used the private car transfers. Although the use of the private car transfers does have a possible downside in terms of the environmental impact.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?Excellent
Read the operator's response here:
Hi Richard Thank you for taking the time to review our Cuba trip and so glad to hear that you love Cuba as much as we do. As you say, staying in the casas really does support the locals and adds to you more authentic experience as well, you are quite right with the impact on the environment and we try to encourage bus transfers when possible, whilst tourism is growing and routes are opening buses still do not operate in all of the highlights we wish to see, we hope to encourage further changes locally. Thank you again for taking the time to send us your wonderful feedback and we look forward to planning your next adventure. Kind Regards Ross
Chris Bragg review 1 Apr 2018
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?Hard to think of a single one... As a solo traveler the trip provided an ideal way to design my own trip, so the ease of having accommodation and travel (plus some excursions) arranged without being tied to the inflexible (often rushed, travel-heavy) itinerary of larger group tours was great. Having designed my own trip, the best aspect was the freedom to spent time doing things on a whim sitting around immersing myself in the less touristy aspects of Cuba, away from the bars and CD-touting bands, instead mixing with the least affluent of the society, meeting fascinating characters and enjoying the music made by people in their own front rooms and doorsteps.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Don't try to travel too much in too short a time - choose to tailor-make a trip, covering a smaller part of the country but lingering longer in fewer places. Stay in casas rather than hotels, putting money in the hands of the local people and having a much more interesting, friendly time in the process.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?Benefiting local people - yes, by staying in casas particulares, I was supporting the local individuals directly where staying in most hotels would not really have been doing so. Privately-run restaurants and other businesses in Cuba are increasingly enabling the population to benefit from tourism and by supporting these, the overall economy as well as their own livelihoods are benefiting. Reduced environmental impacts - this is less convincing... Many transfers were done by taxi, many of which aren't efficient or clean, as with a large proportion of Cuba's vehicles, although the use of buses for some legs helped. Travel around the "eco"-village was done in taxis which was unnecessary - eight of us in a group (not all with this company) in five separate vehicles isn't overly eco, but this is more a reflection of the village than this vacation per se. Supporting conservation wasn't really relevant to this trip, although one excursion in a National Park did contribute. Staying in one or two casas where animals were clearly being neglected or worse was distressing and would probably make me think twice about using this company again.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?Really enjoyable and eye-opening.
Read the operator's response here:
We are pleased that you were able to make the most of designing your own trip with us and therefore having a lot more freedom alongside the security of having everything pre arranged for you as well of the benefit of our local guides on excursions. We have noted your comments about the Las Terrazas excursion and agree to share vehicles in future, despite people booking with different agencies in a view to minimise the environmental impact here.**** We have corresponded directly regarding your feedback on your experience where you witnessed animal neglect and reassured you that this particular casa has been removed from our portfolio. We hope that they will learn from this and improve the care they give their turtles and birds as we try tp raise their consciousness, but this is unfortunately a difference in culture and a little beyond our control. Thanks so much again for bringing this matter to our attention.
Elizabeth Freeman review 12 Jan 2018
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?Horse riding through the tobacco fields in Vinales on Christmas Day
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Cuba is a very interesting country. Spend time talking to locals to find out about their lives, everyone is friendly and wants to talk. Be prepared to queue for everything - outside banks, supermarkets etc and then once you are admitted, queue again to be served.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?Staying in casas and eating dinner prepared by our hosts benefited local people.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?This vacation was very enjoyable, the right mix of excursions, tours and relaxing days. The only downside was the stay in Varadero. Apart from the beach there was not much to do.
Alexandra Quayle review 3 Jan 2018
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?The hosts of the Casas particulares (B&B) deserve all the credits for our trip. In particular, I want to mention Sr. Junier Vivo Rodriguez in Soroa (las Terrazas) who helped us out with the rental car's flat tyre: (1) changing it to the flimsy spare tyre so that our visit to las Terrazas was not completely wasted on day of arrival; (2) brought us to someone nearby to repair main tyre; (3) put on the repaired main tyre; (4) helped to call/translate to the car rental service when main tyre appeared to be faulty again; (5) changed tyre again at 1:00 in the following morning when the car rental company delivered a replacement tyre (not sending a person able to do that). In addition, Junier's family is lovely, beautiful garden and private setting of rooms. Junier is also a very good cook; best breakfast and evening meals we had at his home (email@example.com). Another memorable stay was with the mother and her 2 daughters in Casa Aleida (Trinidad). Good location, great room (sound-proof from the music in the nearby located tourist spot), lovely terrace/garden and the 3 ladies ever so helpful (e.g. parking car at a secure place; my son's sore tummy). When arriving in Havana, we would recommend Hostal Lafayette, near the Old Town. The hosts are lovely and you can explore the surroundings from a secure location.The street is a bit noisy! First problems with the rental car showed up in Vinales. The hostess of the Casa there could not deal with it. .. rightly so ...why would she be burdened by us arriving with that faulty car? Her niece helped me to translate to the car rental in Havana; they sent another car in the evening; I am sorry that I had to bother the host family in Vinales. The Don Jose hostel in Cienfuegos was not worth the stay. You booked and charged me for a "Casa Ambiente" (I asked before our trip why 1 night in Cienfuegos was that expensive); it was not worth the stay compared to the other Casas. Also, they are the only ones that didn't take our details- no checking in - so I doubt that place's regularity for booked tourists.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Do not book a self-drive vacation in Cuba. The 2 rental car companies (REX or CUBAN Car Rental) are state owned and therefore not competitive. Cars are not checked/serviced. You will lose vacation time. And being embarrassed when having to ask other people for help. If you want to have less stress, do not book in advance - while in Cuba, plenty of private transfers from one place to the other; also home stays.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?Tourists buy bottled water, there is not so much plastic bottles waste around in Cuba compared to other developing countries. But in Cuba, I have seen more litter of cans than ever before. In all places we have visited, there were some bins but the cans (soft drinks and beer) are all over the place. Do the Cuban people support reducing their own litter? Can they or with help of the West organise some recycling plants?
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?Ok, without the self drive.
Read the operator's response here:
Hi Alex, Thank you very much for your lovely review, we are especially happy that you had so many memorable encounters with the locals in Cuba by staying in the privately owned casa particulares. Cuba is quite a unique country to travel to, and even though sometimes the government run services and logistics don’t run as smoothly as we hope they will, it’s great to hear that you experienced the hospitality and help of the locals in each community! I am sorry to hear that you had some troubles with your hire car and the tyre in particular. The hire car companies always do their best to service their fleet, but due to the limited resources in the country they are restricted to what is available parts wise. You will find that car hire as well as transfers can be affected by this, and that Cubans are quite experienced in fixing transport related issues, which is probable why they were so keen to help you out! We still think driving yourself around Cuba offers great flexibility to explore the country in more detail as you can stop when you want to take in the scenery or see something exciting happening on route! We completely understand that in your instance, it didn’t go as smoothly as we’d normally expect though and we do appreciate your feedback. Based on our years of experience in organising trips to Cuba, it’s always best to book your accommodation and transport in advance. Options are limited and getting a taxi on the street can result in paying over the odds. Licensed accommodation is also hard to come by when it is a busy time of year and reservations can often fall through if booked directly. It is very sad to hear about the amount of littered cans you saw during your stay. Waste disposal and recycling will hopefully be something that the Cuban community can start improving on over the coming years, as we all need to be doing out part for this wonderful world we live in! Thanks again.
Gordon Halton review 23 Nov 2017
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?The friendliness of the Cuban people and how welcome we were made whether it was into a Casa, a restaurant or even asking directions
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Make sure you get to places such as Havana and Trinidad they both provided memorable expeiences
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?Had a fantastic time at each venue
Pamela Shreeve review 19 Jun 2017
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?I arrived home from Santa Clara early this morning. My entire trip was wonderful, especially meeting with and staying with Cuban people. I admire their self confidence and knowledge of so many things.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Speaking Spanish made all the difference for my experience as I was truly able to engage and learned a great deal.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?All of my Casa stays were more than adequate. All were well located and the families were great. Their cooking as well at Vinales especially. All of my Taxi transports were on time with especially nice drivers. I'll add though that I was not picked up by transport in Cienfuegos. After waiting I simply flagged a Taxi, no problem.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?Thank you for the well planned trip. I'm looking forward to a return trip next year. However, as I write this note to you President Trump made a statement about his new travel regulations he'll impose on Americans resulting in fewer people traveling to Cuba and experiencing the marvels I enjoyed in that fascinating country.
Anthony Pitt review 28 Apr 2017
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?The Bici Tour in Trinidad: Excellent tour. Intelligent in that it tells you a bit about the “real” Cuba (bodegas where ordinary people get their monthly rations, school, etc.) Good young guide, interesting and informative. Viñales tour: Excellent. Small group, good pace, good guide. Very beautiful nature, meeting some colourful locals with opportunity (but never any pressure) to buy drinks, cigars, etc.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?Niurkis' was by far the best of the three casas particulares,. Niurkis is a very smart lady, with exceptional people skills: she sizes you up, and then reacts accordingly. With us, she was very open and friendly, and we struck up a very good relationship, which enabled us to talk about a lot of interesting things. Indeed, I believe we will keep in touch.we ate there both nights – food was very good indeed, good wine, and very reasonably priced when we paid at end (also, despite our protestations, she deducted one of our bottles of wine from the bill).
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?Everything was very well organized, went off smoothly and totally enjoyable. No sticking points whatsoever. We were entirely happy with everything. And we had a great vacation that enabled us not only to see some very beautiful places and relax, but also gain some insight into Cuba and meet very friendly people.
Chris Turner review 28 Mar 2017
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?Always the big smile that Cubans give to all us tourists which hides the poverty and hardships they all suffer beneath. So my most memorable moment is always the warm friendly greeting that they give you.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?With the white sandy beaches and hot sun - take sufficient sun blocker with you, you need it and if you run out it will cost about £15.00 in Cuba for a replacement. Same for Anti Mosquito cream, it's expensive. Make sure you have enough small denomination notes, the 50s are often more difficult to get change and you'll always need enough of the small notes for the tips.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?Yes, our vacation benefited local people, we found the Cuban people always ready to help over and above what would be expected so we always tipped well for this good service. We took colouring pencils and sharpeners for the children we met. We found everybody warm and friendly and eager to practice their English with us.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?10 out of 10. Responsible Travel and our tour operator made everything work like clockwork.
Read the operator's response here:
Hi Chris, Thank you for your wonderful comments about your trip to Cuba - we're really pleased that both you and Lyn had such a fantastic time! I'm glad that it's left you with so many wonderful memories, and we look forward to helping you plan your next adventure soon! Kind regards, Paula
Kathy Holmes review 25 Mar 2017
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?Staying in casa particulares, getting to know the Cuban people
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Take your time to plan your route, get to know the people, take some of the excusions that will benefit the locals and learn about Cuban culture, stay in casas rather than hotels.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?yes
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
Read the operator's response here:
Hi Kathy, Thanks for your wonderful review of your vacation in Cuba, we're really pleased that both you and Max enjoyed your trip. It sounds as though you really enjoyed embracing the Cuban way of life, and we're really happy that you enjoyed the Casa stays - they're always a vacation highlight so we're glad you agree! We look forward to sending you on another vacation soon! Kind regards,
Kim Placko review 7 Mar 2017
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?Meeting the Cuban people at their Casa's
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Take everything you need, you can't buy anything there, there are plenty of atms.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?Yes certainly supported the locals, the Cubans have a long way to go on the topics of the environment and conservation.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?very good but happy to get home to a big plate of vegetables!
Leann Sykes-Hooban 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 inquiry 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.
Read the operator's response here:
Hi Leann, It was lovely to read your review and to know that you and Matthew had such an amazing time driving yourselves around in Cuba, so much so that you will recommend us to all your friends. We completely agree, part of the adventure in Cuba is definitely the journeys! It's great that after all you enjoyed the little cabanas next to the river that you had been unsure about. We totally understand your concerns about the environmental impact of the recent boom in construction hence we prefer to use the casa's already in existence supporting the locals. It was an absolute pleasure to customise your trip so it was exactly perfect for you both and we always pride ourselves in a high level of service such as you experienced! Kind regards, Ceri
Giovanni Pasquali review 10 Apr 2017
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?When I left and continued the trip on my own
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?Do not book it with an agency, as long as you are not over 60 and/or do not speak a word of spanish.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?No, I did not
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?I have high respect for all people working at the vacation providers and I'm sure they are doing an excellent job. Nevertheless, there is a massive info gap between the UK agent and what goes on in Cuba: housing costs, transport timing, flexibility in re-arranging schedules etc... Again, nothing personal. I love staff I dealt with and the way they interacted with me to plan this trip.
Read the operator's response here:
Hi Giovanni Thank you for taking the time to write us a review. We were very sorry to hear during your travels that yourself and your travel partner decided to go your separate ways. It is great to hear when you had requested to come home early you instead decided to carry on your own travels elsewhere in the country. Re-arranging schedules at such short notice when things have been pre-paid incurs costs much the same as changing your flights at last minute, whilst we can offer support in country last minute complete changes to your plans as requested cannot be done free of charge for pre-paid travel plans. I am sorry to hear that you felt staying in casa particulares was not benefiting the local people, as staying in this style of accommodation benefits local families massively in Cuba. It is great to hear that you love our style of travel and our ethos and it really was a pleasure planning this trip for you. Kind Regards Ross
Will Lockhart 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
Katherine Smith 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.
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays. In addition, we don't run these holidays ourselves - our only interest is giving you the best independent advice.