Self drive vacation in Cuba
Description of Self drive vacation in Cuba
A self drive vacation in Cuba offers independence, flexibility and just that extra little spark of adventure, and this two-week, tailor made tour around Cuba will be a delight for Caribbean explorers. Having your own hire car makes it much easier to travel around this island with children, parents or other relatives, as you can choose your pace of travel, the distances, and it’s much easier to deal with all the extra luggage that kids seem to require! Self driving in Cuba also gives you the opportunity to pause as often as you like – to take a photo, perhaps, stop at a roadside stall, or simply wander round a small town and chat to local Cubans.
We will pre book all of your accommodation and organise a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Havana, so help you settle in on your first full day. We can also arrange other guided walks, such as through the stunning Viñales Valley, where farmers tend to their land with oxen, or in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve, home to several bird species, including endemics. You can also tour coffee and tobacco farms, trek to waterfalls, and visit an orchid farm.
There’s plenty to keep you busy in the colonial cities, too – including the French-influenced architecture of Cienfuegos and the UNESCO-rated center of Trinidad, with its pretty churches and plazas. Just as inspiring is the community of Las Terrazas, an eco experiment dating back to the 1960s, and now filled with artists’ studios, terraced forests and Cuba’s first vegetarian restaurant, which makes the most of the island’s colourful, tropical produce.
PlanetTravel and tourism can both benefit and damage the environment, the economy, the social structure, culture and communities in any country. We know how mass tourism, unrestricted hotel building, poorly devised tours and environmentally destructive activities can bring money flooding in and governments have, in a spirit of short termism, been tempted to accept them. But experience teaches us that in the long term this sort of uncontrolled activity can be detrimental to the country's development, and we endeavour to do nothing to encourage it.
Cuba has been on the tourist map for some decades now, and many of the trips offered there are package vacations where visitors stay in fully inclusive hotels, often owned by multinationals. These do provide employment but much of the profit is syphoned off back to the chain’s home country and does not filter down to the community. The buildings are also frequently huge edifices designed without any reference to the natural or urban environment and without demonstrating any attempt to complement the landscape. The popular beach resort of Varadero was for many years virtually off-limits to Cubans, and tourists inhabited a sterilised ghetto. We don’t stay there on this vacation.
The accommodation we have chosen for this economical vacation for independent-minded travelers is locally run and has plenty of character; the Palacio del Marques de San Felipe and Hotel La Union in Vinales are refurbished historical properties rescued from a neglected state. La Moka is perhaps the epitome of responsible tourism and a great example for others to follow. It is situated in the experimental community project established by the Cuban government at Las Terrazas in an area of forest declared a UNESCO Biosphere reserve in 1985. The project’s aim is to develop a sustainable rural economy based on the rational use of its natural resources for tourism. The property is hugely respectful of the environment, to the extent that a tree has been allowed to survive within the building. There is a healthy relationship between the hotel and the local community which benefits to a large degree from the presence of visitors. You can engage in a number of activities to learn about the natural environment, including walking nature trails.
While it is true that car hire is not the most responsible use of natural resources, it gives you the opportunity to travel independently, with a smaller impact on the environment than that which you’d have traveling in a large group.
PeopleStandard package vacations suit some tastes but we prefer to encourage you to enjoy a more authentic experience. This is especially valid in the case of Cuba, with its unique and fragile society, nowadays in flux, always in danger of unpredictable transformation. Go now, and you will be able to evaluate close up this extraordinary socio-politico-economic situation your selves. We have no idea how long it will last.
Many companies offering tourist services in Cuba are established in and work out of Havana. Not only are they less familiar with other parts of the islands, they send their guides and transport out from the capital. Our operator has close connections with local communities, and recruit guides and other staff within the towns and regions which you will visit. This has the added advantage of helping in a small way to put a brake on the flight of talent to Havana, means that much needed revenues stay in situ, and breadwinners can stay close to their families. A further beneficial result is that we are able to offer a broader range of excursions and activities outside the capital, which is very innovative.
Driving a hire car you have the opportunity to meet local people and maybe even offer them lifts, at your own risk (hitching is an acceptable mode of travel in Cuba born of necessity). Cubans are friendly and curious, most speaking at least a little English, and interacting with them is most rewarding.
You visit a number of historically significant towns, including UNESCO World heritage site Trinidad, and the French-influenced port Cienfuegos, where you can appreciate the rich textures of Cuban history and modern life.
We also encourage you to eat in paladares, family run restaurants in private homes. You do not integrate with the family as such but there may be an opportunity to engage in interesting conversation. The revenues are used to reinvest in the property so that the family’s often meagre living standards rise and humble homes can be upgraded, benefitting the town or city as a whole. Happily the standard of cuisine will often be higher than at a formal restaurant.
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