“Where is the best place to stay in Cuba?” you ask. Well, Cuba is beautiful no matter where you stay. Each area has something unique to offer. The beaches are beautiful. The water is crystal clear. The Cubans are friendly. It is rich with history and beautiful scenery. So really, you can’t go wrong with where to stay.
|The water is so clear, you can see the fish that are swimming around you
To date, I have been to Cuba four times, all while staying at a resort. The first time I went was to Varadero. Varadero is the prime resort city. It has resorts all over the place. For those who want a good nightlife and a variety of things to do, Varadero is a great location. It is also close to Havana, making a day trip to the capital city possible, although I would suggest staying for a couple of days to explore.
|The streets of Trinidad, Cuba
The second time I went was to a resort in the southern part of Cuba called Playa Ancon. Although the beach was beautiful, there were many things I didn’t like about this area. There were frequent blackouts at night. There were prostitutes all over our resort. The poverty in the area is so high, people wait for you to leave your resort property as they jump out and ask you for money or clothing. It was not a pleasant experience for a vacation that is for sure.
|Pool at the former Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba
The last two times I had visited Cuba I stayed in Cayo Santa Maria, by far my most favourite area. Although I enjoyed making day trips to Varadero, Havana and Trinidad while at the other two resort towns, Cayo Santa Maria was close enough to Santa Clara to give me my fix of Cuban history (a highly recommended visit), while giving me a satisfying daily dose of the beautiful tropical life. In Varadero we were often approached by locals in the water asking us if we wanted our hair braided, if we wanted to purchase some goods, or even for some money. It was annoying. In Cayo Santa Maria there is no one to beg you for anything. Now I know I sound like a first world snob, but going on a resort vacation should be about having a relaxing and fun holiday, not being panhandled any time you want to go for a dip in the ocean.
|Pueblo in Cayo Santa Maria
Since Cayo Santa Maria is not close to any large towns, they created a village called the Pueblo which you can go to for a fun date night. They have a variety of restaurants, a bowling alley, a gym, and a number of shops. There is also a lookout point from the top of a tower, giving you breathtaking views of the island, especially at sunset. Some resorts have their al a carte restaurants in Pueblo so be sure to take advantage of them if you have the option (skip the Chinese restaurant).
|The view over Memories Resort in Cayo Santa Maria, from the bell tower in Pueblo
As for resorts, there are a number to choose from, all relatively large. The first resort I stayed at changed management and has been renamed, but was formerly called Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria. When I stayed it was absolutely wonderful. The beach and pools were clean, and the food was great. The last time I stayed was at a resort called Memories. Although certain members of staff were horrible to me, the resort itself was not bad. The beach area was awesome and I would stay here again just for their amazing beach.
One thing to note is that both times I stayed in Cayo Santa Maria I got attacked by mosquitoes and sand flees, so for those who have allergic reactions like I do, be sure to pack some bug spray, no matter what time of year you go. You will appreciate the advice.
|Enjoying the last bit of the day on the beach at Cayo Santa Maria
Overall, Cayo Santa Maria is great for those who are looking to go on vacation to relax. Day trips to the main island are possible, so don’t let the isolation scare you. It is beautiful, relaxing, and well worth visiting!
What I Recommend
Before you book, be sure to read reviews of previous visitors. I would avoid going with Sunwing as I had a horrible experience with them and their (lack of) customer service. Don’t let their cheap champagne fool you!
|A local band playing Cuban music in Trinidad, Cuba
Go for day trips! Don’t just go and sit on the beach. Be sure to get off the resort and see a bit of Cuba. You can’t say you have seen Cuba if all you have done is drank endless amounts of rum by the pool. Get out there. Try the local food (I would recommend a good cassava dish if you can find one). Listen to a live band. Visit a museum. Visit a church. Heck, visit a pharmacy as it will look a lot different than the ones back home. Just get out there. Cuba has a lot more to offer than sunny white sandy beaches. It is rich with history and culture, and it shouldn’t be missed.
|A cassava dish I tried. It was so good!
As for the best time to go, that all depends on you. I went during the winter, spring, and summer, and I must say that my favourite time to go was in the winter. It was a nice break from the snow and bitter cold weather. Spring and summer are definitely cheaper, but the extra money you spend in the winter is well worth the winter break you need, especially if you are coming from a cold place like Canada.
|My cousin Irena and I jumping for joy since we missed one of the biggest snowstorms in Canada!
Do you have a favourite spot in Cuba? Be sure to share below!