> Destinations > Cuba > Trip Reports > Trip Report
My husband and I spent a wonderful week in Cuba at Breezes Jibacoa this past Easter. Excuse the cliche but "fun in the sun" is an appropriate expression to describe what happens when two Newfoundlanders, leaving 200cm of snow behind, try out the resort experience for the very first time. My husband has observed that this may be one of the best researched vacations on record since I started planning it in May of 2000. All of my research however could not prepare me for the reality, this trip was everything I dreamed it would be and much more.
We arrived at Varadero Airport at 7:00 p.m. went through Customs and collected our luggage. We had heard so much about the strict security in Cuba that we were a little nervous about the airport, however it was pleasant and unthreatening (if only Toronto airport could claim that!). We boarded an air-conditioned bus and drove approximately 1 hour to Breezes Jibacoa. When we got off the bus I was awestruck - the lobby area was absolutely beautiful with an open airy feeling and a 24-hour bar. The check-in was without any hassles. We just gave them our accommodations certificate and they gave us an envelope with 2 room keys, a safe key and 2 towel cards (with a warning about the financial penalty of losing any of these items). We sat at one of the tables and filled out our registration card and waited for the bellboy to collect our luggage. While waiting they came around with a drink of ice cold rum punch for us. The bellboy then loaded all our luggage on his cart and took us to our room, on the way he showed us many of the points of interest at the resort.
The rooms are located in two-storey buildings with 8 rooms on each floor. You enter the rooms from the back and on the other side are the balconies. The rooms are very big and very clean. Our room had a king size bed, tv with 4 English channels, clock radio, large closet and large bathroom. The air conditioning was nice and cool and the water was nice and hot. The water on this resort is all filtered so it's fine to drink, but they do leave two bottles of water in your room every day, mostly for use if you venture off of the resort. We both used the water from the tap to brush our teeth and neither of us got sick.
There were four restaurants at this resort - the main dining room, a Cuban restaurant, an Italian restaurant and the beach bar (where they served snacks during the day and seafood & barbecue at night). The food at the buffet restaurant was excellent, my husband who is an extremely picky eater, managed to find something to eat at every meal. We ate most of our meals on either the veranda for breakfast and lunch or the lobby atrium (which they set up with tables for dinner) Breakfast was my favorite meal of the day. Fidel (not Castro) prepared omelets every morning that were delicious! Friday night is dessert night and their French pastry chef makes some of the most incredible desserts I have ever tasted. On Wednesday nights they have lobster night and serve lobster at all the restaurants. Be forewarned though that the lobster is clawless Caribbean spiny lobster and not the large clawed lobsters of the North Atlantic - I didn't find them very tasty and the meat was very tough. The Italian Restaurant (Martino's) is a must - the food and atmosphere are fantastic. It was the most romantic evening we spent there. It's a classy restaurant so be sure to dress appropriately. One more thing about the food - be sure to try the ice cream! It is without a doubt the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted. You can get it at the beach bar at any time.
The beach is beautiful (the sand is not really fine but you can walk on it without hurting your feet). They have plenty of lounge chairs and shady areas, we never had any trouble finding chairs no matter what time of day we went to the beach. Although we didn't go snorkeling I heard from a lot of people there that the coral reef was fantastic for snorkeling.
The pool area is very nice and again it has lots of lounge chairs. The pool is not that deep, but that was fine with my husband - he swims like a rock. The entertainment crew does quite a number of things around the pool during the day like water aerobics, bingo, beer drinking contest, musical chairs, pool volleyball, etc.
The entertainment crew was fabulous - lots of fun and very friendly. Every evening the resort put off an outdoor show and although not top notch they were entertaining and fun to watch and participate in. The resort has a small disco that we only went to once - most nights by the time the show was over we were too tired to do anything else but go to bed! The music was varied and we did have a good time though.
After 18 years of marriage this was our honeymoon (finally) so I must admit that we were more interested in the "resort experience" than in local colour, however the Havana day tour was part of our plan from the beginning. This is definitely a must for anyone staying at Jibacoa since the bus ride to Havana is less than an hour and this is a city rich in history and culture. Unlike the debilitating poverty seen in some tropical countries, Cuba seems to have a unique status. Although cash poor and eager for hard currency the people we met in the market were healthy, friendly and seemed genuinely happy. The city itself suffers more than its inhabitants, many stone buildings built from shale have not stood up well to the ravages of salt air and a soft economy which must rank restoring old buildings low on its priority list.
Old Havana is filled with examples of the architecture brought here by the Spanish. The cathedral square is named for a large stone church which represents three distinctly different styles representing who ruled the island when each feature was completed. I could ramble on but instead lets look at the high points.
The symbol of the key surrounded by three fortresses is found all over Old Havana which was based on a safe harbour accessible only through a narrow channel guarded by three fortresses.
The Cemetery: Covering 57 hectares the large cemetery contains many intriguing tombs with even more intriguing stories to go with them.
The hotel where Ernest Hemmingway lived, and his favourite bar. Hemmingway lived in Havana for a time before moving to the countryside. "The Old Man and the Sea" is his tribute to the strength of character he perceived in the simple folk of Cuba.
The Capitol building, a copy of the Capitol in Washington DC. Pre revolution Cuba was governed from this building which contains the third largest indoor statue in the world.
The many monuments to Jose Marti, leader of the revolution which brought about independence from Spain are found all over the city. He is always portrayed as a humble man of the people, often with children. Many statues also exist of Christopher Columbus, the island's first European visitor, who claimed the island for Spain.
Revolution square in the new end of the city includes a ministry building with a huge representation of Che Guevara based on the famous 1960 photograph taken by Korda (Alberto Diaz Gutierrez).
The restored areas of the city, partly sponsored by UNESCO. This UN organization has declared Havana to be a world heritage site due to its rich history.
Public transit: the tour guide called them camels, large semi trailers which carry up to 300 passengers (with no air conditioning). In a country where fuel costs are very high these cramped conveyances move many people around the city.
One last suggestion, I used a Minolta Maxxum 5000 camera with a 50mm lens for my picture taking, and all of the time I wished for something wider. In a city like this a lens which reaches down to 28mm is a definite plus to record the many architectural marvels of the city.
A few tips you may want to keep in mind are:1) Bring a thermos mug with you - they serve the drinks in little plastic cups that you have to keep refilling; 2) Book the a la carte restaurants as soon as possible so you won't be disappointed; 3) Bring some toiletries, pens, pencils, coloring books, etc. to leave the maid; 4) Bring lots of $1.00 bills to tip with; 5) No need to buy cigars or rum in Havana or wait until the airport - in Cuba all prices are regulated by the government and they are the same wherever you buy them; and 6) DO NOT buy cigars from peddlers on the street, they are inferior and it is illegal.
Other things the resort has to offer is a games room with pool tables, ping pong table and video game systems; a piano bar where they sing karaoke every night; a small hot tub, and a gym. They also have bicycles free for your use, and rentals of mopeds, kayaks, and sailboats. They have a massage service there which we took advantage of - it was great, very relaxing!
One of the nicest things about this resort was that it was Adult Only. We figured if we weren't taking our kids we didn't want to hear anyone else's either! Also, Breezes Jibacoa is fairly isolated (only one other resort next door) so it's nice and quiet which was just what we were looking for. Because there was only one other resort next door (and they wore bracelets) we didn't have to wear bracelets which was also nice.
All in all the resort is absolutely fantastic, the service was wonderful, the food was great and the sun was incredible! In fact the only complaint I can think of is that their pillows are too flat!!! I would definitely return to this resort and would recommend it to anyone considering a vacation in Cuba.
You can check out our web page at newfoundvacations.homestead.com It's still under construction but I'm trying to complete as fast as I can.
Thanks to Annette for this trip report ...