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We had a great time at Arenas Blancas! fellow Canucks we met there were great! and a fun vacation had by all. This is our 2nd time in Varadero, our first stay 2 years ago when we got married at "Beaches" further up the peninsula. We got a great selloff price for this vacation so didn't know what to expect going to a lower rated resort, but as it was close to the town of Varadero was worth the chance. For the money it was worth every penny. We took the Varadero tourist bus on Saturday and it goes by every resort in Varadero so you can actually see what the other resorts look like, and we highly recommend taking the bus, it's only $2US and you can get off anywhere you like in Varadero, and be picked up on the next passby. The big flea market is around 44th calle (st) and the bus can drop you off right there for better bargains on trinkets and stuff and found the coldest Cristal beer in Varadero there! it was actually frosty on the bottle!! and only $1US, if you like the beer there as much as I, you will find various prices for it ranging from $1-$3 so be careful where you buy it. Cigars at the shops are expensive so be forewarned. ie $10US for 1 Cohiba!! but do not buy off the people you meet on the street! they may be cheap but are probably banana leaves disguised as cigars!! Thanks to one of the guys I met from Canada at the resort for getting a good price on cigars for me. Cheers mate! I owe ya a bucket of mojito's next time there :-) oh yea, try a mojito (MO-HEE-TO)rum/sugar cane/mint/soda.. they make them best in the lobby bar, also a lime slushy with vodka there is good. (can't get it elsewhere) Drinks come in small plastic cups so bring an insulated mug for your drinks! they are cheap to buy before you go and you not only get bigger drinks but the stay colder longer. We left ours there for one of the bartenders as he wanted them for his kids, guess they are hard to come by down there?
AB (Arenas Blancas) is only a few minutes to town! you can walk easily to markets and shopping and the park in town. The little cab/scooters are only a few bucks also depending on how far you want to go....ok enuff already, will break it down as it may be easier:
The weather- Sunny and hot and humid most of the day, with usually a thunderstorm mid-day, but only lasts an hour or so then clears up. Beware the sun is extreme with UV ratings of 11 or more! so bring protection!! A few of the group we met started peeling in a matter of a few days, so take it easy the first couple of days.
The beach- Nice, not as nice as further up the coast but still very nice, water is clean clear salty and blue and refreshing on a hot day. Some beach vendors have some good deals on stuff also. The beach bar is only a few steps away. Go early and reserve a hut for shade, you will need it after your first day frying in the sun. We left our towels on the chairs and went to eat and came back every day and never had a problem with them being taken. Security is always around. There are some nudies there but only the upper level.
The food- (can't believe the bad reports? )Pretty good all in all, beef, pork and chicken, the buffet had a pretty good variety, omelettes in the morning were good and fruit selection good also. International restaurant had so-so steaks, if you think that you are going to dine at a KEG or fancy restaurant at any Cuban resort you might as well stay home, cuz ya ain't gonna get it there. You go to a country to enjoy their weather, be ready to enjoy their food also, it's part of the culture of the area. So if you are a fussy eater you may want to book a trip somewhere that will please your pallet. There are rice and pasta dishes available and some fish and seafood. We ate at the buffet daily and with the selection never disappointed. Pool bar has decent ham & cheese sandwich and burgers are somewhat different tasting than ours, but not too bad. It is open all night so a snack always available as is a drink.
The drinks- I am a beer drinker and the Cristal is GOOD. The pool bar ran out of beer a couple of nights we where there which was a bummer but I guess us Canadians drank them dry..hahaha oh well there was always something else available to try. again remember the mugs, your drinks will stay colder longer by the pool or at the beach. The lobby bar will give you bigger glasses for drinks/beer so they are not needed there, but a must for beach and by the pool. There are Rum, Vodka, Tequila and rye drinks also. "Sex on the beach" is a tasty vodka drink to quench your thirst by the beach or pool.
The hotel- Rooms were fine and the air worked perfect, Our room 4208 faced the ocean and had a nice view of the palms and sunset...try and get a room on the 4th or 5th floor as we stayed in a room on 2 before we left for $25US and shared with others to keep our baggage in and shower before we left at 6pm and check-out is 12 and it wasn't as nice, kinda musty and need of a repaint. We heard that some parking lot view rooms had money ripped off from them, but nothing on the ocean view side. So insist that side of the hotel.
We heard a lot of horror stories while at the airport about other resorts even 5 star ones, but you know you have to go with the proper attitude. Your stay will be much more pleasant if you acknowledge the staff, learn a few words of Spanish, Debbie's site here has some good easy words to learn before you go if you don't know any already, HOLA (hello) is simple one to remember and used often, you will always get one back so make the effort. A good time is what YOU make it, the staff doesn't get paid $15US a month to stand on their heads for you, we always bring presents for the staff, little things they can't get like hair ties, bandages, toothbrushes, toiletries, candy, toys, running shoes are much in demand so if you have an old pair of Nikes or whatever...something you don't need bring them along and you will see dancers and staff that will be delighted to receive them! you will be rewarded with a huge smile and word passes that you are a good amigo :-) I'm not saying you have to do it, but when you do, it not only makes you feel better that you are bettering the less fortunate but making someone very very happy. We know when we return we will be remembered, and our next stay will be more enjoyable than the last, returning guests get VIP treatment, and we met a few people that are on their 4th or 5th visit to AB, so does that tell you something?
All in all it was a great week in Cuba ! Varadero is an interesting town so tour it by any means, AB is close to town so a definite advantage to resorts further up the coast. Oh yea..we went on the Jungle tour, you ride jet-ski like boats out in the ocean then go into the mangrove swamp to look at crocs and other animals, a fun time for sure for $34US each.
Hope I covered most of it...if you have any questions or want to see our pictures of the week in Varadero e-mail me and I'd be happy to answer your questions. (I will be posting our pictures on a web page soon..at
Thanks to Robert for this trip report ...