Call me sneaky, call me clever. I celebrated a milestone birthday in Cuba and didn’t tell my kids that resorts exist. Hazel is nine and Charlie is five. I told them that Cuba is hot, that we’d have great adventures, and that we’d stay in hotels with pools. “Deal,” said the kids and my easy-going husband Rick, so I got to turn 50 in a country that I adore.
Cuba has the lock on the all-inclusive resort crowd, but adventurous travellers seeking cultural exploration over relaxation are now being enticed to the incredibly safe and friendly country. Plus, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise—the food is delicious. Here’s how to enjoy urban and rural Cuba without the resorts.
A different kind of vacation
My birthday is just before Christmas, so Santa came early, which freed us up to spend December 25 in Cuba. I couldn’t handle a DIY trip, so I splurged and got a guide, driver and air-conditioned mini-van through a Cuban tour company for a five-day road trip. We requested an English-speaking guide, paid in advance and arranged our own flights. It’s sad that Canadians have been lulled into thinking Cuba should be a bargain vacation—even as the price of good resorts climb. We were happy to pay as much as we would have paid for any sunny vacation in the Caribbean or Mexico (our trip for four cost about $10,000).