Readers offer travel tips on Cuban tours and guides

Posted: 02-Jun-16 09:18

Spurred by newly relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba, some travellers are beginning to share their own personal experiences on the best local guides and tours. Reflecting on everything from sightseeing to viewing wildlife and even visiting Havana gay bars, The Guardian recently published a compilation of advice submitted by its readers.

Readers offer travel tips on Cuban tours and guides

For travellers hoping to book their next holiday to Cuba, fellow readers of The Guardian are overflowing with advice. The British newspaper recently gathered recommendations for its readers on how to discover the island via local tours and guides, offering advice on everything from booking nature hikes to finding nightlife. Let's take a look its suggestions:

Havana’s gay scene

The first tip was submitted in regards to Havana’s gay scene. Reader brownjamesmatthew1 describes the population as mostly existing underground, though accessible with a guide. The reader promotes a tour from Yunior Crespo is not only informative but one of the best. This particular tour likely begins in the Plaza del Cathedral, taking visitors salsa dancing at a supper club and strolling through an art gallery before ending with mojitos at one of the Calle 23 gay bars.

A sunrise hike

The next tip is from ColonialCravings, marking a sunrise hike to "Los Aquaticos" in Vinales. Planned by Villa Los Reyes, a casa particular otherwise known as Salvador Cisneros 206C, the hike delivered stunning views, including birdlife on the way back. The tour guide was fluent in English and French, as well as knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the tour, charging $15 CUC and able to be booked just one day in advance.

Horseback riding

Reader Jane McDermott’s favourite tour involved a seven-hour horseback ride to a Valle de Los Ingenios waterfall for swimming in the natural pool. Picked up at their casa, Jane and her fellow travellers joined their guide Carlos and his horse in walking down a cobbled street where they met up with the rest of the tour group. The guide took the group to a coffee plantation and to a lunch of plantain, congri and fresh-pressed sugar cane at a finca. While her guide did not speak English, she describes the horses as well cared-for and the ride varied. The cost was about 18 pounds per person.

Havana local guides

From experiencing cigar smoke-filled cafes to backstreet tango lessons, taking a ride in an old Chevy through old Havana and drinking rum with locals, reader funinfinland says they found plenty of great things to do through toursbylocals.com. They also took a stroll through the harbour area, accompanied by local guides that they chose, which she describes as an authentic way to experience Cuban culture. Tour groups of four or more people were charged around 34 pounds.

Vinales sightseeing

The reader Backwell suggests sightseeing in Vinales with its unusual mogotes, ox-driven carts and rich red soil. Highly recommending visiting or staying at Los Jazmines for fantastic views, the reader also offers up that a tourist bus, priced at 3.60 pounds, takes visitors to stops including the Prehistoric Mural, Indian Cave and Vinales town. A guide can also take visitors through the tobacco fields and other crops, arranged at the main street museum in Vinales. This is also the place for arranging a tour of a tobacco farm to see how it is grown, stored and then rolled into the world’s best cigars. In addition, Casa de Caridad botanical garden is suggested as a family-run destination for sampling exotic fruits while paying what you decide is best.

Wildlife viewing

For viewing wildlife, decimaldust recommends booking a guided trip through the Cienfuegos tourist office. This particular tour began with a car trip early in the morning, followed by a walk through wooded terrain, ending at a lagoon. Along the way, the reader discovered large crabs, tarantulas and birds, including the Cuban tody and trogon. The top of a viewing tower showed a colony of flamingos, at home in the lagoon. Meeting at the water’s edge, another guide rowed the tour group out for a better look at the colony, which the reader describes as an amazing opportunity, surrounded by the sound of nature.

Fun in the water

For a water excursion, reader Clara Alvarez Alonso advises swimming, scuba diving or snorkelling in a cenote found off the Bay of Pigs. Travellers may book the trip from a nearby town or show up on their own, renting equipment for a diving centre on-site. It costs about 18 pounds for snorkelling and diving, or 10 pounds just for snorkelling, which includes a ride in a vintage American car and the equipment needed for the water. To see more about scubadiving in Cuba, click here.

Visiting La Boca

Reader Ryan Chapman highly advises a visit to La Boca, a small fishing village just outside Trinidad. A few days is best to enjoy the surroundings, in this quintessential Cuban community, enjoyed by fishermen, locals and visitors alike. Chapman recommends Hostal Buenavista for lodging, located on the beach’s edge and surrounded by mango trees. Owners Guille and Viola are noted for serving up fresh lobster and plenty of local advice to visitors.

Camera obscura

Finally, ColonialCravings also gave priority to purchasing a view of Havana Vieja from the camera obscura. The reader notes the cost is only 1.40 pounds, and well worth it. The view gives visitors a chance to orientate themselves to Havana, by pointing out the city’s main landmarks. Travellers can also take in their own views of Havana’s old town from the rooftop both before and after the show. This place is attraction is located in one of the corners of Plaza Vieja.

No matter your interests, past visitors to Cuba have found plenty of enjoyment in the many local tours and guides available to help travellers navigate the island, and learn to appreciate all that it offers.


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