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Cuba in two weeks: A whirlwind tour from Cayo Coco to Havana

Posted by admin on Feb 24, 2012 in travel

Cuba is an island full of anachronisms. It exists in the 21st century, yet much of it is stuck in the 1950’s, as the last time they were allowed free trade with the USA was 1960. Castro may rule, but it’s Che Guevara images that adorn most walls, and the citizens are a complex blend of poverty and pride, supported by the state’s free education and healthcare system, but deprived in other areas.

The weather is warm, the sea full of fish for a constant food supply and though an anti American air pervades the country, pride is taken in owning USA goods- microwaves and Juicy Couture clothes are luxury items. How do you manage to take in the full breadth of the country in a mere two weeks? It’s a difficult task, especially as I wasn’t prepared to compromise my need for culture with that of comfort- I wanted to soak up the atmosphere, not quickly tick off historical monuments whilst rushing from A-B.

To make the most of everything that Cuba has to offer- from the inspiring tributes to Che Guevara and the most famous beaches in the world, I started my trip at a beach resort on the island of Cayo Coco.

Cayo Coco – the paradise resort

Beloved of honeymooners worldwide, Cayo Coco offers fifteen miles of beautiful beaches. Set slightly away from the mainland, you access Cuba mainland by driving along a man made causeway that extends into the sea and connects Cayo Coco to the rest of the country. Locals aren’t allowed to visit Cayo Coco unless they are working at one of the resorts dotted around the island, so it’s a strangely insular experience- you’re served by Cubans, talk to Cuban entertainers, yet separated from them by class. Working on Cayo Coco is deemed a privilege as salaries tend to be higher than other places in the country and it’s not uncommon to find that your maid has a better degree than you do.

What to do on Cayo Coco

The biggest reason for heading to Cayo Coco are the beaches so make the most of them. Every resort had an individual beach and you’re a short drive away from Pilar Beach- rated No 1 in the world by numerous magazines, and apparently the place Ernest Hemingway chose to stay when he visited.

The beaches are covered in fine golden sand and rather narrow, with the water a crystalline azure blue. This was my first experience of Caribbean waters and I marvelled at how warm the water felt- day or night, it was like immersing yourself in bathwater, and I was  buffeted by warm  light waves and felt weightless and cosseted. The coastline of Cayo Coco is adjacent to some great coral reefs and the water is very clear, so even when you’re very shallow you can see smalls schools of fish around your ankles. All resorts offer (free) snorkeling rental and there’s a lot of Finding Nemo action you can see hidden behind the swell of the waves. Read more…

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