In March I was honoured to be hired to travel to Holguin, Cuba to photograph a wedding. The wedding was stunning and so was the resort that we stayed at – Playa Pesquero. The trip was booked through Sunwing and we left in the late afternoon. I quite enjoyed this since I am a last minute packer. This late departure meant that I could pack my case during the day before jetting off to the sun and sand. I was traveling with a group of twenty-six other people; the majority of which I had never met before. The last time that I was in Cuba was in 2004 for so I was very excited to be returning.
The adventure began at the airport. I have traveled quite a bit in my life but never before have I had my carry-on luggage weighed with my suitcase. Thanks to my camera gear I was overweight but luckily I was able to shift a few things with some of my fellow travelers to bring the luggage weight down so I could travel without paying an extra fees. The flight was lovely. We drank bubbly and were pumped to arrive. The airport in Holguin was (naturally) small and it was a little chaotic. Assuming that we were basically one of the only flights arriving that late at night, I am not sure why it took so long to get through customs. Not a word was spoken by the customs officer to me, he gave me my visa and I was in. Waiting for us was our own bus and guys selling cans of Cristal. Have your American dollars ready for these (three for $5). The drive from the airport to the resort was about an hour. On the bus was a guide who explained a few Cuban things to us before leaving us on our own.
Playa Pesquero was beautiful. We arrived to the grand, open lobby and as soon as we got the room keys, we headed for the lobby bar, well, some of us did. We sat there and had a cerveza. Not knowing the layout of the Resort, we managed in the dark to find our room. It was beautiful and clean. Our new home for the week.
Playa Pesquero has a great buffet where I ate an omelette and pineapple every morning for breakfast. There are also four a la carte restaurants. While the food in Cuba is definitely not extraordinary, I have no complaints about anything that I ate at this resort. At the beach there was a super pizza hut and I have to say, I was kind of addicted to the pizza from here by the end of the week.
One of the greatest parts of Playa Pesquero was definitely the Coffee Coach. Located in the lobby of the resort, they make super cappuccinos. After our morning jog, us ladies would stop here for some caffeine. While sipping our coffees in our Lululemons we would make the biggest decision of the day: should it be spent at the beach or at the poolside?
Another awesome place to visit while at Playa Pesquero was the mojito bar. If you have never had a mojito, you are missing out. There is nothing better on a hot summer day than one of these delicious drinks. At this mojito bar, the drinks were made individually with care. It is all about muddling that mint properly, I tell you. Loved.
The pool is pretty big at the resort. I am more of a salt water girl so only actually went in the pool on the last day of the trip and the only reason I did this was to get to the swim-up bar. 😉 But I did spend lots of time lounging in these pool chairs.
Really I am a fish and I love swimming. The water in Cuba is incredibly clear. As I walked in the water, I was seeing crazy fish. People were snorkeling right there.
They have a cute market at Playa Pesquero where local artisans set-up shop. The great thing is that they shops change frequently. So, if you see something you like one day, you should pick it up because it may not be there tomorrow.
One afternoon the ladies took a trip into the closest town, Guardalavaca to do some shopping. We took a van and the round-trip cost 5 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) each. The market was small but cute. I picked up a couple leather purses. We then drank a Cristal at a seaside bar. It was nice to get off of the resort to see something new.
The day after the wedding was our last full day in Cuba so a snorkeling trip was booked. At first I was apprehensive about going since it was going to take up the bulk of the day but I am glad that we went. We first drove in a bus for about an hour. One of my favourite things when I travel is to see the countryside via the roads. I love seeing how people live. The gardens are lush and I love the cacti fences.
From the bus we then took a catamaran to a coral reef where we stopped to snorkel. I sat on the front net of the boat for most of the ride. I have to say that that time was some of my most favourite of the trip. The bulk of the trip was over and I had just photographed the wedding the day before. I remember sitting on the net with the water rushing under me and just thinking “I really am blessed.” Here I was in such a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by incredible people who had become new friends and, well, I was realising: this.is.my.life. Amazing.
The last time that I had gone snorkeling was in January in Tulum. The snorkeling there really was nothing compared to what it was in Cuba. The fish that I saw that day were incredible. Every colour of the rainbow, every size and shape. It was awesome. After the snorkel, they fed us alcohol and as the sun was dipping below the horizon, the captain popped a bottle of bubbly and we toasted to the day. We later had dinner at a restaurant before heading back to the resort feeling totally knackered from the day.
All in all, the trip was amazing. It was the perfect mix of relaxation and work for me. I would go back to Playa Pesquero in a heartbeat.
Tips for Cuba:
• Cuba uses different currencies which makes life there a little confusing. The best thing that you can do when you visit there is to exchange your Canadian dollars for Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). This way when you tip the servers, etc, they will be getting the most bang for the buck.
• I will not get into the politics of Cuba but I will state the obvious: the general population in Cuba does not make a lot of money, nor do they have access to all the awesome things that we have here. When you visit Cuba, please take things to leave for them. We took everything from ibuprofen, toothpaste, make-up, etc. to clothing, diapers, etc. Give what you can and they will be grateful.
• When you exit Cuba, there is a $20 USD departure tax. After you check-in at the airport, you then need to line-up to pay this tax. You cannot leave the country without doing so.
• If you are able to get to Havana while in Cuba, I urge you to. It is such an incredible city. Unfortunately on this trip I was not able to make it since Holguin is basically on the opposite side to the island.
• Buy Rum (Ron)! It is super cheap and perfect to make mojitos are home when you start going through withdrawl. I picked some a bottle at the airport for about 8 CUC.
• Get off the resort! As with any all-inclusive vacation, it is a great way to travel since everything is, well, included. But resort life is not real life. Get off the resort and actually see the country that you are visiting. I love the landscape of Cuba: the rolling mountains and tall palm trees everywhere. Check it out, learn about the place you are visiting, meet the people who live there.