A temperate, climate, beautiful beaches and new resorts make Cuba an enticing destination for Canadians
By Peter Kerr

We visited Cuba for the first time in February, and discovered why this island country has become such a popular destination for Canadians. The climate is temperate, with an average temperature of 25 Celsius, and 330 days of sunshine per year. While the “rainy” season is from May until October, it turns out that August is one of the two driest months of the year. Certainly, humidity doesn’t seem to be an issue here.
The beaches are lovely, and many of the resorts are very new – with excellent services and accommodations. In fact Tourism is one of the main industries in Cuba, and the Varadero Beach area where we stayed is responsible for nearly 40% of all tourism revenues for Cuba. In short – Varadero Beach is a popular destination for many good reasons; and has become one of the preferred sun destinations for many Europeans, in addition to Canadians.

We stayed at the 5 star Tryp Peninsula Hotel, and enjoyed all the activities, services and accommodations offered at this large beachfront resort. The resort is spread out over several acres, and has nearly 600 rooms located in twenty 2 and 3 story colonial-style clapboard buildings; creating an image of a New England beach community. Walkways meander throughout the resort, bordered by well-manicured lawns, bougainvillea and hibiscus hedges.

The main building, with soaring cathedral ceilings and comfortable wicker furniture serves as a focal point for the centre. Here you’ll find the main dining room with enormous buffets, tables replete with a huge variety of food at all mealtimes. There is a well-stocked gift shop, (complete with its own walk-in cigar humidor), service desks for the on-site representatives for Transat Holidays and the other tour operators, a very large (and popular) bar area with a grand piano, a business centre with internet access, and a nightclub. Outside, there is an extensive perimeter of decks for both the dining rooms and bar facilities. Whenever we could find a place, Beverley and I enjoyed having dinner on the terrace, enjoying the fresh air and warm summer-like evenings.

The wonderful beach is the main centre of activity during the day, although the huge pool with the swim-up bar was a close second. There are plenty of thatched beach “umbrellas”, and lounge chairs. Also included in your all-inclusive holiday are the non-motorized water sports, including sailboats, paddle boats and sea kayaks.

We took out a hoby cat catamaran a couple of times, and thoroughly enjoyed sailing on the ocean. The beach crew will also teach you how to work a sail board, provide sailing lessons, and lead the guests in a game of beach volley ball or dance lessons!

We enjoyed meeting fellow Canadians from Brockville, Cape Breton, Saskatoon, Ottawa and Toronto, all travelling with Transat Holidays. Some, like the folks from Cape Breton, were easy to identify with their Tim Horton’s Coffee Mugs!
If you’d like to get out an experience Cuba, there is a variety of guided tours available, in English or French. The Transat representative has a very informative introductory session on your second day, and he was very knowledgeable about the tours, the customs and the culture. We found that it is worth the time to learn more about your holiday, including suggestions for tipping, the best excursions, and so on. Some of the excursions included an all-day trip to Havana (including a visit to a cigar factory), a jeep adventure to a sugar plantation, golf.

However, a good book, the tropical ocean, and the sun can also be very entertaining.

After dinner, there is a show featuring Cuban entertainers in the outdoor theatre. So there you are, looking up the Cuban night sky, a million stars overhead, taking in an authentic Cuban show with singers, dancers and some outstanding musicians. Everyone wearing brilliantly coloured costumes.

Apart from souvenir shopping and local handicrafts, Cuba is not a big shopping destination – so you’re saving money there too.

Included in your holiday are two a-la-carte dinners in one of several more intimate restaurants. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the beachfront La Laguna restaurant. We enjoyed this smaller location so much that we had breakfast and lunch there most of the time.

We also enjoyed a very good evening at the Italian restaurant, La Gondola. Service was very good, the food was fine, and we enjoyed the sunset with our dessert.

We also enjoyed taking a couple of bicycles out (no extra charge) and pedaling up to the end of the Varadero Peninsula. All we had to do was ask, show our bracelets, and we were off on an adventure.

The rooms are large, and everyone has a balcony. A great spot for a morning coffee or a pre-dinner cocktail. They are equipped with coffee makers, hair dryers, TV, in room safes, and a large walk-in closet. The bathrooms have a large tub and a separate shower stall.
In all, we enjoyed our first visit to Cuba, and our stay at the Tryp Peninsula Hotel.

Transat Holidays goes to Cuba 12 months of the year, with service from Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and a wide variety of Canadian cities.For more information about Transat Holidays and Cuba, please call your travel agent, or visit www.transatholidays.com Bon Voyage!

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