CUBA. THE RHYTHM OF RELAXATION.
CUBA – YOUR CARIBBEAN CASA
Real rum, choice cigars, the most coveted coastlines on earth — if those don’t float your boat, you can always hit up Hemingway’s haunts for some dominoes and Cuban coffee before soaking it all in via vintage taxi tour. Cuba’s always a trip. Literally. Fun fact: from above, Cuba looks like a big lizard, hence its nickname: el cocodrilo.
From bustling beauty in the historic heart of Havana to epic mountain ranges cradling the plains of Santa Clara to the lush subtropical forest canopies of seaside Holguín — Cuba is a holiday hotspot with reason.
Unsurprisingly, the sanctuaries that grace the happy shores of el cocodrilo are some of the finest in the world and Gaviota Hotels are no exception. Every one of their pristine properties peppering the island welcomes travellers into luxury and sends them home with their wanderlust soundly satiated. But spoiler alert: you’re going to want to come back.
Tucked into the epic archipelago of Cuba’s Jardines del Rey, Cayo Coco boasts mesmerizing mangrove thickets (seaside forests crawling out of tranquil turquoise waves) and crayon-coloured marine life forever at play among the dense coral reefs that surround the key. Be ready for a dive. Or some birding. Some of the best birdwatching happens here — crack out the binocs for yogic flamingoes and Mellisuga helenae
, or bee hummingbird, the world’s tiniest (and cutest) winged creature.
HOTEL PLAYA PARAÍSO
Anyone looking for a cozy place to land a sunny fam jam should jot this Cayo Coco hideaway down on their travel list (and likely near the top). Idyllic to the point of being surreal, this resort is ensconced by tropical gardens on the cusp of a stretch of sugar-fine beachfront bliss. Drop the kids at the mini club and take in a salsa class (if you want to blend though, call it Casino
SWEET SANTA CLARA
Vast flatlands girded by mountains define the heritage-heavy capital of Santa Clara — at its heart is the Che Guevera mausoleum, standing in honour of the famed freedom fighter. Should you want to step up the fun, strike out for the charming fishing village of Caibarién. Known locally as La Villa Blanca for its beautiful sun-bleached shores, it has a reputation for hosting impressive Parrandas (aka Carnivals).
Need more nature? No prob. The UNESCO-protected Buenavista biosphere reserve is nearby, and well worth a trek.
HOTEL PLAYA CAYO SANTA MARIA
The archetypal all-in oasis, this leisurely lodging offers up mind-blowing vistas of the Villa Clara Keys. Safe to say, you’ll want for nothing within this escapist estate which seems intent on spoiling its guests with unlimited bar, restaurant, spa access and tennis lessons while beach huts handily provide massages and manicures. Really take your downtime seriously? Not an issue. Electric trolleys will squire you about the hotel.
HEAD STRAIGHT FOR HOLGUÍN
If you’re up for a hike, Holguín’s Loma de la Cruz will not disappoint. Standing 261 metres above sea level, this tourist-luring hill is topped with a rugged wooden cross that watches over the locals. Don’t sweat it, cars are available for those unwilling to test the limits of their cardio. The sought-after ocean sands and artisanal markets of Guardalavaca are your best bet for a lazy day of sunbathing and shopping. Interesting aside: the town’s name translates roughly to “mind the cows,” something ancient townsfolk would yell back when foreign invaders were an unfortunate but common occurrence.
HOTEL PLAYA PESQUERO, SUITE & SPA HOTEL
Squeezed between dense greenery teeming with fauna and an aquamarine seascape you could stare at for days, this regal 5-star resort promises restorative care as opulent as it is exotic. Indulge in a stress-melting 4-hand massage, spoil yourself with a beautifying mud wrap, steam your worries away in the wet sauna, or just get bubbly with bae in the outdoor jacuzzi — you’re almost obliged to lose yourself in luxury here. For something more energetic, challenge another couple to a friendly game of ping-pong or put a bow on your leisurely pursuits and try your hand at archery. Just don’t miss sampling the culinary delights on offer at all the epic eateries or popping by the Piano Bar come nightfall.
TOP 3 ACTIVITIES
CRUCERO DEL SOL CATAMARAN CRUISE IN SANTA MARÍA
From Las Brujas Key, you’ll hop a catamaran and sail the surrounding isles of these impressive waters, joined by playful dolphins and swooping sea birds. The warm, crystalline sea here is begging for a snorkel sesh that’ll showcase mind-blowing marine life populating the second biggest coral reef on earth. Next, you’ll bask beachside before enjoying a lobster lunch. Oh, did we mention the onboard DJ and bottomless cocktails? This one is nothing but pure fun.
SPECTACULAR CIEGO DE ÁVILA IN CAYO COCO
For an authentic experience, head inland through the Cuban countryside by air-conditioned bus to the historic cities of Ciego de Ávila and Morón. A mini tour of the historic city centre of Ciego de Ávila leaves ample time for browsing the markets before a lunch of local fare at a downtown restaurant. Then you’re off to Morón, the aptly named City of the Rooster — a bronze statue marks its namesake — for more colonial architecture by horse-drawn buggy. An eco-boat ride around La Redonda lake followed by a visit to a crocodile farm punctuates your day.
BAY ADVENTURES IN HOLGUÍN
You’re going to want to take the Jeep Safari at Cayo Saetia on Paradise Island. This one takes you through tropical forest trails and gets you up close to water buffalo, antelope, ostriches, wild horses, giraffes, zebras, legwans (think lizard), and brightly plumed parrots that are happy to announce your arrival with a timely squawk. There’s even a catamaran tour of Baja Nipe complete with beachside buffet lunch and a soothing swim in the tepid surf before heading home.Let Cuba captivate you!