Scottish Daily Mail

CAST off to CUBA

It’s hot, quar­an­tine-free and the white sand beach re­sorts of Va­radero of­fer the best deals in the Caribbean, so . . .

- By KATE WICKERS Travel Inspiration · Family Travel · Recreation · Lifestyle · Travel · Cuba · London Gatwick Airport · Manchester · United Kingdom · Nice · Turkey · Panama · Faroe Islands · Beaches · Varadero · Bella Vista · Jibacoa

When we think of Cuba, it’s nor­mally all about the crum­bling build­ings of cap­i­tal ha­vana and age­ing Amer­i­can cars. But one of its big­gest draws is Va­radero, Cuba’s pre­mier beach re­sort, lo­cated on the 12-mile-long hi­ca­cos Penin­sula on the is­land’s north coast.

It has an un­in­ter­rupted stretch of the soft­est, whitest sand any­where and is reg­u­larly voted one of the top five beaches in the world.

Add to this some ex­cel­lent ho­tels, Cuba’s only 18- hole golf course, well- r un wa­ter­sports clubs and the Varahi­ca­cos eco­log­i­cal Re­serve, and it makes a great choice if you’re af­ter a spot of winter sun.

Cuba has lagged be­hind other Caribbean des­ti­na­tions in terms of lux­ury, service and food, but oh how things have changed of late. And the rum rum (Cuban slang for newsy gos­sip) is that Va­radero is now the best bar­gain in the Caribbean, with ho­tels slash­ing rates to get tourism go­ing again.

Flights from Gatwick to Va­radero will r es­ume on De­cem­ber 3 and f r om Manch­ester on De­cem­ber 7.

Thanks to aver­age winter tem­per­a­ture highs of 27c (80f) and with Cuba now des­ig­nated a travel cor­ri­dor (no quar­an­tine on re­turn to the UK), it’s def­i­nitely all go

for Va­radero this winter. Read on for our pick of the best places to visit...

CARIBBEAN COLOURS

THE Caribbean decor of sun­shine yel­lows and sky blues on dis­play at Iberostar Va­radero will put you in­stantly in beach mode.

This is a lively re­sort with 386 gen­er­ous rooms spread across 11 low-rise build­ings, set in ex­otic gar­dens next to the ocean.

There’s a scuba-div­ing cen­tre and wa­ter­sports kiosk with pad­dle boards, kayaks and ped­a­los, while skip­pered cata­ma­ran trips de­part at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals

Kids are kept busy with a full pro­gramme of ac­tiv­i­ties. For adults, a small spa is tucked away in a quiet corner. Bar­be­cue lunches are served pool and beach­side, but by night there’s choice of all-en­com­pass­ing buf­fet, Ja­panese or Cuban.

Try Cuban clas­sic ropa vieja —a rich beef casse­role with sweet pep­pers served with fried plan­tain.

BEST FOR: Fam­i­lies.

HOW TO DO IT: Seven nights allinclu­sive, in­clud­ing Gatwick flights and trans­fers, from £1,061 pp on De­cem­ber 17 ( firstchoic­e.co.uk).

TOP BEACH

ROY­AL­TON Hi­ca­cos is an adult­sonly trop­i­cal re­treat sand­wiched be­tween jun­gle and a stretch of white sand that many con­sider the pret­ti­est in Va­radero.

La­goon pools me­an­der through the trop­i­cal gar­den and be­tween the thatched roofs of the re­sort’s main build­ings, cre­at­ing a desert is­land feel. The 404 rooms have an old- school Caribbean feel: rat­tan chairs, beds draped with mos­quito nets and whirring fans.

But they do not skimp on com­fort, with king- sized beds as stan­dard. Nice touches i nclude a gelato sta­tion and jazz bar. En­joy seafood at The Pearl, or steaks at the Beach Grill, two of the five din­ing options. BEST FOR: Cou­ples. HOW TO DO IT: Seven nights allinclu­sive, in­clud­ing Gatwick flights and trans­fers from £1,114 pp on Jan­uary 21 ( tui.co.uk).

CUBAN CHARM

JUST a five-minute drive from Varahi­ca­cos Eco­log­i­cal Re­serve, home to 31 species of bird and 24 rep­tile, Iberostar Tainos is a 272-room tra­di­tion­ally-dec­o­rated re­sort. Ex­pect lime green and coral colour schemes — plus palm leaf para­sols.

All rooms (although a lit­tle dated) have beach and sea views. What it may lack in style, it makes up for in charm and is per­haps one of the most au­then­tic Cuban ex­pe­ri­ences you’ll find in Va­radero.

Wa­ter­sports, kids’ club ac­tiv­i­ties and salsa danc­ing lessons — which can be put into prac­tice at the weekly Cuban show — are all on of­fer here. BEST FOR: Na­ture lovers.

HOW TO DO IT:

Seven nights all- in­clu­sive, in­clud­ing flights from Manch­ester and trans­fers in Cuba, from £901 pp on Jan­uary 18 ( tui.co.uk).

STYLE IN THE SUN

ONE of a new breed of con­tem­po­rary Cuban ho­tels, Ocean Vista Azul is a 501-room re­sort that car­ries off a bou­tique de­signer look de­spite its size. White, bright rooms are splashed with colour­ful fur­nish­ings and art­work, and the six restau­rants and bars are stylish.

As well as a gym, spa, fam­ily pool, kids’ club and wa­ter sports cen­tre, there’s a club just for 13 to 16-yearolds. Its trump card is a gor­geous in­fin­ity pool with sea views. A twominute walk along a pri­vate path takes you to the beach. BEST FOR: Fam­i­lies with teens.

HOW TO DO IT: Seven nights allinclu­sive, in­clud­ing Manch­ester flights and trans­fers, from £1,004 pp, on Fe­bru­ary 8 ( firstchoic­e.co.uk).

FAM­ILY FUN

SOL Palmeras is a vast horse­shoe­shaped re­sort with 408 rooms and 200 beach bun­ga­lows and suites.

It knows happy kids equals happy par­ents, go­ing all-out to keep lit­tle ones smil­ing with dawn-to- dusk ac­tiv­i­ties and en­ter­tain­ment from pool fun to mini dis­cos.

Add bouncy cas­tles, mini golf, la­goon-sized pools and restau­rants serv­ing favourites in­clud­ing Mex­i­can and Ital­ian, and the scene is set

for a per­fect fam­ily holiday. For adults, there’ s as pa, wa­ter­sports cen­tre of­fer­ing cata­ma­ran sail­ing, wind­surf­ing, kayak­ing and pad­dle-board­ing.

And it’s next door to Cuba’s only 18-hole golf course.

BEST FOR: Fam­i­lies and golfers. HOW TO DO IT: Seven nights all-in­clu­sive, in­clud­ing

Manch­ester flights and trans­fers, from £1,013 pp, on Jan­uary 25 ( tui.co.uk).

CROWD PLEASER

WHO says big and blocky can’t be beau­ti­ful? The 827-room Iberostar Bella Vista has a for­est back­drop and is be­side a gor­geous horse­shoe of sand.

There’s ev­ery­thing you would ex­pect from a large re­sort — kids’ club, wa­ter­sports, two vast pools and more, in­clud­ing a mini wa­ter­park, Ba­li­nese-style beach beds, plus a spa.

Up­grade to a pres­tige room and you have ac­cess to a pri­vate pool. There are six restau­rants in­clud­ing Ital­ian and Cuban.

BEST B FOR: All ages.

HOW TO DO IT: Seven nights allinclu­sive, in­clud­ing Manch­ester flights and trans­fers, from £958 pp on Jan­uary 4 ( firstchoic­e.co.uk).

BEAUTY SPOT

ALL about lo­ca­tion, Memories Jiba­coa is an adults-only re­sort set in 19 acres of gar­dens be­low a jun­gle-clad hill. A coral reef is close by, mak­ing it a great op­tion for fo snorkeller­s and divers.

Al­ter­na­tively, hike or horserider up the hill­side for fine views of the penin­sula. It may not be the most mod­ern re­sort, with the decor of its 240 rooms cheery but bat ad old-fash­ioned, but you can’t beat it as a beauty spot.

There are four restau­rants, a spa of­fer­ing rum mas­sages, a pool, ten­nis courts and a wa­ter­sports cen­tre. Guests aged over 16 years are wel­come. BEST FOR: Cou­ples, plus snorkeller­s and divers. HOW TO DO IT: Seven nights all-in­clu­sive, in­clud­ing Gatwick flights and trans­fers, cost from £878 pp, de­part­ing on De­cem­ber 17 ( tui.co.uk).

 ??  ?? Com­mu­nist riviera: The Va­radero penin­sula is per­fect for snorkellin­g
Com­mu­nist riviera: The Va­radero penin­sula is per­fect for snorkellin­g
 ??  ?? Iconic: Bill­board of Marx­ist rev­o­lu­tion­ary Che Gue­vara in Va­radero
Iconic: Bill­board of Marx­ist rev­o­lu­tion­ary Che Gue­vara in Va­radero
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Wheely retro: Vin­tage U.S. cars are one of the Caribbean coun­try’s most fa­mous sights and (above right) en­ter­tain­ment in Cuban colours on the beach at the Roy­al­ton Hi­ca­cos re­sort
Wheely retro: Vin­tage U.S. cars are one of the Caribbean coun­try’s most fa­mous sights and (above right) en­ter­tain­ment in Cuban colours on the beach at the Roy­al­ton Hi­ca­cos re­sort

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