It took a while to find our paradise in Cuba – but we found it. I was longing so much for a simple accommodation near the beach. A place where I could just walk out the door and take long beach walks before anyone else is awake. Where there is cheap food at hand, no need to get on a bus to get anywhere and we could just chill. We are budget travellers so this turned out to be a challenge in Cuba.
In general, Cubans don’t live near those postcard beaches. No, in most places the only way to stay near the beach is in all-inclusive resorts. That’s not us.
After travelling from Havana to Trinidad, checking out La Boca, we turned back to Havana to go visiting my friends in Guanabo. Guanabo is a sleepy village at the end of Playas del Este, the beaches near Havana. A guagua bus trip, public transport from Havana is 0,40 Cuban national pesos. (You need 24 national pesos to get to 1USD so it’s like nothing for outsiders.) Or you pay 1 CUC (1USD) for a máquina, those 1950’s cars that run as shared taxis.
In Guanabo, the easiest way of getting around is still by horse carriage. Or simply by foot, distances are short. Check your email in Havana before going here, there is no internet connection in Guanabo yet (September 2015).
When I was here in February last year, a lot of the sand had been washed off to sea during the rainy season. But in early September (just before the rains) we found kilometres and yet more kilometres of these white sandy beaches. We didn’t spot more than 5 foreign tourists during our 6 days here.
The Cuban style of going to the beach usually involves a lot of rum, beer and vodka. Usually in big groups, chatting and with the bottle and a glass being passed along out in the water. If you’re open for it, you’ll easily get invited to share.
Here comes the negative side of that. In the morning you’re likely to find a lot of cans and bottles and all sorts of garbage in the sand. Maybe that’s why you find so few Europeans here. So it may be a bit dirty sometimes, but on the other hand you’ll easily get invited to share a bottle and a lot of fun with a darling Cuban family or group of friends if you go here. You decide.
We stayed at my extra parents Silvia and Evelio’s house, a stone’s throw from the beach. Just look for the blue upside down anchor – the symbol for room rental in Cuba. If you want to get in contact with Silvia and Evelio, the best hosts in Cuba, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +53 7 7965753.
Silvia and Evelio lend you maps, advise you where to go, serve breakfast with that little extra artistic touch and help you with anything. If you don’t speak Spanish, Evelio is good at English too. Both rooms have private entrance, private bathroom and one has it’s own kitchen.
Silvia and Evelio became like my extra parents when I got ill last time I was in Cuba. More about that adventure here.
Cuba used to be famous for it’s bad range of food and restaurants. This is changing. Among other reasons, the change in allowance of remittences from 500 to 2500 USD has allowed much bigger investments and led to the opening of hundreds of small scale private businesses. (As you see in the picture, Cubans aren’t precisely starving but rather beginning to suffer from the same overweight problems as in the rest of the Americas.)
In Guanabo, you pay in national pesos so the prices are very accessible. Get a lunch or dinner for 50pn (2USD) or 80pn (3,50 USD) if you want a little luxury. We sticked to Super Mario café in park the where you get Cuban traditional food for 40pn and Los Hermanos where you eat a great burger for 50pn and their famous chocolate milk shake with ice cream for 30pn.
Guanabo, Playas del Este
Why Guanabo: Genuinly Cuban with few or no international tourists, cheap food and accommodation near the beach and easy to make Cuban friends.
How to get there: Bus 0,40pn or shared taxi 1 CUC from Havana railway station. 45 min ride.
Where to stay: B&B Casa Silvia y Evelio, Calle 470 no. 305, between 3rd and 5th avenue. Casaguanabo@gmail.com, +53 7 7965753. If they’re full, they’ll help you find a neighbouring casa. Negotiable prices.
Where to eat: Café Super Mario – just across 5th avenue from Silvia and Evelio’s, Cuban food for 40pn, delicious coffee for 5pn, open 24h. Restaurante Los Hermanos – Calle 478, between 5th and 7th avenue, Cuban food as well as burgers, delicious milkshakes and juices. 30pn-120pn.
Where to party: Buy an insanely cheap bottle of rum in the supermarket and head to the beach. At any time of the day.
What to do: Go to the beach, horse ride, go to the beach again, see the sunset from the view point of Guanabo, drink rum, chill, go to the beach again and make a lot of Cuban friends!