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All-Inclusive Holidays in Cuba Advantages and Disadvantages

Hotel bar

Hotel Bar relaxing after a day out in Havana.

Cuba tends to be a very popular all-inclusive location and it is not hard to see why. Long white sandy beaches, the wonderful Caribbean weather, relatively newly built hotels and great entertainment (with the lively Cuban dance and music in the evenings).

What’s Included and Tipping

An all-inclusive holiday in Cuba is a package which normally includes:

  • Flights
  • Hotel stay
  • Any airport transfers
  • A tour guide representative (which is usually on hand to answer any questions)
  • Meals (most often breakfast and evening meal)

and many Cuba packages also include a full drinks package (with tips included). A friend went on one of the packages which included drinks and all tips, but many American visitors still tipped on top of this again and seemed to get preferred service. Us British visitors of course are less used to the tipping culture and my advice is that if tips are included there really is no need to provide an extra tip. If you wish to, of course, at the end of your holiday, because you have had outstanding service by a specific waiter, waitress or other hotel employee, then certainly it is up to you if you wish to tip extra though.

There is normally a buffet in most of the resort hotels and you tend to have a choice of hot and cold foods, as well as snacks at all other times of the day. If you are staying any length of time i.e. longer than 7 days, you might find that you will begin to get tired of the buffet, except for in the largest hotels where the variety of food and size of the buffet is extensive. An all-inclusive package though still tends to work out as the best option economically and there is nothing stopping you from going off to eat in a nearby restaurant once or twice as you wish.

Pros of Cuban All Inclusive Resorts

The obvious advantage of an all-inclusive holiday in Cuba is that you can potentially save a great deal of money on the overall cost. Eating out three times a day can be pricey, even in Cuba, especially if you have a large appetite and like to have a number of dishes for each meal. You also never know what the standard of food will be like in the restaurants and bars outside of the resort, although, having said that, I have always found the food overall in public places to eat, to be very good. Food is something which Cubans take great pride in, much like you would expect if dining out in Italy. Whilst many dishes are based on staple foods such as rice and potatoes, the way in which Cuban food is cooked and prepared is unique and very good.

With all inclusive holidays you can eat as much as you like, and if you do not like a dish you can simply leave it and get something else. The downside of this is that many tourist become very wasteful and you can often see fellow travellers leaving plates of food uneaten and to be thrown away. If you are coming to Cuba as a large group such as for a wedding or other celebration, the all inclusive option can be an excellent way to satisfy most people in your group and is a great way to most easily organise the group trip.

Many of the all-inclusive hotels also include use of their own private beach area and many have large swimming pool areas and also provide free evening entertainment.

Disadvantages

Locations and culture – The obvious downside to an all-inclusive break in Cuba is that many people see and experience very little of the local culture and the real Cuba. Being stuck in a small resort on Cayo Guillermo or Santiago de Cuba, you can so easily get into the beach, pool and cocktail routine that you will soon lose the motivation to take a day trip to places such as Havana, the Vinales Valleys or to a cigar making factory. Some of the all -inclusive resorts are in quite secluded locations, such as those in the region of Santiago de Cuba, which are too far for many tourists for a trip to Havana (unless doing an overnight visit). If you are interested in combining an all-inclusive stay with a visit to Havana, Varadero is really your best option in my opinion. Varadero has a lovely coastline, a wide range of water sports to choose from and has many tourist hotels and is an area which is only 60 Km from the centre of Havana.

Food and Drink – I have touched on this above already, but one problem I have with all-inclusive is that I get bored of the same old food, except for when the hotel has a large buffet area and have different specialities every night. Some of these larger hotels have such a good variety that you could stay for months and you would not get bored. In other hotels, you will be tired of the food after a week.

Varadero resort hotel

In Varadero

For those who are determined not to spend much on food and drink whilst in Cuba, this would mean staying close to the hotel in order to make meal times. This may be fine for some people, but it does mean that your itinerary must be quite rigid and there will not be as much time to explore the surrounding area.

From a sustainable tourism viewpoint, all-inclusive holidays mean that vital income is lost as people are not spending money in their restaurants, making it hard for local Cuban businesses to survive and prosper. Hotels are often owned by international companies and therefore the cost of the holiday can be leaked out of Cuba.

Some Recommended All-Inclusive Resorts

These resorts below are ones I have stayed in and can recommend if you are looking for a relaxing vacation in Cuba, staying in an all inclusive option.

1. Paradisus Rio de Oro Hotel – One of the best all inclusive holiday resort in Cuba is the Paradisus Rio de Oro Hotel, at Holguin, on the east coast. A beautifully landscaped resort which sits on a cliff overlooking Playa Esmeralda, this resort boasts many two-storied blocks and the more exclusive casita and a beach. It is an all inclusive five star beach resort with its own stretch of beach attached to the resort. The Paradisus Rio de Oro has a number of restaurants, a dive center, provision for water sport and a health center.

2. Iberostar – The Iberostar is located on a secluded beach 20 minutes away from the centre of Varadero. It boasts 11 three storied buildings, terraces and balconies, lush gardens and 5 specialist restaurants.

3. Sol Rio De Luna y Mares Hotel – The Sol Rio De Luna y Mares Hotel is also located in
Holguin. This resort is set on massive lawns and boasts restaurants that specialise in Cuban, Mediterranean, Mexican and Italian cuisine. The resort also makes provisions for its patrons who would like to windsurf or scuba-dive. The highlight at the resort is the beach-side discotheque it boasts.

4. Paradisus Princesa del Mar Resort and Spa at Varadero – This resort is located on a remote section of beach and most of the rooms come with a balcony or terrace view. Rooms with ocean views are also available. It is fully equipped in terms of restaurants and bars and activities for its patrons to truly experience Cuban culture.

5. Melia Cayo Santa Maria – The Melia Cayo Santa Maria, situated in Caibarien is another popular holiday resort because of its flexibility in terms of accommodating couples or families. Also, the resort has a special offer on for weddings and honeymoons held at the picturesque resort which also features a hotel safe, café, bar and restaurant, not to mention a nightclub and a kids club to keep patrons of all ages entertained.

6. Melia Caya Coco – This Melia resort upholds the high standards of all the resorts maintained by this group. It is located at Caya Coco and offers its guests a variety of activities to choose from.

7. Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria – This is a beachfront resort located in Cayo Santa Maria and is a two hour drive from the Santa Clara airport. It offers its guests access to a number of restaurants, a swimming pool, water sports, a disco and many other excellent facilities.

8. Sol Cayo Largo – Part of the prestigious Sol group of resorts, this luxury resort is located in the beautiful Cayo Largo. It attracts a large number of tourists every year and is one of the most popular resorts in the region.

9. Blau Varadero – While there are many resorts in Varadero, the Blau Varadero is among the most popular tourist destinations in Cuba. It has a number of different activities for children and adults.

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