Is it going on a family vacation to Cuba, a funny idea? Few destinations indeed fuel as many fantasies and mysteries as Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean. No wonder, under the communist era, the country was largely closed to the outside world and especially to American mass culture. This has thus preserved all the singularity of the people and Cuban history. For years, very little information has circulated on the island, which makes this country rather hostile to a stay with children. This is false!
Visit Cuba with your family; it’s now!
Cubans are very welcoming and love children. No significant insecurity is felt if we remain cautious, as everywhere. Moreover, if you must go on a trip to Cuba, it’s now! And yes, political relations with the United States have relaxed and will thus lead to an opening to American tourism on the island. This future tourist “colonization” suggests the flowering of hotels and establishments adapted to the desires of travelers. So you might as well enjoy the riches and beauty of this island before anyone else!
What to visit in Cuba?
For a simplified stay, we advise you to focus on the central and western parts of the island. This will allow you to travel through Havana, the Vinales Valley, and the major cities, such as Trinidad or Santa Clara. The roads are not very young, and the distances are relatively long, so it is better not to be too ambitious on your trips. Indeed, Cuba will also teach you to take your time and not be in a hurry. You will have to find something to occupy your children in the car during your travels, by collective taxi or bus.
With children, yes, but at what age?
It’s better to have some travel experience before setting off for Cuba. This atypical destination is more suitable for children of walking age because the streets and sidewalks are not suitable for strollers. However, everything can be imagined A baby carrier, and presto! If you are not a seasoned tribe travelling abroad, you can get help from a tour operator to organize a circuit. Whatever your traveling style, here’s why you shouldn’t miss a vacation with the kids in Cuba!
1/11 Visit Havana and take a ride in an old American car
Why? Havana is the soul of Cuba united in one city. Located in the far west of the island, La Habana (its name in Spanish) is Cuba’s capital and is the largest city in the Caribbean. It is a must-see during your stay. Wander the colourful streets of Habana Vieja, the old town. In the Plaza de la Catedral, you will always find animation. According to your intuition, do not hesitate to get lost in the streets. Palaces, churches Every corner conceals treasures from the history of this great country. Then, do not deprive yourself of a stroll aboard a beautiful American convertible along the Malecon, a road on the seafront. The experience is unforgettable, for young and old alike, in these cars from another time, all colorful and well maintained!
2/11 Explore the Vinales Valley
Why? In Cuba, you will rub shoulders with lush nature. On the road, between your various stops, you will cross the green countryside, with fields of coconut palms and banana trees. Nature is even more luxuriant in the region of Vinales and its tobacco fields. You can cross this vegetation on foot. But also on horseback! Indeed, horseback riding in the middle of coffee, sugar cane, and tobacco fields is expected.
3/11 Visit Trinidad, the most beautiful city on the island
Why? It is quite simply the most charming city in all of Cuba. With its cobbled streets lined with colorful cases, lively establishments, and breathtaking nature nearby, it is a spot not to be missed. Climb to the top of the bell tower of the Grande Eglise to discover a dazzling view of the entire valley. Head to El Nicho to swim in gigantic natural waterfalls. Bask on Playa Ancon beach steps away. You won’t want to leave!
4/11 Take advantage of one of the countless beaches and cays of the Caribbean
Why? Cuba is full of authenticity and rich in unique history, but it is also the largest island in the Caribbean. And who says island, says beaches, and says idleness! In Cuba, you will indeed be able to discover all the beauty of the beaches on the coast, such as Playa Ancon. Another peculiarity of Cuba is the many islets called “Cayo” surrounding the shores. Little corners of paradise, easily accessible. However, many are private and state-owned, on which “resort” style hotels have been built, and only tourists can access them. We recommend Cayo Jutias, not far from the Vinales valley, for a wilder side. This family beach is still preserved from mass tourism at the end of a road that seems to float on the sea. If you are looking for a week of Riviera-style rest in a starred hotel, then, in this case, head to Varadero.
5/11 Let yourself be carried away by Cuban rhythms
Why? Cuba is warm, joie de vivre and catchy tunes. Music is omnipresent, in homes, in restaurants, but above all in the street. Don’t be shy about stopping to listen to a street band playing Latin tunes, and let your body wiggle!
6/11 Discover one of the last communist strongholds in the world
Why? Fascinating and rich, the History of Cuba has something to interest young and old. Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Batista… So many names that echo our high school lessons. Few countries are still as marked by communism as Cuba. Moreover, the island was until recently closed to the United States and to all the economy and products that go with it. You will come into contact with this unique culture during your stay. Che’s maxims are written almost everywhere on the walls; the supermarkets are practically empty (very little import is still authorized), the difficult access to the Internet still cuts them off a lot from all the music or foreign cinema, and the prices are often lined up (challenging to negotiate).
7/11 Sleeping with locals in a particular casa
Why? This is one of the many other particularities of Cuba. Apart from the cayos and a few cities, you will not find hotels to stay in, but “Casas particulares” rooms in local people’s homes. Often quite simple and with very colorful decoration, these rooms will, however, provide you with all the necessary comfort. Above all, it’s a lovely way to enter into Cubans’ intimacy and share authentic moments with them. Often, your hosts will also offer you cover.
8/11 How to get to Cuba?
Which company to choose? The French airline XL Airways connects Cuba (Varadero) to New York CDG on one weekly flight from December 24, 2018, to May 6, 2022. Flights to Havana will resume from July 7 to October 20, 2022.
The price: L round trip to Varadero is available from $527. No surprises. All fares include checked baggage and a hot meal.
On board: For meals, a selection of World Collection platters is available (Spanish, Italian, Oriental, and local menu, from $16). Special meals are also available for vegetarians/vegans, gluten intolerant, or passengers following a religious diet (from $10).
On the entertainment side, passengers can take advantage of the XL Cloud wireless entertainment system. In addition, XL Airways is the test company for Skylights glasses, designed by the Toulouse start-up of the same name. This service is offered for $15/flight, noise reduction headphones included. All our aircraft are also equipped with the XL Cloud system, our wireless entertainment platform, accessible on all flights. On the program: films, series, press, games and a space for children. Part of the catalogue is accessible free of charge. Access to the entire catalogue is offered at $9.95/flight.
Information and reservations: xl.com, 0 892 692 123 ($0.35/min + cost of call) or travel agencies.
9/11 Know before you go
It is mandatory to get a tourist card to go to Cuba. You can either go to the Cuban embassy in New York or order it on the Internet. You need one per family member. The price is 27 dollars. Without it, you will not be able to enter Cuban territory.
Before leaving, you should know that Cuba has two currencies: tourists use CUC (the convertible peso), and Cubans use the CUP (the peso). The difference between the two is enormous, but that’s the rule on the island. Also, be careful: in most cases, you will have to pay in cash. Payment by credit card is very rarely possible.
Attention digital detox to plan! Indeed, in Cuba, internet access is very, very limited. You need to buy Etecsa wifi cards, which work by the hour. You will then have to go to “wifi zones” (you will recognize them by crowds of people with their phones in hand) and enter the codes for your card. Very few hotels have their terminals, and you will have to use your card with a time count.