In early September, Hurricane Irma hit Cuba, destroying buildings and killing 10 people. The gorgeous white sand of the Cayos was blown around by insane winds. Roofs and ceilings were ripped off of houses and resorts. Palm trees flew through the air. Glass and window frames shattered. Tourists were sent home and the Cuban people were left to clean up the mess.
And clean up they did—fast. In the aftermath that followed, a surge of 10,000 workers and volunteers from the country and abroad worked tirelessly to prepare the resorts for tourists to return.
And they’re ready.
On a recent press trip with Air Transat, I visited a multitude of resorts in Cayo Coco, Cayo Santa Maria and Varadero. Cuba’s second largest industry is tourism (after medical exports), so they rely on Canadian travellers to return for peak season.
Right now, workers are completing the finishing touches. Canadian tourists can be confident returning to Cuba’s resorts when they reopen November 1st and 15th. And don’t worry – the resorts, powder-white sand and warm hospitality are just as beautiful as they were prior to the hurricane.
To be honest, all of the resorts I visited are wanderlust-worthy, but there were a few that stood out to me. Below, I’ve detailed my top three favourites for the specific reasons you’ll want to stay.
1. Friends getaway
Paradisus Princesa del Mar, Varadero
I’ve been bugging my best friends to travel with me for years, and after seeing this resort, I actually think they might.
Paradisus Princesa del Mar was barely touched by Hurricane Irma (some roof tiles ripped off and general maintenance is underway). As I toured the property, I grabbed a perfect mojito from a bartender near the pool, where adults played tipsy volleyball. We walked through gardens with darting geckos to the beach. A dance lesson was starting on the sand. Tourists lazed around the property, connecting to WiFi and guzzling slushy drinks. Still more wandered in groups, baring that sun-kissed red skin that shows they’ve already been drinking by the pool a few days.
Why is it perfect for a friend’s getaway?
Adults Only. Need I say more? You can play games in the pool, get involved in daily activities or just lounge by the beach all while getting profusely drunk with your besties. Sign me up!
2. Family vacation
Melia Las Dunas, Cayo Santa Maria
I don’t have kids, and I don’t think I ever will (that’s a totally different story). But I appreciate that many families like to travel with their kids, just as my parents took me abroad when I was younger.
Hurricane Irma messed up the gardens, but otherwise, they didn’t do much damage at Melia Las Dunas. However, the resort is taking this opportunity (being void of tourists) to replace the AC in the seven a-la-carte restaurants and two buffets and put a fresh coat of paint on all the rooms.
Why is it perfect for a family vacation?
There’s a separate children’s/activity area and an adults-only section. There are three pools and three points of beach access, allowing you and your family to find your favourite spots. Furthermore, all of the suites face the ocean, meaning you still get a fantastic view when you’re in your room.
3. Destination wedding
Melia Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco
No, I am not engaged, and neither am I anywhere near ready to get married. But when I am, I would definitely choose Melia Cayo Guillermo for my destination wedding in Cuba.
One of the harder hit by the hurricane, Melia Cayo Guillermo needs to rebuild their iconic pier and replace destroyed beach umbrellas and huts. They’re also building a new area where guests can get a massage next to the ocean.
Why is it perfect for a destination wedding?
With only 301 rooms, this resort is small enough to feel cozy and large enough for your wedding party to spread out and relax. The décor includes white, modern statues, wooden touches and a bright, open, classy lobby that exudes the feel of a European museum.
It’s important to keep in mind that a five-star resort in Cuba doesn’t have the same standards as a five-star in Mexico. Make sure you do your research and know what to expect so you enjoy your Cuban vacation as much as possible!
For more about the current situation in Cuba, read my article on CanadianTraveller.com.
Have you ever been to Cuba? Where did you stay? Where would you stay next?