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Cycle Cuba! CCC

Visiting: Cuba
Trip Duration 15 Days
 

Reviews for Cycle Cuba!

Travellers were asked to provide a review of the trip, including highlights and tips.

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Cycle Cuba! reviews verified by reevooReevoo

37 reviews

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Cycle Cuba!Scores 8.9 out of 10 based on 37 reviews
(9 out of 10)

Stephen

Birmingham
Cuba is a country like no other I had experienced, and our leader Lismar was brilliant at answering all our questions, covering the history and culture in real depth and sharing some of the magic of the country. We had a wonderful group of fellow travellers supported by a great team, Lismar, Lazero ( mechanic ) and Antonio (driver ). They all went the extra mile to ensure we had a great time. Havana, Vinales and Trinidad were great places to explore and the Casa Particulares were good in all three places.
Tips :
We took far too many clothes, expecting cold weather in the evenings, but we were in shirt sleeves most nights.
ATMs worked well, no need to queue to change sterling.
Confirmed traveller: 24 February 2017
Published on: 05 March 2017
(10 out of 10)

Veronica

Victoria, BC, Canada
We thoroughly enjoyed our cycle tour of Cuba and would highly recommend it. Our tour guide Lismar, mechanic Lazaro and driver Antonio were top class and worked together as a team, with a great blend of humour and expertise. This was our third Explore cycling adventure and they have all been well-organized and worthwhile.

This particular group of cyclists was the best as far as people being flexible and understanding of the limitations involved in travelling in Cuba. It is important to come prepared for things to be very different from home. The food is not always exciting, especially in the large hotels, the facilities can be a little surprising, like the electric showers, poor water pressure and missing toilet seats, but you just have to take it in your stride and be thankful you don't live there!

We all chipped in to buy lots of large bottles of drinking water to keep on the bus and refill our personal water bottles - even so, some people did suffer "tourist tummy". Take Immodium with you, some of our group tried to buy it there and were unable to find anything similar - luckily we had enough between us to share. Top up your bottle on arrival at hotels and casas as bottled water was not always available.

The 4 large hotels all had swimming pools which was a wonderful bonus - the rooms were sometimes shabby, but all had AC and ensuites. Hotel breakfasts and suppers are an adventure in tolerance! There were no complaints about bugs that I heard. A good addition to your luggage is a sink stopper; you will be able to do a bit of laundry so much more easily! I don't think any of the sinks had them. Everything dries overnight in that climate.

The casas were varied. Only the one in Havana accommodated all of us together, in Vinales and Trinidad we were scattered about but not too far apart. Breakfasts in casas were excellent, better than the hotels, with lots of fruit, juice, eggs, coffee and toast. Don't expect to see cereal in Cuba! Casa owners were happy to do laundry and usually wanted 5 cuc's, which was definitely worthwhile.

The cycling was wonderful. Really, every day was a joyful experience in the lush, green countryside. There is virtually NO traffic! Rural Cubans travel by horse and cart, life is slow-paced and enjoyable. We did not do ridiculously early starts as on other Explore trips, and for this I was grateful! The scenery is stunning and we all took our time and stopped for lots of photographs. Lismar was able to answer all our questions and cycled at a speed we could enjoy. Lazaro cycled at the back and was patient and kind. How Antonio managed to drive the bus so slowly behind us and not fall asleep I'll never know! He was always happy to let anyone board the bus if they were sick or tired. The bus was comfy with AC and a toilet.

Some hot-shot cyclists were able to get in extra miles by cycling back to Soroa on day one, and one even rode up to Topes de Colantes on the day we left Trinidad - Lismar went with him, what a guy! Lismar was an encylopedia as far as life and politics in Cuba is concerned. Ask him anything, once he gets started he can keep you entertained for hours on the long bus days.

The sideline activities provided were excellent and varied. The guided walk around Old Havana gave everyone a good introduction to Cuba. We swam in a lake at Las Terrazas and had an amazing vegetarian meal at a very special restaurant there. The orchid garden next door to our hotel in Soroa was beautiful in the late afternoon after our first ride. The history buffs among us really enjoyed the visit to Che's cave hideout, a spectacular place, don't miss it! The view point at Vinales was definitely worth the uphill ride, and the visit to a tobacco farm was a real treat with coffee laced with rum and a puff on a cigar to make it memorable! Don't miss the amazing restaurant on the hill above Vinales for the sunset and the excellent home-grown food. The day-excursion to Cayo Levisa was a welcome break and those who took the snorkelling boat from there enjoyed the experience. The beach was fantastic.

On the long bus trip from Vinales to Cienfuegos we made many stops at roadside coffee and souvenir shops - have a coin ready for the washroom ladies! The swim in a cenote near the Bay of Pigs was a highlight - take your mask and snorkel for a real treat! We had an hour to wander in Cienfuegos in the evening light. This was an amazing place and we all wished we could have stayed there, but instead went to a very uninspiring resort hotel in the middle of nowhere. Apparently the government controls the choice of hotels that Explore can book - but it would be a great improvement if they could negotiate somewhere in town. The beach we stopped at between Cienfuegos and Trinidad provided a nice stop for a swim and the bar on the beach was ok for a quick lunch. The ride from Trinidad to the Valley of the Ingenios had a long hill but the beautiful views made it worthwhile! Don't expect the sugar plantation to be a quiet stop in the countryside, it is heaving with tourists! Only one couple went to the Iguana Island near Trinidad and they had a great time. The rest of us went by taxi to the nearby beach at Ancon, and enjoyed a lazy day of reading on the beach and swimming in the beautiful Caribbean. On two long rides Lismar stopped and arranged lunch for us at small farms. These were simple meals with rural Cubans who were extremely hospitable and calmly fed 13 extra people lunch as if it was nothing out of the ordinary! There are bee hives at the second farm, before Santa Clara, so warn your guide ahead of time if you have a bee allergy as one of our group did get a sting. The visit to Che's mausoleum at Santa Clara was impressive, and the final ride in the Yumuri Valley was beautiful, with the viewpoint above the bridge as a fitting finale.

Plan to have your "farewell dinner" by the pool at the hotel in Santa Clara - a great spot to try a little salsa dancing and more quiet and intimate than anywhere you'd find in Havana. A recommendation for dinner in Havana is "Cinco Esquinas" about 2 blocks north of Casa Vieja, everyone enjoyed it there and the food and wine were great.

One more recommendation: if you are retired or have time to spare, try an extra few nights in Havana before or after the tour, there's lots to see there! If you want some time at a resort, we can recommend Villa Tropico at Jibacoa beach, about an hour east of Havana.
Confirmed traveller: 23 February 2017
Published on: 24 March 2017
(8 out of 10)

Lorraine

Eastbourne
Just returned from a fantastic cycling holiday in Cuba.
I'd recommend the trip as a wonderful way to see and feel Cuba.

I was travelling alone (first time on a group holiday), if I had any reservations before the trip, these were immediately put aside when I met my new travelling friends on arrival at the airport. We were a small group of 8, made up of 2 couples and 4 lone travellers. a great group.

The accomodation was basic, we were made very welcome at the Casa Particulares which were always well located. We were dissapointed at the choice of hotels, mainly because of location - they were usually in the middle of no where with no choices for food other than to eat the hotel buffet. The Casas meant me were able to experience Cuban life, meet the people. eat the food and enjoy the nightlife in the local towns. We made the most of our 3 night stays in Vinales and Trinidad, which are a highlight of my trip (both home stays in Casa) - enjoying the nightlife to the early hours.


Our Guide (Carlos) , Mechanic (Daniel) and driver (Lazerol ) were fantastic, and really made our trip very special, thank you.

Tips,

1) Make sure you tell people back home that you're unlikely to be in contact. Internet access iss very difficult and limited only to town centres whith the purchase of a card (which requires queing for)

2) ATMS are the easiest solution for currency. If you want to change hard currency expect to que for at least an hour everywhere.

3) Travel light, We all took too much.
Essential items:
3 sets of Cycling gear (can wash out) ,
Toiletries as supermarkets don't stock anything other than RUM!
Travel towel for river swims (bathroom towels were supplied in all rooms)
Insect repellent and suncream

Fitness level:
I cycle regularly and found a couple of the 50KM days quite tough, so make sure you are fit for this trip, it does require a reasonable level of fitness as Cuba isn't flat..

Flight
This was the dissapointing part of my trip, I chose to book the complete package with Explore including flight but wished now that I had booked my own flight (as 2 others had on our trip). The flight was with Air Europa (2 hours to Madrid, 2 hour wait and 10 hours to Cuba), the long part was on the most uncomfortable plane ever - no in flight entertainment and no leg room. This compared to easy jet and ryan air but for 10 hours is was very uncomfortable. Our friends travelled on Virgin direct from Gatwick for approx £20 more - I think Explore should offer a direct option.
Confirmed traveller: 08 January 2017
Published on: 09 January 2017
(10 out of 10)

Elaine

Stourbridge
The professionalism of the Explore team in Cuba was exceptional, Carlos our guide, Daniel our mechanic and Lazaro our driver worked very well together, creating the right combination of fun whilst keeping us all safe and improving our riding skills

Carlos was one of the best guides I have ever experienced he had an enormous amount of knowledge not only about Cuba but the world he is very well read spoke perfect English and was able to converse with us on a whole host of things, he also sorted out other bookings for us when we required them and all done with an extremly accommodating manner and a smile on his face

Daniel is a very knowledgeable bike mechanic, he lives and breaths bikes, you can tell that bikes are his life it shows in the way he cares for them, adjusts them them to suit a variety of clients and is able to fix them with speed if there are any issues - he is also an incredible rider and is a very safety conscious back stop

The biggest thing about Carlos, Daniel and Lazaro was that they made us feel cared for they are doing this job week in week out but they are not jaded in any way, they had great sense of humour and are very obviously loving what they are doing, this comes across whilst still maintaining there professionalism, a truly great team
Confirmed traveller: 08 January 2017
Published on: 09 January 2017
(9 out of 10)

Granville

Stafford
It was the extra effort of the tour leader (Carlos) that made the holiday more enjoyable than it would have been for us personally. Always offering optional extra mileage to many days cycling and even accompanied us on a rest day when several of the group made there our own rout! and to the opposite extreme, offering team members the option to stop and get on the coach at any time should they wish to stop cycling.
Not much you can do about most of the accommodation I am sure, so we would warn people we talk to about that, Trinidad was by far the best, where the rooms were very small and had uncomfortable beds, the hosts were very accommodating and friendly and provided very good breakfasts.
Confirmed traveller: 08 January 2017
Published on: 09 January 2017
(9 out of 10)

James

York
First of all it's worth mentioning that Cuba may not be everybody's cup of tea. Some will be frustrated by the laissez faire attitude to customer service, dismayed by the worn out hotel rooms and lack of effective plumbing and view the general dilapidation of the place as indicative of years of Soviet style central planning and a stubborn refusal to engage with the world at large.

If, on the other hand, you admire their stance of non-alignment are refreshed by the sunny disposition of the population and their laid back attitude to life and are prepared to go with the flow and embrace all that Cuba has to offer then you're quite frankly going to have the time of your life. I think I speak for everyone who was on this trip when I say that we all fell in to the latter category.

For me the trip was a wonderful experience from start to finish, made even better by the fact that we were privileged to be among a wonderful group of people, some of whom I am sure will be friends for life, and an amazing Cuban crew who continually went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that our holiday went as smoothly as possible and our enjoyment of the experience has to be attributed in no small part to their endeavours.

Particular mention has to go to Carlos, our guide, for his extensive knowledge and willingness to answer our many questions and give insightful responses in a country where it is not always easy or prudent to speak as freely as one might want.

Daniel, our mechanic, deserves the utmost praise for his tremendous skills in keeping our bikes running as smoothly as possible and also for the quiet and patient manner with which he continually shepherded and watched over the slower members of the team, always ensuring that they were never on their own and always had back up if required.

Speaking of keeping our bikes running smoothly, mention must be made of the bikes we were provided with for the trip. The Stevens is a robust bicycle, physically very capable of coping with the demands of the less than perfect Cuban roads and the numerous unmade and potholed roads which we were faced with at times. It is, however, a heavy beast to haul around and it has to be noted that the drive trains on all of the bikes were extremely tired and frustrating in the extreme to use. While road bikes of the type that many of us ride in the west would be entirely unsuitable for the variety of conditions to be found in Cuba, it would be well worth considering upgrading the fleet to a lighter machine or, at least look to upgrading the drive trains, particularly the rear derailleurs and chains to a higher spec as, having to press the shifters two or even three times to effect a change of gear, does become wearing after a while, particularly when the gradient is heading skyward, as it did on many occasions.

The third member of the crew was Lazaro, our bus driver and water carrier. Even if none of us could understand much, if any, of his impenetrable Cuban Spanish he kept us constantly amused, topped up with water and was always a discreet distance behind the slowest rider and even, on one occasion, came out on his day off to rescue someone whose bike was beyond roadside repair. (Bike issues again! Please take note.)

As for the accommodation provided on the trip, I never had any major issues with any of it and some, the Casa Particular in Trinidad in particular, were excellent. The hotels we stayed in, with the possible exception of the one in Santa Clara, were looking a bit tired by Western standards, particularly the one in Soroa which resembled a Soviet style holiday camp with its general state of decrepitude. The plumbing in Cuba is rarely, if ever, up to Western standards, but, generally speaking, everywhere had warm running water, clean toilets and even toilet seats, which are something of a novelty to the population at large!

As for the itinerary, the only place I felt it could have been improved was on New Years Eve when we stayed at an all inclusive hotel near Cienfuegos. I realise that we needed to make a lengthy transfer from Vinales to Trinidad and that the Cienfuegos area may have provided a useful stopping off point, but the choice of accommodtion, while practical, was not really what any of us had come to Cuba for. I believe most of us would have preferred another night in Vinales, making our own arrangements to celebrate the New Year in the town with the locals, or have our stopover in a Casa Particular in the town of Cienfuegos rather than in an hotel in the back of beyond where we had no choice as to how we wanted to spend the evening.

Overall the trip was an absolute blast. Some of the cycling was right up there with the best days I've ever had on a bike in Britain and Europe. The people were friendly, fun loving and ever willing to help and engage. The skies were mostly blue and Cuba enthralled and entertained us from start to finish. It's a trip I'm going to remember for a very long time. I will be back!
Confirmed traveller: 07 January 2017
Published on: 11 January 2017
(10 out of 10)

Sarah

Salisbury
Brilliant cycling.....some steep hills! Excellent tour leader and team. Good mix of activities. Great food and cocktails!
Confirmed traveller: 06 November 2016
Published on: 09 November 2016
(9 out of 10)

Darren

Leigh on Sea
I felt the whole trip was a fantastic experience and had a brilliant time. I enjoyed the experience of having meals with the locals, the caves at Vinales, Che Guevera's cave. There were so many highlights of the trip. I do feel though it was an expensive holiday for the places we were staying. Many places had brackets hanging off the wall, showers not working etc.
Confirmed traveller: 17 April 2016
Published on: 19 April 2016
(8 out of 10)

Susan

East Horsley
Good tour and Brian our leader was fantastic.
Some of the accommodation was very poor and one Casa we had to leave it was so awful, I nearly boiled alive during the night, no ventilation and noisy, ineffective air conditioning.
Great bikes and some good routes.
Some of the meals were disappointing, expensive and very touristy, would have been better to have more choice. We didn't need a massive meal at lunchtime.
Cuban guide was good but maybe a little jaded, he never chatted with anyone when we were cycling, he had his music plugged in and was miles ahead of us all.
Again, we couldn't fault Brian in any way, best ever apart from Nic in Burma.
Off with you to Kerala at Christmas so hoping for another great leader.
Confirmed traveller: 03 April 2016
Published on: 16 April 2016
(7 out of 10)

Graham

London
Brian was a smashing Team Leader and we really enjoyed the effort he put into looking after the group and ensuring we had the best time. The accommodation was a bit hit and miss - we were of the opinion that for the cost of the holiday more effort could be made by Explore to up-grade some of the hotels that we used.
Confirmed traveller: 03 April 2016
Published on: 15 April 2016