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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Cuba - 8 Day Itinerary with Young Kids

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

DAY 1 & 2 – CALGARY TO TORONTO | CAYO COCO We took a flight to Toronto from Calgary the first afternoon and spent the night in a hotel prior to our flight to Cuba the next day. Clara was really into checking out the hotel features. She pointed out everything, like “Look Mommy and Daddy, there’s a TV in the bedroom” or “There’s airplane pillows.” Both flights were about 3 hours long each and she did well on both of them with some iPad games/shows and some games that we played. When we arrived at Cayo Coco airport we had to wait in line at immigration for a bit. I was curious to see if they would stamp my US passport now with the open US/Cuban relations. With Cayo Coco still not having a ton of US tourists they didn’t stamp my passport, but they did stamp the three Canadian passports. I’d be curious if we flew into Havana, where all the US flights are coming in, if they would have stamped it there. We took a taxi to the resort, as it was just more convenient with two kids – it was about 30 CUC from the airport to our resort, the Melia Del Rey. We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening checking out the pool, getting dinner and watching the kids program that night. DAY 3 – CAYO COCO: Our first full day we played at the pool and checked out the beach. The beach was one of the most beautiful ones I had been to with the white sand and turquoise water. For ease of convenience with kids, we ate at the buffet at the resort, but they had really good selection of food. The pastries/desserts weren’t the greatest, but I think that’s because most countries don’t use as much sugar that most North Americans are accustomed to.


The highlights for Clara were the ice cream hut (she spotted it from a long ways away), the beach (“the waves tickle my feet”) and the kids program. Normally she is somewhat reserved, but when we mentioned it was a kids program – she marched right up on stage herself to partake in the activities of singing and dancing to the songs. I wouldn’t say she actually danced, but she mostly just observed and then at the end she started to sway back and forth. Daddy even got involved in the last song!


DAY 4 – CAYO COCO to TRINIDAD:

We spent the morning at the resort beach; then it was a travel day to Trinidad. Our taxi driver spoke pretty good English, so it was interesting to talk to him and learn more about Cuba. As we were leaving the island of Cayo Coco, we saw the police doing checks on people trying to drive on man-made peninsula to the island. This is because Cayo Coco is basically just a tourist destination and locals only come to it if they have job there.


Outside of the resort area we stopped at a local paladar and provided lunch to our taxi driver as a tip. It was one of the more expensive meals we had – 15 CUC per person – but it was good and one of the selections was lobster. We asked our taxi driver what is sourced locally and what is sourced abroad, and if we understood correctly, sugar cane (major Cuban crop) and all fruit comes from the island. However, it's all tropical fruit, we never saw anything like apples there. Chicken came from North America or Europe, as well as Europe was a main trade partner with other meats, like lobster, and items like butter.

Our taxi driver actually had a son who moved to Las Vegas, and as we started to talk to many Cubans it seemed like most of them had an immediate family member who lived abroad, especially in Europe. We asked him about the US/Cuban relations and he said while Obama was in office things were good, but now with Trump being president he felt that the relationship was so-so and it just depended on the day. He said that most of the American tourists were up near Havana, which is where all the U.S. airlines were flying into. However, we did see some American tourists at the beach in Trinidad, but I think they were on an organized day tour.

Trinidad was a very cool town and was one of the highlights of the trip. It provided picturesque views with multi-colored houses with classic cars. However, there was definitely the tourist area of town. Our first night we explored Trinidad in the Old Town Centre and then found a paladar for dinner that had a rooftop patio. It was a nice way enjoying the sunset on the rooftop with some live Cuban music playing. Our daughter loved it too – she joined in with the musicians in playing the maracas with her baby brother’s rattle.


DAY 5 – TRINIDAD: We explored more of Trinidad this morning, including going up to the bell tower, which was a museum of Trinidad as well. However, all the museum displays were in Spanish, so we weren’t able to understand most of it.

In the afternoon, we took a car taxi to Playa Ancon – just 15-20 minutes away – and enjoyed the afternoon at the beach by ‘feeding the waves’ with sand and going for little rides on the floatie we had brought from home.

This was the day that truly stood out as Cuba being kid friendly! At our breakfast at the casa, Connor was a bit fussy, so through her broken English, the lady who made breakfast for us offered to take and hold him! Then this was also the evening that Clara made friends with the wait staff at the restaurant.


DAY 6 – TRINIDAD: We decided to do one of the horseback rides to the waterfalls in Topes de Collantes Natural Park, located just outside of Trinidad. Because we had two little ones, we opted for the horse drawn cart to take our family to the Falls. We were picked up in the morning and taken to the spot just on the edge of town to meet our driver and horse who would escort us. Our driver was Yosandry and he spoke pretty decent English – it was really good considering he had taught himself! He was 18-years old and he shared with us that his wife was 17 years old, as there were no laws in Cuba about the age in which you can get married. It was interesting to learn little bits and pieces from him and to learn that his mom had immigrated to Norway (where he had been to visit) and then he had a trip to Daytona, Florida planned in the next month or so as well.

The cart didn’t have any cover over it, so it was a little hot and we had to cover up the kids with a light sheet to prevent the sun being too strong on them, but it was a very authentic tour. And because we were in the cart, we were able to go at our own pace which was nice with the kids – we could stop when we needed, etc. The waterfall was nice, but because it was the dry season, the fall wasn’t as spectacular as I’m sure it normally is. However, the pool was nice – I didn’t get a chance to go in, but Alex did and commented it was lovely. My chuckle for the day was that they had a little wooden wall in the corner near the falls area with a sign on it that said ‘bano’ but really it was just rocks behind a wall.


For lunch we were taken to our guide's family’s place. It seemed that each guide took their guests to different places for lunch. The lunch was one of the most delicious lunches we had while in Cuba. We had some salad, drumsticks, yucca and beans and rice – all while the chickens roamed throughout the place. Again it was here one of the older women took the baby and held him while we were busy eating our lunch. Connor got lots of love in Cuba.

We got back from the outing around 3 p.m. and had the kids nap for the afternoon before going back to the paladar from the previous night for dinner. Our daughter got some playing time in with the little girl at our casa as well, which she enjoyed. Every time we would be out and we would ask her what she wanted to do, she would say “Go back home and play with my friend.” It was such good perspective to see how kids don’t even care if they can’t speak the same language – they just want to play and be friends. Good lessons for us all!


DAY 7 – TRINIDAD to HAVANA: To be honest, this was one of our more exhausting days. The casa owner had arranged a taxi for us, but when it arrived it had air conditioning, but no seat belts, which we wanted for the ride. To get another one took a while, so we got started a little later than we originally planned. The drive to Havana was about 3.5 hours, but there weren’t a lot of places to stop along the way for food, etc. Plus our taxi driver didn’t really speak much English, so it was hard to communicate with him exactly what we were looking for or needing. We basically had some buns and cookies that we got at a rest station for lunch, which wasn’t a great way to fuel a toddler.

When we arrived in Havana, we met our casa owner and then went out to the Old Town. We saw the capitol and then tried to exchange some of our money into the local currency, which took a little more time than we hoped. However, when there is just one place to exchange money there tends to be line ups. We found a place for dinner, but soon realized that the portions in Havana weren’t nearly as large as what we had in Trinidad. We called it an early night because everyone was exhausted from the day of traveling.

DAY 8 – HAVANA: We termed this day our ‘Budget/Backpacker Day.’ This was the day we were afraid that we wouldn’t have enough money for the rest of the trip. We were allocating out our cash funds to make sure that we would have enough to pay for the casa and transportation to the airport, and realized that we'd need a bit more to make it to the end of the trip. However, ATMs were not that common and our card kept getting rejected. Later we found out that our bank card had been frozen, so no ATMs would work. We figured if we got really desperate, we could put the kids out with a hat next to some Cuban music so they could dance with a sign saying ‘Money needed for bus to airport.” Just Kidding! ;-) We explored the Old Town while looking for ATMs to try and it was amazing to see all the European architecture. You felt like you were somewhere in Europe so many times in each of the different squares.


We explored the Fort (which all the signs were in Spanish) that was on the edge of the Old Town. It offered some amazing views of the river and the fort on the other side, as well as it was fun to climb the bell tower.


Afterwards we found a Coco Taxi for a ride along the Malecon, which we paid about 20 CUC for the ride to the end and back. On the way back we had to pull over so that the driver could fill the coco taxi up with gas…luckily her gas tank was just under our seats so we weren’t stranded.


Clara fell asleep in the stroller, so the kids and I went to hang out in Central Parque, while Alex went to the hotel to use the Internet for some things that afternoon – like booking our stand-by flight back. I found a ‘chip man’ who sold some tasty sweet/salty chips and our daughter recognized other ‘chip mans’ for the remainder of our time in Havana.


DAY 9 – HAVANA: After resolving the freeze on our ATM card the night before, we tried it out first thing in the morning and were able to get some money out of the ATM. That was a relief as we had a little bit of a pad again. We were thinking of going across to some of the sites on the other side of the river, as they had some of the open-top tourist buses that would take you there for 10 CUC per person. However, after standing in a line in Central Parque for about 45 minutes and not having any success with the right bus coming, we abandoned the idea and set out exploring in the Old Town once again. We stumbled upon a little kids park along the river and thought we would check it out to see if there was anything Clara could do there. It was basically a kids amusement park and admission for each of us was only 3 Cuban pesos per person (about 15 cents). They divided your ticket into 6 ride tickets, so basically each ride was only 2.5 cents!! We dubbed it the 'peso park.' They had some swings, a little train and some other playground equipment that you could explore; and on the other side of the park were bouncy structures for kids. Clara loved going between the swings and the train. Originally we weren’t sure exactly how it worked with getting the tickets so we paid the operators 1 peso per ride. We then figured out that we needed to redeem the ticket we got at the entrance for the ride tickets, so we ‘overpaid’ for a couple of the rides – but for 5 cents a ride, we really couldn’t complain. She really loved this part and it was a good break for her to have something age appropriate! It was the best thing we stumbled upon!

We had some lunch at a really good restaurant and then continued to explore the Old Town and look for some souvenirs.

While in one of the shops, Connor ended up being a hit with all the people working in them; and one of the shop attendants gave him his own maraca keychain. We purchased a full sized pair of maracas for Clara as a souvenir, and she shook and sang most of the way home, especially when we heard other live music.


We had a dinner and then headed back to the casa for some showers and then some Cristal beer after the kids went to bed to celebrate our last night in Cuba.

DAY 10 – HAVANA to VARADERO to CALGARY: This was a huge travel day for us! We caught a taxi from Havana to Varadero, which was about 2.5 hours away for 80 CUC, and then proceeded onto the two flights. When it was all said and done, we basically traveled for about 18 hours that day. The previous morning, Alex had gone to try to get bus tickets to Varadero Airport, but the 8 a.m. bus was sold out and the next departures would put us a little too close to the time we needed to be there, as the airlines recommended us being there 2-3 hours in advance of our flight. So when he couldn’t get bus tickets, he looked for a taxi driver at the bus station to make arrangements with for the next morning. He was looking for something newer once again and the vehicle he found was one of the more modern cars we saw/rode in while in Cuba – it was only 4 years old.


Needless to say by the time we arrived back in Calgary that night around midnight, we were all pretty tired and ready for bed! However, Cuba was a great trip and we’re so grateful for our time there!

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