Question: We are travelling to the Cuban resort of Guardalavaca, near Holguín, in November.
We were hoping to have a two-centre holiday, however we were only able to book a single resort stay. We really want to visit Havana for a couple of days, and were wondering about the best way to arrange this?
Do we book internal flights ourselves, along with the hotels, or will deals be available in the resort when we get there? Our travel company was unable to advise us.
I know that there are only two flights a day, and am concerned that if we leave it until we get there we might miss out. We really don't want to drive that distance, or use any other form of public transport to get to Havana. Could you please advise?
Answer: I am happy to advise, but you might not like it. I recommend you don't go near Havana. That's because there is so much of great interest in the area you will be staying in, including a great city - Santiago de Cuba - that, trust me, is like a gentler version of the Cuban capital.
You could of course book flights from Holguín to Havana on the national airline, Cubana, either yourself at www.cubana.cu or through a decent specialist agent.
The carrier is more reliable than it used to be, and has some really quite modern aircraft. But for a trip of a couple of days, it's a bit of a faff. If you get the lunchtime flight (which I would recommend) you will spend a couple of hours in the morning getting from your resort to Holguín airport and waiting around, then the rest of the afternoon flying and making your way into Havana. Coming back, the flight is just before 11am - again, wiping out much of the day. In addition, the lowest fare I can find is $244 (about R4 600) each - currently more than £180. You would also need to factor in taxis to and from the airports.
Contrast this with renting a car for a couple of days, for perhaps a total of £150 including fuel and insurance. You can explore the most dramatic landscapes in Cuba - the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, where the revolution took root. You can see historic towns such as Bayamo and Baracoa, and gaze across at Guantanamo Bay at the US naval base.
And you will have plenty of time to immerse yourselves in the “Hero City of the Revolution”, as Santiago is known. Besides the superb colonial architecture, you can enjoy some of Cuba's best live music - and stay somewhere like the superb Hotel Casa Granda, dating from 1914 and perfectly located on Parque Céspedes in the centre of the city. You'll pay significantly less than you would for a similar standard in Havana.
If I can't persuade you to save the capital for another time, then all I suggest is that you book your trip to Havana for the very end of your stay, so you can fly back to Holguín in time (I hope) for the journey home.