Santiago de Cuba
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Oct 31, 2012 4:23 PM Last Post By: amarilla
Oct 21, 2012 3:39 PM
I'm a female travelling alone to Cuba and was hoping to spend a week relaxing by the beach in Santiago de Cuba.
Do you think the beaches there are good and is there enough things to do in Santiago de Cub to keep me occupied for a week or where are the best beaches in Cuba?
I'm a bit sceptical about the Casa Particulars. I like busy hotels filled with other travellers as I'm travelling alone and would like to meet other people. Are the Casa Particulars comfortable or would I be obliged to make conversation etc with the owners?
Thanks for your time.
Oct 21, 2012 3:54 PM
Oct 21, 2012 4:00 PM
2Sive, others will answer about the beaches.
In answer to your second question, yes, it is probable that you would need to converse with the owners of a casa. My take on casas particulares is here.
Perhaps given your preferences you would be better off in Varadero, where there are lots of foreigners, lots of hotels, and lots of beach. But I believe there are resorts in Santiago de Cuba province, I see busloads of tourists from the resorts in Santiago de Cuba city daily. Again, others on this forum know more about the resorts and could advise you.
Good luck with your plans.
Oct 21, 2012 4:02 PM
Oct 21, 2012 8:19 PM
4While I dont have anything against Santiago I wouldnt say its the type of Destination to go spend a week if youre looking to for a Beach Vacation. Santiago does have some nearby beaches outside the city,but honestly not worth going to. Santiago is a good place if you know people or have something specific to do and it may be the second city in Cuba but it has way less than Havana. I would suggest though that Santiago be part of a trip to Beach destinations like Holguin,Camaguey or even Baracoa which all have nice beaches and are decently well connected to Santiago By Bus,Car Rentals and sometimes even Train if youre lucky. You could easily do like 3 days in Santiago and 4 in another destination. ofcourse thats my opinion.
Oct 21, 2012 9:53 PM
5There is enough to keep anybody busy in Santiago for a very long time, especially anyone who is into Cuban history (Colonial and Revolutionary) and music (from classical to son.) What Santiago does not have are nice beaches, because it is a harbour city, not a beach town. The nearest okay beaches--certainly not Cuba's best--are close to an hour away. Poster #4 is correct when he says this is not the city you want to spend time in IF you're looking for a beach vacation. And yes, as recommended by Poster #1, do read the Santiago-focused blog of Sayeh (another solo female traveler to Cuba).
As for casas particulares, they are as different as B&Bs are in our country, but as a general rule Cuban casa hosts are very heads-up in terms of taking cues from their guests as to whether you are the type who wants to be left alone as in a hotel, or be swept up a little or a lot into the family. Sometimes I want to get to spend time with the family and sometimes I arrive tired and just want to be left alone. Certainly I have never stayed in any casa where I felt obliged to make conversation with the family, or lacked for privacy. However, most casas still rent only two rooms, so you won't meet a lot of other travelers at a casa, if any. Almost all are airconditioned and most nowadays have private ensuite bathrooms, although if those things matter to you you should ask just to be sure. (There are still casas where the bathroom is shared between the two guest rooms.) For me (female who often travels alone in Cuba) what I like best about casas is the fact that most will prepare meals to my specifications and to fit my schedule.
Hotels have a tendency to serve buffet meals at set times, which doesn't always suit me. Of course, the big resorts also have a la carte restaurants and snack bars on-site.
Oct 21, 2012 10:02 PM
6Sayeh, you're right, there are five resorts within one or two hours of Santiago. I visited all of them last year for my CUBA'S BEST BEACHES guide, and spent two nights at one of them.. I would put them in the 2-3 star range, and am not sure I would rate the beaches at those resorts even that high. The best was Marea del Portillo, but it doesn't really qualify as a Santiago resort, since it is 175 km away over a truly impossible highway that is closed as often as it is open! (Most guests get there by flying into Manzanillo and taking a bus the remaining two hours.)
Oct 22, 2012 3:49 AM
Oct 22, 2012 9:05 AM
Oct 22, 2012 12:00 PM
9I laughed, too, Patricia. But to answer your question, Enram, my favourite beach near Santiago would be a tiny one called Caleta Estrella (Star Cove) about 15 km out of town. It isn't on the open ocean but is off the harbour, on the highway leading to the fort of El Morro. It's tiny, mostly used by locals, and if you flake out on the sand there, somebody will come by and ask if you'd like a meal, and if you would, would you like to come to their nearby home, or have it brought to you on the beach.
The nicest open-ocean beach I think is called Playa Verde; to get to it you have to drive for about half an hour down the west side of the harbour. Not much by way of facilities there, no place to stay that I can recall, but I haven't been on that beach in about five years and don't know what's there now. It is fairly long and wide--or was when I was there. (Cuban beaches do tend to change dimentions as hurricanes wash sand in and out.)
There is also the beach at Siboney, 15 km from city centre, where most Santiagons go, there you can find casas to rent, plus a campismo right on the beach that MIGHT take foreigners--not sure about that. But it is kind of grungy, often downright trashy, with very loud music from the campismo on weekends, so most foreigners don not like it very well.
The big resort closest to Santiago, El Bucanero, 20 km from city cenre, has a long skinny very rocky beach, hardly a beach at all. But just before you reach El Bucanero you will pass a public beach which is margainally better. But because a lot of guests from the resort walk to this beach to get away from the rocks on their resort beach, any foreigner who goes here is going to get hit on multiple times, not only by locals wanting to sell things but also by beggers. This to an annoying degree.
Farther from the city, out in Parque Bacanoa, there are two other resorts. The nearest one, Costa Morena, about 40 km out, has no beach at all, just a rocky waterfront but with a really cool natural rock pool you can sit in where the waves splash you, although of course most people prefer the real pool on the bluff above. Club Amigo Carisol, at 50 km from city centre, has a sandier beach, but not very impressive. Oh--and in between those two, there is my personal favourite--Villa Colibri, which hardly any tourists get to. It consists of cottages and a small pretty beach, this maybe 25 km out the main Parque Bacanoa road, plus 5 km down to the beach. Nearby is Playa Daquiri, but I think it has reverted to being exclusively for the military--understandable, given that at least two foreign invasions landed on that beach.
Oct 22, 2012 1:19 PM
Oct 31, 2012 7:48 AM
Oct 31, 2012 4:23 PM
12I too really like Playa Estrellita and you can see El Morro from there which is cool. A new restaurant opened up there just a few months ago up the street from the other one. It's close to the Embarcadero where a small boat will take you to Cayo Granma and to La Socapa, a beach area there which has seen better days. It used to be the hot spot of SDC. Rumor has it great development is poised to be taking place nearby. I actually went to Playa Daiquiri on my last trip, so it's not restricted though it is next to a military installation. The road in is horrendous. It is quite a walk downhill to the beach, which has a dangerous rip tide just a little ways out. It's the cleanest of the beaches we saw on the coast that day and we stopped at nearly all of them.
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