San Cristobal UK Blog

Blog for travelers

Top popular tourist destinations in Cuba 2016 just released!

Top popular tourist destinations in Cuba 2016 just released!

According to latest TripAdvisor posts, the average hotel room in Cuba has raised to £80. Havana and Varadero are the most popular destinations in the Caribbean island and the best hotels in Cuba remain under Spanish management hotel brands as Melia Hotels and Iberostar.

TripAdvisor is an American travel website company and the largest travel site in the world (reaching 350 million monthly visitors, 320 million reviews and opinions covering 6.2 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions). The site, operating in 47 countries, is nowadays the first worldwide consulting reference site. According latest statistics 1 of 2 tourist searches in TripAdvisor lists before going to a holiday trip and make their choices based on the reviews and comments shown in the site.

On the 23rd of February, the travel website published the top destination and hotels in Cuba in 2016. This list will certainly influence more than a few choices of those searching for recommendations.


Top Five Most Popular Destinations in Cuba in 2016

1. Varadero: located in the western Cuban province of Matanzas, is the beach zone by excellence in the country, despite strong competition from islets in the Jardines del Rey tourist region. Over 24 kilometres of excellent beaches, closely linked to other natural attractions such as caves, virgin keys and transparent waters, are complemented by a strong infrastructure that can satisfy the needs of the most demanding vacationers.

Varadero

2. Havana: the heart and Cuba’s capital city that appears to be suspended in time, where old world glamour meets Spanish colonial-era reconstruction. Is the perfect mixed between vintage American cars and the new era of refined bars, hidden artistics spots and young people tryinig to improve the mystic city.Visitors can catch a glimpse into the area’s history in the rich architecture of Old Havana, home of top places as the beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral in the Plaza de la Catedral and the authentic open-air restaurants and shops of the Plaza Vieja. Then you have Vedado town, the most chic and artistic zone of Havana where painters, musicians and recently top Cuban chefs has found their places to invigorate the city, all this just next to the Malecon, the famous Havana’s seaside promenade.

Havana cool

3. Cayo Santa Maria: The small island off the northern coast of central Cuba in Jardines del Rey archipielago, offers many resorts along the expansive and picturesque coastline. It brings the opportunity to get in touch with Cuban history and tradition; if you are one of tose with a sweet tooth then you will enjoy the Museo de Agroindustria Azucarera in Remedios town, which explains the history of local sugar production. Also The Mausoleo del Che Guevara in Santa Clara (an hour and half by bus) also draws large crowds looking to visit the final resting place of the well-known international figure of the Cuban Revolution.

Cayo Santa Maria

4. Cayo Coco: Just like Cayo Santa Maria, is an island off the north-central coast and boasts superfine white sand and shallow, clear water. Those staying in Cayo Coco can take a daytrip to Sancti Spiritus, which is home to a variety of historic landmarks, museums and parks; plus you can go and visit Trinidad town, a hidden gem of Cuba’s geography.

Cayo Coco

5. Holguin: The city of Holguin, also known as the “City of Parks,” is Cuba’s fourth largest city. Set among mountainous territory in the eastern part of the island, the scenic city offers the perfect combination of cultural attractions and comfortable resorts. The city's elegant plazas, colonial buildings and museums offer an authentic look back into Cuba’s history. Regular visitors to the area recommend booking a guided tour or hiring a car to fully experience the city and its culture.

holguin


These are the top five destinations in the island according TripAdvisor. If I could make my own list, probably Havana city would be the first place to go. It’s the heart of the country, where you’ll discover the real Cuba: the good and no so good things, but also the joy and happiness of Cuban people, the exquisite food which is been prepared these days in top private restaurant, Latin music in every corner and young talented people bringing their best; but without hesitation I would recommend all these five destinations.


All of them can be visited as part of a tailor made program, and that’s exactly what we love to do in our company San Cristobal UK! Visit us in www.scuktravel.com or contact us via email enquires@scuktravel.com

Wine replacing rum traditions within the Cuban youngest

Wine replacing rum traditions within the Cuban youngest

Glass of wine

New times are arriving in Cuba and everyone knows about it. More and more tourists, hotels and American dollars are taking place everywhere in the country. Also, slight changes in the society are getting noticed these days. Our drinking traditions may be going in different directions, and you could be amazed when finding many Cuban females not drinking rum cocktails but other spirits and wines instead.

Compared with other Latin American cities we have a “solid” night out tradition, mainly in the capital city. If you are going out with friends in Havana (commonly Friday or Saturday night) then you’ll probably end up in one of many great bars recently opened in the city. Most of them are European style with huge bars, dancing areas and offering a wide range of international drinks. Some of them get so crowded in late night that queues are required; I’ve been waiting to get in some bars almost an hour…at 1 am!

Chanchullero Bar, in Old Havana

Chanchullero Bar

Cuba is without a doubt a rum-loving country. It’s the spirit you’ll find in every celebration, meeting friends, an office party or Christmas festivities. A good friend of mine says it is part of our DNA, and he is probably right! Rum is our national drink: you can’t be in Cuba and not to fall in love with a well-made Mojito or a refreshing Daiquiri. However you’ll be quite surprised if you go with young Cubans on a night out and realize how they are asking for international drinks and wines instead of rum cocktails.

Cuba has received massive European and American influences; even when the island has been held from previous exchanges the people always found a way to get in touch with “the exterior”. They learnt about fashion, gadgets, worldwide tendencies and also drinking culture. Most of the young and “refined” ladies in Havana are not asking for a Cuba Libre anymore. Gin-tonics, Caipirinhas or Apple Martinis are a must in trendy bars nowadays, and the wine culture is also rapidly arriving.

 Madrigal Bar, in Havana's Vedado town

Madrigal bar
We don’t have a proper wine tradition in Cuba, although you can always find a bottle or two at home waiting for a special guest. But in the past few years this has been changing and now the list of wines in restaurants and “paladares” (private owners) is getting longer every day. Most of them are considered low to mid-grade vintages from Spain, Chile and Italy; those usually over-priced in the Cuban market controlled by the government. However you’ll find a very interesting wine list in the top places in Havana.


A bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon is the one that many young Cubans are taking to a friend’s party today; if is not a good quality wine then a bit of fruit juice or Sprite is added making a kind of Sangria, otherwise the bottle would get finished and entirely enjoyed (even in the hottest night of Havana), and this seems to be getting quite popular.

California Wine Symposium in Havana

wines

Last 2nd of February lot of people attended to the first California Wine Symposium in Havana. In a sign of changing times, California's largest winemakers hold a two-day tasting and trade show for Cuban restaurant owners in hopes of developing a new market in the country. Some 50 private restaurants and hundreds of wine waiters (named “sommeliers” in Cuba) and buyers for state-run restaurants attended the conference and they were all really excited with new relations and investments proposed. According to the press, Californian wine should be joining our wine lists in a few months.

Havana’s first Salsa Carnival!

Havana’s first Salsa Carnival!

 Dancing

Looking for some hip movements these days? Good news then! Havana is getting ready to celebrate its first ever Salsa Carnival; top Cuban artists will be joining the festivities on the final days of February. With the government’s approval this carnival seems to be a national joy and a unique experience.


You can easily associate Cuba with some “forbidden pleasures” in life: cigars, rum and salsa dancing. No doubt the last one may be the healthiest and also the most enjoyable for many people but the most difficult to achieve though.

I’ve heard from more than a few European people the expression: “Of course you can dance, you are Cubans”. I cannot deny the fact that we are taught how to dance since childhood but it doesn’t mean we all can dance as a professional. However, only a few Cubans can’t avoid move at least the foot while hearing a proper salsa (or “casino”) song. That’s why you can bet Havana may be the most dancing-crazy city in the whole world in just few weeks when the first Salsa Carnival starts the 25th of February until the 28th; just four days but they certainly deserve our special attention.

Havana

The venue will be the Metropolitan Park of Havana (Parque Metropolitano) also known as Almendares Park (it’s divided by Almendares river) located just 10 minutes by car from Vedado town in Central Havana. The Metropolitan Park will be hosting this massive festivity starting at 5 o’clock in the afternoon with a full list of activities: troupe parades, dancing lessons, small amateur’s band performances, DJ shows and the most awaited salsa concerts. This Carnival is being directed by Maykel Blanco, a world-class salsa musician and also head-leader of the Cuban band Maykel Blanco y Salsa Mayor. During a recently interview he revealed the main goals of the event: to promote Cuban popular dancing music and bring to the youngers the opportunity to get in touch with the different salsa genders of the country.


Tight calendar!

Carnival Logo

Top Cuban bands will be performing: to open the carnival, on Thursday 25th , you’ll find our best ever salsa orchestra Los Van Van and one of the best musicians in the whole Latin America, Issac Delgado. On Friday 26th will be making their concerts El niño y la verdad group and Pupy y los que Son Son band. The next day is time for El Noro y Primera Clase and the popular band Havana D´ Primera. The special closing ceremony on Sunday 28th will be hosted by Maykel Blanco y Salsa Mayor, Elito Revé and Bamboleo group.


A unique event

Keep calm and salsa

This carnival will also bring the opportunity to those toddlers eager to learn the different musical genders of the island to get in touch with those, by professional dance lessons and unique performances. Tickets for the entrance will be sold from Monday 22nd in some cinemas of the city as Payret, Alameda, Lido and City Hall; and also at the main venue: Metropolitan Park.

So, if you in Havana on this dates, you cannot miss such a huge event full of Cuban music, history and origins. Enjoy salsa music and practice those tropical movements it’s not that hard! So give it a try during your days in the capital city.

The FAC phenomenon in Havana

The FAC phenomenon in Havana

FAC
Havana is full of art; a city where you can find a guy playing guitar anywhere or people dancing on the streets, even without music. Dance, music, theatre, photography, visual art, sculpture, fashion...if you want to discover real local talent, then you must stop at Fabrica de Arte Cubano (Cuban Art Factory), where “La Habana moves”. It is more than just a place to have a drink and dance the whole night. It’s a premier cultural institution, hosting art installations, film festivals and theatre performances.

Located in 26 and 11 Street, Vedado, the building housed the former Electric Company of Cuba in early 1900’s. Later, it was the property of Peanut Oil “El Cocinero” Factory for more than 30 years. Today it is property of the Ministry of Culture, who gave the landmark’s management to one of the most recognised Cuban musician of all times: X Alfonso. FAC is an artistic project boosted by the essential need of supporting artistic works within the island taking care of every artistic expression: music, movies, dance, theatre, painting, literature, photography, fashion, graphic design and architecture.

FAC views


This factory of art is located at “El Fanguito” town, considered a rough community to grow up and live. It’ll help the community to get closer to their artists, creating a strong connection between the people and the Cuban artistic movement. Before FAC’s creation there wasn’t any place or project like this in the country; not with the high level of social conscience, quality and artistic acceptance that it has reached so far. Today, it is the main axis of Havana’s artistic life. More than a bar to hang out with friends or a gallery to enjoy top quality art designs, this exotic building is a holy place to enjoy Havana’s truly spirit.

FAC has three big spaces with different functions and a total capacity of 650 people. It has a big auditorium for live concerts and performances, another for theatre and dancing plays and a third one for galleries and expositions; plus six exhibit spaces dedicated to photography, architecture and visual arts. In every room, you’ll find a bar with a wide range of incredible well prepared cocktails and several spirits, as well as some really nice “tapas” dishes to taste during your stay.

Gallery in FAC

FAC hosted the biggest festivals in Havana in the last couple of years (it’s being opened since December 2013) and recently it’s been visited by top worldwide recognised artists as Katty Perry and the iconic Mick Jagger.

FAC for Cuban young people

Stages

FAC is without doubt the most incredibly diverse, fun and cool place to go out with friends in Havana. Fabrica isn’t exactly a hidden underground spot, if you don’t get there before 10 p.m. you’ll be trapped on a long queue to get in. You would find people of every age, from 18 years to…perhaps 60’s? This place is heavenly, eclectic and enjoyable. Even it’s very affordable, the average cocktail is 2 CUC (£1.50) and they are really good drinks. FAC is the first place that I recommend to any visitor on a night out in the warm streets of Havana! To see more details you can go to their website: http://www.fac.cu/

Bars at FAC

 

Is Cuba starting a cruise era?

Is Cuba starting a cruise era?

According to the national press, almost 10 000 visitors arrived in the Caribbean island by cruisers last year. Cuba is certainly beginning a new era regarding tourism industry; Havana’s Bay, one of the most beautiful in Latin America, is getting ready to welcome new curious and adventurer visitors.

Malecon
Nowadays you can find many headlines referring to Cuba in the press: Cuba is getting trendy, new hotel openings or latest political agreements with U.S.A may let you think that the fascinating island trapped in a mid-20th century is going to change in a blink of an eye. No more traditional costumes, cigars, old American cars, white-sand beaches or tropical music in every corner. Well, I have got good news for you….relax; we hardly doubt any of these may ever change. More than a socialist country, we are a cultural nation and Cuban people’s charisma is an endless fountain of joy and happiness and it won’t change by any law or political system. 

Old Havana

Even though no-one can be sure about anything, the truth is Cuba started noticing slight changes in the tourism industry. You may not find any Starbucks in Havana but the whole country is facing new emotions and feelings. The sight of cruisers and yachts in Havana Bay is a fact; local people have to make a quick stop (and take a deep breath) to admire the amazing ships arriving these days...

The biggest names of international cruise companies are already working in the island and building new perspectives and options for those looking for unique experiences in the Caribbean. A cruiser trip will bring the opportunity to those exploring “the island of cigars” to visit more destinations in the area and also enjoy the “sea experience”.

The italian-style MSC Cruises is the first mainstream cruise line to make Havana the home port for one of its ships since last year, and from April 2016 they expect to make regular voyages. MSC is one of biggest cruiser companies worldwide with more than a hundred years of operating history. The MSC OPERA stays two nights in Havana at the start of its Western Caribbean cruises, giving plenty of time to take a tour by vintage American cars, visit the Museum of the Revolution and watch cabaret acts in Tropicana club before sailing on to, say, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands or Mexico.

MSC OPERA

MSC cruise


Also Carnival Corp. (the biggest American cruise company) announced the first cruise journey to Cuba from the States since 1960. Carnival will start operations in next May using the ship Adonia. With a small capacity of 700 passengers it’ll be the first ship coming from Miami’s port and hopefully the first of many others. This particular vessel will have an important social impact; there is a saying in Havana that proclaims: “In Cuba everyone has a relative in the countryside and one in Miami…”

Adonia vessel

Adonia ship

But there are many others cruise ships start to visit the island; the UK based Saga, Voyages of Discovery, Noble Caledonia and Thomson Dream offer different trips around the Caribbean including Cuba. Plus new companies as Capri Cruceros started making connections with tour-operators currently working in the island.

San Cristobal UK already assists cruise passenger coming ashore for visits and transit to and from the airport. We’ll be able in the near future, to offer more of this kind of experiences as well. We’ll keep you posted! For more information visit us www.scuktravel.com.

 

 

 

What’s happening in Havana?

What’s happening in Havana?


For the first time in its history, Cuba passed the 3 million visitor barrier reporting an outstanding growth with more than 3.5 million of visitors last year. This is very good news for the Cuban people, who seems to be ready to welcome more and more tourists every year; however places to stay are getting hard to find these days.

Crowded Havana

There is no doubt than since President Obama and Raul Castro restarted diplomatic relations (December 2014) Cuba has been facing a tourism boom. Havana’s narrow streets are feeling the arrival of a new era. Some private and small businesses are growing, “casas particulares” are more and more in demand in the city, where hotels are fully booked until May or even June (so staying in private B&B’s has become the most practical solution and some of their rooms can be easily compared with a five star hotel’s suite). Prices at many hotels have doubled and travel agencies are struggling to find professional tour guides and car rentals. The dynamic of the tourist business in Cuba has changed in barely a year.


The fact is that it isn’t just the Americans filling Cuban hotels. In fact, even when they are the fastest growing market in the island (161,000 visitors in 2015, representing a 76.6% growth over the previous year) the main source of visitors still being Canada. Last year more than 1.3 million Canadians visited Cuba. European countries came second in the list: United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Spain are regular markets increasing their numbers as well. Also Mexico, Russia and Argentina have a strong presence in the Spanish speaking country.
According to investigators, if travel restrictions are eventually eliminated, the real number of American visitors should hit 1.5 million per year. Today Cuba is not ready for this, at least not Havana. In other regions of the country nowadays availability is still manageable; beach resorts such as Varadero or the Cays rooms can be booked within a few weeks anticipation, not as it was a couple of years ago.

 

Malecon sunset
The country is now in a deep investment process. The city is rushing to build enough accommodation to face the new demand. New hotels and resorts are currently under construction in Havana and in some other top regions of the country; big names will soon magnify the capital city: Manzana Hotel, Royalton Plaza, Cathedral Hotel, Cueto, Real Aduana and many others. Even Cuban business owners are in a rush to open small private places and get “positioned” since the beginning of the race.

 

Old Havana

Old Havana

American tourism differs a little bit from those already well-known to the Cubans. Canadians don’t spend too much time in the main cities, they are more “All inclusive” clients, spending an average of 10 days in beach resorts and barely 2 in the city; on the other hand Europeans spend more time in the capital city and other regions of the country, they look for cultural experiences, knowing Cuban people, its history and natural reserves. Normally they don’t complain too much about being in a country where toilet paper isn’t a supplied in public loos, or queuing for an hour in a bank to take out money from credit cards or don’t have internet access in their iPhones during the trip. However American tourists demand a higher quality and top brands, because that’s what they are used to and they like to pay for. Cubans know it, the government and the private businesses too.

Havana Views

Old havana views

That’s the start of 2016 for many Cubans: offering their best to current visitors and getting ready to receive new ones. Also news from Hollywood actresses in Cuba, such as Natalie Portman (winner of an Oscar for playing the part of a ballerina in the 2010 film "Black Swan") visiting Havana and meeting with ex-ballerina and choreographer Alicia Alonso started the year.

SCUK tips!

Our advice if you want to go to Cuba is to plan and design your trip with anticipation so you can visit and stay in top places. We are here to do just that. Visit us www.scuktravel.com or contact us via email enquires@scuktravel.com

 

New halls and a Cava is now open in the majestic Great Theatre of Havana Alicia Alonso

New halls and a Cava is now open in the majestic Great Theatre of Havana Alicia Alonso

Gran Teatro de la Habana

“El Gran Teatro de la Havana Alicia Alonso” (Great Theatre of Havana Alicia Alonso) reopened after three years of restoration. Next to the Capitol, it seems to bless the “renovated” Old Havana. Today, local people and visitors have to make an almost compulsory stop in their daily schedule, and take a couple of minutes to appreciate every single detail of the majestic building with such an eclectic style in the middle of the old city.

For some locals in Havana this theatre shouldn’t be located in the middle of the crowded and always buzzing Central Havana, but in a more refined town; though that’s one of the main reasons that makes it a historical and architectonic Cuban jewel.

Officially inaugurated in 1838 as Great Theatre Tacon, it is one of ancient institutions of its kind in Latin America and since then, it has welcomed top worldwide recognised artists as the ballerina Ana Pavlova and the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. The main purpose of the building’s construction, back in the XIX century, was to host the Galician Centre of Havana; but since then it has changed name and purposes several times. It has witnessed important events in Cuba’s history and even beyond; was in a hall of this theatre were Antonio Meucci, an Italian inventor associated with Giuseppe Garibaldi, tested the first trials of acoustic transmission that later on led him to the invention of the telephone.

Theatre at night
After years of restoration all the auditoriums has been refurbished and new ones have been inaugurated. The historical Federico Garcia Lorca Hall, also known as “the heart of the theatre” (headquarter of the Cuban National Ballet since 1960 and one of the greatest opera halls of Cuba) has been meticulously revitalized and seems to be living in a golden era.

Garcia Lorca Hall

Garcia Lorca Hall
The Ernesto Lecuona and Alejo Carpentier Halls have also been refurbished and they look just spectacular, according the national press. The Ernesto Lecuona Hall now has 165 seats and still remains Cuban’s cradle of classic and concert music; whereas the Alejo Carpentier Hall nowadays has the same style and accommodation structure of the original designs (in the 1800’s): an open concert hall with a central stage where the orchestra performs bringing their best to the public.


To the traditional spaces new halls have been opened as well: El Tablao Flamenco (The Flamenco Stage) specially designed to host small contemporary dance companies and live music performances. Also Cafe Intermezzo opened to the Cuban and international public, promises an unforgettable experience to the customers, mixing lyric and culinary art.

Capitol
Another plus to this majestic building is the exclusively inaugurated “The Cava”, a fascinating place with a sober design and a seductive lighting, made just for special occasions offering an unequal wine tasting experience in Havana.

Plus one of the recognise symbols of the theatre have changed: the name. It was Great Theatre of Havana but now, as an honour and a privilege of all Cubans it’s been named after our prima ballerina assoluta and greatest choreographer of all times, the one and only Alicia Alonso, current director of the National Ballet of Cuba.

Guided Tours

Guided tours

After three years of restoration now the property is brightest as ever, showing renovated Carrara marble sculptures and taking the breath to those who admire the beauty of such a relevant building in the national culture. From January the 19th the theatre will be open to the public, with guided tours and special offers to the visitors. The Great Theatre of Havana remains, without hesitation, of one the magnificent places in the whole Latin America.

 

 

How did Cubans celebrate Christmas?

How did Cubans celebrate Christmas?

Christmas, as a party and family time, was forbidden for 30 years in Cuba. No-one could have a tree or mistletoe in their homes, they were against the socialist rules. But that was 15 years ago; nowadays the tropical island seems to celebrate it in a different way.

Christmas in Cuba!
Can you imagine celebrating Christmas Eve at 28 degrees, wearing shorts and linen shirts? That is hard to imagine in the cold days of the European winter. Yet the good news is that you can live this experience; in the same hemisphere, Cuba would be certainly a piece of heaven on Christmas day.

As a prominent catholic country, Cuban people use to celebrate Christmas as any other country. In fact, by 1950 Havana was famous for Christmas parties and dinners. It was joy and parties everywhere; famous Hollywood artists moved into Havana to “see in” the New Year in the festive and warm capital city. However, things changed in the following decades. In 1969 Fidel Castro dramatically abolished Christmas because it interfered with the sugar harvest. Cubans weren’t allowed to enjoy or celebrate “Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve in Spanish). However, family members used to have a special dinner on 24th of December, but nothing too striking. It wasn’t until 1998 when Castro declared Christmas a national holiday as a gesture of goodwill in honour of Pope John Paul II’s visit. After the Pope’s visit Castro recognized the holiday again but it still remains a very low key celebration.

Santa walking in Old Havana's street

After 1998 Christmas in Cuba became more festive but nothing like it used to be. Also churches, which normally carry and explain many of the traditions during Christmas, were stranded for money. But in the past few years external influences as European tourism and Cubans living “outside” the island are bringing back the traditional festivities.

After 1998 Christmas in Cuba became more festive but nothing like it used to be. Also churches, which normally carry and explain many of the traditions during Christmas, were stranded for money. But in the past few years external influences as European tourism and Cubans living “outside” the island are bringing back the traditional festivities. Today we do have Christmas! The cities aren’t very ornate and stores don’t provide a wide stock for Christmas’s preparations, but we are still managing to serve a tasty dinner though; on the 24th people wake up looking forward to make that night an unforgettable one.

A traditional Cuban Christmas meal? Well, we don’t have turkey that day, we go further and tasty: the starring role goes to the roasted pig. It’s almost compulsory…you wouldn’t have a Christmas’s meal in Cuba without a piece of juicy and delicious roast pork. Along with it we had black beans, white rice, “yuca con mojo” (mojo is a type of marinade with garlic, onions and sour orange), vegetable salads, fried plantain and of course, lots of desserts.

Traditional roasted pig
Christmas dinner is also the perfect time to catch up and update. The party starts early in the afternoon, and everyone brings something to the table. Music, dancing, beers and mojitos cannot be missing, of course. For desserts it is very traditional home made “cascos” of orange, guava and grapefruit (skin in sweet and heavy syrup); baskets of “buñuelos” (fried sweet dough), “flan” (a type of pudding made by egg and milk) and “turrones” (a nougat made of nuts and honey).

A tip for our visitors

Also many restaurants prepare special meals for that day. One of the greatest experiences you can enjoy while being in Cuba those days is the spectacular Christmas dinner at the Cathedral; every year it’s becoming more and more joyful and outstanding. Like a tradition it’s seems that Old Havana reborn that day…literally!

Havana's Cathedral in Christmas

Cathedral of Havana in Christmas Eve

For information/reservations call San Cristobal UK Travel; London office Antonio +44 (0)72652025 or in Havana Danilo will take your call +53 78667569 or email enquires@scuktravel.com

Crystal Tower in Cayo Coco, the first climbing park in Latin America

 Crystal Tower in Cayo Coco, the first climbing park in Latin America

Cayo Coco is getting ready to push the boundaries and welcome brave visitors looking for new experiences. The opening of the climbing park "Rocarena" or "Crystal Tower" further strengthens the potential of the Cuban tourist destination and it’s the first climbing park built in Latin America.

Climbing park cayo coco

Cayo Coco is a 370 square kilometre cay, featuring lonely beaches and the intact memory of the way that land might have been in the origin. The legend says the American writer Ernest Hemingway examined the place in a search for adventures, and registered it later in the book Islas en el Golfo (Islands in the Stream).

Cayo Coco is part of the Cuban province of Ciego de Ávila, more than 400 kilometres from East of Havana. In the shallows of the sea live more than fifteen thousand species of pink flamingos plus 200 species of birds. This piece of land seems to be heaven in an unspoiled location surrounded with the warm water of the Caribbean (the annual average temperature is 28 degrees). The area also hosts a very well preserved coral reef which offers an incredible opportunity for those photography lovers.

Cayo Coco nature

Flamingos in Cayo Coco

Despite the fact that the beach resort of Varadero is the most well-known to tourists, a paradise site of the island such as Cayo Coco still being one of the top attractions for tourists from all over the globe. But this cay is going beyond the typical features of Cuban cays. Opened in mid-2015 the climbing park “Rocarena” or “Chrystal Tower” is the first of its kind in Latin America; its construction was carried out by the German company CON-IMPEX representative in Cuba of the firm Kristall Turm, creator of modern climbing routes in the world.

The Tower has 90 activities with different degrees of difficulty to scale and it’s an attraction for any client (including children), which could well join the list of extreme sports. The framework is 13 metres high with a capacity for 120 people. The third level has a platform that serves as a lookout and does not require a safety belt. The first level is intended for children between four and eight years of age.

A unique experience!

Nature Cayo Coco

If you are looking for something unique to do in Cuba, well here is my advice: you must visit this climbing park! There are incredible hotels in Cayo Coco: Melia Cayo Coco or Pullman Cayo Coco are top ones in the whole country. Even for us, local people, it’s a “must go” place. You won’t find anything like this in other region of Cuba; well I could go further, not even in the whole Latin America! If you want to live this experience, San Cristobal UK travel agency can make it real for you!

 

 

The “Manzana de Gomez”, a future five star luxury Havana hotel

The “Manzana de Gomez”, a future five star luxury Havana hotel


Latest news from Havana assures the opening in September 2016 of a new hotel in Old Havana; the location is the Manzana de Gomez, one of Havana’s most intriguing landmarks. Originally, this impressive building was Havana’s first and biggest indoor shopping centre; is about to being renovated and converted to a five star luxury hotel with more than 240 rooms.

Hotel Recreation


The Manzana de Gomez was constructed in 1910; the former building crossed two internal diagonal streets providing an easy access to those walking around Old Havana. The property is enclosed within four busy streets: Neptuno, San Rafael, Zulueta and Monserrate streets.


It was once the centre of Havana’s retail trade and it was the first building in Cuba to occupy an entire city block. The building’s original concept was the retail vision of a developer and real estate magnate, Cuban Gomez Block. The construction was completed by builder José Gómez-Mena Vila and marked the first European influenced shopping square on the island. It was a conglomeration of stores, restaurants and office spaces; eventually it lost its retail base, later was converted to a consulate and at one time an embassy.

Future five star hotel in the heart of Old Havana

Manzana hotel

Until the Revolution in 1959, Manzana de Gomez was one of the favorite places for American shoppers to spend several hours; even some visitors from America planned shopping at “the mall” as part of their holiday in Cuba.
The property will be developed and managed by the Swiss luxury hotel company Kempinski. The new hotel is expected to be completed and fully operating by September 2016. It’ll be Kempinski’s first in the Caribbean and is a joint venture with Gaviota S.A. The Swiss hotelier has a very strong presence in Germany and is currently spreading to Eastern Europe, the Middle East and also Africa. The hotel brand currently managing more than 70 hotels in 30 different nations.

During the Trade Fair FitCuba 2014 one of the directors of Kempinski Hotels travelled to Havana to complete negotiations with Cuban authorities; in a press conference he confirmed that his company was working in this new project as one of their most important in the next years. In his own words: “We want Kampinski’s Manzana de Gomez to be proud of the nation. None of our hotels are similar; we have a different conception about what is luxury”.

Commercial gallery

Shops

The existing structure is currently under reconstruction; it was partially destroyed even though it hosted a shopping gallery in the ground floor before the renewals projects started with the Swiss company. According to statements from the hotelier the ground floor will remain a commercial gallery, but this time with international name labels, mainly fashion houses and top brands boutiques.

A unique location for such an outstanding property

The property is incredibly well located: in front of Parque Central hotel, next to the Museum of Arts and the Hotel Plaza (also under restoration projects) and barely 50 meters from the historical bar Floridita.

Views from hotel

 Also, it is situated 3 minutes walk from the majestic Garcia Lorca theatre (house of the National Cuban Ballet) and just next to this one you find the Capitol of Havana. This new luxury hotel promises to be one of the top places to stay in Old Havana in the coming years!