Caribbean, Cuba

Havana, Cuba travel guide

February 25, 2017

How to get a Cuban Visa: Our Cuban visa was administered by our airline upon check in for $50.00. I read online that one could also obtain a visa in Havana’s airport but our airline , Jet Blue, wouldn’t even let us continue with check -in unless we purchased it through them. Passing through customs was  no problem at all, it was as perfunctory as any other country I have been to. After reading online that travel to Cuba is only approved if you are traveling for one of 12 reasons:

  • Educational activities in Cuba for schools, including people-to-people exchanges open to everyone
  • Professional research and professional meetings in Cuba
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba
  • Religious activities in Cuba
  • Humanitarian projects in Cuba
  • Journalistic activities in Cuba
  • Family visits to close relatives in Cuba
  • Activities in Cuba by private foundations, or research or educational institutes
  • Any type of support for the Cuban people
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information technologies or materials
  • Certain authorized export transactions including agricultural and medical products, and tools, equipment and construction supplies for private use
  • Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

 

 

I was prepared to express my visit had to do with journalistic activities, after all I do have a blog.  Fortunately no one ever asked or seemed concerned as to why I was there.

 

Where to stay:  When planning my trip to Cuba it quickly became apparent that there were limited options when it came to reserving a hotel.  Air B N’ B was my next choice and I am so happy everything worked out the way it did.  We ended up staying here at Rosy’s house and what a pleasant surprise it was. Rosy and her husband are so extremely sweet and genuine. On my friend’s birthday they surprised her with a birthday cake and we all sang HBD. We got amazing breakfast served to us every morning at our desired time along with suggestions and recommendations on things to do. On our last day they prepared a feast for us and we all ate dinner together, laughed, shared jokes and created memories that would last a lifetime.  I 1000% recommend staying here on your visit to Cuba!

 

Transportation: Getting around in Cuba can easily add up to be quite expensive as taxi cab rides are the primary mode of transportation for most tourists.  More affordable options include purchasing a Habana Tour bus  Hop On/ Hop off day pass for 10.00 CUC. Tickets can be purchased right at the bus stops.

The public bus is another option but unless you speak Spanish it will be extremely difficult because there are no maps routes to follow, you have to already know where you are going. Fortunately for me my Air B n’ B was only a 4 minute walk to one of the Habana bus tour stops!

 

Things to do :

Parque Central  – a great way to explore street art or have a seat and people watch. After walking all around Havana it was nice to be able to sit and relax.

San Jose Market -  This somewhat of a flea market with many shops. Here you can purchase souvenirs , clothing, and walk through rows and rows of  vibrant painting created by artists that are local and abroad.

Obispo street  -  I loved Obispo street, I enjoyed watching the street vendors sell their fruits, the tourists exploring and stopping to take pictures, the plethora of restaurants and bars, I loved it all! My favorite restaurant throughout my stay in Cuba was also located right off of Obispo street.

Paladar Don pucho located off of Obispo street was one of our FAVORITE places to eat. So much so that we had lunch there 3 days in a row! For 12.00 CUC we got a lobster meal, a mojito with flan and cappuccino for dessert!! The food was amazing, the staff was friendly and the live music out the icing on the cake!  A definite MUST VISIT!

Get Lost! : Literally, start walking once you arrive to Havana and get lost. It was a pleasure stumbling into a local market and observing the locals wait in line to purchase meat freshly cut and hung out for sale by the butcher.

 

Havana Beaches: Throughout my stay the weather did not permit me to enjoy any beach days. After asking many many locals these are the two beaches that were repeatedly recommended. They are both near Havana and easy to get to.

Santa Maria del Mar and Playa de este.

 

Beware: When hungry look for restaurants that contain ” paladar” in their name. This is your indication that the restaurants are not government owned and more likely than not their prices will be most economical because they are privately owned.

Also pay attention to plain clothes locals hanging around and claiming to “help” you by recommending bars and restaurants.  Some of them will even go as far escorting you to the destination which leads me to believe that they must get paid by the bar or restaurant if we decide to stay and eat.  The establishments you will be taken to are usually high priced tourist traps.

DO NOT buy any cigars from street vendors. They are imitations, go to a cigar factory to purchase authentic Cuban cigars.

***Hire a car for day tours to Vinales and Varadero! Due to the of the unanticipated rainy weather that plagued the last 2 days of our trip I want able to go :-(.

Mexico

Cancun to Playa Del Cramen Day Trip Guide

January 6, 2017

 Getting to Playa del carmen : The ADO bus is a fast and cost effective way to travel from Cancun to PDC.   The ride is only an hour long and costs 65 pesos each way. View the ADO schedule here . Plan to arrive to PDC around 8 a.m. and explore the beach  right outside of the terminal and some of the surrounding shops on 5th avenue.

Cenote Azul : Next,  take a collectivos for 40 pesos and head North to Cenote Azul. Tell the driver where you are going and they will inform you when your stop is approaching.  You will literally get dropped off on the side of the road but do not panic, a 30 second walk will land you right at the entrance (the entrance fee is 30 pesos). It gets pretty packed in the afternoon so come as early as possible. This cenote has a natural partition separating it into 2 sides. Enjoy cliff diving and swimming on one side and snorkeling and an au natural fish pedicure on the other!

DCIM110GOPROG3781679.

Cenote Jardin del Eden: What’s next? Well, head to Cenote Jardein del Eden which is only a 5 minute walk south. Pay the 100 pesos entrance fee to the guard and embark on a 15-20 minute stroll until you reach the actual cenote. I recommend packing your lunch as there are not many options for food and all the swimming and walking will definitely leave you hungry. Cenote Jardin del Eden was much larger that cenote Azul which resulted in a pleasant opportunity to find a spot all to myself to enjoy lunch while relaxing and taking in the views.

 

Akumal Beach: After Cenote Jardin cross the street (so you are heading in the opposite direction) and hop on the collectivos for 20 pesos to Akumal Beach! What’s so special about this beach you may ask, well… you get to swim with sea turtles!!! How cool! The beach is a 7 minute walk from where the collectivos drops you off.  Don’t be afraid to ask a local to make sure you are heading in the right direction, everyone was very helpful and you should have no problems at all.  Upon arriving you’ll be approached by different agencies offering snorkel equipment and a private guide to go swim with  the sea turtles. I was able to bargain the price down from 30 USD to 20 USD. What a steal considering the sea turtle tours to Akumal from PDC typically cost 80 – 100 USD per person!!  There are also several restaurants on Akumal beach, if you get hungry you can grab a quick lunch here for about 5 USD.

DCIM110GOPROGOPR1974.

Explore 5th Street: If you’re not too tired, take the collectivos back to PDC ( I believe its the last stop). From there catch a taxi to 5th avenue (approximately 100 pesos) , the famous PDC strip where there are tons of restaurants and shops. it’s the perfect way to end the evening.  I stumbled upon some memorable stores and met some pretty cool travelers. I recommend not missing out on the 2 listed below!!

Jellyfish -www.jellyfish.com.mx

sells Jellyfish lamps made Playa del carmen by Mayan artisans. All lamps are made from natural products supplied by nature . lamps range form 25.00 and each has their own meaning etched into them, represented by the Mayan symbols . The symbols and their respective meanings can also be found on the website.

 

Tierra Huichol – http://tierrahuichol.com

I was blown away when i witnessed first hand 2 Huichol men sitting in front of the store patiently placing each bead one by one onto their masterpiece cohesively creating  an intricate work of art! It takes 4 hours to make the smallest of the pieces that were for sale and weeks for some of the larger ones.  WOW!

 

20161204_211015

View the ADO schedule here for your return bus to Cancun. I ended up staying in Playa so I didnt need a return bus.

North America, South Florida

Cheap family road trip to North carolina

November 4, 2016
115A0669

Traveling in itself can prove to be quite expensive if the necessary precautions aren’t made. For one, a budget should always be planned and implemented as expenses can proliferate rapidly resulting in you looking t your bank statement thinking ” what just happened?”  With that being said traveling with kids ups the stakes and makes it that more challenging. ” I’m Hungry!” , “I’m thirsty!”,  “Can we do this activity today?”  the list goes on. Needless to say, kids are expensive. But that doesn’t  have to deter your from showing them the world and broadening their perspective on life.

I plan to share, in detail,  how my fiance and I took our 5 nieces and nephews on a beautiful 4 day trip to the Smokey mountain without exceeding our $1,500.00 budget.

Food- Before the trip we went to Costco and stocked up on juices, fruits, healthy snacks, cereal , milk and whatever else we thought the kids would need and enjoy. We spent $241.43 and we didn’t even eat everything we purchased so next time we will be spending much less.

For the drive to and from North Carolina and whenever else we were in the van we had coolers packed with juices, snacks, lunch meat & cheese, and tuna salad for sandwiches. Being prepared everywhere we went eradicated the need for us to have to purchase food on the road.

Rental Car: $313.77

Lodging- I figured since we were traveling with kids renting a house would be in our benefit as it would be cheaper than a hotel and we could cook dinner, breakfast and pre-pack their lunches. We found a lovely place on airbnb.com near the Nantahala forest in Franklin, NC for $460.00 for 3 days.

Gas – Gas was surprisingly not as expensive as I thought it would be. Driving to and From North Carolina and driving all through North Carolina and returning the car on full as we received it only cost us (6 x 34.00) $204.00.

Activities-  Being surrounded by nature made keeping the kids happy, engaged, and entertained effortless.

Day 1: On our first day we stayed at the house and explored the forest surrounding us. They were happy to show us an abandoned tree house they found, see animals in their habitat , run through the fall leaves and start a campfire once the sun had set.

Day 2: We spent the morning apple picking and wagon riding at Sky top Orchard. From there, we drove 35 minutes to Pisgah gem mine and boy oh boy was it worth the drive! The kids had an amazing time digging in their buckets and learning about the variety of gems they found and the customer service there was exceptional.

From there we found a cool lake on our way home and stopped so the kids could get out and run around, climb and explore!

115A0644

115a0787 115a0795

20161028_175919

Day 3:  We drove 1 hour North and headed to Asheville to hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway after exploring the Blue ridge parkway and stopping at the various overlooks we went on a search for waterfalls.  We visited Cullasaja Falls, Soco Falls, Bust Your Butt Falls. We then stopped at the store and purchased a few items to make smores which rounded out to approximately $20.00. Once we got home we started our campfire and spent the evening enjoying our smores and star gazing.

115a0886115a0904115a0907

115a0843115a0864

 

115a0588 115a1012

And the grand total isssssss…. $1239.20 for a 4 day road trip with 5 kids and 2 adults!