Havana Cuba Day 3 — Varadero Beach
Day 3 had been planned well in advance of the trip. We had scheduled a day trip to Varadero Beach with our host Rafael. For $160 CUCs, a driver would pick us up and drive us the two hours to Varadero Beach. We’d hang out for about 3 hours then head back to Havana. The morning started as it always does, with beautiful light pouring into our Airbnb in Central Havana. We all showered and donned our bathing suits under our clothing and headed down to Cafe Arcangel for breakfast before our driver showed up at 10:30am. I enjoyed the D’Arcangel breakfast for 5 CUCs. It came with ham, deliciously seasoned scrambled eggs, white toast, butter, mango marmalade, a fruit salad and cafe con leche. The coffee was really delicious too. Langré ordered a mocha chino which looked amazing as well. Unfortunately I can’t tell you if anything else is good because I got the same thing everyday! But it was all delicious. Their coffee & tea menu is pretty extensive too so you’ll be sure to find something you like should you ever visit.
At about 5 till 10:30am I made my way to the front entrance of our building and there was a man standing in front of a lovely blue vintage car. He spoke very little english but I quickly figured out he was our driver for the beach trip to Varadero. For the life of me I cannot remember what his name was but he was a young man, aged 35, slight build, slicked back hair and a smoker. After going up to our apartment and getting our beach bags we were off through the city of Havana and into the outskirts. The tight quarters of Havana gave way into open lush road. It was a two way street with fields of cows and horses. I saw a man riding a horse into the bush and the view of the ocean was always to our left. The waves were big and scary and spilling up onto what little shore there was. The main road was about 500 ft at most away from huge waves crashing. The wind was strong and you could feel it
pushing against the car at times but our driver was steady and never wavered handling the stick shift old beauty with ease. I spent a lot of time starring out the back window, watching the road behind us and looking at the unsettled sea to the left. Hoping the waves wouldn’t suddenly crash so high they’d spill over into the street. I took note of the smell of the car, it smelled like gasoline and leather. I listened to the music our driver played, a mixture of latin musicians. It was the perfect soundtrack to the beautiful countryside. There was nothing but fields and trees and sea and road for miles and miles. Sometimes we were the only car along the road. We rode through a few different towns, all very colorful and lively with people waiting at the bus stops, sitting under a tree on the side of the road and ushering they’re children down sidewalks. Then we’d return to the vast emptiness.
We passed a rum factory and you could smell it in the air for miles. It was potent and sweet and enveloped the atmosphere. A man was walking his huge cow using a large rope. There are mountains of blue haze to the right in the distance past the grazing fields. There is so much land. There are canyons and valleys and beautiful bright palm woods. So much untouched, lush and beautiful land. I wonder what will become of it all in the next few years. We cross a beautiful bridge with a river underneath filled with colorful boats and boat houses. Our driver pulled over and let us get out and take a few photos before getting back on the road. After an hour of driving we came to a large fork in the road and veered left and up a hill to Mirador de Bacunayagua. I think it’s just a midway rest stop to relieve ourselves and maybe get a
snack but our driver thought this would be something lovely for us to see. It was a surprise. There was a lovely little restaurant and several souvenir shops but the real treat was walking out and looking over the highest bridge in Cuba, built over a canyon. The view was breathtaking there was beautiful tall palm woods swaying in the breeze and in the distance to the left you could see where the sea met the sky. It was tranquil and awing. It was all the more better when a live band started up. They also had a bar serving fresh piña colada’s and pineapples. I stood watching the birds swooping down and circling the palm woods and taking in the band and the fresh smell of the breeze and earth. We hung out here for about half an hour, taking in the view and checking out the souvenirs. Then made our way back to the car to complete the hours journey to Varadero.
After an hour of scenic driving while music gently played and the girls slept, we drove into Varadero. I beach town with nothing much else going on. We pulled up a dead end street right onto the beach. The air smelled like salty sea and the winds were gusty. We parted with our driver who we agreed to meet back at the car in a few hours and were on our way. The beach was gorgeous. White sands, warm waters but it was so windy we couldn’t really enjoy it. My hat blew away twice and I had to chase it down the beach. We dipped in the water a bit but the winds were just too much. They pelted the sand into our legs and it stung! Unfortunately this was probably the worse day to come to the beach but it was already pre-planned. We did enjoy the scenery though and a quick dip. We managed to take a few pictures and then we headed inward to the street to check out a collection of souvenir shops. There was a snack bar with chairs under a large tarp and I decided to get myself a piña colada and take a seat while the girls looked as souvenirs. I ended up chatting with a man from Canada who had traveled all over the world. He spoke at length about South Africa and how he’d spent an amazing two weeks there. Once the girls had finished their shopping we met back up with the driver and headed back to Havana. The drive seemed quicker than before and he dropped us off at our place around 5:30pm.
We were totally spent and took a little nap before our other friends who didn’t come on the beach trip came to visit and we decided to go check out a local restaurant. Another Canadian guy who we met in the elevator of our building the day before had told us about a local place that was super cheap and delicious. Only we didn’t know the name of this place. So we just followed his crude directions and finally found something resembling a restaurant. It was a no frills kinda place playing latin music videos on a big screen. The 5 of us were seated at a large table in the back and each given a menu. The menu was exhaustive. There had to be 20 pages of everything you could think of. I wasn’t too hungry so I just ordered beans and rice with a side of fried plantains. Two friends ordered pizza’s and the other two both ordered chicken and rice. We all ordered a round of piña colada’s
which were HUGE! It took forever for the food to come but we spent the time chatting and sharing our Cuban experiences thus far. It was pretty funny when the guy from the elevator walked in too! It took about an hour for our food to come but it was worth the wait because everything was delicious. It was the best food we’d had the entire trip especially the chicken and rice. It was seasoned to perfection and savory. The drinks were delightful too. When our bill came it was 37 CUCs total for the 5 of us (and we all had 2 rounds of drinks). Casa Cantabria was the best food I had in Cuba. With full bellies we said our goodbyes and parted ways, us to our Airbnb around the corner and them back to the Colonial Mansion. After a quick shower to wash off the beach, my head hit the pillow and Day 3 was done.