Cuban Resort Eats

Alright, last Cuba post! Food time. Food is interesting everywhere, but I find that people are interested in hearing about the food in Cuba because it varies from resort to resort and can be hit or miss. I have heard horror stories, but thankfully haven’t experienced anything terrible myself. It’s difficult to compare the food to other vacation spots though, because Cuba doesn’t receive the kind of imports other countries do. I talked more about this after our trip last year to the Brisas Guardalavaca in Holguin.

Anyway, the food at the Iberostar Mojito was good, though still Cuba food.  I find all the authentic Cuban food is freakin’ delicious (so good that Evan bought a Cuban cookbook while we were there), but sometimes things can get weird when they try to make dishes they think we like. However, compared to last year the food at this resort was just a bit of a step up. Similar in variety, but the quality of certain items was better (bacon, pizza, pasta, cheese, burgers, soup, etc.)

As soon as we arrived on the resort we noticed a crew setting up a little barbecue beside the pool area…

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And they were roasting an entire pig!

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Apparently they do these special barbecues on Friday’s and Wednesdays, just an FYI if you’re going there (Cath yo, I am looking at you). We were all over that and it was hands down the best meal we had on the resort the entire week.

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Pork, fried bananas, potatoes, rice and beans, and a bun. It was really, really good. This was the first thing we ate and I was all “OMG THE FOOD HERE IS AMAZING!!! BEST FOOD EVER!” but the rest of the food didn’t quite stay at that level…

Live music while we ate also.

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Give me all the live music! I can’t get enough.

Next up we have the Italian restaurant, which is out on the lagoon across from the cigar lounge.

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To start we had the bruschetta (actually delicious), a caprese salad (which, haha, see below), minestrone soup (which didn’t really seem like minestrone, but was also very good), and bunnns.

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We both ordered lasagne for our main.

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And aside from that weird cream sauce on the side of the plate that I totally avoided, it was very good. The only thing I can say about it was that the cheese on top had an old stinky cheddar taste, which was a bit weird for lasagne. But it wasn’t like the cheese we had in Cuba last year, which just tasted funny to me. This taste I didn’t mind, it was just surprising.

Our next a la carte adventure was the Gourmet restaurant, also on the lagoon.

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I loved that the windows were completely open to the outside. So breezy. I started with a cream of asparagus soup (so good! All the soup I had on the resort was so good!)

For my main I ordered the chicken breast with pumpkin mash and vegetables.

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Likely not fresh vegetables, but whatever, it was fine. Evan ordered the fish and raved about it.

We both ordered the tirimisu for dessert but it wasn’t anything noteworthy (honestly I find the dessert never is).

Iberostar Mojito has two snack bars, the pool snack bar…

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And the beach snack bar. The beach snack bar has burgers, hot dogs, fries and sandwiches. I didn’t try any of the sandwiches but I saw a little girl with a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and she was going nuts she liked it so much.

Ev and I both ordered burgers from the beach snack bar, and those were good.

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We brought our own Heinz Ketchup and Frank’s Red Hot as well, and I am so glad we did.

The snack bar by the pool has all the same items as the beach bar, as well as full meals like chicken breast, pork, and beef, pizza, and even calzones! The Hawaiian pizza was my favourite.

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In the above picture is a beef pepito, so just beef on a hot dog bun with onions and peppers. I didn’t really know what it was I was ordering, but it was surprisingly good.

And then we have the buffet.

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It didn’t have the most extensive options, but I could always find something to eat that I liked. Breakfast was pretty great.

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I started with a donut every morning, because that’s what you do on vacation. And unlike the bacon at our last Cuban resort, this bacon did NOT have coarse grisly hair on it. It was very good bacon. Also omelettes or eggs made to order every morning, as well as french toast, pancakes, and crepes (bit of a line for all of those, but you’re on vacation, where else do you need to be?). There are also hard boiled eggs, and I have been on a big HBE kick lately so I had those for breakfast most days. And the smoothie bar! I began each day with a fresh fruit smoothie.

They had a grill station for lunch and dinner and they would grill any kind of meat or fish for you, so Evan hit that up a lot. A big paella every day. Lots of beans and rice, lots of pork.

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A pretty decent tuna salad, and a good selection of fresh vegetables. And the fruit, the pineapple in particular, was ridiculously fresh and delicious.

And the pasta bar. You know I love a good pasta bar.

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And it was a good pasta bar. They actually had garlic, onions and oregano. I had pasta at least three times.

I was pretty done with the food by the sixth day, but I’m sure I’d be like that anywhere. I was reading reviews where the people were saying this resort had the best food they experienced in Cuba. Me too! But I only have one other place to compare it to. I also read reviews that said it was the worst food they have ever had, so just watch out for reviews like that. You gotta take them with a grain of salt.

I also need to mention Evan’s new best friend, the churros guy.

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He was outside making fresh churros each night and they were DELICIOUS.

So that was the food. Again, not too blow me away amazing, but not too shabby at all. The drinks though! I cannot say enough about them. So many options. Beer, pina coladas, daquiries, mojitos, Bahama Mama’s, etc. etc. and my new go-to drink, vodka lemonade. Delicious.

Cuba Sugar, Cigar and Rum Tour (and Moron City, crocodiles, and boat rides)

Last Tuesday Evan and I went on the Cuba Sugar, Cigar and Rum tour, which we booked through our travel rep Sunwing. The tour probably should have been called Cuba City, Sugar, Cigar, Rum, Steam Train, Crocodiles and Mangroves because those are all the things we did. The tour tan from 9am to 4pm, so it was a long one. Evan’s mom did this same tour last year and told us all about it, so we knew what we were in for. Just a warning, this will probably be long.

First of all, our tour guide Amabelle was fantastic. She was super friendly and knowledgeable, and I was so impressed with her Spanish, English AND French.

Our first stop was along the causeway that separates Jardines del Rey (the King’s Gardens, Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo) from mainland Cuba. The causeway is 27 kilometres long and was built in 1989, marking the beginning of the resort construction in Cayo Coco.

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Just a quick stop to take a picture of this…crown.

Next we stopped at a hotel just outside of Moron City to do the bathroom thing and grab a pina colada.

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Freakin’ delicious.

And live music! My favourite.

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All the bands we saw were so good!

We stopped for maybe 20 minutes and then were on our way to Moron City. I was the most excited about this part of our tour. Our first activity was a horse and carriage ride through the city.

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We made friends with Michelle and Kenton, also from Toronto, while we were waiting for the bus to pick us up in the morning, so they were our carriage buddies.

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We ended up watching the entertainment with them for the rest of the nights we were there. And Michelle even got us into the disco on the resort one night. They are a good time.

Our horse and buggy took us down the main street of Moron. It is no Havana, but it was still interesting to see real Cuba.

The pharmacy:

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Here is the Moron high school:

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This is the oldest hotel in Moron:

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Supermarket…

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Evan…

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Michelle and I…

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I think the ride through the city was my favourite part of the entire tour.

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The streets were busy with people, and it was just cool to see. Bikes definitely seemed to be the preferred method of transportation, but I did see a few old cars.

Moron was founded in 1543 (crazy!), currently has a population of about 63,000, and is also known as the City of the Rooster. We stopped in the oldest part of the city and had about half an hour of free time to wander around. There were a bunch of shops selling souvenirs here as well (basically the same souvenirs you find in the hotel, at the airport, and in the market by our hotel, however you could bargain more here).

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In the above photo, on the corner of the street to the right, there were a few ladies with a food cart selling some kind of deep fried dough wrapped in some kind of carb. Evan and I made a beeline for it and were just handing over our peso to try it when our tour guide came running over yelling “No! Please don’t buy food from the street!” She said she was afraid we might get sick, which, I appreciate her concern…but I dunno. We abandoned our street food mission, but I regretted it afterwards and I still regret it now.

Also in that area is the Reguero Theater.

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And the oldest Catholic church in the country.

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It’s also the oldest construction still standing in the city.

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In the middle of that area is the Ignacio Agramonte Park

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In the park we noticed all of these bird cages up on trees, and on the street on poles.

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That one is empty, but the rest were filled with birds. Like canary birds. We asked Amabelle what was up with the birds and she said that the locals like to bring their birds here and bet with each other on whose bird would sing the loudest/most. I still don’t know if she was pulling our leg, but I am going to choose to believe her because that sounds hilarious and entertaining.

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Dear Evan, thank you for your thumb.

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A note if you are going here, and your tour guide should warn you about this also, but just keep an eye out for beggars. People will try to give you flowers and such, but they are not for free. They will want money for them. But just say no thank you and you’ll be good. We didn’t encounter anyone who was pushy, but you never know. We found the sweetest little boy in the park with his dad and we spent about 5 minutes trying to ask him why he wasn’t in school, until Amabelle came over and translated to him. It was spring break! All the kids in Moron had the week off.

Next we stopped at this weird art gallery (but everything was for sale, so I’m going to say it was a store) where all the art was made out of forks and spoons, so that was…interesting. But I felt like it was just thrown into the tour.

I really enjoyed the Moron part of this trip, and I wish we could have spent more time exploring there. Do you know how badly I wanted to check out that supermarket?! It was my dream! If you are wanting to just see Moron City and not do all the other things on this tour, our cab driver Vladimir from the other day offered to take us into the city and be our guide for the day for $70 CUC. Evan and I may have done that had we found out about it before we booked our tour. If I ever go back again that’s what I’ll be doing.

Next on our tour was the sugar mill, which is no longer running because sugar is no longer Ciego de Avila’s hottest commodity – tourism is! So the old sugar mill has turned into a museum. For the tourists.

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We started our tour with drink concoction made with honey and lemon, and some other ingredients that I can’t remember, that the slaves that worked there used to drink to give them energy.

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It looked like horse pee and it didn’t taste much better (I’m guessing), but once there was rum in it is was easier to choke it down.

Then they showed us how sugar was originally made back in the day.

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A slave would shove the sugar cane through the cylinders above (this was my role), while bulls attached to the…I don’t know how to describe it…levers I guess, would walk around in a circle and make the gears move, pressing the sugar cane and making the liquid sugar drip into the pan below. Sorry, I’m horrible at explaining things.

Then the liquid sugar would be put into kilns, where the sugar would crystalize.

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Pretty interesting stuff.

That was until sugar became a larger operation…

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Same thing but on a larger scale.

To transport the sugar they used steam trains.

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Annnnd, we got to ride on one!

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We all hopped on this old train and took a 15 minute ride through the countryside.

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I think the ride on the steam train was the highlight for Evan. It was his dream.

We passed a couple of villages on our ride, and some of the residents came out to wave at us.

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Actually, Julio from Coco Indio says he lives right near here, but he wasn’t home (I asked him if he was going to be, haha). If he was home I totally would have arranged for us to come over :)

We also passed a TON of mango trees. I actually picked one when we got off the train, but it wasn’t ripe yet. That was sad.

We stopped for lunch at Rancho Palma.

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We started with sugar cane juice (with rum, of course), and then we had a good authentic Cuban lunch.

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Lots of pork and chicken. Always pork and chicken. And that pumpkin, OMG. So good.

Paula, this photo is just for you.

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I hope those bunnies weren’t for eating.

As we were leaving we got a cigar and a bottle of rum as a souvenir (this is where the cigar and rum in the name came in), so that was pretty sweet.

Our next stop was a crocodile farm. Or, cocodrilo farm.

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I have never seen crocodiles that big so close up before. They truly look like dinosaurs. They are scary. But also quite lazy.

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Sneaky cocodrilos. Look at all those eyes sticking out of the water.

Well, lazy until you dangle a slab of meat in front of them.

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Delicious. Amabelle explained that they keep the crocodiles on the farm because they are trying to save them. There are many people who want to do bad things to the crocodiles.

Lucky me got to hold a baby cocodrilo.

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Awww, what a baby cocodrilo (for some reason I think the word cocodrilo is cuter than crocodile)

The crocodile HATED me. He really tried to break free of my grasp, but I forced a snuggle on him, and he eventually gave up trying to escape.

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Look at that eyeball though. He still did not like it. Evan does not enjoy reptiles and had zero interest in being anywhere near the baby crocodile.

I also made a bird friend.

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And then this happened.

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I am so lucky he didn’t poop on me.

The very last stop on our tour was a boat ride on Rodondo Lake.

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That would be our driver Roberto in the background. He was quite the comedian.

Rodondo is a freshwater lake with a huge mangrove swamp. That’s where we were headed.

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Straight into the mangroves.

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It was really, really cool. I was wearing my bathing suit in case an impromptu chance to swim in paradise came up (you never know, and I want to be ready), but you do not want to swim in this lake. Lots of scary things in here. I can’t remember what, but I heard cocodrilos and spiders, and no thanks.

We did see the cutest little hummingbird hanging out in his little hummingbird nest. I’ve never seen a hummingbird nest before, it looked like a cocoon.

Sometimes our boat would go through patches of this really weird moss…

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And then our guide Roberto would suddenly have a beard.

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A comedian, as I said. He actually swung from one of the mangroves like Tarzan. Like, grabbed a branch, swung himself out of the boat, and then back into the boat. Twice. I thought he was going to get eaten by a cocodrilo for sure.

But I liked Roberto. He let us drive the boat.

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The boat ride was quite the experience. I’m glad it was included.

And that’s it! The end of our tour. Back to the bus and back to our hotel. A full day of fun. What I liked about this tour is that it gave us the chance to see a taste of real Cuba. We did a TON of stuff. It’s a little bit of everything. What I did not like about this tour is that I was locked into a tour and couldn’t do exploring on my own. I think next time I go back to Cuba (I’m obviously going back), I want to do the Havana thing. And I would like to do a tour, but I also want to just explore.

Playas

Time for some Cayo Coco beachy things!

I’ll start with the beach at Iberostar Mojito, our resort, because it is awesome.

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It is a very beautiful beach, I have mentioned this. But I haven’t mentioned the snorkeling! The snorkeling right off our beach was fantastic. Straight out and to the left of the beach bar there is a big patch of rock and coral where there are tons and tons of fish (you can see it from the shore, just looks like a dark spot). Evan and I went snorkeling there with bread from the buffet and we were absolutely surrounded by fish. They were literally circling us, just kept swimming around and around. There were giant clear fish that looked like angel fish, needle fish, and all the beautiful coloured fish. It was amazing.

I also found this, right in that area:

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It is a sea biscuit sand dollar, and it is huge! I noticed the design sticking out of the sand and went down and dug that sucker out. We found some other interesting shells too, but that one took the cake. Such a great find.

We also saw a yellow stingray in this area. I was swimming along the bottom with my mask on, and I noticed a weird spot on the sand. I reached out to touch it and it started moving and I realized it wasn’t sand, it was this:

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(not my photo but it looked just like that)

Soo, that was pretty terrifying. I legit screamed underwater, totally freaking it out. I came up yelling “EVAN!!! STINGRAY!!! BAHHHHHH!” Somehow we were able to find it again, so we followed it around for a while. It was a pretty cool experience after I got over my initial terror.

To the far right of the Mojito beach there is the nautical shack where you can borrow snorkels and masks (we brought our own), paddle boats, kayaks, etc.

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And for $20 CUC you can get one of the guys to take you out on a little catamaran to a good snorkeling spot. We didn’t do the big catamaran excursion this time, we did it last year and I did it in Jamaica, but we did hire the little catamaran from our resort.

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Our guide’s name was Pablo (he’s in the wetsuit), but he told us to call him Paul, as that is his English name. We never did get his boss’s name, but he kind of looked like Jay-Z. Jay-Z never got our names either, but he sure did see my butt when he pulled me back onto the boat after snorkeling. There is no graceful way to get back on the catamaran, let me tell you. He just pulled me right out of the water and onto the boat, which was very impressive as I am neither light nor dainty, but my bathing suit bottoms fell down in the process and I was struggling to get myself upright and my arms were occupied so I couldn’t get my bottoms back up right away. Oh well. He was a perfect gentleman and never said a word about my butt. He’s probably seen lots of bums. He probably saw Evan’s also.

Moving on… I know it’s hard to tell in these photos, but the ocean that day was SUPER rough. It was the craziest boat ride I have ever been on. It felt like a rollercoaster, and the waves kept coming up and splashing me. Just me, of course. No one else. I really don’t know how our little catamaran made it through the giant waves, and I really don’t know how we didn’t get seasick. I’m so glad we waited until after our adventure to eat lunch or I may have tossed my cookies. After about 20 minutes or so of rough riding, we reached our destination.

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They let us take off our life jackets after a bit because we are strong swimmers, which I much preferred. The water was still pretty rough but I didn’t have a hard time keeping afloat.

Paul brought a giant water bottle filled with bread and the fish just went nuts for it. There were so many!

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Those fish love the carbs. I understand.

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That’s Evan back there!

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My underwater camera doesn’t exactly enjoy being underwater and the screen always goes shady so it’s impossible to tell what you’re taking a picture of. Evan and I were just pointing it around and hoping for the best. It wasn’t until we got back that we realized how great the photos were.

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Look at all those fish! Good times.

The way back on the catamaran was much smoother and faster, and we were back at our beach in half the time it took us to get out there.

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So glad we did that. I just wish I had realized to look at the bottom of the ocean more, rather than concentrate on just the fish. A lady at our resort found five of those sea biscuit sand dollars there! Ah well, next time.

That Paul/Pablo was an excellent guide!

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We also decided to check out Playa Pilar one day, because it is known as the most beautiful beach in all of Cuba. It is all the way over on Cayo Guillermo (connected to Cayo Coco by a causeway), and there is an excursion there that you can do, or you can do what we did and take the double decker bus from your resort.

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It stops at every resort once an hour and runs to Playa Pilar. $5 CUC gets you a return trip. But a big warning, the bus from our resort took an hour and a half to get to Pilar because Mojito is only the second stop and it stops at every. single. resort. along the way. I thought it was going to be 40 minutes. No. Hour and a half.

Once you arrive there is a walkway from the road to the beach…

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And then, paradiso! It truly is a beautiful beach.

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(I don’t know why I feel the need to clarify, but you guys know there is definitely no thigh gap here – it is an illusion because of how I’m standing)

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We rented this beach bed for $10 CUC, which also included 3 drinks.

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The life.

Not a bad deal.

There is also a restaurant if you get hungry.

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We didn’t eat there, but it looked good.

We snorkeled all along the shoreline at Pilar…

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Ahh, that clear water!

And I am disappointed to report that we did not see anything aside from a few fish. The snorkeling on our beach was definitely better. Actually, Pilar didn’t impress me very much because the Mojito beach is just so nice. If I went to Cayo Coco again I’m not sure I would go back to Pilar Beach, unless I was staying somewhere really close to it. I am glad we experienced it though!

Lenny’s, Playa Prohibita (and the Pin Pin)

One of our evenings in Cayo Coco we took a break from the resort and cabbed it to Lenny’s Bar and Grill on Playa Prohibita. I kept reading about it in reviews on Trip Advisor and everyone raved about it, so I knew it was a must visit for us.

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It is the cutest beach restaurant, and decorated with license plates from around the world (but mostly Canada). It is called Lenny’s after a Canadian guy who practically lives in Cayo Coco he’s there so often. However, Lenny’s appears to be what the Canadians call it and that name is not known by hotel staff, so if you are planning on going there (and I highly, HIGHLY recommend you do!) you need to tell your hotel you want a cab to Playa Prohibita. Lenny’s is the only thing on the beach. Playa Prohibita sounds all mysterious and prohibited, but it is wonderful.

The cab fare from Iberostar Mojito was $20 CUC and our driver dropped us off and came back to pick us up two hours later. Very convenient, just make sure you agree to pay on return. Our cab driver was awesome, shout out to Vladimir!

At Lenny’s we had a great view of the water, and the sunset.

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And a great view of the band!

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I had read in reviews that there was a live band that played in the evenings, so I asked the owner about it and the next thing I knew these two were serenading Evan and I.

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This is Julio (pronounced Hoolio) and Junior, two of the members of Coco Indio. They have a third member who sadly wasn’t there that evening, but they are truly amazing. Listening to them in that restaurant by the water was one of the highlights of my trip. They were so good we bought their CD, Pin Pin.

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They even let me play the bongos. I was slightly apprehensive about this.

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Evan took a lovely video. Please note I didn’t know he was taking a video, and I didn’t know what I was doing.

But that is okay. If that video doesn’t work for you, you can click here to watch on youtube.

They kept going on about Pin Pin, one of their songs, and when I asked them what Pin Pin meant they demonstrated with a crotch thrust and started killing themselves laughing. Then they told us if we wanted to have a baby, we just listen to #3 (Pin Pin) on their CD when we’re driving in the car and when we get home it will be a good baby making time … Good to know?

Here’s Pin Pin if you’re interested.

If anyone speaks Spanish and would like to translate that for me I would be very grateful. In the meantime I am assuming it means sensual times.

Julio actually sat down and talked with us for a while and told us about his life in Cuba. Once again very interesting. He told us all about his kids and showed us pictures, so that was cute. I showed him pictures of Winnie.

And dinner! It was amazing! What a great break from the resort food.

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Lobster, shrimp, fish, rice, cabbage and salad. All of it seriously so good.

After that deliciousness, Julio offered to take a romantic picture of us by the water.

False start.

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Here we go.

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I also got a picture with our new friend Julio.

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He’s a good guy.

What a seriously beautiful spot.

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There was a Cuban family dining beside us, and one of the kids went snorkeling and brought back a starfish! Don’t worry, he put it back in the ocean after showing everyone.

Julio and Junior had to catch their bus to take them back into Moron City, and the walk to the bus stop from Lenny’s was 5km so we offered to give them a ride in our cab. Our driver, ol’ Vladimir, had a CD player so I asked him if he would mind playing our new CD, #3 please. Pin Pin. So we cranked Pin Pin, and I sang along in the front (only the chorus) and Julio and Junior sang along in the back and played Evan’s legs like bongos (he was in the middle of them). And then they got out at their bus stop and we said goodbye to our new friends, and Vladimir started Pin Pin over again as he turned to me and said “I just really like this song.” I hear ya, Vlad. I hear ya. Long live Pin Pin.

Evan and I were saying if we ever go back we will be bringing Coco Indio T-shirts with their album cover on the front.

One more vid of Coco Indio, ’cause I just really like them.

And this rooster that was hanging out behind the restaurant, because I have never seen such a magnificent strut.

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Legs for dayyyyys

Lenny’s! Go there! And tell Julio his Canadian chums Evan and Lindsey say hi!

Iberostar Mojito: Our Resort

Okay, so! Resort time. We stayed at the beautiful, all-inclusive Iberostar Mojito in Cayo Coco.

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Cayo Coco is an island off the north coast of Cuba, where that flamingo is in the above photo (we did see flamingos so that is no lie).

The Mojito is a four star resort, but keep in mind that four stars in Cuba is not quite the same as, say, Mexico. For $800 a person though (taxes in), with your flight and all your drinks and food included, you can’t go wrong. Ridiculous value for money. It’s almost cheaper to go than stay home!

The resort was formerly El Senator until Iberostar took ownership. The grounds are beautiful.

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(not my photo)

I did my research before booking and though there are a ton of other resorts on Cayo Coco, the Mojito ultimately won us over because of the beach. The reviews on Trip Advisor say the beach is the best, and that is the most important for me. It absolutely did not disappoint. It really was the best.

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This picture was during low tide, so the beach was very wide during this time. At high tide the beach was much more narrow, but the water still wasn’t deep until you got out about 100 metres. The beach was constantly changing because of the tide, more so than any other beach I have been on, so that was really cool. Also, this beach is perfect for kids! We walked down our entire strip of beach one day, it took over an hour one way, and we passed the Tryp and the Hotel Colonial (which was cool, it looked like a Spanish village), and our beach was noticeably the nicest (and could I say the word beach any more times in one paragraph).

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Soft white sand for ages.

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It was pretty windy when we were there, but the water wasn’t too rough, it just made things fun.

I will say that the chair game is strong at this resort, and if you are not at the beach by 7am you will have a hard time getting a chair in the shade until the later afternoon. This seems to be pretty common at many resorts though, and it is more the fault of the guests than the resort itself. It would really bother me when I saw a line of chairs reserved with towels that were unoccupied for hours. Ugh, humans.

Like our resort in Holguin last year, the Brisas Guardalavaca, there were a lot of repeat visitors. The Brisas was definitely comparable to the Mojito, but I would say the Mojito was just a liiiittle bit better. Both are four stars, but the Mojito’s beach was slightly better, the food was slightly better, our room was slightly better, etc.

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Typical Cuba with the two double beds pushed together to make a king. We ended up just sleeping on one, because otherwise someone inevitably ends up in the crack between. We had a ground floor with a big patio. The rooms are definitely dated, and definitely no Sandals Royal Bahamian room, but it was clean. You barely spend any time in your room anyway. We stayed in block 18, which was close to everything.

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There is a big lagoon that separates the beach from the rest of the resort, which has additional rooms situated on it, but they are currently closed for renovation. There were workers painting the huts, so hopefully they will reopen next year (of course, everyone works in Cuba time). It would be cool to stay in them.

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The lagoon was huge, and in addition to those cabins, the a la cartes were located on it, as well as the cigar lounge.

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I loved that dress. It was really disappointing when I broke a strap jumping out of my seat yelling “Armageddon!” during an evening trivia game (they played “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” and asked what movie it was from. I didn’t even win. Dem nungas always trying to escape).

Some people complained in reviews that having the lagoon made it a long walk to the beach, but I liked it.

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The lagoon was filled with these cool jellyfish and various fish and wildlife and birds. And I was eating and drinking so much that I preferred the walk. Honestly it took like three minutes if you took the direct route, so it didn’t seem far to me.

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But if you took the long route it was fun to explore.

Three pools at the Mojito. Swim-up bar pool, kids pool, and the adult pool.

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That is the main pool. The pool with the swim-up bar was just above that one.

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The adult pool was my favourite though. It was a little slice of heaven.

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We didn’t spend much time at the pool, but when we did, adult pool. It was very quiet there, so perfect for reading.

I’ll talk about the restaurants more in my food post, otherwise this will be a million years long, but there were three a la carte restaurants: Italian, Gourmet, and International. Then the main buffet, and the beach and pool snack bars (which were actually good).

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Beach bar/snack bar

And for drinking, five bars, the lobby bar, pool bar, swim-up bar, beach bar, and cigar lounge. Very important. And they all had very good drinks.

The lobby bar had live entertainment and was a great spot to grab a drink each evening before or after dinner.

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There was even a guy rolling cigars in there. He gave Evan a lesson.

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Speaking of cigars, the cigar lounge on the lagoon was my FAVOURITE. I would go back to this resort again just because of the cigar lounge.

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It was the best atmosphere in there (and very well ventilated if you don’t enjoy cigar smoke). What made the cigar lounge the best though, were the two Cuban rock bands we saw in there!

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I could not get enough of them! Much dancing!

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You have to listen to this:

Hilarious. I don’t know how I held the camera steady for that video because I was definitely laughing while I was taking it. They were so good though! You know, many of the entertainers who were singing in English don’t actually know how to speak English. Inevitably a few Spanish words would slip into the songs. Hold de line! Oh it killed me. I loved this so much. Makes me happy.

And speaking of entertainment, it was fantastic. I cannot believe the lengths that Cubans will go to entertain us. Really impressive. I seriously would have been happy with one show, but every night something was going on. Evan and I were even in a show! It was this girls against boys thing, four guys and four girls on the stage, doing various activities. The girls won, of course. But Evan and I got a few good laughs from the crowd up there. Evan has started calling me The Jambon (meaning ham in French), because he thinks I am a ham. I don’t know where he gets this idea from.

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The rooster is the symbol for Moron City so they are EVERYWHERE.

But back to the entertainment. There was a Michael Jackson show and it was AMAZING. I read in a review that it was Vegas-worthy, and indeed, it was.

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Cuban Michael Jackson was pretty amazing.

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They did all the good songs. Thriller!

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It was so impressive.

There was a Lion King show one evening, which was also pretty great. There were definitely some plot gaps, as they only sang the songs. But I liked. I am a sucker for Circle of Life.

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The best of musicals show featured Grease.

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And Cuban Travolta and his gang above were making me laugh hard. Those crazy cats.

Every night, lots of music and dancing.

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I really enjoyed it.

I need to tell you that the staff were amazing. They will do anything for you. Everyone was so nice and so helpful and so happy. We had great service, no complaints about anything related to service at all. And if you are staying at the Mojito, please find Alex who works in security and tell him that Evan and Lindsey sent you!

And of course, what’s Cuba without resort cats.

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Preggo

This daddy-to-be was my fave:

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Cat on a hot tin roof.

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A few of you expressed concern about the fate of our palm hats (made by a man on the resort, Carlos), and whether we would be able to bring them home or if customs would snag them because they’re a plant.

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No problemo! I stashed them in my suitcase, but I saw many other people wearing them at the airport, and they still had them leaving the airport in Toronto. So I guess Canada doesn’t care about palm hats.

That’s pretty much it resort-wise. They have tennis courts and a gym but we didn’t really bother with those. Good, good times! Highly recommend.

Cayo Coco Highlights

Hola amigos! We are back from beautiful Cayo Coco, Cuba!

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We arrived home late Friday afternoon, which was a pretty sweet deal since we had the weekend to recuperate (um, and continue to eat like we were on vacation) before getting fully back into the swing of things today. I feel very lucky about that. Anyway, we had THE BEST time and I have a ton of pictures and a ton of things to tell you about, so I have a week of Cuba posts planned. Gird your loins.

No blogging while I was in Cuba as Wifi is $2.50 pesos for half an hour and it is slowwwww. I checked in a couple of times to throw up a few pics on my Instagram, but that was the extent of my blog activities. I don’t usually blog on vacation anyway as it takes me a long time to get my thoughts and my pictures together, so I prefer to save the recapping for when I get home.

First, a few highlights. We left for our trip in the early morning of Friday, April 10th. And funny story, the power went out in our condo building sometime Thursday night while we were sleeping, so we woke up at 3:30am for our flight and had to get ready to leave in the dark. That was fine, no biggie. I was packed and ready to go anyway. But then we had to lug our suitcases down 8 floors in the pitch black stairwell. That was quite the adventure to start our adventure.

The convenient thing about Cuba is it’s only about a three hour flight from Toronto (it’s only 90 miles south of the coast of Florida), so we were at the Jardines Del Ray airport in Cayo Coco by 10am and ready to get our cerveza on.

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Yeahhhh, bus cerveza. Kicking things off right. And the convenient thing about our resort (Iberostar Mojito, and more on that to come) is that it’s only 15 minutes from the airport, so we were at our resort by 11am. We had the full day, so that was great. Our room wasn’t ready yet so we immediately changed into our bathing suits, stored our suitcases in a locked room, and made our way down to the beach.

There was a game going on by the beach bar where people were throwing tennis balls into the eye of a cutout pirate. Evan and his lily white Canadian skin immediately joined the crowd watching.

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And then decided to give ‘er a go. He was, of course, a natural. As he is.

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About 10 people were playing and, of course, Evan won. As he does.

Not even here for half an hour and Evan wins a bottle of rum playing a bean bag toss game on the beach. #cayococo

He scored a bottle of Cuban rum!

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A thing of beauty.

That was some strong foreshadowing for a good vacation right there.

The beach at our resort was absolutely fantastic.

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Even more beautiful than our resort in Holguin, Cuba last year. But that’s the rep of Cayo Coco! We spent a lot of time on that beach.

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The ocean was so clear and such a beautiful colour. It was my goal to swim in it every day (I only missed one day, the day of our excursion!)

Evening beach frolicking was a good time too.

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(there was a little rock cliffy area on the far left of our beach)

So we did a lot of swimming, a little pool leisuring…

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We drank a lot (or at least the first few days until I had to cool it because I cannot handle drinking a lot in the sun), we ate a lot, and we dressed up for dinner each night, as you do on vacation…

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We saw a lot of live Cuban music (I love!), and we hitched a cab to a beautiful little restaurant with my new favourite band…

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and a beautiful view.

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And we went on an excursion that included a tour of Moron City, to see some real Cuba.

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Cayo Coco is an island off the north coast, connected to Cuba by a causeway. No residents live on the island of Cayo Coco (or Cayo Guillermo), and there is nothing on the island but resorts. Workers are all bused in (one of the workers on our resort actually lives on the main road in the above photo). It was really interesting to see every day Cuban life, but more on that later.

I can’t mention the highlights without mentioning Alex, who I think is going to become a lifetime friend of ours. Alex is our age, and works in security at the resort. We didn’t meet him until our last night when we were making our way down to the beach for one last frolic. We stopped and ended up talking to him for about an hour, and he encouraged us to ask him all our questions about Cuba. This was great because I had so many but I always feel bad bombarding workers at the resort with questions about how they live (but as I learned on this trip, don’t! They love it when you ask them and are so happy to answer questions!)

I learned more on this trip about Cuban life than I did on my last trip to Cuba, mainly because of talking to Alex, and other workers on our resort. It is so interesting to me because their lifestyle is just so different. Alex was telling us that his wage is $25 convertible pesos (CUC) a month (their pesos are confusing because they have two, but their CUC is pretty much on par with the American dollar so $25 CUC = $25 American). In Cuba, $25 CUC a month is a good wage, and if you have access to the tourism industry, ie you work on a resort, you have a good chance of earning tips. So an even better wage. One of our buffet servers told us he left his job as a school teacher to become a server at the resort because the money is better. Resort workers are among the wealthiest Cubans. For Alex, he makes more than both his mother and his stepfather combined. He lives with them, and his sister and his nephew, in a small house in Ciego de Avila. He said he would like to buy his own house, but for a one room cinder block house with a kitchen and a bathroom it’s $3000 – $5000 CUC. A house with maybe three bedrooms? $10,000 CUC. Alex has figured that he needs to work at least another four years before he will be able to buy a basic house (he also does painting and carpentry on his days off, two a week).

Also to put this into perspective, a pair of pants costs $30 CUC. I know that there are many countries poorer than Cuba, of course (and they do get free healthcare, free education, etc.) It’s just different. So it’s interesting.

Alex wanted to hear about Canada too, and we were happy to answer all of his questions. Evan told him that sometimes it gets so cold that the hair on the inside of your nose freezes, and Alex’s reaction was priceless. My favourite story of Alex’s was that it was his birthday recently, and some of his other Canadian friends threw a little party for him on the beach and gave him a backpack (back hammock as he called it, and they do not have access to those in Cuba), filled with a pair of shoes and a t-shirt. I will bet you that he cried when he received it, because there were tears in his eyes when he was telling us about it. In the end, we got his email address (he doesn’t have access to the internet, but he does have email), and in the morning before our flight home we went to find him to say goodbye and get a picture.

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Oh that Alex. I would love for him to come and visit us in Canada, but I don’t think that will ever be possible (whole other long story about that). But penpals we will be!

Our week in paradise went by at a good pace, not too fast and not too slow, but by the time it was up I was pretty ready to come home. Too much sun and booze and always having sand on you and food that you aren’t quite used to will get to you. A week is enough. I was happy to come home and reunite with our little shrimp.

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Oh but Cuba, we will miss you.

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More stories to come :)