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Hey all! 

I've been putting off making this post but you all have given me so much in my time on the forum that I knew I needed to give back in my small, but hopefully special for somebody, way. Background: I've been smoking cigars for about 10 years now and been getting much more into cubans in the last 4years or so. I watched a few docs and saw a few different pictures of Cuba and knew that I needed to go. When I took a new job with an unlimited and flexible vacation policy, I knew how I was going to take advantage of it. So I convinced my wonderful wife to do a 10 day trip, 5 days in Varadero with only drinking and beach for the wife and then Vinales for 2.5 days and Havana for 2.5 days for me. Without further ado, let's dive in.

 

Varadero (days 1-5): We stayed at the melia las americas. My wife and I went to an adults only resort for our honeymoon 3 years back and swore that we'd only go to them from that point forward. The hotel was nice enough, food was miserable but all-inclusive is definitely going to do that. Got to play a round of golf at the Vardero golf club (rental clubs were atrocious but it was only $30 for the cart rental). Course was nice enough and it was great to get off the resort for awhile. The beach was great and on day 3 we walked down to the LCDH in plaza las americas. Overall the selection and service was acceptable but not astounding. The #1 thing I found there was a box of sir winnies which I immediately bought. I also purchased about 3lbs of coffee as they had a massive selection. Their singles selection was lackluster and the staff actually screwed me on the purchase (didn't feel like calling them out over $5) of about 7 singles. Our last night there we went to the Hotel Xanadu (An estate that the DuPont family had owned) and went up to the top floor. The entire top floor is windows and so the sunset was astounding. There was also live music although the drinks were more expensive (5$). On day 5 we got a very, very early cab to the viazul station where purchasing a ticket was very easy. Pictures below:

 

Because of the length of my write-ups for Vinales and Havana, I've moved those sections to new posts.

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Day 5 we took a long bus ride on the viazul to Vinales. The viazul bus was very nice, aside from each seat didn't stay upright and slowly reclined, and the stories about the air conditioning were real. We arrived in Vinales and walked to our casa, Casa Edel. The walk was great as we got accustomed to the city and the beautiful architecture and eclecticness of the colors and styles.DSC_0244.thumb.jpg.e581c71d6c22701bca5b6601439edc82.jpg All accommodations were booked via airbnb. Edel was phenomenal and had us set up with some mountain bikes as we arrived around 2pm. We grabbed the bikes and went for a ride into the hills and into some of the tobacco farms. We came across a nice guy who wanted to give us a tour of his farm and wasn't super pushy. He rolled us about 10 farm rolls and we paid 1CUC each which was worth it to me for the experience. DSC_0226.thumb.jpg.0b00d27a94f42bc2528a7fb6203bd270.jpgDSC_0209(1).thumb.jpg.5541dfa4725b4404f4714b9da30d2257.jpg

We then biked to the Vegeuros farm but I had left my camera at home so no pictures. We finished the evening by going to 3J Bar and Tapas. Food was good but not great. Drinks were cheap and we grabbed 2 extras to go and walked down the main streets. We came across a group of kids playing a pickup game of baseball set against a backdrop of the setting sun and some large limestone Mogotes. This ended up being my favorite moment of our time in Cuba. I grew up playing baseball with my dad and it remains one of our strongest bonding points. Reflecting on that as these kids played with unbridled passion for the game and sipping a beer was something else. DSC_0258.thumb.JPG.25ba282559398f03b672c076bad349b1.JPG

We walked back to the casa and saw all the families and children hanging out on their porches and playing in the street. We arrived back at the casa and ha a cigar (Partagas P2 tubo) on the porch while my wife and I read a book each. 20170414_203708.thumb.jpg.c39fc4cd10b9acc9b7dee54dd5065764.jpg

Of note, I'm not sure what I was thinking when I picked my book choices for this trip. I ended up with 3 books and 2 of them were about the extreme division of political ideas in the US and Edward Snowden. Not exactly uplifting topics for a relaxing vacation!

Day 6 we woke up early and went into downtown to find a shared cab to Cayo Jutias. This was a somewhat "locals only" beach and was phenomenal. The drive to the beach was the sketchiest road I've been on in terms of maintenance. The taxi driver was swerving all over the road to avoid pot holes and the last 10 miles took over an hour because he had to drive so slowly. That being said, it had the clearest water (I went in up to my neck and could still see my individual toes) I've ever been in. DSC_0065.thumb.jpg.3931fc8bf113fee3030d15596a8a6ac0.jpg

The shoreline is nice for the majority of the coast and then peters off into this forest area where you can find some very nice secluded areas. My wife and I hung out in a few of those alcoves and walked the beach for about 4 hours. Beach was phenomenal and I'd highly recommend it for a relaxing day. DSC_0028.thumb.jpg.f4f8473dfd79f5128bffa2382d7ff28b.jpg

When we came back to our casa, our casa owner was able to secure us reservations at balcon del valle. We arrived for dinner and were stunned by the view. The pictures below are entirely unedited and really still don't give a good way to grasp the immenseness of the view. The food was very good and we'd highly recommend the place for dinner. DSC_0114.thumb.jpg.88356c4958110590dfff32147d8e1261.jpg

Tip: Pay your taxi driver double to pick you up at the end as getting a cab won't be easy.

Day 7 we woke up before the sun so that we could do a sunrise hike. We met up with our guide and took a cab into the park outside Vinales. We hiked up the Mogotes for about an hour and arrived at a farm at about mid mountain. We were given coffee and watched the sunrise over the Mogotes. DSC_0181.thumb.jpg.c109faaecbfb41aa15c1fdae94754e12.jpg

The mist is still in the valley and watching it burn off as the sun comes up was an experience itself. We then toured their coffee facilities and saw their plants, the roasting and cracking areas and tools and purchased a few pounds of coffee that were some of the oiliest beans I've seen.DSC_0182.thumb.jpg.55cebd1243780da2a98fa583a760ab19.jpg

As we were hiking down we came across a scene that looked like something out of jurassic park. DSC_0189.thumb.jpg.e6aa0683c58d90c478784a0702477469.jpg

We hiked around the valley for about 2 more hours before catching a cab back into the town center, grabbing our bags and a taxi to Havana. Along the way on our last piece of the hike, we came across this tobacco drying barn set against the mogotes.DSC_0193.thumb.jpg.500d1da83c44c47b460722d8112cbbca.jpg

 

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Great write up and pictures thank you! Looks like you had a lovely time.

It has me missing Cuba. I've never made it to Cayo Jutias, I've been close but never seemed to have the time.

Well done getting some Monsdales, I've smoked some of mine from February and they're still good as ever.

You guys are lucky over there to have such a short, easy trip to Cuba. It's usually 24 hours for me, door to door.

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13 hours ago, Ryan said:

Great write up and pictures thank you! Looks like you had a lovely time.

It has me missing Cuba. I've never made it to Cayo Jutias, I've been close but never seemed to have the time.

Well done getting some Monsdales, I've smoked some of mine from February and they're still good as ever.

You guys are lucky over there to have such a short, easy trip to Cuba. It's usually 24 hours for me, door to door.

I thought Cayo Jutias was great but the drive is a real drag and it's definitely starting to get more "discovered". If you're in the area, I think it's worth a visit but even the 2hr drive from Vinales is pushing it in my opinion. 

 

I just smoked my first one of the mons bundle last week and was very intrigued. It's certainly a unique blend and I enjoyed it. The environment there was also really pleasing. Very quiet but refined and the coffee was great. Definitely looking forward to returning for a longer visit this time.

 

We really are lucky to have such a short travel time. For me, it's about 5 hours of flying, 7ish with layovers but that's very reasonable. The costs of everything in Cuba was so cheap, and the people so cheerful, that I plan on returning at least annually. 

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8 hours ago, BellevilleMXZ said:

Great write-up and pics!!! Nice haul too, and lucky enough to get 2 ashtrays, sweet deal.

They were out of the XL ones when I was there but definitely hoping they'll have it when I return next month. Also hoping for that pink marble.

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