Varadero, Cuba

On January 8th, 2020 we ventured outside of Havana to Varadero Cuba. Our destination was the ROC Arenas Doradas resort which was over two hours away. We were visiting one of the best beaches in the world according to Tripadvisor, Varadero Beach. Early morning we all packed into our bus to venture over. A few minutes into the ride and everyone was fast asleep.

We primarily drove along the coast, being able to watch the ocean the entire drive
The hotel

However halfway through the ride, we stopped at The Bridge of Bacunayagua which was also a rest stop. The views were absolutely amazing!

The Bacunayagua bridge
The view to the left of the bridge
The view to the right of the bridge

This bridge is considered one of the seven wonders of Cuban civil engineering. It is the highest (approximately 360ft) bridge in Cuba. The building at this rest stop contained a restaurant (Mirador de Bacunayagua), a bar, a gift shop, restrooms, and a mango tree. It was at this rest stop that Brianna bought her “Bay Ban” sunglasses. Cuba’s clothing and accessories are very interesting.

These pictures do not do the view justice. For as far as the eye could see there was not any touched land, besides the bridge and rest stop. I have never experienced such nature as I did here.

After we finished admiring the amazing view it was time to finish our drive. For almost the entirety of the drive, we saw untouched land or small communities. Most cars were jam-packed full of people because so many people were hitchhiking along the highway. In Cuba, it is normal to hitchhike and locals are more than welcome to give rides to strangers. We also many stray horses along our ride.

Finally, we arrived at the hotel. While we were checking in we had to give our passports which they kept until we checked out. The hotel was all inclusive so we received bracelets to wear. Then, the girls dispersed to their room and the boys to theirs. The property the hotel was on was huge. There were several buildings full of rooms, a pool, the main lobby with gift shops, two restaurants, one snack shack, a tennis court, a volleyball court, the beach, and probably more! There was so much space and not enough time to cover it all.

The hotel’s front desk

After we went to the room we got ready for the beach. We found our way down and were able to collect a few beach chairs to push together and mark our area. The temperature for the day was about 78s °F, which is cold in Cuba. It was also windy. There were only tourists on the beach. Being from New England most of us were able to tough out the chilly weather.

The ocean

The water was in the 70s too, I believe. This picture does not show it but the flag was yellow. We could only go up to our waist because the waves were big and the current was strong. When we went in the water the current would quickly move us down (to the left) the shore. The waves were huge! They were small enough it would not have been sufficient for surfboarding but they were the best size for bodysurfing. Occasionally the waves would come in at such a force that you had to be proactive about staying above the water. The water was not clear but it was very clean. There was no seaweed (a big difference from Old Orchard Beach and White Horse Beach) and very few shells or rocks.

The beach

The beach was also really long but just like the water, it was very clean. The resort offered many beach activities too. But since the ocean was rough that day the activities were not being offered. They included scuba diving and paddle boats, amongst other things.

Right off the beach area was a buffet restaurant. A few of us went and ate. I ate a fish that was grilled in front of me. I had to navigate through the bones and the eyeball. It was good. I really put myself out of my comfort zone by eating the whole fish. One time I ordered fish at a restaurant and received a whole fish, and cried. This was actually about a year ago so I would like to thank Cuba for exposing me to this experience again and allowing me to work through my personal issues. Many people stuffed themselves with the spaghetti and red sauce at the buffet (including me).

Later on in the day Scott, Mike, and Julia played against me, Zach, and Jimmy in volleyball. It was a lot of fun! I never have played volleyball before so this was a brand new experience. I told many people including Julian and Ilene that my team won but I would like to set the record straight now, we actually lost (all rounds). Besides volleyball, we also played a game suggested by Scott. I do not know the name but you just throw the ball and catch it and throw it over. It was silly but fun.

Our plan was to eat more buffet food before we left so we would have eaten for the night. However, much to our disappointment the buffetts closed a few hours earlier and would not open until after we were supposed to have left. The snack shack was still open, serving only hamburgers and hot dogs. We decided to eat there. Caution: these are not the same hamburgers and hot dogs we have in the US. Leo, a Cuban psychiatrist who accompanied us on this trip, blamed this difference in food on the embargo. He blamed a lot on the embargo. The food looked like it might make us sick but we sucked it up and ate it anyway.

A photo Julian took of us for the honor college’s Instagram and Facebook

Finally, it was time to leave. We made our way back to the bus and headed up. On the way, there was a beautiful sunset over the ocean. Everyone fell asleep almost immediately. Between the Carribean sun and the Cuba fun, we were exhausted!