Robaina's plantation

Friday, 25 September 2015

Cueva de Los Portales (La Güira National Park) Pinar del Rio

                 Cuba is home to about 1000 caves or caverns....and those are just the ones that are registered. Of the registered caves, not all have been fully explored. They serve a dual purpose, the obvious being as a tourist attraction but they also serve to show a history of the island. I didn't realize how extensive the cave systems were in Cuba until recently while doing research on this and a couple of other caves.
                 The Cueva de Los Portales is on the border with the Sierra del Rosario and Sierra de Los Organos mountains and part of the Rio Caiguanabo San Andrés cave system. This particular area had been the estate of a wealthy landowner and politician, José Manuel Cortina. His properties were confiscated in 1959, after the revolution, and his mansion and gardens had been left to deteriorate. Today the grounds where his house once stood are being restored to their quasi former glory in time for the rush of US citizens being forced to take cultural people-to-people tours. This site would be right their alley as would these caves and the history behind them. In 1960, Che Guevara understood the strategic possibilities of this area and in particular the Cueva de los Portales. In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis (for 45 days), Che Guevara made the caves his headquarters as commander of the Western Army. He returned once again to train before his mission to Bolivia where he died. The cave is maintained and contains furniture and some personal belongings of the man himself. I would recommend paying the couple of dollars and the guide can explain everything to you. There's a really cool spot going up some carved stone steps to a stone table and chairs (like the Flintstones) where Che used too plan his strategy....or so the story goes.
                 The site was declared a National Monument July 25, 1987 but the Campismo Cueva de Los Portales with 12 cabins (Camping) located right next to the caves has been in operation since May 16, 1981. There's a guide on site, bathrooms and a snack and beverage stand. It's very interesting if you care at all about Cuban history and of course the area is quite stunning, it's suppose to be superb for bird watching.
                 It's a bit out of the way and I don't think it gets visited a lot but we encountered a group of about 20 cyclists that were doing a bike tour of Cuba, this was one of their stops. They had come from Vinales like we did. To get there we took the road via the town of La Palma. When leaving we took a road that brought us to the main highway....we asked for directions (several times) to make sure. The roads aren't too bad for Cuba but you won't be breaking any speed limits, that's for sure. Depending on where you're coming from in Havana, it's about a one and a half hour drive from there.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Villa El Paraiso (a new addition to Cuba Casa Rentals) Playa Larga near Zapata Park & The Bay of Pigs

                   As I had said previously Cuba Casa Rentals wish to expand to other parts of Cuba and offer Casas located outside Havana as well. Villa El Paraiso is a great spot to start with, we used this place on a brief stop on our way to Trinidad.
                   Villa El Paraiso is located near the Zapata Peninsula which is home to 900 indigenous plant species, 175 species of birds, 31 species of reptiles and over 1000 species of invertebrates. It's also close to Playa Girón near the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). I came here to do some research for a future tour but I can definitely see myself coming back to spend a few days...there's lots to explore in the area.
                    The house itself is located right on a strip of beach, YES, it's own beach. Just open the back gate and you step onto a private beach that you share with your neighbours who may very well be tourists such as yourself. Cuba is a safe place to travel and it's not unusual to find tourists in remote parts of the island. There's a big backyard or patio area with a gazebo, tables, chairs and bar. There's even a couple of beach chairs on our piece of property belonging to the casa. The actual house isn't that big, that is to say the living area. The common area runs the length of the house and is narrow with a table and chairs for eating, a smaller one in the entrance area also with a couple of chairs and a TV hanging from the ceiling close to the eating area.....that's it. But who wants to hang out indoors when you have all that space out back with an ocean. The bedrooms are ample and bathrooms modern but the best part was the ceiling air-conditioner that kept the room at a constant preset temperature....the best I've had next to a hotel.
                   Breakfast and dinner can be negotiated and I would strongly recommend it. I wouldn't know where to go out here to eat that would be any good, you're kinda in the middle of nowhere. However, the food at the house was absolutely to die for....just look at the pictures. Breakfast was the usual few bucks but dinner was 9cuc per person (half price for kids) which included lobster in middle of the table as well as your main meal plus salad and vegetable (I had crocodile). You don't have to worry about drinks, they stock wine, beer and soft drinks and don't mark them up too much.
                   I was made to feel like part of the family which is standard fare (usually) when renting casas in Cuba. The only problem is it's not easy to find but I can provide you with someone to take you there for a fee, it's more than a two hour drive from Havana. If you're looking to explore a part of Cuba that doesn't get a lot of visitors but still want to do the beach thing, this is perfect for you. The price is 30cuc per room, two rooms and you have the whole place to yourself. Contact me if you're interested.

Villa El Paraiso
Playa Larga

Open the gate and step onto the beach

Our Cooks


Lobster Stew

Kids Meal

Pork and Beans for the Rice

Fish Filet



Part of Breakfast