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Pina colada in Varadero

Good interaction with people is what I live for and you can find it in Cuba. From the taxi ride that I wrote about in a previous post to my Varadero experience, my interaction with locals was pivotal to the ball of a time that I had in Cuba.

We celebrated with Ernesto

Carlos, our Taxi driver, came to get us around 8 AM on the Saturday of our trip. However, we didn’t leave to Varadero until about 11 AM. So much had happened! Awalda, my travel buddy had run out of money, so we were trying to figure out ways for her to get some cash. Fortunately, she had forged a bond with Carlos ever since he picked her up at the airport, so he lent her a good wad of cash. She sent it back to him when she got to the US. We also had breakfast while my other two friends, Stella and Nadine, got ready to leave.

Interestingly, on our way to Varadero, Carlos stopped to give money to a host who had loaned some money to their guest, since their pockets also went dry. Hope you are getting the gist here: the Cuban people are really helpful but you should have enough cash on hand.

Anyways, we paid Carlos 200 CUC to take us from Havana to Varadero. As opposed to going with a tour company, the four of us split the cost of the drive, saving us a lot of money. It made sense to go with Carlos since he would be with us all day and since he chauffeured us in his brand new air-conditioned Audi. 

Carlos’  Taxi

Yeah, they have new cars in Cuba. In 2013 Cuba lifted the ban on the importation of foreign cars. So you will find lots of European and Chinese cars.

The 3-hour drive to Varadero allows you to see the beautiful countryside of Cuba.  Seeing the old cars and trucks zoom by on the highway while watching the cows graze, made me wonder how life was in the 50’s, 60’s, etc. However, because I was in a brand new Audi, I quickly snapped out of this dream.

The people are creative

As you get closer to Varadero you will begin to see miles upon miles of beaches, but none of it compares to what you will behold once you step on the main beach at Varadero. However, once we got out of the car, my first mission was to find a pair of sunglasses to protect my eyes. In our search for the sunglasses, we bumped into this Christian Raynoldo looking fellow who was selling pina coladas. He used fresh pineapples for the cup, and the pineapple that he dug out, he presented it to us to eat.  OMG! As I tasted the pina colada, I quickly realized that it was fresher than any I have ever had.

Awalda decided to get her hair braided. While we waited for her, we saw the stylist’s son running back to tell us that she would be done soon. Before he left us, he entertained us and joined us to the tune of Despacito, the song of Summer 2017.

Our time on the beach was totally relaxing. We swam and sunbathed on this beach that seemed to stretch for miles. Once you get into the water, you can walk out very far and still have most of your body above the water. This was the most relaxed I was in Cuba since I was surrounded by sun, sea, and sand. While we were in the water, we observed a few parachutes coming into land, one of them we thought would surely miss land and end up in the water, but we were wrong.

Sitting on the beach in Varadero 

On our way from the beach, Carlos took us to a local spot.”I have somewhere to show you,” he said. He drove off the highway and we ended up under a bridge. It was there that we met some of the most amazing people in Cuba. They were celebrating Ernesto’s birthday. We sang, laughed and just soaked up the sight. They told us stories about life in Cuba and expressed their knowledge and love for the US. They were calling out various US Cities and some of the popular spots in New York. Before we jumped back into the car to continue on our journey, we observed a very magical sunset.

Sunset at the River 

From our ride to Varadero, to the ride back to Havana, there was much to see. Each experience that occurred throughout this day became a memory that will last a lifetime. I love the beach so I could not have gone to Cuba without taking a dip. In fact, I was trying to make a second trip to a popular Havana beach, but I did not have the time. However, thanks to Carlos, my friends and I had the opportunity to engage with Ernesto and his family. This was an exchange that showed us that Americans are still respected and that others would love to walk in our shoes. After visiting Cuba, I hope that many more Americans continue to visit. I hope that they will also have a great time as my friends and I did.

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