Departing for Cuba
Sleep the night before my big departure was almost impossible I mean how could I? I was way too excited! The day started early yet was surprisingly very easy. I did however have a bit of pending nervousness surrounding the thought of switching airlines in Fort Lauderdale and still having time to get my visa, which is required before you receive your boarding passes for Cuba.
As I sat on the flight from ATL to FLL sipping my vodka soda trying to relax, all I could think about was the process of how and how fast I'd be able to get my visa, boarding pass and get back through security before the plan left. Luckily even though I did have to exit terminal 2 to get to terminal 3 because they aren't connected I didn't have to wait in the long check in line because I only needed a visa. I just ask an attendant and she pulled me aside and made sure I got one. I don't know if that's how it's always done but I was very grateful it worked out for me, I paid the $50 for the visa and headed to security which was also pretty easy.
I will say everyone seemed to have a carry on so in the future if I make this trip again I'll probably pay for the "even more" options on JetBlue so I can board early and have a space for my luggage.
Customs in Cuba
Getting into Havana was the easiest customs I've ever been through they barely said a word to me. You do have to put your bags though a security check but then your in. FYI if you check your bags there is a possibility that you may have to wait hrs to get it. So I suggest doing carry on and then your good to and can hurry to the money exchange line.
The money exchange line is insane!!! I waited at least an hr. But if you can speak Spanish there is the possibility that you could talk a cab driver into taking you to an exchange on the way into the city. A average cab fair into Havana would cost 20-30cuc so don't let them talk you into paying more.
The drive to Viñales
We decided Vinales would be our first stop instead of Havana. The idea was that we would do our farthest traveling first and then we'd be settled in Havana and not have to pack up and go again.
The ride out to Vinales takes about 2hrs in a newer car and in an old car give yourself 3hrs. The roads are windy and bumpy so I will say the newer cars might be a better option for the sake of comfort and speed.
Casa Particular in Vinales
For $35 a night we got 2 rooms with 2 full size beds each and very nice, clean bathrooms. The Casa Particulars are definitely an affordable way to see Cuba especially if you are just visiting towns outside the city for a night or 2. We were blessed to find a small treasure on airbnb
" Casa Sra. Mirtha Diaz" seriously it was the best! Mirtha cooked a feast for us the the night we arrived for 10cuc a person and breakfast the next morning for 4cuc a person. She then sat up the best all day tour that only cost 30cuc + a 10cuc lunch.
I was particularly great full for the water hole because my horse lost its footing along the muddy trail. And as a result I gracefully had to eject into a lot of very red, yet soft mud. Luckily I'm an experienced enough rider and I foresaw the incident and I was able to avoid any harm. So FYI if you decide to do a trail ride make sure your horse stays in the middle of trail.
But other than my fall the trail ride was awesome! We got to see the beautiful, untouched country side surrounded by mountains and valleys. After the swimming spot we continued our ride to a natural cave that for 2cuc each we were guided through and shown yet another form of the islands natural beauty.
Then we mounted our horses again and rode a few minutes over to a coffee and rum farm. There we sampled rum and learned about how the coffee was made.
Then we sat and enjoyed coconut cocktails where the host poured the rum straight into a fresh coconut and mixed it inside. After we finished the host cut open the coconut and we were able to eat the savory meat.
After we'd had enough at the coffee and rum farm we headed back to the main farm where a delicious feast had been prepared for us.
I'm pretty sure there is very few places we could have eaten the amount of true "farm to table" food for such a small price. The menu consisted of lobster, chicken, rice, black beans, salad, white a weet potato fries, and taro (which by the way was so good! Tasted just like a potato).
After our amazing lunch we watched and learned how cigars were made and had the opportunity to purchase $30-$50 cigars for $3 each.
To say the least we had a pretty amazing day! And it was definitely worththe $30 for the whole day. You will be a bit sore from the horse riding but it's well worth it. I definitely suggest venturing outside of Havana and seeing more of the country,Viñales was an excellent start to wonderful trip.