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Cuba vs DR- Where to go?

Old Nov 8th, 2002, 08:25 AM
  #1  
Sandy
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Cuba vs DR- Where to go?

I realize that this board is predominantly American, and that a lot of you may not have traveled to Cuba, but for those of you who have, and who have also been to the Dominican Republic-where would you go again?
My hubby and I are looking for an adults-only resort (No HEDO) with fantastic beaches, food and great people, with intesting side-trips to experience the culture safely. We're thinking of the new Sandals in Varadaro, a 5 star in Holguin or Punta Cana. Can anyone help?
 
Old Nov 8th, 2002, 12:52 PM
  #2  
Dave
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I would also like an answer to this question. Is the Dominican Republic riddled with crime like Jamaica, or is it ok? I've heard Cuba is a lot safer, with Fidel's boys keeping a close eye on everything.
 
Old Nov 8th, 2002, 03:09 PM
  #3  
Janice
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Sandy, the Dominican Republic is very safe, particularly in Punta Cana because there are no towns nearby and the area is 90% tourists on vacation. Punta Cana and the Veradaro area are a bit similar in that both have beautiful white sand beaches. In Punta Cana, the only adults only resort is very far north of the main Punta Cana area and it's called "Secrets". From what I understand, it does NOT have the same great beach/ocean conditions as the rest of Punta Cana so I would not be inclined to go there. If you want to read reviews, go to this website:
www.debbiesdominicantravel.com
As for Cuba, the food situation is a bit hit and miss...some resorts have OK food and others aren't great. For reviews of Cuba resorts, go to this website:
www.caribbeanopinion.net/
and go to the last heading called something like "other islands" because, for some reason, all the old Cuba reviews are there...not under Cuba (new heading, I suspect, because of the number of reviews it got). You can also try:
www.debbiescaribbeanresortreviews.com
and look under Cuba.
Another point, Cuba will be cooler in the December/January time frame because it gets the same weather patterns as Florida and Florida can sometimes get snow!! So be careful when you go as well as which resort. When you arrive in Cuba, the security is intense and intimidating...some people won't go back because of that reason. Once you pass the "inspection", it improves and you will enjoy the visit. It's a nice country but food/shopping are limited because of the U.S. embargo and depends on where you are if it will be nice. Pick carefully and read reviews carefully. As for me, I love Punta Cana but I don't have the "adults only" restriction you have. The Dominican people are very friendly and warm and the culture is interesting. The DR attracts many Europeans and it's a place where you will find English very much in the minority. I like it very much!!
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 05:04 PM
  #4  
x
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I have been to both Cuba(Varadero) and the D. R.(club Med twice). Let me tell you, there is not alot of places to go in either country outside your resort. In D.R., I guess the best excursion is the Altos Chavon and in Cuba it would be Havana. These are not places to go to "sightsee" but rather to enjoy the beatiful beach at your hotel. The food can be "iffy" at either place, so choose the resort wisely. Do not go below 41/2-5 stars, unless you fancy peas and hot dog wieners for breakfast, for example, and unidentifiable greasy fish at the buffet! In wouldn't go back to Cuba(stayed at Sol Palmeras) but would return to D.R., in fact we are going to Bavaro Palace next March. If you do choose D.R., I would recommend Punta Cana over Puerto Plata. If you choose Cuba...bring a goodie bag for the hotel help.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 05:29 PM
  #5  
Steve
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Well I have also been to both the D.R. and Cuba. The D.R. once (and last) at the Decameron resort. And to Cuba six times since.

Bored to death in the DR because unless you are a resort only type and a simple sun worshiper, there is simply noting to do in the DR.

In Cuba however, I never felt that my only option was to barbeque myself on a spit on the beach all day. There is so much to see and do (I especially love Hanana) from the historical, cultural and architectural perspective that I am always busy. I have plans to return to Cuba again to visit Trinidad, a beautiful historic city on the south coast. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site, being preserved and restored to its former (circa 1600's) historical beauty.

I will be honest and say that I have had both good food, and bad food not only in Cuba, but also in the DR, Europe and other places that I have travelled. But on balance, Cuba and the D.R would be equal in this respect. However I do think the natural "charm" of the Cuban people is somewhat ahead. And I feel that Cuba (under the present political system) is also a safer place to travel. Especially alone.

mis dos centavos.

Steve

 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 05:46 PM
  #6  
Karen
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Just back from Punta Cana and loved it. Great value for the money. Gorgeous beach. We did excursions, the Altos Chavron/ Saona Island one and the Bavaro Runners truck safari which included horseback riding in the mountains. They were both excellent. We were in Cuba in January went to Havana which was great for site seeing, history ect and also to Santiago de Cuba. It was only about 65-70 degrees in the daytime and about 45 at night. Secrets is the adults only resort but the location is really remote and we went to that beach area and it is not as nice as Bavaro Beach. we went to the Occidental Flamenco and although they welcome families they were very few and far between. We were two couples and never had an issue with to many kids anywhere. Actually told our kids that they would have been bored with the lack of other kids there. We will go back to the DR for sure. Not really interested in going back to Cuba. Karen
 
Old Nov 11th, 2002, 07:18 AM
  #7  
kathy
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I'm glad to have read the reply from Steve (and I've read several of his from previous posts), simply because I think it's important to do more than lay on the beach when visiting another country. (I'm speaking of the type of trips that I like to take, and cannot speak for everyone) There's the new culture, the people, the history, the land. We're planning a two week trip to Cuba in May, and I'm trying to decide how many and which cities to visit, how long to stay in each, and what else to explore while there. From the researh I've been doing, Cuba has so much to offer. To those of you who have been to Cuba, please keep posting your thoughts, I'll be reading them. Sandy, if you choose Cuba, I'll be interested in reading about your experiences.
 
Old Nov 11th, 2002, 07:33 AM
  #8  
Steve
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Thanks Kathy for your kind words. I am a redhead with very fair skin, so although I love the tripical heat, you can appreciate that too long in the sun can leave me looking like a broiled lobster. Thank heavens for Tilley hats! I've even been to Cuba in mid July when it is very hot.

For me, travel is entirely about culture, people, food and experiences. I swim very early in the morning, or late in the afternoon. So I am always looking for places to go during the days.

If you want to check out some of my photos from Cuba trips, go to this site.

www.picturetrail.com/photocuba

It is a work in progress but feel free to check out what is there.

Steve
 
Old Nov 11th, 2002, 09:45 AM
  #9  
kathy
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To Steve: Your photos on your site are terrific and add validity to the notion that Cuba has a variety of different things to offer--especially in the old Spanish architecture and in the island's unique culture. My husband and I are excited about this adventure and are very much looking forward to this trip.
To anyone: We plan on exploring Havanna, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa--so far. Anyone have any suggestions of places to see or restaurants in these cities, or other places of interest, such as Bay of Pigs or the Pinar del Rio Province?
On another note, we learned, from another person with whom we'll be traveling, that there are alot of restaurants featuring Russian style food items-- I guess a leftover from the heavily Soviet influence. Any restaurants that you'd recommend featuring this food? Might be nice to have both--good Cuban style food and Russian-Cuban influenced food.
Sandy, sorry I'm asking so many questions on your thread, but maybe these items might be of interest to you too in your destination decision.
 
Old Nov 11th, 2002, 07:25 PM
  #10  
Steve
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Hi again Kathy:

First off, I've never seen any influence of Russian food in Cuba (other than vodka and as a matter of fact, the ONLY Russian thing that I have seen is their embassy in Miramar (Harvana suburb) and their embassy is notable for the fact that is is the ugliest monstrosity of a building you could imagine. But as far as Russian influence on food.... well none.

But where I have eaten and had good food.

1) EL ALJIBE in Miramar offers a great house specialty, Lemon Chicken. Grand and not too pricey. Their wine selection isn't too bad either. Mostly from Torres, a Spanish company, but good none the less.

2) EL FLORIDITA in Habana Veija (Old Havana) serves the absolute BEST frozen daquiri imaginable. But at $6.00 per drink it is a little pricey. But that is the bar and drink made famous by Hemmingway and for it's historic note, and lots of photos of Papa Hemingway on the walls (with Fidel no less) is neat. Food is pretty good as well, but I have only eaten in the bar section, not the dining room.

3) EL PATIO in Plaza de la Catedral (Cathedral Square in Habana Veija) is also great. You can dine inside or outside in the square under unbrellas. I have always preferred the outside because the music isn't quite as loud, and also I simply love to soak up the atmosphere in the Plaza. Service can be a bit slow however. I often stop here for lunch (Sandwich Cubano) with a cold Crystal Beer. Very nice.

4) LA BODEGUITA DEL MEDIO just off Cathedral Square. If you don't have at least a Mojito here, well sorry, you just haven't been to Havana. The place to see. Also a Hemingway haunt, it has good food and it's the place to be at least once.

5) LA DIVINA PASTORA. Tucked into the berth of the sailing ship El Galeón at the foot of El Morro Castle, it is a good spot for dinner after the cañonazo (cannon blast) at La Cabaña. I took my girlfriend here and the atmosphere is terrific. Soft breeze, soft music and soft lips. What a treat. Very romantic spot with the lights of the harbor glimmering. The food is good too. Not a place where you have paid for the view and get substandard fare. Worth every penny, though it does take quite a few of them. If you only have one night and want to make it special, then this is the place to go.

In addition, on Calle Obispo in Old Havana there are many outdoor cafes and other cafes as well. My favourite of these are just off the edge of Plaza de Armas at the corner of Obispo and Oficios. There are three cafes in a row. Cafe La Mina, Casa del Agua la Tinaja, and Dulceria Dona Teresa. All offer good food and great ambience on the outdoor patios.

You must think all I do is eat, but it is a great hobby. Also in six trips I have found some nice spots and plan to spend the time just relaxing and absorbing the atmosphere.

Have fun and FORGET THE DIET...... ha, ha, ha.

enjoy
Steve

 
Old Nov 11th, 2002, 07:54 PM
  #11  
Sandy
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Thanks, Steve for all the helpful advice and information on Cuba. We have decided to go to Holguin this trip with two of our kids, and will save Varadero/Havana for our next trip alone. My suspicions about DR seem to have been confirmed- Cuba sounds a lot more interesting with less of a large AI-party type atmosphere. Although I do enjoy beaching it(nice to escape those Alberta winters), I also like to explore on the off beach days. Have you ever been to this end of the island, and if so, how does it compare to Varadero? I've heard that the snorkeling off the beach that we're planning to stay at is very good(Paradisus Rio de Oro.) Any other info you can share would be welcomed!! Also, I do not at all mind your involvement here, Kathy, and I'll be sure to give you a run-down on our trip when we return(we're going in February).
 
Old Nov 11th, 2002, 08:29 PM
  #12  
Sharon
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Sandy, it's too bad you let one poster (Steve) influence your decision and you seemed to absolutely ignore any other advice given. Your original post stated that you were going with hubby and wanting an adults-only resort in Punta Cana which is why almost everyone ignored your post. There is only one adults only resort in Punta Cana. I suggest you start reading the resort reviews mentioned in Janice's post because you might just want to change your mind about Cuba after reading several dozen reviews.....and it takes that many to get the true "feel" of a destination. Now, you say you are bringing your kids. Well, if you had read the reviews, you would have discovered that maybe Punta Cana with kids would be better. I can't tell you the number of friends I have that have been to Cuba and would NOT go back. You ask for advice, change your criteria, listen to only one poster!!!! Well, I hope you enjoy Cuba because it's a nice destination but you have seriously underestimated Punta Cana in the DR......too bad for you!! Next time, read the reviews, set your definite criteria, and then post a question and you might be surprised at how different the responses are.
 
Old Nov 12th, 2002, 04:25 AM
  #13  
kathy
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Sandy: I look forward to reading about your trip experiences. And, as I continue researching my upcoming Cuba travel, I'll post any additional questions under a new thread. Yours should continue for the destination decision discussion. My apologies again.

Steve: Thanks for all the great and detailed information on restaurants in Havanna. I'll probably be asking alot more as I continue searching. Right now I'm going to go back to my friend and ask about the Russian food thing , and its non-existence there! Kathy
 
Old Nov 12th, 2002, 06:31 AM
  #14  
Steve
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To Sandy.... know what you mean about Alberta winters. Used to live in Calgary for a while in the early 80's. You end up praying for a Chinook even if it only means a short break from the cold. Now I live in Toronto and can literally walk out the door of my office, and a short 5 hours later be sitting having a cold beer at my friends home in Havana. Much better.

Kathy.... Glad to help. Ask your friend how long ago she was in Cuba. Remember that the Russians completely pulled out in between 90 and 92. In 10 years a lot can change. You are right in doing some research before going. When I look back on my first trip, I was woefully unprepared in terms of knowledge. Since then I have done much reading (guidebooks, historical research etc.,) and as such it has become a more rewarding experience then just scratching the surface like a normal tourist. Part of this is due to a developing comfort level with the local customs and way of things. Some has to do with Cuban friends I now have. My best friend for over 20 years in Toronto has been married to a Cuban lady for 6 years. Through her, I have been to many private homes and really gotten into the local Cuban cultures. This is somewhat unfair to the average tourist who would not have this insight. So please take with a small grain-of-salt some of my insights. I fully admit they show the bias I have developed through these social interactions with Cuban culture and society. This is also why I will return. I have also taken some night school Community College Spanish classes to help in my travels. It's not absolutely necessary as many speak English, but it forces my brain to stretch and when you show you are trying, their impression of you changes.

Hope you enjoy yourself.

By the Way, I have been to Havana, Veradero, Cayo Largo and the Isla de la Juventud off the south coast. The outer islands are a totally different experience again. Poverty is higher, but the Cuban spirit still shines through. Future plans include Santiago and Pinar del Rio province. Trinidad and Cienfuegos also are on the list. So much to see.... so little.....even less travel money!!!

Steve
 
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