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Cuba - guide and resort

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Old Friday 19th July 2019, 12:23   #1
dandsblair
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Cuba - guide and resort

We are probably going to Cuba for 10 or 14 days end of November. We will have 2 or 3 days to ourselves for birding away from the hotel and some part days around the resort.
I understand car hire is difficult on Cuba so we will probably be looking for 2 days guided birding with transport (possible O/N near Zapata or elsewhere).

Target are the endemics with Owls, Trogon, Bee Hummer at top of list.

Two questions

which resort is best for birding and access to other sites Cayo Coco or Varadero?


on recommendation on a guide with transport?

Thanks for any help
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Old Friday 19th July 2019, 12:36   #2
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Hi David

Wintibird went there in 2016 so his Opus articles are reasonably up to date I think. (Unless that man's policies have changed things)?
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Old Friday 19th July 2019, 13:21   #3
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Here is a guide for Zapata. There is a hotel in the town of Playa Larga. No fancy resorts. You can get there from Havana on the bus. https://birdtripper.com/guides/
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Old Sunday 21st July 2019, 09:30   #4
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Thanks for your help

Thanks.

I have emailed Angel
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Old Monday 22nd July 2019, 18:40   #5
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I don't know if things have changed since I was there - but hiring a car and driving was a doddle.
Watch out for some of the roads South of Guadalavacha - can get washed away after heavy rains - so caution needed - as usual in a lot of foreign climes (as you well know!)
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Old Monday 22nd July 2019, 19:02   #6
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When I looked very expensive

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Originally Posted by halftwo View Post
I don't know if things have changed since I was there - but hiring a car and driving was a doddle.
Watch out for some of the roads South of Guadalavacha - can get washed away after heavy rains - so caution needed - as usual in a lot of foreign climes (as you well know!)
Thanks that is my favoured option but when I did a quick search online it was almost 100 per day for car hire from Varadero, nothing on Cayo Coco and I was told getting fuel before handing back was difficult.
With taxi and a guide looks to be only CUC 100-150 per day.
Who did you use, was it OK and was it from somewhere other than Havana ?
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Old Monday 22nd July 2019, 23:06   #7
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The guide "Angel" that you emailed will drive you to Varadero for a modest fee in his 49 Plymouth. Can't remember the price but it was a lot cheaper than renting and no hassle with driving. Also if you don't want to stay in the hotel, ask Angel to recommend someone to rent a room in their house. That's what we did. About $25 per night for two with breakfast. I prefer that to hotels. Not only a lot cheaper but I like meeting and talking with the people.

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Old Tuesday 23rd July 2019, 15:43   #8
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It would be a shame to stay on the Cayos for most of the time, and go birding for a mere 2-3 days on the mainland. I would spend my time the other way around as the mainland is much more rewarding for everything and the birding.
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Old Tuesday 23rd July 2019, 17:26   #9
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We stayed at the Sol Luna Y Mares Hotel on Playa Esmeralda near Holquin.
It's on the mainland on the north east coast so you aren't stuck on a cayo.
Plenty of birdwatching in the local area and lots of wonderful habitats and scenery not far away.
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Old Wednesday 24th July 2019, 08:09   #10
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Agree - but

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Originally Posted by temmie View Post
It would be a shame to stay on the Cayos for most of the time, and go birding for a mere 2-3 days on the mainland. I would spend my time the other way around as the mainland is much more rewarding for everything and the birding.
Agree but we are going with others on organised trip so only choice is Cayos or Varadero based on that.
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Old Wednesday 24th July 2019, 08:10   #11
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Thanks

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Originally Posted by Maroon Jay View Post
The guide "Angel" that you emailed will drive you to Varadero for a modest fee in his 49 Plymouth. Can't remember the price but it was a lot cheaper than renting and no hassle with driving. Also if you don't want to stay in the hotel, ask Angel to recommend someone to rent a room in their house. That's what we did. About $25 per night for two with breakfast. I prefer that to hotels. Not only a lot cheaper but I like meeting and talking with the people.
Angel didn't mention that option of pick up - he suggested taxi, but did say about staying in local house. I'll go back to him.
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Old Sunday 28th July 2019, 09:17   #12
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The Casa Mesa is a really nice guesthouse in Playa Larga. There is quite a lot of birding you can do without a guide if you want to do more than one day. Cueve de los Peces for the ground dove, the hummingbird garden at the village to the north, the crocodile farm and the marshes to the north, also exploring to the north east is very interesting.
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Old Sunday 28th July 2019, 09:32   #13
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Just to add, Playa Larga is a beautiful destination in its own right. Good snorkelling at the Cueve place as well. I could happily spend a week or two there, even if Angel is only available for one day.
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Old Sunday 28th July 2019, 13:54   #14
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Originally Posted by dandsblair View Post
Angel didn't mention that option of pick up - he suggested taxi, but did say about staying in local house. I'll go back to him.
Angel did not pick us up. We went there on the bus from Havana. He drove us to Varadero afterwards. If he can't drive you, it is very easy to go there and back on the bus.
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Old Sunday 28th July 2019, 16:28   #15
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Sorry, David, I've just revisited this thread today and seen your question.
It was a long time ago, can't recall which co. I hired from, but from Guadalavaca. Don't remember it being expensive though.
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Old Tuesday 6th August 2019, 10:56   #16
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Hiring a car was easy (from internet week before D-day) but very expensive as someone already said. I hired car from Varadero and I think all hiring companies belongs to Cuban government (or something like that).

Cayo Coco is much better place to do birding than Varadero. But I spend my nights in local peoples "homes", so called casa particulares and they were very nice - in Playa Largo even amazing, because it was on the beach.

And I have booked Angel for one day, and it was wonderful day - I recommend him.
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Old Wednesday 21st August 2019, 17:51   #17
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Playa Larga is definitely the place to be. The closest resort place is Varadero but it's still a distance away. You might like to read my blog on a self-drive trip to Cuba in January 2016 that covered most of the island although most birding was done in Playa Large which should give you all your targets plus a few more goodies.
https://davewilliamsnaturephotograph...uary-2016.html
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Old Sunday 25th August 2019, 18:05   #18
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Thanks

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Williams View Post
Playa Larga is definitely the place to be. The closest resort place is Varadero but it's still a distance away. You might like to read my blog on a self-drive trip to Cuba in January 2016 that covered most of the island although most birding was done in Playa Large which should give you all your targets plus a few more goodies.
https://davewilliamsnaturephotograph...uary-2016.html
Thanks Dave

We are there on a holiday with others, so eventually we decided on Cayo Coco as best flights for the others despite our preference for Varadero but we are having a guided tour including accom in Playa Largo for the three days we have to ourselves. This was much cheaper than just car hire and accommodation and includes a guide.
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 08:59   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Williams View Post
Playa Larga is definitely the place to be. The closest resort place is Varadero but it's still a distance away. You might like to read my blog on a self-drive trip to Cuba in January 2016 that covered most of the island although most birding was done in Playa Large which should give you all your targets plus a few more goodies.
https://davewilliamsnaturephotograph...uary-2016.html
Hi Dave,

I enjoyed reading your blog! Actually, your accomodation in Playa Larga is the one we also took for two nights while staying at Playa Larga! I could have stayed there for a week...
That accomodation is exactly the reason why I don't understand those people going only to the Cayos / Varadero (with a day excursion to Havana or the mainland), while the best beaches in the South, with their non-overpriced cocktails and excellent birding are neglected. But in the end, I feel like I shouldn't praise that area too much before it gets flooded by regular tourists!
And I feel for you having taken the big lens to the hummer garden!


https://davewilliamsnaturephotograph...y-2016_26.html

A report of my (whirlwind) trip is here:
https://www.cloudbirders.com/triprep...1_20182019.pdf
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Old Monday 26th August 2019, 09:40   #20
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Hi Dave,

A report of my (whirlwind) trip is here:
https://www.cloudbirders.com/triprep...1_20182019.pdf
Enjoyed yours too Temmie. Your car was horrendously priced!!

Speaking to a friend the other day I'm told that the food situation in Cuban is getting worse. Imports from Argentina have dried up due to their raging inflation so meat has become very expensive and scarce. Even the hotels are struggling to provide with many guests on AI packages complaining it seems. I wonder how the Casa's are coping.
I must admit, I'd love to go back to Playa Larga but the logistics and cost are not inconsiderable when compared to other venues we could go to. As always, I'm looking for the ideal places for a non birding partner to enjoy as much as I will.The dining experience is very much a part of our holiday too so that's a major consideration too.
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Old Wednesday 25th September 2019, 21:33   #21
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It's easy to bird Cuba on your own. Just get the Birdwatchers' Guide to Cuba, Jamaica et al if you haven't already got it and plan your own route. Hiring a car is easy. Once you get out of Havana the roads are deserted. There are homestays everywhere. we used them on both trips except for Cayo Coco where you have to use the hotels there. I put contact details of some guides in my first trip report on here. Angel is a lovely man and a great guide but didn't have a car when we were there - he only had a motorbike.
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Old Tuesday 1st October 2019, 13:12   #22
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Thanks Ann

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Originally Posted by seedyrom View Post
It's easy to bird Cuba on your own. Just get the Birdwatchers' Guide to Cuba, Jamaica et al if you haven't already got it and plan your own route. Hiring a car is easy. Once you get out of Havana the roads are deserted. There are homestays everywhere. we used them on both trips except for Cayo Coco where you have to use the hotels there. I put contact details of some guides in my first trip report on here. Angel is a lovely man and a great guide but didn't have a car when we were there - he only had a motorbike.
Thanks Ann

Trip to Cuba is now off due to Thomas Cook going bust, we are now going to Canaries for my sisters 60th birthday, we will do Cuba ourselves some other time.
We have the book which we used for Jamaica.
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