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Santa Clara Archives - Air Canada Vacations

23 Aug

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Meet Rodolfo – ACV Cayo Santa Maria (Santa Clara) Rep

August 23, 2016 | By |

rodolfo edited

Planning a trip to Cayo Santa Maria (Santa Clara), Cuba? From travel tips to local recommendations, get the skinny from someone who knows it best.

1. Name
Rodolfo

2. How long have you been an ACV destination rep?
6 years

3. Describe Cayo Santa Maria in 3 words.
Secluded, charming, the perfect hideaway.

4. Why should people visit?
It has a nice temperature year round and it’s quiet. It offers an incredible colour of the ocean and there is fine sand all over the island for everyone to enjoy.

5. How is Cayo Santa Maria different from Varadero, Holguin, Cayo Coco, and Havana?
This is a quiet area, a little far from the city. However, there are two markets 15 minutes from every hotel and lots of interesting tours to discover the surrounding areas.

6. What is a surprising or little known fact?
I’ll give you both! Surprising fact: to get to Cayo Santa Maria, you cross a 48 KM causeway built in the ocean. Little known fact: there are fresh water lagoons as part of a national park to the eastern side of the island.

7. What local dish do you recommend and where is the best place to try it?
The Cuban congri  (rice and black beans cooked together with spices) is the most representative dish from Cuba along with the roasted pork and boiled manioc (yuca in Spanish). The best place is a casa on the main island; you can also try it during the jeep safari tour.

8. Where is your favourite spot to watch the sunset?
In the middle of the ocean on the Sunset Cruise.

9. Are you able to teach us a few local expressions?
¿Como estas?  = How are you?
¿Que bola? = What`s up?

10. In your opinion, what is a must-do in Cayo Santa Maria?
The catamaran excursion, which includes snorkelling in the world’s second largest coral reef and the best lobster lunch ever.

11. What is the best beach and why?
Megano beach at the Iberostar Ensenachos because of its horseshoe shape and because Cayo Santa Maria island shields it from the northern winds, so it looks like a natural pool.

Curious to know more about Cayo Santa Maria (Santa Clara), Cuba? Find out more on our website.

20 Apr

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Cuba with the kids

April 20, 2016 | By |

Cuba with the kids is one of the best choices you’ll ever make: tons of activities, warm, calm waters, and resorts for every style.

Havana

The largest city in the Caribbean welcomes you with rich heritage, glorious colonial architecture and a lively atmosphere of love, music and life. Be sure to wander the streets of Old Havana, a fascinating World Heritage Site.

With the Kids: Lenin Park

Inaugurated by Fidel Castro in 1973, this sprawling park makes for a great day for the family with an amusement park, an aquarium, pools and lots more.

Choose from 20 hotels & resorts

Holguin

Christopher Columbus called this area “the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen.” Explore pristine reefs, spectacular beaches, rolling hills and a provincial capital full of life and history.

With the Kids: Bahia de Naranjo Nature Park

A beautiful natural aquarium lets you swim with dolphins and watch trained sea lions. Be sure to enjoy some great home cooking, the mini-zoo and the lovely nature trails.

Choose from 10 resorts

Varadero

One of the world’s greatest beaches! Glistening white sands stretch on forever, touched by turquoise waters and cool breezes. Here, you’ll find lots of family-friendly resorts and activities for everyone.

With the Kids: Boca de Guamà Crocodile Farm

Cuba’s largest crocodile farm is great fun for everyone, offering a unique experience of these incredible animals in a facility that has saved two species from extinction.

Choose from 33 resorts

Cayo Santa Maria (Santa Clara)

Ringed by the whitest, softest beaches you’ve ever seen, this pristine island is a vacation paradise. Spend your time relaxing on the beach, dining at your stylish resort or exploring the wonderful natural world.

With the Kids: Swim with Dolphins

At the Dolphinarium Cayo Santa Maria you get to swim, interact and have your picture taken with these graceful animals. Now, that’s a pretty great childhood memory.

Choose from 11 resorts

Cayo Coco / Cayo Guillermo

Tucked away in the brilliant King’s Gardens (Jardines del Rey) archipelago, these two islands offer a getaway full of white-sand beaches, great resorts, watersports, pristine nature and lots of family fun.

With the Kids: Catamaran Tour

For a new perspective, take to the water onboard a smooth-sailing catamaran. Many tours include snorkelling and lunch, so you can make a day of it.

Choose from 12 resorts

11 Sep

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Quiz: What vacation type are you?

September 11, 2015 | By |

When planning a beach holiday, there’s one more box to tick off besides destination, hotel and location: vacation type. Don’t know what that is? No worries, we’re here to explain and help you find yours. Take this short quiz and you’ll be one step closer to finding the palm tree- and piña colada-filled vacation that’s right for you.

When on vacation, what does your perfect day look like?

  1. I like to get an early start and go snorkeling as a family, followed by an afternoon of golf while the kids enjoy fun activities.
  2. Quiet and soothing – I want to be pampered from head to toe. First up, a hot steam bath to relax and then a heavenly massage by the sea.
  3. It doesn’t matter what time I wake up because I’ll be ordering room service. I’ll probably head to the pool at some point and order a mojito from my lounge chair. If only I could live like this everyday…
  4. I’ll play tennis in the morning, soak up the sun in the afternoon, and enjoy a private hot tub at sunset.

How do you feel about kids?

  1. Love ‘em, of course! Vacations are all about creating lifelong family memories.
  2. Kids are great, but this trip is really about recharging my batteries.
  3. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy. Bonus if I don’t have to lift a single finger. I won’t say no to some alone time with my honey either.
  4. No, thanks! I want a holiday geared towards 18+.

It’s been 7 nights in paradise, your bags are packed and it’s almost time to leave for the airport. How do you feel?

  1. Wonderful! The week went by quickly because I was having fun with my family and I can’t wait until the next adventure together.
  2. Content, recharged and ready to take on any challenges at home.
  3. Amazing – I slept in because I had a late checkout and managed to squeeze in one last massage while my bags were packed for me.
  4. Sentimental and romantic. The trip celebrated my relationship with my partner and our bond is stronger than ever.

Now that you’ve finished our quiz, tally up your answers to find out which vacation type best reflects your needs:

Answer 1  >>  1 point

Answer 2  >>  2 points

Answer 3  >>  3 points

Answer 4  >>  4 points

So, what is your idea of the perfect vacation?

3-5 points >> Family Vacation

Allegro Papagayo Resort Family Vacation

Allegro Papagayo Resort

The happiness of your family is a priority and a vacation without your kids is unimaginable. To ensure everyone has a great time, be sure to check out our Play hotels (family-friendly resorts where kids stay and eat free) such as the Allegro Papagayo in Liberia, Costa Rica. Surrounded by beaches, rainforests and active volcanoes, this resort is the epicenter of adventure. From kayaking to nature excursions, there’s plenty to keep the kids active and entertained.

If you prefer to head to a Caribbean island, we recommend the Be Live Collection Marien in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. With a supervised kids club, take some time for yourself and head to the spa or play a round at the nearby Playa Dorada golf course.

No matter which hotel you choose, keep in mind that our Play hotels also come with exclusive flight perks: pre-boarding privileges, free seat selection and a $10 meal voucher for every family member. Your family vacation truly starts at the airport.

6-8 points >> Spa Vacation

Melia Resorts Cuba Spa Vacation

Melia Resorts Cuba

Where are the best indulgences found? Only at our collection of Spa hotels, of course.

Our top pick is the Melia Buenavista All-Inclusive Royal Service & Spa in Santa Clara, Cuba. Designed with total privacy in mind, this adults-only resort is an oasis for rejuvenation. Choose from a range of body treatments and massages at its full-service spa and we promise you’ll leave feeling invigorated.

If you want to spoil yourself and you’re travelling with children, we suggest the neighbouring Melia Las Dunas. This popular hotel provides the perfect balance as it’s tailored for families seeking activity and adults looking to relax. The supervised kids clubs arrange activities according to age, which gives you the chance to retreat to Spa Aguas Claras for a Japanese Shiatsu massage. The kids will be so busy, you’ll even have time for that much-needed pedicure.

9-11 points >> Luxury Vacation

IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso Luxury Vacation

IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso

You want the royal treatment and nothing less. That’s what vacations means, after all. For an unforgettable luxurious holiday, you will definitely want to stay at IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso. Located directly on the beach in Playa Paraiso, in the heart of Riviera Maya, this adults-only, dream paradise has 5 shiny stars attached to its name – and for good reason. At check-in, enjoy a warm welcome with champagne and a minibar stocked with your favourites. By mid-afternoon, lounge poolside and accept a cold beverage from your butler. For dinner, choose between 2 buffets and 4 à la carte restaurants, or perhaps make use of the 24-hour room service. Come bedtime, select the right pillow for your tired head from the elite pillow menu. Rest now because tomorrow will be busy – there’s a Par 72, 18-hole golf course on site, a casino and spa in the massive Complex Shopping Centre, and numerous sports to try.

For similar vacation ideas, discover our complete list of Luxury hotels.

12 points >> Adults-Only Vacation

Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Don Pablo Collection Adults Only

Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Don Pablo Collection

You want serenity, intimate moments and above all, a kid-free holiday. Whether you’re celebrating a honeymoon, anniversary, or traveling just because, Adults-only hotels are right up your alley. The Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Don Pablo Collection in La Romana, Dominican Republic, for instance, caters to couples and guests aged 18+. With no less than 8 bars on its premises, local area tours (a visit to Catalina Island is a must!) and nightly entertainment, this resort provides the ideal setting to unwind and let loose. For something different, try merengue, bachata and salsa classes. For something more sensual, try the spa’s aromatic relaxation treatment. Deep breath in and exhale, it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Curious about what other vacation types exist? Check out our complete list of vacation types to find your dream holiday.

 

24 Jul

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Cuba’s 7 Best Beaches

July 24, 2015 | By |

The island of Cuba has some 300 beaches spread across 600 km, so choosing the best is no mean feat. How white is the sand? How soft? How turquoise and clear is the water? And what are the options if you’re looking for something a little more energetic than napping in the sun? These are our 7 favourites, but Cuba averages 330 days of sunshine a year, so you have plenty of time to explore.

1) Varadero

Varadero beach

Probably the most famous beach of all, Varadero’s soft, white sand stretches an incredible 20 km. It’s well developed so you’ll find lots of activities, watersports, and all-inclusive resorts offering stress-free vacations. Off the beach you’ll find intriguing caves and a chain of offshore islands surrounded by beautiful coral reefs. You’re also only 140 km from Havana, which means you can easily spend a few days in the historic capital. The streets and fortifications of Old Havana are a World Heritage site and well worth a visit.

2) Playa Pilar, Cayo Guillermo

Playa Pilar, Cayo Guillermo beach

Ernest Hemingway was enchanted by the towering dunes of Playa Pilar in the gorgeous Jardines del Rey archipelago. In fact, this area was the inspiration for parts of his book Islands in the Stream. Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, tiny islands joined to the mainland by a causeway, have immaculate beaches with excellent diving, snorkelling and tons of watersports. Playa Pilar is well known as the most beautiful of them all for its perfect white sand, swaying palms and warm clear waters. There may not be much traditional Cuban culture here, but you will definitely enjoy the mojitos and piña coladas.

3) Playa Flamingo, Cayo Coco

Playa Flamingo, Cayo Coco beach

This undeveloped beach on Cayo Coco will feel like your own little secret of white sand, and turquoise water. Cayo Coco is Cuba’s fourth largest island and has nine beaches over 22 km. There’s rich, indigenous vegetation here and over 150 different species of bird, including the graceful flamingo, hence the name of the beach.

4) Playa Megano and Playa Ensenachos, Cayo Ensenachos

Playa Megano and Playa Ensenachos, Cayo Ensenachos

These protected crescents of soft, warm sand are located on the tiny islet of Cayo Ensenachos in La Cayería del Norte. The land here drops off very slowly allowing you to wade out to 90 m or more in crystal clear waters. As an added attraction, the sea is calm here all year round, so there are no worries about getting red flag days (no swimming). Both beaches are incredibly beautiful, but Playa Ensenachos is closer to the resorts, which is perfect if you’re in the mood for something a little more upbeat. Playa Megano is more removed and is the spot if you’re looking for relaxation.

5) Playa Periquillo, Cayo Santa Maria

Playa Periquillo, Cayo Santa Maria beach

Cayo Santa Maria is part of a vacation area of three islets (cayos): Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Las Brujas (a.k.a Los Cayos de Villa Clara), all of which are part of the UNESCO-recognized Buenavista Biosphere Reserve. There is great diving and snorkelling here as well as bird watching, especially on the south coast of Santa Maria, which is dominated by salt marshes and mangroves. Playa Periquillo is a low-lying crescent of white sand and warm water. The shallow waters are great for bonefishing and long, sun-filled walks. Further out are coral reefs and a wreck perfect for diving.

6) Guardalavaca, HolguinGuardalavaca, Holguin beach

Holguin is Cuba’s most attractive resort area. The beaches of white sand and clear water stretch forever, occasionally interrupted by secluded coves and some elegant resorts. The town is quite charming and history buffs will enjoy some of the island’s best pre-Columbian archeological sites. As to the name of this area, it does mean “guard the cow,” a possible malapropism of guarda la barca, “guard the ship.” This area was once a frequent target of pirates. The name, then, would be a call to arms.

7) Playa Paraíso, Cayo Largo del SurPlaya Paraíso, Cayo Largo del Sur beach

Playa Paraíso is the most outstanding of all the beaches on this secluded islet. There are no permanent residents on Cayo Largo, which means it’s very quiet, calm and undisturbed. There’s a thriving coral reef, lots of wildlife including iguanas, and beaches for days. On Playa Paraíso (literally paradise beach) there’s a beachside restaurant and not much else, which is really what it’s all about.

Is one of these beaches calling your name? For more information or to start planning your Cuban getaway, check out our Cuba travel page.

26 Jun

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The true Cuba

June 26, 2015 | By |

Some things in Cuba are so classic they never go out of style and really should be part of every trip.

Endless beaches

With 330 days of sunshine every year and more than 500 km of soft sand spread across 400 beaches, Cuba has earned its reputation for some of the best beaches in the world. Enjoy lots of watersports, relaxation and fun in the sun. Kids will love it too because most of the beaches are sheltered, calm and warm.

Eco-tourism

With about 25% of the island protected either as National Parks or Nature Reserves, there is a growing trend for getting out and exploring. Try hiking, trekking, cycling, horseback riding, caving and cave diving, bird watching, or nature photography—whatever will inspire you and get you feeling connected.

Classic cars

An estimated 60,000 vintage cars are still in Cuba. As a proof of the ingenuity of the Cuban people, since no new parts have been shipped to Cuba since the early 60s, they either manufacture their own replacement parts or repurpose parts from older Soviet vehicles to keep them running. The cars are beautiful labours of love.

Timeless music & culture

The warmth and charm of the Cuban people is alive in their music. The rhythms of Son Mambo and Cha Cha Cha are celebrated and shared. So too is the architecture, faith, art, literature and cuisine—all a fusion of indigenous, African, French, Asian and Spanish influences.

Old-school rum

Maestros Roneros (rum masters) have been refining their knowledge and skills for generations. The result is a world-famous tradition of quality and taste. Visit the Museum of Rum in Havana or Barrita el Caney in Santiago de Cuba, and be sure to ask for a sip of extra old for a new taste experience.

Storied streets

Cuba has more World Heritage Sites than any other Caribbean country. Extraordinary historical cities are scattered throughout the island. Havana Vieja and its impressive fortifications, the historic centre of Cienfuegos, the town of Trinidad in the province of Sancti Spiritus, and the winding streets of Camagüey should top any must-see list.

 

26 Jun

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The new Cuba

June 26, 2015 | By |

Since 2014, Eloy Govea Rodríguez has been the Director of the Cuba Tourist Board in Toronto. Originally from Cuba, he shares his unique perspective on this island and what you can look forward to when you visit.

How has Cuba changed over the years?

Tourism in Cuba has grown a lot in recent years. We now have 10 international airports and resorts for every kind of traveller with lots of facilities and options. But we’ve also worked to preserve our culture and heritage. We have 10 World Heritage sites, 257 national monuments and 332 museums.

What will surprise us most about Cuba?

Over a quarter of the island is protected, which means you can experience some really amazing natural habitats.

Why does Cuba have such enduring appeal?

The people! Cubans are very friendly and happy to share their culture.

What’s the best place to visit in Havana?

Havana was recently declared one of the New Seven Wonder Cities so there’s a lot to see. I definitely recommend Old Havana. Those old streets are very charming.

What can families look forward to most?

Families will love how peaceful and safe this island is. You can visit with even the youngest traveller and they’ll have a great time.

One thing we all have to try?

Combine the beach with the cities. Cuba has incredible beaches but get to a city centre to experience the music, the life of the island.

What’s the best part about a vacation in Cuba?

You mean aside from everything I’ve just mentioned? Maybe the fact that Cuba is still

very affordable and only three and a half hours from Canada.

One thing we all have to bring home?

Cuban cigars, of course. Cuban rum and music are also great.

 

26 Jun

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Cuba: What’s old is new again

June 26, 2015 | By |

Cuba has a life, an energy, and a passion that are truly unique. A vacation here is a journey along endless white-sand, a trip down a cobblestone street, and a night on the town with locals helping you find the island rhythm.

Cuba has changed a lot in recent years and the vacation options have grown along with it.

Air Canada Vacations now flies to six destinations across the island and offers resorts for every style, from quietly simple, to grand luxury, with decadent rooms and superior service. You’ll also find family-friendly resorts on calm beaches with features like waterparks and more, making this a truly affordable family destination.

Welcome to the island.

 

12 Jun

By

Where to Have the Best Cocktails in Cuba This Summer

June 12, 2015 | By |

Cuba is largely known for its beautiful beaches, culture, history, cigars and Che Guevara, but also – for its cocktails! Cuban cocktails often bring to mind thoughts of vacation, the beach and fun in the sun. And we’ll let you in on a little secret: the best Cuban cocktails can be found in none other than… Cuba. Let’s take a look at where to have the best cocktails in Cuba this summer:

1) A mojito at Valentin Perla Blanca – Cayo Santa Maria

What sounds better than sipping the most famous Cuban cocktail on a beach in Cayo Santa Maria (near Santa Clara)? If interested, we recommend stopping by Valentin Perla Blanca, a chic, adults-only hotel that has no less than 10 bars, one of which is a mojito bar. This refreshing cocktail made of rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water and mint goes down smoothly and comes in different variations for different tastes. This is definitely the place to savour the perfect mojito against a tropical backdrop.

2) A Presidente at IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul – Varadero

The Presidente gained its popularity during the Prohibition of the United States of the 1920s, and was named in honour of the Cuban president of the time. The drink may vary from bar to bar, but the main ingredients remain the same: dark rum, curaçao, white vermouth and a dash of grenadine. In Varadero, and specifically at the IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul, the Presidente is delightful – a must while watching the hotel’s evening entertainment. The hotel also features a cigar bar. A Presidente and cigars  now that’s Cuba.

3) A daiquiri at Melia Las Dunas – Santa Clara

Ernest Hemingway’s favourite cocktail knows many variations, but the original (made of rum, maraschino liqueur, cane sugar, lime juice and crushed ice) can be sampled at Melia Las Dunas, preferably while you dip your feet in the pool to cool off from the hot Santa Clara sun. To make the most of your stay, try simmering down with one of these cocktails after a tai chi class by the pool. If you’re not into tai chi, you can opt for snorkelling, windsurfing or kayaking. Relaxation and fun guaranteed!

4) A Ron Collins at TRYP Cayo Coco – Cayo Coco

If you want to taste a really good Ron Collins, the Cuban version of the American Tom Collins, head to TRYP Cayo Coco. This cocktail, made of rum, sugar, lime-flavoured soda water and ice, pairs perfectly with lobster and shrimp at the hotel’s seafood restaurant. One of the many advantages of this hotel is that it allows you access to its sister hotels in Cayo Coco: the Sol Cayo Coco and the Sol Cayo Guillermo. You stay at 1, but play at 3! That gives you three times the opportunity to try a Ron Collins.

5) A Cuba Libre at Blau Costa Verde – Holguin

When you think about Holguin, you probably think about its white sand beaches. But Holguin is also a warm city where you can enjoy Cuban music, food and the overall lifestyle. If you’re staying at Blau Costa Verde, you’ll have access to their nightclub, which offers unlimited drinks until 2:00 a.m. It’s your chance to sample a delicious Cuba Libre (rum and cola, garnished with a lemon wedge) the drink got its name in 1902 when the country was freed from its Spanish colonial rule.

 

Ready to tantalize your taste buds with these Cuban cocktails? Don’t put off your Cuba vacation any longer – start planning today! And if you’re really in a hurry to sit back on a lounge chair on the beach, cocktail in hand, take a look at our last-minute deals for some awesome prices.

 

30 Apr

By

Brighter Cuba

April 30, 2014 | By |

Canadians love Cuba! And with good reason. It’s the best value for an all-inclusive vacation, plus it’s a really quick non-stop flight, which means you’re on the beach in just a few hours. Air Canada Vacations flies to six separate areas of the island and offers you a huge choice of resorts on long, powder-white beaches with warm turquoise waters. But that’s not the end of it. Eco-adventures in World Heritage nature reserves, inspiring history, romantic architecture and unforgettable music that reaches deep inside will have you wishing that every day could be a Cuba day.

30 Apr

By

The best of Cuba

April 30, 2014 | By |

Cayo Coco / Cayo Guillermo

This pair of immaculate islands is a great choice for beach and water sports lovers. Quietly secluded, the abundance of wildlife here is wonderful to witness.

What not to miss: Boat adventure

Pilot your own jungle boat through the mangroves. Next, snorkel the colourful waters of Cayo Guillermo.

Varadero

Take your pick of beachfront resorts for all styles and tastes. In recent years eco-adventures have grown in popularity at the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve, and the Zapata Biosphere Reserve.

What not to miss: Day trip to Havana

See the sights like the Capitolio, Revolution Square and a local market. Also enjoy a Cuban lunch and a visit to a traditional cigar factory.

La Habana

In 1982, Old Havana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and as you wander its colourful streets, it’s easy to understand why.

What not to miss: Hemingway’s Cuba

Visit the Finca Vigia Museum, sip a daiquiri at La Terraza de Cojimar and visit Papa’s room at the Ambos Mundos Hotel.

Cayo Santa Maria (Santa Clara)

Spectacular Cayo Santa Maria is a true tropical paradise. Enjoy secluded, elegant resorts, long beaches, virgin mangrove and spectacular coral reefs.

What not to miss: A night in Remedios

See the sights and take in a show. Treat yourself to dinner in town to really make a night of it.

Holguin

Esmeralda, Pesquero and Guardalavaca are some of the most stunning beaches in the world. Of historical interest, visit Castro’s childhood in nearby Birán.

What not to miss: Jeep adventure

Cross the wild and majestic Cuban countryside. Visit Bariay, Columbus’s first landing site, before taking a speed boat to a local restaurant for lunch.

Cayo Largo del Sur

This sandy island is all about R’nR. The beaches are absolutely beautiful and native wildlife, like flamingos, iguanas and Cuba’s tiny bee hummingbird are everywhere you look.

What not to miss: Snorkelling Cayo Iguana Visit Iguana Island, which really does earn its name, and snorkel the colourful coral reef. Open bar on the yacht for the trip back.