Saturday, April 7, 2018

Cuba Trip March 2018 | Iberostar Mojito Cayo Coco

Cayo Coco Beach

Over March Break this year Joseph and I visited Cayo Coco Cuba for one week. We had a really great time at the Iberostar Mojito, and I realized upon returning home that I had actually stayed at the resort 14 years ago when it was called "El Senador". We had lovely weather overall, around 24 degrees and a bit windy/cloudy some days. It was Joseph's first time in the Caribbean and we did lots of fun activities both on and off the resort.


Iberostar Mojito Lobby
Iberostar Mojito Lobby

Iberostar Mojito Pool
Cuba Resort Pool

The pools were nice, but we spent most of our time on the beach since it was less noisy and a bit warmer. The resort itself is in decent shape, especially since Cayo Coco was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Irma last September. Our resort was operating at a reasonable capacity, and the staff was wonderful, kind, and accommodating. Unfortunately, the wind made the beach bar close on one of the days, and you couldn't swim in the ocean. On a regular day, the bar closed at 4PM so that's a good time to swap your old beach towels for fresh ones.

Room Cayo Coco Iberostar

Food in Cuba

Everyone hates on the food in Cuba, and it's true that you have to be careful with what you eat since they may not provide dishes prepared in a way that you're used to. Overall, I was pleased with our food selection at the Iberostar Mojito and never felt overly sick or unsatisfied with the daily options. For breakfast we enjoyed eggs, French toast, cappuccinos and veggies/meats. Lunch was  often a hamburger and sandwich with fries on the beach. Gotta love the beach bar life. Dinner changed day-to-day between the buffet (same as lunch, really), the a-la-carte restaurant, and one evening out at Lenny's. If you like flan, honeydew, bananas and pineapple, you’re in luck! There was a lot of that. We had pork, beef, rice, pasta bar, cooked veggies, beets and cucumbers with oil, vinegar, and dried dill. There were no signs on anything at the buffet so you had to guess, especially with desserts.

I must say the fish selection was awful. So surprising since we were on an island. It was all overcooked and extremely fishy tasting. 

El Malecón

As advised by our tour rep at the welcome meeting (you have to go to these!) we booked two dinners at El Malecón, the one a-la-carte restaurant in the middle of the lagoon. 

a la carte all inclusive Cuba

Our first dinner was "Italian" and it was pretty bad. Better off at the buffet. The second a-la-carte was "International", and it was better! Prosciutto, ribs, and crepes. There was an outstanding pianist as well who made the whole evening worthwhile.

lobby bar

Drinks at the Mojito were good, though don't be fooled - you can't actually get Mojitos here. We had at least one margarita, Spanish coffee, Cristal beer and piña colada daily. Miss it.

OOTN

Iberostar Mojito

Evening entertainment was really fun, the dancers were great and singing was ear-shatteringly loud but still very nice. It was fun to be sitting outside on a patio while watching. 

Lenny's Cayo Coco

My manager recommended visiting Lenny's for fresh fish and a fun evening out. The restaurant was very busy but we were seated quickly and the servers were nice. Bad weather that day, so the clouds and rain didn't let us watch the epic sunset. Super cool ambiance and really nice drinks overall. Our Air Canada tour operator Yelenis managed the whole thing for us. 25 Peso return cab ride, reservations for 7:30, then we paid $15 each for food and $2 - $5 for drinks. Remember that the peso is equivalent to USD.
 Lenny's Restaurant

Food at Lenny's was OK, definitely the best fish we got that week. The bathroom was pretty much non-existent: no working sink, and a toilet that doesn't flush. I have more photos in my TripAdvisor review. Please don't forget Purell on these types of trips. The view from the beach was beautiful and music was fun, but I wouldn't say you HAVE to go there. Also, our cab driver abandoned us for 2 hours to go on another pickup at the airport. Apparently he got a flat tire, so we were stranded there 30 mins after the restaurant closed. With a chef. It was super weird. :)

Jeep-ON Tour

On Friday we went on a Jeep-ON Tour which cost $95 ppn and went from 8AM - 5PM. We were picked up in jeeps at the hotel (you can drive your own for $40 extra if you know how to drive standard) and began the adventure. First stop was a a dock where we picked up our own speed boats and drove to a specific lagoon area to snorkel. We swam against the current going into the lagoon, pulling ourselves along on a rope, then got to float all the way back to the dock. It was nice, and a fun way for Joseph to try snorkeling for the first time.

We then took our Jeeps into the city of Morón. We walked around the town for a bit (see more in my vlog!) then went to a traditional Cuban lunch at a sugarcane farm.

sugarcane Cuba

Piña colada in a pineapple
A piña colada stop after lunch
From there we went back in the Jeeps to travel up a “mountain” to get cool views of the area.

Cuba Mountain

Our final stop was at a crocodile farm! It was awesome. We got to hold baby crocodiles and iguanas, and you could feed the big mama ones for 1 peso. I have a clip of that in my vlog linked above as well. Always keep a few 1 peso bills on you for tour guide tips and server tips at the resort.

Cuba Crocodile Farm

baby crocodile

We also did an evening out at the popular Cave in Cayo Coco. It was $25 ppn for the buss and drinks included. We did in fact get Mojitos in the cave. See more of that in the vlog.

CUBA TRAVEL TIPS: 

  • Air Travel Tips "How to make air travel easier on your brain and body"
  • How to look fresh after a long flight
  • I'd recommend applying sunscreen every morning in the washroom right after a quick shower with no clothing on. Then you know you're completely covered (don't forget ears, hands and feet!) and you can re-apply on exposed areas throughout the day. We didn't get badly burned at all. Do bring a spray sunscreen for the scalp though, I forgot about that.
  • Sensitive to food? order everything: "bien cocinado" - well cooked.
  • Stick to steak or pork, chicken in Cuba is very bad for me and will make me sick.
  • Eggs- try to get them well cooked too
  • Use hand sanitizer and wipes after touching spoons etc.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol or coconut milk (laxative)
  • Avoid eating a ton of shellfish or stuff that has been sitting around for hours.
  • Go to the buffet immediately so things are fresh.
  • At the breakfast buffet, look for the pitchers of yogurt, which is a natural probiotic.
  • Moderation regarding alcohol, fresh fruit, vegetables.
  • Stick to stuff off the grill (we sadly missed the BBQ party on Tuesday, but did order freshly cooked meat). 
  • I always pack gravol, antacids, polysporin, band aids, etc.
  • Catamaran - so happy we didn't book this excursion since friends at our resort had their tour cancelled morning-of due to boat issues.
  • Pilar beach - we didn't go since our beach was super nice, but you can take a 5 peso bus there.
  • You can also take a bus/train to the Flamingo Market but we did our souvenir shopping at the pop-up shop at the resort instead, and also a bit in Morón. 
  • Literally everything there was late. It's super normal that busses never arrive on time, so don't worry. Our plane left late, there's no real organization anywhere, but people a friendly despite the chaos.

PACKING LIST

CARRY-ON

  • inflatable airplane pillow
  • gum
  • phone fully charged and extra battery if you need - Air Canada Rouge has no plugs or TVs
  • scarf to double as a blanket
  • extra underwear, socks, t shirt, bathing suit and shorts in case luggage is lost
  • sun glasses: prescription/high-end, and crappy plastic ones (that you could lose in the ocean) 
  • makeup (so it doesn't break in transit)
  • headphones - we were on a flight with an S-Trip group... so make them noise-cancelling
  • wear a UNIQLO rain jacket since it'll be helpful in all climates (keeps you warm, dry, and is very lightweight)

SHOES

  • running shoes
  • sightseeing sandals
  • 1 pair of heels (w) or boat shoes (m) for the a-la-carte
  • waterproof flops for beach - rubber Birkenstocks are my fav
  • water shoes if you plan to snorkel

SWIM

  • 5 suits for ladies, 3 for men (they don't dry very fast in humid climates - but luckily no need for an iron!)
  • snorkel and mask - we got ours included with the tour, sometimes resorts have them to borrow
  • wetsuit if you get very cold on cloudy days
  • waterproof bag if you're going on a boat, just in case

EXTRAS

  • small handbag (mine is Kate Spade) to hold a tiny wallet, credit card, phone, SPF lip balm, insurance cards, bug spray, tissues, etc.
  • baggies for snacks
  • umbrella
  • backpack for city visits
  • contacts for water sports
  • favourite tea, chocolate, pringles, Fibre 1 bars
  • hats! baseball cap, sun hat
  • books
  • after sun lotion 
  • tanning cream to stay sun-safe and plastic gloves to apply it
  • exfoliator/loofah, general body/hair products since the ones there are very bad
  • face cloth to remove all sunscreen traces and a gentle cleanser 
  • lots of moisturizer - the sun is so so so drying (esp. combined with alcohol)
  • minimal makeup - blush/lip/mascara/liner/concealer/brow/bronzer
  • SPF lip balm
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Face and body wipes - I always need to have Olay Daily Facial dry cloths in my travel bag
  • Spray bottle with alcohol to sanitize handles, switches and surfaces in your room
  • a microfibre towel for hair (less frizz, fast-drying no bacteria)
  • sun glasses, makeup, clothes, baby stuff, feminine hygiene, etc. to leave there (more ideas here)

CLOTHES

  • Women:
    • dresses for beach
    • dresses for a-la-carte dinner
    • shorts for sightseeing
    • tshirts
    • long sleeves for evening
    • 1 warm sweater, 2-3 cardigans
    • 1 pair of pants for the cooler evenings
    • a nice necklace
    • 2x number of days for underwear and 1 pair of socks daily
  • Men:
    • linen or light khaki pants for dinner
    • khakis shorts 
    • loose dress shirt 
    • tank tops for beach

airport selfies
our first and last photos of the vacay

We had a small frog infestation during the last few days of our trip, which was horrifying. I trapped one in the drain and the other in the garbage can to bring outside. Nightmare! I have a clip of one of them outside our room in my vlog. I was able to seal around the door with plastic bags so they couldn’t get in, and I think our chambermaids were able to remove the one from the drain. Beware if your door has gaps around it. They can crawl into very small spaces and will jump EVERYWHERE. He even stuck onto my dress in the closet. I nearly broke my knee and elbow at the same time during my matrix-style frog trapping bonanza. Note that this happened at 7:45 AM before we left for the jeep tour.

This was a nice resort experience filled with mostly Canadians and a few international friends. We met 3 lovely German folks, Andrea, Marco and Helmut who invited us for games of dominos in the evening after watching the show. So many fun memories.

Read my previous post on Cuba (from Havana!) here.


xx
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