So I have been back for a few days now but here is my trip report.
Dates: Jan 1 – Jan 15 2004
Place: Manzanillo Cuba
Resort: Club Amigo Farallon Del Caribe
This is our second time at this resort.
(If you visit the resort then check out the small palm tree by the pool where you can overlook the stage area. You will find a rock painted with an underwater scene and my wife, mother in law, father in law and my name on it.)
Beautiful grounds and scenery. The hotel is set in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra mountain range which is the largest mountain range in Cuba. The area is in the province of Granma which is where Castro and his revolutionaries landed when they came back form Mexico. Therefore the area is rich in culture and history, which the Cuban peolpe seem very proud. There is another resort about 1 KM away called Marea Del Portillo which is names after the nearby fishing village. This other hotel is cheaper, one less star and not as good.
There is a golf cart that will take you between the resorts and to the dive shop. Just ask at the front desk and they will call him up if not already there.
The roads from the airport are typical Cuban roads with large pot holes and various beasts to dodge. If the bus driver seems to be driving on the wrong side of the road, don’t get too worried he knows the roads well and is just trying to give you the smoothest/fastest ride possible
You are greeted at the resort by a singing group and the hotel drink (non alcohol). Chech in is easy as you already have your arm bands and room numbers. Just check in at the front desk and collect your key. I recomend that you get the safe key as it will provide you with a place for your passport, wallet, cell phone, camera etc. Next we collected our bags which were brought into the loby for us to find. There will be many hotel workers around to help you with your bags. Just tell them your room number and follow them. They will take your bags right into your room.
Behind the one wing og the resort there is a shere rock face with small ledges on it. You can get pretty close to some large iguanas. They will come within 3-4 feet of you for bananas and oranges which you can get at breakfast and lunch. Very neat indeed.
Once we were settled in we went down stairs by the pool for a buffet style lunch. Lunch was great. The lunch was Hamburgers, hotdogs, fish and chicken right off of a grill. The rest of the lunch was salads and a few caserole style dishes. There were also french fries right out of the frier.
The Lunches were all pretty much the same but for variety you could go to the snack bar where they made ham and cheese, chicken and various types of sandwiches. They also make fries at the snack bar.
Dinners were different every night repeating once every week. They have theme nights which include italian, cuban, etc. Almost every night they have some kind of beast to carve up for you. For example on cuban night they roast a whole pig, on another night they roasted 5 turkeys.
Desert is mostly european style pasteries etc. They did have ice cream almost every night. They had two flavours, one fruit and once cofee. Not bad at all.
Breakfasts were ok. The first week we were there we had nice bacon every morning. The second week the bacon was overdone. I told them on Mon and it was better on Tuesday and Wed. Thursday they had sausages instead. To go with your bacon there was 5 and 8 min eggs, pancakes, french toast, variety of fruits. The pancakes and french toast were most of the tim luke warm as they are in buffet trays. The best was the eggs and omelets cooked whicle you wait. The omlets had ingredients like ham, cheese, peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc.
The beach is not the best in the world. It is made up of darker volcanic sand so it may not be to your likeing. No problem though. For $4 you can book a trip to the nearby idland of Cayo Blanco. You board the boat at 9:00am and head out on the short trip to the island. When you leave the dock you get a quick tour of the mangroves, watch for thelarge jellies as you pass through. They are quite interesting.
Once of the island you are still enjoying the hospitality of the resort so drinks are included and they will serve you a lunch of chicken, fish, hash browns etc.
There is a snorkeling tour that you can go on for $6 more. They provide gear if you don’t have any. If you do have your snorkeling gear you can go right off of the beach. With two peices of a broken up ship there is plenty to see while snorkeling.
The rooms are a good size and have individual air conditioning units (not window). Some people may be confused but there is a card reader on the wall as you come in. Put your room key in and the power comes on. You have two double beds a desk, two night stands, a dresser, huge closet, safe, bathroom etc. Each room has one 110V outlet in the bathroom 220 in the rest of the room. This is to accomodate their european visitors as well. There is also a balcone with chairs to sit out on or to dry your towels on.
The TV in the room gets about 6 channels, TNT, Discovery, CNN and VH1 are among them. There is supposed to be a remote, if you don’t have one ask for one.
There are tours going out every day.
On of the tours is a “Jeep Tour” where they take you off-roading into the mountains. I have heard good reviews of this one. There is also trips to Cigar and Rum factories, as well as the trip to the Tropicana in Santiago.
There is much to do without even leaving the resort. There are spanish lessons, drink mixing, aerobics, dance lessons, bingo etc. Every day there is a game of bingo by the pool where you will learn spanish and get the chance to win a bottle of Cuban rum.
Weekly there is soccer games, tanning competitions, horse races etc. I highly recomend the horse races. You will be amazed at some of the skills they show off.
On the beach there is wind surfing, kayacking, sailing etc.
There is also Horseback riding with a variety of places to go including the village, a hydro electric dam, farms etc. $5 for one hour, $8 for two.
Scooters, mountain bikes and cars can also be rented
About 500m from the resort is the dive shop.
I did 9 dives over the 14 days that I was there. ( spent a few days on the island snorkeling ) The dives are $30 for a single or 50 for two tank dive. If you wait to pay until the end then the diving gets cheaper. The first dive is 30 the second one is 29 and third is 28 etc. Ask to see the payment schedule to figure out how many dives you can affoard.
The dives ranges from 77 to 131 feet. We had a pretty experienced group with us. There are shallower dives. The dive site is chosen about 5 mins before you leave based on the weather, viz, and skills of the divers present. You will be required to fill out a standard waiver and show you c-card.
There are two wreck dive which are a special trip and 4 diver min. The cost is more but you get a lunch and two dives. One of the wrecks went down in the 1780’s?? and was part of the spanish/american war. I have seen video and it looks spectacular. There are still guns mounted and shells can be found around the wreck.
The rental equipment was all new including tanks, 80 CU Ft steels. Most stuff was Mares or Cessi.
While I was down there, I learned to fish with a spear gun and got a few grouper, baracouda, dog fish, trigger, etc. Of course all of my catch was eaten by local Cubans who did not waste a scrap.
I was able to witness a 50 lb tuna get shot and captured. It was an amazing fight and and unforgetable experience all together.
On my last dive there were quiet a few fish shot and they took us to a small island. For $2 we were able to enjoy a fish and chip dinner with beer, pop, bottled water etc. It was the freshest fish I have ever tasted and another unforgetable experience.
I was able to observe an eagle ray and several species of jelly and fish that I have never seen before. The eagle ray in particular was quite amazing. Flying/swiming in mid water at about 100′, all I could do was stare in awe.
The instructors are, Osvaldo and Miller. Osvalso has great english and is the guy in charge of diving operations. All in all the diving experience was some of the best I have had. Good stuff and I can’t wait to go back for more.
That is all for now. If you have any questions just ask. If I think of anything else I will post it.