The call of the Caribbean and Cuba in particular has long beckoned adventurous souls with its promise of pristine beaches, warm tropical waters and a rich cultural heritage untouched by time. For many traveling couples, an all-inclusive resort stay in Cuba represents the ultimate escape from busy modern life, a chance to relax in paradise while having all your physical needs taken care of.

However romantic that vision may seem, the reality of such a Cuban holiday is often quite different than what those glossy tourism brochures portray. The promise of a vibrant culture steeped in rich history, Latin charm, and affordable all-inclusive resorts has lured many to book a trip to this caribbean island nation. However, upon arrival some travellers have found that the reality did not fully live up to their expectations.

In this post, I aim to provide a more rounded perspective on why an all-inclusive stay in Cuba may fall short of fulfilling your deeper travel dreams, actually I will showcase the feedback we are getting from some of our readers who are opting to stay in hotels and also the posts of those who have ventured there with this option.

I have said this before, an all-inclusive hotel stay will remove you from truly experiencing what makes this exceptional island nation truly special, and will leave you disappointed and dis-illuisioned. But if you choose to travel in a different way, if you get past wanting to be in hotels and past the Varadero and Havana lines and ready to explore beyond, it can lead to much richer encounters and memories you’ll treasure for years to come.

So let’s look at one of the most popular all-inclusive options in Cuba – Varadero, known for its breathtaking 20km white sand beach, crystal-clear waters, and perfect Caribbean weather. Imagine soaking up the sun and enjoying the beach all day without a care in the world. Plus, there are amazing deals available, like a 14-day package for only $1945, including airfare. That’s a steal! (I won’t tell you about the modern-day slavery these prices create.. stop for a moment, do the math!)

But, like with any vacation, there are some pros and cons to keep in mind. Some people have experienced limitations with their packages, like premium drinks being removed from the menu upon arrival. While you can still get beer, you might be charged extra for top-shelf liquors. This is something to consider if you’re a fan of quality cocktails.

Speaking of the beach, Varadero offers one of the most stunning and pristine beaches you’ll ever see. However, if you’re not a fan of sunbathing or pool lounging, this might not be the ideal vacation spot for you. Because whilst water sports like snorkeling, diving, or catamaran rides, are available – things that Cubans would only dream of! – be aware that you’ll likely have to pay extra for these activities.

On the bright side, staying at an all-inclusive resort means you’ll be treated like royalty – if you are ready to fork out tips around every corner, otherwise you are just an inconvenience. You can expect spacious accommodations, beautiful grounds, pools, and a fitness center, you’ll have everything you need for a luxurious vacation. Just keep in mind that some of the resorts may not be as modern or well-maintained as the 5-star hotels you’re used to – in fact the other day I heard it described to be a bit more like a minimum security prison. It’s a trade-off for the convenience of an all-inclusive stay.

Now let’s talk about food – somewhat of a sore point to many. One of the perks of all-inclusive resorts is that all meals are provided. However, there might be some unsaid rules to navigate in order to get the most out of your dining experience. Juice shortages, limited food availability, and mediocre hotel food are some common complaints. Some guests even bring their own snacks, tea, coffee, and bread to supplement their meals. It’s important to manage your expectations when it comes to dining at these resorts.

Unfortunately, there are several other negative aspects to consider. Tipping is expected for everything, even basic service. Leaving clothes on the bed is seen as a giveaway to the staff, and leaving personal belongings unattended might result in them disappearing. If you break something, no matter its condition, you’ll likely be charged a hefty fee. And don’t count on finding hygiene products provided, even at a 5-star hotel. Food shortages, encountering the same people repeatedly, and even reports of money going missing from safes are concerns that have been raised by previous guests.

All in all, all-inclusive resorts offer limited cultural experience, and they also come with added stresses that can dampen your vacation.

So how can you experience Cuba differently? By choosing to travel in a way that shows you the real Cuba!

Absolutely loved this quote: from someone who has been to Cuba in an all-inclusive resort deal a few times before deciding to discover the real Cuba!
“I truly can’t remember. To be honest, all my all-inclusive resort vacations blend together…
Before I discovered adventure travel, many of my vacations were to all-inclusive resorts in Cuba and other places in the Caribbean. I know, I know – what a rough life I lead… But as much fun as a Cuban beach can be, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a resort in Cuba and one in the Dominican Republic or Jamaica. They all follow roughly the same formula: hotel, beach, bar, buffet and a pool or two. And although I’m not one to turn down a game of beach volleyball or a well-made cocktail, there’s something inauthentic about visiting a country and never venturing beyond the resort.”
So how is, say doing one of our tours going to give you a different experience?
Experience the real Cuba with our exciting tour! Say goodbye to limited resort trips and hello to exploring four vibrant cities in just nine days (or stay longer and get a deeper experience). From the north to the south, from cities to the countryside, and from beaches to mountains, you’ll discover the hidden gems of this beautiful country.
No need to worry about transportation logistics, as our organized trip takes care of everything. Just like an all-inclusive vacation, but with the added benefit of truly immersing yourself in the local culture. Engage with friendly locals, dine in charming restaurants and bars where you’ll be the only tourist, and even visit people’s homes to hear their fascinating stories.
Nature lovers will be in paradise as we take you to stunning waterfalls, help you spot Cuba’s national bird, and invite you to snorkel in a picturesque cenote filled with tropical fish.
Not only will you experience the real Cuba, but you’ll also support the local community by staying in casas particulares, cozy B&B-style accommodations in local homes.
Say goodbye to bland resort buffets and savor flavorful meals prepared with care, featuring a variety of proteins and traditional Cuban ingredients. Come join us on a fun and adventurous trip instead!