When Tyler and I received an invitation to attend our friend’s wedding in Cuba, we were thrilled at the opportunity to explore a new destination. While I’m not usually one for resort-style vacations or all-inclusive packages, I was pretty dang excited to see what Cuba had to offer. We stayed at the STUNNING Melia Buena Vista in Cayo Santa Maria, and it was a truly unforgettable experience. Because we were there for a wedding, I did not do much planning or organization, but I would still like to share some details, including all of the exciting activities we took part in, the mouthwatering food we indulged in, and the stunning scenery we encountered along the way. Shout outs to our pals for getting hitched in such a gorgeous spot!!
Packing for the trip was a bit of a challenge, since we decided to only bring carry-on luggage. We made sure to pack a plenty of running clothes, nice outfits for dinner, swimsuits, and of course our wedding outfits. In hindsight, we realized that we should have checked a bag and brought along some more items. The sunscreen that was available at the resort was different than our usual kind, and we regretted not bringing our own. We also wished we had brought some snacks, as meals were plentiful but as a grazer, I found myself missing some tasty nibbles between meals. I would have done some crazy things for a little trail mix, some popcorn, idk. I love snacks! I do also wish I had packed bug spray and anti-histamines… there were some devilish little critters that covered me in hundreds of itchy bites. Not bad enough to take away from enjoying the trip, but bad enough to make a note of what to pack for next time! Lol
- Running clothes for 5 runs (including socks, shorts, tank tops, sports bras, visor, running shoes, hydration vest)
- 6 bathing suits (including one for training, with goggles and swim cap)
- 4 dresses/rompers
- 3 pairs of casual shorts and 3 t-shirts
- 1 hoodie, 1 nice sweater
- Flip flops
- Heels (I did not wear these once)
- Sunscreen (just a mini travel bottle)
- Essential items as gifts for hotel staff (toiletries, children’s toys, personal care items, etc.)
- American money for tipping
I didn’t realize how short the flight was to get down to Cuba – it was juuust over 3 hours! We flew direct from Toronto, and upon touching down at the airport, we hit the heat to find our shuttle bus that took us to the resort. The ride was about 90 minutes, during which we took in the spectacular vistas of the long causeway (48km!) that links the island to the mainland. There was a tour guide on the bus sharing some neat tidbits, and the views of the shimmering aquamarine waters that encircled the island were nothing short of extraordinary. Pretty smooth travel day, and we arrived in time to get a little shake-out run in, get changed, and hit the pool before dinner!
Our rooms were all lovely suites with a lounging area, a balcony, a MASSIVE bed (like, larger than a California King), a bathtub, and a neat outdoor shower. The wonderful staff came by every day to tidy up and stock our fridge with water and soft drinks. They even provided some really sweet bonuses, like a bubble bath and some wine on our last night.
The resort had a variety of activities to keep us entertained during our stay. There were three unique and idyllic beaches, two pools, a spa, a gym, a tennis court, and a couple restaurants and bars. We enjoyed spending time just chilling at the different beaches, lounging by the pools, and participating in water sports such as snorkelling, volleyball, and aqua aerobics! There was also a tennis court on site that we said we were going to use, but never did. We did most of our runs outside, but I did venture into the gym once to test out the treadmill.
For those looking to relax, the resort had a spa that offered a range of services – we heard the massages were fantastic! They also had a sauna, a steam shower, and a whirlpool.
For dining, we had a bit of a unique experience since we were with the wedding (a couple special dinners!), but even otherwise found the restaurants to be quite good, and appreciated having one open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as the pool bar which served burgers and pizzas. Overall, we felt that the resort offered everything we needed for a comfortable and enjoyable stay!
- Three beaches
- Two swimming pools
- Access to equipment for water activities: (snorkelling, stand-up paddle boarding)
- Tennis court
- Gym (with treadmill)
- Spa (steam shower, sauna, massages, jet tub)
- A restaurant open for breakfast and lunch
- A dinner restaurant (migrated locations)
- A pool bar that served pizza and burgers
- Lobby bar (with café)
- Multiple beach bars
- Small shop
While we were interested in the excursions, we ended up just enjoying the resort and the company of our friends and their family. We did partake in some of the local resort activities, like snorkelling, volleyball, and aqua-aerobics. Here’s a list of all the options that were offered as day-trips from the resort (at an additional cost):
- Visit to Remedios: A historic town with colonial architecture, churches, and squares.
- Santa Clara City Tour: Visit the Che Guevara Monument and Museum, as well as other cultural and historical sites.
- Snorkeling or Scuba Diving: Explore the coral reefs and underwater life of the area.*
- Catamaran Tour: Sail the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, stopping to snorkel or swim along the way.
- Jeep Safari: Explore the Cuban countryside and visit local farms, markets, and villages.
- Sunset Cruise: Enjoy the beautiful colors of the sunset while sipping cocktails and listening to live music.
*We were particularly looking forward to scuba diving (Tyler just got his license last summer!), but unfortunately all of the dive shops on the island were closed. I’d recommend calling ahead to check in with your resort if there are any activities you are especially interested in, to make sure there is availability!
I do recognize that most people tend to relax when they are on vacation, and doing a bunch of work-outs is pretty low on their list of activities they would like to do… BUT for us, training IS relaxing. So here’s some info about how that went 🙂
One important thing to note right off the bat: Strava does not work in Cuba. You’re not allowed personal devices with GPS, so the upload to the app from your watch will get blocked. When you get home, they will mass upload (if you have not run out of local storage on your watch).
We did not even bother attempting any specific workout for our first 2 runs when we arrived, knowing that a 50 degree temp swing would hit pretty hard. Day 1 and 2 I just did short, easy 5kms to explore and get a feel for the weather. There’s one road that leads out of the resort with a nice separated sidewalk, so route planning was simple! I had wanted to try to run onto the causeway, but it’s a pretty busy road with no shoulder (and no apparent speed limit). So for safety’s sake, we just did out and backs on that first road for the whole trip. About a mile out, there’s a cool observation tower-type thing that gives sweet views of the surrounding resorts and beaches. I’d recommend even walking out to check that out, if you’re not keen on running! Further along, the road passes by some other resorts (one of which I stopped at for a water re-fill!), and transforms into a path through the vegetation. Pretty enjoyable, but NO SHADE and NO WIND. So, be warned. I did test out the treadmill one day, but found the AC to be weak and it got very stuffy. Plus, I didn’t want to miss out on the nice views! The timing worked out for us to be attempting our “long runs” on the hottest day we were there, so I gave it my best but called things early since I was flirting with heat exhaustion. Things did get a little better from there though – we had some wind for the back half of the trip, making the next 2 runs super do-able!
As you can see, my Brooks Drive 3 Pocket Sports Bra got a LOT of use on the trip since I wanted to always have my phone and room key on me. Since returning I have ordered 3 more colours, because the trip was a good reminder of how much I love having pockets in my warm-weather training gear. In the winter it’s easy to forget, with so many other options for pockets in layers on layers.
Here’s my mini-vlog from my attempted long run… Only got through 13 of the planned 18km. But then 3 days later, 12km felt like a breeze! My best advice is to let yourself acclimatize, and shift long runs to windy days if possible.
We also did an open-water swim one day, which was really enjoyable because of the crystal clear water and salt-water buoyancy. The swells were decently big, but hey – it’s good practice! They have a little flag out by the beach that indicates the amount of wind/current, which was unfortunately red for most of the trip, except the one day we ventured out on a yellow flag.
I packed what I thought were too many books, but it was the perfect amount – finished my third book when the wheels touched down back in Toronto.
- Station Eleven
- The School for Good Mothers
Feel free to add me up on GoodReads if you like to read and want to keep up with what I’ve got on the go!
Sharing an itinerary for an all-inclusive feels a little silly compared to a road trip or hiking trip let’s say. Virtually everything we did could have been done on any other day. HOWEVER, I’m gonna share it anyways.
Day 1: 3:00AM wake-up call to get on the road to Toronto Pearson for our 6:30AM flight with Sunwing. Smooth flight, directly onto the shuttle to the resort, a quick unpack in our room, some lunch, and a shake-out run! Then we met up with our friends and their family for our first dinner together. We were also treated to a GLORIOUS sunset!
Day 2: Lounging on the beach, short treadmill run, exploring the pools, hanging out with friends, and then a picture-perfect welcome dinner for the wedding crew on the beach.
Day 3: Attempt at long run in the morning, ocean dip to cool off, then a shuttle to one of the other Melia resorts on the island! This one was much larger, much more crowded, and less tranquil. We spent the afternoon and had dinner, but didn’t feel like we had to go back a second time.
Day 4: Open water swim, burgs and reading by the pool, bubble bath, and drinks & dinner with the crew!
Day 5: Quick morning run, then wedding time babyyyy! The girlies all got ready together, then we headed down to the beach for the ceremony. The venue was beautiful, everyone looked so dreamy, and the love in the air was truly palpable. I am SO happy for my friends and I was SO glad to be able to attend! After the ceremony we grabbed a cappuccino before heading to a private villa for the dinner and reception. Felt like absolute royalty and had a blast celebrating the newlyweds!!
Day 6: Slow morning, best-feeling run to date, some volleyball and games with the crew, snorkelling, and a farewell dinner by the pool!
Day 7: 5 AM wake-up to catch the shuttle back to the airport. Easy travel, home in time for dinner!
Putting the wedding aside, the week was amazing. Add in friends, family, and loooove?? Doesn’t get much better! Not to mention the welcome dinner on the beach, the wedding ceremony over the water, the wedding dinner at a private villa, and the farewell dinner by the pool… oh boy we got spoiled.