When we were welcomed back to the dining room with genuine concern and kindness after the previous evening's Exorcist-like expulsion of peas by our 11-month-old daughter, I knew Cuba was a special destination. Glorious beaches, rugged countryside, beautiful architecture, and fascinating history aside, it was the warmth of the Cuban people that brought us back less than a year later. Everywhere we went, our daughter was fawned over and treated like a rock star.
Why It's Family Friendly:
Even if they're not touted as 'family resorts', most of Cuba's beachfront properties welcome families with children of all ages. Our first hotel was the Barcélo Solymar in Varadero. A 5-minute-walk from town means you're not trapped in resort-land and the extra-gentle slope of the spectacular beach is perfect for babies to splash in. The following year found us in Jibacoa - almost exactly halfway between Varadero and Havana. The Cameleon Villas Jibacoa is decidedly more rustic than the Solymar, but in beautiful, rural setting. We loved the cottage-y feel and the desserts that tasted like they were made by your newly adopted Cuban grandma.
Cuban resorts are not renowned for fine dining, but both places had enough options to satisfy both parents and baby (including the aforementioned peas that my daughter gorged on). Your choices are more varied in a larger-scale or higher-star hotel. Meal times may not jibe with your usual routine, so be prepared to be flexible (in our case, bath before dinner instead of after) and make sure to pack snacks.
Visiting Cuba means bringing all your baby supplies from home, but the heavy luggage is a small price to pay for a safe, clean, economical, and family-embracing destination. Smaller resorts mean fewer amenities, so inquire ahead about the availability of highchairs and cribs. Pack your inflatables and a few beach toys as well, a couple from Italy paid the equivalent of $20 USD for a bucket and shovel.
If your child is old (or young) enough to tolerate a day or half-day in Havana, it's worth the effort. We arranged a taxi to take us there and back, and our driver walked us around Old Havana. Our jogging stroller coped magnificently with the cobblestones and steep curbs, and the many little parks and squares allowed us to just sit and absorb the vibrant atmosphere without over-tiring our tot. Without question, Havana is a magical place - an adult-only long weekend is definitely in the cards for us!
It won't be long before the travel ban is lifted and all Americans are free to visit Cuba. Don't hesitate to bring your kids, it's a wonderful place.
Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel - your online guide for travel with babies, toddlers & young children. From baby packing lists to tips on coping with jet lag in toddlers, Have Baby Will Travel wants to help you get away with your baby! For more, visit Corinne's Have Baby Will Travel blog, follow Have Baby Will Travel on twitter and like us on Facebook, where Corinne welcomes your questions and comments.