11+ Things to Know For Your Cuba All-Inclusive Vacation

Tips, Tricks & 11+ Things to Know For Your Cuba All-Inclusive Vacation :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may recall I took my very first all-inclusive vacation almost a decade ago in The Bahamas and more recently to Cozumel in 2019. While all-inclusive packages aren’t my typical style of travel, I can understand and appreciate the appeal… especially when a deal comes across my screen.

With the incredible price of $865 for 7 days at the Memories Caribe Beach Resort, I had to book a Cuba all-inclusive vacation. However, my experience showed me that all-inclusive resorts in Cuba differ from those in The Bahamas or Mexico! If you plan to head south, here are some things to know for your Cuban all-inclusive vacation.

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Things to Do Before Travelling to Cuba

You need to prepare for every trip, however there are a few extra steps you need to take before travelling to your Cuba all-inclusive resort. A little forethought can save you some big headaches later on!

Research Your Resort

All-inclusive resorts in Cuba are a huge draw for the economy and as such, there are numerous options to choose from. Each has its perks and quirks, it’s a matter of finding what’s best for you.

While I was originally looking at the Gran Muthu Imperial Resort in Cayo Guillermo, I ended up booking the Memories Caribe Beach Resort in Cayo Coco for various reasons including its adults-only policy, the beaches, and the various ratings across Google, TripAdvisor and other review sites.

Don’t Take Reviews As Gospel

Speaking of reviews, I found that reviews of Cuban resorts have been the most volatile I’ve seen. They’re either “this is the best place ever” or “this place is trash don’t go here” and I didn’t see much of a happy medium. Take everything you read with a grain of salt and if you see recurring issues, take a little more stock in those.

However, I feel many of the issues folks post about could often have been resolved by communicating early on with resort staff. I wasn’t there and don’t know the situation mind you, but many of them seem to come across as suffering through and then complaining later on rather than dealing with the issue in the moment. 

Flexible? Cash In On Last Minute Discounts

While not everyone has this capability, if you’re able to quickly jet set to Cuba then you can be rewarded greatly. I personally was able to book my vacation for $865 because I had the flexibility. My Cuba all-inclusive vacation was a package through Sunwing, however I booked it through SellOff Vacations thanks to a tip my friend Julia posted to Instagram

Before booking, I checked Sunwing’s site directly for vacation packages and the same trip was over $150 more expensive. Had I not seen her reel, I wouldn’t have made it to Cuba let alone saved as much as I did so always do a little look around before confirming your purchase!

A Taste of the Snorkelling in Playa Pilar :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

A Taste of the Snorkelling in Cuba

Make Sure You Have Travel Medical Insurance

In my plethora of travels, I haven’t come across a country which asks that you have travel medical insurance. I typically bypass adding the extra insurance which is exactly what I did with this trip originally. Upon preparing though, I realized this was non-negotiable as you could be asked to show proof upon entering. If you’re unable to provide documentation, there is a possibility of needing to purchase travel medical insurance upon arrival into Cuba or you could be denied entry!

Needless to say, I wasn’t going to risk it. Luckily Sunwing has a very reasonable insurance package through Manulife which you can add on after the fact. It only cost me $31 for the entire trip and covers you for anything related to the ‘rona as long as you’re vaccinated. 

INSIDER TIP: If you have a credit card, check to see if you have medical insurance included as one of your benefits. If so, just have a copy of this policy saved on your phone in case you’re asked to present it at customs!

Fill Out Your Tourist Visa & PRINT IT

Every visitor to Cuba must fill out a mandatory waiver called the D’Viajeros before entering the country. It’s a very straightforward customs form which you can find here. The form can only be completed within 72 hours of your arrival and if you’re someone who leaves everything to the last minute, you can even do it in the airport as you wait to board your plane.

However, I highly recommend you print out a copy and bring it with you. While customs will accept it on your phone (at least they did in Cayo Coco), you can bypass the line by having it printed. A security officer will come and take it from you to then usher you to one of the customs lines which can save you quite a bit of time. And time saved in the airport means you get to your resort quicker!

SOMETHING TO NOTE: As a Canadian citizen travelling with a Canadian passport, these are my experiences. If you’re a reader from the US or elsewhere, the rules and regulations may be a little different for you. For example, US travellers need to purchase their visa in advance and visit under a specific “license” for travel. You can read more about this process here.

Learn Some Spanish Phrases

It’s no secret that learning a new language is hard. Even with a solid base of French from my public school years, it’s still been a difficult journey to re-learn the language so I can become remotely conversational.

Nobody is expecting you to learn Spanish just for your Cuba all-inclusive vacation. However, learning some simple things like hello (hola), goodbye (adiĆ³s), please (por favor), thank you (gracias), I’m sorry (lo siento), and showing a general interest in attempting to grasp some new phrases can go a long way! Here are a few to get you started.

Remember, nobody expects you to be good at it. Above all, it’s the thought and effort that counts! Though if you want to try and learn more than the bare minimum, Duolingo is always a great option.

Beautiful Beach in Cayo Coco During My Cuba All-Inclusive Vacation :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Nothing Like Seeing the Beach Daily During Your Cuba All-Inclusive Vacation

Things to Pack For Your Cuba All-Inclusive Vacation

As someone who typically travels to more temperate climates rather than tropical ones, I’ve learned the hard way how to pack. Plus there are some things that can come in handy at an all-inclusive resort you might not think of! Here’s what I recommend you pack (besides plenty of bathing suits) to make the most of your all-inclusive vacation in Cuba.

RELATED: For more ideas of things to bring for your all inclusive Cuba vacation, check out all of my tips and tricks for all inclusive stays here!

Credit Card – I never travel anywhere without a valid credit card for emergencies. In Cuba, any excursions booked through your tour representative will be paid for via credit card so I highly recommend bringing one with you. Just make sure to put a travel notice so you don’t get locked out of it! Also, US credit cards are not accepted and while Wise is my go-to for international travel, it doesn’t work in Cuba either.

Canadian & American Cash – It’s always recommended to travel with cash to a different country as you never know if a credit card will work. In Cuba, both Canadian and American cash are accepted. However, what surprised me was that Canadian seemed to be preferred! I can only speak to my experience in Cayo Coco so this may differ in alternative Cuban destinations such as Holguin or Varadero.

Sunscreen – Your skin is your biggest organ and if you’re a pasty gal like me, it’s going to be highly susceptible to those strong UV rays down south. I practically bathed in the stuff daily so I didn’t have to deal with painful lobster mode. As I sweat a lot and tend to run in and out of the water, I opt for a water-resistant sunscreen and since I’m not a fan of the typical smell, my go-to is Hawaiian Tropic though I also love the Sun Bum brand.

Mosquito Repellant – As someone who consistently attracts any and all bugs on a regular basis, this is an absolute must for me. I do not mess around and get the strongest stuff there is, otherwise I’m eaten alive. While it does have a strong smell, I swear by the Muskol lotion and then cover it up with a perfume. This is the only way I don’t come home covered in bites!

Lindz Overlooking Memories Caribe in Cayo Coco :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Lindz Overlooking Memories Caribe in Cayo Coco Cuba

Water Purification Tablets – Staying hydrated is important, especially in tropical climates. If you find yourself somewhere that you may be concerned about the water, purification tablets are so easy to use and will ensure you aren’t running into any issues while on vacation. I personally use the Aquatabs tablets and they work like a charm!

Snorkel Gear – If you’re bringing a checked bag or your gear can fit into your carry-on, bring your snorkel mask and fins with you. Cuba is well-known for incredible snorkelling and chances are you’ll be able to enjoy some close to your resort! And don’t forget your anti-fog spray!

Water Shoes – While much of the shoreline is silky soft sand, coral and rocks can still be prevalent. If you aren’t bringing snorkel gear (your fins will protect you when you’re out in the water), then I’d recommend bringing a pair of water shoes like these ones from Decathlon. I didn’t need mine while walking along the beach though having my feet protected came in handy when I decided to go further into the water.

Quick Dry Towel – If it was stressed once, it was stressed ten times shortly after we arrived at our resort that you don’t want to lose your resort towel. They seem to hold on to them pretty tightly and white towels are meant to stay in your room, not venture to the pool. Since I was often off-shore snorkelling, I didn’t want to be responsible for one of the blue pool towels in case it got scooped up, blown away, who knows what. I brought with me a quick dry pack towel and it was a game changer!

Condiments – This is one I found to be a little funny but I’m so glad I listened to my friend Nadine and brought salad dressing with me. Condiments can be hard to come by so if there’s something in particular you like to have, bring a travel size portion with you. I had no problems finding lettuce and other things for salad but dressing was nowhere to be found! It’s a good idea to bring anything you use on a fairly regular basis like spices, soy sauce and ketchup as there’s no guarantee you’ll find them on the resort. 

Donations – This is unique to Cuba’s all-inclusive resorts. The Cuban people are so lovely and unfortunately due to a multitude of reasons, often have difficulties acquiring things we take for granted such as toiletries and feminine products. While cash is always accepted for tipping, bringing toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, pencils, pens, snacks, and other everyday items is welcomed. Even gently used clothing is fantastic! I brought a menagerie of things with me including feminine products, candy and sneakers that didn’t quite fit me properly and everything was gratefully accepted.

Pink Cadillac Oceanside in Cayo Coco :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Riding in Style is a Must in Cuba!

During Your All-Inclusive Vacation in Cuba

You’ve breezed through security, hopped on your airport transfer and have arrived at your resort. Bienvenido a Cuba! It’s time to make the most of your Cuba all-inclusive vacation.

Don’t Forget to Drink Water

The ever-flowing fountain of booze is fun and all but it’s always important to stay hydrated – especially in the tropical heat! Whenever you’re at the buffet or enjoying your reservation at an al a-carte restaurant, drink a few glasses of water. It’s always a good idea to have a bottle of water with you whether you’re poolside or at the beach.

While you should get water in your room daily, if you miss the maid service or there’s a shortage, you may find yourself forgetting to drink it. This is where those water purification tabs come in handy as I would pop one in a bottle filled from the bathroom tap and let it sit for the day. Then by the evening, it was ready to go with no worry of being dehydrated or something in the water not agreeing with you!

Eat Plenty of Fruits & Vegetables

We can all get caught up in the party aspect of all-inclusive vacations but we have to remember to fuel our bodies properly. While the quality and variety of food will depend on where you stay, there will always be something to eat. It’s guaranteed there will be plenty of meat and carbs to go around, however it’s important to get those vitamins into your system. I recommend filling half of your plate with vegetables if possible and grabbing a side plate of fruit with any meal you can. This helped keep me healthy, especially when I was lacking sleep due to shenanigans the previous night!

Journey Off the Resort

Chances are your resort is quite large with plenty of activities offered to keep you entertained but if you’re like me, you’ll struggle to stay in one spot for an entire week. Your resort is its own little world and while you may not need to venture off of it, this is how you truly experience a destination!

You can arrange excursions through your vacation provider like Sunwing, however I prefer to do my own thing. For example, a fantastic day trip in Cayo Coco is to visit Playa Pilar. It’s one of the best beaches in Cuba and the perfect adventure from your resort. Other destinations like Varadero have little downtowns that are fantastic to explore for the day. Plus it’s a great way to support the local community directly.

RELATED: For full details, check out my guide to visiting Playa Pilar and plan your own day trip!

Manage Your Expectations

You’re travelling to a different country so if you expect the status quo to be the same as in Canada, you’re in for a reality check. The flow of goods isn’t the same as at home, so if you’re counting on eating the same thing over – you’re going to be disappointed. It’s important to go with the flow and not be afraid to try some new things. You never know what you might discover!

Also, it’s common knowledge that while all-inclusive resorts in Cuba may follow a similar star rating system to counterparts in Mexico or Jamaica, their amenities aren’t at the same level. The 4-star resort I stayed at in Cuba was similar to the 3-star resort I booked in The Bahamas. Both were great in their own ways and I had a wonderful stay, but those who aren’t aware of this may be caught off guard at the differences between a 5-star resort in the Dominican Republic and a 5-star resort in Cuba.

Enjoy & Be Grateful!

Above all, remember that you’re in a different country enjoying the tropical sea breeze as you soak up that Caribbean sunshine. It’s a privilege to travel so be grateful to have the opportunity to do so. Whether you want to do all the activities your resort offers, frolic in the ocean daily or curl up with a book by the pool, do whatever fills your cup on your Cuba all-inclusive vacation.

Lindz Walking Into Sunset in Cayo Coco Cuba :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Nothing Like a Sunset Walk Along the Beach!

When’s Your Next Cuba All Inclusive Vacation?

I don’t know about you, but I’m already looking for more all inclusive vacations to Cuba. Whether it be Cayo Largo for some scuba diving, Havana to see the country’s capital or one of the other country’s incredible destinations, remember these tips to ensure you have the smoothest trip possible.

Do you have any tips for Cuba all inclusive vacations that I haven’t thought of? I’d love to hear it so feel free to leave a comment below!

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