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One of the most famous beaches in the Holguin province, has many luxuriant coral reefs and offers good snorkelling, Guardalavaca has interesting cliffs and amazing countryside. For Divers; Guardalavaca has a dozen or so excellent dive sites including the nearby Boca de las Esponjas (Mouth of Sponges), El Salto (The Waterfall) also the Cañon de los Aguajíes ~ well known for it’s abundant and vibrant sponges; these are only a few of the best-known sites, all of them ideal for scuba diving. Tanques Azules, in neigbouring Gibara ~ a group of unique flooded caverns, is popular with experienced divers and offers some good challenges.

There are only two resorts in Guardalavaca, The four star Brisas Hotel and the three star Amigo and Atlantico. All other popular ‘Holguin Resorts’ are on Playa Esmeralda or Playa Pesquero. Guardalavaca is easily accessible from the Esmeralda and Pesquero resorts and can be a 10-15 minute trip dependant upon where your resort is situated. Some resorts offer a landtrain service into Guardalavaca (at a cost), but failing this taxi, moped or bicycle hire or horse and buggy are an alternative mode of transport…. and fun!!!

Guardalavaca offers a daily market with vendors selling their handmade wares. Vendors change daily so if you see something you like don’t dither – buy it there and then – you may never see it again !!!!! Just a short walk through the market you will come across a couple of small shops selling t-shirts, cd’s etc., and a couple of small café bars, a short walk onwards and you will come to some steps that will lead to the lovely Guardalavaca public beach, there are bars on the beach where you can sit with a cerveza… or two! Mingle with the locals, watch a domino game or just find a spot on the beach to simply relax, soak up the sun and have a swim. To your right (if you were looking out to sea) and up the beach is the Amigo & Atlantico resort and further along the Brisas.

From the front of the market you can take a left turn and walk past the Amigo & Atlantico resort up to the Centro Commercial Los Flamboyanes (on your right hand side of the street); a small parade of shops offering a small selection of everyday items, clothes, ‘snacky nibbles,’ alcohol, snack/pizza bar. There is also a humidity controlled cigar shop, prices are much the same as the resort shops but the selection is better, the staff are helpful here; if you don’t know much about cigars they will help you out. Just a little further up the street there are a couple of more modern glass-fronted shops selling much the same as in the parade. Still walking onwards from the modern shops you will come to the Brisas Hotel and Villas Resort (on your left), just past the Brisas the road bears round to the left and then winds round a right-hand bend – this takes you onto the back road and on a scenic route into the Guardalavaca village and countryside where you can get to meet locals and see their homes. The continuation on this road will take you into Banes; albeit quite some distance!!! You could get a horse and buggy from the market to take you on a tour of the countryside for a few cuc’s – something a little different and a chance to see a little of Cuban life !! …..worth dhttp://www.myfamily.com/group/7191617oing and the kids will love it!

Nightlife in Guardalavaca:- Locals sometimes hold beach parties on the Public Beach at night, nothing too wild but a pleasant opportunity to mingle, drink & dance with the Cubans and other tourists, Just up from the public beach is the La Roca Disco (partly open-air), it’s busier nights are Friday and Saturday but you have to be a night owl as La Roca does not usually open until 11.30/12.00 midnight !!!! (ask your animation team for info…or even to join you!!)

RESTAURANTS:- The Cayuelo – on the beach (10am-11pm) Restaurant is rumoured to be great, but the food is more resort quality. Fish & seafood is the house speciality here and a full lobster meal will set you back about 20 cuc,. (past the Brisas resort on the back road)

El Ancla – (11am-11pm) Seafood and beautiful coastal setting, will cost you about 8/10 cuc for a fish fillet meal. A fabulous Lobster and shrimp meal will cost around 20CUC. Grilled Shrimp or battered shrinp meal around 7 CUC. A nice change from the resorts and good food at reasonable prices. Try a nice lunch here and enjoy the setting. (to the left of the public beach).

There are a couple of restaurants near the Pesquero and Esmeralda Resorts. One is called Conuco de Mongo Vina (playa Esmeralda?) and there is also the Restaurante Cayo Naranjo and the Yaguajay Restaurant which are both within the Parque Natural Bahia de Naranjo - ask at reception they may be able to give you more info.

For a lovely day out: Holguin & Gibara – Ask your Hotel reception to organise a taxi with English speaking driver (he will be your guide for the trip) to take you to Holguin & Gibara. Ask your driver to stop at places of interest along the way for photo taking etc. Spend free time in Holguin visiting the cigar factory, museums etc., if that is what you want to do or just enjoy a leisurely stroll taking in the architecture or the hustle & bustle of the city, and then go sightseeing by cab – La Loma de Cruz etc and then on to Gibara (pronounced Hib-ar-a), it's a pretty little fishing village with beautiful harbour views and lovely colonial architecture. Gibara houses a few museums, cigar factory, colonial palace etc. There are restaurants and bars to eat at and La Concha has beautiful views across the bay. Ask the driver to suggest somewhere for a nice lunch in Gibara and explain whether you want a lite lunch or a more exquisite lunch (ie. lobster/shrimp meal); a lot of cab drivers will take you to a casa/paladare (private house) for lunch. Gibara has some lovely casas where you can eat the most fabulous home-made food. Lobster and seafood are their specialities (and it will probably costs only 10/15 CUC each (£6-£9) including drinks). Invite the driver to join you (as your guest, of course –!!!). When lunch is done, tour Gibara, a stroll along the promenade to walk off your lunch and a walk around the square etc ….. your driver will lead you!! Look out for the rusty Panamanian ship – it looks like an old wreck, but apparently it was fully operational until it broke down in 2006!!!

The taxi for the whole trip should cost you around 100 CUC (£60)...... If you share with 2 others that is only £15 each ....much, much cheaper, far more interesting and informative and soooo much more rewarding and fun than any organised trip. Remember to set the price with the cab driver before you set off.

FYI – An organised trip to Holguin alone is 59CUC each (over £35 each)... so an independent trip by taxi is good value for your CUC's.

If you go down to the Guardalavaca market place and ask anybody for Evert, he will be able to put you in contact with a good English speaking driver and arrange all the details of your trip for you. Other taxi drivers to ask for are Oro Eddie or Frank – contact them as soon as you can to arrange a day for your trip as they are very popular.

LoonyLou is very knowledgeable about the Holguin area, and has made many contributions to the TripAdvisor web site.

This article has been reprinted with her kind permission.

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