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Blow your budget on an all inclusive trip to the resort of Varadero, or think like a local and keep to your budget in Santiago de Cuba.

Cuba is one of the most fascinating countries to visit and highly recommended for that alternative career break or part of your over 40’s holiday with a difference. A good reason alone would be to witness the past rule of a socialist country. But with colonial architecture, Che Guevera murals everywhere, sugar cane plantations and mojitos by the bucketload combined with powder white beaches, vibrant salsa classes and 1950s cars to admire, Cuba is one of the hottest destinations to visit right now. Here’s our guide to two very different holidays.

Blow the budget

Go for an all-inclusive resort in Varadero, a resort town in the province of Matanzas, North Cuba. If you like powder white beaches and full on luxury, this is the right place to visit. The beach extends out onto the Hicacos Peninsula, a wafer-thin slip of sand. Anyone who’s anyone in Cuba lives here.

If lazing on the beach all day drinking cocktails doesn’t float your boat, there’s also much to see and do around the area. In the day visit the artisan markets to buy authentic Cuban goods, the beautiful Iglesia de Santa Elvira; a colonial church, and Reserva Ecologica Varahicacos; a wildlife reserve just outside Varadero. Later on head to Casa de la Cultura Los Corales; a live folk music venue or film screening venue where you can while away the hours singing in Spanish. For food head to El Retiro for international cuisine and great lobster.

On a budget

Cuba isn’t the cheapest place in the world to holiday in but if you think like a local and live like a local it can be done. Head for Santiago de Cuba, the second biggest city in Cuba after Havana. Santiago played a milestone role in overthrowing the Bastista regime so is well worth a trip just for the historic value anyway. Many people stay in local homes – this can be a really cheap and insightful way to get to know Cuba. However, places can be pot luck and it is worth spending that bit extra to get somewhere safe and clean. Similarly with hotels the prices can vary immensely but the quality is pretty standard across the board so try to go with past recommendations before you book anywhere.

Cuban food is not renowned for being the best in the world, but street food is cheaper than those in tourist restaurants. The best way to find somewhere decent to eat is to talk to locals or other holidaymakers who have more knowledge of the area. Pizza is often sold through local’s windows and seafood is readily available.

Choose to travel by foot or bike. You’ll be able to spend more time soaking up the atmosphere and people-watch than if you hire a car or travel by coach. Visit museums (they still cost but not much), the Bacardi Rum factory, the Balcon de Velazquez and finally don’t miss out on the live folk music. There’s a free art gallery at the casa de las Tradiciones too. Both are loaded with character and charm – things get rather more steamy later on when mojitos are consumed!

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