When Paths Cross with Cuba

Recently, my mom and I took an all inclusive trip to Cuba. Like roughly 1 million Canadians yearly, we were looking to escape to a beautiful place we could lay beachside. It was a big change for me to be on an all inclusive after 8 months of wandering Asia, but the time with my mom was very special. With all the moving we have done and travelling I have done, it was really our first ‘vacation’ together.

Varadero is a tourist town nestled on 22KM of beautiful white sand beaches. After travelling Asia for 8 months, this long stretch of Cuban beach still held its place high (in my opinion) for most beautiful beaches in the world. The water starts as a crystal clear sea-foam green, and as you look to the horizon your eyes are met with a variety of different blues that eventually reach a gorgeous skyline of many more natural colours. Even more impressive is how clean the beaches are. To someone who has not travelled much beyond an all inclusive resort, this may seem like a no-brainer but unfortuantely plastic litters many of the worlds beaches. My mom and I spent about half an hour picking up plastic off the beach in Varadero because we wanted to do some good that day, but overall, the beaches are very well taken care of.

Beyond the beaches a trip to Cuba can be accompanied by driving in old classic cars, a trip to Havana (Havana oh na na), snorkelling, diving and lots of Spanish dancing. I took my mom snorkelling and it was her first underwater adventure (we are still waiting on our pictures, so pictures to come). That is right, 49 years old and I still got to take her on a ‘first’. This was pretty exciting for me and brought back the excitement to an activity that I have done quite a few times.

I have been to Cuba 3 times and didn’t always stick to the all inclusive, so here are some of my suggestions to make your trip a little extra: Eat food off the resort! Many people complain about Cuban food but Cubans certainly know how to cook. I am a big fan of the fried plaintain and camarones! I was invited to eat with a local family in Cardenas, wow! the food and company were fantastic. I also ate at a couple local restaurants and was never let down. The food was inexpensive and delicious. My understanding (i hope it is right) is that some shops/restaurants are locally owned while others are owned by the government. Take note of this, as you will see quite a difference in terms of price. I suggest trying the locally owned shops.

Which brings me to suggestion 2: Talk to the locals. I met a local Cuban at a gas station in Cardenas and he spoke amazing English. He explained that he was educated in languages but dropped out of school because if he finished he would of had to become an English professor. He decided that he would make more money working at a resort with his english speaking skills. This sounded crazy to me, but definitely gave me a bit more of an understanding of this man and perhaps some of the decisions Cubans have to make. He, and his family were lovely and welcoming!

Suggestion 3: Rent a scooter or car and go beyond the tourism. It can be a bit pricey but this is a sure way to see more of Cuba without a filter. The country is absolutley gorgeous and the people are very sweet. However, a drive into a town like Cardinez or even Havana without a tour guide will surely let you see some of the poverty and living conditions. While the home I visited in Cardenas was well furnished (lots of Canadian products, brought down to my friend from Canadian), this is not always the case. I was invited into an apartment in Havana from someone trying to sell me cigars and this building was difficult for me to walk through emotionally. There were no ceilings in the hallways or doors on most apartment, the building was littered with people sleeping all over the place and made of all cement. A whole other side of Cuba that we as tourists do not normally see.

Here are some photos from my most recent travels to Cuba with my mom. Enjoy!


Wander With Love,


When Paths Cross with Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is difficult to match this ideal tropical landscape that is home to the Komodo Dragon, local fishing villages, and plenty of wondrous creatures under the sea.

Like most tourists doing a day trip into the park, you must walk to the Labuan Bajo pier around 530AM and meet the local you paid to take you into Komodo. However, most will find that this person is merely a liaison between you and the boat. Through the dark morning, they will walk you to one of the maybe 100 wooden boats, hand you your bagged lunch of local food and usually part with you from there.

View Point in Labuan Bajo
No shortage of gorgeous view points in Labuan Bajo.

The sun is only just beginning to rise. The extremely loud motor overtakes any conversation on the boat; leaving you and the sunrise to find each other, and really start to move past those morning yawns. Well worth the early rise, you begin to pass many small islands; most inhabited only by animals and a few local fisherman villages. As Komodo is home to over 2000 km2 of surface area, three major islands and tons of small islands there is a vast amount of beauty to begin taking in.

You Cannot Filter a View So Beautiful
Komodo National Park in March 2018. Considered the end of rainy season here,  there is much less tourism and therefore less traffic on land and in the water.

The sea will undoubtedly keep your attention as some areas have numerous up wells, in large part due to the Pacific and Indian Ocean meeting. Also catching your eyes are some surface areas of the sea that are so flat it seems as though you could go ice skating on the water. If you really pay attention, you may be lucky enough to spot a sea turtle briefly coming up to the surface or a dolphin gliding above the water and quickly back into the water.

Water Like Glass
Water like glass.

Upon arriving to Manta Ray Point, do not waste any time in spotting and jumping in to swim with the Giant Manta Ray. Do not let the momentary shock of how large this creature truly is persuade you from swimming with them. Reaching up to 7metres, their size is only part of what makes them so spectacular.

From here, the engine turns back on cutting off your undoubtedly excited conversation about your recent interactions with the manta ray. You head over to Padar Island and begin your short trek to one of the most amazing views the park has to offer. Continue up further past the first lookout where most people are taking photos, and continue up as far as you can go. Let time slip away, and just enjoy the view encompassing many shades of blue, lush green islands and a few boats below. Stunning!

The Famous Photo We All Want to Take on Padar Island
The famous photo we all want to take on Padar Island. Don’t forget to enjoy the moment!


The view from the far side of Padar Island.
The view from the far side of Padar Island.

Next stop may be Komodo Island (or Rinca). When you arrive, you see a deer resting on the beach and while beautiful, this is not what you cam to see. Whiling walking the trail, you quickly come across the Komodo Dragon, and for a second time today find yourself left in awe at a large and rare animal. Do not be fooled as the dragons rests, as they are fast and aggressive. As the dominant animal on the island, they feed on almost anything from the deer you saw on the beach to pigs, and potentially smaller dragons. Keep you distance, and enjoy this unique opportunity to engage with the Komodo Dragon.


It is time to eat your bagged lunch, consisting of local foods such as chicken, rice and/or noodles. All delicious, even when cold. The motor begins again, and takes you to a snorkelling spot just off of Pink Beach. Once your flippers and snorkels are back on, you jump in the crystal clear water and enjoy the vastness of beautifully coloured coral. The tropical fish are just as colourful, and carry on with their routines as you observe from a distance. Make you way past the coral, and grab a handful of sand to observe the red and white sand that gives the beach its pink colour. You may find small rashes developing due to the jelly fish that have recently begun taking up residence in the pink beach area, but only take mild caution  as most of the local jelly are not poisonous.

As the motor takes it turn in providing the boat conversation, you begin the nearly 2 hour ride back to Labuan Bajo. Almost difficult to soak in all that only one day of wander can provide, you are tired and thankful.


Did you enjoy this blog? Have you visited Komodo National Park? Please feel free to comment or inbox me with your thoughts!

Wander With Love!



How to get here? The closest airport is in a town called Labuan Bajo, and you can easily fly here from Bali as daily flights are offered.

Where to stay? There are a decent amount of accommodations available for both backpackers and vacationers. My suggestion for budget travellers is to stay at Kasuwari, and make 1 night at Was Molas ( Wae Molas being the more expensive option.) Each are right near the main strip, and offer comfortable stays that include breaky.

How to visit the park? Currently, at a cost of about 30-40 CAD there are plenty of day trips into the park. Your hotel may offer to arrange it, and if not just walk into town and you will find tons of people offering the same day trip into Komodo.

What to expect? Most will do a 1 day trip to Komodo Island, Manta Ray Point, Padar, and Pink Beach. You will have to pay the park fee of about another 32 CAD once you arrive at Komodo Park (or Rinca if your day trip is to this island). You can also take your chances and just stand at the entrance of the park while other get their half hour walk; the walk if quite boring and sometime dragons lay near the beach or under the camp housing.Again, you are taking a risk of not seeing the Komodo dragon if you choose this option.

What no one tells you to prepare for: Most local day trip boats are wood boats with very loud motors, so talk in between stops is to a minimal. Maybe bring some ear plugs if you can remember. Labuan Bajo is quite dusty, so you may want to bring a mask so you are not breathing it all in.