Paradisus Rio de Oro, Cuba
For us, a new adventure is also often our opportunity for a rest. After a year of city breaks rather than restful holidays last year, I felt more than ready for a chance to stop and relax our brains and bones. When it came to actually booking Cuba we were both determined to find somewhere that would give us the best of both worlds; the exploring and the pool days.
We wanted to be able to experience the culture and get a feel for the country without restricting ourselves to being explorers the whole time. We wanted the chance to be typical tourists too and spend some time with our noses in books and cocktail in hand. So we drew up a list.
First and foremost on that list; adult only. Don't get me wrong kids are great and lovely but – and there is a huge but – sometimes the guarantee of no dive-bombs or screaming children is worth more than money can pay for.
Secondly, I wanted to be somewhere away from everywhere else. I didn't want to be surrounded by high rises and I didn't want to be in a high rise either. There is something so soulless about them and I knew that if we were anywhere near them then we wouldn't be anywhere close to experiencing the real Cuba, we would be getting a tourist friendly version.
The Paradisus Rio de Oro ticked both of these boxes and some. When we arrived, tired after 15 hours of travelling, the only thing on the cards was a nap. After turning down a welcome glass of champagne (I know!) we were delivered to our room by cart which was a welcome prospect. We opened the door to a beautiful room with the most beautiful super queen-sized bed.
It was a sight for sore eyes.
As our stay went on we became more and more grateful for that bed. We also became sadly aware of how hard it can be to relax. Although, the cocktails and outdoor jacuzzies helped. Sitting under dappled sunlight listening to the not too distant waves is the best remedy for a life overstuffed with work, technology and the constant stream of thought.
The hotel, all too aware of how much sitting is hungry work, had four Al a Carte restaurants on site. The best one of these by far was the Japanese restaurant. Equipped with Tepan bars, the restaurant gave us the perfect opportunity to meet fellow holiday makers while watching our meals being made in a glorious display in front of us. We visited twice on our trip and was as wowed by the food the second time as we were the first. The chefs were chatty and fantastic showmen who could knock up a great meal.
With our mains cooked right in front of us in a stunning display we thought dessert would be a little anticlimactic, but with a finale like deep fried ice cream that was never going to be the case.
A definite first for me, the ice cream melts only a little leaving you with a crispy ball of creamy sweetness.
The entertainment at the Paradisus Rio de Oro wasn't limited to the restaurants. In addition to the snorkelling gear which we could use whenever we wanted, we had access to kayaks, windsurfing and peddlos – all entirely for free. Naturally, we took up the opportunity to get out on the waves.
There was flora and fauna every where you looked from the fish in the corals, to the birds in the trees above your sunbed. The only problem were the locals in the bar...they got a little crabby....
The hotel is serene, classically Cuban, and surprisingly calm for a "resort" hotel. Bright colours of the fruits and flowers growing around the resort are reflected in the building with pastel yellows, pinks and greens brightly adding to the cheerful sunshine. It is the kind of place you could find yourself absorbing the cheerful moods and the relaxed nature of the locals, and where you could truly get a sense of the poetry of life.
Staying at the Paradisus ended up being a bigger part of the holiday than either of us had realised it would be. From peddling through the waves and reading on the beach to lazing next to the pool in a little-curtained hut, the hotel really gave us the chance to stop without going out of our minds with boredom. It was a beautiful backdrop for me to soak up the sun and read through four and a half books.
If you're heading out to Cuba the Paradisus Rio de Oro is a fabulous place to stay. Surrounded by nature, native wildlife and cocktails you'll very quickly sink into your happy place and, of course, and cocktail or two (try the Lemon Rum slush....you can thank me later).