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Where to Go, What to Do: Biking in Cuba

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

GETTING THERE

Although there are exceptions (for those with family in Cuba, researchers, journalists, etc.), U.S. citizens and residents are generally prohibited from traveling to the island. For more information on the U.S. travel restrictions: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1097.html.

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Americans can, however, travel there, as we did, by flying through a third country, such as Costa Rica, Mexico or Canada, although you could face civil penalties or prosecution for doing so. For $565 each round trip, we flew Continental from Dulles to San Jose, Costa Rica, then transferred to Taca for the leg to Havana.

Continental charged an additional $115 each way for each boxed bike, while Taca takes bikes (and surfboards) for free.

In addition to Taca, Cubana and Mexicana airlines fly to Havana.

GETTING AROUND

Viazul (http://www.viazul.cu) offers air-conditioned coaches between major tourist hubs in Cuba. Traveling with bikes is no problem: You can simply roll them, panniers and all, into the bus's luggage compartment and retrieve them when you get where you're going.

WHERE TO STAY

Most Cuban towns have private houses licensed to rent rooms to tourists. These "casas particulares" are cheaper than hotels and are a great way to meet Cubans.

Kary and Humberto's, Refugio No. 108, second floor, corner of Prado and Morro, Old Havana, 011-53-7-860-0122. Very friendly and helpful hosts in the middle of Old Havana a block from the Museo de Revolucion. $30 a night for two.

Casa Aquilina Rodriguez Martinez, 31 Orlando Nodarse St., corner of Sergio Dopico and Adela Azcuy streets, Vinales, Pinar del Rio, 011-53-48-69-5402. Private bathroom and air conditioning. In a popular tourist town known for its scenery: red-soil tobacco fields rimmed by steep-sided limestone rock formations known as mogotes. $20 a night for two.

Villa Maria la Gorda Hotel and International Diving Center, Guanahacabibes Peninsula, Sandino, Pinar del Rio, 011-53-48-77-1306, http://www.villamarialagorda.com. Hotel rooms and beach cabins at Cuba's western tip. $63 a night for two, including breakfast, plus $15 each for buffet dinner. $7 a day for snorkel gear rental and introductory dive lessons from $45, plus $15 per day scuba gear rental.


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