Cuba will remain one of the most popular destinations for vacationing Canadians this winter.
Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria, popular tourist areas hit hard by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, are reporting to be fully functional and operating, after a path of damage closed resorts for several weeks.
The category 5 hurricane, which meteorologists called the most powerful Atlantic hurricane outside the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Seas tore through St. Maarten, Barbuda, Puerto Rico, parts of Cuba, and Turks & Caicos.
In the wake of the hurricane, Cuba’s minister of tourism Manuel Marrero made a public statement to have Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria hotels, among others hit in Varadero, Holguin, and Havana up and running mid-November. All Cuba resorts are now operating as usual and have recovered from Hurricane Irma damage.
Hurricane Irma in Cuba: what was hit?
Cayo Coco area
Cayo Coco saw significant wind damage, but the pier between the main Cuba island and Cayo Coco, making clean-up easier. The area’s Jardines del Rey airport did receive significant damage, however. The airport re-opened and saw its first commercial flight land November 1.
Cayo Santa Maria area
Cayo Santa Maria clean-up was harder, as the main road between mainland Cuba and Cayo Santa Maria was damaged.
Varadero saw both wind and flood damage, but also saw clean-up and resort re-openings happen earlier, due to its location on the main island.
Havana received a large portion of the flooding felt by the island, due to its low-lying areas.
While hurricanes are frustrating for everyone involved; customers are inconvenienced and agents are trying to absorb re-booking policies and tour operators are trying to get accurate information on the ground on the conditions of things in the country, a positive output has come from Hurricane Irma hitting Cuba. Work on resort infrastructure following the hurricane gave the opportunity to improve the properties and resorts before the island re-welcomed travellers to the area. The Melia Cayo Guillermo, for example, was refurbished, and the beach in Varadero’s peninsula has gained almost 10-metres of width following the pile-up of sand from hurricane waves.
Are things back to normal?
Flights resumed to Cuba following Hurricane Irma early- to mid-November, with resorts re-opening between November 1 and November 15.
Several of our travel agents visited Cuba prior to the November 1 re-opening dates, and inspected hotel properties and checked on hurricane damage, and had the following to say:
- Iberostar Playa Pilar: “The hotel is fully recovered, but the beach was damaged by the hurricane at this resort. It has taken away a lot of the beauty, but they are in the process of reconstructing this. The doors have some water damage, and you can tell vegetation was wiped out during the storm.” – Anna Torrefranca
- Melia Jardines del Rey: “The buildings look good, but the landscaping needs some cleaning up as some spots have a lack of grass. They’re still cleaning the area. The beach is beautiful and swim-able.” – Katty Lam
– Pestana Cayo Coco: “The damage is still evident at this property, specifically when you are walking down to the beach you can see where all the trees were uprooted. The beach bar was destroyed by the hurricane so they have had to re-build. There is still work to be done to it but if you are looking for a drink, they can definitely accommodate that.” – Kristy Ann MacDonald
- Melia Cayo Santa Maria: “The beach really helped expand the beach here. The water is crystal clear with gorgeous long, wide, white sand beach and lots of palapas.” –Fathia Ibrahim
The majority of resorts in Cuba have re-opened and operational for the 2018 winter season. All of the resorts and employees have worked hard to get their properties back up and running, and the work that has been put into the properties post-Hurricane Irma is showing.
Despite frustrations with closed resorts and no flights for several weeks, the hurricane did improve the beach scene in many parts of Cuba as the beaches have been expanded and widened with more sand.