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Guardalavaca is a beautiful beach resort, on the north east coast in the Holguin province of Cuba. The coastline in the area faces the warm, turquoise blue Atlantic Ocean with wonderful coral reefs lying just 300 metres from the beach. The gently shelving sand and shallow calm sea make the Guardalavaca beach ideal for swimming and snorkelling. The coral reefs are home to many tropical and marine fish and consequently scuba diving is a popular pastime in the area, with diving centres offering gear hire, diving courses and boat trips for divers. Underwater visibility is excellent at 20 metres and the best dive sites in the area include Boca de las Esponjas, El Canon de los Aguajies and El Salto. There is also great cave diving at Gibara.
The rough translation of the name Guardalavaca is 'hide the cow' and it is renowned for being the archaeological capital of Cuba. 16th and 17th century Spanish settlers were rumoured to have hidden their cattle here from corsairs and pirates. They also used to trade leather and salt meat for European smuggled items on the beaches during the same period. These days Guardalavaca is an unspoilt and uncrowded beach resort that offers the great facilities that are available in Varadero but without the crowds.
Close to the resort is Acuario Cayo Naranjo Aquarium where visitors can enjoy the spectacular seal, walrus and dolphin shows. They also allow visitors to swim with the dolphins, providing them with life jackets and instructions on how to make the creatures clap and splash, finishing with visitors surfing on the dolphins. Cuba was made famous as a great area for sea fishing by Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s and there are plenty of boat trips taking visitors to the best areas for catching snapper, grouper and tuna. For first time fishermen and women there are introductory fishing trips.
The neighbouring town of Holguin makes an interesting trip for holidaymakers with its cigar and sugar factories where the two main crops of the island are processed. Cuba is renowned for its street festivals and carnivals. In February the Havana Jazz Festival takes place and is held in the city's main concert halls with additional impromptu jam sessions occurring in the streets. The Havana Carnival occurs in July, with the city's neighbourhoods dressing up for the procession as well as competitions for the best band. The beautiful colonial architecture of old Cuba can be seen at its best in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Trinidad, cities that were built on a grid.
Music and food are an important part of Cuban life and visitors can enjoy the rhythm of salsa and son as well as taking dance classes with some of the finest teachers. Local cuisine is available in the many restaurants, including special dishes such as roast pork, tamales and chicharritas and the local rum is well worth sampling.
There are regular flights from the UK to Havana Airport and there is plenty of choice when it comes to package holidays to Cuba. Car hire is recommended for holiday makers who prefer to be independent, enabling them to visit inland areas that do not have regular public transport links. Coastal areas have good transport links with Havana and major cities. Bike and moped hire is available in the beach resorts.