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Viñales – Cuba

Viñales, located in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba, is beautiful and a must-visit destination if you travel to Cuba. We booked a day trip to Viñales to explore the lush tobacco plantations and to see a different side of Cuba. The day trip cost 67 CUC (~$75 USD) per person; we booked it through a local agency located in the lobby of Hotel Iberostar near Parque Central.

The drive was ~2 hours on a comfortable, air-conditioned bus. The tour guide was very pleasant and knowledgeable. She shared information about Cuba (i.e., the island, people, school, healthcare, etc.) then Pinar del Rio and Viñales. The tour was given in both Spanish and English and stoped at el Cuevo del Indio, a tobacco plantation, the Mural del la Prehistoria, and a lookout point near Hotel Los Jazmines.

The first stop was at Cuevo del Indio, a cave that Guanajatabey Indians used to reside in. The cave was rediscovered in 1920 and is definitely a hot tourist destination, we had to wait ~15 minutes before we could go inside. I would highly recommend trying the freshly squeeze sugar cane juice (with or without alcohol) for 2 CUC. It was so delicious!

The cave was lit inside and the walk was around 10 minutes, it wasn’t strenuous and definitely a good activity if you have little kids. At the end of our walk, we took a small boat ride in the underground river back out. I liked this cave and enjoyed gawking at the beautiful rock formations. If I had more time, I would have also liked to explore the Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas, the largest cave system in Cuba.

    

Our second stop was at a tobacco planation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t tobacco season so we didn’t see fields of tobacco plants (tobacco is usually planted in October / November and harvested a couple months later). We did go inside a thatched barn where the farmer passed around tobacco seeds and rolled a cigar in front of us. Once the plants are harvests, they will be dried and fermented inside these thatched barns. We explored the farmer’s home, had some coffee and then purchased some cigars. Cigars come in a pack for 10 for 10 CUC. Tobacco farmers in Cuba have to sell 90% of their tobacco to the government, the remaining 10% they can keep and sell.

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Ice Castles – New Hampshire

This weekend I finally made it to the ice castles in New Hampshire and was blown away by the various ice structures. It was as if I visited Arendelle and Elsa decided to throw a party! There were numerous castles, passage ways, tunnels and slides – all adorned with beautiful icicles. The whole outdoor facility was about the size of half of a football field. Although it doesn’t take long to walk through the park, you will likely wonder around some more and enjoy the enchanting structures.

There are ice castles in Midway, UT; Lincoln, NH; Stillman, MN; Wisconsin Dells, WI; and Edmonton, AB. Weekend tickets are $15.95 for adults and $12.95 for children. If you live around any of these five facilities, I would highly highly recommend you go check it out! Also dress warmly, especially warm boots so you can line up for the big slide – it looks so much fun but my toes were practically frozen so I didn’t wait in the long line.

When you purchase the tickets, you have to select a 30 minute window to enter the park, then you can stay in there for an unlimited amount of time. I would recommend picking 30 minutes before sunset so you get to see the park when it is still daylight and you can catch it when they turn on the light show!

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Puerto Vallarta

The sub-zero weather in Boston made me daydream about a warm sun beaming down on my skin and a soft breeze playfully tossing my hair. The cold definitely kept me indoors this weekend so instead of shivering outside and taking pictures for an outfit post, I looked through my Puerto Vallarta pictures and would like to share my favorites.

The main reason I wanted to visit Cabo / Puerto Vallarta last summer was to see the hidden beach in PV. However, the hidden beach was shut down for a few months to restore the site and limit tourist / human impact. Although I was extremely disappointed, I understood and respected the local government’s desire to protect the environment. So instead of visiting the hidden beach, we walked around the beautiful malecon (boardwalk). The boardwalk is filled with various statues to take pics, gift shops, snack vendors, and fresh juice stands. 

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