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Discussion Starter #1
I'm trying to do a late February or early March vacation, but unfortunately this is peak travel season with school breaks/spring break. Maybe someone can offer thoughts if you've been to these places. My top goals are: warmth, ocean, relaxation. I basically just spend my time on these trips swimming, walking on the beach and taking it easy.

Option 1: I'm in a west coast US city with easy direct flights to Hawaii. It's a domestic flight, 7 hours direct! On the other hand this is a damned busy time in Hawaii so prices have soared and it's going to be crowded. My total cost (flights + hotel/vrbo + car rental) is going to be in the $3,500 realm though I'm trying to get it down to $3,000. Of course I'll also be paying for food and gas on top of this, so let's say $3,400 estimated total cost. And yes I'm using all my best frugal techniques.

(Ideally I'd like to go surfing in Hawaii but the beaches in the next option are so beautiful that I would happily forego surfing...)

Option 2: tonight it occurred to me that I can zip up to Vancouver, an easy trip I do all the time, overnight downtown (probably see a friend too) then take a Cuba all inclusive package the next day. I just planned out itinerary and connections and it's surprisingly doable. More total hours of travel than Hawaii, but even with all flights, overnight hotel, plus all inclusive, I get a price of $1,800. All values CAD.

What do you think? Would Cuba be just as badly crowded as Hawaii? Is the Hawaii experience (definitely more exotic) worth spending the extra +$1,600 ?
 

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james, on Mar 9 we're going to Cayo Largo, Cuba, Resort Pelicano. We've been 20 times at Cuba, but for the 1st time going to Cayo Largo. This is separate island that belong to Cuba. Probably the best beaches un Carribean,. Won't be crowded as beaches 5-6 km. And price was very reasonable
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I should have added, the number of usable days in each is about the same. These costs include all flights, accommodations, food, car (Hawaii)

Hawaii 6 days = $3,400
Cuba 6.5 days = $1,800

james, on Mar 9 we're going to Cayo Largo, Cuba, Resort Pelicano. We've been 20 times at Cuba, but for the 1st time going to Cayo Largo. This is separate island that belong to Cuba. Probably the best beaches un Carribean,. Won't be crowded as beaches 5-6 km. And price was very reasonable
Thanks very interesting. I was originally thinking Varadero, I wonder if it's too crowded to enjoy in early March?
 

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I've done Cayo Coco in Cuba and really enjoyed it as well. Same concept, it's a separate island off of but connected to Cuba.
I would have said since you're already on the West Coast have you looked into Los Cabos Mexico, but from what I remember hearing the ocean is often not conducive to swimming at most places due to rocks/algae etc.
 

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james - could i ask what package companies or websites you're using?(& if possible which areas|? resort?).
I'm (somewhat?) closer to Cuba, here on the other coast. We have non-stop flight all-in packages from here, but the prices i'm seeing (selloffvacations.com mainly)( for 4*+ resorts) are comparable or more than your $1800. I'd a thought going "direct" we'd be less...
 

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Have you done an all inclusive before? The cheap ones are not great...rooms are dank, food is crappy and restrictive, can be frustrating.


If it were me I'd stick with the expensive Hawaii plan. Great beaches, great surf, great scenery, great restaurants, great everything. But you seem (overly) concerned about the money side and staying frugal on your trip, so Hawaii may be out. I don't see how you could possibly spend only $400 on food and gas for 1 week in Hawaii.

I'd go another way and suggest perhaps Cancun. Book a nice airbnb condo on the beach for $100/night. Walk the beaches, swim, take the cheap bus around and the ferry over to Isla Mujeres, snorkel the world class reefs. If you're bored rent a car and drive to Tulum and the pyramids and the cenotes, excellent stuff. Lots of people to socialize with too.

I've also done Eluthera in the Bahamas. Complete opposite. Get a rental SUV and drive around the rural, bumpy, sandy roads/trails and follow google earth to worm your way to the hidden beaches all over the place. Not super touristy or busy. Hop over to Harbour Island on the ferry for a party if desired. Also as expensive as Hawaii.

You're going alone right? Do you want to be left alone to yourself on the beach or do you want a social atmosphere and people (girls) to mingle with? Kind of the first and key question to answer for yourself, in making this decision.

Luckily, Hawaii has it all. It's the vacation answer to the questions you didn't even know you had. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I've done all inclusive to Cuba before and was very happy with it... I'd definitely enjoy that experience.

Let's pretend I don't care about price. My concern with Hawaii was just that it's so darn crowded right now. Whenever I look up bookings, I see numbers that say everything is 90% to 98% booked up and I'm starting to get the feeling it's just going to be heavy traffic and busy beaches there anyway. I'd love to go to Hawaii but have been hesitant to when I see how popular it is right now.

Would Cuba be as crowded as Hawaii, say at these resorts and beaches?
 

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I've done all inclusive to Cuba before and was very happy with it... I'd definitely enjoy that experience.
I have as well in Varadero, didn't find it overly crowded, stayed at a 5* all inclusive with reef snorkeling right out there. Any problems with you working in the US and going to Cuba right now?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I'll have to double check that, but I don't see why the US would affect me. I'm not a US citizen or permanent resident, and Cuba doesn't even stamp the passport.
 

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james - could i ask what package companies or websites you're using?(& if possible which areas|? resort?).
I'm (somewhat?) closer to Cuba, here on the other coast. We have non-stop flight all-in packages from here, but the prices i'm seeing (selloffvacations.com mainly)( for 4*+ resorts) are comparable or more than your $1800. I'd a thought going "direct" we'd be less...
I was looking at several including Sunwing, and there seem to be one week all inclusives for just $1200
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Just mention it because of the Trump factor ...
I looked into it more. You're right, it is definitely the Trump factor at play, it has changed things and I bet this immediately hit the Cuba travel prices. Obama had lifted travel restrictions for Americans to Cuba. But Trump has brought back enforcement of rules, and they're pretty restrictive. Basically the major hotels/resorts are all out of the question for Americans.

What I can't figure out, however, is whether any of this applies to me. I'm a Canadian citizen and a Canadian resident, with my primary residence in Canada (and even my primary tax jurisdiction in Canada). I'm not a US citizen or permanent resident. However, I do spend a lot of time physically in the US.

But I can't tell if that last fact makes me subject to these crazy American rules.

Any snowbirds out there? That's a situation like mine. The snowbird who has a home in Florida or something is not a US citizen. Can the snowbird go to Cuba (via Canada) or can that cause them trouble?
 

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How much is your time worth?

Double check travel times. Typically direct flights from West Coat to Hawaii are ~6 hours there 5 back

You're talking about flying to Vancouver, then taking a ~10 hr flight to Cuba? If you really want frugal there must be some closer options in Mexico, central America even
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Hawaii is the best, shortest flight option for me, and you're right -- travel time is important. I'm still trying to make Hawaii work.

With the airport I'm starting from, anything other than Hawaii (Mexico/Caribbean) involves a series of connections and very long travel any way I cut it. I ran into this problem when I went to Jamaica last year too.

I don't want to go to Mexico. I'm not comfortable with the crime situation after the recent uptick in violent crimes even in tourist areas. Travelling alone, not taking any chances.

Frugality is part of my decision but not the whole story. I'm willing to spend more $ on Hawaii versus say Dominican Republic, but up to a point. Just trying to price it out now.
 

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James, have you considered Costa Rica? My wife and I spent a fantastic week in the Papagayo area on the West coast a few years back. We enjoyed the beautiful black sand beach, incredible natural splendour and some of the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet. We'll definitely go back again.
 
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