If you are eyeing a first-ever, or return visit to Cuba this year, be aware that a lot of new things are going on there. One of the most interesting and important is the expansion of air service to the island nation, which means you can now access some of the most desirable fishing in Cuba by flying directly to a regional city, bypassing Havana entirely. Yes, Havana is interesting, and the chance to experience it is an important reason many anglers want to go to Cuba. But don’t be fooled: the city is full of tourists these days as thousands of new travelers pour into the streets from cruise ships and swarm into José Martí International Airport. There is a critical shortage of hotel space. Price gouging is rife, even at once-cheap paladares, or privately owned restaurants, we hear. As for hotel space, if you book a trip that involves an overnight in Havana, be absolutely sure your agent or outfitter has confirmed you actually have a room waiting for you. The lastminute cost of a hotel room in Havana (if you can find one) is approaching New York City levels.
To be sure, that does not mean anyone is having a bad time in Havana. It’s still one of the most interesting places in the world to visit. Be sure you see the Revolution Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, if you go there. Stroll El Malecón. Visit the famous hotels and shows. Marvel at the colonial architecture and mourn the crumbling condition of a lot of it. Get your picture taken with the bronze statue of Hemingway at El Floridita bar. Drink a mojito there. If you have passed through Havana recently, we’d love to hear what your experience was like. We will treat your contact as confidential or on the record. Please specify which you prefer. Write: [email protected].
Another interesting wrinkle in Cuba fishing travel is the pricing situation. Some of the more expensive fishing trips in the world are now being conducted in Cuba, some of them aboard motherships, which do not command super-high prices in other parts of the world. Clearly, a seller’s market in fishing trips has developed in Cuba. When a lot of people want to buy the same limited commodity, that’s what happens. The pricing situation is so fluid it is definitely worth your time to click around the Internet a bit before committing to any given offer. Price the agency offers against those posted on outfitter websites such as: Avalon (cubanfishingcenters.com); Fly Fishing the Run (flyfishingtherun.com); Cuba Welcome (cubawelcome.com); and Mayo Oldiri (mayoldirifishing.com). I’ll have more to say about that latter firm in a moment.
By suggesting you do some price comparison before buying, I’m not suggesting that agents are marking anything up unfairly. I’m suggesting merely that prices are very fluid right now and as subject to supply/demand bulges as airline ticket prices. At least two agents whose websites we visited as this was written were not indicating Cuba trip prices at all, counseling browsers to call for details. That is something we have not ever seen before on fishing websites.
As regards the above-mentioned outfitting company, Mayo Oldiri, it has been involved in Cuba since 2006 catering mostly to European clients at an area on the north coast. It lost that area to another company a while back and has now developed a very interesting mothership and hotel-based program on the southern side of the country. The hotel part of the program is based on the southern coast of Isla de la Juventud, and the mothership program is based in the Cayos de San Felipe, in the open ocean west of the Isla de la Juventud. The mothership leaves from the Town of La Coloma about 125 miles southwest of Havana. Importantly, mothership clients can depart for La Coloma and board the mothership the same day they arrive in Cuba, avoiding the cost and logistical hassles of overnighting in Havana.
Hotel clients do have to overnight in Havana. We are not about to say great things about the fishing at these venues because we do not have any firsthand experience. If you have firsthand experience, please weigh in. A place on our Subscriber Honor Roll is open to the first subscriber to file a detailed report. Write: [email protected].
In the meantime, I am comfortable crawling out on a limb and saying these two fisheries could be terrific. Cayos de San Felipe, on the Google map of Cuba, looks a lot like the islands that make up Jardines de la Reina Archipelago, and Oldiri says they are just as unspoiled and have been just as protected. As for Isla de la Juventud, the Avalon fishery there, on the other side of the island, was off the charts in the early days. It is the only place I have ever—and I do mean ever—caught three tarpon over 130 pounds in a single day. Avalon, by the way, is no longer operating a hotel-based program on Isla de la Juventud. Its Isla de la Juventud trips are all mothership based at this point.
I won’t go into detail about the Oldiri fisheries. You can read about them yourself on the Oldiri Fishing website (mayoldirifishing.com. Click on the Flag of England icon to read the site in English.) The site is not very informative as this is written (there are no prices, for example), but Oldiri says a new site is under construction. In the meantime, the prices I was given for these trips are very low, relative to the cost of a lot of other Cuban fishing trips. Oldiri has two mothership options in the Cayos de San Felipe. The lower-cost mothership outing costs $3,100 for five days of fishing, six nights of accommodation. The more expensive mothership trip costs $4,200 for a trip of the same duration. As for the hotelbased trip option, the price I was given is only $2,400! That includes two nights in Havana, the flight to Isla de la Juventud, and five days of guided fishing. We will pass along more information as soon as we can get our hands on it.