By George Burden | Medial Post
It may earn me the enmity of several large hotel chains, but I’m going to let avid golfers in on a little secret. You can live and golf like a millionaire in Varadero, Cuba, on a three-star budget.
Instead of fighting a multinational horde of crazed vacationers to the buffet, you can sleep and dine in an exclusive five-star mansion right on the Varadero Golf Course—and your green fees are included. I was staying at an all-inclusive resort up the road, but had the chance to check out a different style of vacationing.
Upon entering the Mansion Xanadu, you’ll think you’ve gone through a time warp to the elegant days of the 1930s when tuxedoed industrialists rubbed elbows with noted mobsters (Al Capone’s villa is just up the beach).
The former residence of the Dupont family (yes, THOSE Duponts), Mansion Xanadu was built between 1928 and 1930 by Cuban architects Govantes and Cabarrocas.
It features an amalgamation of Art Deco and traditional Spanish Colonial architectural styles incorporating huge amounts of rich tropical woods, high ceilings and tooled columns reminiscent of Columbus’s 16th century villa in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The original furniture, chosen by Monsieur Irenee Dupont de Nemours himself, remains in this former residence.
An atmosphere of hushed luxury envelops you as you head for the private elevator to the third- floor Casablanca bar. Ample windows offer views of Varadero, including the beach. The white-shirted, black-tied bartender, Ruben, will make you the “best daiquiri in Cuba.” I believe him. His mojitos are also unequaled, and he also makes a darn good rum punch. After all, he uses only the freshest of mint and fresh fruit juices, supplemented with premium Cuban aged rum.
After a drink, most tourists, assuming they could never afford to stay in such luxury, leave. Ever curious, I pursued things a little further and asked the doorman for a little more information. It turns out that Mansion Xanadu has six rooms for rentó rooms that appear to have changed little from the 1930s in atmosphere and opulence. They are on the second floor of the hotel but are off limits to those not staying there. I asked the price of the rooms and was stunned to learn I could stay there for about what a second-rate hotel in Toronto or Montreal would cost: $120 US single or $150 US double per night. This includes breakfast and all green fees!
Okay, on to the golf course. The original, built for Dupont’s personal use, was only nine holes. You can see old photos in the pro shop of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Fidel Castro teeing off on the course. About five years ago, nine more holes were added to complete today’s par 72, PGA-approved eighteen-hole course.
The manicured course sprawls along the Varadero peninsula with ocean views on both sides. In keeping with a beach locale, the course incorporates plenty of sand traps and water hazards. Skeptics and all-inclusive hotel PR reps are now saying, “Yes, but lunch and supper aren’t included. What about meals?”
Food in Xanadu is prepared or supervised by internationally experienced chef Carlos Albelo, and you can sample his cuisine in the opulent Red Room or Library Room of the hotel. The menu is international in selection and standard, unlike the sometimes dubious buffet fare at the all-inclusives, and at a good price. A good selection of wine is also available.
I did a little mental calculation and added the cost of airfare only to Varadero plus a double room at Mansion Xanadu. Restaurants are quite inexpensive in Cuba, and I discovered the expense of food would be mostly offset by the complimentary green fees. With a sinking feeling, I came to the conclusion that a week of holidaying like a millionaire would cost little more than a week at our all-inclusive up the beach.
I should point out that the Mansion Xanadu is located on a small rocky promontory, but the gorgeous Varadero beach is a short walk away (closer than from my room at the resort where I was staying). There is no pool, and it has no facilities oriented to young children. But even for non-golfers with a taste for luxury, it represents good value, and the hotel is an unparalleled bargain for golfers.
I know where I’m staying next year!
George Burden is a GP from Elmsdale, N.S., and co-author of the book “Amazing Medical Stories.”
Domains for sale by Havana Journal: