If you read the Lonely Planet guide, you may be wondering whether it is worth going all the way to Playa Larga, particularly if you follow the instructions that the book provides (...having to request a bus stop and so on- none of this applies any more, further details below). But if you do decide to go over there, just make sure that you stay at this casa. Mayelin y Oriol are a wonderful couple and you will be treated like royalty.
The casa is a lovely building that Oriol has managed to acconditionate and extend in the last couple of years- it has got a ground floor with the main dining/breakfast area and a separate guest bedroom, a first floor with one room, plus a mirador where you can sit and peacefully observe the sunset.
We had the room at the top, a massive 2-bed room with en-suite bathroom. We slept like babies, after eating like kings and drinking a couple of Cubanero beers, enjoying the company of the family. Soft memory mattress beds, comfortable pillows. Could not fault it.
The room had air con plus a fan, but the room was kept at a lovely temperature thanks to the position Oriol had built the room and the fact the glasses in the windows are slightly tinted and reflect the sun. Great idea!
We had a fridge with beers, refreshments, water etc. The bathroom was spotless, hot water on demands, powerful shower (I managed to drop the shower head and broke it, but Oriol refused to let me pay for it...)
The food was absolutely fantastic, you will be asked what your preference for breakfast is and the time, and then you should get ready for a massive, excellent breakfast, warm bread, cake, biscuits, toasts, eggs, tropical fruit, plenty of coffee, tea. You will struggle to finish all the food! But do so, as providing it represents a massive effort.
Oriol made sure that we, as clients, had the best possible experience and he went to great lengths to make sure we enjoyed our time; for example, I mentioned that we would like to try traditional cuban food and every dinner he made sure that his kitchen served us anything from caldosa (traditional Cuban soup) to lobster, lovely and massive grilled pork steaks, and even one night he surprised us with Spanish rice (paella) in my honour, as I am Spanish. They simple went the extra mile and if you can, just take time to learn about their lives.
The casa is 30 seconds from the beach, at the back, so you could literally hop off your bed and you would appear in the sand. At the time we went, it was a peaceful, empty, clean sand beach. True, there are not many facilities like loungers and parasols, but you can make do with a sarong and pitch yourself under the palm trees that a fantastic older man still living there planted some 50 years ago (look out for him, he comes out of his casa and stares at the sea, does some exercises, go talk to him and you will learn about this part of Cuba!).
In terms of trips, Oriol gave us a list of all the services and prices, so you know well before hand what everything was going to be. No hard sell or pushy tactics, we booked a trip to see the pink flamingos in the natural reserve and it was great. We also booked to be taken to Cienfuegos in Oriol's brother's classic car.
It is really easy to get in contact with Mayelin as she is able to make reservations via internet, everything confirmed and when we got to the casa all was sorted.
How to get there- easy. Forget what the Lonely Planet says, at Havana Viazul bus station we bought a ticket to Playa Larga. It costed 13 CUC per person. The bus took us from Havana to Entronque de Jaguey. There, the bus stopped for everybody to have a coffee at the cafeteria. A few minutes later another bus appeared and we were told to get in. This second bus stops outside Maleton, and from there is 5 minutes walk to Casa Playa Larga (really, Maleton is tiny, but lovely)
I you are looking for a resortey feeling, you are clearly in the wrong part of Cuba- but if you want to simply relax by the sea, eat well, sleep well, and be treated like a family member, you know where to go. Mayelin y Oriol will alway be part of our fantastic memories in Cuba, we were made to feel like family members and that it simply something that you would be silly to miss the chance to stay with them.