Cuba is pretty much the ultimate travel destination. Facinating history, idyllic beaches, beautiful landscapes and a whole heap more to discover for yourself, in fact, there’s not really much it doesn’t have.
It’s definitely had a turbulent history, and most people in Cuba have very little, however, while you may expect to find a place worn down by its troubles, in reality it’s unlikely you will find a warmer welcome anywhere in the world; both in terms of climate and local atmosphere.
This is a place unlike anywhere else in the world, the intense communist culture of the past few decades have left Cuba in a somewhat unique condition. It’s as if time has stood still there for the past 50-odd years, giving you a taste of what life is like in a part of the world untouched by capitalism – an incredibly rare experience.
So what else makes Cuba so great? Infectious zest for life, enthusiastic dancing queens and much loved Spanish heritage? Yep, all of that, but also all of this too… Here are our picks for top things this Latin American gem has to offer.
Cruise the Streets in a Classic Car
Most parts of Cuba haven’t changed too much since the communist government came into power in 1959. Meaning there’s still a huge array of impressive colonial architecture throughout the country today, particularly in Capital city Havana, as well as a large number of classic cars.
Cruise through the streets of Havana’s old town like it’s 1959 all over again in a Cuban family heirloom, where you’ll feel like you’ve been transported smack bang into the heart of the 1950’s. For the full effect, make sure you get the driver to take you along the Malecon, a slightly surreal but charming experience, as you drive past local fishermen and kids playing on the beach.
Indulge in Some Serious Beach Time
As you can imagine, thanks to it’s position in the heart of the Caribbean, there are gorgeous beaches at almost every turn in Cuba, which to be honest, is making it hard to choose just one!
The coast line of Cuba is awash with sun drenched beaches, coconut trees and beach huts, so you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing an idyllic spot for sunbathing and snorkeling.
Cayo Coco Island, Santa Clara and Pilar beaches in central Cuba is everything that paradise should be. White sand as soft as flour, greenish water that is home to an array of colourful fish and sea turtles and hammocks swaying in the light, warm breeze, ready and waiting for your afternoon nap in the sun. Heaven.
Indulge in the local Delicacies
Cuba is the most prestigious cigar producing country in the world, so top of the list of local delicacies has to be the famous Cuban cigar.
Now, I’m not suggesting for one minute that you take up smoking, but a trip to a cigar factory such as Partagas Cigar Factory will help you to appreciate and understand the processes and importance of producing, what is arguably, Cuba’s most famous export. And, if you’re that way inclined, a little sample might not hurt – just this once (‘when in Rome’ and all that).
Cuba also has a reputation as the producer of some seriously good rum. Bacardi and Havana club both have Cuban origins, and there are a huge number of bars in the capital to get a cocktail made with an authentic tipple. For the purposes of this post the best one has to be La Terraza, the rooftop bar of The Nacional, the most famous hotel in Cuba (thanks to starry clientele such as Winston Churchill and Al Capone passing through its doors in years passed). As well as a phenomenal cocktail, you can take in the most magnificent views of Havana to be found anywhere in the city, while you drink.
Explore the Valle de Vinales
Trek or take a horse back ride to see the incredible views of Valle de Vinales in the North, a trip such as Cuba Libre will take you right up through it’s very heart.
Climb to the top of rolling green limestone hills protruding from the valley floor, explore hidden caves and tobacco fincas that are still ploughed by oxen. A trip here will introduce you to a different side to Cuba, you can book a day tour from Havana and other cities/towns on arrival in the country.
Dancing in the Streets
What is Cuba without music? It’s not the Cuba we know and love, that’s for sure. Music is woven into every part of it’s being, it’s the essence of what being Cuban is all about.
Rumba groups gather on street corners in towns and cities across the county, although most prominently in Havana, for spontaneous and outrageous bursts of dancing on a regular basis, although basically, whenever the fancy takes them. To take a look (or get involved) Callejón de Hammel is the most congested spot of dance groups so head there.