Cuba Cuba CUBA. The little island nation that has been unrevealed to most Americans for 50 years has finally been open for travel once again, and what a sight it is! Everyone will tell you going to Cuba is like going back in time-and they’re completely right, but not all for the reasons you think.
Cuba is absolutely extraordinary-it was the island Christopher Columbus first landed on when he reached the New World, it’s where beautiful beaches mix with beautiful people and rich history, and it’s got cities full of warm citizens and multi-colored houses. If you have the chance-take it! Cuba is not to be missed. When I traveled there in May, I was excited and nervous all at the same time. Booking an AirBnB planning out as much as I could beforehand from travel-reviewers and the like, I headed to the airport set on exploring this once-forbidden country.
Some things to keep in mind before you go:
- Cuba does not accept ANY United States debit or credit cards-even at the airport. That means that yes, you will have to carry all your cash for the whole trip with you, and if you run out of money-there is NO WAY TO GET ANY MORE. The banks do not accept any bank accounts that are American so be prepared!
- Cuba has AirBnB. While staying at an International hotel may be amazing, I opted to stay at an AirBnB in Centro Havana to really get a feel for the culture and community. Pros: I met two older men also staying at the AirBnB who were Americans who had fought for Cuban rights 50 years before, and this was the first time they had returned. 2nd Pro: AirBnB you can pay with credit/debit before you go. 3rd Pro: A mix of interesting people, a decent room, and a very very helpful host who helped to book travel, find tour guides, and gave me restaurant recommendations.
- People do not have much internet access in Cuba. It’s extremely important to try and book as much in advance before you go-if you want to take a day tour to go on a catamaran and snorkeling trip-book it before. I had a major issue trying to coordinate going to a different part of the island for a few days because I had not planned in advance
Now-for the fun stuff! Cuba is like going back in time for the few reasons I listed above, but also because America did not do any trading with Cuba for 50 years, this country is full of old-fashioned cars. Think MadMen in a beach setting!
- Go on a cigar factory tour-there are a few in Havana you can talk to your guide, host or concierge about and it’s absolutely worth it to see how they’re made by hand. Plus–the cheapest place to buy cigars is at the factory
- Take a day trip or spend a few days outside Havana. I spent a few days in Trinidad and it was so amazing to see! If you get the chance-try and take a day trip to go snorkeling or sightsee to other cities like Trinidad or Verdadero!
- Take a car tour in Havana. one hour for $20 to take you around the city of Havana in a 60’s pink Chevy convertible? Best deal in town!
- Go out to the F.A.C.=Federation del Arte Cubano- This art gallery/restaurant/bar/club is absolutely not to be missed! There’s political art from around the world, fashion designs on mannequins, live interactive art shows-and all for around $20 (for all of it!) So dine, dance and listen to DJs at this amazing place!
- Walk through the University of Havana. Beautiful architecture, and you’re sure to find a young Cuban student to talk to and hear their thoughts on the world from Cuba’s eyes
- Have a daiquiri at La Floridita. Ever wanted to drink like Hemingway? Havana was his home away from home and so having a drink at this place is a must!
- Have a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio-another place Ol’ Ernest used to drink at, this place has the best mojitos in town. Take a sip and cheers to his portrait behind the bar at this place!
- Walk along the Malecon at night. People of all ages go here at night to watch the sunset, drink, dance and eat delicious street meat. If you’re keen to see Cuban culture, hanging with new friends at the Malecon is the way to go!
- Have dinner at La Guardia. This delicious restaurant is the sight of most scenes from the Cuban movie- Fresas y Chocolate, and you can see why when you step in-the atmosphere is awesome!
- Walk around the city and meet as many people as you can! Cuba is full of interesting culture and so many friendly people who are willing to tell you about their life, invite you in for a sweet treat, and guide you around. From Trinidad to Havana, the calming nature of the country adds to a relaxing experience!
Cuba is a wonderful place to see and be. From the culture to the cuisine it’s absolutely worth a trip-whether you’re going to relax, to rejuvenate or to rejoice, everything from live music to strong delicious daiquiris can be found there. Summer’s almost over it’s time to book your trip!
(All Photos by River Callaway)