Cuba is a wonderful country that will no doubt blow your senses. It is a beautiful place to visit and an exciting time for the country and its people as everything is changing so quickly.
Here is my list of 10 things not to miss when you visit Cuba:
#1 Stay in a Casa
This was on of the most memorable experiences of my visit to Cuba and certainly one of the must do things in Cuba. Casa Particulares are homestays with local Cubans who rent out their house to supplement their incomes. A casa particulare can be identified by the blue sign that is hung outside the residence. A night at a Casa will cost around 20 to 30 CUC and often meals can be purchased for an additional 5 to 10 CUC per meal. These meals were some of the best I experienced whilst in Cuba and were excellent value.
#2 Walk the Malecon
The Malecon is an 8km stretch along the coast in Havana. You will see many locals in this area from couples enjoying sunsets, teenagers playing football, men fishing and kids jumping into the ocean. The Malecon is a great spot to enjoy the sunset and a casual stroll.
#3 Visit Vinales
Vinales is located around 3 hours from Havana and can easily be visited in a day trip or to really experience the area stay for a couple of days. Tobacco farms are highly prevalent in this area and it is here you can learn how to roll your own cigar! The landscape is stunning in this area and no visit would be complete without seeing the area from horseback. There are numerous horse riding operations in the area ranging in lengths of time from 1 hour to all day adventures.
#4 Cycle the Roads of Cuba
You will quickly find there aren’t many cars on the road of Cuba. Between the cities you will find there are 8 lane highways and often you will be the only car on the road. This makes for perfect cycling conditions. The landscapes of Cuba are stunning and you will never be bored if you decide to cycle this wonderful country.
# 5 Eat at a Paladar
A paladar is a local cuban restaurant. These are very local restaurants located in residential neighbourhoods. You won’t find a more Cuban experience than this!
#6 Explore Havana in a 50s car or Coco-taxi
No visit to Cuba is complete without experiencing the country in the old 50s American cars. A one hour tour of the city in one of these cars will cost between 17 and 25 CUC and is worth it just for the experience. Alternatively, there are many companies offering day tours from Havana that utilise these cars. Alternatively, you will see many of the Coco-taxi’s (though I preferred to call them the Coco-mobiles) driving around Havana. These are a fun way to the city and shouldn’t be missed.
#7 Wander the Streets of Old Havana
Walk down the Paseo del Prado, a lovely tree-lined avenue to discover Havana’s most exquisite buildings. Or head to Plaza Vieja(Old Square) a world heritage site that has been beautifully restored and a thriving area of Havana. Walk without a map, get lost and explore all the Havana has to offer.
#8 Experience the world heritage site of Trinidad
Trinidad is a small colonial town nestled between the beautiful beaches of Playa Ancon and the nearby Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), both part of the UNESCO heritage site. Here you will find a relaxed town, where not much has changed since its colonial founding in 1514 as the centre of sugar trade. In the town, you will find a number of small craft shops, cigar stores, local artwork and locals relaxing on the street. Almost everywhere you turn, you will find a rooftop restaurant serving fresh seafood and Cuban music.
# 9 Snorkel the Coral Reefs
Cuba has some of the best snorkelling in the world and one of the top 50 coral reefs in the world. Cuba’s coral reefs have remained relaitvely unspoiled unlike similar reefs in the Caribbean as they haven’t seen large number of tourists. Snorkelling is an enjoyable experience in Cuba as boats are minimal. If you do choose to go snorkelling, make sure you use a reputable operator who has an interest in conservation.
#10 See the Beaches
Cuba has some of the most stunning beaches in the world that have remained relatively unspoiled unlike many other beaches in the world. To see the best of Cuba’s beaches head to Cayo Largo del Sur, a tiny island off the Southern Coast of Cuba. Alternatively, you could also visit beautiful beaches in Playa Ancon (close to Trinidad), Cayo Guillermo, Veradero or pretty much any part of the Cuban coast line. The beaches of Veradero are the most popular areas with tourists, and whilst the beaches are beautiful you won’t get to experience the real Cuba.
It’s no secret that Cuba is changing and changing rapidly. There is no better time than now to visit Cuba before it changes forever!
Have you been to Cuba? What do you recommend not to miss?
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