Cuba Travel Guide
Long a forbidden fruit for many an American, the relaxing of the travel embargo that has been in place between the United States and Cuba has the latter nation at a crossroads in its history.
Will the flood of incoming Yankees irreversibly change a culture that has been in isolation for more than a half a century?
While we don’t pretend to know the answer to this question, it is probably a great idea for the traveler that has been hoping to visit this country to do so as soon as possible.
One thing is for sure: massive change is on the horizon, and many of the tourist destinations that have long been unspoiled may no longer be so in the years ahead.
So if you’re hoping to explore that isolated beach, that tranquil tobacco farm, or you hope to hike up to the camp where Fidel Castro plotted his insurrection against the Batista government in the late 1950’s, there is no time better than now to experience all these things without having to worry about throngs of tourists spoiling the mood.
Currency: Cuban Pesos, Cuban Convertible Pesos
Languages: Spanish, Castilian
What To Do
Upon arrival in Cuba, spend several days exploring the streets and historical sites of Old Havana. Though much of its infrastructure has crumbled over the generations since the institution of the US trade embargo, the classic architecture found here has still retained its charming appearance.
This has made it a joy to wander around this neighborhood in Havana, as many of its buildings have been constructed in the neoclassical and Baroque styles.
From the national capitol, to numerous museums and fortresses, a stay of at least three to four days in the Cuban capital is necessary to do this UNESCO world heritage site the justice that it richly deserves.
Another fortification that is worth seeing on your trip to Cuba is Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca.
Located in the city of Santiago de Cuba on the southern coast of the country, this formidable castle was built to protect the city from marauding pirates, who had proven themselves quite the menace to this island, as they previously devastated Havana in a raid that took place in 1555.
Serving its purpose well until the late 18th century (after which it was turned into a jail for political prisoners), visitors will find its ramparts an excellent place to get panoramic photos of Santiago Bay and of the Caribbean Sea.
While Santiago contains its fair share of historical attractions, arguably the best city in Cuba for these sights is none other than Trinidad.
Basically an open-air museum of the various types of architecture that can be found throughout the Spanish Caribbean and Central America, visitors will be able to walk these cobblestoned streets for days on end without getting tired of the sights found here.
What’s more, those wanting to visit Cuba to experience its amazing beaches but are traveling with those that are more into culture will have a fantastic destination on their hands.
Playa Ancon is only a 10 kilometer ride away from the city center of Trinidad, and with it containing the same bleach white sands and aquamarine waters that other, more busier Caribbean resorts have, but without the crowds, it is a wonderful getaway for those looking for a bit of sun and sand to go with their cultural travels.
If you are a fan of Cuban cigars, then the one destination you will want to make a point of visiting while in Cuba is the Valle de Vinales.
Situated to the west of Havana, this part of the Cuban countryside is dotted with tobacco farms that are overshadowed by massive limestone karsts.
While a portion of your stay may be spent smoking authentic Cuban cigars with the farmers that helped create them, more athletic travelers will also adore this destination for its outstanding rock climbing opportunities.
If you are looking to getaway to Cuba solely for sun, sand, and endless Cuba Libres, then you will be making a wise decision by heading straight to Varadero Beach.
Situated on one of Cuba’s longest and finest Caribbean beaches, there is a seemingly endless assortment of all-inclusive resorts (which you will probably pre-book before you ever stepping on an airplane) where you can be waited on hand and foot by local workers, be able to play giant chess, and dig into buffets at any time of the day or night.
While this certainly won’t be the first choice of many travelers that have Cuba lined up in their sights, we won’t judge you if you are craving a bit of Hedonism at this point in your global backpacking adventures.
What to Eat
When you are looking to dine on authentic Cuban Cuisine, the one this you should keep a sharp eye out for is Ropa Vieja.
Translating literally into English as “old clothes”, it is named as such due to its resemblance to the shredded nature of the beef that has been stewed for hours with various vegetables.
Served on tortillas or with rice, it stands out as a brilliant exception to the usually bland nature of Cuban food.
Another outstanding main dish that one should have while in Cuba is Boliche. Consisting of a round beef roast that has been stuffed with chorizo sausages, browned in olive oil, after which it is then simmered for several hours in water that contains onion and potatoes.
This is a hearty meal that will fill you up after a long day of tramping around Colonial centers such as Trinidad or Santiago.
If you are looking for a sweet Street snack while exploring the many fascinating towns and cities of Cuba, keep your eyes out for a cart that is serving fried Maduros.
The Cuban name for sweet plantains that have been cooked in oil, it is the perfect way to end an excellent day spent exploring one of the most intriguing countries in the Americas.