Havana, Cuba’s capital city, was amazing, We spent the whole week in Havana in the end, with a few day trips here and there. We went in March 2015, just before the first direct flights from the US started flying to Cuba.
Cuba is very tourist friendly, but there is also plenty to do to get off the beaten track, but it can be hard to plan too much before you get there, as things change quickly, so thought I’d quickly jot down my thoughts in case I can help out and give tips if anyone you know is planning on going.
Here are some Havana tips and some more from our friend Laurie too. Leave any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer, while the unbelievable experience of Cuba is still fresh in my mind!
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We stayed in the old town, and mainly just walked around, listened to music, drank rum and chilled out!
We did the staying in people’s homes option in Havana, they’re called casa particulares. We enjoyed ours in Havana a lot, I’d recommend it definitely. And Trinidad has some great looking ones.
There’s a great site for casa particulares called Cuba Junky, or also a lot on trip advisor. It’s not as easy as normal booking, you have to google them after reading about them on Cuba Junky / Trip Advisor, and email most of them. Bit long winded, and none of them have spotless reviews. But they’re worth it!
Airbnb has also just opened up in Cuba, but for US citizens only (great read in Fast Company on how they did it before the US hotel chains).
General Havana Advice
- Drink and listen to music at these (we didn’t eat at either of these):
- Cafe De Paris
- O Reilly (good for watching salsa too)
- Take insect repellent!
- Prepare to get dusty in the old town – the streets are being totally dug up
- Get out early and then have a siesta from the heat
- We ate at the restaurant next to La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana – the famous one – and really liked the food – generally the food is a bit hit and miss / samey. We mainly opted to eat the lobster – on most lunch offers for the same price as meat / fish, and gorgeous
- Buy a coco glace form Soda Obispo or the street sellers – if you like coconut ice cream, then it’s awesome
- Get the boat over to Casa Blanca – across the river for a view of the city. A nice trip that takes an hour or two and let’s you see the city
- Go to the Nacional hotel for cocktails and just to chill for the afternoon
The Guardian also has a useful article on Cuba’s best new bars, restaurants and hotels (according to them!) and their readers have also shared Cuba travel tips.
Cuba Travel Tips
Our friend Laurie stayed for about two weeks in Cuba and moved around a lot, starting and finishing in Havana. Here’s a few memories and tips that he send us
- The Old Town and Obispo are great. We spent most of our time just wandering around there, drinking, eating, people-watching, etc.
- Do all the obvious things like Floridita and Bodeguita for daiquiris, the Che memorial, etc.
- Book into La Guarida to eat, it’s a brilliant building
- Go to the Museo de la Revolucion, stroll along the Malecon drinking rum, oh and do a tour of the old Bacardi building too.
- Get a cab out to Finca Vigia which is Hemingway’s house, it’s an amazing place and really interesting (I’m a big Hemingway fan).
- Go to Coppelia for ice-cream, it’s fascinating
- One thing I didn’t do which I’d wished we had was go to the Kid Chocolate boxing gym near Capitolio (also do a tour of that) – there’s fights on a lot which would be great.
- From Havana, we took the bus west to Vinales where all the tobacco is grown.
- A beautiful place and worth stopping in if you’re passing by.
- We got the bus down to Cienfuegos next, known as the Pearl of the South.
- It is really pretty and a lot more relaxed than Havana (people will endlessly hassle you there, asking where you are from and trying to get you to go into their restaurants – it can get a little irritating after a while).
- I don’t remember much about Cienfuegos, but we stayed in a nice casa and ate some really good fish and lobster.
- Next we went down to Playa Ancon, which is a hotel on the south coast.
- It’s fairly brutal architecturally, but I like to be by the sea on my birthday so I was happy with it. We basically just lay on the beach and relaxed.
- Best thing I did here was go snorkelling about two miles out to sea over coral, which I can’t recommend enough.
- After the beach, we went to Trinidad – which was definitely my favourite place outside Havana.
- It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and is absolutely beautiful with lots of interesting building and cathedrals.
- Go to El Parque Cubano, which is a huge national park. You can walk for about an hour to get to this waterfall you can swim in, which is definitely recommended.
- One place I wish we’d gone to was Santa Clara, where there was a famous battle in the Revolution.
- There’s also a Che museum there which I wanted to see, so maybe factor that in if you can.