Whether you’re a backpacker on a budget or a luxury honeymooner, Cuba has something to suit every travel style.
Until recently Havana, the capital of Cuba, has been largely closed off to the world with America’s 50-year-old embargo.
This has also meant the rich and compelling culture of the Caribbean city has been absolutely preserved, to the point where it’s almost stuck in a ’50s time warp.
Its eclectic (and somewhat ramshackle) architecture spans 600 years mixing all sorts of styles such as Moorish, Baroque, Art Deco and Neoclassical; pre-Cuban Revolution cars such as Buicks and Chevrolets line the streets; and locals are dressed in styles from traditional Cuban to Afro Cuban to 1950s-style western to modern western.
Havana’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town is an absolute must-do but there’s plenty more to this city, such as a day on the gorgeous palm-fringed beach Playas del Este or a wander along the Malecón, the city’s eight-kilometre seaside drive, best done at sunset. It’s the best place in the city to see the classic cars that Havana is famous for. Barter with the driver of a ’57 Chevy taxi here to take you around the city for an hour in style.
Cuba is synonymous with salsa, and at night most Havana bars and nightclubs turn into salsa clubs.
If you want to venture further afield, maybe you’d like to head to Pinar del Río for a cycling tour. It’s in Cuba’s western-most province, sticking out like a tail on the Caribbean island. The landscape is one of steep limestone hills, called mogotes locally, that give way to flat valleys of green. Cycling the Pinar del Río is more a journey for pleasure’s sake than a physical challenge, with the quiet roads that criss-cross the region leading to small rural villages and ample fresh air and scenery.
Or perhaps a day trip to Santa Maria del Mar is in order. With white sand and clear blue waters all around, this coastline is about a 30-minute taxi ride from Havana and will cost you about 25 bucks each way. The hardest part of your day will be deciding which beach bar to commit to.
The whole strip consists of small bars offering refreshments, beach umbrellas and chairs. Relax as the ocean laps on the shore accompanied by the distant sound of locals trying to sell hats, bracelets and massages.
If you’re up for an adventure, take the trip to Trinidad. It’s about a six-hour bus ride from Havana. This picturesque preserved colonial town is absolutely gorgeous, with brightly coloured buildings and cobblestone streets. Not to mention being located on the foothills of the Topes de Collantes national park and just 15 minutes from beautiful Playa Ancón.
A word of warning – Cuba isn’t really a turn-up-and-book-a-hotel kind of place. Making changes to holiday plans last minute isn’t always easy here. With minimal internet access and certain go-to travel sites like Airbnb blocked once inside the country, simple tasks like booking last-minute accommodation suddenly become annoyingly difficult. So make sure you research your accommodation options before you head off.