Explore Cuba

Explore Cuba
Feature Image: Kamira / Shutterstock.com
White sandy beaches, Havana Club rum, old colonial buildings, pristine American classic cars, and a steady stream of music flowing into the streets – the Cuban experience. Many travellers stick to the all inclusive resorts which offer all the amenities and some of the best beach spots, but if you want to experience the Cuban culture, venture out from the resorts.

The pace of life is slower in Cuba, so if you have the time to travel the island, take at least 2 weeks. Visit the hot spots in Havana, trace the life of Ernest Hemingway, see a  show at the Tropicana, tour a Cuban cigar factory, and stroll the Malecon at night with all the locals. Take a few beach days in Varadero and then travel to Vinales for some amazing scenery. Wind your way through the smaller towns (watch out for the ox on the road), but most of all chat with the locals.

Places to Visit in Cuba

  • Santiago
  • Varadero
  • Havana
  • Trinidad
  • Vinales
  • Baracoa
  • Guardalavaca
  • Playa Giron

Unique Things to See and Do in Cuba

  • Hang out with the locals on the Malecon
  • See a show at the Tropicana in Havana
  • Bask in the sun on Varadero’s white sandy beaches
  • Catch a marlin
  • Check out the views at the Valley de los Ingenious in Trinidad
  • Photograph the colonial architecture in Baracoa
  • Trek through the Vinales National Park
  • Dance salsa all night long!

Will Cuba Change?

Everyone is clamouring to get to Cuba before the changes set in – a result of the Cuban government and the United States of America opening up their doors to trade and lifting the embargo. Many spectators believe that Cuban government will open its doors to US companies allowing fast-food chains, big-box stores, and all the classic American companies you see in other popular tourist destinations. But that’s not what you hear on the streets of Cuba. Most Cubans love their way of life, their culture, their music, and yes even their food (which isn’t as bad as everyone thinks). What Cubans don’t like is poverty or the inability progress. Others speculate that the Cuban government won’t be so quick to change and that they will moderate the trade and give preferential treatment for Cuban citizens.

So what does that mean for the average tourist? The Cuban government heavily protects tourism and institutes programs to promote tourism and related spend. There are a couple of ways they do this. One way is by using the Cuban Convertible Peso, which is only used in Cuba specifically for creating a money exchange where the government collects interests on the exchange rate (which is matched up with the US dollar). Since this currency is only available in Cuba, it means you have to exchange foreign monies to get it when you arrive, and exchange any funds left over from your trip when you leave.

Another protection is the safety of tourist areas. Cuba is incredibly safe, particularly in resort towns like Varadero, because the government has created a pseudo “gated-community” where Cubans must sign in and out. Plus they have police patrolling the streets to ensure tourists’ safety. This means you don’t have the same crime you’d experience in other countries and it protects the financial interest, but it also feels a bit strange.

Many of the ‘servers’ are doctors and lawyers because they can make more money through tips than through their professional designations. In Cuba, education is provided by the state, and so is a certain ration of food, housing, and medical. This means that every Cuban is covered minimally and only those with connections reap the benefits of luxury items.

Did you know…?

Tobacco is Cuba’s second largest export. Sugar is actually the largest.

Handrolling a Cuban Cigar

Did you ALSO know…?

Cuba’s shores are a popular destination for scuba diving. Some of the best coral reefs reside here.

The real joy of Cuba for most tourists, and social scientists, is that Cuba was effectively cut off from the world in terms of trade and had to become self-sufficient because of it. Since 1960 exports were banned and then a couple of years later imports were banned. The Cuban people went through some real hardships switching to an agricultural based community to support feeding the people. The fascinating part of these changes is how Cuban society stagnated in terms of technological growth.

Travelling to Cuba feels like you are stepping back in time, when classic cars dominated the roads. Old Spanish style villas are still in their original state, without modern renovations. This is what everyone fears will change. However, many of the beautiful buildings from the Spanish Colonial days are falling down into rubble because there are no funds restore them. What most people are hoping for is that restoration/preservation will happen without strings attached. Starbucks is a reliable coffee house in North America, but just like when you travel to Italy you don’t want Starbucks, you want the local flavour.

Getting Around Cuba

Driving a rental car is the best way to get around Cuba. You can see the countryside, stop for picnics, and meet the locals. Just recently the government has allowed Cubans to be named on rentals, but should an accident happen you’ll have to cover the cost of the repairs. Double check prior to renting. You can also take domestic flights to most major cities to save on travelling time.

Travelling around Cuban cities is so much fun. Be sure to take a taxi in the old American classics – restored and well taken care of, these cars are a major part of what makes Cuba so colourful. Also, be sure to view the cities by horse and carriage rides or the more popular motorized vehicles called “Coco taxis.”

Best Time of Year to Travel to Cuba

Most travellers hit the Caribbean during the winter months to escape cold conditions elsewhere, which means prices can get a little pricey due to demand. In terms of weather, the best season to travel in is the dry season lasting from November to April. The rainy season is from May to October. June to August are the hottest months, even for Cubans. The temperatures can reach a high of 38C. June to November is hurricane season with September and October usually experiencing the most, but overall Cuba is well equipped for hurricanes.

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