Every travelista has their bucket list of places they want to experience, Cuba has been on the top of my list for many years and in May I finally got the chance to explore the Caribbean island and it was a wonderful experience. There is an increasing hype around travel to Cuba and the destination has become very popular recently, especially with the travel restrictions for American tourist becoming more relaxed. My trip to Cuba was amazing, from the culture, to the people, the activities and beaches.
I was there for nine days and was able to explore a few areas of the island. The great thing about Cuba was there are a lot of provinces each with a different feel, so it provided great variety to the holiday.
Areas to Explore
You cannot come to Cuba without experiencing Havana. Havana is such a vibrant city that has an energetic vibe. Wondering through the streets and soaking up the atmosphere is all part of Havana’s appeal. I stayed at Telegrafo hotel which is located centrally, which was ideal for getting around the city by foot or car. There are some great attractions to visit in Havana, such as The Havana Club Rum Museum were I was able to sample multiple free shots! The Partagas Cigar factory was also really interesting.
A must when visiting Havana is taking a tour of the city in a vintage car, I felt very old Hollywood cruising through the streets. I did two tours around the city by day and night in these beautiful classic cars. It was a great way to see the city and the guides were really knowledgeable in explaining the history of Havana. What I really enjoyed about Havana was just the feel of the city. There is music on every corner, live bands, and the locals were so friendly and welcoming.
Another area that I was based in was Veradero. Veradero is very touristy and the majority of the all-inclusive resorts are located here. Anyone that knows me knows that I love chilling on the beach and the resort that I was staying in was the perfect location. The Malia Marina Resort was located right next to Veradero beach. Even though Veradero beach is technically the Atlantic ocean as it is on the north side of the island, it is still gorgeous. It has white sand and crystal clear waters and due to the time of year it was not crowded, which was ideal for relaxing. I spent my time on the beach relaxing from the hustle of everyday life with a mojito, a good book, and Reggaeton playing in the background.
Despite the beach being great, to get the most out of a trip to Cuba you have to explore the island, so even though I was based in an all-inclusive for the first four days I still made sure I ventured beyond the walls of the hotel.
I travelled to the nearby province of Mantanza City by a jeep Safari tour. This tour was excellent as it allowed you to travel through local towns and even involved visiting a farm where a local woman invited us into her house to experience how real Cubans are living. We were also able to have drinks by the Canimar River and even take a speed boat out on the water. The highlight of the tour was the stunning Saturno cave, where you could take a dip or snorkel in this underground oasis.
Another area I would recommend travelling to is Guama; beyond the beautiful countryside it also has a few cool attractions on the way such as a crocodile farm and an Indian Village replica of the original inhabitants. I also travelled to the Bay of Pigs to learn about the Cuban revolution history and it was another chance to go the beach but on the south side of the island to swim in the Caribbean Sea.
Cuban hotels are not to the same standards as other Caribbean islands and you are not going to find a true five star hotel if you are looking for luxury. However I found my hotel and resort experience satisfactory as they were just a base for me. Many people choose to stay in a Casa, which is a guesthouse. I decided against this option as I have been to the Caribbean before and experienced guest houses so I did not believe it would add anything to my experience of Cuba.
The food in Cuba can be pretty bland and basic due to the limited resources in the country. Also it was quite common for restaurants not to have dishes on the menu due to a lack of ingredients. Despite this you can still find nice places to eat especially if you avoid very touristy areas and eat where the locals go. On my travels I found some great places to eat ranging in price range.
If you want to be a little bit boogie my top recommendation for Cuban fine dining is La Guarida, like most restaurants in Havana the appearance outside is of an old crumbling building, but once inside it has a cool retro 1950’s feel. Another restaurant were the food was really tasty but slightly on the pricier side was El Gijones.
A cheaper place to eat was the food stalls by Tropicoco beach on a Sunday, this beach is popular amongst the locals in Havana and there was numerous stalls by the beach with cheap local food. Another eatery was a cosy local restaurant in the side streets of Havana called Mango Habana.
Even though I have checked Cuba off the top of my bucket list I will definitely return to explore more of the island in the future. The only real downside is Cuba can be expensive in terms of hotels, food and excursions. However it can also be experienced on a budget. If you are looking to relax, have an adventure and experience some culture then Cuba is the place to be.
Look out soon for my next travel blog X
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Let me introduce myself, i'm Caron a London based blogger.