Top 10 Things to See and Do
1. Visit the famous Havana Club Museum of Rum for a guided tour which demonstrates the complex brewing process that produces Cuba’s world-famous rum! A measure of rum is included in the ticket price and there is a bar onsite, but we would recommend reconvening in the Los Dos Hermanos Bar next door, where the legendary Cuba Libre drink was invented.
2. One of the most iconic sights of Havana is the boldly coloured classic cars that cruise its chaotic streets – so why not explore the city from inside one, on a classic car tour! Although you can pre-book several tours, we would recommend forgoing the hassle and simply going down to Parque Central, where you will be able to pick the colour and model you like best; at roughly £5 for an hour, you’re unlikely to find a better bargain in Cuba!
3. Easily one of the finest restaurants in Havana, La Guarida’s famous reputation precedes it (it was the location in which the film Fresa y chocolate was filmed). Located on the top floor of a ramshackle Havana mansion, it is a favourite with visiting celebrities and offers a somewhat eccentric, captivatingly bohemian atmosphere in addition to an innovative fine dining experience.
4. For an unforgettable experience (and unrivalled photo opportunities!) head to Varadero to take a dip alongside the playful native dolphins; multiple tour operators offer the chance to swim with these majestic creatures, and dolphin shows are also common at various resorts along the coast.
5. The Vinales region in Western Cuba is well known for its large network of mysterious caves; take a tour and explore some of these beautifully rugged nooks and caverns either on foot or by boat.
6. Cuban cigars are one of the country’s most famous exports, and Cuba’s tobacco is almost as legendary as its rum! Visit the hallowed plantations where it is grown in Vinales, and experience the processes of harvesting and drying the tobacco before converting it in those celebrated cigars.
7. The inimitably regal Capitolio building was once the seat of Cuban government, and is Havana’s most architecturally astonishing building. Modelled on the Capitol Building in Washington DC (although standing a few metres shorter as government officials stole marble to build their own houses!) it took 5000 workers over three years to build, and now houses an interesting assortment of museums.
8. The serene turquoise waters of Varadero are a haven for a variety of different water sports: there are ample sailing opportunities around the Veradero Marina, and the deep-sea fishing is supposedly superior even to that found off the Florida coast!
9. Havana’s Museum of the City is a stately baroque-style building that dominates the Plaza de Armas; once the Palace of the Captains General, it now boasts a diverse art collection containing paintings, porcelains, bronzes, silvers and ornate furniture of great historical value, as well as the remarkable ‘Hall of Flags’.
10. Cuba’s most untamed stretch of wilderness and the Caribbean’s largest wetlands, the Zapata swamp is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and home to the endangered Cuban crocodile. The hiking opportunities are endless, and this is also the best place in Cuba to enjoy the country’s diverse and colourful birds.
Top 10 Honeymoon Experiences
1. As evening falls, pay a visit to the picturesque garden terrace of the National Hotel; relax as you sip indescribably delicious mojitos and watch the sun go down, listening to the intoxicating rhythms of traditional Cuban music.
2. Undoubtedly the most romantic 8 kilometre stretch you will find anywhere in Havana (and possibly the whole of Cuba) the soulful Malecón is an achingly beautiful sea-drive that is a must-do for all loved-up newlyweds; a long-established meeting place for various lovers, poets, philosophers and wistful travellers, the Malecón is at its most evocative at sunset, when all the hopeless romantics in the city seem to descend upon it.
3. The translucent sapphire waters of Cuba are a snorkeler’s paradise, and dive sites are abundant up and down the coast. With a diverse marine life and some of the worlds largest reefs, professional and eternally friendly diving companies are keen to share Cuba’s underwater world with visitors, no matter what their level of experience!
4. Keen golfers are in luck in Vandero, where a Par 72 golf course never fails to impress; with breathtaking views and a cutting-edge design, many hotels in the area make this luxurious course more accessible with reduced Green Fees
5. Enjoy a delicious lunch on the rooftop of the elegant Saratoga, where you can enjoy astonishing 360 degree panoramic views of Old Havana and the grandiose Capitolio building.
6. Rapidly making a name for itself as Havana’s trendiest district, be sure to visit Varadero on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night to sample the excellent restaurants, exciting nightlife and electric atmosphere.
7. If there is one consistent certainty to be found in Cuba, it is the beauty of its beaches; stretches of palm-fringed, sandy blond shores are bathed by turquoise waters, the views are spectacular and the levels of relaxation nothing short of exquisite.
8. With sparse traffic, relatively flat terrain and abundant natural beauty, the Vinales Valley is ideal cycling territory. Explore the fertile green tobacco fields, rugged caves and endearing campesino huts - and be sure to pack some rum and lime for that all-important sunset mojito at one of the endless beauty spots!
9. No trip to Cuba would be complete without throwing your inhibitions out of the window with a passionate, no-holds-barred bout of salsa dancing! With the seductive salsa rhythms pulsating through just about any city or town in the country – floating hypnotically through open windows and tumbling out of raucous salsa bars – you’d be hard pressed to avoid instinctively joining in anyway!
10. With its unremittingly varied landscape of towering mountains, flat-topped, pincushion hills (known as mogotes), vast plains, hidden caves and tangles of tropical forest, Cuba is a hikers dream terrain. There are a variety of trails on offer and guides are knowledgeable and effusively friendly, whether you’re looking for a challenging overnight adventure among the rugged mountains, or a sedate afternoon admiring nature in the fertile wetlands.
Top 10 Family Experiences
1. With its crystal clear, cobalt blue waters stretching lazily outwards to melt with the sky on the far horizon, it is no surprise that water sports are one of Varadero’s primary attractions – and it is an area more than equipped to cater to the whole family! Go kayaking in the shallows with the little ones, hire jet skis, or take diving lessons and explore the explosively colourful coral reefs that shimmer beneath the turquoise waters.
2. Get off the beaten track with a family horseback ride in the Vinales Valley, one of Cuba’s most spectacular natural landscapes. Visit local farms, tobacco plantations, and explore hidden corners only accessible on horseback.
3. If salsa is Cuba’s heartbeat and rum its lifeblood, then Baseball is its fierce competitive streak! To get in on some of the action of the national sport, head down to Parque Central on the edge of old Habana, where locals gather daily to play – or, if you fancy a more polished performance, book a seat at the Estadio Latinoamericano stadium, the home of Havana’s two main teams.
4. Follow the thrumming pulse of Havana to where it beats the strongest at one of the regular Rumba spots around the city; one of the most lively Rumbathons takes place in the colourfully painted alley of Callejón de Hammel on Sundays, when several bands converge and play.
5. Rising high over the city atop Catalanes hill, the Plaza de la Revolucion is a must on any family itinerary, given its enormous cultural and historical importance. A key location for various marches and festivities, it contains an impressive memorial of José Martí and a bronze silhouette of the legendary Che Guevara.
6. Sure to be a hit with the kids, the Museo de Chocolate is a chocoholics paradise located in Havana’s old town. Discover artefacts mapping the history of Cuban chocolate and watch the chocolates and truffles being made, before sampling some drinking chocolate for yourself at the end of the tour!
7. For the chance to see elephants, lions and rhinos, head to the sprawling Parque Zoologico Nacional, open from 9am – 3.30pm from Wednesday through Sunday.
8. Explore the historic sugar mills of the Valle de Ingenios by stream train, immersing yourself in the sights and smells of rural Cuba as you chug through the breathtaking heart of the countryside.
9. Take a family fishing trip to one of the many excellent marinas and deep sea fishing locations scattered along the coast of Varadero; with some of the best deep sea fishing conditions anywhere in the world, it is a fantastic place to stoke (or ignite) your passion for the sport!
10. Finally, gather up your buckets and spades, pack the sun cream, stretch out the towels on the warm sandy shores of Cuba’s blissful beaches and relax – you’ve earned it!
Culture in Cuba
With a diverse heritage built on the raw passion and drama of revolution, Cuba’s culture is one of irrepressible colour, passion, art and of course, music. Also a heavy hitter on the literary scene, Cuba has produced many important writers and poets of international acclaim. Many aspects of its culture are influenced by other prominent world cultures such as European, African and North American, and this is reflected in its multiethnic population.