I have always wanted to visit Cuba and reading Heidi‘s blog makes me want to go even more. Read on to see Heidi’s recommendations on what to do in Cuba!
Top Five Things to Do in Cuba
Why NOW is the time to go?
Only an hour flight from Miami or a direct flight from many global hubs, the treasures of Cuba await you. This once forbidden island is bound to fascinate all. Its contrasting colors, complex, musical rhythms, and parade of classic 1950’s American cars mesmerize your eyes and ears. Meanwhile its world famous rum and cigars play with your taste buds. With over five years of travel to Cuba, let me share with you the top five things to do in Cuba.
Ride in a Classic Convertible Car
You’ve heard it many times that traveling to Cuba is like going back in time. Well, it is. Immediately, you notice the rolling museum of vibrant 1950’s American cars. Everywhere you turn and in every color imaginable there is eye-candy. When in Cuba, you must take a convertible classic car ride. It is the best YOLO souvenir that you can gift yourself. Whether in Havana, Cienfuegos, or Varadero, a classic car ride is like visiting the Fountain of Youth. Regardless of your real age, you will turn back the clock, smiling from ear to ear, throwing your hands up in the air like you don’t care, and letting the wind blow through your hair. To hire a classic car or any taxi in Cuba, always agree upon a price before getting in. I highly suggest a recorrido (tour/spin of the city), which is roughly 35-40 CUC (GBP 31-39 or USD 40-50).
Eat at Paladares
The paladar (private restaurant) scene in Cuba is exploding. What started out in the 90’s with small cafes run out of one’s home serving traditional Cuban dishes such as roasted pork, malanga (taro), moros (beans and rice), and flan has morphed into global Cuban fusion cuisine, no longer served out of one’s home, but instead larger, multi-level restaurants. Prices vary depending on the location you choose as well as your tastes. Expect 15-25 CUC per person for dinner (approximately GBP 13-22 or USD 17-29). Also, it is customary to leave a tip of 10% at restaurants and bars.
Explore the Art Scene
Whether its mural paintings, sculptures, or mosaic work, art is found around every corner in Cuba. Be prepared to be shocked at the ingenuity of Cuban artists. Without the art supplies of the modern world because of the continued U.S. Embargo, Cuban artists improvise using repurposed items like old washing machines, car parts, and typewriters to make sculptures while implementing untraditional tools for creating all forms of art. Across the country, you will find arts and craft markets, artistic community projects, and private galleries to admire the creativity and perhaps purchase a souvenir. If in Havana, don’t miss these two art hotspots: Fusterlandia, a mosaic neighborhood done by Jose Fuster, and the Fábrica de Arte Cubano (Cuban Art Factory or FAC), which is a converted warehouse turned multi-media art gallery and entertainment center.
Go to a Show or Two
In Cuba, you must take in a show or two. It would be a huge faux pas to leave without experiencing the dynamic sounds, rhythms, and non-stop energy of Cuban bands. Sometimes having as many members as a football team, Cuban musical groups come with not one, but multiple percussionists, singers, horn players, guitarists, and dancers. Cubans take the adage of the more the merrier to whole new level. When in Havana, the two most popular shows are the famous cabaret, Tropicana, and one of the various Buena Vista Social Club performances. Although shows start at 10pm or 11pm, you won’t doze off during the shows. In fact, most show tickets include rum and mixers. With the combination of libations and lively music, most spectators end up dancing on stage with some of the performers. Outside of the capital, ask for the local Casa de la Música (music house). Most towns have one with a combination of live music and DJs in the evenings.
Enjoy the Moment
Every city or town in Cuba has a main square (Plaza Mayor), promenade, or seawall that is the local hotspot and meeting place. In Havana, this place is the Malecón, the ocean boulevard. After 5pm, you will witness groups of friends, entire families, musicians, and lovers getting together to relax, sing, dance, drink, and enjoy the moment; thus, it got its nickname as the world’s largest sofa. Join in the fun by putting on a pair of good walking shoes and bringing some small coins and bills 1, 2, 3, 5 CUC (GBP 0.90-4.50 or USD 1.15-5.75) with you to buy mani (peanuts), sweets, or drinks from local vendors. With Cubans being very friendly and curious, don’t be alarmed if many interact with you, trying to dance with you or even practicing their English, French, or other languages. There is very little to worry about. Violent crime is almost non-existent. Just be careful with your purse or wallet like you would in Paris, New York City, or London.
Cuba is fascinating. After nearly thirty trips to Cuba, its culture and people continue to amaze me. NOW is the time to discover Cuba and its riches for yourself. If you are interested in more info before you go, check out my book, Cubicle to Cuba, and my blog http://www.heidisiefkas.com/blog
Have you been to Cuba?