Cuba

With the recent ease in American travel restrictions to Cuba, and the start of resuming US commercial flights between the US and Cuba, the island is expecting a few million more tourists a year, just from the US alone. If you can, try to plan a trip this year as tourism is likely to greatly change the country in the years ahead. A week is good amount of time to spend in Cuba, but if you can try to stay for two so you can explore Cienfuegos and Trinidad in central Cuba. If you are looking to experience more of the culture, spend more time in Havana, but if you are looking for a nice beach vacation, spend more time in Varadero or Cayo Santa Maria. For a good mix, I suggest 4 days in Havana and 3 days in Varadero or Cienfuegos, but if you can take the time, try to take an extra day or two to spend in Havana, as there is so much to do and see there. (Note that this post is constantly being updated as I travel here often!)

Cuba
(c) 2016 Christie Lee

The best time to visit is during the winter or early spring (November to March) as this is when it is the coolest and driest. This time is also high season though, so flights and hotels will be more expensive. April and October would be the next best months to visit as the weather is still decent and there won’t be as many tourists. The rainy season starts in May. There are direct flights to Havana and/or Varadero from most of the large cities in Canada (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, etc.) via Sunwing, Air Canada, Air Transat, WestJet and Cubana de Aviacion. Direct flights from Toronto to Havana can be found as low as $300 round trip.

With all the commercial flights now running from the US, you can easily fly direct, for reasonable prices, to many Cuban cities including Havana, Varadero, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba and Cayo Coco. American Airlines has 12 direct flights from Miami daily to 6 different cities and one flight daily from Charlotte to Havana. Alaska Airlines has the only direct flight from the west coast which started in January from LA to Havana (5 hours). Prices are actually not bad and start at $350 round trip. Delta has 3 daily flights to Havana from Miami, Atlanta and New York. Frontier provides flights from Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia to 5 cities across Cuba. Jet Blue has daily flights out of Fort Lauderdale to 4 cities across Cuba and also has daily services from New York and Orlando to Havana. Southwest Airlines also has daily flights out of Fort Lauderdale to 3 cities across Cuba and also has a daily flight from Tampa to Havana. Spirit Airlines also has two daily flights from Fort Lauderdale to Havana. United has one daily flight from Newark to Havana and a weekly flight from Houston (Saturdays) to Havana.

It is a good idea to book flights early for better prices, but you can also find some good last minute deals. You can also fly through Mexico via Aeromexico, Cubana Air or Interjet. If you do this though, make sure to give yourself at least 2 hours to clear Mexican customs and get to your next gate. Also, you do not need to apply for a visa before visiting Cuba if flying through Mexico. You will only need to pay $15-$20 US for a visitor visa as you check in to your flight to Cuba. Make sure you have some cash on you in case their credit card machines don’t work (which happens often).

Travelers coming from the US don’t have to worry about organizing a tourist visa ahead of time. There are websites online that say you need to purchase these ahead of time but they will charge you a lot more and there is no need. You can just purchase the visa for $50-$100US at the gate (depending on the airline you take). Anyone coming from the US  has to come under one of the 12 visa categories.

Don’t expect high quality service here as most of the jobs are government run and workers get paid the same no matter how much they sell or how good their service is. Restaurants can take a while to serve food so make sure that you aren’t on a time constraint when you sit down.

There is Wi-Fi in Cuba but it is very spotty, especially outside Havana. If you are not staying at a hotel in Havana and don’t have Wi-Fi, you can find people selling internet cards on the street for 3 CUC/hour that you can connect with in certain Wi-Fi designated locations around the city. If you purchase directly from an Etecsa store, it will only cost you 1.50 CUC/hour but you likely have to wait a long time in line. If you want to use your cell phone, make sure to put it on a plan before going down. I suggest one person in your group getting a phone plan, as it is costly to make calls from the hotels but most Airbnb’s will let you use their land line. Also note that a Cuban phone can’t send or receive texts from an American phone.

Cuba uses two different currencies: one is called CUC (which is what foreigners normally use), and the other is CUP (which is only really used by locals). You should only convert money to CUC. The exchange rate is about 1 USD to 1 CUC, and 1 CUC is equal to 25 CUP. There are limited ATM’s here that only work with Visa cards (but not American Visa cards), so if you don’t have a Visa, make sure you bring plenty of cash because there really is not other way of getting money if you run out. The exchange rate is better at the hotels than at the airport so only exchange what you need for the cab at the airport. There is also an extra charge to exchange USD so it might be worth changing your USD to Euro’s before heading down if that is all you have (Euro’s have the best exchange rate there). Charging items to your credit card will give you the best exchange rate but all places in Cuba, outside of hotels, don’t take credit cards.

Some plugs are different in Cuba, they use round two pronged plugs and the same plugs as found in North America. I would bring a converter just in case as some hotels don’t have American outlets. Also, there are lots of mosquitoes there so make sure to bring bug spray as it will be expensive to buy it there and difficult to find.

Transportation                                                                                                                              

The public buses are very cheap but taxis are the easiest way around and are quite reasonable. Below are some of the taxi prices so if drivers are asking for more, make sure to negotiate. Old American car taxis will also try to charge you more but most of the time you can negotiate to the same price as a regular taxi.

  • Taxi from Havana Airport to Old Havana is around 30 CUC (30 mins)
  • Taxi from Old Havana to Miramar/the Melia Habana is around 15 CUC (15 mins)
  • Taxi from Melia Habana to another location in Miramar is around 7 CUC (5 mins)
  • Taxi from Paradisus Varadero to Varadero Airport is around 35 CUC (35 mins)

If you want to save money though, I would suggest calling a private driver to pick you up and drop you off at different places, even if you are just going to a restaurant. Below is the information of a reliable driver that is based in Havana that I used. He can also pick you up around the city and take you on day trips to other towns such as Varadero or Vinales.

Name of Driver: Yuni Carrazana                                                                                                         Phone Number: +53 53728425                                                                                                                E-mail: yunycc@nauta.cu

Reina
(c) 2016 Christie Lee

You can also rent a car if you are traveling great distances around the country, but be careful when booking one online because there are many websites that are fake. The best way to make sure that it is not fake is to call the company and talk to someone there. Cars sell out very fast in the high season so you will need to book far in advance to get one. The cheapest car you will find will likely be 60CUC per day (not including extra fees such as insurance). The roads also have a lot of potholes so if you are driving yourself make sure to keep a close eye on the road while driving.

Hotels outside of Old Havana tend to have free shuttles into Old Havana but you will find that they generally aren’t on time so it is sometimes best to take a taxi. Pack light if you can as cars in Cuba are very small and if you are splitting a taxi with others with luggage, you may find it difficult to all fit in one. Also, you don’t need to wear seat belts in cars that were made before 2000 so you will notice that some don’t even have any.

If you are with a group going from Havana to Varadero or vice versa, it is best to hire a private driver instead of getting the hotel to organize a car as it will save you a lot of money. A hotel will charge you 180CUC for a car to take you from Havana to Varadero with luggage but with a private driver, it will only cost you 100CUC. I would use the same driver I listed above for long trips. I used him to go from Havana to Varadero and back as well as a day trip to Vinales from Havana. He also took us on a car tour of the city which was quite nice.

If there are just one or two of you traveling from one city to another, you can take the Viazul bus for pretty cheap. But make sure to book your tickets ahead of time, especially in high season because lots of times they sell out, especially to Vinales. From Havana to Varadero it costs 10CUC per person but it will take twice the amount of time, and you still have to find a way to get to the bus station. From Havana to Vinales it costs 12CUC per person but there is only one bus per day and they will drop you off in the town which isn’t close to any of the attractions.

Cigars

All cigar stores are run by the government (usually called La Casa del Tobaco or La Casa del Habano), so they will be the same price everywhere. Locally, cigars are called “puros” or “habanos”. Do not purchase them off the streets though as these could be marketed incorrectly and of a lesser quality. Some of the famous brands are Cohiba, Partagás and Romeo y Julieta. You can bring up to 50 cigars back to Canada or Mexico and as of October 2016, up to 100 cigars (4 standard boxes) or $800 worth without paying duty into the US. Cigars brought in to the US have to be only for personal consumption though. Cuban cigars not purchased from Cuba are still illegal to bring into the US.

Rum

There are two main rums that are produced in Cuba: Havana Club and Santiago de Cuba. Bacardi was originally from Cuba but the family moved the business Puerto Rico. The 7-year Havana Club rum is a good bottle to bring back and is cheap at the price of 15CUC for a handle. If you are looking for something a bit more special and not very expensive, the Havana Club Maestros, for 40CUC is good and something you cannot find at home. You can bring back 1.14L of alcohol per person to Canada and since October 2016, you can bring up to $400 US worth of rum back, which is just about unlimited as a 1L bottle of 3-year Havana Club will cost only 6CUC. You can purchase bottles at the Duty Free shops before leaving if you are only carry on.

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(c) 2016 Christie Lee

HAVANA

What to Do

  • Take a tour around Old Havana where you will get to see the 4 main plazas and learn about the history of the city. A tour will cost around 40 CUC for a two-hour tour of Old Havana for 4 people.
  • If you don’t hire a tour guide, definitely check out Obispo street (only pedestrian) and the 4 plazas: Catedral, Armas, Vieja & San Francisco. Plaza de Armas is also referred to the Plaza of Books as you will find many stands there selling old books, records, cameras and other treasures.
  • Go to the Almacenes de San José market on the Port of Havana to buy souvenirs. Here you will find everything you need (art, baseball bats, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, instruments etc.) and can bargain for good prices. The stands at the back are cheaper.
  • Explore Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and wild kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster (located in Jaimanitas). Fuster is known as the Picasso of the Caribbean and has his house open for tourists to visit at no cost.
  • See the Tropicana Show under the stars. Tickets range from 75 – 95CUC and it is a show that you must see once in your lifetime. Make sure to book ahead of time. Oh, and they give you champagne and a ¼ liter of rum (per person) to drink throughout the show.
  • See the show “A Cuban Night in the 50’s presenting the Buena Vista Social Club” at the Rosalia de Castro Theater in Old Havana. Here you will see Juana Bacallao perform, a well known Cuban singer. It will cost 35CUC and it includes three drinks. You can also purchase a ticket that includes dinner for 50CUC but the food isn’t great. To get a good table close to the stage, book early.
  • Take a walk down Callejón de Hamel and take in all the Afro-Cuban street art. On Sundays there is lively Rumba music and dancing.
  • Go on a tour of a cigar factory. The oldest cigar factory in Havana is the “Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas” factory located in Old Havana. It only costs 10CUC but you need to make a reservation through an agency at one of the main hotels. The factory is only open Mon-Fri from 9am-1pm. Do not bring large bags because they will make you store them in their front room before entering which didn’t seem very safe.
  • Go to the Revolution Museum in Old Havana. It costs 8CUC to enter but is very interesting to read about the history and how they portray the US. Signage is in English and Spanish.
  • Stop by the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana (el morro), where will find the best view of the city. Bring some drinks and watch the sunset from here. It is amazing.
  • Take a stroll in the Gran Parque Metropolitano (Parque Almendares) to see some beautiful trees and forestry.
  • Visit the Jesus Christ statue. Here you will also find a great view of the city.
  • Go see the National Ballet of Cuba perform at Gran Teatro de la Havana. This newly refurbished building is amazing. It costs 30CUC for a ticket and you can usually find tickets last minute. You will be assigned a seat when you buy your ticket but once the lights dim down you are allowed to take any of the other empty seats.
  • Scuba dive. There are two ship wrecks off the Malecón which are supposed to be awesome to explore and there are also a few beaches 45 mins – 1 hour away that have good dives as well. Because it is illegal for Cubans to be in a boat with foreigners (except for Catamarans and government run boats), dives in Havana are from the shore. Below is the contact info of a great private diver that can take you out for a cheap 25CUC.

Dive Master Name: Mitchel Morales                                                                                   Phone Number: +53 52504549

  • Take a day trip to Soroa to swim in the waterfalls and visit the Orchid Botanical Garden. This is probably one of my favourite places in Cuba. There is a little restaurant there too that serves delicious food made in a wood oven and there are also people cooking on a grill right next to the waterfall. It costs 3CUC to enter and food is very cheap. Pack some drinks and snacks and spend the whole day here! It is about a one and a half hour drive from Havana.
  • Take a day trip to La Moca in Las Terrazas and Rio San Juan to swim and hang out. This is about a one and a half hour drive from Havana but worth it, even if you only have half a day. It costs 10CUC per person to enter but you get a food and beverage credit of 8CUC.
  • Take a day trip to Viñales Valley. This is about a 2-hour drive from Havana but worth it if you have the time. See below for more info on Viñales.
  • Do not go on the hop-on-hop-off bus. It is not worth it. You can’t really hear what the guide says and you go back the same way you came.
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(c) 2016 Christie Lee

Where to Eat

If you had asked me how the food was the first time I went to Cuba, I would have said it is nothing special so don’t get your hopes too high. But after returning a few more times, I realized that I was just eating at the wrong spots. Most of the better restaurants are in the Miramar area. Paladars, which are houses that have been turned into restaurants, are frequently found in Cuba. If you are on a budget, I would suggest trying to find restaurants outside of Old Havana as food is overpriced. At a local cafe, you can find a sandwich for 2CUC but in Old Havana these cost around 7CUC. Locals usually eat dinner at around 8:30/9pm. Below is a list of restaurants that I recommend.

  • Corte de Principe (Miramar) – This was probably my favourite meal in Cuba, even though it was an Italian restaurant. An Italian named Sergio owns it and all the pasta is made in house. The menu rotates daily based on what ingredients are available. A reservation is a must.
  • Chachacha (Old Havana) – The food is delicious here and located right in the heart of Old Havana. Be sure to make a reservation though as it fills up quickly!
  • Riomar (Miramar) – Located right on the water and has delicious seafood. Reserve ahead of time in order to get a nice table on the patio.
  • El Palenque (Miramar) – This is a place where many locals eat at, hidden within a residential area. The food is amazing and cheap! They also have a good ice cream shop.
  • El Del Frente (Old Havana) – Small restaurant with delicious food and amazing drinks. Probably one of the top two mojito places in my opinion on Havana. They have an indoor air conditioned area as well as a rooftop bar. On the weekends they have like music on the roof. Need a reservation for dinner time but OK to walk in at odd hours. This is my go-to place in Old Havana.
  • La Guarida (Centro Havana) – This is where Jay-Z and Beyoncé ate when they visited, and where Usher got married. A reservation is a must. It has a great view of the city but the service lately has decreased a lot. I used to really love going here but they expanded the size of the restaurant but not the kitchen so they sometimes run out of certain dishes or it may take an hour before they get something out to you to eat.
  • El Cocinero (Miramar) – Has a great rooftop bar which is good for tapas and drinks. The food is reasonable at the rooftop bar but the restaurant on the first floor is expensive and the food is mediocre. A reservation is a must.
  • Paladar Starbien (Vedado) – One of the best paladars in the city that both locals and tourists enjoy.
  • El Ajibe (Miramar) – This place has the best chicken in the city.
  • Pan Cuba (Miramar) – This stand on the side of the street has the best fresh mango juice for only 25 cents and their tuna sandwich is a great cheap lunch choice.
  • Boquitas (Miramar) – This delicious sandwich place that is only closed from 3-6am and is great for lunch or a midnight snack. Sandwiches range from 1 to 3CUC.
  • La Torre (Vedado) – You won’t find too many tourists here, which has the most amazing 360 view of Havana because it is at the top of the tallest building in the city.
  • Paladar Vistamar (Miramar) – On the 2nd floor family-room-turned-restaurant of a private residence, which faces the sea. A reservation is a must.
  • La Chucheria (Vedado or Miramar) – This is a great place for breakfast or lunch.
  • Paladar Doña Eutimia (Old Havana) – Located in an alley off la Plaza de la Catedral, this restaurant is next to the largest printmaking studio in Havana and is famous for their black bean dish called potaje. Reservation is a must. The atmosphere in this alley is great with the live music.
  • Esperanza (Miramar) – This is a paladar has been open for over 20 years and their famous dish is their pollo luna de miel (chicken flambéed in rum).

Where to Grab a Drink

  • Cafe Fortuna (Miramar) – This hidden gem is decorated with many vintage items such as typewriters and cameras. You won’t find many tourists here and it is well worth checking out as drinks are not expensive and the atmosphere is awesome.
  • Siakara (Old Havana) – Located behind el Capitolio, this small hidden bar has great live music on Wednesday and Sunday nights.
  • El Del Frente (Old Havana) – Great rooftop bar with live music in Old Havana, good food as well and drinks are massive for 5CUC.
  • Espacios (Vedado) – This awesome bar located in an old house has a jungle-like patio that gives it a great atmosphere. Inside you will find lots of cool art.
  • El Floridita (Old Havana) – This is the famous place where Earnest Hemingway like to drink daiquiris. The Floridita daiquiri is the best one. They also have a great band that plays live music but only tourists go here though.
  • La Bodeguita del Medio (Old Havana) – This is the famous place where Earnest Hemingway liked to drink his mojitos. At this place and El Floridita you will find lots of tourists but it is fun place to meet people.
  • Bar Bohemio (Vedado) – A spacious 50’s style mansion with various board games.
  • El Cocinero Rooftop Bar (Vedado) – Great atmosphere and snacks as well.
  • Saratoga Hotel (Old Havana) – A great rootftop bar and view.
  • Hotel Nacional (Old Havana) – A great patio with a beautiful view of el Malecon.
  • La Guardia Rooftop Bar (Centro Havana) – A cool view of the city. Grab a drink up here before or after dinner.

©2016 Christie Lee

Where to Go Out

  • FAC (Miaramar) – Short for Fabrica de Arte Cubano, this art gallery bar is located next to El Concinero will usually have a long line if you go anytime past 10:30pm. At some point during the evening there is usually a performance followed by DJs, disco or background music. Cover is 2CUC. You are given a card when you enter on which your food and drinks are marked on—you pay on the way out. Don’t lose the card, it will cost you 30CUC. Open Thurs – Sun. Make sure to check if it is open the month you are going because it opens for 3 months at a time and then closes for a month for renovations.
  • Bolhabana (Miramar) – This is a fun place to dance to Spanish music but gets busy quickly. There isn’t live music but musicians come out to play to the beat of the music at around midnight. Closes at 3am.
  • Bertolt Brecht (Vedado) – This place has live music every night but the best night to go is on Tuesdays. Get there early, at around 11-11:15pm to get a good seat, but the band won’t come on until 12:30am.
  • Miyo y Tuyo (Miramar) – This after-hours club gets busy at around 3am when all the other places close. This stays open until 6am and plays mostly Spanish music.
  • Casa de la Musica (Miramar) – If you want to salsa, this is the place to go. There are two locations in the city, but the Miramar one is better. They do have a hefty cover charge though of 15CUC or 25CUC if there is a band playing.

Where to Stay

About one third of all apartments in Havana are posted on Airbnb so that is the best place to look there if you are on a budget, especially during the high season as hotels will cost upwards of $300US per night. There only 5-star luxury hotel (Kempinski) just opened up in June 2017. Hotels that are worth looking into are:

  • Saratoga Hotel (Old Havana)
  • Gran Hotel Matanzas Kempinski (Old Havana)
  • La Rosa de Ortega (Havana)
  • Hotel National (Vedado)
  • Hotel Inglaterra (Old Havana)
  • Melia Habana (Miramar)
  • Melia Cohiba (Vedado)
  • Hotel Nacional (Vedado)
  • Hotel NH Parque (Old Havana)
  • Hotel Florida (Old Havana)

 

VINALES

This is a great day trip from Havana but if you have the time can choose to stay over one night. It is about a two hour drive from Havana but all you really need is one full day here. Here you will find small agricultural towns, limestone hills & caves, tobacco farming and waterways.

Vinales Valley - Christie Lee 2017
(c) Christie Lee 2017

Transportation

There are Viazul buses that take you there for 12CUC a person but you can only really take it if you are staying overnight because the last bus leaves at around 2:30pm. If there are many of you, it is definitely worth renting a car or driver for the day for 150CUC.

What To Do

  • Visit a tobacco farm. This is what Viñales is known for, growing tobacco for the famous Cuban cigars. Fina Pipo is a good tobacco farm to visit and it only costs 10CUC to go on a tour (for the group). You can ask for a tour guide at the visitors center. They also offer horseback riding right outside the visitor center for 5CUC per hour. If you choose to do this, they will take you to a farm further into the valley that is great and where you can also see how they farm and make coffee as well as sugar cane.
  • Hike inside the Santo Thomas Cave (Cueva Santo Thomas). This is open 9:30am to 4pm and is the best cave in Viñales. It is never very busy because the big tours don’t come here. It is best to go early. It costs 10CUC per person to go on a guided tour. Make sure you bring closed-toe sneakers.
  • Stop by the Prehistoric Mural. You will pass this on the way to Cueva Santo Thomas, if you decided to go there. It is a big painted mural on a large rock facade but is worth stopping to take a look if you are already out there. It costs 3CUC to get in.
  • Take a boat ride in the Indio Cave (Cueva del Indio). If you aren’t up for hiking in the cave, this is the best option for you, although it is always very very busy with tourists as all the tour buses stop here. It is about a 10 minute boat ride in a cave and you will likely line up for a little bit before being able to take the ride. It costs 5CUC per person.

Where To Eat

There are lots of paladar restaurants in Viñales but my favorite by far is Finca Roja. The food is so good and I have never been disappointed going there.

© Christie Lee 2017

VARADERO

This is where you go to spend a few days on the beaches you dream about. Most hotels here are all-inclusive and sit right on the beachfront. Here you will spend most of the time on the beach, doing beach activities. There is a small town that you can visit but after exploring Havana, there really isn’t a need to go. A bus from a hotel to the town usually costs around 5CUC a person. If you are staying at an all-inclusive, make sure you pre-book dinners at the restaurants as they fill up quickly. Otherwise, you will end up eating at the buffet every night. If you take a private car down from Havana, make sure to stop for pan con lechon on the way at one of the houses along the road. It is only 1CUC for a delicious sandwich.

©2016 Christie Lee

Where to Stay 

  • Paradisus Varadero – This is where I have stayed the two times I have gone. The beach is incredible and not too crowded. They provide kayaks, peddle-boats and catamaran rides for free. The shows aren’t really worth seeing but the buffet food, especially the seafood grill was always delicious. Do not eat at the Mexican restaurant, as it really isn’t Mexican food. The Japanese restaurant is the best.
  • Melia Las Americas
  • Occidental Allegro Varadero
  • Iberostar Varadero

CIENFUEGOS

This small town, which was previously a French colony, is located on the south side of the island. It is about a three and a half hour drive from Havana and Varadero. In 2005, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is an outstanding example of 19th century Spanish Enlightenment urban planning in Latin America. If traveling to Trinidad, this is a great place to break up the drive and spend a day or two.

cienfuegos-2016-christie-lee
(c) 2016 Christie Lee

Where to Stay

Airbnb is the best place to look for a place ahead of time. They have many guesthouses posted on there for very reasonable prices. One casa that is very cozy and nice but a little bit more expensive than normal is called Casa Buena Vista. They have 7 rooms and cost 80CUC per night for 2 people.

Where to Eat

  • Restaurante Mamparas
  • Restaurante Boyon
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(c) 2016 Christie Lee

What to Do

  • Walk the Malecon to Punta Gorda
  • Go to Parque José Martí and the Catedral de la Purisima Concepcion
  • Go see a show at Teatro Tomas Terry
  • If you drive here from Havana, stop by the Bay of Pigs to snorkel and swim in the crystal clear water, the Museo Giron to see a bit of history and la Laguna del Tesoro to take a boat ride around the lake. The boat ride costs 12CUC and is open 9am to 4pm. Make sure to go early and reserve tickets as they fill up times quickly. The Museo Giron is open from 9am to 5pm  and costs 2CUC to enter. It’s in Spanish but they do offer to show you an English documentary video for an additional 1CUC.
  • If driving from here to Trinidad, stop by el Nicho on the way over. It is a must see and a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole. If you aren’t headed to Trinidad, this is definitely worth the day trip from Cienfuegos. It costs 10CUC to enter.

TRINIDAD

Trinidad is a small town worth seeing if you have the time to go to central Cuba. It is a reflection of Spanish colonial architecture which can be seen especially in Plaza Mayor. All the streets in the historic center are cobblestone and the houses are painted in bright colors, giving the town its famous look.

trinidad-2016-christie-lee
(c) 2016 Christie Lee

Where to Stay

Airbnb is a great place to look for cheap places to stay and this also saves you bringing extra cash because you pay online. Trinidad also has a few good hotel options if budget isn’t an issue.

  • Casa el Delfin (homestay) – $25 per room per night
  • Iberostar Hotel (5 star)
  • La Ronda Hotel (4 star)

Where to Eat and Drink

  • Casa de la Música in Plaza Mayor – live outdoor music outdoors and salsa dancing with a great atmosphere. Great for drinks during the afternoon or at night. National beer is 1.25CUC and mojito is 2.50CUC. Make sure to look at the menu for prices as waiters might tell you differently.
  • Rintintin – restaurant with a rooftop that has live music. Lobster is delicious here and is a specialty in Trinidad.
  • Los Conspiradores – restaurant next to playa mayor and has two small balconies.
  • Taberna la Bojita – a 24-hour bar in the city center.
  • El Rincon – a reggateon bar in the city center.
  • Disco Ayala – a club in a cave for dancing and drinks. Make sure to get there early.

What to Do

  • Go to Topes de Collantes and hike to Vegas Grande Waterfall – open 8am to 3pm (20km from Trinidad but all uphill). This is my favorite waterfall because it is so secluded and it also has a big swimming hole. Pack a lunch and some drinks and hang out there for a few hours. It costs 10CUC to enter.
  • Hang out at Playa Ancon – a beautiful white sand beach about 15km from Trinidad.
  • Wander the historic center and go see Plaza Mayor – take in all the colorful buildings
  • Go to Disco Ayala – a disco which is in a cave and open 10pm to 3am. Get there early though because the cave fills up quickly and the line gets long fast!
  • If you didn’t drive into town, take a day trip to el Nicho. It a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole. It costs 10CUC to enter.
  • Check out the sugar mills, Valle de los Ingenios (about 12km outside of the city).
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(c) 2016 Christie Lee

Fun Facts on Cuba

  • Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • The only cars that Cuban citizens can own legally are cars created and bought before 1959. After this year, the Cuban government seized all of the cars, and owns them all to this day. Most of the pre-1959 cars in the country are from the United States.
  • Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate, which is one of the highest in the world.
  • A rare prehistoric fish called the Mangar is now only found in Cuba.
  • Cuba is where classic dance styles like the Bolero, Mambo and Cha Cha were invented.
  • Cuba has the highest doctor to patient ratio in the world. There are so many doctors in Cuba that doctors are often sent abroad to countries with a great need of medical professionals.
  • It is illegal for Cubans to be on a boat with foreigners except for state boats and catamarans.
  • Grade school is mandatory for every child in Cuba between the ages of 6 and 15. Uniforms are universally required with different colors for each grade level.
  • The average monthly salary in Cuba is ~$20.
  • Bacardi rum was originally manufactured in Cuba. However, the brand moved to Puerto Rico after Fidel Castro’s takeover. The original Bacardi building still stands in Old Havana.
  • There are no animals or plants in Cuba that are poisonous or lethal to humans.
  • Christmas did not become an official holiday in Cuba until 1997
  • It has snowed once in Cuba: On March 12, 1857.
cuba-drive-2016-christie-lee
(c) 2016 Christie Lee
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2 thoughts on “Cuba

  1. Just spent a week in Cuba. (March 2017) Christie and her boyfriend, Yuni, gave us the “Grand Tour”. Awesome place to visit and I highly recommend you visit Cuba and connecting with Christie and/or Yuni for a VIP experience!

    Like

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