Cuba has been like a sleeping beauty these past 60 years. Time stopped and preserved bits and pieces of untold past, that make our visits to this island unforgettable. But the charm has been lifted, which means more and more tourists and capitalists will turn their heads in its direction. Parts that made Cuba special will slowly fade away into history, so if you want to visit it, now is the time. Experience the true Cuban culture with these 8 adventures.
Experience the vibe of old Havana
You might see Havana in old movies like Dirty Dancing, but nothing on the screen can ever picture the feelings you get when you walk down the old streets yourself. I know there is a lot to see in an old famous city, but please do sit down. Order a drink and listen to the city noises, look at people’s faces and observe the old decaying buildings. The vibe of the city is truly something special, it’s almost like it has a soul.
Take a ride in one of the colorful old cars
They say that men come to Cuba for old cars and young girls, which is not so far-fetched. The girls are pretty and cars have that old-time swagger you now only see in movies…and in Havana. You can’t miss the colorful parade of old Chevrolets and there is nothing more fun than driving around in one of them – no roof over your head, wind in your hair and if you’re lucky, an entertaining driver.
Salsa your night away with one of the locals
The hot Cuban weather is probably one of the reasons why Cubans are so fiery. They rarely say no to new adventures and because they’re so open, passionate and fun, there is no need to be shy. Say yes when one of them asks you to dance and don’t worry if you step on their toes a couple of times. I probably broke Elio’s foot one night in Trinidad, but we laughed it off and had a great evening anyway. I never felt so free and brave in my entire life. So just let go, listen to amazing Cuban music, drink a “Cuba Libre” and liberate your wild side.
Spend the night in “Casa Particular”
One of the great ways to save a buck or two is to spend the night at somebody’s home. It’s a common practice between locals and you will see »casa particulares« sign hanging over many doorways (It looks like an anchor turned upside down and it’s really hard to miss). It would be a shame to pass this kind of opportunity, as you get to see the Cuban lifestyle from another perspective. Most of the buildings are really old and nobody is taking care of them, so I know this isn’t everybody’s piece of cake. But even when decaying; colonial architecture can take your breath away. Plus it’s really interesting to see how Cubans bring life to old walls and rooms with colors and personal belongings.
It’s great to experience bigger towns like Havana, Trinidad, and Camaguay, but countryside will really give an insight to how poor and undeveloped Cuba still is. In these parts time truly stopped and you will see how the locals try to cultivate the land in the middle of untamed nature. Head southeast to Baracoa, kayak on Yumuri river in the middle of the jungle and see the lighthouse at Punta Maisi. Keep your eyes open while you pass plantages of sugar cane, cacao and banana trees, humble homes of the locals and some very skinny cows. While most of the signs of Cuban revolution are gone in the big cities, you will still see a lot of slogans, posters, and graffiti honoring Fidel Castro and Che Gevara here. Hasta la victoria siempre!
Stop your car to try some fresh juice and fruit
One of the great things in Cuba is their completely organically grown fruit. It looks greats, it tastes great and I’ll never look at the fruit back home the same again. Once you experience the richness fo those flavors, you’ll want more. So if you’re driving around Cuban countryside and see some fruit stands along the road; stop your car. The locals will gladly give you fruit slices to try, so take some pineapple, mango, papaya, and bananas. They also make fresh juice there, especially sugar cane juice which is Cuban specialty.
Enjoy your day at the beach
Cuba is embraced by both North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean sea, so its shores, gulfs, and beaches can look completely different around the island. They do have one thing in common though; they are all incredibly beautiful. If you like the sapphire-colored sea and white sand, then you have to visit one of the following: Punta Francés on the Isla de la Juventud, Cayo Levisa, Cayo Coco or Playa de Tortuga.
Don’t say no to rum and cigars
I don’t smoke and I usually don’t drink much, but I did try some authentic Cuban cigars and more shots of rum that I’m willing to admit. The hype is real. If you can, take a trip to rum breweries and tobacco plantages. There you can see how both products are made while listening to a brief history lesson. I bet you have already heard about Cohiba Cigars and Havana rum; well, in Cuba, they are much better quality than what the companies export to other countries. But be careful, a lot of locals will try to sell you low-quality products, which by my opinion aren’t worth it. They can get you some great products for a lower price, but make sure the person is trustworthy. I managed to get my hands on a box of Fidel Castro’s favorite Cohiba cigar Laguito no. 2; best quality but half the original price. Word of caution though, don’t buy too many goodies, as you can only take 2 bottles of alcohol and 1 box of cigars out of the country.