Entering Cuba can be like stepping into a time machine – much of the country remains exactly as it was when the embargo arrived. Today, it’s a country of luxurious architecture, incredible natural beauty and abject poverty. Spending your vacation in Cuba is likely to help you see interesting contrasts all around and start thinking. Here are 10 fantastic things you can do when you’re in Cuba.
1. Try a casa particular
If you really want to experience everyday life in Cuba, signing up for a private homestay, or a casa particular, is a great way to go. You can choose different homestays, depending on your interests. If you are an artist, for instance, you can choose to live with the owner of an art gallery.
2. Do the Rumba on the street
Filled with driving African rhythms and sensual Hispanic influences, Cuban rumba is a raw and primal dance form. In Cuban culture, impromptu rumba dances often break out on the street. Rather than wait around for an impromptu performance to break out, tourists are better off heading out to a regular rumba to catch a little action. The Sábado de La Rumba at the Centro Cultural El Gran Palenque, for instance, is a popular one.
3. Workers of the world, unite!
The Plaza de la Revolución or Revolution Square is a vast Havana square that sees a great deal of communist political action. In Fidel Castro’s time, each May Day rally saw a million Cubans assemble to hear a fiery speech by Fidel Castro. Once you get here, you can look around the grand Memorial y Museo a José Martí and pay your respects to the revolution at the Che Guevara sculpture.
4. Try Cuban cigars at the Cigar Museum
Cuba is home to the world’s finest tobacco and pulls in plenty of tourists who come simply to experience the tobacco. While Cuban tobacco is grown all over the country, the cigar rolling industry is centered in Havana. This is where workers roll perfectly cured tobacco into habano cigars. To roll your own or to buy the best Cubans in Cuba, you should try a guided tour of the Partagas factory.
5. Try fishing in the Gulf Stream
It isn’t just cigar fanatics who come to Cuba, fishing enthusiasts flock here in their numbers, too. The Gulf Stream, the warm Atlantic current that brings a wealth of fish along with it, makes for great fishing. All you need is to charter a boat, go out into the Gulf Stream and try your luck.
6. Cheer at a baseball game
No visit to Cuba is complete without an introduction to Cuba’s sporting obsession – baseball. The best way to experience the fanatical devotion that Cubans have to baseball is to experience a game during the Serie Nacional de Béisbol. Cuban baseball doesn’t have the accoutrements of American baseball; there are no luxury seats or giant screens. All you have is talented players and baseball-crazy fans. You’ll be transported to a time when baseball was just about the game.
7. Kick back in the Varadero
The Varadero region of Cuba is world famous for its natural beauty: powder sand beaches, glassy blue waters and perfect climate. These qualities come together to make this region a grand tourist site to rival anything that Barbados or the Bahamas may have. Since Varadero is in Cuba, it tends to be far cheaper than any of the better-known Caribbean destinations. Varadero has plenty of inexpensive luxury resorts too.
8. Go dolphin swimming
Few experiences can rival the joy and connection to nature that you’ll feel swimming in the ocean with dolphins. Cuba has plenty of dolphin swim services that give you classes on how to connect with dolphins and how to get them to carry you through the water. If you’re in Cuba, dolphin swimming is an experience that you can’t miss.
9. Take a cruise through the Miramar River
For an island as small as Cuba, the Miramar River is a disproportionately large watercourse. A cruise along the river can be a wonderful way to view both urban and rural Cuba. A cruise only lasts a day, and can be immensely enjoyable.
10. Explore the architecture of Old Havana
The trade embargo against Cuba has meant that the country permanently lives in the 60s. Nowhere is the time warp more apparent than in La Habana Vieja, or Old Havana. Covering 15 districts, the area is so thoroughly frozen in the 60s, it can instantly transport you to a time when Art Deco architecture was current, and cars on the street had a sculpted form.
Cuba is unlike most other vacation destinations, with a revolutionary past, great beauty and wonderfully friendly people, it’s likely to turn out to be one of the best vacations you ever had. Have you ever visited Cuba? What are your favorite things to do in this wonderful Caribbean country?