Cuba’s capital and top destination to travel; especially if you want to learn about the countries amazing culture, and better yet, take yourself back in time to the 1960s. If you are staying in the capital for a few days, I highly suggest visiting the old & new part of the city – to get a feel of the real Cuba. We stayed in an Airbnb in La Habana for around 3 days with a breathtaking view of the “Malecon”, or coastline. The entire apartment to ourselves was also a plus (paid about $124 dollars, 3 days / 2 people). Our host, Milagros, was very resourceful and arranged a private taxi to get us around town. The most convenient thing about staying there was the insanely economic restaurant on the 1st floor of the building where they served breakfast/lunch and dinner with prices so low it was almost suspicious!
More sightseeing : “El Malecon”, “El Capitolio” and “Morro Castle” literally all located in the center of La Habana.
You could take a taxi, but I recommend you walk around for a better perspective of the city. Make sure to walk around “Paseo del Padro,” which will lead you to where most of the convertible taxis are located. Here you could rent a driver to take you around town and take some pretty cool pictures with these stunning mid-1900 convertibles (make sure to bargain with them to get a rental for a reasonable price).
The best thing about walking around is stumbling upon different restaurants/bars for a quick snack or refresher (make sure to try their mojitos and a cold Bucanero – their famous beer).
Cuevas Saturno & Varadero
Varadero is approximately a 2-hour drive from La Habana (if traffic isn’t too bad). On our way there, it was highly recommended to stop at Cuevas Saturno for a quick swim. The driver our host Milagros set us up with was the one who took us (he charged us $80 dollars for 2 people). We made a quick stop to plunge into by far the coldest water I have ever felt. The water was crystal clear to the point you could see the bottom of the cave, about 20 – 25 feet below. We paid $5 CUC (about $5 dollars) to enter the caves for roughly an hour. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes, as you have to take a short hike through the jungle before arriving to the cave.
After the cave, we drove about another 30 minutes to Varadero. I recommend this beach as an absolute must see if you visit Cuba. Never in my life have I witnessed water so clear, and I’m from the Caribbean! The entrance is totally free, and you have plenty of room to settle down once you get there (make sure to take beach towels, as they do not have rentals – unless you go to stay at a hotel nearby). After settling in, we honestly just relaxed most of the day in the water.
We wanted to get a feel of the “campo,” or country side, during our stay in Cuba, so we booked another Aibnb (or Casa Particular) in Viñales.We stayed with a family that was very welcoming and took care of us every single day as if we were their own blood. We were located in Pinar del Rio, right in the center of Viñales. In this casa particular, we had our own private room and bathroom, and breakfast/lunch or dinner at an additional cost (the food was fresh and delicious). While staying here, you must visit “Valle de Viñales,” go horseback riding through the mountains and to their cigar and coffee farms. We were able to book these activities once we got there, that way we could bargain down the price a bit. We also visited a hotel called “La Ermita” where you could pay $8 CUC to have access to the hotels pool at the top of a mountain with amazing views of the entire pueblo of Viñales (highly recommend going here for at least a day). I also suggest dining at “Restaurante – Bar Buena Vista” for some delicious and authentic Cuban food.
If you are in the mood to dance and enjoy good quality music, visit “Centro Cultural Polo Montanez”, where you pay only $1 CUC and have access to a live band that plays from 9pm to midnight! Here you will dance until your calves hurt, but you will surely feel the music culture that is Cuba take over you (yes they do have dancers who help you learn a few salsa moves).We honestly enjoyed Viñales the most as the nature lovers that we are.
Some tips to remember before traveling to Cuba:
- A Visa is needed before traveling (the Airline you book your ticket with could sell you the Visa, which ranges from $80 to $120 dollars. You could also purchase the Visa the day of your flight before check-in.
- The currency used in Cuba is CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) which is equal to $1 US dollar. Make sure to exchange your funds to cash at the airport, once you land in Cuba. It’s very difficult to use credit cards here, so I suggest you use all cash.
- Transportation is relatively easy, but be careful with some taxi drivers who try to scam tourists. We were lucky enough to arrange all of our transportations with the hosts from the Airbnbs that we stayed at.