Enter Cuba, where you’ll find classic cars cruising down a street lined with pastel painted buildings, and people dancing on the cobblestone streets until the sun comes up, without a care in the world.
There are unspoiled UNESCO listed cities aplenty oozing with local culture and the best white sand beaches you’ll find in the Caribbean. You’ll discover an adventure on every corner with uninhabited wilderness crawling with crocodiles and local wildlife, and the most unforgettable offshore diving you’ll ever encounter.
Sounds like the ideal cruise location right? Well good news! For the first time in more than 50 years American Cuban’s are now permitted to enter Cuba via sea. In the past many lines avoided itineraries to Cuba due to the difficulties with laws, but since the ban has been lifted many cruise lines are now pinning Cuba as a to go destination. Which is just in time as it is quickly being considered one of the most thrilling places to visit in the Caribbean.
Read on to discover where you’ll find the hottest nightlife, get to the heart of the culture and the best spots for diving…
Described as the heart of Cuba, the 8km sea front drive dotted with art deco buildings is the place to be at sunset. As the sun goes down and the waves splash against the sea wall, musicians, artists and friends all gather at this famous meeting place. The music starts up and you’ll be swept away by night long parties and some of the best dancing in the city. When a cold front blows in the road is closed for vehicles as waves crash over the wall and wash down the street, so you can walk right down it and the people will spill out from the sidewalk onto the road. Be warned though, you’ll probably get very wet!
Known as simply ‘old square’, over the years Plaza Vieja has lent itself to many different purposes, including: a place for military exercises, a food market, a park, the ugliest car park – which has thankfully been demolished, and an amphitheatre. After some much needed TLC the square is now returning to its original state and its mix of bright eclectic architecture and awe inspiring stained glass windows are once again a focal point. If you visit the square now you’ll be greeted by the cities coolest bars, restaurants and cafes.
Purchased by Hemingway in 1940 and home to the author for 20 consecutive years, the house remains exactly how he left it. Upon his death he declared that he would leave his Cuban home to the people of Cuba and it is now a popular museum. So you can visit the place where he penned the classic for ‘Whom the Bell Tolls’, and peer through the windows and doors, (visitors are no longer permitted inside due to thieves) to take a sneak peek at his library, and see how one of most famous writers in the world lived.
The Hershey Train
Built in 1917 by the company that brought us Hershey’s Kisses, the train was used to transport workers from town to town, and you can now take the electric slow train for pleasure. It’s an interesting way to see the countryside and see the most breath-taking views of the rolling Cuban landscape. 3 times every day the train travels the 60 miles from Casablanca station to Matanzas, passing stations and picturesque villages along the way, they’ll even let you off on demand if you spot somewhere you simply HAVE to explore! Fair warning though, the trip will take you around 3 hours and in the past the line has proved to be quite inconsistent, so you may get a fair few delays. The views are more than worth it though!
Low lamp lighting fills the Café Madrigal, giving it that sultry romantic feel, film posters line the wall from the owner’s cinematic days and the bar is real mahogany. It’s the place that you could clearly picture Hemmingway perching at the bar, or tucked away in a quiet corner working on his novels. They serve traditional Cuban tapas, delicious cocktails and you can enjoy them on a terrace that overlooks the incredible city. Sounds perfect right?
For the best ice cream in Cuba you have to visit Coppelia. The ice cream parlour is known far and wide and it’s not because of its futuristic architecture or flying saucer structure. Everyone from young to old gathers here and the ice cream is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before. It’s not a well-kept secret either and you’re bound to encounter long queues, which are considered to be part of the experience. Believe us though, you’ll be more than happy you waited once you have that first taste.
If you’re a fan of hiking, then you’ll definitely want to conquer Cuba’s highest peak. Located in the heart of the Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra, at the place where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara hid to build their rebel army, is the mountain of Pico Turquino. It’s a 7km hike to the top that takes around 2/3 days to complete, guides are mandatory and along the way they’ll tell you all about the history of Cuba and you’ll encounter unbelievable local wildlife. It’s an experience rich with culture that you’ll never forget.
This town in central Cuba is everything you dreamed the city of culture to be. The UNESCO world heritage site is decorated with prettily painted houses, cobblestone streets, braying donkeys and all night salsa parties. It’s one of the best destinations for tourists as the locals are friendly and the nightlife is some of the best in Cuba. We recommend visiting The Steps, Casa de la Musica, where you’ll find a live salsa band, free entry and dancing in the streets until dawn.
If you’re searching for the Caribbean’s best beach, look no further than Varadero. The 13-mile-long powder sand beckons you to it and promises to be the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail and soak up the sun. Also in the town is Parque Josone, a flower garden with an atmospheric restaurant and a lake where you can hire rowboats and paddle around whilst glimpsing the resident geese and ostriches. If you’re a keen diver Cayo Piedra is well worth a visit, the underwater park deliberately sunk shipwrecks in the 90’s to create a reef, and is now home to incredible tropical fish, sharks and turtles.
Peninsula de Zapata
Peninsula de Zapata is a haven for nature lovers and divers alike. Take a tour from a knowledgeable guide and explore the vast open swamplands, magnificent forests, acres of uninhabited wilderness and tonnes of incredible wildlife including: wild boar, rare birds and crocodiles. You’ll also find some of the best offshore reef diving here, with sparkling clear waters that you won’t find anywhere else.
An experience not to be missed whilst in Cuba is the Tropicana night club, an open sky cabaret. Located in a forest full of tropical trees, the performances take place between 8:30pm until dawn under a blanket of stars. The show will immerse you into the Cuban culture through art, music and astonishing colours. We promise it’ll be a cabaret you’ll never forget and you’ll find yourself telling everyone about it for years to come.
Did you know? Nat King Cole, Josephine Baker and Elena Baker are among the famous faces that have performed on stage!
So now you know the best places to visit if you’re planning on cruising to Cuba! What do you think? Are you interested in a cruise to Cuba? Or have you been already? If you have been what’s your favourite place? Let us know in the comments!