Now that diplomatic relations have been restored between the United States and Cuba, it is much easier for US Citizens to travel to this gorgeous island country.
Americans have not been able to get to Cuba for decades, and, because of the embargoes, stepping foot in Cuba now is like going back in time. The cars are from the 50s, markets are full of old books and vinyls, and everything is just a bit old-school. This week, Obama became the first president since 1928 to visit the country. He went to the Tampa Bay Rays game against the Cuban National Team with Cuban President Castro, who later saw him off to Air Force One, marking the beginning of hopefully a prosperous relationship and more rights and better lives for the Cuban people.
When to go:
With the average temperature being 75° for most of the year, they drop to as low as 50° during the winter months of January and February. The dry season is November through April and the rainy season is May to October. While it may rain for a few days on your trip, the sun and heat quickly dry everything out. Peak tourist season is December to March, so the holidays through spring break, but also July and August. Prices are highest and destinations are busiest during these two summer months because it is also vacation season for the locals.
Where to go:
- Punta Gorda, Cienfuegos – Beautiful buildings like the Palacio Del Valle line the wide streets of this gorgeous bayside town
- Santiago – Carnival brings out the greatest costumes and vibrant music scene in July
- Trinidad Old Town – 16th century town is full of colonial mansions to explore as well as numerous churches and plazas
- Baracoa – The countryside on the eastern coast is great for exploring the rain forest, mountains and rivers
- Havana – Careful colonial-era reconstruction full of so much color line the El Malecón path along the ocean. Visit Old Havana, explore the Catedral de San Cristóbal, listen for salsa music, and enjoy the parties that last all night
What to do:
- Dance the night away at a Havana salsa club
- Varadero Beach – Longest beach in Cuba
- Explore Alejandro Robaina Tobacco Plantation – Learn about the plantation and industry that has been fueling Cuba’s economy
- Rent a classic car – Cuba is full of American cars from the 1950s
- Catch a baseball game – Cuba is a breeding ground of baseball greats like Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jose Canseco
- Hike La Plata Mountain trail
- Explore Old Havana – One of the most well-preserved colonial centers
- Ride the Hershey Train – Slowly wind through the countryside of Havana to Matanzas
- Go diving – The southern coast is a great diving destination due to its calm waters and ample sea life
- Tour Caverna de Santo Tomas – Explore the narrow underground caves with numerous bats and underground pools
While there is so much beauty to see in Cuba, it is important to have all of the facts to know exactly what you’re getting into. You don’t need any vaccinations to visit, but do need a valid passport with two blank pages for stamps. In Cuba, they drive on the right hand side, just like the US, but the country is still very poor and has very dangerous road conditions. Car accidents is believed to be the leading cause of death in Cuba. Medical care isn’t nearly what it is in the US, but should you be hurt, it is suggested to visit the Cira Garcia Hospital in Havana, which is referred to by locals as the “tourist” hospital. Illnesses and diseases to be aware of during your trip are rabies, cholera, diarrhea, and dengue. Most of these are easily preventable if you are aware of your surroundings and ensuring the quality of which your food is cooked. Cuba is a relatively stable and safe country thanks to the strong military and police presence. Hijackings of vessels and protests are much less common than they used to be. You can read more about the Department of State’s website here. Americans are still not allowed to visit for the sole purpose of tourism though. According to CNN, “Travelers should be able to show their visit helped the Cuban people or had an educational component to it.”
How to get there:
Carnival Cruise Lines is currently the only cruise company allowed to sail to Cuba, beginning in May, because they are offering educational tours. While nearly every US airline applied for commercial flights and are still awaiting approval and scheduling, there are other airlines, like Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic, that can get you there from certain departure cities.
If you want to see all of Cuba in one trip, Rough Guides has put together two great itineraries for you to get the most out of your time in Cuba.