Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching! Do you know what you will be doing to celebrate? Maybe you are planning a romantic dinner or a special gift. Why not spend Valentine’s weekend exploring Cuba? Whether you are planning a romantic Valentine’s Day getaway or would like a few days to explore or see something new, there is something for everyone this February in Cuba!
Cuba has no shortage of beautiful skies, enchanting views, romantic sunsets, and delightful cuisine. It is also an ideal place for dancing to the beat of salsa or contagious tumbadora drums. It is also perfect for getting lost, walking down the streets of beautiful Old Havana, and making memories that will last a lifetime. You may also want to check out the blog 10 Most Romantic Things to Do While in Cuba for more great ideas!
Something is always happening in Cuba, and February is no exception. Amongst the highlight events coming up next month are the Havana International Book Fair and the International Habanos Festival. These events usually draw visitors from all over the world to La Habana. In this blog, learn more about these essential annual festivals, as well as other activities you can explore with your loved ones or special someone in Cuba. There is something for everyone.
Cuba for Book Lovers
If you and your main squeeze share a love for literature, you may want to visit the Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana. Also known as the Havana International Book Fair, this event draws an international crowd to the Cuban capital every year. The festival welcomes vendors, publishers, international authors, and book lovers. Activities around the festival include art exhibits, children’s events, musical performances, and poetry readings, amongst others.
This year, the Havana International Book Fair will be taking place from February 6th – 16th, 2020. Literacy is of utmost importance to Cubans, and they take great pride in it. The festival had its beginnings in 1982. It was initially held every other year but has been an annual event since the year 2000. The fair has been drawing an international crowd ever since. It also one of the most well-attended events in Havana.
The hosting venue for the event is the Fortaleza de San Carlos de La Cabaña, also known as La Cabaña. This 18th-century fortress sits on the eastern side of the Havana harbor. It is also next to the Morro Castle, forming the Morro-Cabaña Complex. The Cabaña fort is also the grounds for the traditional Cañonazo or Cannon Ceremony. The ceremony is held nightly at the site. It involves a group of soldiers dressed in 18th-century garb who march inside La Cabaña with torches. Once at the top, bayside, the group fires a fake cannonball at 9 pm.
Back when the tradition started, the ceremony marked the closing of the city gates for the evening. The Morro-Cabaña Complex is one of my favorite places to explore in Havana. I enjoyed the drive towards it, as well as the daytime and evening views of the City of Havana. It was also interesting to learn how the city grew from the area around the harbor to the sides. Participating in an excursion with an agency, such as OnCuba Travel, has the advantage of getting to know the city with a knowledgeable guide. A guided tour is the best way to gain insights for every important landmark, such as the Morro-Cabaña Complex, as well as other historical facts.
You may also know that Cuba was near and dear to the famous American author, Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s home in San Francisco de Paula, Finca Vijía, still stands today. Three of the author’s famous works, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and The Sea, and A Movable Feast, were said to have been written in this house. The estate has been turned into a museum and is open to the public. Although direct access to the home and tower interior is not available, many windows are open to peek into the life and world of the sometimes-eccentric author.
Many are the stories of skinny dipping in his pool, wild parties, and celebrity guests. Hemingway’s famous boat, Pilar, also sits in the back of the house today. Follow Hemingway’s steps by visiting the famous La Bodeguita del Medio in Old Havana. Walk down Obispo Street to El Floridita, home of the daiquiri, and enjoy the Papa Hemingway Cocktail. Tour the town of Cojímar and enjoy a traditional Cuban lunch in the rustic Café Ajiaco. Follow in Hemingway’s footsteps and feel inspired.
Cuba is for Cigar Lovers
If cigars are your passion, join the thousands that visit Cuba every year to attend the Festival Internacional del Habano in Havana. This annual event is a gathering of visitors, connoisseurs, aficionados, exhibitors, and trade professionals. In addition to cigars, attendees can also expect to see humidors, expert cigar rollers, special tastings, pairings, and classes. Exhibits may also include market premiers during the festival, music performances, and special artifact exhibits. Other special events include behind the scenes tours of cigar factories and even guided visits to tobacco farms.
This year, the festival will be taking place from February 6th – 16th in Havana. You can visit the festival multiple days or choose an all-inclusive program like the Cigar & Rum Tour by OnCuba Travel. The tour includes roundtrip tickets Miami – Havana, accommodations in a hotel or private home, tickets for one day at the festival, visits to Viñales and Varadero, as well as stops in multiple Casa del Habano shops across the city. What better way to relax and enjoy the festival than when every detail is taken care of for you?
If you prefer to take a short excursion instead, you can also look up a Cuban rum, cigars, and art experience. Over this four-hour excursion, you will learn about the history of rum, tour an authentic cigar factory, and take a panoramic tour of modern Havana. You will also experience culture and art with a stop at the Kcho Gallery and a visit to the famous and colorful Callejón de Hamel. The Callejón, which translates to an alleyway, lights up with a diverse crowd dancing to the beat of live music. The setting is pure creativity and artistry. It goes from poetry on the walls to unusual art pieces in every nook and cranny.
Cuba is for Art Lovers, Too!
Cuba’s art scene is thriving! With so much history and culture, Cuba is a fertile ground for talent and creativity. During a visit, you could meet established artists such as Michel Mirabal, discover up and coming artists in their studios, or visit art collectives. Take advantage of a unique opportunity to get to know artist Michel Mirabal while in Cuba. The artists open the doors to his home and his studio/gallery for an unforgettable experience. Michel’s warm, friendly, and welcoming personality will make you feel right at home. His compound sits on a hilltop with views to the beach. During the experience, Michel may play the drums, cook, entertain with his stories, or even create art during the visit! He is undoubtedly a genuinely multifaceted artist and a gifted human being.
If you would like to deepen your understanding of the Cuban art scene, you may also want to take a contemporary art tour of Havana. Experience up close the influences that make Cuban art come alive. Walk around the National Museum of Fine Arts and visit artists’ in their studios. Get a little closer to works by Kevin López Nieves, Mabel Poblet, Flora Fong, Jorge Otero, and Octavio Irving. Pedro Pablo Oliva, one of the most outstanding creators in the Cuban art scene for more than four decades, is also part of this contemporary tour. His work incorporates masterful technique, depth, surrealism, and whimsy.
If you would like to learn more about art programs on the island, you may also want to consider visiting the Muraleando Community Art Project. This program was created with the mission to teach children about art and music. As part of the project, artists also dedicate their time to teach children how to make art with the option to sell it. Learn more about this initiative, which is part of the Classic and Modern Art excursion in Havana.
Legal Travel to Cuba
U.S. citizens can still travel to Cuba under one of the 11 approved reasons for travel. One of the most popular reasons is Support for the Cuban People. In addition to that, travelers will also need a valid passport and a visa/tourist card. One crucial factor to consider is that travelers also need to have available an agenda with their plans during their stay. The schedule, accommodation information, and other details may be solicited at the airport as a requirement to enter the country.
OnCuba Travel Can Help
International travel can be a bit of a hassle for anyone! However, working with an experienced agency like OnCuba Travel can take a massive weight off your shoulders. Since their area of specialty is Cuba, their travel experts are well-versed in the latest updates regarding legal travel to Cuba. The agency can also help travelers select from many choices for accommodations. A variety of hotels and trusted private homes are available. The options range from 5-star hotels with white-glove service to simple, private rooms in a local family’s home. There are many options by location, group size, taste, and budget. The team can also support you and your party to book transfers and car rental services to and from the airport in Havana. The clock is ticking! Let your heart take you to Cuba this February.