Cuba has been the subject of news coverage for many reasons, such as current events, travel policy changes, and its administration. There is so much more the island of Cuba has to offer. Much more than what many of us may have seen in the media. Have you ever wondered about where Cuba’s cuisine gets its influence from or how its popular salsa music came about? Are you curious to learn more and see Cuba as it stands today?
The city of Havana recently celebrated its 500th Anniversary! This celebration was a milestone that not many cities in the American continent are close to reaching. Havana has undoubtedly seen a lot since its beginnings. There is certainly more to it than headlines and travel policy changes!
Get to know a different side of Cuba. We should also know Cuba for the warmth of its people, its history, its culture, the history behind its food, and many other reasons that make Cuba a unique place to visit. From its majestic Capitolio building to its vintage cars, jovial music, and historical past, Cuba has something for everyone to explore. Let’s go over six of the highlights Cuba is known for and why it continues to be a great place to visit.
Cuba is known worldwide as one of the top producers of fine cigars and tobacco. The City of Havana opens its doors every year for the International Habanos Festival. Aficionados, connoisseurs, industry professionals, and visitors fly in every year to attend the festival. Even if you are not a smoker, the Habano culture is fascinating. Get an Insider’s Look At Cuba Through Rum & Habanos.
During a visit, I also had the opportunity to tour a cigar factory in Havana. It was fascinating to see how methodical the process is and how each one of the expert cigar rollers has honed their craft. Learning about the different vitolas or cigar shapes is very interesting. Lighting a cigar also requires careful handling to get the most flavor.
Habanos can also pair well with smoked meats, mature cheeses, nuts, chocolate, and even tomato-based pasta dishes! To learn more about the types of cigars, pairings, and more, check out the blog A Constellation of Cuban Cigars Part 1 and Part 2. If you would like to visit Cuba and attend the Habanos Festival in February, contact OnCuba Travel for more details.
2. Salsa Dancing
Traditional Cuban dances originated in the outskirts of the city with the son. This dance started as a cross-pollination between the African influence in Cuba and Caribbean vibes. Today, Cuba is not only known for its vibrant music, but also for hosting dance festivals, such as the annual Festival de La Salsa and the Habana Ballet Festival. Dancers, students, teachers, and in general, those who have a passion and a joy for dance attend to learn from Cuban dance experts.
For those of us who are not experts, but just enjoy shaking our bones occasionally, there is something for us too. Whether by visiting the Callejon de Hamel, attending a street festival, or watching Compás Dance Company, there are many reasons and zero excuses not to dance in Cuba. The rhythms are contagious, and the light breeze, plus maybe a daiquiri or two, makes for a fun foray in Havana. If you prefer just to sit back and enjoy a Vegas-style performance, you may also want to visit the famous Tropicana Cabaret or the Parisien Cabaret.
3. Mojitos & Daiquiris
Cuba is known as the birthplace of the famous Mojito and the Daiquiri. One of the famous quotes credited to acclaimed American author Ernest Hemingway is, “My mojito in La Bodeguita. My daiquiri in El Floridita.” These two rum-based drinks are popular across the globe and have special meaning in Cuba. La Bodeguita and El Floridita are both in Havana, Cuba, at a walking distance from each other. La Bodeguita is a tiny spot, full of memorabilia, vintage photos, and the names of some of its many visitors scribbled on its walls. The Floridita, on the other hand, has a long bar and a slightly larger than life statue of Ernest Hemingway at the end of the bar. It’s a great spot for fun pictures with Hemingway while sipping an authentic Cuban daiquiri.
Cuba is also known for being home to Havana Club Rum. The Rum Museum in Havana offers a memorable guided tour. Part of the tour covers the history of rum-making in Cuba, as well as a film documentary viewing with more interesting facts.
Rice and beans for you? Oh, but there is so much more than that. Cuban food has a fusion of Spanish, African, Caribbean, and other international flavors. Some of the most famous Cuban dishes are of course the Arroz con Moros (Rice and beans), lechón (Pork, especially if cooked inside a Caja China), yuquitas con mojo (By far, one of my favorites), and for dessert, the traditional flan with caramel sauce.
While on the island, the options for food and dessert are plenty. It’s helpful to know the difference between a restaurant and what Cubans know as the Paladar. A Paladar is a privately-owned restaurant, as opposed to a government-owned establishment. Some of my top choices in Havana are Doña Eutimia for traditional Cuban cuisine and El Cocinero for fusion cuisine.
El Cocinero is also a top recommendation due to its ambiance and décor. The Paladar has a beautiful rooftop in eclectic style. It is also located just around the corner from the Fábrica de Arte Cubano (FAC), a mixed-use space, club, and art gallery – all rolled up into a unique people-watching experience.
5. Vintage Cars
Cuba is known for its famous vintage cars! Today many of these roam freely across the Cuban capital, driving visitors across the famous Malecón de La Habana. Agencies such as OnCuba Travel, offer panoramic tours in classic cars in Havana. This experience is a must when visiting Cuba. The vintage cars are a real car lover’s delight.
Even if you are not a car lover, seeing so many of these beautifully preserved cars is an experience on its own. During a visit, I made it a point to take as many pictures as possible of all the different models and colors I saw. My favorite was a two-door red car that looked like a Porsche. The vintage vehicles also photograph beautifully and will certainly be the focus of many clothing-coordinated pictures during a visit to Cuba.
6. Nostalgic Architecture
Going to Havana is like stepping back in time. Many of the buildings in Havana still have a coat of their original paint, which gives the city charm and an air of nostalgia. When visiting Cuba, it’s essential to walk the sites and tour places of interest with a professional guide. Excursions such as Havana Highlights, are led by an expert guide. This type of package allows you to visit the top sites in Havana, such as the Morro-Cabaña Complex, El Cristo de La Habana, the Vedado district, Plaza de la Revolución, the Cristobal Colón Cemetery, and many other essentials.
If you count with a little more time and want to make a long weekend out of a visit, you can also explore the Cuba At A Glance itinerary. This 3-day/2-night all-inclusive program includes a tour of Old Havana, a farm-to-table dining experience, and even the chance for casual dancing at the Callejón de Hamel. The convenience of this type of program is that flights, transfers, and most meals are taken care of for the duration of the trip. The other plus is that this and other multi-day and multicity programs have been carefully curated by experts who ensure that all travelers experience Cuba like locals. Another added benefit is that the all-inclusive programs include a local guide to make sure that visitors see and understand every step in the itinerary.
Are you ready to visit Cuba?
Some of the requirements for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba legally include a visa/travel card, a valid passport, one of the 11 approved reasons for travel, and an itinerary that aligns with your chosen legal category for travel. Let a professional agency, such as OnCuba Travel, help simplify the process by gathering your documents and making the experience to travel to Cuba easy!
Solo Travel to Cuba or In a Group?
OnCuba Travel can not only help you select from its many curated itineraries, but they can also help you plan a custom trip to the island. You can also get some ideas from the blogs How to Plan a Custom Trip to Cuba, Planning a Support for the Cuban People Trip to Cuba, especially if this is your reason for travel, and Top 10 Things to Do in Havana. The travel
professionals at OnCuba can also help you select from your bucket list to prepare the ideal itinerary to meet your schedule, interests, and budget best.
What are you waiting for to visit Cuba?
Cuba is a unique destination with great things to see and experience. Cuban people are warm, helpful, and very hospitable. Start putting your ideas together today and speak to a travel expert to book your first or next trip to Cuba. If this is your first time visiting, don’t worry. The team at OnCuba will provide you with helpful tips to prepare for the trip. They will also make available educational materials about the destination that will help you know what to expect. Make sure to pack comfortable shoes if your trip involves a lot of walking and, of course, a sense of wonder. See you in Cuba!