Can I still travel to Cuba in 2020?

While 2019 has been a year of tense relationships between the United States and Cuba, yes, U.S. citizens can still travel to Cuba from the United States. Although regulations have changed throughout 2019, Cuba is still a destination that U.S. citizens can and should consider going to Cuba. The country offers many opportunities for education, information, and awe. Cuba is a destination rich in history, architecture, gastronomy, beauty, diversity, and local warmth.

As you plan your upcoming trip to Cuba, it is to your advantage to gain an understanding of the most recent changes in travel policy. Here is a recap with some of the most impactful changes regarding travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens established this year, as well as some helpful lists and articles about planning a legal trip to Cuba. The changes are relevant for ways to travel, points of arrival on the island, where to stay, and more.

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Travel to Cuba – Changes in Transportation and Reasons for Travel

In June 2019, the Office of Foreign Asset Control, also known as the OFAC, made effective significant changes to travel to Cuba policy. The first change was that use of the “people to people exchange” reason for travel was no longer allowed. Despite this change, 11 categories for travel still remain a possibility to go to Cuba. The Support for the Cuban People category is one of the broadest available. By traveling to Cuba, having exchanges with Cuban people, eating in privately owned restaurants (Called paladares), and staying in privately-owned casas particulares travelers can help satisfy this category’s requirements. The OnCuba Travel blog offers some great ideas on how to plan a Support for the Cuban People trip to Cuba, as well as a list of the top 10 things to do in Havana.

The other significant change the OFAC brought about was that travel to Cuba was no longer allowed by private vessels, such as private airplanes or boats departing from a U.S. port. This tightening in the regulations also limited travel by cruise ships to Cuba from U.S. ports. Although these changes affected pre-booked travel plans for many, U.S. citizens could still travel to Cuba by commercial airlines.

Flights to Havana are available from multiple destinations. One popular point of departure is the City of Miami in Florida. Flights from Miami are relatively short as the flight is roughly 45min., perfect for a weekend or holiday trip. Several carriers currently offer flights to Cuba. To learn more about flights to Cuba, visit the flights page offered by OnCuba Travel. To learn more about the June 2019 changes, you may also visit the blog Travel To Cuba For Americans Series – Traveling To Cuba Under New Policy.

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Flights to Cuba – U.S. Airlines Can Only Fly Into Havana

As of December 10th, 2019, the latest change affects the points of arrival in Cuba. Travel by U.S. airlines is now only allowed into the City of Havana. Although this may represent some detours for travel plans, there are many ways to continue your scheduled activities in other regions in Cuba. U.S. citizens are still able to hire a car service for transfers to other planned activities or rent a car at the airport in Havana.

Alternative ways to get around in Havana include the charming Almendrones, which are the popular vintage cars, and the creative Coco Taxis, named this way because their shape resembles a coconut. A professional agency such as OnCuba Travel has an extensive network of local contacts with trusted and reliable resources for transportation. To learn more about other unique forms of transportation, visit the blog Take a Ride on One of These in Cuba!

Restricted Hotels & Other Entities in Cuba

The U.S. Department of State also makes available for travelers a list of hotels and other entities with which U.S. citizens should not make any direct financial transactions. Areas with restricted properties include Old Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Varadero, Pinar del Río, Baracoa, Cayos de Villa Clara, Holguín, and other cities in Cuba. The list also includes stores in Old Havana. The list is available for review in the U.S. Department of State website. Even with the restrictions, there are still many accommodation options for U.S. travelers in Cuba.

OnCuba Travel has curated a list with a wide range of hotels, ranging from those with the necessary amenities to all-inclusive hotels and resorts offering a white glove, personalized service. Some of the properties available for U.S. travelers include the 5-star Meliá Cohiba, located across from the historical and famous Malecón de La Habana, and the Hotel Saratoga, also known for its celebrity guests which include Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Other carefully selected properties are available across Cuba in Havana, Cienfuegos, Varadero, Pinar del Río, and many other locations. Visit the hotel page on the agency’s website to learn more about the range of hotels in Cuba, each with a brief overview of amenities and available services.

Travelers also have the alternative to stay at one of the many casas particulares across the island. Options can vary widely, since these private homes could range from entirely independent apartments to individual efficiency units within homes, to private rooms within the host family’s home. The accommodation may also be inside a more modern house or in a charming historic home. The locations may also vary from the downtown city center to more distant, but still accessible.

Some of the private homes may include a private bathroom, a kitchen with some basics like plates and cups, towels, and other amenities. Additional appliances and toiletries may also be available by asking the host or for a nominal fee. Some of the casas may also include or offer a daily breakfast with basics like eggs and coffee, to fresh fruit, ham, warm bread, and other food varieties.

A private home accommodation may be more convenient or preferred by someone who seeks a more authentic experience. It also presents a terrific opportunity to speak to locals about life in Cuba. If the traveler selects the Support for the Cuban People reason for travel, staying at a local home and having a conversation with the hosts would help fulfill this reason for travel, as it promotes intellectual exchanges with locals and helps support the host family’s economy. Learning about the locals’ way of life and outlook can be very enlightening and informative. They may also offer suggestions on specific things to see and do, in line with your daily agenda. I will forever be grateful to the host that helped me with a quick wash and iron for a dress during a recent visit.

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Why Should I Travel to Cuba With an Agency?

Working with a professional travel agency has many benefits. The first and likely most significant advantage is that an agency that specializes in travel to Cuba will be aware of all the changes to travel policies. They will ensure an optimal and compliant travel experience for both their solo and group travelers. As you prepare for your trip to Cuba, a specialized agency such as OnCuba Travel can be a tremendous asset to meet all the requirements to travel to Cuba.

OnCuba Travel is a Miami and Havana based travel agency. It supports its travelers with gathering all the visa/travel card requirements and completing all required forms. The agency can also assist with the selection of flights, transportation, and accommodation for their travelers. They can also help you plan a full agenda of activities in line with the purpose of your trip. OnCuba Travel offers a variety of half and full-day land excursions to meet a broad range of interests and desired levels of activity. They also have a selection of all-inclusive, multi-day programs that already include travel and transportation.

If you prefer to create your own experience, the agency’s professional team of travel agents can also help you customize your program to travel to Cuba with hotel bookings or accommodation at a casa particular, car rental needs, airport transfers, and customized activities to best meet your trip’s purpose and budget.

How Can I Create A Custom Trip to Cuba?

The reasons to travel to Cuba can be many. Maybe it’s part of your heritage and you would like to connect more with your roots. Perhaps it’s that one destination you want to check off your bucket list with an opportunity to give back to the locals. It may also be the once-in-a-lifetime trip a loved one would like you to accompany him or her on or the trip you want to make before a major life transition. Whichever your reason for travel is, there is always a good reason to travel to Cuba.

On the next blog, I will share the best tips and tricks to create a custom group program to travel to Cuba for two or more people. We will explore together some of the most important considerations to make when visiting Cuba – from how to select your daily activities to how to get around. I will also cover those top places to see and things to do during your stay, as well as some top recommendations on what to eat and where to dine while in the island.

The experience is also more relaxed by working with a knowledgeable partner by your side, such as an experienced travel agent from OnCuba Travel. Knowing the ins and outs of the destination and the customs of the locals can enrich and enhance the travel experience. The travel agents at OnCuba are available to assist you with any questions and to help you plan your dream trip to Cuba.

What You Can Expect in Cuba In December

Once again, we are at the end of the year. Have you made it to Cuba yet? You do not want the year to end without visiting this tropical paradise. There is still time to make it a December to Remember in Cuba. In this blog, we will learn more about some of the upcoming events in Cuba. You will also learn more about the local weather, how to plan for a trip to Cuba this time of the year, required documents to travel to Cuba as a U.S. citizen, what to expect upon arrival at the airport, and more.

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Cuba: More Than Just Mojitos & Vintage Cars

Although Cuba is mostly known for its mojitos, charming facades, and vintage car rides across Havana, Cuba is also host to many educational and scientific events. During December, in addition to the traditional Parrandas de Remedios, Cuba will also be receiving visitors from all over the world to cover topics such as film, tobacco research, meteorology, coastal ecosystems, organic chemistry, and many others. Take a look below to learn more about upcoming events in Cuba.

Upcoming Events in Cuba

10th International Meeting of Researchers & Students of Information and Communication / ICOM – December 2nd to the 6th

Some of the topics to be discussed at this event will be communication and information as cultural processes for the development of society towards the year 2030. Researchers from all over the world are invited to attend the event. The Faculty of Communications from the University of Havana and the Palacio de Convenciones are organizers of the event. The meeting is scheduled to take place at the Palacio de Convenciones in Havana.

10th Cuban Meteorology Congress, 3rd Seminar-Workshop of Atmospheric Pollution, and the 2nd Climatology Seminar / X Congreso Cubano de Meteorología. III Seminario-Taller de Contaminación de la Atmósfera. II Seminario de Climatología – December 2nd to the 6th

This event, organized by the Cuban Meteorological Society, is open to meteorology professionals and enthusiasts. It is also for those who are involved in the development of contingency plans for extreme meteorological phenomena. The event seeks to open the doors to discussions, debates, and exchanges over available knowledge and interdisciplinary research about the laws and dynamics of Atmospheric Sciences. The event will be taking place at the Colegio Universitario San Gerónimo in Havana and the Tryp Hotel Habana Libre.

International Symposium of Integrated Management and Environmental Handling of Beaches & Coastal Ecosystems / X Encuentro Internacional De Investigadores Y Estudiosos de La Información y La Comunicación (Varaplayas) – December 4th to the 6th

The event will be covering five workshops with topics on geomorphology, vegetation, environmental education, community participation, and more. The items on the agenda will include subjects such as methodology for scientific research, management, and integrated diagnostics in beaches and coastal areas, amongst others. The symposium will also host the first Varadero Nature Photography Contest. This activity will be taking place at the Barceló Solymar.

4th Ibero-American Symposium of Organic Chemistry December / IV Simposio Iberoamericano de Química Orgánica 4th – 8th

The event is open to scientists and professionals in the industry, as well as to students. The event will cover various aspects of organic chemistry to include natural product chemistry, medical chemistry, computations organic chemistry, and more. The event will be taking place in Santa Maria Key, Villa Clara, Cuba.

41st Edition of the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano / Habana Film Festival – December 5th to the 15th

This festival, also known as the Habana Film Festival, is a gathering of Latin American talent. The festival’s full agenda includes screenings, workshops, and other events that promote networking and the exposure of top industry talent from Latin America. Famous directors, such as Pedro Almodóvar, and actor and director Robert Redford have been known to attend the event. The event also hosts an award ceremony for Premios Coral, which recognizes awardees in several categories. Screenings and activities will be taking place along several movie theatres and venues in Havana.

1st Congress for Tobacco Research in Cuba December / Primer Congreso De Investigación Tabacalera En Cuba (INVESTA) – December 9th to the 13th

Cuba is one of the world’s top producers of quality tobacco leaves in the world. This year, the country will be hosting its first congress for tobacco research. The event will also focus on the topic of Cuban black tobacco. The event aims to increase the reach of tobacco research and build awareness of the science behind tobacco at the local and international levels. The event will be taking place at the Palacio de Convenciones in Havana. It may be a terrific opportunity to explore the origins of tobacco from one of its most important sources, taking a Segway to visit a Havana cigar lounge or two.

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Las Parrandas de Remedios

December also brings to Cuba Las Parrandas de Remedios, one of the country’s most rambunctious festivals! The Parrandas typically take place in the days before Christmas. Some of the events happening simultaneously across different cities and towns in Cuba include parades, celebrations, lights, music, and dancing. This festival is said to have started as a way to attract more churchgoers to mass before holidays in the old town of Remedios. Now several cities and towns in the country celebrate Las Parrandas and compete for who has the best and loudest celebration! This celebration and many others, are just a preview of how Cubans celebrate the holidays and how you, too, can enjoy Cuba in December and welcome the new year.

Tips for Easy Travel to Cuba in December

Weather in Cuba In December

Cuba is privileged with reasonably good weather almost all year round. The average temperature in Cuba in December runs from highs around 81oF to lows of about 64oF. The best time to visit Cuba is now! December through May. Just another reason to plan a trip to Cuba this time of the year. To adjust to the weather, plan to dress comfortably during the day, with closed-toe shoes. In the evening, carry a cardigan or jacket with you to adapt to the weather fluctuations. Layers are great to take into consideration when packing.

Requirements to Travel to Cuba from the U.S.

There are specific basic requirements that need to be met to travel to Cuba from the U.S. The first is a valid U.S. Passport. The second is identifying the right reason for travel from the 11 categories approved for travel to Cuba established by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Support for the Cuban People is one of the broadest reasons for travel and frequently used. The third requirement is a visa/tourist card, for which you will need to have determined your cause for travel. Then, you need to have planned a full agenda of activities. Explore the many excursions and all-inclusive programs that are available to help you prepare a full agenda.

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What to Expect Upon Arrival at José Martí International Airport in Havana

As it is customary with international travel, you will be asked to provide your customs forms as you meet with the immigration officer. It will be helpful to have all the accommodation information available, as well as your detailed itinerary, in the event you are asked to provide information about your trip. If you are traveling under the Support for the Cuban people, note that you will need to keep your agenda and receipts of all expenses incurred during your trip to Cuba. This documentation is required up to five years after the trip. Your luggage will also be scanned right after passing through immigration.

Before exiting the airport, you will also pass by representatives from the health department to provide one final form. After completing this step, you will be able to head towards the exit. Depending on the number of people in line, this process may be prompt or may take a little longer. Taking into consideration that Cuba has a different currency, you may want to pass through the currency exchange house at the airport. Use all your local money before leaving the country, as taking local currency outside of Cuba is not allowed.

While preparing for the trip, you may also want to arrange for transfers to and from the airport in Havana. You may also want to research how to rent a car in Cuba, or perhaps, as part of your itinerary, you would like to enjoy a vintage car tour in Havana. Preparation is vital to have a worry-free trip to Cuba.

The Benefits of Working with OnCuba Travel

Whether it is your first time or your seventh time visiting Cuba, it is essential to work with a professional agency that specializes in travel to Cuba, such as OnCuba Travel. Check out the many testimonials, including mine, from customers who have worked with this experienced team. One other benefit of working with OnCuba is that they have both – a local U.S. office in Miami, FL, and a centrally-located office in Havana, Cuba. I can say from experience that their team is very hands-on and efficient.

When I was planning my first trip, they took the time to send not only recommendations to prepare for the journey, but also images of the casa particular (Private home) where I was staying. I also received a detailed breakdown of the day-by-day itinerary with educational information about each landmark and activity we were having on a specific day. Having all these materials was extremely helpful in preparing for the trip. I felt like I was not going in blindly and had a great idea on what to expect. I had a fantastic trip with their help.

Lights, Camera, Havana!

Cuba is no stranger to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Historically, it is also extremely familiar with visits from international celebrities. Before the revolution, Cuba was a playground for the likes of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner, and others who frequented its popular local spots, such as the famous Tropicana Cabaret, the Floridita Bar, and more. Although the country seems to have frozen in time with its rich architecture, history, varied scenery, and diverse topography, it continues to thrive in ingenuity, talent, and creativity. In this blog, I will be sharing more about the history of film in Havana and the beginnings of what is known today as the Habana Film Festival.

Introduction of Film in Cuba

Like many Latin American countries, Cuba lived the introduction of cinema in the 19th century. The first arrival of the cinematograph took place in 1897. The device was a film camera, projector, and printer. It was invented and disseminated by French brothers Louis Jean and Auguste Marie Lumiére. Early cinema locations opened their doors in Havana along the famous Paseo del Prado, one of Havana’s most beautiful streets, set between Downtown Havana and the historic Old Havana. Other locations, such as the Panorama Soler and the Vitascopio de Edison hosted viewings for film enthusiasts. At the time, films mostly originated from Europe and North America. These were available sporadically before the development of significant motion pictures.

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Cinema Before the Cuban Revolution

Before the revolution of 1959, approximately 80 films were on record as produced in Cuba. Some notable films that emerged during this period were La Virgen de La Caridad, a product of the silent era, and Romance del Palmar. During the period, Cuba also served as a location for several films. Some examples are To the Ends of the Earth in 1948, We Were Strangers in 1949, A Lady Without A Passport with Hedy Lamar in 1950, The Old Man and The Sea in 1958, and Our Man in Havana in 1959 amongst others. This period also proved vital for Cuban talent, which gained recognition in countries like Argentina and Mexico. Some examples are multitalented artists René Cardona and Rita Montaner.

Film Industry After the Cuban Revolution

In early 1959, the Cuban government created a new cinematographic department. This department preceded what is now known as the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). The following organization, in turn, created the quarterly periodical Cine Cubano in 1960, still in circulation today. Until 1965, the ICAIC ran all aspects of film production, distribution, and exhibition in the country. The first ten years of the ICAIC were known as the Golden Decade of cinema in Cuba. Two notable films were amongst the output during this period, Lucia in 1969 and Memorias del Subdesarrollo in 1968. Highly regarded filmmakers Humberto Solás and Tomás Gutiérrez directed these films, respectively.

The Beginnings of The Festival Internacional Del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano

In 1979 the ICAIC was involved in the creation of the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, offering a broader platform to Latin American films. The City of Havana has been hosting the festival every year since 1979. Cuba is also home to The Escuela Internacional de Cine, Televisión y Video de San Antonio de Los Baños, located close to Havana. The university, with its television, video, and film focus, is supported by the Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, writer Gabriel García Márquez and the Father of the New Latin American Cinema, Fernando Birri. At this school, hundreds of Latin American students have attended this school to learn direction, scriptwriting, photography, and editing.

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Post-Cold War Special Period in Cuba

The post-Cold War became known as the “Special Period” in Cuba. This period represented many financial challenges and setbacks for Cuban people and the film industry alike. One of the most famous films to emerge during this period was Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate), a film that treats the topic of intolerance and the exciting friendship between a gay artist and a young communist man. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1994, amongst other international nominations and recognitions. The film also went on to win a Goya Award and a Special Mention at The Sundance Film Festival in 1995. During this period, the Cuban film industry also took a different turn. It now had more considerations, such as budget and promotions of films, to appeal to larger international audiences.

Cuba As A Film Location

As relationships between Cuba and the United States broadened, Cuba emerged as a location destination once again. Today, celebrities like Beyoncé and Jay-Z, the Kardashians and Kanye West, Rihanna, and many more continue to visit the Island of Cuba. The film industry has also taken notice. Movies with star power such as The Fate of The Furious in 2017, starring Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, and Dwayne Johnson, as well as Guava Island, starring Donald Glover and Rihanna, have been shot on locations in Cuba.

Cuba is a paradisiac island. The diversity of its population, tropical setting and charming backdrops, variety of destinations, and natural beauty make it an idyllic location for film production. Cuba is also home to nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the Valley of Viñales, Santiago de Cuba, and the City of Havana, amongst other natural and historical landmarks. The industry also finds that production and labor costs are lower when filming in Cuba. By producing movies in the Island, the film industry is also contributing to the local Cuban economy by hiring staff, enjoying at onsite eateries, staying in local hotels or private homes, and utilizing other available resources.

Cuba As Inspiration

Cuba, its history, and its people have also served as inspiration for films. Some examples are Our Man in Havana, Guantanamera, and Viva Cuba. It has also been the influence behind other films like The Perez Family with Marissa Tomei, Anjelica Houston, and Alfred Molina, as well as the famous Scarface, starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer. The famed Brian de Palma directed the latter film.

41st Habana Film Festival

This year, the City of Havana will be hosting its 41st Habana Film Festival, also known as the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano. This event draws thousands of professionals from the film industry each year, promoting the latent talent originating from Latin America and the Caribbean. The festival is also frequented by renown film and artistic figures such as Spanish Director Pedro Almodóvar (All About My Mother, Talk To Her), actors and directors like Robert Redford (Out Of Africa, A River Runs Through It), and Francis Ford Coppola (Patton, The Godfather, The Great Gatsby), and Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, known for his famous works such as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, and many more.

The Habana Film Festival Then & Now

The Habana Film Festival had its origins in 1979. It began as a continuation of other neighboring artistic festivals in Venezuela and Chile, such as the Viña del Mar International Song Festival. The Habana Film Festival is a meeting of the minds, a magnet for artists and creators from the performing arts and film industry. The agenda for the festival includes events, tributes, special presentations, screenings, training seminars, professional networking opportunities, and an award ceremony.

Recipients of the awards are recognized with a Premio Coral. The ceremony recognizes top talent in the categories of Best Feature Film – Fiction, Best Feature Film – Documentary, Short Film and Feature Film (Fiction and Documentary), Best Opera Prima, Best Animated Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Poster, Best Postproduction Editing, with other categories and awards for related roles.

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Travel Planning for Cuba

This year, the Habana Film Festival will be taking place from December 5th to the 15th in Havana. To plan your legal travel to Cuba from the U.S., it is highly recommended to work with an experienced and professional Cuba travel agency in Miami such as OnCuba Travel. The agency has locations in Midtown Miami and a centrally located office in Havana, close to the Malecón in the Vedado neighborhood. Both offices have local teams available to assist travelers with their plans and questions. The agency’s professional staff can help you select from the 11 approved reasons to travel to Cuba to best meet your professional and educational activities. They can also help you navigate the latest changes regarding the people to people exchange category for travel and understand the shift in policy to travel to Cuba by cruise and private vessels.

While in Cuba, it is also essential to maintain a full agenda of activities to meet the minimum travel requirements to visit the Island. The expert team at OnCuba Travel can help travelers create a program with compliant activities to best enjoy your interests and bucket list items in Cuba during your stay. They can also help you obtain your visa and roundtrip flights, following the most recent travel restrictions and regulations to travel to Cuba.

While you are there, why not enjoy flavorful Cuban cuisine, visit a Vegas-style show like that at the Club Tropicana, or take car tour with a ride in a classic car across the Malecón in Havana? If you prefer to drive, the helpful team at OnCuba Travel can also help you to rent a car at Havana airport with pick up at the location or facilitate all airport transfers with a safe, private, and reliable car service. Learn more about available excursions and group programs in Havana and contact OnCuba Travel to start your travel plans.

Havana’s 500th Anniversary Celebration

On November 16th, 2019, the Cuban City of Havana will officially be celebrating its 500th foundation anniversary. It is a momentous milestone that very few cities in the American Continent have been able to observe. In preparation for the milestone festivity, the City of Havana has undergone extensive renovations in crucial city landmarks. Havana is also brimming with excitement and an agenda full of events, important visits, and other happenings to welcome residents and visitors during this crucial moment in Cuban history.

A Brief History of the City of Havana

The City of Havana was founded in the 16th century as San Cristóbal de La Habana by Spanish conquistador, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar. Although the location of the city changed strategically throughout history, it finally settled in its current area in 1519. Today, what was once known as Puerto de Cardenas is what we know as Havana Harbor or El Puerto de La Habana. As a port city with a privileged location, it was instrumental in the Spanish conquest of other American territories. Havana was granted the title of “City” by King Philip II of Spain in 1592.

Today, Havana stands as not only the largest city in the country but also as the main province, principal port, and center of trade in Cuba. It has a remarkable cultural blend that combines its European, Asian, African, and Caribbean roots in aspects such as culture, architecture, cuisine, music, and religion. The architecture on its own is an awe-inspiring blend of neoclassical, colonial, baroque, art deco, eclectic, and modern. From castles to present-day hotels, the richness and depth of its history permeate the city.

Areas such as Old Havana (La Habana Vieja) received recognition as World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. The City boasts charm and nostalgia. It tells a story with the intricacy behind its architecture, its art, and its history. Even its modes of transportation are intriguing. To take a ride through Old Havana in a vintage car and delighting in a panoramic tour is an exquisite and unique experience! To walk through Old Colonial Havana is to step back in time, also getting a glimpse of its golden peak in the 1950s.

For centuries and more recent decades, the country has seen affluence, lack, and periods of transition. However, Cuban people continue to be spirited, resilient, and proud to be Cuban. Now, on the eve of the 500th Anniversary, Cuban people are ready to remember Havana’s history, restore the city’s beauty, and celebrate it.

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Preparing for the Celebration – El Capitolio

One of the iconic buildings undergoing extensive renovations in preparation for the 500th Anniversary celebration is the majestic and symbolic Cuban National Capitol Building, El Capitolio, one of Havana’s main landmarks. The construction of this opulent structure started in the early 1900s but paused for changes. Once construction resumed, the building was completed in only three years – between 1926 and 1929 – during a time of affluence in Cuba. Then-president, Gerardo Machado, commissioned the construction under the guidance of Cuban architect Eugenio Rayneri Piedra.

The Capitolio is an impressive representation of neoclassical architecture. A 56-step staircase, known as La Escalinata, commands the entrance. Beyond the stairs, stand large bronze doors with images that represent the history of Cuba. Upon entering, the view is all about the breathtaking, bronze, marble, and hardwood interiors and impressive cupula. Beneath the cupula is also the third-largest indoor sculpture in the world, called la Estatua de La República (The Statue of the Republic). The nearly 50-foot bronze, gold leaf statue was achieved by Italian artist Angelo Zanelli. The sculpture represents a young woman holding a shield and a lance. Then, on the ground where the longitude and latitude lines meet at point zero, is a replica of what was once a 25-carat diamond. Rumor has it that the diamond once belonged to Russian Tsar Nicholas II. The story says that once in Cuban soil, it was stolen in March 1946. It was then mysteriously returned to President Ramón Grau San Martín three months later in June 1946.

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The National Capitol Building was first constructed to house Congress. After the Cuban Revolution that began in the late 1950s, the Capitolio went through a period of abandonment. Now, following a long season of political changes and renovations, it is slowly transitioning to become the home for the National Assembly. It is truly a majestic sight to behold — Unique in structure, level of detail, and lavishness. In the present day, the staff at the Capitolio is very knowledgeable and can provide tremendous insight into the history of the building, from the elaborate table settings to the ceremonies and events that once took place within the beautiful marble and hardwood walls.

Saturday, November 16th will mark the opening of the south wing of the Capitolio and two important halls, the Constitution Hall (Sala de La Constitución) and the Símbolos Patrios (Patriotic Symbols) Hall. At 9 p.m., the cupula and the exterior of the Capitolio will light up in all its splendor. It would also be a magical time for an evening stroll through the historic center of Havana. The Capitolio is in a centric location, across Paseo Martí, popularly known as Paseo del Prado and streets Dragones, Industria, and San José in Havana.

During the recent opening of another renovated landmark, the Convento de Santa Clara, renown Havana historian, Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, announced the inauguration of other initiatives and edifications in observance of the 500th Anniversary, such as the Museo de Los Bomberos (Fireman Museum), the Museo del Ferrocarril de Cuba (Railroad Museum of Cuba), the Museo del Automóvil (Automobile Museum), and the Castillo de Atarés (The Atarés Castle), amongst others.

Royal Visits to Cuba

2019 brought high-ranking Royals from England and Spain to Cuba. Earlier in the year, Cuba welcomed Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, from England. This week, the Cuban capital is enjoying an official Royal visit by King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain. All visiting monarchs have made history for being the first to set foot from England and the first in 500 years to visit from Spain, respectively.

Goya in Cuba

In preparation for the celebration and Royal visit, the prestigious Museo del Prado in Spain allowed the transport of a self-portrait of romantic artist Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, known as Goya, to Havana due to the artist’s close ties to the art movement in Cuba. The Spanish painter was highly influential during the late 18th and 19th centuries. He was also instrumental in the foundation of the San Alejandro Art Academy in Cuba. The painting will also be in exhibition during the visit of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain. Goya’s self-portrait will be on exhibit for a month on the fourth floor of the Universal Art Building in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, starting on November 14th, following the Spanish Royal visit.

Events Across Havana

Friday, November 15th, 2019, will see the event Noche Habanera (Havana Night) on the eve of the 500th Anniversary. The event will take place along the famous Malecón de La Habana, a nearly five-mile and waterside stretch that serves as the main roadway. Fireworks and great fanfare will resonate during the event!

At the stroke of midnight on November 16th, Cubans will also make their wishes at the famous Ceiba tree, located in Plaza de Armas in Havana, by El Templete. Following tradition, people must wait until midnight to walk three times, counterclockwise, around the Ceiba tree, and make one wish. This ritual is said to have religious origins, as the tree represents the souls of the ancestors. Attendees tend to leave “ofrendas” or gifts at the base of the tree.

Another timely event is scheduled to take place at the San Salvador de La Punta Fortress. The fortress was built in the late 1500s to protect the entrance to the City of Havana through the port. The upcoming event will feature performances and live classical music. Celebrities and notables are expected to attend this event on November 16th.

Another music festivals taking place will be the Festival Internacional de Música de Cámara Habana Clásica, taking place from November 10th to the 24th. Calle Obispo, known for its stilt walkers, is also expected to have a vibrant street party and a large crowd. Festival-goers will surely get their music and dancing on!

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Celebrate Havana’s 500th Anniversary in Cuba!

There is still time to book an all-inclusive vacation to Havana to celebrate the Anniversary of this lively and historic City’s foundation. With the recent changes to the travel policies, it is a perfect time to find a trusted Cuba travel agency. A professional and law-abiding agency, such as OnCuba Travel, can help you simplify the process to travel legally to Cuba from the U.S. OnCuba Travel can help you choose your reason for travel to Cuba and buy your visa.

Although there is a recent travel ban to arrive in Cuba by cruise ships, you can still travel to Cuba by plane. OnCuba can help you book your roundtrip flight to Havana, coordinate airport transfers in Havana from José Martí International Airport, or rent a car in Havana to drive across Cuba! The knowledgeable staff at OnCuba Travel can also help you plan your full itinerary in Cuba, book daylong excursions to places like Old Havana, or prepare a custom program for you and your group. They can also guide travelers to the best hotels in Cuba or find apartments for rent in Cuba to meet your plans and needs. Whether you want to visit a real Havana Cigar Lounge in the famous Hotel Nacional de Cuba and attend the 2020 Habanos Festival, see artists’ studios in Cuba alongside art professionals, or learn how to cook Cuban food, OnCuba Travel can help!

You are one step closer to an unforgettable vacation in Cuba. Contact OnCuba Travel’s team by phone at (305) 602-0219, email at [email protected], or by Live Chat during business hours to get started.

Celebrate the Holidays & Ring in the New Year in Havana

This holiday season, you can choose between doing what you always do locally, or you can celebrate in Havana! Depending on where you live in the country, you can escape the cold weather in the warm and tropical surroundings of this Caribbean paradise. By celebrating the holidays in Cuba, you are also helping change the outlook of locals with the Support for the Cuban People category for travel. By eating delicious food at privately owned paladares, staying in cozy and clean private homes, and shopping at creative privately-owned businesses, you are contributing to the local economy. Today take a stroll down the holiday season in Cuba. Picture yourself holding a mojito in the terrace of the beautiful Paladar El Cocinero, overlooking the sunset, enjoying the cool Caribbean breeze, surrounded by your loved ones, and making unforgettable memories in Havana.

The Christmas Ban in Cuba

Did you know that Cuba did not celebrate Christmas for nearly thirty years? Due to strict measures imposed by political regimes in the late 60s, Cuba became an atheist country for almost 30 years, between 1969 and 1997. The end of the ban came in anticipation of the historical January 1998 visit from Pope John Paul II to Cuba. The ban was “temporarily” lifted to allow the celebration of the Christmas holiday in 1997. That, however, changed with the continued celebration and return of the tradition of the holiday since that year.

Today, older generations of Cubans remember with a twinkle in their eyes how they celebrated Christmas before the ban. They remember a time when the celebrations included luxuries like imported fruit, Spanish treats like the delicious turrones, with large and elaborate family gatherings. Today, the size of the table and the offerings may have changed, but the spirit of family and unity remains strong!

A Very Cuban Christmas

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Although faced with the country’s financial challenges, Cubans know that Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) and Navidad (Christmas Day) are meaningful days to share with loved ones and friends. Know that although Christmas for Cubans may have some resemblance to celebrations in the U.S., it is far from traditional. First, Cubans eat roast pork for Christmas. It may be cooked over an open fire, in an oven, or cooked in the traditionally Cuban Caja China style, which involves placing the meat inside a metal box. This cooking technique leaves the meat juicy on the inside yet crispy and crackling on the outside.

Next, Cubans also like to enjoy their rice and beans or congrí, which combines both on the same dish, garnished with garlic and other spices. There may also be a side dish of fried plantains, yuca with mojo sauce, fried malanga bites, and other traditional Cuban staples. Toasts may be made with rum, cider, and sometimes Crema de Vie (Similar to eggnog). Desserts may vary by family, but you may enjoy Flan, Tres Leches, turrones, chocolates, or other homemade treats.

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The celebration usually starts long before midnight. It may begin as early as when the first guest arrives at the gathering. You may walk into an environment of music to the beat of salsa or son, laughter, and much chatting. Cubans certainly know how to celebrate and how to host a party! The celebration includes both family and extended family. Guests may include from the smallest newborn babies of the family to the eldest living grandparents.

In Havana, the spirit of Christmas runs across the city. Locals and foreigners gather at the Malecón with the sound of music playing in the background. In the foreground, live street musicians can be seen playing traditional Christmas carols in Spanish, adding their dance provoking musical flair. You may want to let your inhibition go and dance to these Cuban holiday rhythms. The houses and balconies around the city glisten with lights, ornaments, and other holiday symbols, which adds an air of magic to the already charming surroundings of neoclassical architecture and old-world edifications.

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Privately-owned restaurants or Paladares that remain open over the Christmas holiday welcome guests for the festivities by offering delightful menus with some of the traditional foods for the season. Their special menus may also be accompanied by entertainment in the form of music, live music bands, and sometimes even dancing. There is certainly an offer to accommodate every budget and type of traveler.

December Festivals in Cuba

Something is always happening in Havana! December and year-end are no exception. First, this December will see the 2019 Habana Film Festival, also known as the Festival of New Latin-American Cinema of Havana. The festival focuses on the promotion of Latin American filmmakers and is conducive to opportunities for networking, location scouting, and the creation of projects. This year, the 41st installment of the festival will be taking place December 5 – 15th.

Despite the financial and political environment on the Island, Cubans love to celebrate! December brings to Cuba Las Parrandas de Remedios, one of the country’s most rambunctious festivals! Typically celebrated in the days before Christmas, it sees parades, celebrations, lights, music, and dancing.

This festival is said to have started as a way to attract more churchgoers to mass before holidays in the old town of Remedios. The celebration originated with children running across the streets with noisemakers. Over time, the festival has grown to incorporate live music, parades, and street parties. Now several towns in the country celebrate Las Parrandas and compete for who has the best and loudest celebration!

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Fun in the Sun for the Holidays

If you are dreading one more year knee-deep in snow and shivering at night, perhaps Cuba can be the paradise that will wrap you in warmth this holiday season. Cuba has primarily two weather seasons, a dry season that runs from November to April, and a rainy season that takes place from May to October. The weather in Cuba is relatively stable throughout the year. The average temperature is approximately 81o F. The country enjoys a pleasant ocean breeze and overall warm weather year-round due to its privileged location. Wouldn’t that be where you would prefer to picture yourself this Christmas?

Exchange Your Snow Boots for Flip Flops

As the weather is mostly warm in Cuba, prepare with light summer clothing. In anticipation of days of outdoor exploration and excursions, pack for sunlight with items such as hats, sunglasses, and sunblock. You may also want to pack mosquito repellant. For the evenings, travelers can plan to wear dresses as well as pants and shirts. Suits are not required. Classic guayaberas are also suitable for your visit to Cuba.

It is also essential to pack comfortable shoes. Whether you are walking down Plaza Vieja, the Complejo Morro – Cabaña or the Callejón de Hamel, be wise to pack closed, comfortable shoes for various terrains and uneven surfaces. As you browse through possible half-day or daylong excursions during your stay, review the level of activity and clothing recommendation to plan accordingly. The team at OnCuba Travel is also available to assist you with any questions you may have during the planning process.

Get Ready for a Very Merry Christmas

Now that you are excited about your upcoming Christmas holidays in Cuba, it is time to get familiarized with the documents needed to enter the country. Cuba requires that all U.S. visitors have a tourist card or visa to enter the country. Once with that, the next step to travel to Cuba is to identify the type of license you will need. The license could be a specific license or a general license. Most U.S. travelers will be eligible for the general license if they are within one of the 11 reasons for travel established by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

The broadest category for travelers after the June 2019 changes to the travel policy is Support for the Cuban People. This category entails supporting local and privately-owned businesses through consumption. Some examples of appropriate activities are eating at a privately-owned restaurant, called a paladar, and staying at a casa particular or private home. Other options are available to define the purpose of your travel plans to Cuba. Travelers may also frequently visit Cuba for events, affinity groups, and educational activities. A professional travel agency, such as OnCuba Travel, can assist you with the selection process and to prepare your travel documents to travel to Cuba legally.

In addition to your travel documents, OnCuba Travel can also help you select from a variety of all-inclusive travel programs to accommodate your interest and bucket list items, like riding in a Classic American Car or visiting an artist collective. Their knowledgeable team can also help you prepare a custom program to accommodate your group’s requests. Travel agents can also work with OnCuba Travel to plan group adventures and worry-free experiences. OnCuba Travel also offers the advantage of a U.S. based office in Miami and a local team in Havana, Cuba.

Prepare to Make Memories

The holidays are an extraordinary time to spend with family, friends, and loved ones. What better way to spend quality time together than away from the usual and exploring something new? Visit Cuba, explore this fascinating country, contribute to its local economy, and, most importantly, spend a Christmas to remember in a new and exotic destination. This country is unlike any others you may have visited before. You will undoubtedly walk away from this experience enriched and with many memorable moments shared with loved ones during your stay for a remarkable holiday season.

Planning A Support for the Cuban People Trip to Cuba

Holidays travel season is just around the corner! What better gift than the gift of travel to the most important people in your life. If you are a travel professional, Cuba offers a unique experience, unlike any other in the world. Your groups will be delighted by everything Cuba has to offer. Start planning early to get the best deals, ask for that much needed time off, and use your vacation days wisely before they expire. If you are traveling on the Support for the Cuban People travel category, learn how to do it the right way.

Recent Travel Updates

Since the June 2019 updates to the regulations to travel to Cuba, we learned that the People to People Exchange reason for travel to Cuba is no longer valid. However, the Support for the Cuban People reason for travel is allowed. It is also one of the broadest categories for travel that can be used to visit the culturally rich and historic Island of Cuba. There are many ways in which U.S. travelers can meet this reason for travel. In this blog, we will discuss what this reason for travel entails, ideas for activities to put together an itinerary that is compliant with a Support for the Cuban People travel category, and much more.

Defining the Support for the Cuban People Category

Support for the Cuban People is one of the broadest general licenses for travel to Cuba. According to the OFAC, this license includes, “activities of recognized human rights organizations; independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; and individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.” Under this license, travelers need to consider activities that support Cubans in the Island, which also means helping support their economy. Daily agendas must include activities that emphasize contact with Cuban people. To learn more about all 11 possible reasons for travel, check out this recent blog.

Activities for a Support for the Cuban People Itinerary

There are many cultural, educational, and fun ways to fulfill on the Support for the Cuban People Itinerary. The country offers a broad range of activities to accommodate groups of varied ages, interests, pace, and budget. These activities may range from a half-day guided walking tour, a sit-down dinner at a traditional eatery, an evening under the stars, or a custom program to help travelers check off things from their Cuban Bucket List.

Enjoy a tasty Paladar – A paladar is a privately-owned restaurant in Cuba. It is different from a restaurant, which is government-owned. Take this opportunity to venture into some of Cuba’s traditional and fusion cuisine options. For a traditional fare of Ropa Vieja, a side of black beans, and a mojito, you may want to visit the Doña Eutimia Paladar at Plaza de La Catedral in beautiful Old Havana. If you want a more eclectic setting and fusion cuisine, you may want to visit El Cocinero next to the hip Fábrica de Arte Cubano in Havana. For a more rustic setting and perhaps a cooking class, you may wish to experience Café Ajiaco in the outskirts of Havana. Remember to ask them to show you how to make a real Mojito!

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Stay at a Casa Particular – A Casa Particular is a private home that the owner opens for travelers as an accommodation option. Casas Particulares can be reserved online or by an app in a similar fashion to any bed and breakfast option. There are many accommodation options available for a Casa Particular, from fully independent homes to a shared space with the homeowner. Breakfast, toiletries, and other perks may also be readily available or by request and vary by the homeowner. By staying in one of these private properties, you are contributing to the homeowner and the local economy. When staying in a Casa Particular with the owner, this offers an excellent opportunity to have contact with a local who can provide insight about the area and their way of life, which directly relates to Support for the Cuban People. Casas Particulares vary in the price range and may present an excellent alternative to staying at a traditional hotel.

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Interact with the Cuban people – Attend an educational workshop, art talk, or meeting of the minds in Cuba. Educational institutions, such as the Universidad de La Habana, are available to coordinate activities that enhance the understanding of the Cuban culture emphasizing contact with the Cuban people. The OnCuba Travel office is also available as an art space and cultural exchange venue. The agency’s staff is available to plan on-site activities for a group. If your group has a particular interest in mind, such as meeting Cuban artists, educational exchanges, or other topics, this would also be adequate for a Support for the Cuban People itinerary.

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Visit private galleries, buy art, attend an art talk, or have an exchange with Cuban artists – Cuba is a country rich in culture and talent. It is also home to the Havana Biennial Arts Festival, held every other year, presents a select group of artists, focusing on Caribbean talent. Many local artists, such as Michel Mirabal and Kcho, have been recognized internationally for their artwork. Visiting private galleries, buying art, and meeting with local artists also fulfills on the Support for the Cuban People reason for travel.

Galleries are available to visit as are artist collectives, solo studios, and home studios. Artist Michel Mirabal, known for his representations inspired by patriotic symbols and his use of materials such as rice, beans, and wire in his art pieces, opens the doors to his home studio and gallery as part of a curated excursion. The immersive experience includes a tour of his gallery and art space, a talk led by the artist, and a succulent meal which Michel prepares himself. Participants may even enjoy an impromptu musical performance by this extraordinarily talented and multifaceted artist.

Learn about the Michel Mirabal Experience

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Speak to local artisans, tobacco rollers, and buy souvenirs – Learn about the local culture by the locals themselves! See these master craftsmen in actions in shops around the country. Learn how they learned their skills, how their craft may be a family tradition, and how it may help support their families. You may also catch a glimpse of expert cigar rollers at festivals such as the annual Festival Internacional del Habano. For the cigar aficionados, Havana has plenty of cigar shops with Habanos available for purchase. The most famous stops for real Habanos belong to the La Casa del Habano brand. For souvenirs, there is no better place than the Mercado de Artesanía in Havana. This large venue hosts hundreds of local artisans and manufacturers. Their offers include paintings of different scales, wooden crafts, worked leathers, soaps, and even lotions. Part of the experience is to negotiate, so do not be afraid to ask for a better deal or a discount on larger quantities of items.

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Meet and engage with musicians, dancers, and other performers at a show – Cuba is alive with daily events that range from street musicians to exuberant shows like the extravaganza at Club Tropicana. The Club Tropicana is a spectacular show with over 100 dancers, singers, and other performers on stage. All the performers are in elaborate costumes and headpieces. At the end of the performance, the dancers walk into the crowds. Some dance groups, like the Compás Dance Troupe, perform to a very different kind of rhythm, one they create themselves with alternative instruments and unusual elements. Other options, like the live band at Club Social Buena Vista next to the Meliá Cohiba Hotel, or the Cabaret Parisien at Hotel Nacional also offer live entertainment.

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Hotels, Flights, Transfers, and Rentals

An agency can also help travelers with the planning of their accommodations, roundtrip flights, transfers, and car rental services. These services can be booked separately or as part of an all-inclusive program. When it comes to hotels, there is a broad selection, ranging from 5-star all-inclusive hotels to other stay options for more budget-conscious travelers. Working with an agency will allow travelers to narrow down their choices to hotels open to U.S. travelers, and those that have more restrictive policies. Booking transfer or car rental with a serious agency also ensures that your roundtrip transfers from your accommodations to the airport and around the city are comfortable, secure, and timely.

Basic requirements to travel to Cuba

As with most international travel, Cuba has specific requirements in place to enter the country. Travelers will need a valid passport, a tourist card/visa, an appropriate category for travel, and a full itinerary of activities compliant with the category for travel selected. Travelers may be asked for details about their itinerary, accommodation information, and other key information upon entering the country.

Putting this information together may be a daunting task, but it does not need to be. Working with a professional agency, such as OnCuba Travel, will help streamline the planning process and give travelers a worry-free travel experience. All activities available through OnCuba Travel are compliant with the OFAC and offer travelers much needed peace of mind. For more information, please contact OnCuba Travel at (305) 602 – 0219, visit their website, or click to email the agency below.

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Immersive, Experiential, and Multisensory Travel in Cuba

The clock is about to hit nine on a breezy, but warm Cuban evening. You are making your way down cobbled walkways towards the entrance of the Morro-Cabaña Complex in Havana. People are swarming in through a torch-lit hall lined on both sides with merchants and artisans. You make your way up a dirt and cement stairway to get a prime location amongst locals and foreigners like you, who don’t know what is going to happen next. Suddenly, everything becomes silent. People clear the pathways, expectantly.

You see how, slowly, a dim light in the distance becomes brighter and appears closer. All you hear is stomping on the ground – marching – followed by chanting. It’s a group of soldiers, dressed in colonial uniforms. They are marching towards the place where they will shoot the traditional cannon. It once announced that the walls were closing and that the City of Havana had to be vigilant of pirates and evildoers who could invade the Island stealthily while it slept.

The 8 p.m. Cañonazo Ceremony is just one of the historical, interesting, and beautiful experiential travel adventures the Island of Cuba offers visitors. Unless you walk into the crowded Floridita, home of the Daiquirí, to take pictures with Ernest Hemingway, you are not fully participating in the excitement, the charm, and the magic of this Caribbean destination.

Experiences Through Immersion

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Experiential travel in Cuba takes on a different tone. Travelers have the opportunity to talk to locals about their everyday lives on the Island. They may also choose to discuss Cuban culture, values, outlook, and even inquire about that mysterious ingredient that gives Ropa Vieja its distinct flavor over other meat dishes. Unless you are face to face with a local, you cannot see the pride in a Cuban man or woman’s face when they talk about the history of Cuba. From the time of the colonies to once being a prominent and influential nation, Cuba was once the playground for international jetsetters and celebrities. Their faces transform when they talk about loved ones who’ve left to other countries or about their struggles to find essentials to cook their daily meals.

The Real Cuba Is Not Like Miami

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Most travel professionals and other individuals from around the globe are likely familiar with the vast Cuban population living in Miami, FL. Many believe that going to a local Cuban-themed spot in Miami, with memorabilia and guayabera toting waiters, is going to offer a Cuban experience. It is nothing like that. In Cuba, you will get the sass, the charm, and above all the flavors that are representative of Cuban cuisine. Recipes have been passed down through generations, with seasonings that are very particular to the chefs and their upbringing. You will have a taste of traditional Cuban Cuisine at Doña Eutimia, a private paladar in Plaza Vieja. You will have a completely different experience at the rustic Café Ajiaco in the outskirts of the city while you learn how to make an authentic Cuban Ajiaco and a mojito during a cooking lesson.

Take your group to an experiential Cuban cooking class

Wake Up, Havana!

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Waking up for the first time in Havana is like waking up on a holiday morning. You do not know what surprises or experiences the day will bring, but you are joyfully expecting it. Outside your window, you may find yourself with cars and people talking if you are more downtown. While waiting for your transport, sitting on the steps outside of your building or hotel, you may also find that life in Cuba is not very different from your own. People are walking, jogging, riding bicycles, driving cars, and even rescuing animals by trying to find them homes. During the day you may also see street performers, people playing dominoes, or even music ensembles. Cuban people come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, but all with that unique Cuban way of speaking, which also varies by region.

When visiting Cuba, a traveler can see that, regardless of what may be on the news, Cuban people are friendly, warm, and very spirited. Many are entrepreneurs who own private restaurants called paladares. They also open their homes to travelers as Casas Particulares, private homes that offer bed and breakfast options. They are also cuentapropistas who own gallery spaces like artist Michel Mirabal, shops such as Clandestina, and hair salons. They make crafts, soaps, lotions, and then sell them at arts and crafts markets, like the San José in Avenida del Puerto. Consuming and purchasing from these independent and privately owned businesses are just some of the ways in which travelers can fulfill on the Support for the Cuban People reason for travel.

Walking Around Cuba With Experts

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The best way to experience Cuba is with a knowledgeable local guide. OnCuba Travel prides itself in its U.S. and Cuba based teams. Their network includes local businesses, experienced local guides, and other Cuban experts who come together to provide travelers with the most insightful experiences and programs a foreigner can have to see and feel the real Cuba.

Walking down the historical and majestic Cementerio Colón, also known as Necrópolis Colón, would not be the same without the guidance, insight, and sometimes colorful stories from a local guide with a strong art and history background. Visiting all the famous plazas in Havana during a curated walking tour ensures that all the essential details about each location are known and covered. One example is the Caballero de Paris sculpture. At this stop, visitors are expected to pull the Caballero’s beard and step on his foot. A professional excursion also gives you access to his backstory, significance, and ultimate demise. Such is also the case with historic landmarks like the Capitolio.

Visit all the must-see locations with an excursion like Havana Highlights

The Secrets of El Capitolio

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The Capitolio in Havana is opulent, imposing, and rich in history. While the Capitolio offers an in-house guided tour, being with a professional guide that speaks your preferred language will ensure that you understand all the details behind this historical landmark. Having a guide also adds a depth of knowledge that ties landmarks like El Capitolio with the overall history of the City of Havana. Learn about the important dignitaries that once walked the building’s halls, the history behind its construction, and the more contemporary details behind its renovations. This experience would not be possible without careful planning and coordination from the OnCuba Travel team, guides, and other supporting professionals.

OnCuba Travel can help you plan the trip of a lifetime Contact today

Celebrate Afro-Cuban Culture at El Callejón de Hamel

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Another famous must-see in Havana, el Callejón de Hamel, is more than just an explosion of Afro-Cuban culture, art, history, and religion. It’s about local people, street musicians, singing and drumming with tumbadoras. It’s also about Yerberos and artists who practice the Yoruba religion and live their lives fully expressing and sharing their beliefs and the history behind their origins in Cuba. It’s also about the poetry on the walls, the sounds, and the beautiful diversity of people dancing, laughing, talking, and sharing who they are in this inviting and warm environment. You need to walk the Callejón, dance, sweat, and experience how this place lights up on a Sunday at noon.

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The Revival of Jamainitas & Fusterlandia

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A similar experience happens when driving to Jamainitas, an area that has been severely affected by destructive hurricanes. Its people have had to rebuild on many occasions. Part of the pride and joy of this area today are the mosaics and artwork from artist José Fuster and his apprentices. Walking down the streets of Fusterlandia – a name inspired by the local artist – pay careful attention to the writing on the walls, the symbols of love, peace, hope, sarcasm, irony, and politics the mosaics represent. Also, note the fun, humor, and the spirit the Cuban people have. If you love hats, animals, flags, or hearts, surely you will find the perfect background for many unique photos in Fusterlandia.

Visit Jamainitas with a local excursion See excursions

The Cuban Pride

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The pride movement in Cuba is thriving. The LGBT+ community in Cuba has a variety of options for travelers and groups that celebrate sexual diversity. OnCuba Travel has prepared a special edition Cuban Pride Experience this November coinciding with the festivities of the City of Havana’s 500-year celebration. It is an opportunity to speak to like-minded individuals, artists, dancers, and musicians with a fun and cultural agenda of activities.

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The Artsy Side of Cuba

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A country with a fascinating blend of Spanish, African, and Caribbean influence produces succulent cuisine. It also creates equally appetizing artwork, a feast for the senses. Travelers can now visit Cuba with Miami-based artists Alejandra Stefania and Mojo for an immersive art and food extravaganza. This experience is complete with visits to artist’s studios, art collectives, and handpicked dining spots to whet your palate and your artful eye. Now taking reservations for a November 1st, 2019 departure!

Take your group in a fascinating Cuban art experience See more details

Start Planning Fall and 2020 Travel Today

It is never too early to start planning your next vacation or group experience. In fact, planned travel may give you the advantage of reduced rates and securing your spot in select small group adventures. Working with a professional agency will also make the difference between just visiting Cuba and experiencing Cuba like a local. The experts at OnCuba Travel offer many planning solutions to provide independent travelers and travel professionals a worry-free and all-inclusive travel experience. Items such as travel requirements, visas, flights, itinerary planning with OFAC compliant activities, lodging, and transportation can all be coordinated by the agency.

The agency also offers a variety of short and daylong excursions, as well as multi-day travel programs to accommodate various interests and levels of activity. For those that prefer to create a customized travel experience, OnCuba also offers an alternative to build a custom program. Contact OnCuba Travel with your travel details to get started today.

There Are Still 11 Authorized Reasons for Travel to Cuba in 2019

Summer is just starting, and there are still so many great reasons to visit the beautiful and culturally rich Island of Cuba in 2019! Ahead of us, we have the Carnaval de Santiago de Cuba later in July, the Marabana Marathon in November, the Havana Film Festival in December, as well as the Parrandas de Remedios, to close out the year. Of course, let us not forget the delicious local cuisine, African heritage, diversity of the Cuban culture, and its warm and friendly people. As you are planning individual or group travel to Cuba from the United States, you will need a valid U.S. passport, a visa, and a valid license for travel. Remember that an individual cannot travel merely as a tourist with no set agenda. It is important to identify what the right reason for travel is and to ensure that every traveler has a full-time agenda for their planned activities during their visit.

Following the new regulations to travel to Cuba effective as of June 5th, 2019, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) now allows for 11 different licenses for travelers to visit Cuba from the U.S. legally. These are family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organization; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; and exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials and certain authorized export transactions. In this blog, we will provide a brief overview of each type of general license and provide some helpful examples of travel scenarios for each license.

Family visits

This license is for travelers who have relatives that live on the Island of Cuba. As per the OFAC, a close relative is considered a person who is related “by blood, marriage, or adoption who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person.” The close relative may be a Cuban national or a person who resides in Cuba. For example, it is ok for a traveler to visit a second cousin because you are related by blood and share a common ancestor, no more than three generations apart. On the other hand, you would not be able to use this license to visit your son’s father-in-law because you do not have a direct connection.

Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

This type of license applies to employees, grantees or contractors of the U.S. government, other foreign governments, or intergovernmental organization, where the U.S. may be a member or observer, who are traveling to Cuba to conduct official business. This license cannot be applied for as a group if only some of the members qualify. Travelers must qualify for the license individually. An example would be if the United Nations is holding a meeting in Cuba, employees of the U.S. Government who participate would use this license since the U.S. is attending as a member of the United Nations.

Journalistic activity

The journalistic activity license authorizes full-time journalists, freelance journalists, and support or technical personnel to travel to Cuba. This license must also be qualified for individually. A group cannot use this license when only certain individuals qualify. An example would be if a freelance journalist wants to travel to Cuba to cover the upcoming Habana Film Festival in December. He or she would travel under this visa.

Professional research and professional meetings

This type of license is suited for those set to perform professional research or hold professional meetings in Cuba that pertain to their area of expertise, professional background, or profession. This license also excludes the authorization of direct financial transactions with restricted entities and subentities (www.treasury.gov). As a reminder, travelers must have a full agenda of activities when visiting the island. An example of proper use of this license would be a cultural anthropologist focusing on Cuban studies traveling to Cuba to research an area of Cuban society.

Educational activities

If you are a professor or coordinating travel for a group pursuing education activities, this may be the license for you. This general license is for faculty, staff, and students at U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools. Authorized educational activities would include study abroad programs. Academic exchanges and joint noncommercial, academic research between U.S. and Cuban universities would also fall under this general license. An example would be if a U.S. university offers a course on Cuban studies, and part of the curriculum is a study abroad program in Cuba, this would fall under this license. Again, note that each person traveling would have to apply on an individual basis.

Religious activities

This license would be for U.S. citizens and U.S. based religious organizations, its members and staff, traveling to Cuba for religious purposes, with a religious program or partaking related activities. An example of this would be if religious U.S. based individuals were traveling to Cuba to commemorate the day of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the Cuban Patron Saint, planning to attend religious activities during their stay.

Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions

This general license applies to those who participate in amateur or semi-professional international sports federation competitions and other athletic competitions. For example, if you are interested in participating in the upcoming annual Marabana Marathon as a runner, you would request this license. This license is also for those travelers planning to attend public performances, clinics, workshops, and exhibitions in Cuba. Some examples could be the International Jazz Festival in January or the International Cuban Dance Festival in Havana.

Support for the Cuban people

Support for the Cuban People is one of the broadest general licenses for travel to Cuba. According to the OFAC, this license includes, “activities of recognized human rights organizations; independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; and individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.” Under this license, travelers need to consider activities that support Cubans on the island, which also means helping support their economy. Some of the examples of fulfillment for this license are eating at a privately-owned restaurant called a paladar, buying local art and souvenirs for a crafts market, and staying at a privately-owned home known as a casa particular instead of a hotel. Daily agendas must include activities that emphasize contact with Cuban people.

Humanitarian projects

Under this license, U.S. citizens may travel to Cuba for causes that may be of aid, disaster preparedness and relief, medical aid, historical preservation, and more. It may be wrongfully assumed that fulfilling on a humanitarian project in Cuba is just a matter of volunteering. Because of the limited availability of organized humanitarian activities on the Island, it would be best to contact international organizations that have agreements and causes in place with Cuba. An example of travel under a humanitarian project would be to volunteer to travel to Cuba with an established U.S. based organization to provide disaster relief after a hurricane.

Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes

As the name says it, this license is for activities and transactions relevant to private foundations, research, and educational institutes. Under this license, these organizations can engage in financial transactions to establish a physical presence in Cuba, such as opening a local office. Research conducted must be for non-commercial purposes and primarily with an international relations focus. An example of this license would be a U.S. based private foundation looking to develop articles on South American -Caribbean international relations. To achieve this, they want to send their team to Cuba to research. Note that people who travel under this license must maintain records of their activities. The license must also be applied for individually.

Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials and certain authorized export transactions

This license relates to the activities involved in the exportation, importation or transmission of information related to travel to Cuba. This license includes filming movies, creating art, and recording music in Cuba. The person using this license must be employed full time and have experience in the field related to their reason for travel. An example of this license would be if a film, such as a documentary, is shot in Cuba and the individuals involved in such productions. The content is then exported to the U.S.

Do you need help finding the right license to travel to Cuba?

If you are having trouble identifying the right license for your travel plans to Cuba and would like to make the process easy, an experienced and professional agency such as OnCuba Travel can help. Please contact OnCuba Travel by phone at (305) 602 – 0219 or email at [email protected]. Friendly and knowledgeable representatives are available to assist you. Their website, www.oncubatravel.com also offers multiple resources to make your trip to Cuba hassle free.

In addition to finding the right license, OnCuba Travel can help you coordinate flights, purchase your visa, book a hotel, rent a car, coordinate airport transfers, and create a full agenda of activities based on your travel plans. Visit the many options for short excursions in Havana, Viñales, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba, as well as multi-day all-inclusive group programs available.

Travel to Cuba for Americans Series – Traveling to Cuba Under New Policy

The new regulations by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to travel to Cuba have caused a lot of concern and confusion with regards to travel to Cuba legally from the U.S. It has also been a concern for travelers with pre-existing travel plans to the Island. Particularly because in the past there have been periods where travel to Cuba from the U.S. has been heavily restricted or not even a possibility. Let’s dive in a little deeper and understand what transpired.

Two main changes took place. The first is that the general license called “people to people” exchange can no longer be used. The other change is that travel by vessels such as cruises, private airplanes, and jets, is no longer possible. These changes may affect pre-booked cruises departing from an American port to Cuba. The good news is that there is a silver lining. Travel to Cuba is still possible for Americans. Let’s explore how.

As with any international travel to any destination, there are certain requirements that must be met when traveling to Cuba. The new regulations became effective on June 5th, 2019. These will be enforced for future travel to Cuba from the United States. Other requirements have not been affected by these new regulations. These key requirements are that American travelers must have a valid U.S. passport and a visa. Information to obtain these documents can be found here.

The recent changes by the OFAC impact one of the twelve general licenses available to travel to Cuba. This is very relevant because determining the general license for your travel plans is the first step required to apply for the travel visa. Pre-scheduled travel under the People to People license may be affected by the new changes. It is highly recommended to check with your travel partner or provider if the new regulations affect your previously scheduled travel plans to Cuba from the US.

Before the new regulations, the “people to people” exchange general license was common for groups traveling to Cuba from the U.S. It was often used by groups with educational purposes. This general license is no longer available. However, there are 11 other licenses available to make travel to Cuba possible for Americans. These licenses are specific to several reasons for travel. Some of the licenses include support for the Cuban people, family visits for direct relatives, travel for university groups, academic research, journalism, professional meetings and more.

Which is the right license for your group? There are several options available. Support for the Cuban people is a frequently used type of travel licenses. It entails supporting local and privately-owned businesses through consumption. Some examples of appropriate activities are eating at a privately-owned restaurant, called a paladar, and staying at a casa particular or private home. Other options are available to define the purpose of your travel plans to Cuba.

A professional travel agency such as OnCuba Travel can help you find the right license to meet your travel purposes and needs. It is simplified further with an agency because they can facilitate the process for multiple travelers. Once the proper documentation is in place, it’s important to review available travel options. Although travel to Cuba by certain vessel types such as private airplanes, jets, yachts, and cruises is not possible, it is still a possibility to travel to Cuba by commercial airline.

Several airlines offer travel to Cuba regularly. Learn more about available options here. Flights to Cuba often depart from Miami International Airport, as Cuba is just a short 45-minute flight from Miami. It is ideal for a weekend getaway or a multi-day exploration. For those planning group travel, such as our travel partners, it is important to see all the available travel options to Cuba.

It is still a requirement to have a full schedule of activities for travelers while in Cuba. The country has several points of interest, not only in the city of Havana, but across the entire country. It is home to several UNESCO World Sites and has played a pivotal role in history. Its architecture is rich, as it expands from colonial times to modern day edifications. Cuba is also home to some of the best tobacco leaves, as one of the main producers of top Habanos in the world.

There are many options available to accommodate different interests and activity levels. Ground excursions offer the flexibility to add activities ranging in time from a couple of hours to a full-day schedule. OnCuba Travel offers excursions that will take your group to the most important landmarks in Cuba, including El Cristo, El Capitolio, the beautiful plazas, and so much more.

There are also multi-day programs available for special interests. Whether your group has an interest in art, cuisine, history or culture, there are several programs to best meet your group’s needs. The programs and several of the excursions also include meals at many top privately-owned restaurants called paladares. The paladares may range from traditional to upscale fusion. The cuisine, which is a blend of Spanish, Caribbean, and African flavors is truly delightful.

Excursions and programs are also available for those who prefer an outdoor or eco-friendly adventure. Cuba is rich in flora and fauna with lush vegetation. It offers many options for those who want to see nature, like the mountains in the Sierra Maestra and the Valley of Viñales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Activities are also available for group members that prefer a lighter level of activity, such as Vegas-style shows with live music and dancers. Venues such as the Tropicana and Parisien offers shows several times a week and provide a comfortable environment to watch the show.

Transfers and ground logistics in Cuba can also be arranged for your group by the agency. It can be quite daunting to find a taxi in a foreign country, particularly if one does not know the area or speak the language. Prearranged transportation can also be taken care of for your group. The drivers provided by OnCuba Travel are reliable, punctual, professional, and cordial. Vehicles selected are in good condition and are equipped with air-conditioning. I know our group would have been lost and late many times without our trusty driver in Cuba.

When traveling with OnCuba Travel, groups are often accompanied by expert local guides. These are knowledgeable in topics of interest for each excursion or program. They can provide valuable insight from the local’s point of view. They are also well-versed in historical facts and special points of interest in each location. After all, it would be a waste to visit the beautiful Colón Cemetery in Havana and not know the stories behind the beautiful marble sculptures.

OnCuba Travel can also help you prepare a custom group program to meet your travel needs. The knowledgeable team at the agency is always available to make the planning process simple. To provide travel partners with special assistance, the agency can also take care of all visa processes, accommodations, transfers, and transportation for the entire group. They also provide educational documents in preparation for each destination to help travelers learn more about the activity and what to expect.

There are two programs currently available, created in partnership with OnCuba Travel partners. One is the Cigar and Rum Tour. The itinerary was specially curated for groups that have an interest in cigars and rum. It is very popular around the time of the International Habanos Festival, which is held every year in Havana. Participation includes a day at the festival to sample special cigars and participate in other special activities.

OnCuba Blog

OnCuba Blog

Two main changes took place. The first is that the general license called “people to people” exchange can no longer be used. The other change is that travel by vessels such as cruises, private airplanes, and jets, is no longer possible. These changes may affect pre-booked cruises departing from an American port to Cuba. The good news is that there is a silver lining. Travel to Cuba is still possible for Americans. Let’s explore how.

As with any international travel to any destination, there are certain requirements that must be met when traveling to Cuba. The new regulations became effective on June 5th, 2019. These will be enforced for future travel to Cuba from the United States. Other requirements have not been affected by these new regulations. These key requirements are that American travelers must have a valid U.S. passport and a visa. Information to obtain these documents can be found here.

Another specialty group program prepared with a travel partner is the Afro-Cuban Cultural Immersion program. This itinerary was specially curated for travelers who want to explore the roots of African influence in Cuban culture, religion, music, and cuisine. It explores the slave routes, the history of the Yoruba religion on the island, with stops in important cities and towns that are at the heart of Afro-Cuban culture.

OnCuba Blog

OnCuba Blog

Other details can also be pre-arranged, such as accommodations. Cuba has several options for stay in many areas across the island. The range of properties available goes from hand-picked private homes to historical hotels. Several of the hotel properties are award-winning and provide above average amenities and services. There are options available for every budget and interest. Another great option is a private home, called a casa particular. These can often be booked with daily breakfast service and with options for add-on amenities. In booking a casa particular travelers also support Cuban people while participating in scheduled activities, depending on the type of travel license selected.

Again, travel to Cuba from the U.S. is still an option. A knowledgeable travel agency, such as OnCuba Travel, can support you with all the details and of your group. They can assist with the selection of the correct general license to travel to Cuba and with the visa application process. This process can be challenging when trying to navigate on our own, even for the most seasoned travel professionals. All programs and excursions offered by OnCuba Travel continue to be OFAC compliant. The new regulations do not affect the activities within their excursions and group programs.

For more information specific to the general licenses available for travel to Cuba, please check these Frequently Asked Questions and the Resource Center in the U.S. Department of The Treasury website, treasury.gov.

Travel to Cuba for Americans Series – Paladares & Casas Particulares

Visiting Cuba is a game-changer. Being able to meet locals, learning about the country’s history, and seeing everything in the flesh is very different from hearing or reading about it. Even video does not do the Island justice. There is so much to learn that it is wise to prepare ahead of time to have knowledge of some essential facts before traveling to Cuba. In this blog, we will cover two important distinctions, Casas Particulares as a hotel alternative and Paladares as a restaurant alternative. You will hear these come up a lot in preparation for your trip to Cuba and during the trip.

Casas Particulares

Many are familiar with the concept of the Casa Particular or Private Home. It is similar to the available Bed & Breakfast rentals we can access through apps and websites in the United States. I stayed in two Casas Particulares during my trip to Cuba. One was in the district of Miramar and the other in the district of Vedado. Just as in many areas in the US, Casas Particulares need to be registered to be considered legal. You may be asked for your ID and travel information for their records.

The first Casa where I stayed was in Miramar, which is one of the central districts in Havana. I had a late arrival, but the owner still stayed up to meet me, show me around the house, and then to my room. The house was converted from a single-family home to include separate spaces for travelers. The room had a queen size bed, space to hang clothes, a couch, and a TV. The room was also conveniently air-conditioned and very comfortable. I also had a key to the room and felt very secure.

The Casa Particular in Miramar was more like an efficiency than a room. It was equipped with a full and private bathroom, toiletries like soap and amenities like towels, hair dryer, and an iron. I am sure other items were available upon request. The room also had a kitchen area with a refrigerator. The refrigerator was stocked with juices, sodas, water, and other local refreshments. A bottle of water and a juice carton were included with the room. Others could be purchased for a fee. The kitchen also had a sink, plenty of counter space, a tea kettle, and a stove. Plates, cutlery, and glasses were also available.

After a restful night of sleep, I looked forward to the breakfast that was included with the room. Boy was I surprised. It was a feast! This particular Casa had set aside for me a table with a window view, eggs prepared to my taste, a ham and cheese platter, warm milk, cocoa powder, warm bread with jam and butter, freshly brewed coffee, and even a tuna and cucumber dish. My favorite part was the cut fruit platter, which included papaya, pineapple, and guava. It was delightful.

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The owner was very accommodating the two nights I was there. She also worked with my schedule for late arrival, early pickup, and breakfast times at my convenience. I would stay there again in a heartbeat.

The second Casa Particular where I stayed for about five nights was in Vedado. The apartment was adjusted to accommodate travelers. I could tell by the floor where walls used to stand but had been torn down to allow for a more open feel and closet space. The apartment had a double door in addition to the lock in the main entrance to the building.

Since I had my pick, I selected the larger of three bedrooms. The apartment had a central AC unit, but the room had its own as well. It also had a very comfortable queen bed. The bathroom was very ample and was nicely decorated with a black/white art deco motif. It also had toiletries like soap and toilet paper available. In addition to that, the bathroom had plenty of towels, a floor mat, a good shower head, and quality fixtures.

The apartment had a quaint little terrace, a large flatscreen TV, and a sound system in the living/dining area. One of the other perks of this unit was the use of a prepaid phone during the stay. The person in charge was lovely. I talked to her quite a bit about life in Cuba, history, food, down to what I should wear to the places in my itinerary. She went above and beyond even bringing me ice cream and offering to wash a dress for me.

The breakfast in this Casa was also excellent. It too had a large platter of cut fruit, freshly brewed coffee and warm milk on the side, a tea option with hot water, eggs prepared my way, and warm bread rolls. Everything was nicely presented and was made to meet my requests. I really felt like I was in my home away from home.

Overall, I had a great experience with the Casas Particulares OnCuba Travel selected for me. Everything was taken care of from beginning to end. The Agency also made sure I had all the information I could need. They sent me a program with pictures, contact information, check-in and check-out times, a listing of amenities for each Casa, and of course arranged for breakfast every morning. I did not have to worry about anything, for which I was extremely grateful, being a foreigner during my first visit to Havana.

Paladares

Cuba is known for its delicious cuisine which combines Caribbean, Spanish, and African influence. Travelers can enjoy Cuban cuisine in one of two ways. One is through restaurants, which are mostly state-owned. The other is through an alternative called the Paladar. Paladares are eateries owned by private individuals and entrepreneurs. Most importantly, by eating in a Paladar, you are contributing and supporting Cuban people and the local economy.

During a recent trip to Cuba, I had the pleasure of trying several Paladares. I will share my experience with two of my favorites. I will start with one of the more traditional ones, which is Doña Eutimia at the Plaza de La Catedral in Havana. If it were not for the many people sitting inside and around it would seem like a family-style restaurant, a bit bigger than a hole in the wall. People were sitting together snuggly, but I quickly understood why.

From the moment we entered, we were greeted right away by our server, a dashing young man with beautiful eyelashes. He proceeded to explain to us our preset menu which included some of the more traditional Cuban dishes. We had a welcome drink, a grand Cuban Mojito. It was followed by the most flavorful Ropa Vieja I had during the entire trip. The meat was nicely shredded, seasoned, and juicy. We also had fried malanga bites, which were wonderfully crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Our dessert was a traditional Flan, like a custard, which was amazingly soft and drizzled with a sweet caramel sauce.

I was lucky to have this restaurant as part of the itinerary prepared by OnCuba Travel. I would have really regretted missing this gem. The cherry on top? I had moved away for a second to speak to one of the tour guides. Our waiter realized my coffee was getting cold. He not only brewed me a fresh cup of coffee but brought it to the new table where I was. Incredible flavors and fantastic service. Doña Eutimia is definitely high on my list of restaurant recommendations.

The second Paladar I will mention, although entirely different, is El Cocinero. It is located just around the corner from the Fábrica de Arte Cubano (FAC), a happening art and club space in Havana. We arrived close to sunset, just in time to make our way up the winding staircase to the open rooftop. Then, there was another staircase that led to a high communal table and on the horizon the most beautiful skyline and magnificent sunset I have seen in a long time. We were covered in shades of red, orange, and a fainting glow of sunlight. It only lasted for a few moments, but this particular memory still remains fresh in my mind.

What stood out to me the most was that this Paladar was not on the traditional side. The ambiance was chic, modern, eclectic, fashionable and worldly. The color palette of greens and golds added an air of vintage, but wonderfully balanced with modern iron pieces, glass, and lighting elements.

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The menu included ingredients that were traditional but combining flavors with others that would likely not be found together every day. Amongst the standouts was the appetizer I selected from the preset menu, the Tambor de Boniato. It was spicy crab layered with a sweet potato pudding to resemble a drum shape, finished with some mozzarella cheese shavings on top and a pesto aioli drizzle. The other stand out was definitely Tarta de Chocolate – Chocolate Tarte dessert. The chocolate is like a ganache in texture and just melts in your mouth.

OnCuba Blog

Imagine that out of my eight days and seven nights in Cuba this only covers but a sliver of the experiences and places we went to during our trip. None of this would have been possible without the support and program planning services provided by the team at OnCuba Travel. They go above and beyond making sure every detail is taken care of for their groups.

Nowadays, there are many options available to plan travel to Cuba, but it is never the same as working with a professional travel agency such as OnCuba Travel. They are very familiar with the destination, make recommendations based on interests, and have already developed a series of group programs and day excursions with diverse itineraries and interests in mind.

Contact OnCuba Travel to get started with your travel plans today. They can assist you with everything from visas to travel to Cuba legally from the United States to itinerary planning and transfers for you or your group. OnCuba Travel also works with travel professionals to facilitate group travel to Cuba.