Top 10 activities to do in Cuba
TDA Team | 05 July 2023
If you’re looking for an authentic travel experience with unspoilt scenery and a laid back Caribbean atmosphere, then a holiday to Cuba could be the ideal adventure for you. After the U.S. backed military dictator Batista was overthrown in the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the U.S. implemented a trade embargo against Cuba, which is now one of the longest running embargoes in modern history. This has greatly impacted the lives of ordinary Cubans, who cannot access basic household items, new clothes and often have food shortages. In spite of the challenges encountered by Cuban people, they demonstrate remarkable resourcefulness and constantly adapt to their circumstances. Moreover, their friendly and warm demeanour makes them exceptionally welcoming people. Unsurprisingly, being a Communist country, there are no multinational shops or chain corporations, like McDonalds and Starbucks. Wi-Fi is not readily available, but we see this as an opportunity for a digital detox so you can truly soak up the sights of Cuba. Let’s explore the top activities to do in Cuba.
1. Take a Havana City Tour in a Classic Car
When Fidel Castro came into power as President in 1959, he implemented strict trade restrictions, lasting until 2013, which prevented any foreign-made vehicles entering the country, so locals had to rely on restoring and fixing existing cars in order to drive. Ever since then, classic 1950's American cars like Chevrolets and Buicks are famously associated with Cuba. It’s a fun way to explore old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, whose official nickname is ‘Ciudad de la Columnas' or the City of Columns, due to its Colonial architecture dating back 500 years.
2. Take the Tobacco route to Viñales Valley
Cuban cigars are renowned worldwide due the quality of their tobacco and the meticulous care and attention taken at all steps of the production process. The Viñales valley is encircled by mountains and its landscape is interspersed with dramatic rocky outcrops. Traditional techniques are still in use for tobacco production and this is one of the best places to learn about cigar making by visiting the house of a tobacco farmer, tour the tobacco fields, see the drying houses and try rolling a cigar yourself!
3. Make Cuban cocktails
When in Cuba, you have to sample some local Caribbean rum! On our holidays, we’ll enjoy a cocktail class and learn more about this spirit. Additionally, remember to sample a Mojito cocktail, a creation originating from Havana.
4. Visit the Bay of Pigs
The Bay of Pigs, or Bahia de Cochinos, is a tranquil and stunning place full of pristine beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters, so it’s hard to believe a pivotal moment in modern history took place here. The scene of the failed invasion by the U.S. in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy secretly aided Cuban exiles to invade Cuba in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro.
5. Explore Trinidad
Trinidad is one-of-a-kind, a perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement, in the province of Sancti Spíritus, central Cuba. Founded in 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, its well-preserved colonial architecture and cobblestone streets give visitors a glimpse into the city's rich history. Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988.
6. Dance the salsa
The roots of Cuban music and dance come from the colonial period, where the slaves brought over African rhythms; today they are still an integral part of Cuba’s culture. Most bars and restaurants in Havana will have live music, enticing everyone to stand up and show their salsa moves. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a skilled dancer or not, make sure to join the locals on the dancefloor and practice your ‘hip action’!
7. Snorkel off the Cuban coast
Take a cruise on a catamaran to the islet Cayo Blanco, located near Trinidad, where you can snorkel on the coral reef of Las Mulatas and experience the rich seabed of Cuba’s waters.
8. Experience Cuban Cuisine
Let’s face it - Cuba is not a gourmet country. The food is simple and mostly based on chicken, pork, beef and fish. Unfortunately many recipes were lost during the revolution. You can choose between state-run restaurants and “Paladares”, which are family run restaurants operating out of their actual homes, where you can try some delicious Cuban dishes.
9. Learn more about Che Guevara
Che Guevara was a key figure in the Cuban Revolution and you’re likely to see the iconic image of ‘Guerrillero Heroico’ depicted in various murals, graffiti and artwork throughout the country. The capture of the city of Santa Clara was led by Guevara and it was a key turning point, as Batista fled Cuba and victory was then declared by the revolutionaries. You can visit his mausoleum and learn more about his life in a small museum in Santa Clara.
10. Stay in a Casa Particular
A casa particular is a type of Cuban private accommodation and is a great alternative to hotel accommodation as you have the opportunity to get to know the locals. This is often referred to as a “home stay” and is almost like a B&B so you can experience Cuban hospitality first hand.
On your Cuba holiday, we encourage you to have an open mind when exploring this incredible country. It’s fair to say that things happen at a slower pace, so just remember to go with flow and adapt to “Cuban time”! The lack of facilities we’re used to at home will be compensated by the warm welcome of the people and the fascinating places you’ll explore. A trip to Cuba is almost like taking a trip back in time, in the best possible way.
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