Cuba is a popular vacation destination. Canadians and Europeans flock to its beaches in the wintertime for an inexpensive holiday. With the country opening up to American visitors, Cuba may be on the verge of changing to accommodate many more sun-loving and curious tourists.
Here are five things to do on your visit to this colorful and unique Caribbean island country:
There are many things to see and do in this capital city but there is one inexpensive activity that is a must. It is to stroll the Malecon and Old Havana streets. The Malecon is a seawall sidewalk, a century old promenade that stretches miles from the newer business sector to the old city center. Along the way, you will get to sight-see and to people watch. On one side of your walkway the Caribbean waves splash against the stone walls, and on the other side you will pass by the varied colors and styles of buildings – these colors fading only against the bright hues of the vintage autos on the city streets.
Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage site, rich in architecture of the last two centuries, in tempting restaurants, and in music. Here you can also visit the Catedral de San Cristobal, the fortress Castillo de la Real Fuerza, and glimpse Cuban life on the busy Plaza Vieja.
Tour a Cigar Factory
Even if you don’t smoke as many of us do not these days, there are few scents to rival the smell of a cigar, especially a Cuban cigar. Many tours will take you through all stages of the process from the “raw” tobacco leaves arriving (they would not be fresh but dried) right through to the rolling, and final packaging. The workers themselves may be smoking cigars, and you may be hustled to purchase a cigar from these workers on the factory floor but that is not the only unique sight you may encounter. Quite often the workers are read the news or listen to literary works while at their tasks ( hence the literary names of many brands of cigars). Two cautions: you may not be able to take photos in some factories, and some stop for four weeks or so for staff holidays – and so do the tours.
Go to the Beach
The beaches are probably the major attraction for snowbirds, and perhaps for cruisers too. Varadero is a super long peninsula on the northern coast of Cuba – a stretch of gorgeous beach, and resort after marvelous resort. With over fifty of these resorts, it is easy to tell that this is a popular area for visitors seeking sun, sand and water sports. You can dive or snorkel at the Cayo Piedra Underwater Park, go deep sea fishing and golf too. There are other popular beaches in Cuba such as Cayo Coco, Holguin,
Playa Los Flamencos, and many more. One is never at a loss for a beach, from remote and unspoiled, to having Havana with its nightlife nearby.
Visit the Countryside
Besides being a beach haven, Cuba has a lush interior suited to agricultural pursuits. In the Parque Nacional Vinales you will see tobacco farms, as well as food crops and fruit. This park is another UNESCO world heritage site. Here is a good area to go hiking or horseback riding. Parque Baconao near Santiago is a World Heritage Bioshere Reserve with botanical gardens and coffee plantations.
Visit the Castillo del Morro in Santiago for your taste of Cuban history. It is a fortress built by the Spaniards in the 1600’s – taking most of that century to build – and is today still well-preserved. Settlements then had to be protected not only from other warring countries but from the attacks of Caribbean pirates. The fortress contains a museum and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site as well.
If you want more history than Old Havana and the Castillo del Morro, a popular spot is the town of Trinidad. Colonial houses , cobblestone streets, museums and art galleries lend it a lively but quaint atmosphere.
Cuba is a destination to which one can return year after year and still not experience it all.
Photos courtesy of Bigstock.com and Pixabay.com.