Caribbean Travel Guide: Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is both a mysterious and fascinating island. Cuba is actually part of an archipelago of islands including the, Isle of Youth, located near to the north – western tip of the island. While the Isle of Youth has only about 100,000 residents, Cuba has approximately 11 million people, making it the largest population
in the entire Caribbean. With an area of 42, 461 square miles, it is also the largest island in the Caribbean.
Popular Hotels – Cuba
Apart from being famous as the largest island in Caribbean, Cuba is a frequently heard name in discussions centred on tourism in the Caribbean. Cuban cities are bustling with tourists and visitors all year long. These quarters are riveting for travellers who don’t lose time in falling in love with the mix of activities and tourism pleasures that Cuba has to offer. This article lets you plan your Cuban vacation better by introducing you to some well known hotels and resorts.
Be it the swimming pool that takes you to the Greek ways of recreation, or the top floor terrace and bar-restaurant that lets you enter the world of great sights and delicious food, the Parque Central is guaranteed to make your vacation a whole lot better than what it would be otherwise. Havana’s breathtaking views are right in front of your eyes from the hotel, so you are never switched out from the vacation feel. Touring Havana is one stunning experience in itself, and then staying at Parque Central is what seals the deal in all respects.
Blau Varadero Hotel Cuba, Varadero
Caribbean colours are within the field of sight and the Caribbean sounds are within earshot when you choose to stay at Blau Varadero Hotel Cuba, Varadero. The majestic hotel uses its well picked location to its advantage, and packs a heavy punch with the world class to top it up. The bedrooms are elegant, and ensure that you are hooked on to the vacation mode even when off sight-seeing. Blau Varadero Hotel Cuba ensures that all moments spent away from the golden sand beaches of Caribbean don’t count as wasted ones by letting guests stay close to the beach, and in an environment that is inherently close to the Caribbean styles of living.
Bungalow-style accommodations are always great to live in, and if they happen to be surrounded by lush green and colourful gardens, there is hardly anything that creates a better romantic atmosphere. This adults only resort unleashes a world of great facilities and services upon its guests, including a pool to dive in all day, spa and jacuzzi, 4 restaurants and five bars, and a whole lot more. It is about living the uninhibited life with your partner in the Caribbean, and doing it with a dash of style. Hit the Melia Cayo Coco for a taste of luxury.
The Museum of the Revolution – Old Havana
The most significant attraction in Old Havana is the Museum of the Revolution. It is housed in the former Presidential Palace, which was built in 1920, with neo-classical elements, and decorated by Tiffany’s of New York. This is a “must-see” for anyone who is interested in Cuban history and culture. There are so many artifacts in this museum that it is hard to see everything in one visit. Many of the exhibits are dedicated to the 1950’s communist revolutionary war, which culminated in the overthrow President Batista in 1959, the last occupant of the Palace! Sections of the Museum feature displays on pre-revolutionary Cuba, and the War of Independence against Spain.
Che Guevara Square
Che Guevara was a Marxist revolutionary doctor and intellectual, born in Argentina, but adored and loved by the Cuban people, on whose behalf he fought. Along with Fidel Castro, he battled for the liberation of Cuba, but in 1967 was executed on instructions from the President of Bolivia, where he was fighting another revolution. The Museum is located in the Che Guevara Square which features a large metal sculpture as an outline of his face on the side of a building. This facial outline is very popular all over the world on T-Shirts as a symbol of rebellion, with just his first name added, “Che”.
Ernest Hemmingway House
The 1954 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, Ernest Hemmingway, is one of America’s most famous and respected journalists and writers. While in Cuba, he lived in a cabin by the sea, and owned a boat named Pilar. He wrote many of his celebrated books in Cuba, including A Moveable Feast, True at First Light, The Garden of Eden and Islands in the Stream. When he lived in Havana and Key West, Florida, he suffered from depression, illness, pain and tragedy. They apparently overwhelmed him. He eventually committed suicide. Nevertheless, Ernest Hemmingway remained an American icon and a big tourist attraction in the island. The Cuban Government organized several tours to his former home, showing how he lived in the island. They have even built seaside apartment complexes at “The Ernest Hemmingway Marina”, where wealthy boat owners can dock their boats at a marina, right in front of their homes.
Varadero – 12 Miles of White Sand Beach
This popular resort is located on a peninsula, which has 12 miles of long, wide, white sand beaches, and over a million tourists visiting annually, mostly from Europe and Canada. They flock here because of the marketing of several international hotel chains, including the famous Jamaican hotel chains, Sandals and SuperClubs. The resort’ s success and appeal have been attributed, not just to its excellent beaches, but also to its caves, cays, culture, shopping, historical and environmental attractions.
Cities to Visit – Havana – Cultural Capital
Havana was established by the Spanish government in the 16th century, both as a commercial centre for fully-stocked Spanish Galleons, and as a strategically located city to launch military and naval attacks on the mainland of America nearby. Between 1915 and 1930, Havana had more tourists than any other city in the Caribbean – largely due to gambling, prostitution and proximity to the United States. Today, Havana has a population of approximately 2.1 million people – making it the largest city in Cuba – and the entire Caribbean.
It is the centre of government and has many embassies and head offices of large companies. Today, it is very popular with tourists, particularly Old Havana, which has several historic buildings. Though some are in need of repair, and lots and lots of paint, many have been restored for the tourist industry. Havana is the most prominent cultural centre in the island, offering a fascinating mix of attractions – night clubs, art and music festivals, museums, palaces and public squares.
Havana’s 1950s Classic Cars – Back in a Time Capsule?
One of the most intriguing sights of Havana is the host of 1950s classic American cars – Ford, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Chrysler, Packard – being driven all over the streets – both by the taxi drivers and the general public. Why? Because the 1959 trade embargo imposed on Cuba by America prevented the importation of new cars, and most other US goods, into the country. As a result, Cuban citizens and mechanics have been forced to be innovative, displaying the utmost skill and ingenuity. They have been determined to keep these cars on the road. How? They either adapted parts from other cars, or lovingly made them with their own hands – including the tools to install them! These classic cars are highly prized family heirlooms which are lovingly preserved and passed on to the next generation.
La Zorra y el Cuervo
La Zorra y el Cuervo, translating into ‘The Fox and The Crow’ is the place for you in Havana to check out the city’s nighlife. The entrance is pretty special, and in the form of a good old British red telephone box. The basement is where all the action is in the night as the usually capacity crowd of 120 sets the night alive. La Zorra y el Cuervo is easily the buzz word of the nightlife scene in Havana, and you are strongly advised to find out some time in the night to check out this wonderful jazz club.
Club Salseando Chevere, Havana
Salsa lover’s don’t even have to do as much as waste time in thinking before deciding upon hitting Club Salseando Chévere, a place of congregation for all those looking to have salsa flavours in their night time. Performances of the Chévere team can blow the roof off, and you might be overwhelmed if you haven’t had an amazing salsa performance earlier. Sip away at superbly made drinks and chip away at delectable delicacies at Club Salseando Chevere and get to know some salsa in the process.
Casa de La Trova, Santiago de Cuba
Casa de La Trova introduces you a style of music that is rooted in Santiago de Cuba. Known as Trove, this music style uses crafty lyrics with distinct sounds of the guitar to entice and impress the audiences. Of course, music lovers find the place addictive. But even those who don’t like to go deep into their music can consider a visit because of the sheer joy in the atmosphere, and the fact that the place is really good for getting a feel of the city of Santiago from the balcony, especially at night.
Open air nightclub with lots of buzz and booze, that’s what Tropicana in Havana is all about. The colourful dancers will blow you away any day (or night) of the week, and so will the rum shots! You get a taste and sight of the Cuba of 1950s in the song and dance performances here. Tropicana is all about having a wild time with friends and accompanying that by lots of drinking and dancing. The aftertastes of the drinks and the resonance of the music will keep you awake and in the mood for quite some time and late into the night.
Jazz Cafe, Havana
For the best cocktails in town without having to scare your credit cards, head down to Jazz Cafe. You guessed it, it’s a jazz cafe1, but one with a difference. For starters, it is huge and unlike the cramped places that get fiery hot at night. Then, there are many jazz cafe’s awaiting to rip your pocket off, but this one manages to play it cool and focuses on impressing its customers with some real music, drinks and fun. Of course, the Jazz Cafe` is also known for having presented the piano master Chucho Valdés.
Resturants – Cuba
San Cristobal Paladar, Havana
Having opened up in late 2010, the San Cristobal Paladar restaurant has made rapid strides into the hearts of visitors and locals of Havana, and the diligent efforts of the owner of the place take the cake for this. The food is Cuban-Creole delight with the menu loaded with references to pork, lobsters, fresh fish, shrimp and other regular features of good menus. The food is prepared with a motive of impressing the clients with presentation and then backing the first impression up with distinct and great tastes.
Restaurant La Casa, Havana
Restaurant La Casa has been up and running for more than 15 years now. The place is a good pick for people who want their food in an environment of peace and privacy. The menu has lots of Cuban delicacies on offer, and they go well with the vast and varied picks from international menus that add to the flexibility of the menu. The owners of the place are really dedicated towards making Restaurant La Casa count among the best in Havana. You are guaranteed of a nice and cosy eating experience at Restaurant La Casa.
Casa Nostra Cubana, Varadero
A clean and impressive decor is the pre-requisite for good dining, and Casa Nostra Cubana scores in this regard. The menu is great with so many dishes to try out. The best part about this place is that despite the fine seating arrangement and great food, the prices are not scary, and this goes a long way in convincing people to fix up an appointment with Casa Nostra Cubana. The restaurant has its specials on offer as well, and in case you happen to be really hungry, the special might just be the perfect choice to order.
La Guarida, Havana
You saw several frames of La Guarida in the Oscar nominated film called Fresa y Chocolate,’ and now it is time to get closer to the real deal. There is an old and laid back sense of beauty about the building. The decoration reminds you of the bygones and the whole experience manages to transport you to the glory of 1920s. Once the atmosphere soaks in, dig into the menu. Lend a thought to the exciting combination of eggplant caviar with red pepper coulis. The Royal Family of Spain has had its meal here, and you won’t mind the inner satisfaction of eating at a restaurant with such royal clientele.
Sociedad Asturiana Castropol, Havana
For a real sense of Havana’s beauty and Havana’s cuisine intermingled into one cocktail, visit Sociedad Asturiana Castropol and see for yourself as to what a wonderful experience it is to eat and drink, and stare at wholesome beauty in the form of the seaside setting. The service here is exceptional, and that is something one cannot say confidently for many of the hyped eateries in Havana. Sociedad Asturiana Castropol is a great place to have an extended lunch or dinner at, so make the most of your stay in Havana by having a visit to this restaurant on the schedule.
Music, Entertainment & People
Cuba has a large mixture of people of African and European (Spanish) descent. Cuban music is easily recognizable, respected and very popular around the world. Multiple rhythm, percussion and dance have always historically dominated African music. On the other hand, melody has always historically dominated European music. Cuban music was created from the fusion of African and European cultures, dances and instruments. Santeria, the religion of many Cubans of African descent, united African spirits with European (Roman Catholic) Saints, and had its own hymns or music. Cuban music provided the foundations to “salsa”, contributed to “jazz”, the Argentinian “tango” and the Spanish “Flamenco”.
Today, even though not considered “politically correct”, Cuban musicians are even promoting the musical genres of rock, reggaeton (the fusion of Jamaican and Latin music) and hip-hop!
Cuban Politics & Tourism
What can we say that has not already been covered in the international news media? Cuba is a communist country. They will passionately defend the 1959 revolution which brought President Fidel Castro to power. From then, America imposed a trade embargo on the island when Cuba nationalized American businesses and properties, and declared themselves a communist nation, politically aligned to their former enemy, the Soviet Union. They will perpetually accuse the United States as powerful imperialists, who worship the dollar and want to spread capitalism all over the world.
The Cuban government does not tolerate free speech. Political dissidents have been jailed for several years. Some have been recently released as limited reform has taken place under the new President, Raul Castro, brother to Fidel. Despite the embargo, some western countries oppose America’s “50-year punishment” and have promoted tourism from their countries, into Cuba, to help the struggling economy of this Caribbean island.
Many tourists have been intrigued by Cuba’s political history, and wanted to come and see what Cuba was like, for themselves, not through the eyes of the western media…. And, they have not regretted it! They keep coming back … again and again …. to soak in the sun, sea, sand, music, dance, history and culture.