There are plenty of reasons to travel to Cuba as soon as you can. The re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States after more than half a century of hostility, the two visits of Pope Francis and many other religious, political and cultural personalities make Cuba today a very interesting destination to discover.
The rapprochement has raised exciting expectations and a significant increase of tourist arrivals to Cuba (recommended by The New York Times as a top travel destination this year). Now there are so many opportunities to go there, by sea or air. For example, major cruise lines, such as the Carnival Cruise Lines and the Royal Caribbean International, have sought to make Havana the home port for their ships. Additionally, the U.S government just announced a new round of rules that will open up new possibilities to start regular flights from the United States.
The way is clear and it seems to be the opportunity you have been waiting for. If you love the island, don’t waste your time! Here there are the top 10 reasons why you should travel to Cuba right now!
Get there before the crowds
With the administration of President Barack Obama, the relations between Washington and Havana are thawing. Since the two presidents shook hands for the first time, travel restrictions have become more flexible, and the “off limits” island begins to prepare for the “avalanche” of people.
Although the economic embargo still prevents U.S. tourism in the island, the American government announced new rules that allow Americans to independently travel to Cuba on what they call educational people-to-people trips. These trips to Cuba fall within the 12 permitted categories, which include academic programs, journalistic or religious activities, and participation in public performances or sports competitions.
This context represents a tremendous opportunity for Cubans to welcome American citizens who are eager to discover Cuba and wonder what makes the country so special today.
Travel to Cuba and go back to another era, in 2016!
For many people Cuba is synonymous with Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Revolution, Communism, and prohibitions. However, beyond its political history, travelling to Cuba means an authentic journey to the past.
Thanks to the ingenuity of the Cuban people, the streets of Havana are still filled by old American cars from the 50’s. You won´t want to miss the opportunity of taking an authentic ride on “old” wheels.
With nearly five centuries of life, Old Havana and its Spanish colonial buildings captivates thousands of visitors every year. For example, the city and its system of well-preserved fortifications were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The same recognition was awarded to other sites such as Trinidad, the Valley of the Sugar Mills and the Castle of San Pedro de la Roca, all exceptional icons of colonial architecture.
A flavors explosion, “por cuenta propia”
If you travel to Cuba looking for good food, you will find the perfect mixture of flavors. Enjoy the best dinner not only at the hotels´ restaurants and state facilities, but mainly in the so-called “paladares”. There are today more than 2000 of these private restaurants in the island. They owe much of its popularity to recent reforms in the economic system that include relaxing restrictions for small businesses.
According to a BBC report, dining options on the island have grown exponentially in number, variety and quality, so much so that some paladares´ cuisine can compete with any other in Latin America.
La Guarida restaurant is especially well recommended. The place has become famous for serving customers like Fidel and Raul Castro, entertainment stars like Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell, Usher, Rihanna, and even the former Spanish monarch Sofía.
(TIP: Although enjoying the Cuban food may be a delicious experience, you better follow these rules for eating safely in Cuba)
“A lo cubano”: rum and habanos
A strong rum shot and a fine Cuban cigar: add this to your checklist if you are fully intended to travel to Cuba. Showing new and varied offers, Havana Club and Santiago de Cuba are among the most recognized Cuban rum brands all over the world for its aging, flavor and aroma. The Cubay brand is another rum that excels in the domestic and foreign market.
But your Cuba vacation will be incomplete if skipping the journey through the history of the most legendary drink of the country: a tour for the Havana Club Rum Museum.
You should also visit the recently refurbished Sloppy Joe’s bar. This popular establishment reached its peak in the ‘20s and ’30s. During those years, Prohibition was mandated in USA and Cuba became exodus center for traders engaged in trafficking of alcoholic beverages.
Combine your drink with a cigar from Habanos or Cohíba, both hundred percent Cuban brands that have consolidated their decisive role in the local economy for many years.
The Hemingway’s marks
It is well known that the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba for more than two decades. His spirit remains trapped in Finca Vigía, the house where he wrote most of The Old Man and the Sea. The room 511 from hotel Ambos Mundos also shows visitors some of his most personal belongings, such as his typewriter with a sheet of paper, glasses and a pencil in an urn.
Another pleasant memory of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1954) is at the bar-restaurant Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio. They still serve the Daiquiri and Mojito, refreshing drinks so much liked by Hemingway. In these places you will also find excellent music and delicious food.
(TIP: Visiting Havana soon? Know the top 10 things to do in Havana in a weekend)
New attractions for adventure
Cuba is deeply involved in enriching its tourist options, especially by promoting different tourism modalities for the enjoyment of the most intrepid travelers. These activities include kitesurfing, motorbike circuits, climbing parks, and kayak programs.
The Canopy Fortin is a wonderful place designed for those who love thrilling experiences. Over there you can slide down a rope almost a thousand meters over the magnificent Viñales landscape. Another place you can’t miss when you travel to Cuba is the climbing park Rocarena or Crystal Tower. This park was first opened in 2015, and was the first of its kind in Latin America. It has 90 attractions of varying degrees of difficulty for any user, including children.
Nature tourism in Cuba has become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the industry. There are plenty of excursions, tours and packages that include entertainment and exciting adventures.
If you like to be in contact with nature, there is no better place than the National Park Alejandro de Humboldt. Said to be the most humid place in Cuba, the park was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Its virgin landscapes and high index of endemic flora and fauna make this park a must-see attraction for those who love nature.
Another fabulous place to visit is Pico Turquino, the highest point in Cuba. Locals will guide you there in a trip through a unique flora and an endemic bird paradise right in the heart of the Sierra Maestra.
Viñales Valley, in the western part of the country, also captures the interest of travelers who appreciate geology since it has the largest and highly conserved cave system on the island.
Delightful beaches and beautiful sun
The perfect mix for whoever travel to Cuba! Once you get there, don’t forget to visit the tourist resort of Varadero. This is one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean, with 22 kilometers of white-sand beaches difficult to resist. Varadero is also known as the Playa Azul (Blue Beach), and there are hundreds of hotels and facilities spread throughout the resort.
The beaches of the northern coast of Villa Clara are so idyllic and fascinating. Separated from the main island by a 48km causeway, they offer visitors an immaculate landscape of incredible beauty. Prestigious hotel chains such as Blue Diamond, Meliá, and Iberostar have settled there to guarantee a luxury service and comfort, for all needs.
According to local news agencies, “in tune with the changes promoted by Cuba to accelerate their rates of economic growth, the tourism industry has defined and implemented an extensive development plan until 2030”. This plan seeks to reach 85 thousand rooms in the next five years.
(TIP: Looking for beaches and sun in Cuba? Read everything you must know about the weather in Cuba)
Looking for reassures under the sea? It is a privilege for scuba divers and recreational divers to go into the deep sea of Cuba. The tropical waters that surround the island are rich in coral reefs, and inhabits countless species of crustaceans, mollusks, 700 and 300 species of fish and sponges, respectively. While diving into these waters you will also see many turtles or mammals like dolphins and the enigmatic manatee, which is an endangered species.
To explore such beautiful environments, Cuba provides 8 Marinas, 39 International Diving Centers with about a thousand immersion points, a specially equipped fleet of boats, and more than 200 certified instructors.
Music, dance and cultural traditions
Music is always in the air with catchy melodies that come from any home, hotel, bar, nightclub or disco. Salsa, “timba”, cha-cha-cha, bolero, son, and other more contemporary rhythms make exceptional the life of the Cuban people.
The Buena Vista Social Club is an iconic musical group that gathers renowned Cuban musicians and has received international recognitions and awards. The band has performed in the most varied stages, including the very White House.
Talking about Cuban icons, you can’t skip Tropicana. The most famous cabaret of Cuba was born in 1939 as “a paradise under the stars”. The nightclub still opens its doors to those who like “mover el cuerpo”. Tropicana has established itself as a genuine sign of vitality and creativity of the national artistic show.
Ah! The Cuban people…
In this era of changes, if Cuba captivates you, its people will do it even more. Cubans are a genuine mix of races, synonymous with hospitality and charisma, people who have not lost their joy, warmth and desire to progress despite daily shortcomings.
Talking with native will be a pleasant experience because they are well informed and open to any topic of conversation, from baseball to astronomy.
Still wondering whether this is the right time to travel to Cuba? Encourage yourself to explore the marvelous things that this Caribbean jewel has to offer, and you won’t regret a thing. Pack your bags, and get there before the crowds!
So these are our reasons to go book a trip to Cuba right now. What do you think? Leave your comments below.
(TIP: Will you travel to Cuba soon? Review our guide to plan a cheap Cuba vacation)