With the charm of an untouched authenticity and the lure of having long been a forbidden land, Cuba is a top destination for tourists, and especially American travelers. However, the time for Americans to visit this unique and beautiful country is now, or never, as there is a likelihood that the opportunity will soon vanish.
U.S. – Cuba relations
The history of the rocky relationship between the United States and Cuba involves a nuclear crisis, the U.S. 54-year embargo on Cuba and a lot of political hostility. When President Barack Obama restored diplomatic ties with Cuba, he began a process known as ‘normalization’ which began easing travel restrictions to the country. This process allowed for a U.S. commercial flight to Cuba in August of 2016. Since then, Americans have been flooding in to discover what Cuba is all about.
Under U.S. President Donald Trump, however, policies are being reviewed towards Cuba. During his campaign the president himself threatened to remove the recently reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana. Now the Trump administration is making moves towards reversing this ‘normalization’ process if the Castro regime refuses to meet their demands.
Whether you are looking to be inspired to go or already in the midst of planning your trip, here are 3 pro tips to experiencing Cuba to the fullest.
1. Stay in a homestay
Since the renewal of the relationship between the United States and Cuba, the people of Cuba have been nothing but excited to greet traveling Americans. This kind of hospitality is something that will undeniably improve your trip, and the best way to maximize it is by simply living with Cubans.
Stay with a family in a casa particular and live a local experience! Don’t just use this space as your home base, but rather get to know your hosts and ask about their hobbies, opinions on the U.S. and more. Take them up on any invitations to local activities, and don’t be afraid to ask them where the best local food and hangouts are.
2. Visit Viñales
This small town certainly shows the roots of Cuban cigar production. However, beyond tobacco tours and picturesque plantations there’s a lot more to be discovered. Here you can explore caves’ depths, climb a mountain or peruse the landscape of the national park.
Choose a guided tour through the tamer Cuevas del Indio or the more intensive Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás for an exciting cave excursion. Nearby mountains with steep limestone hills provide great opportunities for guided rock climbing. Explore the nature of the national park and appreciate the serenity of rural Cuba.
Viñales is perfect for cigar smokers to buy Cuban cigars right from the source (and for cheap!), but it would be a mistake for non-smokers to overlook what more this town has to offer.
3. Ride in a classic Chevy
Go cruising around Old Havana in an American classic car. If you don’t already feel as though you’ve stepped into the past upon arrival in Cuba, getting into one of these old cars will be the time machine that takes you straight back to the 50’s. Ride around the city like a local and soak in the colorful and decaying buildings, plazas with cobblestone roads and the paradox that is this beautiful dilapidated city, with the convertible top down of course. This is one touristy activity that is worth the hype.
For travelers who want to explore Cuba’s tropical climate, breath-taking nature, world-renowned culture and unique history, now is the time to do it. With a homestay, a trip to Viñales and a ride in an American classic car as part of the plan you will no doubt have an authentic Cuba experience to last a lifetime.