Imagine going back in time by 50 years just by stepping onto an airplane. What do you think of? 1950’s American muscle cars? Beautiful colonial architecture? An era before internet, cell phones, or many other technologies we have today?
This is Cuba.
Cuba is such an amazing country and a large tourist destination for most of the world, but logistically a bit difficult for Americans because of the trade embargo placed on the country in the early 1960’s. You cannot fly to or from Cuba from the United States. However, our neighboring countries have no problem accommodating us. The cheapest option is to fly to Cancun, Mexico and catch a short connector flight over to Havana. Once you’re in the airport in Cancun, you can purchase a Cuban visa for $25 while you wait in line. In case you’re worried about getting in trouble because of a stamp in your passport, Cuba doesn’t do that. They only stamp the visa, which you leave when you exit the country. Anyways, on with the adventures.
After spending my first night in Havana, I met up with my friends Maria and Veronika and we caught a bus up to Viñales. Viñales is a small town, but very lively and colorful. It is also where 70% of the tobacco in Cuba is grown. This was my first experience (of many) having Cuban cigars. The 3 of us went horseback riding with a guide through the tobacco fields. The mountainous scenery surrounding Viñales is gorgeous.
After horseback riding for a few hours, our guide asked us if we wanted to visit a cave. This sounded like a cool idea and a good way to get out of the sun for a little while. Inside the cave were lots of stalactites and stalagmites and also, after going 250 meters into the cave, there was a giant natural swimming pool. Using the guide’s light, we went swimming and exploring deeper into the cave.
On our next stop, it was time for a well-deserved ‘Coco Loco’. This is a fresh coconut filled with Cuban rum, honey, and cinnamon and it’s great! Cuba has some of, if not the best, rum in the world. I made sure to try out several different varieties throughout the trip. Havana Club is the largest and most popular brand of rum, and for good reason. It’s smooth, delicious, and cheap. The 7-year aged Havana Club was only $7 a bottle!
Another thing you’ll notice walking down the street in Cuba is that you always feel the rhythm of salsa. It seems that at any moment a crowd of people could turn around and start dancing. The rhythm is like the lifeblood of the Cuban people. Even in smaller towns, every night you can find a Casa de la Musica or other nightclub with people showing off their best salsa moves. I’m far from the best dancer in the world, but I was able to pick up a few moves throughout the trip. Once you get accustomed to hanging out with friends, dancing, and drinking mojitos every night, it’s a tough habit to break!
Stay tuned because I have a lot more stories to share in the coming weeks.