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 the 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 1960s. 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 another 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.
Great photos! Cuba sounds wonderful. Would love to ‘go back in time’ and explore Cuba!
Debbie, my favorite thing was all of the classic cars. I love going to car shows in the States, so it was awesome to see them all there.
I want to go to Cuba badly! It is on my ‘must-do’ list!
I would go soon if I were you. Never know when they’re going to officially open it up. Once that happens, it’ll probably be overrun with people.
Cuba has been on my travel radar for a long time, ever since my sister “snuck in” there. But am I wrong in thinking it’s not as simple a matter as just throwing away your visa? I thought you could get in major trouble if the U.S. found out, although that may have lightened up recently. Anyway, I guess no one’s hunted you down yet, and here’s a blog for all to see….making me think much more seriously about getting there, especially before they do open the doors and the wave of American consumerism tarnishes the preserved 50’s feel!
I’ve been wanting to go to Cuba before it opens up to capitalism. Now I want to go even more for the “Coco Loco”.
I would love to see tobacco fields by horseback. Cuba isn’t high on my list to visit, but your photos and description make it very inviting. The info on their visa stamp is great to know. Thanks so much!
As the others have stated, I’d like to get there before the rest of America does. Great descriptions about salsa rhythms and the music being Cuban lifeblood. Good stuff.
How did you get to go to cuba.
Through Cancun. Luckily it’s a lot easier these days.