Traveling to Forbidden Paradise
Cuba. This little jewel located in the Caribbean has had a quite controversial history. When Obama opened the option of travel Americans rushed to Cuba on inexpensive flights hoping to get a taste of the long-forbidden land. Curious to see what was behind the closed curtains I took a Jet Blue flight from JFK to Fort Lauderdale to Havana. The journey itself was colorful as my layover in Fort Lauderdale happened to be the day now known as the Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting. (What do you do during a shooting at the airport?)
What was only a 45 minute trip from Fort Lauderdale never seemed farther away. When I arrived tired and drained I quickly snapped out of it ready to discover this once forbidden land. My stay was at a local B&B. You will find plenty of these in addition to a few 4 and 5 star hotels. It is important to note, Cuba is not quite yet the overrun tourist destination compared to some of its Caribbean counterparts. You may not have the same exact experience at a 5 star resort in Aruba or Punta Cana for instance. The tourism industry is relatively new in Cuba and my thinking is revenue generated from such will improve the country’s infrastructure. Additionally, it will eventually bring the typical tourist experience to the same caliber of 5-star hotel and resorts we see in more developed countries. Cuba is an oasis for someone who wants to experience cultural immersion, it’s natural beauty and laid back lifestyle. The island is on a path of rapid tourism growth. I predict that the Cuban tourist experience today will be a drastically different experience in 10 years. So what are some of the best experiences one can have while in Cuba? See below
5 inexpensively rich experiences in Havana
Visit the Malecon - a seawall that separates the island and ocean, the Malecon can look epically dramatic with waves crashing against it during the rainy season or calm and serene on a bright day. It’s a great location for biking to get various views from it’s loop. For those of you who love visuals my suggestion is to visit during sunset or sunrise.
Varadero Beach - pristine and turquoise are the first two words that come to mind. It’s sand is plush and white. It’s a great place to soak up the sun, relax with the sound of beach waves, read a book or go for a swim. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.
Art & Downtown - downtown Havana has pockets of vendors and local artists. You can snag really great pieces for your own living space while supporting local artists. World art is a trophy for the well-traveled so take advantage! Start your world art collection if you haven’t already :). Downtown is painted with colorful homes and buildings. You can also do a local city tour which will give you an overall history of Cuba. It's a great to sight see multiple locations in a day.
Cigars & Cocktails - a cuban classic, the little island has some of the best tasting cigars. While you will find a lot of vendors on the street who offer cigars it’s best to buy them from a cigar shop. You’ll find more quality and more variety. Even if you don’t smoke consider it a great gift for dad or the beaux ;) For tasty cocktails visit Hotel de Nacional. (the outdoor lounge)
Cars - Havana is full of retro, vintage and colorful stick shift cars. Cuban taxi cabs are some of the most unique in the world. Take a picture in the driver seat of one or by one. (most taxi drivers will say yes to this)