Cuba; the land of cigars, rum and classic cars. Cuba was definitely on our Central/South America travel bucket list, but I have to be honest; it wasn’t at the top of the list. We decided to visit Cuba before other countries that were higher up on our travel list because of the modernization Cuba is going through. Western influences are more visible every day and we wanted to visit ‘old school Cuba’. We visited Cuba in 2017, and modern influences were already present, but not too much in our opinion. Cuba surprised me in any way, and I liked it 10 times more than I thought I would. I’ve never met more genuine people than the Cubans! Another thing I really liked is how safe I felt in Cuba.
We spend a little more than a week in Cuba and visited three places: Havana, Viñales & Trinidad!
Before you go to Cuba:
- Make sure you have a visa! No visa = no entrance
- You might wonder if you need to rent a car if you want to visit more places. The roads in Cuba are good, so it’s definitely an option. However, you can also travel by bus (Viazul is a good option) or via taxi collectivo (a taxi you share with other travellers). Traveling by bus is in my opinion the best way!
I would recommend to stay at casa’s in Cuba over hotels. Most hotels are outdated, and the ones that are nice are usually very expensive! You have casa’s in different price ranges, and the casa’s we stayed in were just like boutique hotels.
What a lively city! With all the historical buildings, it does feel like your back in time. We stayed in the old town of Havana in a casa Vieja, but it felt more like a hotel. We were located in a narrow street where a lot of locals live. I could sit on our balcony for hours and just watch all the people on the street. Because that’s where everybody hangs out! And that makes this city so nice in my opinion.
What to do in Havana?
Museo de la Revolución
I think visiting this museum is a must for everyone that’s visiting Cuba, even if you’re not a big fan of museums. You will learn a lot about Cuba’s history and the revolution, and it makes you understand the country & culture better.
Walk through the old city
Literally every street is fascinating in Havana! All the colonial buildings, the colors, the people. If you like photography, you’re in for a treat!
Drive through the city in a classic car
Even if you already explored the city, a drive in one of the old timers is a Havana must do!
Try the traditional Cuban cocktail
If you didn’t know yet, Mojito is a Cuban cocktail! It’s also one of our favorite cocktails, so we were happy to try them in Cuba. The difference between the Mojito’s in Cuba and the Mojito’s we had in other countries: they’re cheaper & stronger! But we like our cocktails strong ;-).
Where to eat in Havana?
I was warned about the food in Cuba by people who already visited Cuba. It would mostly be beans & rice. As a food lover, I was determined to find good restaurants and we did:
- El Chanchullero de Tapas
- Esquina de Cuba
- Roma: nice rooftop bar!
- El Cafe: great breakfast and lunch spot with fresh juices and healthy options.
We wanted to travel from Havana to Viñales by bus (with Viazul) but unfortunately, they didn’t have any seats left. When we, slightly disappointed, walked away from the bus station we got approached by a taxi driver who told us we could take a shared taxi (taxi collectivo). Together with two German girls, we drove to Viñales in an old timer. The ride was comfortable & quick, so definitely a transportation option!
Although we preferred casa’s over hotels in Cuba, I set my eyes on a pink hotel in Viñales! Hotel Los Jazmines provides a breathtaking view from of the Viñales Valley, straight from your room.
What to do in Viñales?
Viñales is known for its tobacco farms. We definitely wanted to see how the world-famous Cuban cigars were made, and try them out of course!
Horseback riding in the Viñales Valley
Even though the last time I rode a Horse was when I was 8 years old (18 years ago!), we decided to explore the Viñales Valley by horse. It kind of was terrifying in the beginning, because I couldn’t controll my horse. But once I got the hang of it, I could enjoy the stunning view of the valley more.
We took the Viazul bus from Havana to Trinidad. Trinidad is an Unesco World Heritage site. The whole town! When you arrive in this cute and picturesque town, you immediately understand why. The cobblestone streets, restored Spanish colonial buildings and plaza’s make it a town to remember!
What to do in Trinidad?
Trinidad is not big, so you can explore this picturesque town in one day. Go for a drink on Plaza Mayor at night! You can get a drink at one of the surrounding cocktail bars, and just chill on the steps at the plaza and enjoy the live music.
Most people visit a beach nearby Trinidad, after exploring the town. But we were looking for a little more action. The Vegas Grande Waterfall was recommended by a travel agency near our casa. This waterfall is located in the Natural Park Topes de Collantes. After seeing some pictures we were immediately sold! The next morning our tour started. Our guide was funny, could tell a lot about the jungle and did this with a passion. He even made his own paths in the jungle away from the main tourist paths. We walked next to coffee plants, spotted different colorful birds until we arrived at the waterfall.
After a while in the jungle, we wanted nothing more than to jump into the water, so we did! Our guide also found a huge mango. This was the biggest and tastiest mango we ate, but perhaps our view also helped with this.