Restrictions on U.S. citizens visiting Cuba seem to be constantly changing. This leaves many travelers confused and wondering if this island nation is really worth the visit. After my first trip with Fisheye Journeys, I’m here today to convince you to not only leave Cuba on your bucket list, but to move it to the top.
1. It’s unlike any other country.
When asked to describe Cuba, it’s actually really difficult (and I mean that in a good way!). While I’m able to compare some aspects of Cuban culture with other Latin cultures that I’ve experienced, Cuba has such a particular flair that I truly believe you have to experience it yourself. Cuba’s history, its people, and even the era in which we currently find ourselves make it such an interesting time to visit.
2. Cubans are probably the most welcoming people ever.
Yeah, yeah, I realize this is a huge generalization, so other people may not feel this way. Nonetheless, I’ve traveled quite a bit, and it left me stunned how welcoming Cubans acted towards visitors. Like, seriously, can we all learn from Cubans in this aspect? Time after time, locals would go out of their way to give me directions, politely answer my questions, and even try to chat with me as well.
3. Music is everywhere.
There’s something about Cubans and music…and I love it. Let’s be honest here, how many of you have seen Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights? While Havana doesn’t exactly include choreographed dances, live music is very real walking around the city. From the early morning to the late night, you’re bound to come across someone playing an instrument in the street or even some “salsa”-ing. My best advice is: jump in!
4. Have I mentioned the tropical beaches?
Just imagine it…you on a beach IN CUBA, holding a cold mojito in your hand, and watching the waves roll over the azure-colored water. If that’s not on your bucket list, it really should be. As far as which beaches to visit, we spent two days at Varadero during my 9-day trip with Fisheye Journeys. This coastal town, also known as the Cancún of Cuba, is an easy two-hour drive from Havana. Nonetheless, if you’re short on time, there are other options as well. For example, you can still check out beaches that are closer to the capital, such as Playas del Este.
5. Disconnecting = true relaxation.
Wifi in Cuba is, well, let’s just say few and far between. In fact, the current law limits everyone to three hours of internet daily, which can be purchased by the hour from internet kiosks. Although this may seem daunting at first, I promise that a few days without your phone connected to your hand will do you well. In my travel group, we found that not having internet made us be truly present.
6. Having a bad day? A mojito can fix that.
There’s nothing quite like Cuban rum, is there? Whether you decide to have a drink on the beach, at a local bar, or even at the Hotel Nacional, a trip to Cuba is truly incomplete without at least one mojito. Side note: it was my impression that drinks in Cuba are made strong, so drink carefully!
7. Cuba is still relatively “untouched”.
Although records indicate that tourism in Cuba is on the rise, our group felt like we could walk around Havana for a while without bumping into other visitors. It felt so refreshing to be able to experience more of what felt like “true” Cuban society. While some cities have an indicated tourist section filled with visitors and those who work in the tourism industry, Havana’s “Habana vieja” neighborhood still felt like a nice mix of tourism and real Cuban life.
8. Let’s go with the obvious…do you like cigars?
Even if you know nothing about cigars (like me prior to this trip), you’ve probably heard that Cuban cigars are some of the best. From what I’ve come to understand about why these cigars are so special, it’s that countless steps and large amounts of time go into making a single cigar. During a day trip to Viñales with Fisheye Journeys, I was lucky enough to witness how a Cuban cigar is made. We learned each step of the process and even got to roll our own cigars! Pro tip: Dip your cigar in honey prior to smoking if you want to add additional flavor (in the style of Che Guevara!).
9. Cuban food is good, y’all.
Over the years, I’ve heard many a traveler complain about Cuban food. However, the food scene in Cuba, and Havana in particular, is rapidly changing. Some of our favorites on this trip included Lamparilla Tapas & Cervezas and La Guarida. Both of these restaurants left us wanting to come back again and again! In my opinion, Cuban food was both tasty and affordable.
10. Cuba is actually really safe for travelers.
When asked about what surprised me the most about Cuba, I quickly answered about how safe I felt in the country. While travelers typically must be on guard for pickpockets and thieves, I didn’t feel like I had to actively protect my possessions. After asking a local about this, he informed me that the police in Cuba are extremely hard on theft from tourists. Although I still recommend taking precautions wherever you travel, I definitely felt safer in Cuba than in most other countries that I’ve visited in Latin America.