Cuba is a beautiful Caribbean island and it’s an exciting time to visit after a 55-year hiatus. There are tons of things to see and do from wandering the streets of Havana to exploring the tobacco farms and sampling some of the best rum in the world. Here’s our top 5 things not to miss.
1. Ride in a Cuban cab
Cuba is full of old school 50s American cars that have been kept alive by the ingenuity and passion of the people. When catching a local cab you have the option to sample the result of their passion by riding in a classic Chevrolet Bel Air amid other variants from the same era. But beware, the taxi we took was a little rough around the edges, with a gaping hole in the boot through which you could see the driveshaft and diff! Even still, it was an awesome experience and certainly not something that would be legal in Australia!
2. Visit a tobacco farm in Viñales
The Silent Valley in Viñales in is home to the best Cuban cigar manufacturing in the world. Our hike through the valley saw us visit a small farm where 90% of cigar production must be given to the government, which means the farm is only allowed to sell the remaining 10% to the public. Here you have the opportunity to watch a farmer hand roll a Cuban cigar from start to finish, before sampling the final product yourself. This is also the best place to stock up on Cuban cigars, as they’re only 4 CUC each (AUD$5.30).
3. Swim in the Caribbean Sea
A very bumpy ride indeed, the road to Cayo Jutias has seen better days, however, the hour-long beach trip was well worth it. This small beach is dreamlike, with its glistening white sand, turquoise waters and mangroves that grow on the edge of the sea. Your heart will be content as the postcard view of the Caribbean Sea comes to life.
4. Drink the best Piña Coladas
Forget Mojitos, the Silent Valley in Viñales once again shines with the best Piña Coladas ever. The farmer we met said his Piña Coladas were the best in Cuba. I was initially very skeptical, however one sip of the freshly blended pineapple and coconut drink, topped with honey and cinnamon, made us realise he was not lying – and that was even before the rum was added. A bottle of locally brewed guava flavoured rum (La Occidental – Guayabita del Pinar) was placed on the table, which perfectly complemented the lush creamy drink in front of us. The bottle stayed there, so we just kept free pouring until the mix was perfect.
5. Stay in a casa with a local family
A truly local experience sees you sharing four walls with a local Cuban family. The ‘casas’ we stayed in all had hot water, flushing toilets, aircon and a welcoming smile at the door. Breakfast was an optional extra, but a real feast, depending on your casa family. Hotels are still scarce in Cuba, so staying in a casa is a really unique experience that you won’t forget.