When we talk of holiday destinations it’s hard to ignore the largest island in the Caribbean and its list of mind-boggling facts as long as the island itself.
This oft-considered ‘backwards’ country has a 99.8% literacy rate and yet mobile phones were prohibited until 2008 – perhaps there’s a connection 😉
It’s also a place where government vehicles are legally required to pick up hitchhikers.
Yes, yes I am.
With 2 million annual arrivals soaking up the sun and distinct cultural history you’ll hardly find a more interesting holiday destination – and it all starts with capital city La Havana.
Here are 12 things to do in Havana.
1 – Hit the Beach
Yes, it’s a tropical island paradise with miles of palm tree-lined beaches drenched in eternal sun – you didn’t need me to tell you this. What most people don’t know though is that some of Cuba’s best beaches are a short drive from Havana.
Santa Maria and Guanabo are highlights that can be reached in 15-20 minutes by shuttle for the price of a cup of coffee.
2 – Puff on a Cigar During a Cityscape Photo
Cuba’s equivalent of the propping up the leaning tower of Pisa pose might be considered douchey but there’ll hardly be a better snap to show the grandchildren just how cool you were back in the day.
Also, the convenient segue into a lecture on the dangers of smoking puts this into two birds with one stone territory. You’re welcome.
3 – Viva La Revolucion at the Revolution Museum
You’ll find this radical museum housed poetically in the former Presidential Palace. The main topics explored here are (naturally) the Cuban Revolution, post-revolution Cuba, and Cuba’s War of Independence against Spain.
4 – Drink Where Hemingway (Might Have) Drank
Of the 26 million bars in the world claiming to be Hemingway’s favourite watering hole Boguedita del Medio probably makes the best mojito. In fact, the charming bohemian bar disputably claims to be the birthplace of the drink.
5 – Check out the Classic Cars
Havana’s streets are flooded with classic American cars making it a veritable automobile museum, the result of Castro’s decades long ban on import vehicles. Citizens have been keeping cars from the 1950’s running out of sheer necessity, much to the delight of car lovers.
6 – Walk Around Old Havana
Havana’s densest neighbourhood was founded by the Spanish in 1519 and is now a UNESCO Heritage Site. Here the past is palpable with its restored colonial architecture, cobbled squares, museums, historic forts, and bustling street action.
7 – See the Morro Castle
This fortress overlooking Havana Bay was captured by the British in 1762 before be ceded back to the Spanish a year later – not only does it give a glimpse into Cuba’s ever-interesting colonial past, but the views are spectacular.
8 – Take a Car Tour
Who’s to say Cuba is without capitalist spirit? There are plenty of companies refurbishing classic American convertibles and offering informative tours of the city so take one (good looking companion not included).
9 – Down some Sugar Cane Juice
Here machine-pressed sugar cane is dripped over ice – it’s called guarapo frio and you can get one for about 4 cents. That’s right, 4 cents.
The pros swirl the juice around in the ice for a few minutes, let it melt a bit in the sweltering heat, and wait for it to go all smoothie-like.
10 – Hit The Museo de Bellas Artes
There’s no better collection of colonial and contemporary Cuban art than the Museo Nacional de Bella Artes de Havana. Say that three times fast 😉
11 – Walk the Malecón
This 8 km seawall was originally built during US military rule to protect Havana but eventually ended up serving nighttime lovers and fishermen. Now it’s experiencing a revitalization after economic reforms and has become somewhat of a nightlife hotspot.
12 – Stock Up on Street Food
Lovers of cheap fried foods are gonna hit it out of the park here. Churros, chicharitas de platano (fried paper-thin plantains), and pan con minuta (fried fish filet with a spicy sauce served on bread) are favourites but the piece de resistance might be the pan con lechon – a shredded pork sandwich served with a spicy mojo sauce.