The quaint buildings, crystal-clear waters, sparkling sand and old-fashioned cars are all part of the character and rich culture of Cuba. Located in the Caribbean the island’s also known for its rolling mountains, natural beauty, idyllic architecture and vibrant history.
Spaniards were the first to colonize in Cuba once Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1492. As Spanish and African immigrants settled into their new land, they brought with them their distinct cultures, traditions, and history, all of which influence the course of Cuban history. After gaining formal independence from the United States in 1902, Cuba became a fusion of diverse cultures. Today, the country is the second most populated in the Caribbean with over 11 million inhabitants and is ranked high by the United Nations for human development, health, and education.
Photo courtesy | Patrick Nouhailler
Before venturing out into Cuba, tourists should nourish themselves with the authentic food of the island. Cuban cuisine, influenced heavily by the early settlers, is known for its blend of sweet, salty, and acidic flavors. Hidden in the side streets of Havana, La Bodeguita del Medio is praised by personalities like poet Pablo Neruda, novelist Ernest Hemingway, and musician Nat King Cole. The food at this restaurant-bar features the traditional dishes of Cuban cuisine like boiled rice, black beans, pork shank, and fried plantains. This restaurant is unlike other restaurants nearby as its walls are plastered with signatures of celebrities and unknown customers. Diners are encouraged to sign their names to the walls, leaving their mark in history.
West of Havana, nestled in the Valley of Silence in Viñales is the ecological restaurant of Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso. This food establishment is praised for its use of fresh ingredients picked directly from its backyard farm. Diners can witness the staff picking herbs and vegetables from the garden that will be used in their meals. All guests, vegetarians and meat lovers alike, will enjoy the wholesome meals and abundant servings at El Paraiso. The picturesque views of the valley will enhance the atmosphere.
Photo courtesy | Thomas Münter
There are an ample number of tourist destinations to see on the island, especially with nine of them being classified as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Habana Vieja, Old Havana, is one of 15 municipalities that collectively form the capital of Havana and exposes travelers to the extraordinary culture and history of Cuba. Established in 1859, downtown Havana was initially a stopping point for galleons coming to the New World. By the 17th century, it had become the primary shipbuilding center with baroque and neoclassical styled buildings. The influence of early Spaniard colonists can be seen in the squares, where tourists strolling along the cobblestoned streets might recognize that the architectural resembles that of courtyards like Plaza Mayor in Spain.
The esplanade stretching for five miles along the coast of Havana is called Malecón, officially known as Avenida de Maceo. The colorful buildings, once bright and bold, are now paled by the sun and salt of the sea. As the sun sets in the evening, the colonial architecture and Bay of Havana is brought to life as the light cascades over Malecón. Although built initially to protect the city from the water, the Malecón is now a popular nighttime promenade frequented by young couples, families, artists, and even fishermen. The soul of Havana attracts both tourists and locals looking to immerse themselves in the culture.
Photo courtesy | Michael Theis
The Caribbean island offers an endless number of resorts guaranteed to please any traveler. Those looking to experience the exciting nightlife and intense culture of the country should consider spending a few nights at Iberostar Grand Hotel in Trinidad, where the colonial style resort overlooks the square’s activities. Adults interested in escaping on vacation might be interested in staying at Melia Buenavista in Cayo Santa Maria. The absence of the Internet won’t make a difference as guests can be entertained by excursions to popular sites or relax by the poolside. Other tourists looking to stay close to the capital would prefer to stay at Hotel Saratoga, located in the heart of Havana and known for its breathtaking rooftop pool.
With the diplomatic relations reestablished and the tensions eased between the United States and Cuba, it’s not too early to start planning a trip to this impressive Caribbean Island. The country of Cuba offers the ideal vacation for those looking to go on an adventure or escape to paradise.