Situated just west of Central America, the Caribbean island of Cuba has a mixed reputation to westerners.
Known in part for its tropical sun and rum, Spanish colonial influenced food, and fraught reputation with the USA, Cuba is often amiss from recommendations for Caribbean sun-seeking holidays – but they’re missing out.
Here are some of our recommendations for getting the most enjoyment out of the fundamental elements of your trip: what to eat, what to see, and what to do in the evening.
Like most of the Caribbean, farming is advanced so you can expect plenty of organic, fresh vegetables, meat, and fish, with spicy Spanish-influenced recipes.
At the time of writing, the trade embargo with the US can cause difficulties for chefs, so unexpected ingredient shortages may mean that only a partial menu is available in state restaurants. Alternatively, Paladars run by locals offer a chance to sample some home cooking and get some tips for your stay.
Cuban street food has boomed in recent years, sold from people’s front gardens and doorways, so a fresh Spanish inspired cornbread Tamale makes an ideal lunch when you are out and about.
MUST SEE SIGHTS IN CUBA
In the centre of Old Havana, Plaza Vieja is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and can easily fill a day or two with its attractions.
Budding art historians should check out the Museo de la Ciudad for its rich collection of objects and art from throughout the history of Havana, while the formidable Castillo de la Real Fuerza was originally built as defence from English and Spanish pirates; now the edifice serves as a showcase for Cuba’s maritime history.
For those with an interest in social history, the Museo de Revolución is a must-visit. Finally, no visit is complete without climbing the stairs of the Casa del Conde Jeruco for a beautiful view of the city from the camera obscura tower.
There is plenty to do in Havana in the evenings, with many bars open for you to sample some rum and enjoy the last of the evening sun.
Rum is of course the national spirit, and, because the main brands Havana and Bacardi are widely distributed in the UK, this is the perfect opportunity to take the time to sample some local distillers and enjoy the wide variety of cocktails on offer, including the classic Mojito and Cuba Libre. Cerveza – Cuban beer – is plentiful too, but it may well be the rum you wish to spend your nights enjoying.
Live music is a big attraction in lots of bars, as is salsa dancing, and locals are often willing to share a dance in any of the popular spots.
Featured image via CC Flickr by Javier Roche
Have we convinced you to explore Cuban culture?