Summer Nights in Havana, Cuba
There are very few places I often find myself dreaming of returning to, and Havana is one of them. No wonder that it was Hemingway’s favorite! Its food, people and culture are all the more reasons to add this city to the top of your bucket list and to head out there! Whether you want to embark on a creative writing trip or indulge in a moveable feast of flavor, dance and color, it is a city full of options and aesthetic possibilities.
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Where to stay
Modern boutique stay in the culture-rich Vedado enclave, with a rooftop lounge and Italian-Caribbean restaurant.
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Things to do
Landing in Havana, your eyes are first drawn to the abundance of color in the architecture, to the food and drinks and to the vibrant vintage cars. Embark with a walking tour of Havana to get to know the city on a more intimate level and learn more about the community you are staying in during your vacation.
Make sure to check out Havana’s museums, such as the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the Museo Napoleonico, the Taquechel Pharmacy Museum and the Museo del Ron Havana Club. These are jam-packed with history and flavor of the tropical island.
Salsa and classic cars
While you’re out and about on the streets, take yourself out for a salsa class to polish your dancing skills and indulge in one of the city’s favorite pastimes.
When you’re ready to sit down, book a Classic Car tour. It's a great way to have a private tour of the city while also getting some great photos – and it can be arranged through your Casa Particular, Cuban private houses often done in a colonial style.
If you would like to save some money, a lot of the taxi drivers have classic cars – meaning you can just hail a taxi and pay the regular fare to your destination instead of opting for the tour.
Take a day trip to Viñales
When you first see Viñales you might confuse it with Costa Rica – luscious greenery and stunning vistas in the mountains. From horseback riding to cigar rolling, Viñales has it all, a mountain town with a tropical touch of palm trees here and there.
Make sure to stop by the Mural de la Prehistoria de Viñales for a memorable photo opp. Check out the World Heritage Site national park and the Caribbean coast at Cayo Jutias and Cayo Levisa. A tour to this special town can be arranged both online and/or during your visit to Havana, as it is an approximately three hour trek from the city.
Playas del Este
Havana’s most popular beach, just 30 minutes away from the city center, is called Playas del Este. Palm trees gently sway along the coast of perfectly azure Caribbean waters, inviting you in for a day of beach relaxation.
After having been to multiple beach areas in different parts of Latin America, this one is still one of my favorites – it is much more natural and is free of vendors. In fact, it’s not overrun with tourists either. It’s a bit bare bones, but they do have food service with a steady stream of piña coladas.
A note from Priyanka
There are few places in the world where you can still unplug almost entirely and truly connect with your surroundings without cell phone distraction. Cuba is known for being quite isolated from the rest of the world, with limited phone and wifi service. While you can buy wifi cards, they are still extremely unreliable. Instead, let your senses reign and your inner explorer take over. However, I do note that it is important to download everything you need in advance. Maps.me and Google offline maps are great options to have on hand.
Places to eat & drink
La Guarida: This local restaurant embodies the attitude and atmosphere of the island under one roof. Featuring delicious Cuban dishes and dancing to follow, this spot is a must-visit.
304 O’Reilly: Two-story Cuban restaurant that features impeccable ambience and food, thus frequented by both tourists and locals.
El Cocinero: A restaurant located in an industrial space that serves up traditional Cuban dinner fare. Consider coming in before sunset to watch the sun’s last rays from the rooftop.
Mojito Mojito: Live music, traditional dishes like the Cuban ropa vieja, and of course, mojito cocktails reign this space. Consider it as a lovely lunch option to unwind over a drink or two.
Drinks & nightlife
Fábrica de Arte Cubano: An experimental experience space, this venue features distinct rooms including art exhibitions, music and cocktails to follow. It is a unique chance to meet the hip locals and get to know the contemporary culture of Cuba.
La Zorra y El Cuervo: Known for having jazz shows of a lifetime – stay for its extra strong cocktails as you dance the night away.
Need to Know
Be sure to look up the travel requirements and recommendations for your specific country of origin before booking a trip to Cuba, especially if you are a US citizen.
Solo female travel
Cuba sustains much of its wealth on tourism, thus offering a relatively safe embrace to visitors. Common street precautions are suggested as well as being careful with pickpocketing and ripped off. Female travelers may experience catcalling and piropos, what locals call witty compliments. While this can be a drain on your trip, it is quite common in Caribbean and Latin American countries. Aside from these few tips, it is still a pleasant and safe destination for solo female travel.
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