Cuba is a vibrant and captivating Caribbean island that has something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you want to explore the city streets lined with historic Spanish colonial architecture and cobbled stone alleyways, relax on its world-class beaches and delight in tropical sunsets, or indulge in the passionate live music and enjoy flavorful dishes inspired by Afro-Cuban culture, Cuba has it all. With its friendly locals and captivating culture, Cuba is sure to charm any visitor. Its colorful cities are filled with culture and life, and the surrounding countryside offers beautiful mountain ranges and tropical forests. Along with its spectacular beaches and warm, Crystal clear waters, Cuba is the perfect place to get away, soak up the sun, and enjoy an unforgettable holiday. With its vibrant culture, captivating landscapes, and strong sense of history, Cuba has something for each and every traveller, and is a must see for anyone looking for a Caribbean escape.
The History of Cuba
The history of Cuba is full of mystery and intrigue, spanning centuries of captivating stories, monuments, and people. From a rich pre-Columbian culture to Spanish colonization and a series of influential and often tumultuous leaders, the culture and history of Cuba is diverse and captivating. Today, much of Cuba's history has been preserved as travelers explore its fascinating past.
The culture of Cuba can be traced all the way back to its pre-Columbian roots. Known to be occupied since the 14th century, Cuba's pre-Columbian origins provide a unique insight into the people and culture of the island. From the beginnings of its agricultural roots, to its coveted ports and mineral resources, Cuba's pre-Columbian inhabitants worked to cultivate a rich culture that still exists to this day.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain, who in turn began to colonize the island. After centuries of Spanish rule, Cuba fought its first fight for independence from Spain in 1868.
The Cuban War of Independence lasted ten years and concluded with the Platt Amendment in 1901, granting Cuba limited autonomy. Since then, Cuba has had several influential leaders, each leaving their mark on its colorful history. The most notable of these was Fidel Castro, who governed the country for more than five decades until his death in 2016.
Cuba is a country full of history and culture, a destination ideal for visitors looking to explore its fascinating past. From its pre-Columbian origins to the towering monuments of its Spanish settlers, Cuba boasts a wide array of historic sites and architecture. Whether one is interested in visiting the captivating cities, exploring the lush countryside, or just taking in the sights and sounds of the culture, a trip to Cuba will provide a unique insight into the history of this wonderful country.
The Culture of Cuba
Cuba is a vibrant and culturally-rich Caribbean island located 90 miles south of Florida. Home to a population comprised of descendants from African and European countries, the country's culture is truly unique and distinctly Cuban. From mouthwatering cuisine, to the infectious rhythms of salsa music, the passion and drive of the Cuban people has shaped the country's culture over the centuries and is why travelers choose to experience its culture.
If you're looking to cultivate a deep appreciation of Cuba, you need to discover its distinctive art, music, and dance. From the abstract expressionism of Wifredo Lam to the soulful tunes of Benny Moré, Cuban artists in all mediums explored their heritage and surrounding influences to craft works of immense emotion and beauty. Music and dance are elemental parts of the culture, which is clear when taking in a performance of clave-based Afro-Cuban music or a rumba show. Joining a dance class can also be a great way to get moving and learn about the traditional steps and music.
Cuba's people are warm and welcoming, and its cuisine delectable. The country's food speaks of its various cultural influences, having been shaped by the African, Spanish, and Caribbean cultures present in the country. There is a great variety of dishes to choose from, including Cuba's iconic ropa vieja (literally meaning "old clothes"), a stew made of beef, tomato sauce, garlic, onions, and bell peppers.
If you're looking to truly experience Cuban culture, you can stay at one of the popular casas particulares, privately owned homes that offer housing and hospitality. These homes often expose travelers to elements of family life, enabling them to uncover the beauty of everyday culture and people.
When traveling to Cuba, you can be certain that you can find something unique and exciting every single day. The culture and people of Cuba will welcome you with passionate music and delicious food as you explore the island and discover new and thrilling experiences.
The Food of Cuba
Cuba is known for its unique and delicious culinary experience, and it is no surprise that travelers continue to visit to experience it for themselves. Cuba's cuisine is an eclectic fusion of plenty of flavors and spices, drawing on its African, Spanish and Caribbean roots.
When it comes to Cuban food, the first thing that comes to mind is the national dish, Ropa Vieja. This dish is a flavor concoction of roasted thin pieces of beef, simmered in tomato and garlic sauce, mixed with sweet peppers and olives. It is usually served with white rice and it is sure to tantalize your taste buds! Other famous Cuban dishes include pan con lechon, a sandwich made with slow cooked pork on a roll with garlic sauce and pickles, or cuba libre, a signature Cuban cocktail made with lime, rum and cola.
Travelers can also expect to find an abundance of succulent seafood dishes. From fried red snapper and spiced shrimp, to refreshing conch salads, visitors can indulge in and savor the colors and flavors of the Caribbean. If you're looking for something a bit lighter, try the Hemingway burger, which is made with grilled beef patty, plantain bun and Anatto aioli. For a twist on classic Cuban dishes, try one of the many Cuban fusion restaurants. Here, Cuban staples like ham and cheese sandwiches, Cuban tamal, and croquetas de malanga are combined with creative flavors from other regions for an unforgettable experience.
It's important to know that Cuban cuisine is all about enjoying with friends and family. Everywhere you go, locals engage in conversations with their friends and food is a shared pleasure. And don't forget to try their famous Cuban coffee, an intense and aromatic beverage that makes up an integral part of Cuban culture. Whether you're a foodie or just looking to explore, Cuban cuisine is bound to make your stay unforgettable.
What to See and Do in Cuba
- Take a ride in a classic convertible car in Havana, Cuba: Visitors should take a ride in a classic convertible car in Havana, Cuba and explore the timeless streets of Old Havana, gaining a unique and unforgettable experience of Cuba's history and culture. The ride should take travelers around the historic areas of the city, including the cobbled streets of Old Havana, Plaza Vieja, El Prado and Calle Monte, where visitors can hop out of the car and explore at their leisure.
- Attend the Varadero Jazz Festival in Varadero, Cuba: The annual jazz festival in Varadero is held in the first week of November and is a must for any traveler looking to experience the incredible music and culture of Cuba. The festival is full of performances from both local Cuban artists and international acts from all over the world, making it a highlight of any traveler's stay in the country.
- Climb the stairs of the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba: The Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, also known as El Morro, is an iconic fortress located on the cliffs of Santiago de Cuba that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. Visitors can make a day of it by spending hours exploring the incredible structure and taking in the breathtaking views at the top of the steps.
- Learn how to dance the Mambo in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba: Santiago de Cuba is known as the birthplace of the Mambo, a high energy dance style that was popularized in the 1950s. Today, visitors can still visit the historical city and take classes with local instructors to learn the basics of the Mambo.
- Take a boat ride to the Isle of Youth in Isla de la Juventud, Cuba: Isla de la Juventud is a large island located off the south coast of Cuba that offers visitors a range of activities and attractions. One of the most memorable activities is to take a boat ride to the Isle of Youth, where visitors can enjoy a day of snorkeling and swimming with dolphins.
- Explore the colonial streets of Trinidad, Cuba: Trinidad is a charming colonial town located in the Sancti Spíritus Province of Cuba. Visitors can explore the cobblestone streets full of brightly colored buildings, visit the nearby beaches, and take in the stunning views of the Valle de Los Ingenios from various lookout points.
- Watch a traditional Cuban performance in Viñales, Cuba: The town of Viñales is known for its spectacular landscape of limestone karst hills that have been home to traditional Cuban music for centuries. Visitors should make sure to watch a traditional Cuban cabaret performance while in town, with the group Los Tres Compadres being the best known.
- Sample delicious Cuban cuisine at La Cueva de los Portales in Havana, Cuba: La Cueva de los Portales is one of Havana's most iconic restaurants, and a must-visit for any food lover visiting the city. Visitors should try the Ropa Vieja, one of Cuba's most popular dishes, and sample some of the restaurant's delicious Mojitos.
- Go scuba diving in Varadero, Cuba: Varadero is well known for its stunning beaches and excellent scuba diving opportunities. Visitors can explore the depths its caves, marine life, and coral reefs, and even come across some of Cuba's iconic shipwrecks.
- Take a hike in the Sierra Maestra Mountains in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba: Visitors should make sure not to miss out on exploring the breathtaking Sierra Maestra Mountains, located in Santiago de Cuba. There are a range of trails for travelers of all levels of experience, with the most stunning views being at the summit of the Pico Turquino.
Why You Should Travel to Cuba
Cuba is known for its rich cultural heritage, fascinating history, and its beautiful natural surrounds. Tourists are drawn to Cuba for its incredible beaches, colonial cities and vibrant culture. Cuba is one of the most affordable destinations for travelers with plenty of attractions and excursions that don't break the bank.
Cuba offers something for everyone with an unrivaled culture and an intriguing history. The country offers incredible cities such as Havana and Santiago de Cuba, the two main cities, offering an abundance of interesting sights, galleries and museums. From walking cobblestone streets to sampling traditional Cuban cuisine, travelers can enjoy a variety of activities and experiences.
Cuba also provides the perfect opportunity for travelers to get off the beaten track to explore its natural wonders. From lush forests and deep caves, to bright blue Caribbean waters, Cuba offers a wide range of outdoor adventures. For the adventurous, there are opportunities for rock-climbing, scuba diving and kayaking, while those seeking a slower pace can relax on one of Cuba's picturesque beaches.
Cuba is an alluring destination that promises rich experiences and adventure. The diverse culture and beautiful landscapes are sure to capture the hearts and minds of travelers, while the incredible prices ensure that they won't miss out on anything this Caribbean gem has to offer. With a culture, history and natural beauty like nowhere else, Cuba is a must-see destination that promises an unforgettable experience.
Tips & Tricks for Traveling in Cuba
- Know the Currency Exchange Rate Ahead of Time: It's important to know the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) exchange rate before exchanging your U.S. dollars or any other currency upon arrival. This will help ensure you get the best rate.
- Research the Cubacan Honor System: The Honor System is a network of private homestays, car rentals, and other services throughout Cuba. Balancing against the costs of hotels and other tourist services, this system allows travelers to pay a lighter cost for their trip and also help to support local economies.
- Plan a Cash-Only Trip: Cuba does not currently accept credit cards from U.S. or Canadian citizens, so plan to pay for your entire trip with cash. Make sure to exchange all your money in Cuba, as the exchange rate from U.S. banks is not very favorable.
- Make the Most of Your Wi-Fi Access: Wi-Fi is expensive in Cuba, but you can make the most of the time you are online by doing all your online research before you go and making a plan for the attractions in each city you plan to visit.
- Stay in Casa Particulars: Instead of staying in a hotel, why not stay in a Casa Particular? These are privately-owned homes where you can rent a room and benefit from the Cuban hospitality. Everything you need to know about where to stay can be found on their website.
- Bring Supplies From Home: It's a good idea to bring some basic items like toiletries and snacks with you from home as they are often hard to come by in Cuba.
- Take a Spanish Course: While English is widely spoken in Cuba, taking a Spanish course will make your trip more interesting, help you interact with locals, and allow you to access more unique cultural experiences.
- Choose Environmentally Friendly Options: Choose to travel by foot or bike as much as possible to reduce your carbon footprint. There are also several volunteer programs throughout the country related to environmental sustainability.
- Take Part in a Tour: Join a tour or excursion to get the local experience and learn more about the various sites and cities. There are several options ranging from biking to kayaking to fishing, so it's easy to find something to suit your interests.
- Vary Your Transportation: Try to vary your types of transportation while in Cuba. Hire a car, take a bus, sail on a ferry, or ride a horse-drawn carriage. This will make your trip more interesting and rewarding as you'll get to experience different landscapes and meet new people.
Other Places You Might Like
- Varadero, Cuba - Varadero's unique combination of turquoise waters and luxurious beach resorts makes it a paradise for beach-goers. Boasting the longest stretch of white sand beach in the Caribbean, Varadero is the kind of place where sun lovers can relax and forget their troubles. Varadero is highly popular among Cuban vacationers and tourists from around the world looking for a lively experience on the beach. Anchored by a bustling downtown strip where you can find restaurants, shopping and nightlife, the waterfront beach benefits from a range of all-inclusive resorts, ocean-view villas, and waterfront bars.
- Havana, Cuba - Capital of Cuba and the largest city in the Caribbean, Havana's vibrant mix of Spanish colonial and Caribbean culture combine in a captivating way, making Havana a city that is truly alive. From its freshly painted buildings, lively culture, and the bustling Malecon waterfront, Havana is the perfect place for travelers in search of Cuban life. Definitely the cultural and economic center of the country, Havana is a city full of culture, art, music and more. Home to some of the world's most unique museums and galleries, a memorable time is guaranteed in Havana.
- Trinidad, Cuba - Delightfully hidden between verdant hills, the city of Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Cuba's most stunning colonial towns. Considered one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the Caribbean, Trinidad is a colorful city full of narrow cobbled streets, beautiful plazas and humble buildings. With a history and culture strongly rooted in the traditions of Spanish colonization, the city of Trinidad is a must-see destination for anyone in love with Cuba.
- Holguin, Cuba - The meticulously cared for provincial city of Holguin is one of Cuba's best-kept secrets. Located in the east of Cuba, Holguin is one of the few places in Cuba where locals and travelers mix together in a harmonious way. With a laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural sites such as Guardalavaca and Playa Esmeralda, Holguin is a great destination for travelers who crave the laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle. Majestic waterfalls and lush vegetation make this place a great spot for eco-tourism.
- Baracoa, Cuba - Perched on a mountain over the ocean, the city of Baracoa is a hidden gem in Cuba. Nicknamed "the first village of Cuba", Baracoa is a captivating place that is often referred to as one of the few remaining ecological paradises in the world. Most travelers visit Baracoa to experience its wild, Magaribo-infused culture, the untouched rain forest, and its natural setting. Located near the base of the incredible Sierra de Toa mountain, Baracoa is for travelers who long for the feeling of a small-town Cuban getaway.