Welcome to the land of cigars, rum and salsa! Since the embargo was eased with America earlier this year and the borders opened after 55 years, it seemed like a good time to write a blog about this beautiful country. If you ever plan to go there, go as quickly as possible; now you can discover Cuba still in its purest form! The best time to travel to Cuba on the period November to April. Below some tips on things I have done, eaten or have experienced.

The capital and largest city of Cuba. As you enter the city you will see the ancient colonial buildings, the old-timers and old school buses driving around. This makes you think you went back in time. The city is colorful (just like the people who live there) and is divided into Vieja, Centro and Vedado. Havana has four large squares, of which Plaza Vieja is my absolute favorite. Here you will find several restaurants with outdoor seating. In my view, Cafe el Escorial has the best coffee in town. Try the cafe helado!

One of the streets in Plaza Vieja is Mercaderas, where you can go for a lovely lunch at the Paladar de Los Mercaderas. If you’re here you should (and I repeat: you should) try the eggplant lasagna. In addition to the tasty food there’s also live music; songs like Guantanamera and Bailando mademade the night perfect to me.

Want to have a cheap dinner? Visit El Chanchullero. Just make sure you’re on time, otherwise you stand in line. I had a spot at the bar and quickly became friends with bartender Luca, who really fantastic Mojitos. If you still feel good after all the booze, smoke a real Cohiba here. Buy it at Casa del Habano and not on the streets, because then the chances are big you purchase a cigar of banana leaves instead of tobacco.

If you plan to travel around the island, rent a car before you go on holiday. the demand for cars is many times greater than the supply, and if you have to settle it on the spot, chances are that you’re not getting any. Purchase a road map with the ANWB and also buy the app Cuba Offline Map. The app is € 10 but worth every penny. It is also possible to travel by public transport (Viazulbus or taxi) but then you are limited in your freedom.

The village of Vinales can be found in the province of Pinar del Rio. Nearby is a valley where you can take guided tours by horse. I made a tour of four hours and visited a tabacco farm where cigars are made ecologically. Just like Che Guevara prefers his cigar, they baptize a cigar for you in honey and then light it up. Excellent flavor. If you need to relax, take a day trip to the sandy white beach of Cayo Jutias. Oh yeah, drink a Pina Colada at the small bar.

This town can be found in the south of Cuba and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Partly because it is one of the best preserved colonial cities in the Caribbean island. Centrally located is Plaza Mayor, with Casa de la Musica near the stairs. Every evening musicians play salsa here. Even though dance you do not, it’s entertaining anyway. If you still want to dance later that night, visit Disco Ayala, a club in a cave.

At Calle Maceo two restaurants can be found which had excellent food: San Jose (Italian) and La Redaccion. The latter restaurant is owned by a Cuban and his Irish girlfriend, who lived in Amsterdam for years. In the house of his family, they recently started a restaurant. Try the lamb burger.

Casa Particulares
You don’t have to book hotels, you can also stay in a casa particulares, which basically just means with people at home. It is an inexpensive and fun substitute for a hotel where you will experience the local friendliness from very close. Examples of these casa are Casa Tamara y Chen in Havana Vieja and La Casa Cubana in Trinidad.

If you want to know more about Cuba and sending the local culture, do not hesitate to send me a mail. For now, I’m going to dive back into the ocean. Hasta la vista baby!