It’s an amazing feeling ticking a bucket list item off the page! For me that came with a recent trip to Cuba curated, planned and booked with Going Places Travel!
I had been trying to get to Cuba, literally, for years! But either:
- someone dropped out
- plans changed
- I had a change of heart
- I couldn’t get off work
- …life happened!
It seemed like the world was keeping me away from what I knew would be an amazingly beautiful paradise; and two weeks ago my suspicions were confirmed.
Cuba is absolutely beautiful!
With the help of my expert Going Places Travel advisor, I was able to jet off to see a country I’d been dreaming about for years! From booking, planning the trip, finding the tours and fun things to do, finding the perfect hotels and getting the tourist card; Going Places Travel is your one stop shop for all things Cuba…take my word for it!
I’m here to give you the full rundown of my time frolicking in Havana’s city center, rolling cigars in the countryside of Vinales, vibrant Mantanza and everything Cuba!
For five straight days I soaked in so much Cuban culture, stories and…sun (it was HOT!!) and loved every second of it. Fresh off the plane the adventure began. I was lucky enough to have a tour guide on this journey who in conjunction with my Going Places Travel advisor curated an amazing trip full of food, tours, cultural experiences and the sexiness of the cabaret!
We landed in the capital, Havana, but this is not where the fun would begin. We took a picturesque two-hour drive into the city of Varadero passing by beaches, colorful communities, intricately built buildings and a lot of food spots! Honestly I’d never heard of this city before this trip. Varadero is much different than the bustling city center of Havana and is more residential and homey.
Cuba has a little bit of everything you look for in a great vacation spot; beaches, countryside, amazing weather, great cuisine, a great story and fun loving people.
If you’re ever in Cuba, here are 5 things to fill up on!
Cuban food and Cuban drinks
Cuba is known for its amazing mixes, loads of pork and, in my opinion, for helping you to put on weight! I’m a huge fan of bean and rice and, yes, I could eat pork for days. We feasted on some of the most delicious dishes and tossed back more mojitos than I could remember. Throughout the trip I ate my face off; breakfast, lunch and dinner! From the most delicious mojitos, a variety of beers and of course authentic pina coladas, we got lit every night, responsibly! I’m a lover of Spanish food so every meal to me was exciting! The plantains fried 10 different ways, the paella, the variety of cassava…when in Cuba, please make food a big part of your experience! Oh, and there’s no escaping the Cuban rum, Havana Club!
La Bodeguita Del Medio
HavanaClub Factory rum tour
Vedado Restaurant in the Melia Habana Hotel
Oh, the architecture
I never realize how much I love architecture until I travel! The tall buildings, the colors, the shapes; Cuba is famous for its breathtaking landscapes and skylines. A simple drive around town, places you in a different timezone every few minutes. Cuba’s landscape is so vast and endearing and effortlessly gives you the best of several worlds. There’s a little Russian, a little European and a whole lot of island!
The culture and color
Cuban culture is art, cigars, coffee and Havana Club! Cubans are big on telling their story of being a resilient country and they deserve to. Their history is fascinating and intriguing and you can see a little of what they’ve been through in everything they do. Cuba’s culture is strong and lingering. I picked up a few paintings, but even that was no easy task. So much color, so much talent, the faces of so many beautiful Black women! Cuba’s artists love the Black Queen and they express that love in the most beautiful pieces of art. I brought back home two amazing buys that I cannot wait to hang! Then there are the tobacco houses, the churches, the forts, the statues, the rum factories, the mesmerizing classic cars; there’s no shortage of culture here! We even visited Ernest Hemingway’s house, one of the biggest attractions in Cuba!
Cabaret show at El Nacional
Cabaret show at the Tropicana
San Jose Market
Cigar House Tour
Leather, leather, leather!
OMG, the leather!!! as soon as you step into the San Jose Shopping Market, the pungent, but attractive smell of leather fills the air. Just about every stall is loaded with purses and backpacks and wallets and belts and shoes and shoes and shoes and shoes and shoes. Yes I bought more shoes than my suitcase could hold! Cubans are so creative and innovative with what they do with leather and if you’re not careful, you could literally spend all your coins at one stall! If you’re on the hunt for some good authentic leather products, Cuba is a must! I brought back the cutest sandals, slippers for my mom and sister, wallets for my dad and brother and can’t wait to go back to bring home more.
Music to my soul
Music is everywhere in Cuba! From street corners, to the lobbies of hotels and restaurants, it’s in the shopping markets, being played from cell phones; Cuban music is revered and in the veins of all who live there. It was on this trip that I got serious about perfecting my salsa. I really need to practice! We went to a night club dubbed, the “hip hop spot.” I was readying to hear all of my favorite American tunes and dance the night away. Little did I know, I’d have to dance to Spanish music all night; and I wasn’t mad. Cubans love Cuban music; it’s all they want to hear, it’s all they want to play, it’s all they listen to and I could see…and hear why.
What else should you know?
Oh, no the WiFi – Cuba is notorious for its strict policy on WiFi usage, in fact there’s hardly any! For a blogger, content creator and heavy social media user like me, this was a culture shock! While Wi-Fi usage is limited, it’s not non-existent. Cuba’s government controls internet usage for both residents and tourists, with data only accessible in public spaces and some restaurants…if they pay for it. Imagine sitting at a dinner with the most beautiful dishes coming your way and you can’t Instastory it! In the first hotel we stayed at, Wi-Fi was only available in the lobby. ETECSA, the government-run communications company actually sells Wi-Fi cards that give you a username and a password. You can sign in using this wherever there’s Wi-Fi available like at parks, some restaurants and some hotels. I was only able to find Wi-Fi cards that lasted for one hour, but I’ve heatd that there are also three day and five day cards.
What about the money? CUC Versus CUP – When researching the currency and conversion rate in Cuba, I was hella confused! In Cuba they actually have two different local currencies, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP). In short, our tour guide explained that the CUP is used mostly by the residents and the CUC, primarily for tourists. For every US$100 I got converted, I got CUC$87 back, so you do the math…no seriously, please do it, I suck at math! In some spaces, like in the markets and some restaurants, American currency is also accepted as payment.
Where did I stay? For the first three days we made the Melia Las Antillas in Varadero our home. For the remainder of the trip, we stayed at the Hotel Melia Habana.