Cuba's capital is home to two of its eleven million citizens. A mosaic of warm rhythms and hot exhaust, with spontaneous street side salsa and an insatiable thirst for life, Havana is truly unforgettable. Prepare yourself to be enthralled and inspired. If nothing else, your visit to Havana will be the experience of a lifetime.
Before Enrique Iglesias popularized Bailando on a global scale (reaching over 1 billion views on YouTube), Alexander Delgado, pictured here, and his Cuban group Gente de Zona were belting out the song to sold out crowds in Cuba. Think Bailando is catchy? Listen to Gente's La Gozadera.
Music is core to Cuban culture, emanating from every mobile phone, doorway and pore in Cuba, driving the rhythmic flow of everyday life. As diverse as the people themselves, Cuba's world-renowned live music scene spans salsa, rumba, trova, songo fusion, son, reggaeton, opera, classical and jazz, of course. Pick your flavor.
Cubaneo is to be Cuban, to act Cuban. It means feeling siempre en casa ("always at home”). Sharing with someone you don't know as if you have known them all your life. Arriving at a place where you don't know anyone and feeling welcomed as an old friend. It’s about hope, laughter, happiness, resilience. Living in the moment and enjoying life as it is. Cubaneo can't be found anywhere else in the world, and if you're like us, you'll find that it provides a perspective on life that lasts long after you leave.
It's been said that Cuba's eclectic architecture is its music turned to stone. In spite of, or perhaps because of, halting economic development, architectural marvels have persisted on every street corner, some crumbling in front of your eyes, others fully restored to prior glory, and others still quite literally a shell of what they once were. In other words, guaranteed Instagram likes.
Though you won't find any DeLoreans in Cuba, you can still travel back in time. All of Havana is an outdoor car museum. Take in the sights, sounds and smells of the city from the backseat of a perfectly restored hot pink 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible, worth close to $100,000. That these nostalgic beauties have survived without available replacement parts is a testament to sheer Cuban ingenuity, also known as invento Cubana.
For the non-Cuban among us, we may not have rhythm en la sangre (“in the blood"), but, hey, stop staring and start moving.
Much like its music, Cuban dance has it all. From the most sensuous reggaeton to the elegance of Havana's acclaimed ballet, and the hot salsa that seems to blend these two extremes perfectly.
Check out an elaborate Cabaret show or hit a salsa club and allow yourself to be whisked away. Don't think, trust us.
Did your 1971 Russian-made Moskvitch just sputter to a stop? No need to call AAA. Grab your screwdriver, slide under the car’s belly and start tinkering. Born of the country's historical isolation and driven by the necessity to survive, Cubans have become do-it-yourself engineers and masters of invention. Nothing is cast aside and nothing is unhackable. Got a Soviet-era metal meal tray? Then you've got a makeshift TV antenna. Got an LP vinyl disc and a rotary telephone? You've got a house fan. Cuban ingenuity is truly remarkable.
Is Cuba a lost paradise? Yes. Should you visit right now? Yes.
Is Cuba made up of 4,000 islands, located smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean, with some of the world's best beaches? Yes.
Is Cuba recognized by the United Nations for providing a very high quality of life? Yes.
According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Cuba is one of just three Latin American countries recognized for having “very high human development”, the same category as the United States and rest of the developed world.
There's a flow to the pace of life in Cuba. Feel how time slows down here. You won’t have internet on your phone. Don't worry, you won't need it. Disconnect. Interact. Live. That's why you're here. When's the last time you went a day without email? A week? Cubans are experts at not planning every single day, stage, and phase of their lives. Embrace the fluidity and feel the rhythm.
The iconic Malecon. An eight-kilometer oceanfront promenade stretching from beautifully crumbling Old Havana to the upscale mansions of Miramar. Watch the setting sun turn the horizon orange, then join Havana’s youth in a nightly ritual of laughter, dancing, and dating. A pure expression of Cubaneo.
Cuba is a living, breathing paradox. Pictured here is a beautifully remodeled seafront restaurant, serving the high quality dishes one could expect in Miami, yet situated next to abandoned plots and empty swimming pools. The potential is obvious.
We won't share too much Cuban slang here, but one word that is sure to inspire a few laughs from the locals is “mango.” Mango is an affectionate term used by strangers and couples alike to describe an attractive man or woman. Your challenge: drop mango into conversation and wait for the giggles that are sure to ensue.
Two hours from Havana, Vinales is a beautiful, sleepy town nestled amongst soaring limestone cliffs and tobacco farms growing some of the world's best. While the outstanding scenery here has earned the Valley of Vinales a World Heritage designation, it's the vibrant casas that will color your soul. Orange, green, pink, yellow, blue, red, take your pick. Slip into a rocking chair on the porch (all casas have both) and experience Cubaneo at its best.
Casa means house in Spanish. Ok, you knew that already. But, did you know that Cubans have been renting casas particulares or private B&B for more than twenty years?
Cubans are some of the most welcoming and hospitable people on the planet. Immerse yourself and stay with a family. You won't have internet (there’s internet at the hotels), but you may just have that one interaction that will change your perspective forever.
Cuba’s spectacular natural beauty comes not only from having some of the world's most beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, but also from its soaring mountains, rolling green hills, cascading waterfalls, vast farmlands, and swamplands teeming with wildlife.
Ever stop to notice Cuba on a map? It's huge. Roughly the size of Pennsylvania, Cuba is nearly ten times the size of Jamaica, representing forty-five percent of all Caribbean land mass.
On August 14, 2015, the American flag was raised at the US embassy in Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years. Yet, the Stars and Stripes could already be seen all over the country—on shirts, bags, pants, bumper stickers, car air-fresheners, you name it. The Cuban people have always welcomed Americans with open arms. Enthusiasm has only grown with the recent reconciliation. Ask any Cuban, the optimism is tangible.
If Havana feels like the 1950s, Trinidad is very comfortable representing the 1850s, and it doesn't plan on growing up anytime soon. Quite simply, time passes more slowly here than anywhere else on the planet, a unique characteristic of Cuba that is magnified in picturesque Trinidad.
It's well worth the four hour drive from Havana to see this Unesco World Heritage city preserved since the early nineteenth century sugar boom on which it was built.
Oh, and Trinidad happens to be a short fifteen minute drive from Playa Ancon, one of Cuba's best beaches. Don't miss it.
So, what exactly is the embargo? In short, the embargo is a set of US regulations restricting most trade with Cuba and prohibiting Americans from traveling to Cuba as tourists. Despite the recent reconciliation, the embargo remains in place and will require an act of US Congress to be repealed. Americans are, however, permitted to visit Cuba with licensed people-to-people travel providers like Cuba Candela. Book now.
Havana’s Hotel Nacional, built in the 1930s to resemble the extravagant Breakers Hotel of Palm Beach, serves at once as a reminder of Cuba's troubled past and its grand potential.
In 1946 this visually stunning national monument was the site of the Havana Conference, an historic meeting of US mafia leaders. By the 1950s Havana had become a corrupt gambling haven earning millions for US mobsters.
Fidel Castro's revolutionary government assumed power in 1959, shutting down the casinos and making education, public health, and safety top priorities, which have persisted today.
The Cuban health system is world-renowned. With one of the world’s highest doctor-to-patient ratios, Cuba has achieved infant mortality and life expectancy rates equivalent to those of the developed world, including the United States, at a fraction of the cost.
Secret negotiations. Clandestine meetings at the Vatican. Hand-delivered letters from the Pope.
What sounds like a Hollywood scipt was actually the path to normalized diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. The embargo remains in place, but many steps forward have been taken.
Among these include the re-opening of embassies, the removal of Cuba from the US government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, and the easing of US travel restrictions.
According to a 2014 report by the World Bank, Cuba's education system is tops in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Boasting a 99.8% literacy rate and free access to education at all levels (including 47 universities), Cuba also offers the world's largest medical school, ELAM, which has enrolled students from over 100 countries, all on full scholarships.