Updated: May 14
From the vibrant disposition of Havana City to the magnificent sparkling waters of Cayo Largo, Cuba is unique in both its landscape and culture. There have been few places that I've travelled to that have had such a profound impact on my way of thinking and how I see the world. Cuba seems to be place where everyone is on the street, for this is where the music, culture and connection reside. A feeling of everyone knowing everyone comes over you because they're all out there together. It must be that elusive camaraderie, something I've not witnessed very much of in my every day life. In Cuba it is copious... but for how long? As restrictions ease, the inspiring way of living in Cuba is sure to change... So let's look at all the reasons why Cuba should be on your travel list in 2021.
There are few places I have had the privilege of travelling to where you really feel like you've just stepped out of a time machine. Cuba is one of them. If you don't already know, Cuba has been politically and economically isolated by the United States since the Cuban Revolution or since the 1960's and this is hugely evident in it's infrastructure and architecture, but made better by being refinished in bright colours and artistic flare. These brightly coloured buildings, homes and cars pair perfectly with the ever-present Cuban music that you hear just walking through the streets; the same tunes that have been played for decades I'm sure. You'll hang out at classic bars, drink classic mojitos and if you're lucky enough, enjoy the same classic cigars that Fidel & Che themselves once preferred. Everything about this place is so different, yet so authentic. You can't help but be sucked in to this simple way of life enjoying the finer things and being consumed by the pleasant vibe of it all.
It's common to see kids playing in the streets with something as simple as handmade balls or elastics, for young men to help old ladies carry their groceries, for the whole neighbourhood to come to the rescue of a broken down car, or for a stranger to offer a ride or at least find someone else who can. You'll come to appreciate the graciousness of the people rather quickly. The government does well to regulate taxis, accommodation providers and tour companies, so you can be sure you're in good hands. There is very little crime in Cuba, violent crimes are almost unheard of in relation to tourists. People are generally extremely honest and from my own personal experience, it's easy to find someone to help you out.
Cuba has some of the most perfectly blue and white beaches I have ever seen. After all, we are talking about the Caribbean... but the best part about Cuba is that they are rarely, if ever crowded. Varadero, not far from Havana boasts absolutely picturesque beaches during the right season (December - May). There are few waves and the clarity of water cannot be beat. This beauty continues along the northern coast to many other gems like Cayo Coco and Cayo Romano. In the southern part of the island, Cienfuegos and Trinidad de Cuba are the perfect spots from which to base yourself for beach explorations, with the most magical spot not too far away in Cayo Largo. Resorts are plentiful, and it's easy to find the perfect place from which you can enjoy a rum and a Cuban sandwhich on the beach. I could not get enough of the beaches in Cuba and after all of my travels, I can say some of the best in the world are here.
Cuba is home to nine magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Sites which are sure to appeal to history lovers and nature lovers alike. Old Havana and its Fortifications of the16th-19th centuries is one of the most visited and impressive sites in Cuba. My personal favourite is the beautiful city of Trinidad and the Valley de los Ingenios, and I highly recommend to visit here if you're planning a trip to Cuba. The area is UNESCO listed and it tells a story of wealthy origins, abundant with sugar cane plantations, cattle ranches and tobacco plantations. Its cobble-stone streets and horse and cart buggies will transport you immediately to another time. Enjoy your days at nearby beaches, exploring the valley or chasing waterfalls, for in the night Casa de la Musica is where you must be, to enjoy the music and dance that is the heart of Cuba.
At the moment, you can still enjoy a night at a traditional casa for under $20 USD, you can admire the sunset over a $4 mojito while the local bands keep your heart beating to the rhythm of their tunes, you can take a $15 bus trip to incredible World UNESCO Heritage Sites or make it a vintage muscle car, because hey... when in Cuba! A bottle of Havana Club will set you back $6 USD and cigars from $30 a box (of the good ones). But the most valuable experiences in Cuba remain the ones you get for free, and they can be found in the Cuban people and by immersing in Cuban culture and history. The value of the finer things in life is beyond great here. With restrictions lifting for USA tourists, it is only a matter of time until this scene changes. So get to Cuba while it's still unspoilt so you can live and spend like it's 1965.