Cuba is the biggest Caribbean island, and at 1250km long and 100s of kms wide, with 4500 islands around its coast, it is roughly the same land mass and Great Britain. Cuba is 90 miles south of Key West in Florida, 120 miles east of Cancun, and 100 miles north of Jamaica.
When planning a trip to Cuba it is essential not to try and see too much as the distances are more than most people realise. For example, Havana to Santiago de Cuba in the east of Cuba is around 15 to 16 hours drive!
Visiting Cuba is like going back in time. From the moment you leave the airport you will be passing vintage American cars which have probably been in the same family since new in the 1930s, 40s or 50s. All the houses are painted with bright pastel colours and the vibrant friendly people welcome you to their extraordinary country. Live music eminates from bars and cafes, as people sit drinking, locally grown coffee, mojitos and other cocktails.
Havana celebrates its 500th anniversary this year. As you walk around Old Havana it could be mistaken for Barcelona or Palma in Mallorca. Grand old family palaces, cobbled streets, the clip clip of horse drawn carriages all add to the seductive local vibe.
Havana is a city which you could easily spend a week or tens days in, listening to live music, sipping cocktails, learning to dance salsa or mambo, cruising in old cars, and visiting top Cuba artists in their homes or studios. Cuba always had a very bad reputation for food, but actually this has completely changed in the last 10 years or so. In particular Havana, but actually all over Cuba are many super restaurants hidden away behind innocuous doorways. We will ensure that our clients have our up to date inside track to help them find these culinary gems.
A brief potted history. Fidel Castro’s communist revolution in 1959 pretty well closed down Cuba to international tourism. In 1968 he nationalised all bars, restaurants and small businesses, so everything became state run and the quality sunk to all time lows. Cuba’s rich culinary history pretty well disappeard with the l upper and middle classes who left Cuba.
Missing out the boring Soviet middle bit, and moving swiftly on…… After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, and the loss of the huge Russian subsidies to Cuba, Fidel Castro very reluctantly opened Cuba to international tourism. This started primarily with Canadian and European tourists flying in and staying in isolated beach resorts on islands or peninsulas away from the general Cuban population, Varadero, Cayo Coco and Cayo Largo for example. In the early 90s all tourism was government owned and controlled. Hotels, bars, restaurants, transport, tours, activities, ALL government run. Low quality food, drinks and service were normal. Then the mid 90s a few private restaurants and bed and breakfast houses were granted licences. Slowly giving birth to the private sector in tourism. This started in Havana and many rustic parts of Cuba where the government had few hotels or tourism investments, like Vinales, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad and Cienfuegos. This private sector grew slowly for 15 years, and then faster since 2011 when the Cuban government allowed Cubans to buy and sell property for the first time since the 60s. They also allowed Cubans who live abroad to buy property, so a huge number of wealthy expat Cubans have bought properties and renovated them into world class bars, restaurants and guest houses / rental properties. Now days this really represents the most authentic hospitality that Cuba has to offer.
Cuba’s rich European and Afrocaribbean history is reflected in its oppulent architecture, vibrant live music and dance, and multicultural cuisine.
Accommodation in Havana varies from top five star international brand hotels, to privately owned small boutique hotels or property rentals. So we can help you select accommodation which would suit your taste and budget.
On a day to day basis you can include many fun and cultural activities in your visit. Including touring Havana in old convertible American cars, walking tours around Old Havana, taking in architecture, Havana’s rich art scene or simply stopping for cocktails and live music and watching the world go by.
Depending on your interests and priorities for your holiday we can help you select which parts of Cuba to include, and what activities, tours and fun can be made in each place.