Travel Guide: Cuba
Cuba’s reputation as a powerhouse of art and culture is nothing short of staggering.
Sure, it has some of the Caribbean’s most gorgeous beaches, such as the 22-kilometre-long Playa Varadero, but few other islands can offer such a menu of salsa music, comedy nights, opera, Shakespearean theatre and umpteen art galleries and museums.
A Varadero/Havana cultural adventure is ideal for those seeking a vacation that blends Caribbean R&R with pursuits that can dip into its revolutionary, literary and musical past.
Less than a two-hour drive from Varadero — along a scenic coastal road littered with bustling towns, lush landscapes and countless windows into the workings of Cuban daily life — visitors will find themselves in the vibrant Cuban capital.
From the crumbling facades of architectural gems to the old cars that continue to roam her streets, Havana is a living, breathing museum of Cuba’s past, present and future. In the historic plazas and narrow streets of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site, visitors learn about the country’s remarkable history, follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway or simply savour coveted rum and cigars, procured directly from the source.
Along with education and medicine, culture is a staple of the Cuban Revolution that continues to thrive. Culture junkies can choose their level of indulgences, from live performances of the National Ballet of Cuba and Teatro Lirico Nacional (opera) to a collection of museums spanning historical eras, colonial and religious art, ceramics, music, architecture and much more.
The town of Trinidad and its surrounding valley with dozens of sugar mills is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Scooters are ideal for exploring the Varadero peninsula. Enjoy a jaunt down a country road, stop by a bustling market in town or spend a leisurely afternoon in the scenic surroundings of Josone Park.
Cuban society is very family-oriented, but the most convincing evidence lies in a crime rate that ranks as one of the lowest in the western hemisphere. Relative safety encourages exploration beyond the confines of a resort, which is a privilege that sets Cuba apart from some other tropical destinations.
Besides finding a sleepy place to sling your hammock on Varadero’s 22-km-long beach, you can be as active as you’d like by scuba diving, deep-sea fishing or joining one of many boat tours.
Low crime rates and lively music and dance venues make Havana appealing both night and day.
Havana nights are lively and romantic, with plenty of options that will keep you on your toes until the wee hours of the morning. As night falls on the “Paris of the Caribbean,” Habaneros celebrate life by gathering along the Malecon to share each other’s company, and perhaps a bottle of rum. Exhilarating live performances of music and dance unfold in venues across the city, from salsa at Casa de la Musica and Café Cantante to traditional bolero that permeates the walls of El Gato Tuerto. Jazz enthusiasts indulge their passion at Jazz Café, while elaborate stage shows at Cabaret Parisien, located in the Hotel Nacional, bring a Havana landmark to life.
Treat a stay at an all-inclusive resort in Varadero as your base camp. From there, you can book a catamaran excursion to nearby Cayo Blanco that may include a menu of freshly caught lobster, plus numerous stops at white sandy paradises lapped by turquoise waters. Landlubbers can opt for a day trip to the city of Trinidad, a 500-year-old enclave rich in Spanish architecture, cobblestone streets and colourful colonial plazas.