Cuba, Cuba, Cuba…what can I say? I had an amazing time! Despite some hiccups along the way (which ill get to in a second) I still feel as though I had a very enriching experience. Cuba is a place where you can experience so many life changing events and come away feeling like you’ve grown/progressed in your human journey. My friends and I tried our best to see the good, bad and interesting sides that Havana had to offer. Below are some of my thoughts.
El Malecon- Pier overlooking the water. Locals go here to hang out, fish and enjoy some one on one time with mother nature. Here is also where we witnessed a local “carnival” – a local parade that consisted of dancing, drinking and eating.
Sarao- Bar/Club that caters to tourists alike. The music catered to a wide variety but did have a lot of top 40. This place was classy, vibrant and overall a good time. We wish we would have gone to a local salsa club but there just wasn’t enough time!
Varadero– Beach town located about 2 hours away from Havana. Our airbnb helped arrange a trip there with a taxi but there are also way cheaper alternatives with bus routes that also offer rides there. We opted for convenience and being driven there provided for a much more comfortable experience.
Cañonaso– We didn’t get to actually see this but we hear it’s a must when in Havana. Individuals dressed in old fashioned military uniforms sound off a cannon nightly, get there early since it does finish quickly!
Fabrica de Arté– Cute hipster art factory that houses local artisans as well as small bites to eat.
El Cocinero- Great restaurant right next to the fabrica. Since it does cater more so to tourist it does get packed, good thing is you can make a reservation online early!
Patio Amarillo- I unfortunately would not waste my time on the food. The drinks however were cheap and tasty.
Nare– Best local food we had! This place was filled with live music, and great food choices at decent prices/ portions.
I would recommend trying your best to eat and find locally owned restaurants which they call Paladares. These tend to be more well kept and the quality of the food is better (in my personal opinion).
Everyone is one! Literally. If you stand on the curb and stick your hand out (a la New York style) a taxi will stop momentarily and take you where you need to go. Make sure you bargain/hustle. The cheapest we paid was $5 CUC where as the most expensive was $10.
If you wish to get a sense of what the real Cuba is like (as we did) then airbnb is definitely the way to go. We stayed in one that was very cozy and accommodating in central Havana. Keep in mind, if you are not familiar or have never seen a poor nation then you may be in for a surprise. The streets are not in the greatest conditions to say the least. With this being said we did not feel unsafe here at all.
Lastly if you are three females traveling alone (might I say also very cute) you will most certainly encounter men of all ages approaching you and cat calling you. Although I have encountered that on various levels throughout my life, nothing at all like what we experienced in Cuba. It was almost comical, people shouting from the literal rooftops or from blocks away. Chasing us down, etc. you get the point. They want to talk to you, and its important to use your judgment to determine whether its harmless or if in fact you could turn the situation into a plus for you (this is how we got a lot of recommendations and or directions). Be alert and vigilant and just know that it is going to happen but mostly they say it’s a part of the culture and that Cubans love it (which we did not see anything to negate this).
All in all, we had a great experience because we went there with an open mind and were already previously aware of some of the limitations we might encounter. All of us spoke Spanish and although we were able to maneuver this great city we still struggled with accessing some basic necessities. Cuba makes you think/perceive things in a totally new way. Not being able to rely on our phones made us tap into our intuitive side and opened us up to new experiences that we may have never had in another country and or place. The most important thing when visiting Cuba is to keep an open mind, be vigilant, embrace the culture/people and have fun!