Cuba is a warm, welcoming country, full of life and waiting to be discovered. Favoured by those looking for something a little ‘different’ it does not disappoint.
A holiday to an unforgettable holiday destination awaits. With UNESCO Heritage sites in abundance, art, culture and dancing spilling on the streets, you will not see anything like this again. The emergence of cruise lines adding Havana to their ports of call and internal infrastructure improvements means that the whole country is becoming more accessible to tourists. We recommend you make the most of this while it largely remains undiscovered.
There is a plethora of destination types, from the cultural and historical city centres of Havana and Santiago de Cuba to the fantastic beach resorts of Varadero and Cayo Santa Maria with a plethora of water sports and ecotourism options. It’s a country of contrasts and we can’t wait to explore it ourselves!
Not content with being the capital city of this mysterious country, Havana is the largest city in the Caribbean. The city’s appreciation of its colonial past is on display at every turn. It makes it one of the most culturally rich urban centres in the world. You’ll find a dizzying array of castles, cathedrals, mansions and museums. The historic neighbourhood of Vieja Habana (Old Havana) is a must see.
Cuba’s love of music and dance spills out of clubs and cabarets into the streets and there locals celebrate this culture exuberantly. Havana inspires all manner of artists and boasts some of the world’s best ballet schools and dance companies, theatre companies, art galleries and expansive bookstores everywhere. No wonder luminaries such as Ernest Hemingway and Federico Garcia Lorca put down roots here.
If that wasn’t enough the 15km of coastline offers excellent beaches and unspoiled coral reefs that can be admired both above and below the sea. For those seeking an urban oasis, Lenin Park’s 670 hectares of green space give you plenty of room to commune with nature.
A sunset at the Parque Histórica Militar Morro-Cabaña where they still mark the end of day (and closing of the old city gates) the old-fashioned way: with a single canon shot. Known as the cañonazo ceremony, this nightly ritual is a sure-fire hit with the kids.
Santiago de Cuba
Cuba’s second largest city, Santiago de Cuba has soul. It’s proximity to tropical isles has infused the city with a distinctly Caribbean spirit. Reflected in its art, architecture and cuisine. It’s also heard in their music and celebrated in its exuberant festivals – including the renowned Carnaval, the Festival del Caribe.
The city exhibits an eclectic assortment of architectural influences, from the UNESCO World Heritage Site El Morro castle, to the glorious Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, Cuba’s most sacred pilgrimage site.
Just east of Santiago lies the UNESCO-recognized Baconao Biosphere Reserve, with its coffee plantations. While the highest peaks of the Sierra Maestra mountains rise to the west. Crashing surf along the region’s mountain-lined shore makes for a spectacular drive and beneath the water, remnants of shipwrecks are ideal for adventurous divers and snorkelers.
The Casa de las Tradiciones in the city’s French Quarter, Tivolí, where top Cuban musicians often make surprise appearances.
It’s easy to see why people label Varadero, the world’s greatest beach; it boasts a really broad range of resorts, those for families, all-inclusive and everything in between. Team all this with the glistening white sandy beaches, cool tropical breezes and tranquil Atlantic waters and you’ve a winning combination.
There is every water sport you can think of so Varadero is well equipped for those looking for adventure. Whether you want scuba diving, sailing or even swimming with dolphins the breathtaking experiences just keep on coming. Want to sneak in a round of golf? Tee off at the Varadero Golf Club’s breathtaking championship course. Or if hiking is more your thing there is the historic Ambrosio Cave. Want something a little more serene and have pampering in mind? Varadero boasts an abundance of spas to help you unwind.
There is more to the local area than more spectacular beaches. Take the time to explore the ecotourism excursion options on the nearby Zapata Peninsula, the largest wetland reserve in the Caribbean, or within the Varahicacos ecological reserve, where you can hike along vegetation-rich trails and gaze at the colourful array of exotic birds. Or for more culture and history visit the city nicknamed the “Athens of Cuba”. Matanzas got the name because of the wealth of celebrated European poets and writers living there during the mid-19th century.
Be sure to try a gaurapo while you’re sunning yourself on one of Varadero’s pristine beaches. This refreshing cocktail contains a mouth-watering blend of sugar cane juice, white rum and ice.
Cayo Santa Maria
Cayo Santa Maria has all the castaway credentials, anchored 100 miles from the Cuban mainland it’s part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago. This is formed of hundreds of keys and islets. Getting there is really easy; a manmade causeway links the resort to mainland Cuba although once there you’ll feel a million miles away.
Jardines del Rey literally means Gardens of the King, and it’s certainly fit for royalty. The beaches offer up pristine, glistening white sand and clear, turquoise waters. There’s a whole eight miles of shoreline to stretch out on in Cayo Santa Maria alone.
The world’s second largest barrier reef lies beneath Cayo Santa Maria’s waters, so the diving is out-of-this-world. In some parts, you can see aquarium-worthy critters right off the beach. Set off on an organised dive trip and you’ll come face-to-face with turtles, sail-shaped angelfish and two-metre-long barracudas.
International Jazz Festival – Cuba knows how to throw a party, which you’ll see if you attend the Jardines del Rey International Jazz Festival. This musical extravaganza offers a line-up of talented musicians, from Cuba and around the world.
Cuba’s fourth-largest island has nine beaches across a 22 km stretch of pristine white sand. The vegetation-rich cay is home to 150 different species of birds, including the ever-graceful flamingo. All the islands beaches are located on the north of the island which makes for spectacular sunrises in front of the hotels.
You’ll find a wide range of excursions to suit any budget, the most popular are the nautical ones, especially a full-day catamaran complete with lobster lunch and open bar.
You can take a tour to the “Delfinario” (dolphinarium) located in a natural mangrove on Cayo Guillermo. Spend 30 minutes in the water with the dolphins and get the chance to perform different types of interactions, tricks and acrobatics with these graceful animals.