Destinations We Love: Havana, Cuba

Picking the perfect honeymoon destination can be intimidating, but here at Wanderable we want honeymoon planning to be easy and exciting. That’s why we started this series of blog posts featuring Destinations We Love:

plaza vieja old havana 11 Destinations We Love: Havana, Cuba

Perhaps you’re a couple that has done a lot of traveling and want to go somewhere that isn’t on the usual list of honeymoon destinations. Or maybe you are looking for a destination rich in culture and romance. The re-opening of Cuba to travelers visiting on a People-to-People* license has made it is easier for Americans to visit this otherwise forbidden isle.

Though many couples might not consider Cuba as a honeymoon destination, it is a great choice. To start, Havana oozes romance. Picture cobblestone streets lined with pastel colored colonial buildings, fresh mojitos, live music, and dancing in open air plazas. Are you starting to get the picture?

Not-to-miss while you’re in Havana:

“Mi mojito en La Bodeguita, mi daiquiri en El Floridita”: Visit Papa Hemingway’s two favorite bars for these classic Cuban cocktails. While a bit overpriced and certainly touristy, it would be a shame to miss these historic watering holes. Bring a sharpie so you can add your names to the graffitied walls of La Bodeguita and don’t miss taking a photo with the bronze sculpture of Hemingway in El Floridita.

Learn a new skill: Ask a bartender to teach you the secret to a perfect mojito, pick up a few steps of basic salsa, or learn how to roll a Cuban cigar.  Not only will you be able to show off your new skill when you get home, you may make a personal connection and have a great story to tell.

Eat at a paladar: One of the best ways to get to know Cubans is eating at a paladar.  These privately run restaurants are usually located in people’s homes and are the best place to sample local cuisine. One of our favorites is Doctor Cafe, located in Miramar.

Explore Havana Vieja: Be sure to plan spending at least a full day exploring Havana Vieja. Many of the old plazas have been restored and you can spend hours people watching from the cafes that line them. We love perusing the book sellers on the Plaza de Armas and listening to the musicians on Plaza de la Catedral.

Sunday afternoon at el Callejon de Hamel: This alleyway has been covered in brightly painted murals and on Sundays comes alive with live music and dancing. You’ll be sure to meet some local characters and have a chance to show off your best dance moves.

When to go: Avoid hurricane season and the crippling heat of summer, and visit between late November and early April.

Don’t forget: Your passport, Cuban visa, if you’re American, the appropriate license*, and cash.  American credit cards won’t work in Cuba, make sure to go prepared!

Unmissable journey: Take a ride along the malecon in a classic 1950’s taxis. We’d suggested ending up at the Hotel Nacional for a sunset mojito.

Best meal: Ropa Vieja (stewed beef) with a side of moros y christianos (rice and beans) and a daiquiri at a local paladar.

Souvenirs: Americans are limited to books and artwork, so don’t try to slip a few Cuban cigars into your luggage! There are some fantastic artists in Cuba, consider bringing home a painting to remember your adventure.

Language: Cubans speak Spanish in an accent that can be difficult for even native Spanish speakers to understand. Don’t let it put you off, just ask people to speak slowly (un poco más despacio, por favor), Cubans love it when tourists at least try to speak Spanish.  If you get totally stuck, many Cubans speak English.

*A few words on going to Cuba legally: Many Americans are astounded to find out that they can travel to Cuba legally. The easiest way to do so is on a People-to-People license, with a licensed tour operator who will take care of all the necessary travel documents and arrangements. People-to-People tours focus on encouraging cultural exchanges between Cubans and Americans and are designed for the average traveler.

Have you been to Cuba? Do you have any tips you want to share with other wanderers?