Once upon a time, long before President Obama began easing travel restrictions from The U.S. to Cuba, the beautiful and vibrant Island country was off limits to the majority of Americans. There was something enticing about this forbidden fruit – this exotic and controversial off-limit locale, and many Americans were clamoring to find ways to sneak in for a visit (namely through Mexico and Canada). These days, with direct flights to Havana from Los Angeles for less than the price of a music festival, and with a line-up of celebrities from Mick Jagger to Kim Kardashian having visited the island in the last year, it seems that Americans are traveling by the droves. But if you’re turned off by trendy travel destinations and worried that the charm of Cuba is slowly dwindling, think again. This beautiful and resilient island, is surely worth a visit, and there’s no better time than the present.
There is no shortage of books, blogs, and guides to help you as you plan your trip, but we thought we’d fill you in on some of our fave experiences from our latest trip. We like to keep things short, sweet, and simple – just like our snack bars. Enjoy!
Museum of the Revolution:
Cuba’s political history is long, rich, and anything but simple. But don’t just take our word for it, and certainly don’t believe what you’ve heard in days past regarding this polarizing topic. Go see for yourself. The gorgeous building itself is worth a visit, and you’ll walk away with plenty of new knowledge. And knowledge is power!
Santa Maria Beach:
Let’s face it, no beach visit is a bad beach visit when it comes to Cuba – all of the Island’s beaches are pristine! But we love Santa Maria beach because its just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Havana and is brimming with locals, live music, and beach side umbrella service. Pack plenty of bottled water and humbly hemp snacks to hold you over if you’re not keen on the sometimes heavier local fare (think fried pork and plantains). If you do opt to have lunch at a nearby food stand or café, bring cash. Cash is king in Cuba, and often the only option. Seriously, don’t get stuck without it.
There’s no way to accurately capture Cuba’s leading entertainment venue La Fabrica De Arte, as its truly in a class of its own. But we’ll give it the old college try! Situated in the neighborhood of Vedado, away from the droves of tourists, sits an old oil factory that has been converted into an industrial yet sleek Soho-style night club (cleverly juxtaposing the quintessential decaying Cuba we all think we know). Here you’ll find more than just tasty mojitos and rooftop DJ sessions. Expect to find a plethora of multi-media projects ranging from works by painters, photographers, play-writes, fashion designers, and of course, live music performances. The coolest part is that tourists are welcome, but its truly a local’s spot. And if you’re a lover of art, you’ll want to stay all night.
The Vinales Valley, a national park reserve where the majority of Cuba’s tobacco is grown, is a gem you can’t miss. It is the vast and quiet valley to Havana’s bustling city, and though the ride is long (bring your Humbly Hemp bars!) it is so worth it! A perfect two-day trip to escape the buzz of the capital, this was perhaps our favorite experience on the whole trip. We loved our (very affordable) Airbnb with stunning views, and can’t recommend it enough. Not only were we offered a complimentary breakfast by our lovely host as well as an arranged horse back guided tour through the local valley and tobacco farms, but air conditioning and a hot shower (much the luxury in many Cuban homestays) were happily welcomed after that long drive from Havana. Pack light. Bring cash. Keep things simple. Stock up on Humbly Hemp Bars. Talk to the locals.