I can’t even begin to describe this amazing experience, such a great and humbling travel adventure.
I am an American citizen from Florida, and decided to plan this trip with my 3 best friends over 4th of July weekend. Oh the irony.
Before we get started lets talk currency. The cuban native use a different currency than you will use; they use CUP. You will exchange your money for CUC, the current rate is 1 CUC is equal to 25 CUP, however you aren’t allowed to use CUP. If there is pricing in CUP, they will convert to CUC for you. I recommend changing money at the airport as soon as you arrive. And if you are coming from the states, change your money to Euros beforehand as you will be charged a 10% penalty by taking USD. The CUC is mostly 1 for 1 with the USD, so if you thought you were getting a bang for your buck, its not likely to happen with the exchange, but it can still be achieved if you stay away from the tourist areas primarily and go to the local spots.
But now to our trip! We arrived early in Havana and had scheduled our transportation through our AirBnB host. We were greeted in a beautiful blue classic car that took us to our AirBnB near El Malecon, which is similar to a pier. We toured Havana and old Havana and were taken away with the beautiful architecture this country has to offer. If you don’t speak Spanish, having someone that speaks basic English will make things a lot easier. Everyone there makes a profit off of everything. If a B&B host hires a driver the driver gives the host a cut, if the driver takes you to a restaurant the restaurant gives the driver a cut, etc, so arranging for an English driver can be accommodated in advance. Oh! You must do the “El Morro” cannon show. It’s $8 CUC for the entrance and it’s only 2 minutes lol but it’s a really cool reenactment of the time they use to use the fort for war. You can head over to view the sunset as you walk down El Malecon.. then take a convertible taxi, just hail one down the street and negotiate a $10 CUC ride to El Morro but plan accordingly as it can get really packed and they start promptly at 8. To ride in a classic convertible it’s $40 CUC per hour. But we used our trip to El Morro, got the experience and skipped the whole hour classic convertible tour. We then saw a live show of the authentic Cuban dancing at a place called Tropicana and it was the best money I’ve spent on a live show (+ some drinks included). This can be a little pricey, as it was $75 CUC per person, but very well worth it.
We then did a day trip to Viñales and experienced a real family own and operated tobacco plant. We were able to see the process from beginning to end. We also went to a natural a Mirador (lookout) which is high on the mountain with spectacular views of the land.
The 3rd day we headed over to Varadero, where the town is known for its white sand beaches, it was a great way to relax unwind and sip on countless mojitos, don’t forget to bring your bathing suit for those days. We went out ON A MONDAY to a club inside a cave and had a blast ; Cueva Piratas!
Our last day there we went to a natural pool in a cave, Cueva Saturno, with the perfect water temperature for the heat.
If I could share my entire experience I could write forever. You will have a blast! Keep an open mind. They are stuck in the 1950’s but it was beautiful to be able to experience a time travel trip. I don’t think you’ll be able to get that anywhere else in the world. ALL the cars are classic cars, and most of the buildings aside from central Havana are no more than 4 stories high. There are no skyscrapers or tall buildings, no modern ones at that, which made this an authentic trip. But best of all, if we wanted to connect to the internet we had to acquire wifi cards and go to certain wifi hotspots, which forced us to interact with one another. A true technology free getaway (minus the camera for pictures). Cuba you were such an eye opener. I only wish I would’ve stayed longer.
Till the next adventure, XO Jaira