Cuba: An introduction for first time visitors

Cuba is a complicated, fascinating and soulful place. Natural beauty is everywhere with long sandy beaches, protected marine parks with some of the best diving in the Caribbean, some of the most fertile soil in the Caribbean and mountains rugged enough for a revolutionary army to hide.

Throw in world class rum, cigars, coffee and music, the legacies of the world’s most iconic figures like revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and a larger than life author Ernest Hemingway; mix in some tropical heat and warm, friendly vivacious people and Cuba is an intoxicatingly unique destination that is, for now, still largely undiscovered.

Cuba is a country that has been held still for 60 years but is now on the cusp of change. It still has that air of being a “forbidden” destination, but it is totally legal for everyone, including Americans, to travel there if you are on the right tour.

Now is the time to see the enigma that is the Cuba of the past and the present and to see its future unfolding.

5 Amazing things about Cuba

Havana

Havana is a mesmerizing mishmash of the magnificent and the faded. Central Havana’s wide European style boulevards hold fine art galleries, ballet theaters and a museum of Revolutionary memorabilia with a tank out the front. The Verdado of the 1940’s and 50’s is where gambling and mafia types ran riot, encapsulated in the iconic Hotel Nacional.

The Malecón hugs the sea and fills in the early evenings with friends gathered around bottle of rum to chat, canoodling couples, and people out walking in the cool of the evening light. In Old Havana, the tight cobbled streets are packed with 500 years of history, eclectic architectural gems from colonial to art deco buildings, start up bohemian cafes and lively music seemingly wafting around every corner, 1950’s Chevy’s rumble alongside horse-drawn carriages and asthmatic rickshaws.

Santa Clara

Hasta la victoria siempre”. It was in Santa Clara that Che Guevara and his scruffy barbudas (bearded ones) derailed the train that brought the fall of the Batista regime and signaled the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. A university city in the center of the island, Santa Clara is still pushing the envelope with its edgy youthful energy and culture. Santa Clara hosts the propensity for new trends with Cuba’s only official drag show and the best rock festival in the country.

Trinidad

Trinidad is like being in a Spanish colonial time warp; with perfectly preserved UNESCO listed city centre, cobbled streets, tiled roofs, wrought-iron railings, churches, and colonial mansions all built with the money from the near-by sugar plantations.

Trinidad has a charming, sophisticated air, seemingly aware of its historical heritage but moving forward with new restaurants and a flourishing foodies scene. There are markets for cool souvenirs and bandstands everywhere with live music around the streets as the cool of the evening drifts into the city. A good bicycle ride away is one of the best beaches in Cuba, Playa Ancon, and to the north is Parque Natural Topes de Collantes for waterfalls and some of the best hiking in Cuba.

Viñales and Las Terrazas

Explore the beautiful mountain landscape containing a Biosphere Reserve at eco-friendly Las Terrazas and the Viñales Valley, with its fascinating limestone cliffs towering around the relaxing rural town of Viñales.

The Viñales Valley is one of Cuba’s most spectacular natural settings. The limestone cliffs mogotes dotting the valley draw rock climbers and spelunkers alike. Oxen often plough the rich red soil that grows some of the best crops in Cuba, including the tobacco for its world famous cigars. The food is fresh and tasty. The people are genuine and welcoming. The Viñales Valley is a wonderful place to slow down and absorb the world around you at the end of a tour.

Cuban People and Casa Particulares

The Cuban people are warm, engaging and genuinely welcoming. Despite the economic hardships there is an irrepressible spirit reflected in the communities, a resilience born out of necessity. Life is not easy but it is always colorful.

Casa Particulares are private homes that rent rooms to travelers. It is a legitimate way for you to participate in the local economy. While the homes are usually quite basic, they are often nicer than the government run hotels. Breakfast is always included and each casa has its own character and style. Staying with Cubans in their homes is Cuba at its most candid… It is a wonderfully authentic way to connect and immerse yourself with the real Cuba.

Travel to Cuba with Diesel Adventures

Diesel Adventure’s People to People Cuba tour is licensed in compliance with the U.S. government OFAC regulations so that anyone can join this tour of Cuba, including Americans. It is the same itinerary as our “regular” Cuba Rum and Revolution tour but with added interactive activities, more meals included and a few upgraded guesthouses.

Learn about all our upcoming Cuba adventures in 2017/2018 »