Cuba is a fascinating country. We had truly unique experiences while visiting in April 2016 (the US president Obama was visiting Cuba at the same time).
The nature is unspoiled, the people are humble and friendly, the food is simple and tasty, and many things, including Internet and communications are way behind the world standards. The latter takes you back 25 – 30 years ago and you start feeling somewhat nostalgic for the almost forgotten past.
The old Havana is a nice place to walk and feel the rhythm of Cuban life in the city. The classic and not so classic, but old cars are everywhere – it feels like living in a museum. The colonial buildings some of them restored, while most of them not, create a surreal feeling of existence. Here, it is normal for the internet connection to be limited or non-existent (see below locals and tourists sitting around a local hotel to get free wi-fi), the ATMs to swallow your cards at any time (then it can take a week to retrieve it from the central bank), the locals to live with a symbolic salary and earn extra money from other random jobs.
The country is beautiful – the beaches, the coral reefs, the hills and valleys are well preserved. We visited quite a few places, as the country is not large and one can explore by car or short flights into various locations.
Valle de Viñales is located on the west of Havana. It is pretty and rural – tabaco is grown here (for the famous Cuban cigars). One can see the famous mural of Vinales, take a boat trip in a cave and visit the botanical gardens with plenty of orchids.
Cuba’s beaches are pristine, the waters of the Caribbean sea are clear and snookering and diving is a joy here. Cayo Largo and Cayo Ensenachos are places to remember. The hotels are nice and services are not exactly what you expect them to be, but nevertheless the nature was our priority.
We had a day trip from Cayo Ensenachos to Remedios, Santa Clara and Trinidad. In Santa Clara one can visit the memorial museum and monument of Che Guevara and other national heroes. Trinidad is a pretty colonial town with cobbled streets and lovely buildings to explore. The Royal Palm is a national tree of Cuba and in the picture below (taken in Trinidad town center ).
We stayed for few nights in Varadero, however found it quite noisy for our liking. From Varadero we took few day trips to explore the area. One of them was a trip to Rio Canimar for a boat trip and a tribal dance performance(from pre-colonial times).
A day trip to Playa Girón from Varadero was full of experiences. We enjoyed a crocodile park, jumped in a natural lake, snorkelled straight next to the road side sea lagoons (incredible corals and fish varieties – never seen before next to the road) and finally dined on fresh seafood, salad and mini fries in the village!
We know things will change in Cuba as it opens up to the world. I hope it preserves its natural beauty and authentic culture.