ISLAND FUN FACTS
Population: 11.34 million
Religion: Christian, mostly Roman Catholicism
Currency: Cuban peso
Language: Spanish with Castilian influences including Haitian Creole.
Side of Street Drive-On: Cuba has fairly good roads with most of them being wide and you and your car have to stay on the right side of the road.
Carnival: 1. Habano Cigar Festival 2022: If you have ever watched any good action movie, then you know a thing about Cuban cigars. Well this festival is a celebration of Cuba’s most beloved and world-famous product. From February 19 – February 26, Havana lights up to bring from all the four corners of the world people with a refined taste of their most classic product. You will get a chance to enjoy tours, meet some 1500 producers, distributors and businessmen. And you might even get a chance to meet some of your favourite celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
2. The Santiago De Cuba Carnival 2021:
All year round, Cubans prepare for their largest and most beloved festival. Working on costumes, assembling floats and dusting off their dancing shoes. And on the 18 Jul – 27 Jul 2021, everyone takes to the streets to show off their best. This carnival is all about music and dance. The native sounds of Cuba fill the air. This is the most culturally rewarding experience in Cuba and you wouldn’t want to miss it.
3. Havana Art Biennial 2021
Welcome to the 14th annual art fair. Held on April 17 – 24 2021, this is sure to be an infusion of art and culture. You will have the pleasure to look, learn and of course a chance to be amazed. You can expect contemporary art trends as the city celebrates 501 years of its foundation. There will be pieces from 20 Cuban artists along with pieces from artists stationed in 20 countries, which include Spain, France, Mexico and Peru. For more info visit here
“Cuban History in a snap:
About 1492 to 1898 – at this time a group of the Aboriginal- the Guanahatabey, Ciboney and Taino were the inhabitants of Cuban. Upon the arrival of the Spaniards with Christopher Columbus, this group was wiped out due to disease and elimination. The country however became a neglected stopping port for Spanish fleet that visited the New World and returned to Spain with minerals from continental America.
When Haiti collapsed as a sugar producing island, Cuba rose to the challenge and saw a boom of African slaves, who were bought in ships to work the sugar fields. This drew back Spain’s attention to the island.
In the late 1800s:
Cuba went to war for its independence thrice. First in the Ten Years’ War, then came the Small War ending off with Cuban War of Independence in 1895 to 1898. And in the last three months escalated to the Spanish-American War.
For three years, Cuba was occupied by Americans, but gained its independence as an American protectorate.
During the 1902 – 1959:
The time of Dictator Fulgencio Batista among many other rulers set over Cuba by the United States to protect the economic activities in the island, including their gambling operations run by the mafia.
From 1959 to the Present:
On the 1st of January 1959, Cuba saw a rise of the charismatic, anti-US revolutionary, Fidel Castro. Castro successfully overthrew the dictatorship of Batista. With his rise, Castro brought an end to major American power on the island, nationalizing American companies and encouraging other Latin American countries to do the same.
Displeased the American administration under John F. Kennedy through the CIA, approved an invasion of Cuba by trained Cuban exiles “Bay of Pigs Invasion”. This operation and many others orchestrated by the American government “
THINGS TO DO
Going to Cuba is more than just a huge Latin party. Entertainment here varies from cultural shows to in bar concerts.
1. Fabrica de Arte Cubano: when Cuban fusion musician X-Alfonso had an idea to bring together other Cuban creatives, from musicians to artists and create a live-music gallery, Fabrica de Arte Cubano was born. With only CUC$2, you can enter the artistic haven, which is totally unpretentious and VIP free. Every visitor is encouraged to engage with the creatives, so if a performance really caught your eye, you might just get a picture for your travel scrap book.
Once you get to Fabrica explore the art exhibits, rave the food outlets and the live music scenes.
2. Casa de las Tradiciones: now if you are looking for a real party, this hidden gem was made with you in mind. This beautiful ongoing party lasts till midnight and carries with it soloists and singers taking turns all night long. And if you feel like a meal, this bar has a menu for you to explore. Hands in the air, shout out loud musical party that you do not want to miss.
3. Teatro Principal: feel like ballet mixed with Caribbean sun? The Camaguey Ballet Company hosts spectacular shows which are the talk of the town. Founded by Fernando Alonso in 1971, this world renowned company performs in an 1850 vintage theatre. All you need is CUC$5-10 and of course, a taste for fine art.
Cuba has a long history with the United States, it was good, then bad, moved to complicated and of course trying to work it out. This history did not leave the cultures of both countries unaffected and for Cuba, this history is evident in sports.
Cubans fancy baseball, unlike most of its Latin America counterparts who greatly celebrate football, with 62% of the population involved. Cuba dominated in the sport during international cups until professional systems were abolished. And things got worse as Cuba-US relations soured.
With a new government in the US, came new outlooks on mending the relationship, which allowed Cuban players to be drafted into the MBL.
Cuba also celebrates other sports too namely volleyball, wrestling, basketball, sailing and boxing; with amateur boxing winning high medals in international competitions.
Cuban culture is rich! From the food, to the art and the music, the footsteps to success are quite visible, but also the roots behind them. Like most Caribbean countries, Cuba started out with the enslaved Africans working for its building and economical success, so it is no wonder that Africa influences can be heard and seen in the Cuban culture. And of course, having interacted with Spain and America, all these lines are still drawn in. The Cuban culture continues to grow and take from all the different influences, a cloth to imbed in its own quilt.
Pin money on the bride: at weeding in Cuba, you will find the male guests dancing around the bride and pinning to her money. This tradition is aimed to help the newlyweds pay for their honeymoon or cover existing costs.
“The food scene in Cuba is usually a bargain, with some pricey eat outs here and there. The island has a long list of worth a while menus and we have compiled a few below for your next trip:
1. El Café in Havana:
The name may have given it away, yes this place is your best place for an amazing breakfast. There is no sign to the café so you will have to trust your nose to follow the coffee beans and bacon aroma. Get a bowl of granola, toasted sarnies or a full on eggs, bacon, bread, cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers plate. Imagine taking your favourite breakfast joint on holiday with you? That is El Café.
2. Casa Miglis: if you are like most people, then you probably have no idea what Swedish-Cuban fusion food is. But Casa sure does and so will you if you visit this quirky exotic restaurant. The owner, a Swedish music video director, had an art fest with the décor where the stage is made of old Coca Cola ads.
3. El Cocinero: so if you are looking for a sleek, elegant and of course it will be pricey Cuban restaurant, then El Cocinero is your guy. The restaurant is described as “loft-like” and has a rooftop terrace in a former cooking oil factory alongside an art gallery and nightclub. You can expect dishes like Tuna carpaccio and duck blinis.
For those with a penchant for nostalgia, you can head to Old Havana near the town center. With a Latin flair, classic cars and beautiful architecture, there is so much to enjoy as you walk down the streets of this gorgeous neighborhood. You will meet locals, enjoy lovely restaurants and maybe, just maybe, even witness some spontaneous dancing. Havana is a really exciting place with countless things to do.
1. Museo Hemingway Finca Vigia: literature lovers would be amiss to not schedule a trip this Hemingway Estate situated right in Havana. Visitors get a chance to explore at a closer proximity, the brilliant writer’s home and life. They get a chance to delve into what inspired him; learn about him right in his own home.
2. Fusterland: lovers of all things eccentric need to make the time to stroll around this place. Located in Havana, artist Jose Fuster worked to transform his home and neighborhood into an artist’s playground. With mosaic after mosaic of bright designs and various sculptures towering over everything, your senses and imagination can run wild as you journey through this immersive experience.
3. Alejandro de Humbolt National Park: it is one of the largest old growth forests in the country which sits in the eastern reaches of Cuba. You can explore the trails, likely get close to some natural wildlife and get to see a different side of the island.
4. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana (the National Museum of the Fine Arts of Havana): here is where you come if you are interested in experiencing the culture and seeing how some of Cuba’s rich history was preserved. With multiple floors of art showcase the various elements of Cuban life and culture, you can experience the rich and powerful history of this country as you stroll between the galleries and learn about various artists from the country.
Cuba has beautiful beaches, with white sand covering the shorelines and beautiful palm trees providing the much needed shade. Find your paradise escape at one these islands below:
1. Playa Los Flamencos
2. Playa Pilar
3. Playa Perla Blanca
5. Playa Los Pinos
6. Playa Ancón
Places to Stay
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Resort & Spa:
This is an adult only all-inclusive resort at a beachfront location. Paradisus offers a relaxed and luxurious atmosphere and sophisticated rooms with balconies and minibars. The Royal Service Wing offers an upper-tier service including free Wi-Fi, jetted tubs and butler services. All the 798 rooms have either an ocean view or a pool view. Furnished with tennis courts, live entertainment areas, seven restaurants and a cigar bar, you holiday in Cuba will be memorable.
If you are seeking a good place to spend your holiday and absolute respect of privacy, then look no further than Hotel Saratoga. Now unlike most island hotels, this prestigious hotel understands and prides itself in discretion. The walls tell the story of the hotel’s history and come with extras like free Wi-Fi for all the rooms. Here you wouldn’t find non-guests in the rooftop pool with great city views. A stay at the Hotel Saratoga is just a walk from old Havana attractions. The hotel is not your typical Cuban hotel, but a definite if you seek discretion and a quiet visit to this beautiful island.
Paradisus Varadero Resort & Spa:
Now this is a family-friendly resort well worth visiting. A large ocean-view pool, a beautiful lobby and some white-sand beach, this resort is a Cuban dream. Rooms are furnished with a stocked minibar and still carry a traditional factor. Paradisus Varadero is fairly big so you might find yourself waiting on golf carts to move about the estate. But with a spa service dubbed among the best in the area, you will be well taken care of.
With 10 international airports, flying to Cuba is a breeze. No matter where your point of origin is, you will easily find a reasonable flight to this culturally rich island. You can easily fly from any large city in the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, South America even Asia to land on this beautiful island.
As you explore your options, you can enjoy an inclusive cruise experience to Cuba. You will be able to explore a variety of ports around the Cuban coasts and get to enjoy all that this island has to offer.