Arriving to Havana, Cuba is kinda like stepping out of a time-machine back into the 1950's. A latin paradise of cigar smoking, mojito drinking and salsa dancing; Cuba was one of the most fascinating places I've ever been to. The photos aren't lying, the city is really filled with romantic vintage cars and beautiful pastel colored spanish architecture. This trip was especially special to me because it was really a time to disconnect, it's very rare that I don't have my phone in hand and being there is barley any cell service we got to really be present, present is really where I want to always be.
Eat- Being born and raised in Miami, I'm completely familiar with Cuban food, let me start off by saying the local spots are the best spots. Little hole in the wall, grandma in the kitchen type of spots. There was only one really lovely exception to the hole in the wall restaurants which was actually recommended to me by my friend Jessica names La Guarida - it's a MUST for a classic elegant roof top evening, perfect date night if you have a hunny with you. Make a reservation because this place is always PACKED. Mojitos are the staple drink in Cuba so naturally we had a few and they were a bit different than the sweet Mojitos we are use to in the states. I already do not drink so they seemed even stronger to me. Cuban coffee is my favorite, I make it almost every morning, I must say I'm not Cuban but mine is almost as good as the ones in Cuba. ;)
Play- It's crazy because when planning this trip I was scared we'd run out of things to do. Yup, I was wrong as per usual. First off, walking the streets of Havana there is so much to see and explore in itself. You must walk to The Malecon (the Ocean Drive of Cuba), this wasn't planned but when we went it was during Carnival and we got to experience the music, costumes and of course all the street food. You must must must go around the city in a vintage car, it's a staple and so much fun. Please don't sit on the trunk while the car is driving the way we did & got pulled over, lol oh what memories! There's an amazing art lounge that has a total Wynwood vibe, but honestly 'Fabrica de Arte' is probably better than ANY wynwood period. It's a mixture of Art, food, music, dancing and of course alcohol. Don't be fooled this spot is full of all kind of people from all over. This was the least local spot because there were tons of Americans there. Alaysia & I danced to Rihanna and Micheal Jackson while Nick had way too much to drink. Mar Del Este was recommended by my friend Lee, it's a beach for the locals about thirty minutes away from Havana and when I tell you my friends thought I was swimming back to Miami, I really got lost in the water it was so beautiful. They have a beautiful tree house restaurant there that serves amazing pina coladas!
Stay- Nothing inspires me more than culture. Experiencing and learning of other cultures is easily a favorite passion of mine, which made it a no brainer deciding where we'd stay while exploring Cuba. Staying in a Casa Particular (Air B&B) where you'll be a guest in a Cuban family's home was the most authentic not to mention the most reasonable option. When looking for a place I honestly just wanted AC while still being in the heart of Havana, I got so much more than I asked for. We stayed with a little woman named Betsy's who allowed us into her home and also into her life. Not only did she give us an option to have homemade breakfast cooked for us every morning but she helped accommodate us with taxi's and restaurant recommendations. Not to mention Betsy took us to the hospital after Nick (photographer & friend) accidentally cut his foot open stepping on a rusted pipe. Betsy quickly scooped him in her arms and we carried Nick, like the child he is right into the ER. Which I must say was easily the craziest experience ever because the hospital was something out of a scary Saw movie. Please don't find yourself in a Cuban hospital. With that being said, as soon as we landed back in the US we went stright to the Urgent care to make sure all was ok. lol.
- Make sure to exchange your money before leaving the US, nobody accepts cards ANYWHERE - convert the money to CUC.
- Cuba Travel Visa - you need this to fly to cuba, along with your passport but if you fly JetBlue you pay ($50) at the airport before your flight and it saves the hassle of getting one before hand.
- Wifi is few & far between some hotels will have it if you pay a fee but if you're like us and stayed in an Air B&B you can go outside to the parks in the neighborhood and pay for wifi at the park (this is how all the locals get wifi)
- Download 'Galileo Map' it's a map that doesnt require wifi to work, this helped us get around a bi
Needless to say I was completely charmed and I hope you enjoy getting out and seeing a different part of the big big world too! Stay tuned for a photo diary of cuba with even more looks coming soon.