Cuba Holidays Guide

The Caribbean

caribbean accommodation guide

The Republic of Cuba is the largest (110,860 km2) and most populous island nation in the Caribbean, consisting of the large island of Cuba, plus LaIsla de la Juventud as well asfour smallerarchipelagos. Cuba lies just southeast of the U.S., southwest of the Bahamas, north of Jamaica, and east of Mexico. Itisa place of incredible natural beauty, with magnificent mountain ranges,flat fertile plains where sugar cane and tobacco remain the principal crops, and some of the most strikingly beautiful beaches in the world. With the retirement of Fidel Castro and the growing importance of tourist revenue, this is a terrific time to visit Cuba. It is a vibrant island with excellent resorts and beaches and the distinct advantage of being just a little rough around the edges when it comes to tourism, which is actually a good thing – you see the 'real' Cuba at all times, not a polished-for-guests facsimile.

Cuba Highlights

Cuba Holidays Planner

A Cuban holiday is for anyone who wants an element of challenge to their vacation. Yes, you can rent a private seaside villa and bask in the sunshine all day, but that's not the real Cuba. Cuba is the capital city of Havana (or Habana, as you will hear is called), which is the largest city in the country and claims to be the most beautiful in the Caribbean. Visiting Old Havana, with its colonial palaces, attractive plazas, and quaint cobbled alleys,is like stepping back in time to what was once one of the three richest Spanish-held cities (outside of Spain). It has been designated as a 'city of world heritage'by UNESCO. Cuba is Santiago, founded just two decades after the discovery of America, and the second-most important city from the economic, cultural, historical, and political points of view. Cuba is Baracoa,where those up to the challenge take the 8km (up and down) hike El Yunque, with en route vistas of natural flora and birdlife that are indescribably beautiful; watch especially for thepretty tocororo (Cuba's national bird), the tinyzunzún (the world's smallest bird), hundreds of butterflies, and the nativepolymitas, the fabulously colourful Cuban snails.

Places to Visit

Cuba Accommodation Guide

A holiday in Cuba is also flexibility, like dealing with the fact that they only take their own currency, seldom accept credit cards, charge an extra penalty for exchanging American money, and very rarely take travelers checques. It's the only place on earth where hitchhiking is legal to the point of being overseen (in a good way) by the state. Each town has a hitch-hiking point supervised by an official in yellow monitoring all hitchhikers, registering each destination, and then helping them into the next state or private (not rental) car that's going the right way. And Cuba is one of the only places where hiring a car is a bit of a crap-shoot, and cars come with just enough petrol to get you to the nearest petrol station.Holidays in Cuba are generally Inexpensive; vacation rentals include everything from apartments and small villas, to studios, B&Bs, and hostels.

Travel Facts

On the other end of the spectrum, they have massive mansions and penthouses for rent that come with amenities and staff for a truly luxurious stay. Sport is a national passion in Cuba. Baseball is far and away the most popular; followed closely by basketball, volleyball, boxing, and cricket. And dance. Cuban music is wild and rich, and is the most common expression of the culture. The predominant music is calledSon, from which have come other uniquely Cuban musical styles like salsa, rumba,mambo, and the cha-cha-cha,an upbeat child of the rumba.Wherever you go on the island, music will go with you, and you can be part of the fun by taking dancing classes at Ateneo, a cultural organization set up in the late 1800s. The cuisine here is also uniquely Cuban – a spicy fusion of Spanish and Caribbean dishes you will absolutely love.

Coach travel with a reputable tour operator is a dependable option and one that is safe and will take you to places you will find interesting. The best ground transport is the Astro bus system, but unfortunately it is off limits to foreigners. Bikes are a good way to go if you have the stamina for it. Cuba is legendary among cyclists, and there are far more bikefanatics here than snorkelers, divers, climbers, and hikers combined. Because Cuba is mostly flat and has a population used to sharing the road with bikers, you can try the spectacular 9km descent down La Farola highway, starting at the top of the Baracoa Mountains and winding all the way down to the south coast past cliffs hung in tropical vegetation with guard-rails protecting you from what appear to be bottomless gorges. This is one wild ride, with fabulous scenery if you're brave enough to take your eyes off the road. Built by the Revolutionary government, this magnificent mountain highway is an irresistible challenge for cyclists. Traditionally, the first stage of the Vuelta Ciclista Cuba (Cuba's answer to the Tour de France) is run over this route. Carry your own heavy-duty lock, food, repair materials, water, and first aid equipment.

Cuba Holiday Tips
Cuba Travel Info
José Martí International Airport, located juts 25km southwest of Havana has some five terminals, one handling just domestic flights, the second working only with direct charter flights from the U.S.;another very modern terminal handles all international flights, and still another focuses on inter-Caribbean flights. Renting a car in Cuba will help you navigate the variety of cities and activities at will, but can be an iffy proposition. Because there is a short supply of rental vehicles, it's typically best not to bother with a reservation but just call around the car-hire places and go straight there if they have one on hand. You may find yourself overpaying for an under-maintained machine, so check it carefully before you leave the lot. Hotel-based rental places are often better bets than the main offices.If you know any Spanish, try to use it – the friendlier you are the fewer issues you tend to run into.