In the capital city of Cuba the grand squares of Havana Vieja rub shoulders with the crumbling buildings of Havana Centro and the lively salsa clubs of Vedado are minutes from the waves crashing against the Malecon. It’s a city of many faces so take your time to see a few.
There are over 30 dive centres scattered across the island, a testament to the stunning underwater world to be found off-shore. Top scuba spots include Maria La Gorda at the far western point of Cuba, Playa Giron on the Bay of Pigs and, for more experienced divers, the Isla de la Juventud.
Caribbean equals fabulous beaches and Cuba doesn’t fall short in this department with stretches of ivory sand lapped by the bluest of seas. See Hemingway’s favourite Cayo Levisa in Pinar del Rio, or Playa Ancon south of Trinidad for shining examples.
It’s a World Heritage site but really, what isn’t these days? Go for the cobblestone streets, beautiful, colonial architecture and the chance to mix with locals by staying in one of the city’s many casas particulares (home-stays).
A must for all Che Guevara fans, this is where Che and 16 fellow revolutionaries killed in Bolivia, were eventually buried. An eternal flame (lit by Fidel) burns atop their mausoleum. This town saw the final battle against Batista in 1958 and the boxcar museum houses the bulldozer that Che and 18 men used to stop an armoured train transporting 350 troops.
Santiago de Cuba
Cuba’s second city is New York to Havana’s Washington DC. It’s a gritty party city where music pours from every doorway. More distinctly Caribbean than other parts of Cuba, thanks to its proximity to Jamaica and Haiti, this vibe penetrates all aspects of life here, particularly its laidback pace.
It might stuck on the far Eastern tip of Cuba but don’t ignore this small coastal town. Accessible only by sea until 1964, today it’s reached by the plunging, winding lighthouse road. Those brave enough will be rewarded with some of the best hiking, eating and cigar smoking in Cuba.
Yes you’ll get a band imitating Buena Vista Social Club most places you go in Cuba but there’s far more to the island’s musical heritage than this. From son (Cuban folk music) to hip-hop, via rumba, salsa, jazz and more, music, and the dancing it encourages, can be found in every corner of this country.