Cuba is a fascinating historical country situated just 90 miles of the south coast of the USA. Cuba has most things a vacationer is looking for, from some of the most fantastic beaches in the world yet also offering a cultural heritage not found anywhere else !
A note for US Citizens who want to travel to Cuba.
As a US citizen you will have to enter Cuba through the Bahamas or Canada as the easiest route. And guard you passport like your life depends on it while there since there is no official consulate to help you leave and if you do need to get help the unoficial office will report you to the US Imigration and you will be very heavily fined.
There are 2 ways to have a great travel experience in Cuba
There are a couple of destinations in Cuba that are the best and most geared up towards All Inclusive Packages in Cuba Holguin and Varadero and the less well known Cayo Santa Maria. Esentially you can check with your local vacation operator who will be able to provide you with a Caribbean Vacation in Cuba.
A planned independent backpack through Cuba can be very rewarding and you will make new lifelong friends. Some of the jiniteros will make out you are too but we are talking about fellow travellers.
Cuba is locked off with a US embargo even today and this means that conventional travel doesn't really work outside of the packages to Cuba. Use this to your advantage in planning to see as many destinations as your time allows. Prices only really go up in the All Inclusive areas and this feels like a less than authentic Cuba. In truth Cuba is best done independently so you take your flights and you have a rough plan and visit some of the best destinations Cuba has to offer:
Some of the best destinations in Cuba include Havana.
The capital in places looks like a bomb hit it and nobody cleared up with delapidated buildings needing demolition but the malecon (see wall or sea front) is such an inspiring place in the evening (a great run in the morning) and cubas museums of art and history - its charm will work its its magic.
Pig Carving in Cuba Part 1
Pig Carving in Cuba Part 2
I think its some kind of torture that day tours from Varadero to Trinidad exist - imagine the people knowing they are staying in Varadero after seeing the beauty of Trinidad ! Trinidad, Colonial city very picturesque surrounded by tobacco plantations beautiful beaches not far away and great Casa de Particulars to stay in and make sure you visit casa de la musica oh yes and there's a rave in a cave fantastic night experience, this is really a must see destination of Cuba.
Santiago de Cuba is where started the revolutionary battles, well not started exactly but this was the main real attack on the Moncada barracks. Not such a long time ago though in the name of freedom from Batista the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara which is still affecting the country today (or stubbornness in political leaders on both sides) so you should come down here it's also a gateway to Baracoa. There are of course great museums and places to visit. The music of Cuba ever present in the streets.
Finally Baracoa and Vinales at opposite ends of this massive crocodile shaped island in the middle of the Caribbean Baracoa a small fishing community repeat with its own dilapidated baseball stadium on the edge of the beautiful Caribbean Sea is quite some thing to behold ! There are 10's of tourism trecks available around and some great beaches and it's a fun lively place to hang out and popular with the backpacking crowd. You can get a flight here from Havana and doing at least one leg in this way will save you a great deal of time doing it both you will miss out on a greater part of Cuba.
Vinales- On your list of Cuba destinations and has been popular for longer and also popular with all kinds of tourists from backpackers to the more particular traveler and having a more European organised feel to it than some other places in Cuba but this is stunning scenery. It is closer to the capital and easier therefore to do as an excursion. Limestone formations tower out around the farmed plains with isolated palms and tobaco drying huts, Vinales is a poetic picture. A treck is a must great beaches close by so you can do some great tracks to visit some tobacco plantations and is famous for its limestone formations called Mogotes that jump up right up out of the flat plains into the sky and create one of the more beautiful scenery is I've ever seen and I've seen a lot ! Vinales has a charm all of its own with the still 1950s American cars and not quite as picturesque as Trinidad perhaps in its centre though smaller being closer also to Havana serves those with less time it's definitely a must do you can snorkle or scuba dive not far from here in Cayo Levisa.
How to find a good Casa particular in Cuba ? Well in in our experience they were all very good quality all well run and some better than others but in this in essence they're all licensed and have to be very careful of the law so you have your things are very safe and their respect your privacy normally. There may be exceptions to this rule if you are very unlucky so take standard precautions but still feel secure. One way to find one is when you arrive at your destination everywhere in Cuba you will be accosted by many people touting not all Jiniteros some the owners themselves 60 year old women smoking cigars ! If you have a guidebook we suggest you taking off by yourself because the better ones don't tend to need to meet the buses and have a good reputation and also talk to your fellow travellers you have plenty of occasions to do this so really there is no need to worry about booking accommodation so far ahead. If you do want to check out some hostels then here are Cuba's Best Hostels and Casa De Particulars
Before you read and believe the below statement that reflects the beaten path getting off plan with a liveaboard or going to a specific dive destination in cuba will reward you with world class diving- Cuba Scuba Diving.
Scuba-diving in Cuba can be a very rewarding experience however it's not the best diving in the Caribbean! That doesn't mean to say that you won't have a great dive just don't go to the Cuba dive spots expecting to find masses of fish life and well-kept coral even though Fidel Castro himself was a keen scuba dive enthusiast and made most of the water around Cuba protected National Marine Parks. However protecting this environment has been a struggle for them so over fishing and abuse has led to a situation that has not helped the diving. You should not just visit for the diving but if you are a scuba diver who also wants to do some real adventure travel and take a dip with still GOOD diving then Cuba is for you. The quality of scubadiving is relative and for me its nice to just get into the deep blue and enjoy the macro life as much as anything. Popular spots to dive include Cayo Levisa and Maria La Gorda to the east of Cuba or pretend you are a CIA assasin in the pay of pigs !