There are many good reasons to visit Cuba: The beach, the culture, the food, the landscape, the music.... I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Although traveling to Cuba is harder for Americans - it isn't impossible. So, if you're asking yourself "should I go to Cuba in 2018" the answer is a resounding yes.
The Cuban Beaches
Just a short 2 hour drive from the Havana Airport is Varadero – a beautiful beach town known in as the best beach in Cuba. You'll find gorgeous white sandy beaches that stretch on for 22 km! The palm trees, pineapple drinks and crystal blue water will leave you breathless.
The Cuban Cigars
Unless you live under a rock you probably know Cuban cigars are considered the best in the world. You can visit the Partagas Cigar Factory in Havana for a guided tour or take a day trip from Havana to Vinñales and roam an organic tobacco farm on horseback! If you go to Cuba you can't miss out on deciding for yourself Cubans cigars really are the best.
Cuba had AirBnb before it was cool – seriously!! Called Casa Particulars, the Cuban government allows locals to host tourists. Not only is this a great way to travel Cuba on a budget but it also allows you to live in houses and buildings along side a real Cuban family. It gives you a unique perspective and insight into Cuban life. It was honestly one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip.
World Class entertainment
You can't go far in Cuba without seeing some phenomenal live singing, and dancing. Often times the best performers are right on the street - but there are also some amazing shows you shouldn't miss out on. Visiting the Tropicana was a huge highlight of our trip, but we also checked out the Buena Vista Social Club and were amazed by the talent. If you like ballet, try and see a performance while in Cuba. Cuban ballerinas are some of the best in the world.
The Vintage Cars
While in Cuba, and Havana specifically, one of the best things to do is ride (or just admire) the vintage cars. If you do decide to take a ride, make sure to negotiate fares before you leave. You won't find any meters in Cuba. The good news is the gorgeous cars are everywhere and easy to find.
live truly Off the grid
Internet is hard to come by in Cuba. You have to buy a card from very specific places, and then go to an area with Wi-Fi access. I suggest letting everyone know ahead of time you will be off the internet for your trip there. Enjoy it! When is the last time you went a couple of days without social media? I was surprised at how nice it was to forget about Snapchat, Instastories, and Twitter for a couple days. Or if you have a demanding job that doesn't really see vacations as time off (like my husband who is a lawyer) enjoy the fact the the office will literally not be able to reach you.
The Cuban Rum
If you're a partier you are going to love Cuba. Havana Club rum is the most popular brand and is sold in every restaurant and bar across the island. Americans will be unfamiliar with this brand since we don't have it in the states due to the embargo. Even it you aren't a rum drinker I encourage you to try it. It's delicious and you shouldn't leave Cuba without tasting the forbidden fruit. Mojitios are typically the drink of choice in Cuba and are quite refreshing in the hot Caribbean sun.
Read on: Best Restaurants and Bars in Havana
You could just go to any local restaurant, or street corner, and dance the night away but I suggest taking a salsa lesson while in Havana. I recommend Salsador a Cuba - they charge $14 per person per hour and the lesson is one on one... Or I guess one on two since you'll be with your partner. The classes are great since they start with the basics and work all the way up to advanced combinations. It is not unusual to plan 3 or 4 days of lessons, actually it is what most people do! Start with a one hour lesson and I promise you will be hooked!
The Cuban Food
Of course what vacation is complete without massive amounts of great food? Don’t worry, Cuba has tons and all of it is delicious. Between low cost street food, trendy tapas and cervezas places, and locally run paladars you won’t go hungry. If you are looking to travel Cuba on a budget you definitely can... just stick to street food and local places.
Experience Real Cuban Life
Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. Cuba is very safe and walking around a REAL Cuban neighborhood is both an eye-opening and enlightening experience. You will see kids playing in the streets, groups of men working on vintage cars, local bakeries on every corner, and street vendors selling fresh fruit. Americans are fed this view that Cubans are miserable and living in squalor. While some places are quite run-down the Cuban people are generally happy and just like us.
A day trip from Havana to Vinales is a must do when in Cuba. Colectivos from Havana are a cheap way to get to Viñales and back - another reason why Cuba is a great place to travel to if you're on a budget. The ride to Viñales takes you through a gorgeous countryside that looks straight out of a movie. Once there you can horseback ride, hike, tour organic farms, see how Cuban cigars are made, or just walk the pretty city.
Scuba diving in Cuba is one of the best things to do while there. If you are certified you can explore some of the best and clearest waters around the country. One of the best places to dive in Cuba is at the Bay of Pigs. You can dive here if you take a trip to Varadero while in Cuba. We dove there and used Barracuda Divers. Our trip included two dives over the course of an afternoon and I definitely recommend them!
Read on: Where to Scuba dive in Cuba
Final Thoughts on Cuba
There are few reasons you should not go to Cuba, maybe you don't agree with the politics or you want to try out other places in the Caribbean, but if you aren't going because you think it's hard to get there... or you think there is nothing to do there... you're just wrong. Check out Cuba asap - travel to Cuba in 2018 even! I promise you won't regret it.
One more thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
A super common question I get is what camera do I use for my travels. The body is a Nikon D3300 and I mostly use this wide angle lens made by Sigma. It's awesome for travel photography - I am seriously obsessed with it.