People still have the impression that in order to visit Cuba, you need to join an organized tour set up by the Cuban government.

That simply isn’t the case. Cuban/American relations are slowly improving which means the perfect time to visit Havana is now. Americans have many options to receive VISA’s- either within 2 days online, or even more convenient, at the airport gate right before you head to Havana. There is a kiosk at the gate with the option to receive an VISA immediately.

Before You Depart Checklist:

  1. Passport (valid at least six months)
  2. Exchange your home currency for Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) because there are few ATM’s
    1. ATM’s do NOT accept US credit cards so if you’re unsure how much money to bring, bring US cash, you can exchange cash for CUC at the airport and at some big name hotels.
  3. You have your VISA (or you will get it at the gate)
  4. Americans need to state they are visiting for one of the 12 categories
    1. Click HERE to see the categories
  5. Print out all documents beforehand because there’s no WiFi unless at a WiFi park
  6. Don’t bring any foods/American goods into the country
  7. Try to pack non-branded clothing and a bag that zips close

1950’s Time Warp

It’s true, Cubans still use classic 1950 Chevys. You can find these cars everywhere so need to book a classic car tour beforehand. Your hotel can book tours for you. We had a tour guide take us to Viñales, a small town in the West known for its hiking, tobacco farms, and horseback riding trails. From Havana to Viñales, it takes 2 hours so leave by 9 to get most of the day in. Cuba is mostly famous for producing the best cigars in the world, so with a visit to Viñales, you’ll have the opportunity to sample the finest tobacco directly from the source.

Destination: Viñales

Distance from Havana: 2 hours

Ever Wonder How Tobacco is Made?

Tobacco leaves are picked by the hard working farmers of the plantation, then taken to a “drying room” where the process could take up to three months. The farms in Cuba are all organic, so pesticides and artificial fertilizers are not used. If insects are found on the tobacco leaf, they are picked off by hand, which can be a tedious task. Once the leaves are dried, the cigar is ready to be rolled. We visited the Hector Luis Prieto Tobacco Plantation, which was a local recommendation from Alfredo.

Name: Hector Luis Prieto Tobacco Plantation

Afternoon Delight

The best kept secret in Viñales is the Paladar “Las Palmitas” restaurant, a family run restaurant that serves Cuban home cooking. We got an assortment of meats (pork, chicken, and beef) as well as other organic vegetables and plantations grown in the garden. The restaurant is attached to the family home of owners, Raydel and Marielis. You can’t miss this!

Name: Paladar “Las Palmitas”

Address: Carretera a Pto Esperanza, KM-34, Entronque a Ancon, Viñales, Pinar del Rio, Cuba

Phone: (+53) 01-53642765

Alicia Alonso Ballet Nacional de Cuba

Everybody knows that Cuban classic Ballet, Alicia Alonso is one of the best in the world. While in Cuba, its a must you go to a ballet at the iconic Gran Teatro de La Habana. The magic begins as you lay eyes on the outside of the ornate building. The architecture, entrance, lobby & majestic interior of the theater is an artistic treat. The building is located in the Paseo del Prado area in Havana. Go to the theater in the morning and buy tickets. Tickets will cost $30 which is a steal for level of talent you’ll see. It’s a must do.

Name: Gran Teatro de La Habana -Ballet

Rest Your Little Head

Paseo206 is hands down, the best accommodations of all Cuba. It’s nestled among tree lined streets, art deco buildings, and art galleries. Best of all, it’s fitted with only 10 rooms making it a true boutique hotel with specialized service. Here, you can exchange money if you run low. There’s free WiFi which is a huge factor while in Cuba. In addition, Paseo has free breakfast including local fruits, eggs, and homemade bread. What else could you ask for?

Name: Paseo206

Book here:

Other Notables:

  • Fabrica del Arte for a night out (4 story building in the art district known for its art galleries and different rooms for music)
  • Bar cero for an underground vibe in the Old Town, filled with foreigners
  • Fantasy Club is an upper scale club where mostly Cubans go
  • Enfrente is a lovely rooftop restaurant/bar

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