Being half-Cuban and bilingual, I've had the distinct opportunity to experience Cuba both as a tourist and a local. Returning each year to visit family and friends, I've travelled the island extensively and gotten to know her many facets and personalities. Each time, I come to the same conclusion: Cuba is not the kind of country you can experience superficially. You have to get down to the nitty-gritty. You have to seek out her realities. You have to immerse yourself. Otherwise, you're not doing justice to yourself or to her people.
How the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Cienaga de Zapata remains largely unknown to foreigners is a mystery to most Cubans. Just a 2-hour drive from Havana, this incredibly unique swamp area is home to a diverse range of landscapes and hidden gems - from a treasure lagoon and crocodile farm, to underwater shipwrecks and the infamous Bay of Pigs - landing site of the 1961 CIA-sponsored invasion of Cuba. But the Bay of Pigs invasion is not the Cienaga's only historical claim to fame - in the late 1950s, when the Native American Miccosukees were fighting to gain rights and recognition from the U.S. government, Fidel Castro offered the Cienaga de Zapata to the Miccosukees as their homeland. Embarrassed, the U.S. government granted the Miccosukee tribe recognition and federal benefits. Today, the region serves as one of the best offbeat spots for eco-tourism in all of Cuba.
Read on to find out more about this fascinating region and which sites to visit in Cuba's best-kept secret!
First time travelling to Cuba? We've got all your questions answered with a guide on everything you need to know about visiting Cuba - from visas, insurance and currency, to WiFi, accommodation and packing tips!
When most people think of Cuba they think of classic cars, Che, beaches and maybe even cocktails. Few people think of museums. What they don’t know is that the nation’s capital, Havana, is a haven for culture-vultures, history fanatics and art aficionados.
Looking for the five-star treatment on your next trip to Cuba? High-end boutique experiences were rarer than snow on the island during its post-revolution years but times have certainly changed (though we’re still waiting for a white Christmas!). These days, elegant colonial mansions are being transformed into boutique homestays and world-renowned luxury companies, such as Kempinski, are taking over iconic buildings.
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Located in the heart of Pinar del Rio, Viñales is an area of outstanding natural beauty, where tobacco is grown for the Cuban cigar industry. The valley itself is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is peppered with strange and unique “mogotes” – a series of tall, rounded hills which seem to pop out of the ground. As well as walking, the area is great for photography, bird-watching, cycling and horse riding. There are plenty of unique activities on offer, including boat-rides through the Cave of the Indian, tours of tobacco plantations, and an immersive experience in the Palenque de los Cimarrones - a former hideout for runaway slaves.
Looking for an authentic insight into Cuban culture? Look no further than Romerias de Mayo festival. This eclectic arts and culture celebration takes place every May (usually 3rd-8th) in Holguín, a charming city set in the lush, beautiful and surprisingly little-visited East of the island.
Popularly known as the “Pearl of the South”, the beautiful seaside town of Cienfuegos is a must-see for anyone looking to venture off the tourist trail. Founded in 1819 by Luis D’Clouet, a French immigrant, the city seduces with its unique blend of French style and Caribbean flair. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cienfuegos was also the hometown of the world-famous singer, Benny Moré, who immortalised the city in a catchy guaracha of the same name. With its colourful streets, sumptuous architecture and surrounding national parks, there’s a myriad of unique attractions in and around the city - so without further ado, here's 8 things to do on your trip to Cienfuegos (and a playlist for you to listen to on the way)!
Though most of us tend to envision Havana when we think of Cuba, the island is home to other, lesser-known cities that encapsulate the essence of Cuba in an altogether different manner. One of them is Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the entire Caribbean. Located on the Southern coast of Cuba, Trinidad offers the perfect blend of city, beach and nature – all within a short distance. Not that you’ll need much convincing, but here’s 10 reasons you have to visit Trinidad...
If you’re thinking of finally taking the plunge and booking that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba, then you may want to consider penciling Costa Rica into your plans. In recent years, twin-country holidays have been trending amongst globetrotters, as travelers seek to get the most out of the time and money they’ve invested in journeying halfway across the world. Those looking to be seduced by the rich colours and history of revolutionary Cuba will find that Costa Rica’s verdant jungles and volcanic hot springs can offer the perfect contrast, throwing the Caribbean’s largest island into new and exciting contexts. A bio-diverse Central American treasure and a communist Caribbean time-capsule, Costa Rica and Cuba complement each other through their cultural and geographical diversity. And they’re conveniently close too – lying just across the stretch of the glittering Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica is only 2h20 mins away from Cuba’s vibrant capital!