Active Holiday Experiences That Will Change The Way You See Cuba
Get To Know A Different Side Of The Island.
While salsa, daiquiris and beautiful vintage cars are a fundamental part of Cuba, there is so much more to it than that. Bursting with culture, sports, music, cuisine, breathtaking nature and fascinating people, the island is sure to steal your heart. If you're planning your next trip to Cuba, here are some experiences that will allow you to get to know a different side of the island (and some spots that Hemingway probably never set foot in).
SAMPLE CUBAN STREET FOOD
Much of Cuba’s social life is lived outdoors, and meals are no different, with most Cuban cities hosting a variety of street stalls serving quick snacks at unbeatable prices. Try egg sandwiches (a breakfast favorite), polarizing Hawaiian street pizza or pork burgers (called fritas), then wash it all down with delicious fresh fruit milkshakes or a Cristal beer. For dessert? Coconut pie or guava pie.
GO SCUBA DIVING
Whether you are new to watersports or a seasoned diver, Cuba’s keys are fantastic for snorkeling and scuba diving. Just off Cuba’s northern coast, Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo offer endless beaches and excellent visibility of lionfish, barracudas and moray eels. Cayo Coco is also home to a diverse range of tropical birds, including the white ibis—coco blanco—, which gives the island its name.
PONDER THE SYMBOLISM OF A PUBLIC SURREALIST SCULPTURE
Viaje Fantástico (2012), by Cuban artist Roberto Fabelo, is a bit of an enigma. Why is there a hairless, nude woman riding a one-legged rooster? What is the significance of the giant, spear-like fork she is carrying? And, most importantly, why does she look so very sad? The bronze public sculpture in Havana’s grand Plaza Vieja doesn’t offer any explanations, but if you admire it for long enough, perhaps you can come up with some interpretations of your own.
TASTE SOME OF CUBA’S LESSER-KNOWN LIBATIONS
Cuba’s rum is renowned the world over, and you’d be remiss to leave the country without trying some of its cocktails. While you are probably familiar with mojitos, daiquiris and even Cuba Libres, there are many delicious national cocktails you may not have heard of. A Cubanito is the island’s take on the Bloody Mary,—with rum replacing vodka, of course—, while the Negrón, a spin on the traditional mojito, uses basil and honey instead of mint leaves and cane sugar. El Presidente contains curaçao, grenadine, vermouth and—it goes without saying—rum. If you’re thirsty for more, head to the Havana Club Museum of Rum in Old Havana to learn about the history and production of the spirit.
DISCOVER HAVANA’S CHINATOWN
Havana’s Chinese quarter was once the second largest in the world, following San Francisco’s Chinatown. Today, Havana’s Chinatown is as a reminder of the large Chinese community that lived on the island before the late 1960s, after which Cuba’s Chinese population began to dwindle steadily over the years. While the neighborhood is only a shadow of its former splendor, it is still a piece of history that is worth a visit, with many restaurants and street markets.
ENJOY THE BEST OF CUBAN SPORTS
Baseball was introduced to Cuba in the 19th century, when the first major baseball club was founded on the island by Nemesio Guillot—who came to know the sport as a student in the US—, and has remained as the national sport ever since. Whether you catch a professional game or simply see kids playing in a park, baseball is a fundamental part of contemporary Cuban culture. If you prefer contact sports, you’re in for a treat: boxing is wildly popular on the island, which is home to many Olympic-level boxers.
GET CARRIED AWAY BY THE RHYTHM
You haven’t really been to Cuba until you’ve experienced its music. While salsa may be the first thing that comes to mind, Cuba has birthed innumerable genres that have become popular worldwide, like mambo, bolero, cha-cha-chá and son cubano. You can go to a salsa bar to dance the night away or catch a band of local street musicians, but the island also hosts several festivals that you won’t want to miss. Havana’s Jazz Plaza Festival is a must for music lovers, showcasing the best of the Cuban and international jazz during four days and at over a dozen venues. The festival also includes panel discussions, with past topics including memory and identity, musical education, and the popularization of jazz in Cuba. In turn, Havana World Music brings together modern artists from a variety of Latin American countries, spanning many different genres.
EXPLORE CUBA ON A HARLEY
The beautiful vintage cars that populate Cuba's capital are one of its most iconic sights, with many locals renting their cars to tourists or for special events, such as weddings. However, there is also a strong Harley community in Cuba that continues to grow. For a one-of-a-kind experience, you can get a taste of Cuba’s biker culture by booking a Harley Davidson tour. Enjoying speed (responsibly) while seeing the beauty of the Cuban landscape is a unique way to explore the island that will make you want to become a “Harlista” yourself.
DRINK IN THE BEAUTY OF THE ESCAMBRAY MOUNTAINS
Less than an hour away from Trinidad by car, the majestic Sierra del Escambray stretches out for 50 miles, providing multiple options for keen hikers visiting the island. The nature reserve of Topes de Collantes is one of the main attractions found within, a spectacular protected rainforest area with lush foliage, waterfalls and caves.