Cuba’s capital Havana is like no other city I have visited in the world. It has the ability to transform you back in time. Havana is filled with classic cars, crumbling colorful mansions, stiff cocktails, and the fragrance of Cuban cigars. Famous for their daiquiris and sexy salsa dancing this city has everything to cast you under its spell. So if you’re going for a quick getaway to this mysterious part of the world, keep reading and find out the best things to do in Havana, Cuba for your trip.
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INFORMATION TO KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING TO CUBA
Acceptable Terms For Booking
Before we get started on our list of things to do in Havana, Cuba there are a few things to know before before your trip. If you’re planning your trip from the states to Havana you’re unable to book on the grounds of ‘tourism.’
There are twelve different categories you can choose from. However, I suggest you book under the terms ‘Supporting the Cuban People.’ This can be done by simply booking a room through an Airbnb or booking a tour during your getaway.
Getting A Cuban Visa
Cuba requires you have a visa before entering the country. There are two ways to obtain one for your trip. Most airlines allow you to purchase in advance online or at the gate when you arrive at the airport. Visa cost varies with whom you’re flying. I flew with American Airlines for my trip to Havana and my visa was approximately $100 at the airport. However, you can save yourself a few bucks if you purchase in advance online.
Do contact your airline for additional visa details after booking your flight to Cuba. Keep your visa the entire duration of your trip. You will have to return it going through customs when you leave. Also, don’t toss that airline ticket when you arrive, this ‘baby’ is your health insurance if you happen to require any medical assistance during your trip.
Where To Get Cuban Currency
Cuba has two currencies, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) also known as “cooks’ or the Cuban Peso. Tourist are only given CUCs when exchanging money. One CUC is equivalent to $1 USD. American debit/credit cards and cash is not accepted in Cuba. So hit up the ATM prior to entering the country. Prior to leaving I withdrew a total of $300 USD. It was plenty of cash for 2 days to eat, purchase souvenirs, and catch taxis.
You can convert your money at the airport, but there is a 20% tax. Don’t exchange it all! I suggest only exchanging a small amount so you have some cash to catch a cab to wherever you’re staying. Exchange your money at the hotels. The tax is half the cost of the airport. Do have a form of ID (e.g, passport, driver’s license) handy with you. Most hotels ask for identification when exchanging currency.
How To Connect To Wifi
WiFi might be accessible at your hotel or Airbnb (if listed). You do need to purchase a card to access WiFi on the island. They can cost around 3-CUC for 60 WiFi minutes. Just going to let you know can and will survive without internet access. Surprisingly, it was actually a refreshing detox from my phone.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN HAVANA, CUBA
1| Indulge In Cuban Food
Okay, so one of the best things to do in Havana, Cuba, is eat! The best way to experience another culture is through their food. We all know Cuba pretty much has a very bad reputation with their food.
Don’t listen to the rumors! Every meal I had in Havana made my tastebuds tingle. I found some of the best places to eat in Havana that had some of the most delicious food for an authentic Cuban experience.
El Bicky is a split level hotspot for locals. The lower level is more casual, while the upper level is reserved more for fine dining. I had the opportunity to dine at both since it was near where I was staying. Both menus and decor are somewhat similar, but differ slightly.
Start with a mojito or their speciality drink, The Bicky (tasted similar to a slurpee mojito). For starters order the croquettas and malanga fritters. For your main course I suggest you order the traditional Cuban dish, Ropa Vieja. Living in Miami, I eat this on a regular basis. However, El Bicky whipped up the best I ever had.
El Cuarto De Tula
El Cuarto de Tula is a tiny hostel and Cuban-Italian fusion restaurant. For starters sip on their twist of the Cuban mojito. It has a nice hint of pineapple for a citrusy kick. For an appetizer, my friend and I ordered the spinach croquettas which were creamy on the inside with a nice light outer crunch. The succulent paprika octopus served as a very filling main entree. My mouth is drooling this very moment thinking about it now. This was by far my favorite place to eat Cuban food in Havana.
La Guardia is one of the most expensive and popular restaurants in Cuba. It is frequented by many American celebrities and political figures and is one of the top things to do in Havana, Cuba during your visit.
They have a modern twist on Cuban cuisine that is very scrumptious. I suggest making reservations in advance or you may not get a table at this hotspot during your trip to Havana.
I started off with bloody Mary to ease my previous night mojito binging. However, skip the bloody and go straight for their yummy mango daiquiri. It was quite refreshing! For appetizers, nibble on the marlin tacos and seafood lasaña. They both had unique flavors. And, I devoured them fairly quickly.
For a main entree try the pork covered in mango salsa. I do recommended not skimping out on dessert even if you are full. That dang dessert menu looked to good to pass. The lemon pie arrived in a deconstructed form. It was the perfect ratio of creaminess and tartiness! Also, order the chocolate tres leches. I DID SAY it is chocolate! Don’t leave until you checkout the rooftop bar to see one killer view of Havana.
Once your belly is finally satiated from all the delicious Cuban food it is time to get started with some other top things to do in Havana, Cuba.
2| Visit Ernest Hemingway’s Old Stomping Grounds At La Floridita
One of the most popular spots in Havana to visit is La Floridita. This is where the very first daiquiri was created and Ernest Hemingways favorite hangout. Arrive early, actually before the doors even open. Seating is very limited, and tables fill up rather quickly. The Floridita gets extremely packed with tour groups rotating through the doors. This is the perfect spot to listen to the lively jazz, dance, and sip on a daiquiri or two.
3| Grab A Mojito From La Bodeguita Del Medio
The birth place of the very first mojito cocktail is La Bodeguita del Medio. This was highly recommended by a Cuban native friend of mine. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit due to time constraints. However, I have heard nothing but wonderful things about this tiny rustic bar! If you do visit, let me know in the comments below about your experience.
4| Tour Havana In A Classic Car
We know Havana is famous for those colorful classic cars. What better way to tour the city than being whisked around in one! It was one of the most memorable things to do in Havana, Cuba during my visit. You can easily book a tour and find out more information on pricing right here.
There are plenty of other tours you can select from for your holiday. You can choose to make Cuban cigars, take a day trip to Viñales, or learn to salsa. But, no trip to Havana would be complete without being driven in one of those vintage cars.
5| Catch The Sea Breeze At Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro
Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro is the fortress guarding the entrance to Havana Bay. It is a little ways out of the city, but the views of Havana from the bay are simply astonishing and worth the trip! Watch your step climbing the rocks. Up top it can be slippery and a tad bit windy.
6| Visit El Capitolio
El Capitolio or The Capital can be easily recognized in Havana. Construction was completed by 1929, but despite its age it appears as the only building that looks new and maintained. Many often compare this building to the United States Capital; however, it is not a replica. El Capitolio is larger in length, width, and hight. The capital building is also richer in detail which can explain why it costed 17 million American dollars to be constructed.
7| Learn The History About Plaza De La Revolution
Plaza De La Revolution or otherwise known as Revolution Square measures a whooping 72,000 square meters making it the 31st largest square in the world. Plaza De La Revolution is the home where Fidel Castro would give his many lenghty speeches to an endless crowd. This plaza holds a lot of history and worth the visit.
8| Explore Christ De Havana
Christ de Havana is over 20-meters high and overlooks the bay in Havana. The statue was sculpted with 67-blocks of marble imported from Italy. Locals believe the statue was chiseled to depict a cigar in the right hand and a mojito in the left to symbolize the Cuban culture. The size and view of the city from this spot makes it one of the top things to do in Havana, Cuba.
9| Tour The Gran Parque Metropolitano
Gran Parque Metropolitano otherwise known as Havana’s Forest sits along the tranquil banks of Almendares River. The forest is filled with beautiful lush green landscape and large trees covered in ivy that hover over you as you walk through the park.
I had a lot of difficulty walking through the forest to be honest with you. As a cautionary tip you may come across dead animals while walking through the park. Gran Parque Metropolitano is a popular spot during evening hours for Cuban Santeria rituals.
10| Order The Famous Mojito At Hotel Nacional
Hotel Nacional is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen. The Spanish influenced architecture makes it absolutely gorgeous. The bar serves up some uniquely made mojitos that consists of a mixture of both light and dark rum. Plastered on the walls inside are pictures of the many celebrities and politicians that have visited the hotel from the past and most recently.
11| Stroll Along The Malecón
Take a long stroll along the seawall Malecon or ‘the living room’ as the locals call this popular spot. The Malecon is where locals go to meet up with their friends and socialize.
Be careful though while walking or sitting along this wall. Large waves like to unexpectedly crash against this wall and you can wind up soaking wet!
12| Walk Around Old Havana
Walking the streets of Old Havana is one of the best and most memorable things to do in Havana, Cuba. Many colorful buildings and vintage cars zipping by along your route make this stroll unique. If you get a little over heated from the humidity, there are plenty of stands to grab a delicious coco frio to sip quench your thirst. Old Havana is perfect for shopping for souvenirs, people watching, salsa dancing, and grabbing a small bite to eat. The architecture is absolutely stunning.
THAT’S A WRAP ON THINGS TO DO IN HAVANA, CUBA!
That’s the scoop for all the top things to do in Havana, Cuba during your short visit. Havana is one city that will quickly sweep you off your feet with its delicious cuisine, refreshing and stiff mojitos, and beautiful sunsets along the Maleón. Follow this guide and you will be captivated too with this city!
Don’t go hungry while in Havana. Check out my post on best places to get your grub on in Havana!
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