Let me start off by saying that I did not know what to expect on my trip to Cuba. Prior to the trip all I kept hearing from different people was, “But why Cuba? The idea of a vacation is relaxing and getting catered to.” Well yes but no. You see to me traveling is more then just relaxing it is being adventurous, learning more about our world, experiencing new cultures so we can know what our world holds. Don’t get me wrong I love all-inclusive resorts but once you understand the other side of being culturally connected when traveling a new traveling addiction is created.
Now back to Cuba. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by our taxi whom was sent via our Air BNB host family. I traveled to Havana with 3 other friends and we instantly fell in love with the beauty of the city. Once we arrived to our new home for the week, our host family gave us the scoop on restaurants in our neighborhood and things we should consider doing within our stay. One of the best parts of our trip hands down was our host family. In such a short amount of time we became connected to them. This trip wouldn’t of have been the same if it wasn’t for them. Our neighbor, Janet, made breakfast for us every morning for $5 CUC which included fresh made mango and papaya juice, eggs, bread, cheese and ham.
On our first night our host dad, who is also a taxi driver, took us to a show based on the history of Cuba. Every night at 9PM this show is put on by actors who reenact the cannon ceremony. All I have to say is that when it comes to politics we aren’t all going to agree but I believe in being open minded and above all being respectful of others ideas and believes.
On our second day we did a city tour via taxi with our host dad. He took us to the famous Hotel Nacional which many celebrities and world wide presidents have stayed at. The hotel was built in the 1930s and it preserves its historic beauty. We also got to go to La Plaza de La Revolución and walk around Old Havana which is where the famous La Bodeguita (home of the mojito) is located. That night we decided to go where all the locals go and hangout. El Malecón is right by the ocean and people usually take alcohol and music. It’s like a big street party. People stop and talk to one another. This is were we actually got to talk to locals and get to know more about the way they live. It was honestly one of my favorite parts of the trip.
The next day we walked around downtown Havana which was blocks away from our home, to look for Wifi. Hey! We needed to reach out to our families and maybe upload some pictures on Instagram. Lol! We met a gentleman that made Cuban cigars at one of the hotels we stopped by for wifi. He was kind enough to show us the difference between each of the cigars and even let us smoke one with him. After we reconnected with Social media, we rushed home to get ready for our tour in a 1955 Buick. Which was amazing!
We wanted to get in at least one beach day and decided to take a 2 hour trip to Varadero, Cuba. On our way to Varadero we stopped by Matanzas, Cuba to visit La Cueva Saturno. We paid about $4 CUC and were there for about an hour. We had the entire cave to ourselves! It was truly beautiful to be in the water in the middle of a cave. We also stopped by for some Cuban sandwiches at Pont de Bacunayagua and apparently they have the best piña coladas but it was too early to start drinking for us. We finally made it to Varadero and it did not disappoint. The water is crystal blue. We were in a area close to all the hotels so there were your typical beach activities such as snorkeling and jet skiing. On our way back to Havana we stopped by this restaurant on the side of the road where they hands down had the best rice and beans.
On our last day full day we decided to walk around old Havana and Downtown Havana. We stopped by La Floridita for their famous daquris and had typical Cuban sandwiches, which I recommend. For dinner we made plans to go out with our host family for quality time. Unfortunately, that day Havana had no water and word on the street was they weren’t going to have water for 5 days. Lucky for us our host family brought water from there personal back up and we were able to shower. For dinner we went to a more Americanized restaurant called La Cathedral. We had been craving simple things like ketchup, fries and hot sauce. To close out the night we went to El Malecón where Saturday night is the most crowded. We met a couple of locals. We talked, danced and tried their local rum. This was such a meaningful night because we really connected with one specific guy named Kike. I won’t get into it but I will say that it was one of the best conversations I have had with any stranger.
I can’t wait to go back. I am not going to lie I shed a couple of tears at the airport. We really connected with our host family and saying goodbye to them was truly emotional. They treated us at their own family and always made sure that we were ok.
If you do go to Cuba, I recommend that you take things to give away to locals. My friend Ari left some of her clothes, markers and make-up. I left behind a hair dryer and a small pack of gum. These are things that for us can be easily replaced but to Cubans it’s a luxury to have. Yes, even a pack of gum.