After a five-day whirlwind trip, Events Director Michelle, left half her heart in Havana.
Many traditional tourists have visited Cuba, travel companies have been packaging up all-inclusive holidays to this northern Caribbean sun-trap for years, but only recently with travel restrictions loosening up, have curious adventurers opted for the bright, bold and bustling streets of heady Havana.
Taking the crown as the largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba has many accolades to add to its brightly feathered cap; Havana Club rum, Cohiba cigars, the invention of the Daquari, as well as being the birth-place of the seductive salsa scene. And let's not forget the classic cars. If you’re into your motor vehicles then this is just about the greatest place in the world to visit. With its dilapidated roads crawling with candy-coloured Cadillacs from the fifties, Old Havana is like being on the real-life set of Happy Days. In fact, it's like one big moving car show.
Arguably one of the most picturesque and photographable cities in the world, the captivating capital of Cuba is so much more than the travel guides tell you, it's a sensory overload that cannot be explained until you have experienced the old-world charm of Havana for yourself.
As you take a trip back in time, here are some of the best things to do in Cuba’s capital.
There is nothing I love better than hiring a bike. Seeing a city on two-wheels is a great way to explore, it also gives you the freedom to soak up the sights and sounds at your leisure. Saddling up in Havana is a safe, fun and a wonderful way to do some sightseeing. Hit the sometimes bumpy road, for a relaxed ride around its famous sites, including its four great colonial plazas: De Armas, De San Francisco, De la Catedral, and Vieja. Don’t miss the National Capitol Building, the historic Museum of the Revolution, and the unexpected Parque John Lennon, where you will find a statue of the great man himself in all his bronzed, life-sized glory.
Feeling the breeze in your hair as you ride along the famous Malecón seawall is also a must. Brimming with life, this iconic, perfectly-paved waterfront promenade is home to fishermen, beautiful monuments and local musicians, set against the windy backdrop of the Caribbean coastline, it makes a great vantage point for the some of the best views of the brightly-lit city. After a hard days ride, treat yourself to guilt-free, knock-your-socks-off cocktail at Cuba's coolest bar, and Hemingway’s favourite haunt, El Floridita. As much known for its cigars as its cocktails, here's a good as place as any to light up a large one and have a dance while you're there.
If biking isn't your bag, then it goes without saying, hiring one of the many, multi-coloured, classic convertibles is a magical, must-do experience. There are countless Cadillacs parked on Revolution Square, lined-up and perfectly poised to take you around the city in style. With the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, escape the hustle and bustle and experience Cuba's stunning country-side. Our road trip took us through endless tobacco plantations, sleepy villages and alongside fauna-covered mountains, the opportunity for picture-perfect photos is plentiful and is a world away from the hurrying streets of Havana. As we drove back into the city at sunset, the noise, smell, and atmosphere hit us harder than a double-Daquari. It was good to be back.
Alongside the countless museums and historic national buildings, Havana has plenty to offer even the most jaded traveller. Walking aimlessly along its narrow streets and taking in its beautiful, rainbow-painted buildings and crumbling colonial facades is a tour in itself. Horse and carts, fruit-sellers, locals, stray dogs and tourists alike, all jostle for position amongst its crowded alleys. Bar-hopping in Old Havana is the best way to experience this lively area. Hit one of the many road-side watering holes, crack open a beer, chat with the friendly locals and sit back and watch the world go by, if you're really lucky, one of them may even offer to teach you to dance.
There are so many bars and restaurants in Havana and practically all of them are brimming with live music. Hailed as one of the world’s greatest music destinations, no matter what genre you’re after, a pulsating beat from its bustling bars is everywhere you turn. Whether it's mambo, salsa, jazz, reggae or the Cha-cha-cha, you won’t be able to keep your heels from tapping, it's part and parcel of Cuban life.
If you’re dreaming of a sunny escape from the hustle of Havana take a short trip to Playa del Este, a six-mile strip of stunning white sandy shores and crystal-clear Caribbean seas. Grab a rum-filled coconut, take a stroll and listen to the sounds of the crashing waves and occasional beach-sellers touting for business. As you kick-back and relax you will find yourself worlds away from the hurried life in Havana, offering the perfect mix of a city and beach break all in one. After the day is done, head back into the city for a night of drinking and dancing.
Cuba is certainly not known for its culinary cuisine, it's not that it’s bad, there’s just very little variety. Typical Cuban dishes are a mishmash of cultural influences that have developed along with its history. Spanish and African dishes feature heavily on the Cuban menu, alongside typical Caribbean dishes of jerk-chicken, rice and peas. Another mainstay on the menu is plantains. Whether its boiled, mashed or deep-fried, you won't be far from having this banana-family-plant, firmly on your plate. We ate at a mixture of beautiful cobbled-plaza tourist spots, new-wave international eateries and some hidden away local treasures. Choose your restaurant for the location, atmosphere, and vibe and you will be sure not to leave disappointed.
After twenty years of globetrotting, for both business and pleasure, I've done my fair share of damp dormitories and budget bed and breakfasts. When I holiday now, it's all about location and luxury and you won't find a better mix for both than Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana. Full of opulent character and located in the heart of Old Havana, the Kempinski is the largest and grandest in the city and provides a quintessential a five-star experience. Make a trip to its rooftop bar and infinity pool and you will be rewarded with unrivalled views, where you can soak up the city from above, quite literally. As well as being home to some of the best international restaurants and bars in Havana, its luxury spa makes it the perfect place for an indulgent retreat.
If you're not feeling flash with the cash, or simply want a more authentic experience, there’s really no better place to stay than a Casa Particular, the Cuban version of an Airbnb. Staying in a Casa allows you to truly experience the culture and the opportunity to interact and live like a local. Staying in a Casa Particular not only offers a unique and immersive experience but in doing so you are giving directly back to the Cuban families who run them. Most hosts are eager to entertain and will offer recommendations and tips for hidden gems off the beaten path and if you're really lucky, they will cook for you too!
Great for a five-day getaway or corporate incentive trip, Havana is bursting with life, with its bustling markets, cathedrals and cafes, go now while it's still suspended in this weirdly-wonderful time-warp.
For group getaways or corporate incentives contact our events team.