In my last post, I talked about how to visit Cuba as a US citizen. Today, I’ll be sharing a summary of what we did, some key items I packed and a few tips. We spent five days in Cuba, but really had 3 full days if you account for travel. The weather was beautiful, even though the sun got intense on some of the days. I liiiiiived for the breeze though which was plentiful at night and kept the evenings cool and pleasant.
Packing for Cuba
I love traveling to warm climates because you seldom need to pack any bulky items. My most useful item turned out to be this wide brim straw hat which I originally purchased as a vanity accessory that would look cute in photos lol. Well it ended up being essential to protect my face from the sun, and I refused to take it off! For clothing, I packed light, easy one-piece items like dresses, breezy jumpsuits & rompers, comfy flats, a crossbody bag, a pair of heels and sunglasses. I of course also packed my stick foundations mentioned in this post about my favorite foundations.
Tip: Bring extra cash for unexpected expenses just in case, but don’t exchange it all. You might not need it, but remember your American credit cards won’t work in Cuba and you don’t want to be stranded.
On Thursday after we settled in, we spent most of our time walking around Vedado which is where our Airbnb was located. We stumbled upon a restaurant called EFE right around Happy Hour, and they had a buy one get one free drink special going on so it was a great start to the trip! Later that night, we had dinner at El Cocinero. The ambience on their rooftop was beautiful but the food we had was m’eh. We continued on next door to Fábrica de Arte Cubano which is an art gallery and club with different levels, each with a unique concept. We really enjoyed it there and went a bit crazy when they played Nigerian music on one of the dance floors on the main level; our night was made.
On Friday ur Airbnb host came with us on a classic car tour of the city and shared a lot of history as we rode around, and on Saturday, we took a day trip to Viñales. On Sunday we explored some more of what we didn’t get to see on Friday in Havana. We also visited a flea market with rows and rows of BEAUTIFUL art of different styles which I failed to photograph womp womp. Also, I sadly hadn’t planned for this and so I didn’t buy any since cash was the only payment option; this is actually one of the main reasons I want to go back.
Tip: Download an offline map. I used one from tripwolf and it proved to be invaluable as we walked around the city. I believe Google also offers free offline maps.
Discovering the food scene
Overall, we had some really good food in Havana, and some so-so food, but hands-down the best meal was at El del Frente where we had their special fish of the day. Man I’m telling you, this fish was out of this world; soo fresh and sooo flavorful. Paired with their special spicy sauce, this girl’s tastebuds were doing cartwheels. They also had a garbanzo bean (chickpea) dish that I haven’t stopped dreaming of. The food was solid, the drinks were fresh and I definitely recommend the restaurant.
We also tried La Guarida which came highly recommended by multiple people, but unfortunately, they were out of fish the day we went, and had been out for 10 days!! We suggested they go borrow some freshly caught fish from El del Frente while we waited but that didn’t fly lol. Since one of my friends and I don’t eat meat, that was a bummer! We ended up with a collection of appetizers which were quite good, but nothing mind blowing. My other friend ordered an oxtail dish which she enjoyed, but again wasn’t blown away.
Tip: Pack some books to read or fill up your tablet/e-reader with loads of e-books like I do. After all that eating and walking, you’ll need something to do while you recover; remember, no internet.
Day trip to Viñales, Cuba
This was probably my favorite day of the entire trip. For 105CUC per person, we had a driver pick us up from our casa, and drive us to beautiful Viñales which is just under 3 hours from Havana. While there, we visited a cigar farm to learn about the cigar business in Cuba, did some horseback riding, tasted some amazing coffee and guava-infused rum, and had some delicious lunch (included in the cost).
Tip: Learn some basic Spanish but also download an offline translator app for more complex conversations. I use iTranslate and Google translate which has free offline translations.
Honestly, by the last day, all that time out in the sun had us beat and a bit cranky. Coupled with an issue we had in our Airbnb that night, we were on edge and ready to head back home. The moment I got home though, I was ready to go back ha!
Holler with any questions and catch you on the next post.