Cuba Contour Map

The food, the music and arts, the tropical beaches and classic cars – what’s not to love about a trip to Cuba. Just 90 miles off the U.S. coast, the Caribbean’s largest island offers a glimpse into another world that seems remote and from another time.

Cuban ladies © dan ilves
Introduction
The first question always is: Can I still visit Cuba? -- and the answer is "yes"! And we'll help you do it the right way. While Americans visiting Cuba still need to travel under a proper permit, experiencing Cuba's fascinating culture as part of a Cuba tour group or on a private, custom-planned trip just for you is so worth it. Cuba tours provide a profound and authentic experience, designed to engage you in the country's color, flavors and soul through its music and art, its culture and traditions.
Weather and Climate
Cuba is an island in the Caribbean Sea. As such, it experiences the beautiful sameness of temperatures in the seventies and eighties year round, punctuated with the occasional tropical storm. Hurricane season for the Caribbean is the same as it is for the U.S. So if you’d prefer not to witness the power and awe-inspiring devastation of a tropical super storm, plan your trip outside of the June through November hurricane season. September and October are the worst of the season; so if your schedule won’t permit traveling to Cuba outside of the December through May window, consider June or July.
Transportation
With limited time and lots to cover, the most efficient and comfortable is to have us arrange your car and driver and guide to get you about safely and in air conditioned comfort. If you're traveling as part of a group on a guided vacation, you'll not have to contend with mastering local transportation. Otherwise, Cuba can be difficult to get around, but for all the difficulty, it does have a wide variety of transportation options. There are ferries that run between coastal cities, and from the cities out to the smaller surrounding islands. There are collectivos, taxis that run on long fixed routes between cities, shared between riders. And caminos, trucks that act like open-air buses between the cities. Hitchhiking, if you're so inclined, is also relatively safe and popular. Within the bigger cities there are buses, which can be challenging if you’re on a schedule; bike taxis; and auto taxis that either charge by the meter, or offer a flat rate. Both rates are usually comparable, but if you pay the flat rate, then the driver gets to keep the money, whereas the metered fares are surrendered to the state for redistribution. Many of the smaller towns also have horse-drawn carriages for rent, as well.
Cuisine in Cuba
Cuban food is traditionally bland, with Moros y Cristianos (rice cooked in black beans) the staple at most main meals. However, enterprising folks are creating high-end restaurants (paladares) or cooking in private homes, and you can find some excellent dining experiences. These are an excellent alternative to state-run restaurants. Otherwise, a few specialties include: Vaca frita, a skirt steak marinated in spices and braised until it just falls apart. It's served with lime-infused onions and peppers. Ropa Vieja is braised shredded meat in a tomato and pepper-based sauce and served over fluffy white rice. Malanga Fritters: shredded malanga in batter and fried and served with a dipping sauce.
Suggested reading
Trading with the Enemy (T. Miller), The Dirty Havana Trilogy (P. Juan Gutierrez), The Fallen (C. M. Álvarez), The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (O. Hijuelos), Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (J. L. Anderson).
Suggested viewing
Buena Vista Social Club, Our Man in Havana, Wasp, Papa Hemingway in Cuba, Una Noche, Guantanamera, Death of a Bureaucrat, Memories of Underdevelopment, Strawberry and Chocolate, El Benny, Vivo.

Plan with a
Cuba Expert

Planning a trip to Cuba is more complicated than most other destinations, and is only permitted to U.S. citizens traveling under certain permits and restrictions. Our Cuba experts can arrange all the details and facilitate your Cuba travel experience, arranging transport, accommodations and guides.

Hotels & Resorts in Cuba

Many of Cuba’s hotels aren’t up to U.S. standards and availability is falling short of demand. There are some boutique hotel options we have available, as well as privately staffed home rentals we can arrange.

TravelStore works with suppliers in Cuba that operate smaller tour groups, or that can arrange private tours, while also assisting in securing hotel rooms for our guests.

We offer many opportunities for Cuba travel: customized private or group tours to Cuba. Regardless, given the paperwork involved, a trip to Cuba is not inexpensive.

cuba cafe
local color © dan ilves

Did you know?

Cuba has a literacy rate of 99.8%, one of the highest in the world..

Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba for 20 years and wrote “The Old Man and the Sea” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” there.

Cuba is one of the safest countries in Latin America, with little violent crime and popular for solo female travelers.

With few owning cars, many Cubans hitch-hike. Government vehicles are legally obliged to pick up hitchhikers.

The world’s smallest bird, the Cuba hummingbird (5cm) and smallest frog (10mm) are native to Cuba.

More About Cuba

Much of contemporary Cuban culture and the uniqueness of the Cuban environment in the Western world will qualify as an adventure for some. But, for those looking to get even farther off of the beaten path, here are a few suggestions.

Spend a day in a vintage air-conditioned car on a Mafia tour of Havana or Hemingway’s Cuba, or visit artists in their homes or explore the history of Cuban art in Havana’s excellent art museum. Dine in some of Cuba’s best paladars on lobster and local specialties and afterwards enjoy incredible live performances.

Make sure you attend at least one musical performance, as well. Taking in that afro-Cuban sound with its reliance on the old-world rhythms and new-world jazz influences is the stuff that memories are made of. Eat a Cubano sandwich and enjoy café Cubano every day you’re in the country. Tour a cigar factory and purchase some hand-rolled Cubans for yourself and the folks back home (just avoid buying the cheap imitations on the street). While you might get to a beach, beach vacations are still not promoted as a legitimate activity for American visitors.

Or spend the day touring the Museum of the Revolution, located in Old Havana in what was once the Presidential Palace of all the past presidents of the country. There, travelers will discover interesting exhibitions dedicated to the revolutionary war of the ‘50s, including the yacht aboard which Fidel Castro traveled from Mexico to Cuba.

Learn to roll your own cigars while in country. You most likely already have a Cuban cigar factory tour on your list of must-sees in Cuba. Why not take the experience one step further, and take a quick class on how to hand-roll your own cigars? You may not leave with anything worthy of smoking that you made with your own hands, but the experience will be worth it in and of itself!

Visit Hemingway’s home in Havana; though it may be locked when you get there (thanks to thieves raiding the home of collector’s items), you can still look in the windows and take in the view from the porch where Papa once sat.

Rent a classic car and tour Havana or Santiago de Cuba. Thanks to the trade embargo, there are very few vehicles in Cuba that are less than sixty years old. Many classic cars can be rented (some with drivers) to tour the cities and surrounding country in style.

Plan your adventure to Cuba today. We work directly with our travel partners in Cuba who are knowledgeable experts. Whether you’re hoping to visit multiple locations, or planning to fly into Havana and use the city as your base of operations, wandering the city and the countryside one end of the island to the other, you can enrich your Cuban vacation experience just by calling one of our Cuba travel experts today and let us plan your trip the right way.

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