Selecting Cuba destinations for your first visit is daunting. There is an overwhelming variety of towns and natural beauty to select from. Cuba is rich in history, grandeur, vitality, color, mountains, beaches, water, music, culture, much more. All of this is simmered in a tropical mystique along with crumbling mansions, old cars and jineteros (local hustlers trying to earn a dollar). The good part is...you cannot go wrong.
Christopher Columbus called it "the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen" when he approached it on October 27th, 1492.
Every American visitor must go to Havana, of course, but beyond that is up to your desires. Choices include:
- Dazzling beaches and crystalline water.
- Nature's diversity with unusual mountain formations and everything from crocodiles to flamingos.
- History, culture, centuries of old buildings.
- Old colonial towns laid out in typical church dominated squares.
- Havana, of course dominates: the magnificent, crumbling Malecon, Old Havana (Habana Vieja), the ancient Harbor forts, old cars, and buildings from ancient to art deco.
Here are a few selected places to visit.
Che Guevara is a hero in Cuba. Even Americans are fascinated by this man, who is buried in Santa Clara. Iconic images of Che, Fidel and other revolutionary leaders are all over Cuba. The impressive Che Guevara Mausoleum is here, and a museum dedicated to him. Santa Clara was the place of the final battle of the Revolution.
Santa Clara is located in Cuba's central Villa Clara Province. This town will get a lot more tourist traffic now that Americans are landing at the international airport here. This airport will be the landing spot for the tourists heading to the Cayo Santa Maria and other northern keys. This will be an even more popular Cuban destinations since US flights have started land here.
Remedios is a sleepy, quaint, quiet colonial jewel in Villa Clara Province. Quiet until around Christmas Eve that is, when it explodes in music and fireworks. Remedios hosts the country's biggest fireworks festival, Las Parrandas. This festival focuses on local town rivalries as they compete against each other for the best floats and fireworks display. Village pride is on the line here so they prepare for it like it was Carnival. Not far from Santa Clara, Remedios is not yet a big tourist destination but that will change as Santa Clara airport brings in more American tourists.
Caibarien, just 6 miles from Remedios is a once bustling, but now crumbling little port town.. Its one claim to fame now is the postcard perfect curving seawall/boardwalk that overlooks the water. Sit on the seawall and enjoy a Cuban sandwich and a local is bound to offer you fresh coconut milk from the palms lining the street. The real delicacy of the town though is the cangrejo (crab). Friendly people encourage any tourists they get. This little town is also the gateway to the northern keys, like Cayo Santa Maria.
Cayo Santa Maria is one of the 3 northern keys (Cayerias del Norte) along a 48 km long recently built causeway. It is one of Cuba's latest and greatest tourist beach areas, located in Villa Clara Province. Along much of this causeway's empty stretch of water and sand you will see mangroves on one side and blue water on the other. Cayo Santa Maria is the last key on this long stretch. It has a dozen very large, but spaced out hotels, mainly luxurious all inclusive resorts on stunning white sand beaches and gorgeous milky blue water. Laziness and pampering awaits you. This has become one of the premier Cuba destinations.
Cayo Coco with its diminutive neighboring key, Cayo Guillermo is the second most popular Cuban vacation spot behind Veradero. Stunning beaches, surrounded by shallow turquoise water. Combine this with over a dozen luxury resorts and you have a sun lover's dream.
Just a causeway ride away from the town of Moron, in Ciego de Avila Province.
Valle de Vinales is the most mystical area of Pinar del Rio Province, Cuba's tobacco growing center. The colors and mountain backdrop make the scenery stunning. Deep, dark green forests contrast with the rust red plowed tobacco fields. The backdrop is the oddly shaped "mogotes", mountains that were once giant cave supports, before the cave system collapsed. The mineral rich soil, perfect temperature and rainfall make this the best tobacco growing area of the world. The thatched roof tobacco drying huts and the ox drawn plows shows the connection of local people to the earth. Little paladars (private restaurants) serving fresh grown food are the perfect places to relax, have a drink, and enjoy organic food grown just feet away. Definitely a premier Cuba destination away from big cities.
This beautiful and crumbling city is a the "must see" Cuba destination. A magnificent setting with a backdrop of tropical blue water, Havana is indescribable. Every corner brings something new and something unexpected. Whatever it is you look for in a city, you will find it in Havana: history, architecture spanning centuries,old cars, fantastic fusion Cuban meals, dance, culture. Check out some of the Top Things to do in Havana.
Trinidad is an amazingly well preserved colonial town which recently celebrated its 500th birthday. Built on a hillside, the colorful charming buildings are all connected by cobblestone streets leading to the central plaza. Old Town looks postcard perfect, it has lots of museums that were once mansions of the sugar plantations. On the south side of Sancti Spritus Province it is only a short distance from Playa Ancon beach.