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Cayo Santa Maria sandy beach with palm trees, Cuba
22 November, 20215 minute read

5 essential experiences for an adventure in Cuba

There’s a perception that Cuba is stuck in time – a country so tied to its past that it’s unable to move forward. While there is much of Cuba that feels like the clock stopped back in 1959, its vintage charm only adds to Cuba’s mesmerising pull. There is a new wave of modernism that is now taking hold. You’ll find gorgeous new boutique hotels springing up, and pop-up restaurants that are putting Cuban food on the culinary map. But that doesn’t detract from what makes Cuba such an incredible destination.

From bright neon signs, antique shops, and colourful vintage cars, Cuba offers a heady mix of vibrant Latin culture alongside romantic grandeur as well as a big dose of Caribbean sunshine. On our Cuba holidays you will experience soulful music and colonial cities, gorgeous white sandy beaches and natural beauty across dramatic valleys and lush plantations. 

Trips to Cuba wouldn’t be complete without learning about Che Guevara and Cuba’s revolutionary history or following in the footsteps of author Ernest Hemmingway and discovering why he loved Cuba so much. On our Highlights of Cuba Cruise & Tour and Cuba Discovery holidays you will explore beyond the powdery beaches and discover the heart of a county famed for its fine cigars and exceptional rums. Here are five essential experiences that we think you’ll enjoy for an adventure in Cuba. 

Step back in time 

We head to Trinidad, a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the world. Here you’ll wander past beautiful mansions in a rainbow of colours, walks on cobble-stoned streets and see tropical gardens. At another UNESCO site, we’ll explore Havana Old Town, and admire the grandeur of the Spanish colonial architecture as well as discover pretty streets and elegant plazas. In the evening, we’ll stand in anticipation as we witness a traditional event, the cannons firing at La Cabana Fortress to announce the closure of the city gates. 

Santa Clara, the final resting place of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, will give us a deeper understanding of the revolutionary leader and his followers. This is the site of their last battle in the guerrilla war of 1958. We’ll also see the famous military train, Tren Blindado, that was overtaken by the rebels in a significant move that paved the way for revolution in the country. 

On our Cuba cruise, we’ll also head to the Bay of Pigs, the location of a failed landing operation by 1,400 Cuban exiles who opposed Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. 

Explore stunning landscapes

Colonial town cityscape of Trinidad, Cuba. UNESCO World Heritage Site

From rugged mountains to glittering coastlines, and everything in between, you’ll be amazed by the depth in which Cuba’s landscapes are so diverse. You’ll find elegant and baroque architecture and thriving forests. Heavenly beaches and lush plantations. Cuba’s scenery is captivating. Perhaps one of Cuba’s most spectacular spots is Viñales Valley and its epic mogote hills. These natural limestone formations have dotted this surreal landscape since the Jurassic period and are well worth seeing. Just have your camera ready…

We’ll also head to the Pearl of the South – Cienfuegos and wander amongst the colourful villas and elegant palaces with gorgeous views across the Caribbean Sea.

Landscape of The Vinales valley, UNESCO world heritage site, Cuba

Savour amazing Cuban food and drink

On our holidays in Cuba, we’ll drink cooling daquiris – a favourite of Hemingway’s – in the Floridita Bar. Or try Cuba’s famous cocktail, the Mojito. A mix rum, sugar cane, lime juice, mint and soda water make for a delicious and refreshing drink. And, of course, strong coffee - a staple for Cuba and its people.

Your tastebuds will come alive, too. Traditional dishes including Arroz con Pollo – chicken and rice cooked with saffron and cumin, and Cuban potato balls with a picadillo meat filling, will impress. As will the classic Cuban sandwich. Great for lunch or a snack, this is a must. Cuban bread is filled with ham, roast pork, pickles, mustard and Swiss cheese in what is a fantastic combination of flavours.

Discover the importance of agriculture

Traditional Cuban Sandwich with Ham, Pork and Cheese

To gain a deeper understanding of the destination you’re visiting, it’s vital to meet the communities and people who live there. Once the largest producers of sugar cane and with the second largest crop area of tobacco, agriculture plays a significant role in Cuba’s economy, as does growing crops for consumption including the root vegetable cassava, coffee, rice, beans, bananas and plantain. We’ll meet the locals who work in these farms and tour a 19-th century French coffee plantation in Las Terraza, as well as meet a team from a tobacco plantation in Viñales Valley. 

We’ll also visit a historic sugarcane plantation, Manac Iznaga, nestled in the Valley of the Sugar Mills. Its tower has become a cultural symbol across the sugar-producing region as it has stood unharmed for almost two centuries. 

Relax on a white sandy beaches

With swaying palm trees and sparkling blue seas, there is an abundance of white, powdery beaches in Cuba. Just a few hours from Havana lies Verardaro Beach. Known as the Blue Beach because of its crystal-clear waters, it is one of Cuba’s most famous coastlines. As is Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Santa Maria, where you can spend some time at leisure, reading a book on a sunlounger and watch the waves gently crash into the shoreline. If you’re looking for paradise, then it’s here.

If you fancy going on a Cuba holiday, find out more from our Worldwide brochure or speak to an expert travel advisor today.

Cayo Santa Maria white sandy beach with palm trees, Cuba


Ting has a serious case of wanderlust. Having travelled to over 40 countries, it’s her mission in life to make her way through her ever-growing list. Her two young sons have also caught the travel bug, and recent trips have seen them making snow angels in Iceland while watching the Northern Lights, as well as walking alongside elephants in South Africa.

Ting | About the author

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