Half of My Heart is in Havana
Alright, people -- here's where the "Beyond" in Bahamas & Beyond comes in. I'm taking you on an hour flight from Nassau to Havana (oh na na).
I have to kick this blog post off with a funny story (well, it's funny now). When I was traveling to Havana, I was coming from Boston and meeting Ryan (who was flying from Nassau) at the airport. Since neither of our phones were going to work, we planned to meet right inside the terminal. His flight landed an hour after mine, so we thought it would work out perfectly.
Well an hour goes by and still no sign of Ryan. I began to see an alert on the flight screen saying the Nassau flight was delayed. I sighed with a bit of relief -- his tardiness was explained. But two more hours go by, and that late flight had come and gone. Still no Ryan! Now I start to panic.
I decided to go up to different employees around the airport to see what's up, but no one could speak English. Finally, I hear my name on the intercom, but everything else was in Spanish! I had to assume he was somewhere, looking for me, and was soon going to give up and think I was kidnapped. I was going to be stuck without a phone in a Spanish-speaking country!
My hands got sweaty and my heart sunk into my stomach. I ran outside into a crowd of people waiting for travelers. All of a sudden, I saw some dude holding a sign with my name on it, and he was just turning around to leave. I got his attention -- he was our AirBnB host! He randomly ran into Ryan while picking up his friend who was flying in -- at a terminal that was miles away -- and agreed to help find me! He then took me to Ryan, who was very stressed out planning what he was going to say to my parents when I turned up missing. LOL
Moral of the story: plan better in Cuba. ANYWAYS....Here are some pointers for your trip to Havana.
Stay in an AirBnB in Old Havana.
Sure, Havana has some historic and beautiful hotels that you need to see, but nothing beats staying right in the culture. We stayed in the Sea View Suite - 270° in Old Havana, and I couldn't recommend it more. It was around $167 per night.
Located in the heart of Old Havana at the end of the well known Obispo Boulevard, you couldn't ask for a more convenient location for walking into town -- or a more beautiful view of the ocean, which you can see from every window. This penthouse studio has amazing balconies and a rooftop to sit back, relax and watch the famous classic cars drive by. It's luxurious yet authentic, breezy and convenient.
The AirBnB host, Oliver, is AWESOME -- he lives next door and really makes this place a five-star stay. We felt VIP with his morning breakfasts and always had a plan for the day with his expert tips.
Do a Day Trip to Viñales.
As you know, Cuba is famous for its cigars. So when in Rome...
We did a day trip to Viñales, and it was the best day we had in Cuba. We did a horseback riding, cigar rolling excursion booked through AirBnB. A bus picked us up at our hotel bright and early, and we set off on a 3 hour drive to the destination.
Although the drive was interesting, we were both like, "What are we getting ourselves into?" We're both very impatient people! But once we arrived, it was totally worth it.
Our tour guides first took us through caves on a boat ride, where we could see prehistoric wall painting.
Next stop: we visited to a Tobacco farm to learn how to make "the best Cuban cigar in the world".
Then, we got to horse ride through the valley of Mogotes.
Last but certainly not least, our tour guide took us to an authentic Cuban restaurant with food and views that did not disappoint.
Take a Salsa Dancing Lesson.
Thanks to our awesome AirBnB host, we arranged a private dance lesson on our roof top with two very talented instructors. Whose idea, mine or Ryan's? ;)
It was hot as hell, we sweat our asses off, but it was such a fun experience. It warmed us up to dance in the bars all night and not stick out like foreign sore thumbs!
Drive in a Classic & Buy Some Cuban Artwork.
You can't go to Havana and not drive around in a classic car. Whether you rent one yourself or use one as a taxi, it's a staple in everyone's trip.
Speaking of staples, you will absolutely need some Cuban artwork to take home with you. My only regret is I didn't buy more! Go through the street markets and drool over the gorgeous, bright paintings on canvas. Most of the time, the artists are the ones selling them to you, which makes it even more special. Bring plenty of cash and stock up for your home!
Indulge in the Food & Drink.
We were warned by many people that we would be underwhelmed by the food in Cuba. In fact, we were told we may even get food poisoning from it! Well that ended up being far from true. I had some of the best plates in my traveling experience in Havana -- and better yet, it's SO CHEAP! Although I WISH I had photos to prove it, I have recommendations that are sure to impress:
La Guarida: Think upscale, fine dining in an old, historic setting overlooking the city. Fun fact: Obama ate here while visiting the country.
El Del Frente: Make sure to eat on the rooftop patio!
El Cocinero Vedado: Bumpin' and lively.
Guys, this blog post is only scratching the surface. There is so much to do, see, taste and feel in Cuba. Bring plenty of cash, don't expect cell phone service, and ENJOY going back in time!