Cuba has largely avoided being commercialised like other Caribbean islands, retaining the glamour of its past; the modern and old-school worlds living together on the island. This lends Cuba its nostalgic gleam and makes a visit a one-off experience.
If you’re planning a trip, Havana, the capital is a good place to start if you’re after a taste of the old world. This city best represents a more antique Cuba and its dusty architecture gives the capital a faded charm.
Cuba is famous for its rum, so a visit to the former headquarters of the Bacardi bar is recommended. It was built in the 1930s, based on a New York Art Deco theme tower and was one of the first skyscrapers in Havana. Another landmark that was in the swing of old Havana is The Hotel Nacional, which was originally built up by the North America mafia in the 1930s. Famous guests have included Frank Sinatra and Ernest Hemingway, while the musicians from Buena Vista Social Club have sung in their gardens. It holds onto its peeling decor and old-school glamour today, which may feel bit kitsch without its context; but it’s a significant building to Havana.
If you want to relax after exploring Havana’s streets, you can lie back and sunbathe on one of the many beautiful beaches. In Havana, a top choice is the Tarara Marina that has flower coral in the shallow waters and keen scuba divers should be delighted by the swordfish and sea marlins. Alternatively try Bacuranao Beach for the closest beach to Havana, in the Habana del Este district. It’s managed to stay local and tourist-free by being a little difficult to find, but is worth investigating for the fresh water creek that runs thought it.
When you venture out after dark, anticipate a night full of music and singing. Music is a real passion for Cubans and the nightlife has a real buzz. Havana is known as the party capital of the island so expect a mix of modern and old-school clubs and bars. Keeping in theme with the older Havana, you might want to try La Floridita – a place renowned for their daiquiris. For a night of traditional sing-song, visit the Piano Bar Maragato at Hotel Florida which is right in middle of old Havana. It is a Cuban haunt, and a night out will include very decent rum and a bunch of locals performing old classics to each other.