“When you’re in Cuba, you feel that you’r in a time capsule – 50’s Chevy, warm greetings, original Club Havana Rum and famous Cuban cigar. Even when you leave Cuba, it’s architecture and hospitality gives you another reason to come back”.
Ever since I started dancing Salsa, I had a dream of dancing on the streets of Havana. Few years later, my cousin and I decided to take vacation to Cuba.
We rushed through the gates of Newark airport, we finally saw the UNITED airlines board for Cuba. We bought our Tourist Visa (more information below) and went to the boarding gate. 3 hours later, we landed at Jose Martin (Havana) airport. It is the tiniest airport that I’ve been so far. The immigration office is separated by a wooden door. You open the door, the immigration officer validates your passport and tourist card; puts the stamp then open the door. Viola, you’re in Cuba (literally, 2 mins). We had to wait for 30 mins for baggage arrival.
We went to the Currency Exchange office (more Currency info below) at the airport. There was a long waiting line, we had to wait at least an hour for out turn.
Our AirBnB (more housing info below) host had sent a driver ‘HUGO’ to pick us up (CUC 20). He took us to his car – green color Bel-Air Chevy. He told us that the car was built in 1951, Cubans have a tradition of passing car from one generation to another. It was in mint condition. After 30 mins, we reach Old Havana where our host was waiting for us. He explained rules of the apartment and gave us pointers.
It was already 5 pm, we were starving by then. We walked towards the La Cathedral, we ordered food in the first restaurant that we saw. It was definitely an interesting experience since a band was playing live music for us. Then we went to our first stop, La Cathedral.
#1 La Cathedral: It has unique architecture (picture below).
#2 Boulevard: A colorful cobbled street from La Cathedral to La Plaza. Spanish house with balcony and colorful wall makes it a perfect spot for your next Facebook profile picture.
#3 La Plaza: It’s a big square in the heart of Havana. Most of the Spanish colonies have similar plaza.
After plaza, we went back to our apartment to change clothes. It was around 8 pm. It was time to explore the famous night life of Havana.
#4 La Floridita: It’s commonly known as Ernest Hemingway bar. It’s a bit touristy but I’ll definitely recommend it. There will be a band playing music and a bartender making Daiquiris. The walls have pictures of Hemingway, there is a bronze statue of Papa Hemingway smiling and holding Daiquiri in his hand. The bartender told us that he held a record of drinking 13 daiquiri in a single sitting. That’s a lot of rum. We spent an hour there, left the bar to visit FAC.
#5 Fabrica De Arte Cubana – FAC (must recommend): I’ve been to many nightclubs but I’ve never seen anything like FAC. It was a factory turned into a nightclub, museum, fashion show, movie screening and food court. We reached there by 9.30 pm, there was already 30 mins wait line. Even waiting line was fun, we were been entertained by street performers. We paid 2 Cuban Pesos as a cover and got a card that is used as a stamp to buy food/drink. We got us Mojito, it was delicious. First, we went to see interesting art exhibition of Cuban artists. Then next floor had a Michael Jackson inspired Fashion Show. Another floor had a movie screening and a gazebo. One floor had a photograph collection while other had a costume/design collection. You get amazed as you walk from one floor to another. There were 3 dance floor with different music – Pop, Metal and Latin. They had a food court too. This place was a paradise. We left the place around 1.30 am while wondering – Why we don’t have such a place in America? Also, we saw a huge line waiting to get in since it’s open till 4 am.
Day -2 (Sun):
We woke up late, made our breakfast at the apartment. It was a sunny weather, so we decided to go to the beach.
#6 Mira mar Beach: To get to the beach, you can either take a Taxi (cost CUC 40) or public transport (CUC 5 per person). We took the bus in front of the Chevy Taxi Stand (you’ll find beautiful vintage car standing in line). Within 30 mins, we were at the beach. The water was torques green color, warm and clear. It was the most beautiful beach. I can’t swim so I didn’t go deep, just floated. We were having fun and didn’t want to leave the beach. Jay’s Rutgers T-shirt came useful, a girl approached us. She became a good friend who joined us to Vinales Valley trip. After spending afternoon at the beach, we decided to head back to the city. We reached Havana around 2 pm, had lunch at cafe Old Bistro and walked towards El Malecon.