Here at First Choice, we’re making 2016 the year of yes. It’s the year to see more, explore more and travel more. Today, find out why you should #JustSayYes to Cuba…
Cuba – the biggest of its Caribbean island cousins, with a ‘larger than life’ swagger to boot. With no shortage of charisma, the island must’ve been first in line when it was getting dished out. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve just fallen out of a time machine when you first clap eyes on Cuba. In Havana, 1950s Cadillacs breeze by, Colonial-style buildings burst with colour, and mojito bars are filled with thick plumes of Cuban cigar smoke. Meanwhile, Varadero’s all about sleepy beaches. Here’s a rundown of things you won’t want to miss…
Soak up some culture
For quirky street art, booming beats and a carnival atmosphere, mosey on over to Callejón de Hamel, the hub of Havana’s Afro-Cuban spirit. You’ll find it in Barrio Cayo Hueso, complete with iconic busts of Che, colourful murals and tiny shops selling locals’ paintings. On Sundays things go up a notch – head down between 11am and 3pm and rumba rhythms and rowdy chants ring out. With so much going on, Instagrammers will want their phones at the ready. Check out our Instagram guide to Cuba for more must-see snappers’ hotspots.
See a show
Everyone’s heard of the famous Club Tropicana – and it’s a great spot to knock back a few rums while hypnotic dancers strut their stuff. But if you’re looking for sax appeal, make sure you catch a live jazz band at La Zorra y el Cuervo, Havana’s number 1 jazz haunt. Entering through an oversized red English phone box, the chances are you’ll feel right at home. Scuttle down into the basement, though, and you’ll be reminded of exactly where you are. With world-class performances from the heavyweights of the jazz scene, this place will appeal to long-time Beatniks and newbies alike.
Grab a drink
The Bacardi family might have been exiled from Cuba in the Sixties, but their iconic building in Havana remains intact. Today, it’s the home of La Barrita Largely untouched by tourists, Art Deco-style La Barrita is a great spot for a quiet drink. Slump into their comfy leather sofas and choose your tipple – they’re all served in vintage glasses, etched with the famous black bat motif.
Top up your tan
The blonde beaches of Varadero are some of the Caribbean’s finest, so if you fancy stretching out under the sun and losing yourself in a good book, you’re in luck. You’ll find one of our favourite lounging spots at Cayo Libertad, tucked away on the north-eastern corner of Varadero’s peninsula. The snag? It’s so good it’s mainly restricted to private access from a handful of beachside boltholes. Luckily, we’ve got the answer. Book yourself into the Blau Privilege Cayo Libertad, and it’s all yours.
Get your adrenalin fix
If basking on a beach sounds like a bit of a snore-fest, and you’d prefer to chuck yourself out of a plane from 3000 metres, Centro Internacional de Paracaidismo has got you covered. Brace yourself to take the plunge, then banish all instinct and fling yourself into a 30-second free-fall. Tumble through clear skies with nothing but breathtaking beauty beneath you. If it all sounds a bit mad, don’t worry. You’ll have a trained instructor in tandem – so he’ll pull the chord if you forget…
Spy technicolour marine life
Woah, woah, woah! Okay, so you’ve got plenty of time for sand and sea, but you occasionally like to peel yourself from your sunbed? And you’re not entirely convinced putting your faith in a parachute is the answer to any mild beach boredom? Then scuba dive. Varadero’s Coral Beach is your best bet for discovering underwater beauty, with crystal-clear water, colourful coral and kaleidoscopic fish.