Like so many of us familiar with the photos of a forgotten era, I was very curious to experience Cuba firsthand. I had the opportunity to do so recently when American Airlines launched its inaugural non-stop flight from Charlotte to Havana.
It was a quick, jam-packed few days filled with the food, music and culture of the tiny island nation, a place where time seems to have stood still. It’s a place filled with wonderful and unique people anxious to welcome American tourists to a place once forbidden, but where modern conveniences can sometimes seem elusive. From the iconic and colorful vintage cars lining the streets, to the cobblestone plazas, to the traditional nightclub entertainment, there is something for everyone during a visit to Cuba.
Here are my top reasons to visit Cuba as soon as possible!
- No Crowds More and more tourists will start to flock to the island as restrictions are lifted. The time to go is now before the country changes to accommodate all the visitors with an influx of hotels and resorts that change the authentic landscape.
- Rum and Cigars Cuba is known for both rum and cigars, and no visit there is complete without a tour of a cigar factory or tobacco plantation to understand the country’s economy. Cuban rum is world-renowned and visitors can indulge in the ubiquitous mojito or daiquiri at every turn.
- A Treasure Trove of Culture Cubans love their music, art and dance and it surrounds every visitor. Whether it’s a local jazz musician or an opera house, a dance troupe or colorful street murals, a local street artist or fine art gallery, the creative senses are all heightened during a trip to Cuba.
- The Cars If you love old cars, the streets of Havana are the place to go. In surprisingly good condition, the vintage 1950s cars are kept running by enterprising locals who pride themselves on keeping these vintage wheels in beautiful condition. A taxi ride in a convertible should be on every visitor’s bucket list.
- The People Engaging and spirited, the Cuban people’s hospitality is often the reason visitors love their Cuban vacation. They are diverse, friendly and genuine, and the experience of meeting them is unforgettable.
- Countryside, Small Towns and Beaches While Havana invites the headlines, it’s the beautiful, green landscape of the countryside that leads visitors to smaller towns with quiet cobblestone streets and colonial architecture that makes Cuba special. White sand beaches line the coastline, and resorts there provide welcome rest and relaxation after touring the bigger cities. There are areas of rainforest, mountain ranges, waterfalls and more to explore in this tiny nation.
- History Cuba boasts nine UNESCO world heritage sites, places that are protected and preserved because of their special cultural or historical significance. The country’s history is interesting and relevant, and visiting provides a greater understanding of the events and how they unfolded.
If you’re curious about Cuba, now is the perfect time to go. Keep in mind, this is no ordinary vacation: there are still policies about travel there that must be understood and followed. A good travel professional can put together a cross-cultural, people-to-people program that meets state department regulations, taking the headache of visas and health insurance requirements out of your hands to let you enjoy the experience of this dynamic culture and country.