Cuba is a fascinating and beautiful vacation destination. The juxtaposition of old automobiles from Detroit's glory years set against the beautiful Carribean Sea is something to behold. Cuba is also a contradiction. It's music, and people are wonderful, and there is no shortage of beauty to be found on this proud anchor of the Carribean as its largest island. Political isolation and decades of communism can't rid this island of natural beauty. Destinations and attractions are abundant in Cuba.
Considering the taste this island shows through its rum production and cigar making it's somewhat surprising that a visit may leave you wondering why you didn't have one great (or even good) meal. With a little planning, you might stumble into somewhere that keeps calling you back for the remainder of your years.
Fabrica de Arte Cubano tops the list because it's only open from Thursday to Sunday and is an absolute must on any trip to Havana. While there is more to Cuba than Havana, the capital is the heartbeat, and nearly all Cuban vacations begin and end there. The Fabrica, located in Vedado, is a repurposed cooking oil factory that has been transformed into Havana's nexus of nightlife. Big, inexpensive mojitos guarantee that your toes will tap you through the exhibitions, bars, music performances well into the early morning. Try to arrive early to enjoy the artwork; it's shoulder-to-shoulder by 11 PM each of the four nights it's open.
It's likely that you're well aware of the cultural significance of Cuba's collection of classic American automobiles that populated the island ahead of Castro's revolution in the last 1950's. While many were lost to time and a lack of spare parts, others have been impeccably maintained and available for a convertible car tour of Havana. There are numerous tour operators that offer this opportunity to see the City. If, however, you believe your Spanish is up-to-snuff; there are many independent owners parked in front of Hotel Inglaterra in Havana's central park that offer the same experience.
Fusterlandia was created by the Cuban artist José Fuster and includes most his mosaic tilework and a surrounding neighborhood which may be the single best collection of street art in the world. Try to make the trip on a day where rain is not in the forecast to take in as much as you can. It's easily accessible by bus and a walk and well worth the trip. Ask your driver to let you out in Jamanitals and enjoy the walk in down Avenida Quinta and enjoy this stunning neighborhood.
Don't rush to get out of Havana. It is the heartbeat of this island nation. No trip is complete without a visit to a cigar factory or cigar friendly bar. The facade and the VIP room of the Partagas Cigar Factory are worth the trip to this icon and beacon of Cuban culture in Havana. However, actual production is now a few blocks away at a new location. They will happily give you directions if a tour is something which interests you. Do both, tour the new facility and visit the VIP room, no trip to Cuba is complete without witnessing something so embedded in Cuban life.
Cuba is known for its rum, music, classic cars, cigars and baseball! If Fidel Castro's fastball was just five miles an hour faster, it's entirely possible that he would have chosen the life of a professional baseball player in the United States over communist revolution. While you could visit the national stadium in Havana, you don't need to limit yourself to this. If the season is in swing, there is baseball in any larger city on the island. The BaseballdeCuba website provides a full schedule of games and is a bilingual opportunity to make sure you show up on time and can take in the full experience.
No visit to Havana is complete without a visit to this remarkable collection of museums and mausoleums. With over 800,000 graves and tombs, it certainly gets its place in the list of most fascinating burial sites in all of the world. Politicians, baseball players, and luminaries of the Catholic faith all are laid to rest here. You may wish to wait for this trip until an overcast day is in the forecast. It can get unbearably hot with little to no shade, and the site is over 150 acres.
Take a lesson at La Casa del Son where you can have an hour-long, one-on-one deep dive lesson into this music that flows through the bloodstream of the Cuban people. Whether you're a beginner with no rhythm or a practiced dancer, you'll enjoy the experience. At night El Turquino and Diablo Tun Tun are Havana's most famous salsa clubs where you can see that your one lesson was probably not enough and enjoy watching others show off their amazing craft.
It's easy to forget that Cuba exists outside of Havana and Trinidad is a lovely colonial reminder of this. Its classic cars can compete with Havana's but look truly brilliant juxtaposed against the cobblestones of this UNESCO site. Grab your camera and stroll around the city until it's time for dinner. After dinner don't miss the famous nightclub La Cueva where you can dance the night away in an actual cave complete with stalagmites to salsa with if you can't find a partner.
When you're in the capital, you can spend quite a bit of time caught up the older neighborhoods where a glimpse of an opera house or nightclub is more likely than a view of the Caribbean Sea. Cuba is the largest island in this sea and consequently affords tremendous scuba diving and snorkeling options. Maria La Gorda, Caya Coco, or even the famed Bay of Pigs (among others) present lifetime memories for you to take home with you.
Cuban food on the island has often been maligned. In recent years, younger chefs have been trying to reinvent Cuban cuisine often with great success. Cafe Laurent is a great example of this movement, as it's located on the top floor of an apartment complex of a Castro-era, Soviet-style apartment block. They run from strange to hip and trendy and are redefining Cuban food.