Travel Guide: Havana
A short flight over from Miami and you’ve touched down in a country that’s rich in culture and full of vibrancy.
Havana was an experience for the books and as I previously mentioned in this blog post, one that is much more than classic cars and colorful buildings.
My trip itinerary was prepared by Acanela Expeditions, which is the travel agency who hosted us and invited us to Cuba for the week. They curate small group expeditions to over 100 countries, including Cuba, and work to ensure that they provide you with local and authentic experiences. We were able to visit Cuba under the “Support for the local people” visa, in which Acanela guided us through the process to obtain. The visa is about $80-125 USD, depending on how fast you need it.
The trip focus was mainly to create content, which is great as that’s my job, but I feel like I could’ve seen more of Cuba than what was planned. Of course, when booking with Acanela, you are able to customize your trip to your liking unlike us. Therefore, please keep in mind that there is so much more to see of Havana, but I just was not able to experience it. This travel guide is based on what was done and provided by Acanela (for us specifically).
Where to Stay
Due to the “Support for the local people” visa, we stayed in a casita ran by a sweet hostess named Janella. Most hotels do not allow American citizens and booking a casita via Air B&B is pretty easy, plus really cheap. *Please note that Air B&B app may not work when you’re in Cuba and so you should confirm all arrangements before arriving to the country.
There are plenty of casitas around Havana, which are owned and run by locals. You rent a room from the house and each one of our rooms included a private bathroom. The rooms are very simple but are cozy. The downside is the capacity of a casita, in which most houses have just 6-8 bedrooms max and will tend to split the rooms up. Be prepared to share a room if you’re traveling with a friend.
Also, be aware that casitas are not obligated to provide all toiletries. While towels, toilet paper, and soap may be provided, toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner may not. I’d advise packing everything you need when staying.
Janella provided us with breakfast and dinners on requested days, however I cannot say for sure if there was an additional cost for these meals as Acanela took care of everything for us.
What to See
Old Havana: at the center of the city is Old Havana, where you’ll recognize all the colorful buildings from Instagram. Here you’ll get plenty of photos and will be in awe of the historical architecture that Havana is known for. It is also the second highest population density in the city so be aware that it may be very crowded around here.
Havana Cathedral: located at Plaza de la Catedral on Calle Empedrado, this beautiful cathedral is one of eleven Catholic cathedrals on the island. We did not have the chance to step inside, however the exterior architecture and plaza it is in, was breathtaking. Also, just around the corner of the cathedral is a great restaurant to grab lunch.
For photos, the best time to visit is just before 9-10AM, where you can get great shots with little to no people in them.
Callejon de Hamel: a street filled with African-American inspired artwork and installations. A fun walk-through of an alley that is great for killing time.
Christ of Havana: overlooking the bay of Havana, the Christ of Havana is a large sculpture representing Jesus of Nazareth.
Miramar: known as the “Beverly Hills of Cuba”, a drive through this area will allow you to see a variety of embassy buildings and some beautiful houses.
What to Do
Drive down the Malecon: the perfect place to watch the sunset that’s right by the water. The 8KM highway starts at the mouth of Havana Harbor and ends at the mouth of the Almendares River.
Visit the five most popular Plazas around Havana: Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza Del Santo Cristo, Plaza de Armas. Each one is known for something special and has different types of crowds (and vibes).
Have a day of R&R at Playas del este: a great beach with plenty of room for everyone to enjoy a day off. The water is warm and refreshing. Beach chairs and snorkeling gear are available for rent.
Fábrica de Arte Cubano: an art gallery which turns into a night club with multiple rooms to choose from. They have a pretty cool system for the food and drinks, in which you get a stamp card that you use for your purchases. At the end of the night, you just pay off the stamps on the card. The vibes are great here and is perfect for a night out with friends.
Explore, explore, explore: There’s honestly so much to see and walking down any street will lead you to some sort of adventure. Visit the fruit stands, dance with people on the street, pop into the shops, and refuel with a cafecito.