Cuba things to see and do

Tourist offices

Cuban Tourist Board in the UK

154 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8HL, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 7240 6655 or 09001 600 295 (24-hour brochure request line; calls cost 60p per minute).
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1700.
www.travel2cuba.co.uk

Cuban Tourist Board in the USA

80 Broad St, Ste 3200, New York, NY, 10004, United States
Tel: (212) 635 9530.
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1700.
www.caribbeantravel.com

Things to see and do

Baracoa

A visit to this lost-in-time corner of Cuba is a must for history and nature buffs. Getting to the quaint seaside town and nearby sites was made feasible only in the 1960s with the construction of 'La Farola' - one of Cuba's most scenic roads.

Bask on the beach

Soak up some glorious sunshine from one of Cuba's beautiful beaches, including Playas del Este near Havana, where the locals play, to exclusive island resorts like Cayo Coco. Just 20 minutes from downtown, the beaches of Santa María, known as the Havana Riviera, offer the soft sand and turquoise waters for which the Caribbean is famous. Other picture-perfect beaches include Playa Ancón near Trinidad; Cayo Coco north of Ciego de Ávila; and Playa las Tumbas on the Guanhacabibes Peninsula, a UNESCO biosphere on the island's western tip. Varadero is a particularly lively resort that combines beach life with nightlife.

Bay of Pigs

Take an emotional journey to the museum at Playa Girón, scene of the US-backed 'Bay of Pigs' invasion in 1961.

Capitolio

Take a tour of the Capitolio in Havana's centre. Built by a dictator to mimic Washington DC's Capitol (though the detailing on Havana's version is finer), it housed a puppet parliament until the Revolution.

Castillo de la Real Fuerza

Wander around the Castillo de la Real Fuerza and its new shipwreck museum. The oldest of Havana's three forts is still standing because it was, to all intents and purposes, built in the wrong place. Raise a glass to Hemingway at his old haunt La Bodeguita del Medio (www.palmarescuba.com).

Climb Torre de Manaca Iznaga

Enjoy outstanding views of the Valley of the Sugar Mills from the Torre de Manaca Iznaga - a former slave watchtower by an old plantation house-turned restaurant.

Daiquiris in El Floridita

Follow in Hemingway's footsteps with a pub crawl to his favourite haunts, having a daiquiri (or three) at El Floridita and a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio. Follow up with a visit to his suite at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where he penned part of For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Dive into the deep

There are 30 dive sites at Varadero alone and more reefs around Isla de la Juventud - Robert Louis Stevenson's inspiration for Treasure Island. With few crowds and teeming marine life, the Hotel Colony on the Isla de la Juventud makes a great base for a dive vacation. Wreck diving is also possible here. One of the world's biggest reefs is offshore at Cayo Coco, and the underwater eye candy at María la Gorda, a dive camp in the western extents of Pinar del Río, is spectacular.

Explore mountains and caves

Pinar del Río is arguably Cuba's most beautiful province, and its most outstanding feature must be the mogotes: oddly rounded limestone mountains, covered in lush vegetation. The caves here are awash with stalactites and stalagmites, and underground rivers.

Feel the beat

Experience the country's best musicians and dancers hard at work in Santiago de Cuba. Unmissable are Ballet Folklorico Cutumba: their Afro-Cuban performances are simply spectacular (www.cubanfolkloricdance.com/cutumba.php).

Horse riding

Saddle up and gallop through the scenic sugarcane fields around Trinidad and the Valle de Ingenios, or the hills, tobacco fields and valleys of Pinar del Río. Kids love pony rides offered at bigger Havana parks like Parque Almendares.

Meander the Malecón

Join fishermen, families and couples, and take a stroll along the Malecón, the sea wall that links Old Havana to the western edge of Vedado. Careful though: during high seas and storms, the surf surges over the wall, the boulevard is sometimes closed to traffic as a result.

Museo de la Revolución

Visit the Museo de la Revolución for a historical context of modern Cuba. Outside is the Granma, a cabin cruiser built for 12 people. In 1956, 80 exiled rebels (both Castros and Ché among them) came perilously close to sinking the overcrowded yacht, as they sought to return to Cuba.

Museo Emilio Bacardí

Visit the Museo Emilio Bacardí in Santiago de Cuba ('the heroic city'). It contains the rum magnate's collection of antiques and fine art and the Moncada Barracks, where Fidel Castro launched an abortive uprising in 1953. The Castillo El Morro is now a museum of piracy.

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales

Head to the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana for a glimpse of colonial majesty at the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, former residence of the Spanish Crown's representatives, and now the Museo de la Ciudad.

Party in Havana

Live the high life in Havana's Vedado district. The Hotel Nacional (www.hotelnacionaldecuba.com) has hosted gangsters and film stars and is well-placed for Carnaval processions along the Malecón.

Relax on Cayo Largo

Cuba's most pristine beaches ring this small island off the southern coast developed exclusively for tourism. Accessible only by plane, the beaches here are also sea turtle nesting areas.

Santa Clara

Visit revolutionary Santa Clara, and the monument, museum and mausoleum of Ché Guevara. His body was only returned from Bolivia in 1997, 30 years after his capture and execution. In 1959, he and 300 rebels defeated 3,000 of Batista's troops here, leading to the dictator's flight just days later.

Trek tropical paradise

Walk in the footsteps of the revolutionary army, including to Cuba's highest peak, Pico Turquino (1972m), in the Oriente's Sierra Maestra range. Other hiking gems include the Sierra del Rosario and Viñales areas of Pinar del Río province and around Baracoa in Guantánamo.

Trinidad

Feel the history in colonial Trinidad, founded in 1514. Locals ride horses down cobbled streets, past houses painted in pastel colours. Elegant mansions are now museums in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Edited by Jane Duru
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