Cuba is one of the few remaining places in the Western Hemisphere where you can enjoy life much as you might have been able to in the 1950s. With vintage cars rolling down the streets and Spanish architecture everywhere you look, this island country skillfully combines its sunny climate with the historical beauty of the past century. A trip to Havana will not only take you down memory lane but also will feed your adventuresome spirit.
History of Vacationing in Havana
Tourism has long been a major source of revenue for the island nation of Cuba. However, for many years, travel was restricted greatly from the United States. Early in the 1900s, Cuba was a popular destination for Americans and was, in fact, the most popular Caribbean island to visit thanks to its proximity to the U.S. mainland. In the middle of the 1900s, Havana was so popular that it became known as the “Latin Las Vegas.” All of this came crashing to a halt in the 1960s when relations became strained between the U.S. and Communist-led Cuba. It was not until 2016 when President Obama visited Cuba and re-opened travel to the island nation that tourism came back into vogue. While there are still many travel restrictions in place, Americans can find plenty to experience in this warm and historical country.
Best Sites to Visit in Havana
Havana offers a unique blend of old and new in such places as its historical downtown and its modern art galleries. The Old Havana Walking Tour is a great place to start as it will help you get your bearings in the city, see some of the most important buildings and enjoy the peeling facades of colonial architecture. Included in the tour are some of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite haunts. While a cemetery may not be your usual vacation stop, the Cementerio de Cristobal Colon is another historical landmark filled with the gravesites of many famous people and known as one of the most unique cemeteries in the world. Some other top historical landmarks near the heart of Havana include Plaza Vieja, which is the old public square, the Plaza de La Catedral and El Capitolio, which is the magnificent capitol building.
If Cuban culture is more your style, you could take a salsa class, visit the Tropicana nightclub or a jazz club, stop in at a traditional Cuban cigar shop or laze away the day on the sparkling Havana beach. A morning trip to the Fortaleza de San Carlos de La Cabana will let you hear the traditional cannon fire marking the opening of the fort’s gates. Of course, no trip will be complete without a ride along the coast in a 1950s convertible.
Organize Your Essentials Inside the Swissgear 2610 Mono Sling Bag
As you enjoy your day trips and organized tours, be sure to keep your belongings safe in a day pack. The Swissgear 2610 Mono Sling Bag in Dark Gray will be a stylish addition to any outfit and is incredibly comfortable to carry all day long thanks to its single padded back strap. This mono sling day pack is large enough to serve as your carry on when flying into Cuba and is also ideal for carrying your tablet, sunglasses and souvenirs throughout the country and for holding your reusable water bottle in its mesh side panel.
Safest Places to Stay in Havana
Not every area of town is considered to be completely safe for tourists. Therefore, it is best to make definitive plans and solid reservations for your overnight stay before flying into Havana. If you want to stay in the true heart of the old city and are a self-avowed history lover, a hotel in Old Havana will be the way to go. A reservation at Estancia Bohemia or Hotel Inglaterra will keep you close to the Plaza Vieja and plenty of national museums.
If you prefer a more luxurious experience, you can take your stay into Centro Havana, which is known for its more ornate architecture and plenty of local shopping. The Casa Floridita and the Casa Amistad offer comfortable local flavor and homey vibes.
For a look at the more modern side of Havana, consider staying in the El Vedado neighborhood, which has plenty of trendy cafes and nightclubs. The Hotel Nacional de Cuba and the NH Collection Victoria offer luxurious suites and premium services that you may not be able to find elsewhere, such as WiFi service.
Pack for Your Trip to Havana – SWISSGEAR 7790 Expandable Carry On Luggage
For lengthier trips of up to a week or more, you may be able to score a great deal at some of these hotels. Be sure to pack extra clothes because you may not have access to a reputable laundromat. The Swissgear 7790 18-inch Expandable Carry On Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels will keep your packing light while still giving you plenty of space for layers of clothing and a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Hardside luggage is particularly durable for lengthy flights, and the 360-degree spinner wheels are designed for easy walks down airport concourses as well as the narrow, bumpy streets of Havana. This piece of travel gear also features plenty of interior organizational pockets and elastic straps to keep your clothing where it needs to be.
How to Pack for Traveling to Havana
The yearlong mild weather of Havana makes packing easy. Traveling during the winter and spring may require a few more layers, but breathable summer clothes are generally acceptable throughout much of the year. Be sure to pack plenty of neutral colors to keep you cool during hot afternoon tours. Of course, walking shoes are vital as is a swimsuit for a quick trip to the beach.
Remember that Cuba does not have all of the modern amenities that many other countries offer. Therefore, you cannot depend on corner drugstores to carry exactly what you need if you forget something at home. Some top travel gadgets and personal items that you must remember when packing include the following:
- Passport and visa
- Smartphone and charger
- Mosquito repellent
- Reusable water bottle with built-in filter
- Prescription medications and basic over-the-counter medications
- Guidebooks and maps
Organize Your Essentials with the Swissgear 2375 Heather Grey Toiletry Kit
Finally, be sure to bring a well-packed dopp kit for all of your toiletries because finding just what you want in Cuba will be close to impossible. The Swissgear 2375 Dopp Kit in Heather is roomy enough for all of your travel-size bottles and toiletries and has a handy hook for hanging it up once you are at your hotel. Interior and exterior pockets keep all of your smallest travel gear well-organized.
Special Tips for Traveling to Havana
Of course, traveling to Havana from the United States is not quite the same as traveling to most other top vacation spots because of the many travel restrictions. You can only enter Cuba if you declare yourself to be visiting for one of 12 reasons. Most visitors choose to list their visits as “support for the Cuban people.” In addition, you should keep in mind that you will want to bring all the cash that you will need as you will not be able to use American debit or credit cards on the island. Once there, you can convert your U.S. dollars into Cuban currency.
Because traveling to Havana has been restricted for such a long time, this is now one of the most exciting places to visit in the Western Hemisphere. Here, the history, architecture and rich Caribbean culture will excite and inspire you. Plus, a gorgeous climate makes vacations possible nearly any time of the year.