Travel

When to go to Cuba – A Tale of Two Havanas

Have you been wanting to make a trip to the elusive island? I was blessed to be able to go to Cuba in February 2016 with my husband and again in June 2017 with my daughter.

My trips were about 16 months apart and I was absolutely amazed by the growth and change in that short time. The other huge difference was the weather and how it affected how we moved about the city.

Havana in February

You will need a jacket/sweater in the evening, especially if you are walking along the Malecon. The wind coming off the ocean can be quite brisk so be sure you have something a little warmer.

Havana Cuba

You can save a ton of money by walking instead of taking a taxi. We are healthy and able bodied so we were able to walk to a lot of our destinations.

We stayed in Vedado so one day, we walked a good majority of it putting on over twelve miles on my Garmin Vivo. Wear sensible shoes though. The sidewalks can be treacherous.
The following day we utilized the double decker tour bus to see the Plaza de la Revolution and got off to tour Habana Vieja (Old Havana) on foot.

We took a vintage taxi back to our apartment, driving along the Malecon and getting hit by a wave!

Cuba
Varadero, Cuba

Outside of Havana, we spent three nights at a resort in Varadero. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Havana and well worth the trip. The beaches in Cuba are AMAZING! They are also extremely busy and expensive in the winter. It didn’t help that we were there over Valentine’s.

 

Havana in June

First off, it is much cheaper in June. Because of that, we were able to afford a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with air conditioning in Vedado, a block and a half off of the Malecon.
I honestly didn’t budget a lot of money for transportation when I returned to Havana because we walked so much on the previous trip. Big mistake.

The first morning we hit the Malecon, spring in our steps with the intention of walking all the way to central Vedado. Ha!

It’s HOT and HUMID in June.

I only made it about 10 blocks and I was getting dizzy. Luckily, I remembered that we were close to the Hotel Presidente and they have a lovely patio and cold beer.

After cooling down, we switched to taxi mode. Thus ended extensive walking in Havana.
Double decker bus? Forget it. Way too hot. As a matter of fact, we tried to get a closed taxi for our final ride from Havana Vieja back to Vedado because we didn’t want to be in the sun any more.

The beach trip to Varadero? The resort was delightfully quiet and cost about a third of what we spent in February.

We were only supposed to stay two nights at the resort but we got such a great deal that while taking our final dip in the ocean we made the last minute decision to run to the front desk to see if we could stay another night. It felt so indulgent.

Best trip decision I have ever made!

You can save a lot of money by going to Cuba in the summer but you have to just resign yourself to the realization that you will be sweating. All. The. Time.

I simply got used to the fact that I had a permanent, steady stream of sweat from the nape of my neck right down my back and into my underwear.

Where to go?

If you get the chance to go to Havana, and I hope you do, here are my top picks of sights to see:

  • The Malecón – Eight kilometers of road and seawall along the coast.  This is the top of my list for a reason.

  •  El Floridita – The “Cradle of the Daquiri” and a famous haunt of Ernest Hemingway.

  •  Finca Vigía – Speaking of Hemingway, Finca Vigía is Hemingway’s Cuban Home.  You can’t actually go inside the house, but it’s open air design allow you to look through the windows and see all the rooms.

  •  Fabrica de la Arte Cubano – An old cooking oil factory, FAC is art all the way around.  Paintings, photography, sculpture, music.  You name it.

  •  Tropicana – Simply a tradition that should not be missed.  Not cheap, but well worth it.

  •  El Morro – The Fort across the bay.  Every evening at 9pm, the cannon is fired.

  •  Habana Vieja (Old Havana) – A must if you like architecture.  The buildings are amazing to see, the Plaza Vieja, Plaza de las Armas, El Capitolio.  It’s a bit sad to see the state of some of the buildings, but I enjoyed using my imagination to visualize how they once looked.

  •  Plaza de la Revolución – No matter your political stance, I believe that this is something you should see.

  •  Just about anywhere while riding in a classic car!

    1954 Buick Skylark

 

2 Comments

  • Jacqueline M Gard

    Loving the blog Tina! I’m glad reading your words is just like your talking to me as if I was sitting next to you at the bar.

    Cuba sounds amazing! Maybe someday I can go.

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