You know you can’t leave Havana without walking the Malecón and drinking a cocktail at Hemingway’s favourite bar, El Floridita. But if you’re looking for experiences away from the tour buses, here are a few options.
Attend an Industriales baseball game
Baseball is Cuba’s national sport, so if you want to connect with the locals, make plans to attend a game. The 55,000-seat Estadio Latinoamericano is the biggest stadium in Cuba, and from now until playoff season (April through May), it will be jam-packed with Cuban baseball fans. The quality of the play is high, and the atmosphere is also appealing. Get ready for non-stop cheering, drums and trumpet playing in the stands as well as mascots that dance for the crowd throughout the game. The entire experience will only cost you about $2.50.
Travel tip: You’re in Havana. Cheer for the local team, Los Industriales.
Visit an arts space located in a former factory
You’ve probably heard of the cabaret club Tropicana, but for a nightlife venue that’s frequented by locals, check out the Fábrica de Arte Cubano. This converted factory is now an industrial-chic, four-level arts space that presents a variety of programming Thursday through Sunday. Here you’ll enjoy live music, stage plays and art exhibitions.
Travel tip: Don’t attend dressed in your sweaty walking gear; do as the locals do, and dress up.
Spend some time in Havana’s first English-language bookstore
It’s easy to miss Cuba Libro, a small bookstore and café tucked away on a leafy street in the city’s upscale Vedado neighbourhood. But inside Havana’s first English-language bookstore, you’ll find shelves lined with magazines and books as well as local artwork. If you can, pick a spot in the shaded garden to sip coffee and read a magazine, and if you’re lucky, there might even be a hammock free.
Travel tip: The menu is drinks only, so eat before you visit.
Cheer on Cuba’s best boxers
Havana’s massive sporting complex, the Ciudad Deportiva, is about a 15-minute drive from the main tourist attractions. It’s well worth the side trip, however, to watch a boxing match, another one of Cuba’s most popular sports. The ring is located inside a domed coliseum that also features outdoor sports fields, swimming pools and running tracks.
Travel tip: Check dates ahead of time. If there are no boxing matches on while you’re in Havana, the Ciudad Deportiva also hosts events such as volleyball matches, concerts and ballet performances.
Take a ferry across the bay to Casablanca
Catch a ferry from Old Havana and visit the city’s Casablanca area to see the Christ of Havana statue and visit 17th- and 18th-century forts that offer excellent views across the bay. Here you can also catch The Hershey Train (Cuba’s only electric railway) for a daylong trip from Havana to the town of Matanzas. Built by The Hershey Company in the early 20th century, riding this train is a great way to see the countryside and includes many notable stops that include the ruins of a Hershey sugar factory.
Travel tip: It’s a long and unshaded walk from the ferry to the forts, so take a bicycle taxi.
Snapshots of Central Cuba: Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Santa Clara
Explore Central Cuba's historic towns, where time stands still. Drink in a rustic, open-air courtyard bar with locals in Trinidad, dine in a 1900s mansion-turned-restaurant in Cienfuegos and visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara.
Five Things to Do in Trinidad, Cuba
The small town of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, isn’t Cuba’s most famous city, but it is certainly one of the most charming. Hang out in historic Plaza Mayor, sip an authentic canchánchara cocktail, dance at Casa de la Música, visit Palacio Cantero and check out the view from the Manaca Iznaga tower.