Cuba’s reputation as a powerhouse of art and culture is nothing short of staggering.
Sure it has some of the Caribbean’s most gorgeous beaches, such as the 22-km-long Playa Varadero, but few other islands can offer such a menu of salsa music, comedy nights, opera, Shakespearean theatre and visual art. A Varadero/Havana cultural adventure is ideal for those seeking a vacation that blends Caribbean R&R with pursuits that can dip into Cuba’s revolutionary, literary and musical past.
Less than a two-hour drive from Varadero—along a scenic coastal road littered with bustling towns and lush landscapes—visitors will find themselves in the vibrant capital. From the crumbling facades of architectural gems, to the old cars on the streets, Havana is a living museum of Cuba’s past, present and future. In the historic plazas of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site, visitors can learn about the country’s remarkable history, follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway or simply savour coveted rum and cigars, procured directly from the source.
Havana nights are lively and romantic, with plenty of options that will keep you on your toes until the wee hours of the morning. As night falls on the “Paris of the Caribbean,” Habaneros celebrate life by gathering along the Malecon to share each other’s company, and perhaps a bottle of rum. Exhilarating live performances of music and dance unfold in venues across the city, from salsa at Casa de la Musica and Café Cantante, to traditional bolero that permeates the walls of El Gato Tuerto. Jazz enthusiasts can indulge their passion at Jazz Café, while elaborate stage shows at Cabaret Parisien, located in the Hotel Nacional, bring a Havana landmark to life.
Cuban society is very family-oriented, but the most convincing evidence lies in a crime rate that ranks as one of the lowest in the western hemisphere. Relative safety encourages exploration beyond the confines of a resort, which is a privilege that sets Cuba apart from some other alternative destinations.
Scooters are ideal for exploring the Varadero peninsula. Enjoy a jaunt down a country road, stop by a bustling market in town or spend a leisurely afternoon in the scenic surroundings of Josone Park.
Besides finding a sleepy place to sling your hammock somewhere on Varadero’s 22-km-long beach, you can be as active as you’d like by scuba diving, deep-sea fishing or joining one of many boat tours.
Treat a stay at an all-inclusive resort in Varadero as your base camp. From there, you can book a catamaran excursion to nearby Cayo Blanco that may include a menu of freshly caught lobster, plus numerous stops at white sandy paradises lapped by turquoise waters. Landlubbers can opt for a day trip to the city of Trinidad, a 500-year-old enclave rich in Spanish architecture, cobblestone streets and colourful colonial plazas.
Three Places to Go if You Really Love Books
In honour of National Novel Writing Month this November, an annual event where participants attempt to write a manuscript in 30 days, consider taking a literary-inspired vacation to Jamaica, England or Cuba to learn about Ian Fleming, Jane Austen or Ernest Hemingway.