1. La Isla de la Juventud
Far off the grid, you’ll need a three-hour boat-ride the town of Batabanó, on the coast, just 71km south of Havana. There are sometimes plane options – to get to this isolated bit of Cuba. Lots of history of sunken treasure, uncrowded beaches and long sips of coconut milk against pink sunsets. It’s said that Robert Louis Stevenson based Treasure Island on the sand and surf of this Cuban treasure. Even pirates need a place to relax.
2. Cementerio la Reina
For some, a cemetery may seem like an odd place to spend vacation time. But like similar tourist sites in Paris and New Orleans, this sacred final resting place in Cienfuegos, in central Cuba, is a quiet walk through the history of a people. The tomb statues are remarkable, and so are the stories of those who rest below the tributes. Local caretakers also act as guides. Ask about the young woman who supposedly died of a broken heart.
3. The John Lennon Statue
Some people – especially musicians – eclipse borders. And so it was with John Lennon. You can find a bronze statue of the fab Beatles cofounder in John Lennon Park, in the Vedado district in Havana. Cuban officials, when opening the park, said they wanted to celebrate the dreamers of the world. Cuba is a pretty good place to sit back and do just that.
4. The Viñales Mural de la Prehistoria
You can see the evolution of man in a giant 1960’s mural created against the 617m-high Sierra de Viñales, the highest portion of the Sierra de los Órganos. It took 18 people four years to paint the work. Though the real wonder is actually the remarkable, UNESCO-approved valley around.
5. A cucurucho
Not a place, but something you have to seek out. The cucurucho is a sweet street-food mix of coconut, honey, banana and mango wrapped up in a palm leaf. Buy it from vendors in cities such as Baracoa, in the eastern part of Cuba. Your mouth will thank you for the vacation.
6. Discoteca Ayala
In Trinidad, Cuba, the underground music scene is just that…underground. Housed in a natural cave, Disco Ayala is home to five dancefloors, fire-walkers and an amazing local vibe. Steps are carved out of stone, and locals and tourists mingle – and celebrate – nightly together. Rock music indeed.
7. Finca Vigia
He may have spent time in Canada, but writer Ernest Hemingway was best known for his years in Cuba – and the writing he did there. His 15-acre homestead, just outside Havana, is now a museum (Museo Ernest Hemingway) where you can get a sense of the man behind the writer. That includes his love of cats.
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