Best things to do and see
Dancing in the Street in Habana Vieja. Cubans, give them a chance and they dance!
***Havana, a large and endlessly interesting, dilapidated old city, full of bizarre vehicles, beautiful buildings, chatty people and a wild nightlife. Somewhere between Barcelona and Yangon in the style charts.
***Trinidad, a charming and well preserved small town with a centre of cobbled streets and cute pastel houses with tall, barred windows. Lots of live music.
***Santiago de Cuba has almost all Havana’s assets, plus a lovely valley setting, some of the country’s oldest palaces and museums, some fine, frilly architecture and less street hassle than the capital. But it’s a long way, a flight from Havana.
**Viñales (near Pinar del Rio), this quiet region is one of the country’s prettiest, with flat agricultural land disturbed only by the sudden sprouting of hills (karsts – like SW China, but less so). Great for hiking and horse riding, there are a couple of ranch/hotels around the tiny town. Beware mosquito overload.
*Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara et alia. Classic Mexican-style towns with colonnaded central plaza and scattered pleasant colonial buildings. No big deal.
Swimming off Havana’s promenade, El Malecon. Malecon is especially busy in the cool of the evening when locals follow the old Spanish custom of ‘Dar un Paseo’ – dressing up a bit and taking a stroll to meet folk and see what’s happening.
Cycling on some lovely, little used roads, tho’ smoky trucks can get up your nose. It’s especially pretty around Trinidad, Pinar del Rio, Santiago.
Hikers can find lots of excellent routes, but most are ill-marked and mapless. The most challenging is 3 days over the Sierra Maestra mountain range. Attractive walks around Trinidad, Pinar del Rio, Santiago.
Horseback riding is widely available; around the pointy-hill karsts of Viñales is Cuba’s number one riding spot.
Golf offers only two courses, at Havana and Varadero.
Watersports. Scuba is everywhere with many superb dives; south coasts are calmer in winter, north in summer.
Rental equipment may be in poor state. Snorkelling is often good too, tho’ Varadero has nothing to offer in this area.
Surfing is OK from November-April on the NE coast, but bring your own board.
Windsurf boards are available for rent at all big beaches, at a hefty price.
Fishing. Big game fishing was made famous by Hemingway and is excellent along the NW coast, including around Havana.