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 and Viñales.
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 and Pinar del Rio Province.
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.
Santiago de Cuba barrio. Photo by christian-pirkl.
Road Trip! Here are two reasonably short driving trips of 3-4 days on open roads, but don’t expect anything wildly exciting. We did both these journeys and concluded that a few more days in Havana could have been more fun (and less dangerous). Of course there are those – such as the bugcrew – who always want to check out what’s over the horizon, just in case it’s better…
• Pinar del Rio province (2/3 days). Pretty much a one-shot wonder 2.5 hours west of Havana, Pinar del Rio province is a very rural, green area encompassing the attractive greenery and limestone karsts of the Viñales Valley that is good for hiking or horseback riding though we didn’t try much of either which is possibly why we were so bored that we picked up varied hitch-hikers (against all advice) and suffered the consequences…
• Playa Giron/Bay of Pigs – Cienfuegos – Trinidad (3/4 days). Playa Giron (3 hrs by car, 4 hrs by bus from Havana) is the site of the CIA’s failed invasion attempt back in the ’50’s and now an OK beach with an entertaining museum nearby (Museo Girón), all about the chaotic and poorly researched attack from a Cuban perspective, with US and Russian weaponry on display.
Then head for Cienfuegos for the evening, perhaps staying at a Casa Particular.
From Cienfuegos to the World Heritage Site of Trinidad is just 90 minutes.
Once you get tired of the charming cobbled streets and colourful little houses with barred windows Ancon beach is just 15 minutes’ drive.
You could return via Santa Clara, a city offering a handful of Ché-oriented tourist attractions such as a Ché Guevara’s Mausoleum, Ché Museum, train, hideout and command post during the revolution.
Santa Clara was the site of the revolution’s last battle with Government forces. The good road from Santa Clara to Havana takes about 3-4 hours.
• We wanted to visit Santiago de Cuba, a 500-year old colonial city that supposedly competes with Havana for music and dance, but the drive is about 11-12 hours from Havana and the plane journey expensive.