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CUBA - what to do, what to do ???

We will be in port 1 1/2 days at the end of May.
We were debating doing an 11 hour excursion to Vinales on the full day....leaving 1/2 day for Havana itself.
Now we doubting our choice.
Can anyone give us suggestions ?
Should we spend all 1 1/2 exploring Havana ? I'm sure there is more than enough to fill our days.
Thank so much for any advise you can provide.
Adela

Posted by
4535 posts

I haven't been to Vinales, so I cannot comment on what you might see there or whether it is worth it. But you cannot even begin to see Havana in 1 1/2 days. I can't imagine only having a half day to see the city.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks Douglas .
I hear Vinales is totally worth it - with enough time ( which we don NOT have )
I think we are going to stay in Havana this trip.
Have you been to either Fusterlandia or Necropolis Cristobal Colon ? I love visiting cemeteries when we travel, but this one is huge and don't know ( again ) if it's worth the time and effort.
Fusterlandia seems very cool and unique but is outside of Havana.
Any thoughts ?

Posted by
4535 posts

Been to Fusterlandia and it is very cool. He was influenced By Barcelona's Gaudi and by Picasso. It's in Havana but a more remote part. If you like Hemingway, a ride out to Finca Vigia is also worth it. If you have an evening to spend and like art or nightclubs, visit Fabrica. It's an art gallery/nightclub and the most unusual place I've been to in a long time. It's in an old cooking oil factory and cheap to enter (you pay as you leave for anything you buy). One of the best restaurants in the city (and that's not saying much) is in the chimney (it is a good restaurant). You'll be paying closer to Miami prices there.

Posted by
3 posts

Wow Douglas...you seem to have a lot of great, off-the-beaten-path info.
It's just what I'm looking for.
I know it's asking a lot - but can you suggest a 1 1/2 day itinerary ? We want to see the "basics" but also the unusual.
Adela

Posted by
1097 posts

I highly recommend a tour with Havana Vintage Car tours. It is run by father Nelson and son Fabio. You email your request through their website. Nelson is very quick to answer emails. Fabio was the the best personal tour guide I have ever had. I had decided that I wanted the "Hemingway" 3 hour tour but after speaking with him for a few minutes told him to take us wherever he wanted us to see. He is well spoken and knowledgeable. He will teach you history, talk politics or take you to a nice spot for lunch or shopping. We ended up spending over 4 hours with him and it went by in a flash. In addition to the great tour of Havana, you are riding around in a 1955 Olds Spitfire convertible.

Day 1
4 hour tour with Fabio (don't waste time eating or shopping during this tour)
Lunch at the Chocolate Museum
Afternoon trip to the Cemetery or Hemingway's home
Evening dinner at a Paladar (San Cristobal is where Obama ate and I can recommend)
Nelson will help you make reservations for your dinner as most places have poor internet services.

Day 2
Half day strolling through Old Town
Do any shopping you would like to do this day.

Posted by
51 posts

I've never been to Vinales, which makes it hard to weigh in. But I did spend a week in Havana in 2015, and even in a week I didn't have enough time to do everything. From my understanding, Vinales is also a fantastic destination, so it is a difficult decision you are faced with. Here is a link to a blog post that Rick wrote that talks about Vinales: https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/articles/cuba-trinidad-vinales, which may be helpful.

Posted by
7996 posts

Our highlights in Havana besides the historical plazas were Fusterlsndia and Hemingway's home, Finca Vieja. The only thing I bought in Havana is a framed tile from Fusterlandia.
When you return to Cuba, make sure you visit the beautiful Colonial Trinidad, and Cienfuegos on south shore and the Ché Memorial and museum in Santa Clara.

Posted by
2 posts

I just watched rick steves video on Cuba. I am wondering if someone who has traveled there recently still agrees that safety is good. I'm concerned about bring so much cash to cover our 16 day visit next month.

Posted by
5265 posts

I was in Cuba a few weeks ago, Havana and various other cities. I never had the slightest concern about personal safety. It's true that I was with a tour group most of the time and never out late at night, but from all I've heard from others Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world. I think honesty and a sense of community are baked into the culture there, but also keep in mind that it's a police state whose main industry is tourism.

We were reminded that jobs in the tourist industry are paid in convertible pesos worth much more than the currency most Cubans use, and also have potential for tips, so such jobs are highly prized. A hotel maid won't steal from your room because she makes more already than a doctor or engineer, and won't jeopardize a job like that -- plus she's likely to be an honest upstanding person anyway. My first morning, I left a tip on the table next to my bed. It was still there that evening, apparently because I hadn't left it on the pillow like others do. She didn't assume it was a tip, she assumed it was just a coin I left on the table. (I mended my ways.)

For the OP, I didn't go to Vinales but I know there's more than enough to see and do for a day and a half in Havana -- the Old City, Malecon, Bellas Artes Museum, Cathedral, Museum of the Revolution, San Jose Market, Hotel Nacional, Necropolis, and much more. Music everywhere, good food, very friendly and proud people who have lived through an amazing history.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for the update on safety issues. Good to hear. The other thing we heard was to drink bottled water. Is water okay and how about ice ?

Posted by
5265 posts

Drink bottled water, brush your teeth with bottled water, keep your mouth closed in the shower. Don't get ice unless you're sure it was made with purified water (agua purificada). Don't eat fruit or raw vegetables you didn't peel yourself, don't eat street food unless it's well and freshly cooked.

Come to think of it, your ship is where you'll be showering and toothbrushing, so don't worry about that, just the drinking part.

Posted by
4535 posts

Definitely drink bottled water but ice and fruit was fine. Rinsing the toothbrush in the faucet is fine. I suspect that most ice in tourist places (and everyplace you will eat or drink will be tourist) is bagged. Maybe if you have a super sensitive stomach you need to be extra careful, but I had no issues and no one else from our group did either.

Posted by
5580 posts

Rp.nelson, since you used a website to rent, it would be very helpful if your profile revealed whether you are a US resident. Thank you.

Posted by
7996 posts

We were told that Cuba was so safe due to the horrific penalties for those committing any crimes.