Seven Days In Havana, Cuba
Do you only have a week of vacation? Then why not spend seven days in Havana, Cuba? This post-revolutionary island thawing in time is like nothing I have ever seen before. The classic cars, traditional Carribean music, and cheap travel will all soon be a thing of the past. Go Before it is too late.
My buddy Burger and I spent seven days in Havana at the beginning of our month-long trip to Cuba. It was our first impression of a communist country, and we were not disappointed.
This post was created to give you some ideas on what to do for your upcoming trip to Cuba. While I don’t usually do city posts as the information changes too rapidly, Havana, Cuba is different. Being in the city was like an adventure. Dodging cars and death pits were an everyday occurrence.
Check out One Month In Cuba For Less Than $1500, to see how to navigate the two currencies, find accommodations and transportation, and how to avoid the most common scams.
So you’ve just arrived at your hotel after a small city tour in the taxi. What now?
Walking Around The City
Walking the streets of Havana is easy, FREE, and the best way in my opinion of putting yourself on a fast track to learning all about this new and unique culture you’ve just thrown yourself into.
The busy main drags and small quiet corridors are full of life. Intricate stone artwork covers the centuries-old colonial buildings while the wooden doors and shutters rot away in the hot salty climate. Looking around it seems as if there was once a period of wealth and extravagance that has since faded away.
The Streets are Alive
Havana has a vast network of streets laid out in a grid pattern much like in the States. So just pick yourself a street and start walking. If you consider yourself a savvy traveler then you probably already have a few offline map apps ready to get you around without the internet. If not, check out my favorite map apps. They are a lifesaver; I use them almost every day.
Watch out where you’re walking! There are many delightfully frightful things to step on or into when walking around Havana and really any city in Cuba. From trash and human feces to unmarked death pits full of sharp rebar.
It is virtually impossible to explore Cuba and forget about its troublesome past. If the thousands of 1950’s classic cars weren’t enough to remind you, the billboards and artwork definitely will.
Never Far From The Past
Even though the common feeling from the people I spoke with was resentment towards their supreme leader, they all seemed to adore the important and often controversial leaders of the revolution such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Paintings and signs of “Viva Fidel” and “Me Gusta Che” can be found on most buildings in Havana.
Policía Nacional Revolucionaria (The Revolution Police)
Cuba’s chief law enforcement organization is named the National Revolutionary Police. It is strange that they still heavily promote revolution even after the founding of their own communist government. Usually, the very mention of revolution after a revolution is frowned upon.
So you’ve walked around the city for hours now. The sun is setting, and you are still too excited to go back to your Casa. Why not go out on the town and enjoy the legendary Cuban nightlife?
Check Out The Night Life
Cost: It all depends on how crazy you want to get.
Eyes blinded by lights and ears overwhelmed with noise as men and women in all white getups juke and jive on the stage in a small crowded room. The music is traditional Caribbean with bongo drums, string instruments, and strong vocals.
It is everything that you would expect and more from Cuban nightlife.
Live Music In Havana
After a few days and nights of living it up in the exciting yet chaotic downtown streets of Havana, a nice quiet day is just what you need.
Crossing The Bay To Casa Blanca
Cost: $2 for a round-trip ticket
Just a five-minute ferry ride from the piers in New Havana lies Casa Blanca. A place with few buildings and even fewer people. The house of Che Guevara and the giant Christ Redeemer statue will mark your arrival.
The walk up from the ferry docks is amazing. If you go in the morning, you will have the sun at your back as you look over the entire downtown area from across the bay.
View Of Downtown From Casa Blanca
A short walk down the road past the military museum you will come upon Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro. An amazing seaside fortress that has more than likely sunk a few pirate ships in its day.
Tip: The museum in the castle costs a pretty penny, but you can go up to the lighthouse. You can also get just as much enjoyment out of walking the perimeter. Sheer castle walls meet crashing turquoise waves, and small tunnels connect run down turrets.
Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro
While standing on the edge overlooking the deep blue waters, it is kinda cool to just take a moment and think about the history of the place you’re in. Not so long ago it was probably lined with the instruments of war, prepared for a possible all-out assault from their neighbors to the north.
Russian officials along with top leaders of the revolution like Fidel and Che probably stood in the exact same spot planning their next moves very carefully.
Taking A Moment
So you’ve walked the streets downtown, went out for a couple of nights on the town, and traveled across the bay to Casa Blanca. You’ve now seen everything right? Wrong.
You haven’t experienced Havana until you have ridden in a classic car downtown or on the open road outside the city.
Hire A Classic Car
Cost: $40 per hour
Hiring a classic car is one of the quintessential activities for a trip to Cuba. Riding around downtown with the top down and the music turned up is amazing.
I highly recommend taking a ride out to the house of Ernest Hemingway. It will cost you $80 for the two hours, and your driver should stick around to take you back to town.
Hiring A Classic Car Around Havana
I’ve ridden in plenty of classic cars in my life; it is part of growing up in the States. It was always a blast from the past sitting on a bench seat with everyone on the street staring in envy.
However, riding in a classic car and passing loads of other classic cars on the street is incomparable. When every car you see is from the 50’s, it is an indescribable feeling.
Sit Back and Soak It All In
Traveling in Cuba is akin to running on the beach during a hurricane. There are so many new and exciting things flying past you at any moment, and it is exhausting.
It is nice to take a break from the loud cars billowing smoke and the constant bombardment of people trying to sell you things. Take time to sit along the Malecon and do some people watching, or just turn one hundred and eighty degrees in either direction and do some ocean watching.
Sunset On The Malecon
For me, a couple of evenings sitting on the Malecon at the end of my week in Havana were just what the doctor ordered. I really needed it to refuel me for the rest of my month long trip to Cuba. Seriously. I was coming down with the early stages of the dreaded Zika virus.
A Few Extra Days In Havana
Due to my new and frightening condition, I was bedridden for a few days. Thus the seven days in Havana. I would recommend if you do stay for seven days, make a trip out to one of the beautiful beaches surrounding Havana like Playa Este or Jibacoa. You could even venture out as far as Matanzas, another beautiful city by the sea.
So I beg of you. Instead of traveling to some beach for your spring or summer break, that you have been to many times before. Travel somewhere new and exciting. Go exploring the world. Take a glimpse into the past before it fades away.
Have you been to Havana?
If so, what was your favorite part?