10 Things You Need to Know About Cuba
UPDATE: On June 4, 2019, the US State Department implemented additional travel restrictions on Cuba travel for US citizens. Group educational and cultural trips are banned alongside cruise ships, yachts, and private planes. Despite this news, please note that commercial airline flights remain unaffected, and Ker & Downey’s Support for the Cuban People programs are still permitted.
Ker & Downey has been partnering with travelers to create their own journeys to Cuba since August 2015. Recent policy changes on American travel to the country have stirred up questions about traveling to Cuba and the future of visiting a place that is so close but was once too far out of reach for many.
The good news: Cuba is not out of reach with Ker & Downey.
What Do the Policy Changes Mean?
In short, the style of travel offered by Ker & Downey and our in-country partners is not impacted, for the time being. The changes will impact self-planners, group tours, cruise ship passengers, yacht charters, and private plane travelers the most. Arranging a journey on your own that avoids the now-prohibited government-connected businesses is a challenge. Cuba is best explored in the hands of an expert tour operator, a private guide and driver, and your own in-country concierge for constant support. Our legal Support for the Cuban People trips will get U.S. citizens to Cuba with all of these boxes checked, ensuring that your trip is on the up and up, and giving you the peace of mind that comes with our meticulous planning. Read more about our legal trips to Cuba.
Getting to Cuba
The routes to get to Cuba are varied, with Delta, American Airlines, Southwest, and Jet Blue among the commercial carriers operating flights to the country. There are direct flights from Miami into several smaller cities too, including Cienfuegos: they only operate once a day so connections can be tricky, but starting here allows for more rural exploration before heading to the Havana city lights.
Topes de Collante
Via private 4×4 vehicle, make your way into the Escambray Mountains for a day of hiking. There are a variety of paths to the hidden waterfalls, each with a refreshing swim as your reward. Spot hummingbirds, Cuban Trogan and Cuban toddy among other birds as you explore. Also hidden in the hills: a private contemporary art museum featuring sculptures and other works from the 1980s.
House of Music in Trinidad
Music and dance define the essence of the island and its culture, and our favorite place to experience it is in Trinidad. Grab a table or a seat on the steps and watch as the locals mingle and move. The mojitos, cervezas, and laughter are plenty while a live local band performs, and the dancers are ever eager to teach the steps of salsa to visitors.
Follow a local guide on a hike into the most fertile tobacco-growing country in Cuba. Visit a tobacco farm to learn about the cigar making process from the start from its proud proprietor. Continue on to take in the views from Los Jazmines lookout: the mogotes, the red soil, and the lush vegetation paint a beautiful landscape before you.
La Fábrica de Arte Cubano
Conceived as a multi-purpose arts and entertainment venue, the FAC is a three-level mecca for creativity in Havana. Fashion shows and live music, film screenings and dance performances, artist signings and DJ battles… the space is big enough to host them all simultaneously, with well-stocked bars dispersed throughout. Arrive early to walk the art and photography exhibits, or stay all night to mingle with people from all over the city. But plan your trip ahead of time: its exhibits change quarterly and will close the space for as long as a month while it is refashioned.
Established in 1916 by sweets tycoon Milton S. Hershey, in its heyday, Hershey was a self-sustaining community with a successful sugar refinery as its centerpiece. Today the factory is gone and the industry has disappeared, but the community remains, warm and steadfast. In Hershey, you’ll meet a local family, share a meal in their home (and some fresh fruit from their backyard garden, if you are lucky) and get a glimpse into life in the town and in Cuba. It’s a direct observation of the challenges, resilience, and ingenuity that have become quintessentially Cuban.
Stay in Trinidad
Trinidad is an impressively-preserved colonial city and we recommend spending two days here instead of its larger neighbor, Cienfuegos. Connect with the charm of the town in Hostel Tuti, a quaint and quiet casa particulares close to the historic quarter.
Stay in Havana
In Havana, we recommend the elegant and intimate confines of Paseo 206. Positioned in Vedado and a comfortable distance from the Malecon, guests of this boutique hotel are surrounded by fine antique furnishings from France and modern finishes. Privately-operated casas particulares abound in Havana too, from modern apartments to converted colonial homes. Your Ker & Downey representative will help you select the best option.
Why Go Now
The private sector is thriving, and our way of experiencing Cuba is a direct pipeline to its amazing people. Many young Cuban entrepreneurs are realizing the benefits of tourism and ensuring that each experience retains its authenticity.
Quick Tips from Ker & Downey Designer Trista Gage:
- Skip the ultra-touristy all-inclusive crowds of Veradero and opt for a casa particulares in Playa Giron or Playa Grande instead. You’ll experience the peninsula’s beach bliss and calm waters in a quieter setting with access to excellent snorkeling.
- Build in a full day to walk the cobblestone streets of Old Havana. Its famous four plazas are all visual feasts of architecture and history, and there are countless cafes, galleries, and museums to explore. A whole day to visit at your leisure is your best bet.
- A sunset car ride along the Malecon and through Havana is an absolute must! I cruised in an antique Ford Fairlane and ended the ride with dinner and a private cigar and rum pairing.
Book your journey to Cuba with Ker & Downey by contacting your Luxury Travel Expert today.
For more information about any of Ker & Downey’s getaways, please contact a Ker & Downey designer.
This post was originally published by Ker & Downey, an award-winning USA-based tour operator. Visit them at kerdowney.com.