This large Caribbean nation is beautiful, friendly, welcoming, and exciting. The food and culture of Cuba are unique and very special, and anyone who has visited before will tell you that everything about your visit will be absolutely unforgettable.
If you're interested in planning a trip to Cuba, read on. If you want more ideas for where to travel to this winter, check out our travel blogs for more inspiration. In this informative post, we'll tell you everything that you need to know to have the journey of a lifetime.
Between the northern Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean
Although most people think of Cuba as one single island, it's actually an archipelago of about 1,600 islands. The largest island of the group, named Cuba, is the largest island in the Caribbean and the seventeenth-largest island in the world. It's much longer from east to west than it is wide from north to south; it's 780 miles long, but only 119 miles wide at its widest point.
Scientists have not been able to study much about the geology of this nation because of political reasons, but it is interesting from a geological standpoint for several reasons. First, it's a remnant of the geological breakup of North and South America during the Jurassic period. Second, like some other Caribbean islands, it includes sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rock structures which can tell us a lot about world geologic history.
The islands of Cuba were inhabited before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. After he and his men arrived, they conquered the Amerindian people living in this region quickly and claimed the land for Spain. Other than during one single, year-long period, the people of Cuba were under Spanish rule until they gained their independence in 1902.
In the first years of Cuba's independence, there was great economic development. However, sadly, political corruption and dictators soon began to take this new nation in a challenging direction.
Many Cubans were unhappy with the leadership of dictator Fulgencio Batista and their attempts to overthrow him led to the Cuban Revolution from 1953 to 1959. A young revolutionary, Fidel Castro, led the charge. Once Batista was removed from office and fled into exile, Castro became the new leader of Cuba and he remained in that role for decades.
Communism in Cuba
Castro was enamored with the idea of communism and his government embraced it. Cuba aligned politically with the Soviet Union and this friendship was a little too close for comfort, literally, for the United States. The United States tried to end communism in Cuba on several occasions without any luck and enforced an embargo on Cuba for many years.
In the meantime, Castro continued to declare his nation's adherence to communist ideals and their cooperation with other communist nations. Soviet subsidies helped keep Cuba afloat as non-communist nations would not trade with this island nation that had limited resources. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the people of Cuba were left with little and faced an economic crisis.
Although the people of Cuba have struggled economically since the changes in 1991, things are improving at a rapid pace today. Fidel Castro stepped down from his leadership position in 2006 and his brother, Raul Castro, took over. In 2012, the United States' embargo was relaxed, and in 2014, diplomatic relations resumed. Living standards in Cuba have increased, and tourists have begun to return.
Today, Cuba is a wonderful place to visit. It's a country that is growing by leaps and bounds every year, all while embracing and remembering and embracing its own interesting and tumultuous past. The people of Cuba are friendly and welcoming, the food and culture are special and unique, and the beauty of this country will take your breath away. Cuba welcomes you!
Getting to Cuba
If you want to visit Cuba, the first thing to figure out is how to get there. Fortunately, Canadians can visit Cuba for tourism purposes. You won't even need a visa. In general, vaccines are not required to travel to Cuba from Canada, but you'll need to have received the COVID-19 vaccine to re-enter Canada upon your return.
Cuba is located just ninety miles south of Florida, but because it's an island nation, you'll need to travel there by airplane or by boat. Most visitors fly into Havana, the nation's capital, but there are ten international airports scattered around the island.
There are many different transportation options available to you when it comes to traveling around Cuba. You'll find that the roads and routes are slow, but are rather easy to navigate with a good map. Public transportation is sometimes reliable and affordable, but you also must be prepared for cancellations and delays.
Because of the vast size of this island, many people opt to travel around it by plane. There are three state-run, domestic airlines in Cuba, and no matter where you wish to go, you will likely pass through Havana. Prices are about the same regardless of the airline you choose, but some offer better times and routes than others.
Few Cubans own cars, so buses are commonplace and are used by the vast majority of people on a daily basis.
There are two state-run, national, interprovincial bus companies. Because of the vast number of buses and routes, plus the fact that the bus system is quite affordable, the bus is the best way to travel around the nation. The buses are reliable, comfortable, and air-conditioned.
Local bus services are also available for getting around cities and towns. However, many of these buses do not run on a regular schedule so keep that in mind when trying to catch one. You'll also need exact change to ride.
There are many options for taxi travel in Cuba. There are both state-run and privately owned and operated taxis and both charge about the same and are reliable, but you won't find meters; make sure you determine a fair fare before getting inside. There are also group taxis - colectivos - and long-distance taxis available if you'd prefer a private ride over the bus.
Rent a Car
You won't be able to rent a car in Cuba from an international company but you'll find that there are two state-run rental car firms - Cubacar and Havanautos - that will be happy to rent to you. Many tourists rent cars in Cuba and do just fine. However, be aware that the roads are uneven and have many potholes, and it's dangerous to drive outside of city areas at night.
Cubans aren't big on riding bicycles but today there are many cycling tours offered around the country. You also might consider renting a bike from a rental agency to help you get around town.
Things to Do in Cuba
There are so many wonderful towns and villages throughout Cuba, and so many beautiful beaches to see, too. There is much to see and do in Cuba, and it will be impossible to fit into one trip. Do as much as you can the first time, but know that you can always come back again to do the rest!
Havana is the capital of Cuba and most visitors spend at least some time there. The old Spanish colonial architecture and colorful buildings here are a major draw and delight photographers from all over the world. It would be easy to spend your entire time in Havana exploring Old Havana including the Castillo de la Real Fuerza - a fort and maritime museum, the baroque Catedral de San Cristobal, and the Plaza Vieja, but there's more as well. if you like art, you'll love Fusterlandia, a creative residential property like no other, Fabrica de Arte Cubano, and Ernest Hemingway's Cuban home - Museo Hemingway Finca Vigia.
To the east of Havana, you can visit Varadero, a beach town that covers all of a long, thin peninsula in the north-central part of the country. This Caribbean paradise features relaxing, white-sand beaches and incredible resorts. Many old mansions have been converted into museums, and nature lovers love Reserva Ecologica Varahicacos which is at the very tip of the peninsula.
Bay of Pigs
The Bay of Pigs area is most well-known for being the site of the 1961 invasion by the United States, but it's much more than that. Today, snorkelers and divers come from all over the world to look below the crystal blue waters to observe fish and other undersea life.
Santiago De Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is located on the southern coast at the eastern end of the island near Haiti. This city was founded by the Spanish in 1515 and today it is known for its colonial architecture and Jardin de Los Helechos, an impressive botanical garden. If you love music, you'll love the vibrant music community you'll find here as well.
Cienfuegos is a city located on the shores of a protected bay on the south coast of Cuba. This area is lovely for history buffs; it has many colonial buildings like many other cities in Cuba, but here you can also visit Castillo de Jagua, an 18th-century fortress, the Provincial Museum, and The Arco de Triunfo, which commemorates Cuban independence.
If you're visiting Havana, at some point you'll find yourself on the Malecon, which is a wide road and seawall that runs along the coast for five miles in the city. It was built to protect the city from the ocean and has been heavily used for walking, driving, fishing, and commerce by residents ever since. There are a number of important monuments along the Malecon, and although most of the formerly beautiful residences along it are in ruins, businesses are beginning to pop up there in recent years.
Cuba Resorts - Best Ones to Stay At
There are so many incredible resorts in Cuba, you may find it challenging to choose among them. Remember, you can always come back in the future and try a different one next time!
Memories Caribe Beach Resort
The Memories Caribe Beach Resort is located on Cayo Coco off the northern coast of Cuba's main island. This area is home to some of the world's best beaches and this resort is a perfect place to enjoy them. Memories Caribe is an all-inclusive resort that is open to people ages sixteen and over; it offers several bars and restaurants, a spa, pools, and watersports.
Memories Flamenco Beach Resort
Memories Flamenco Beach Resort is also on Cayo Coco and is also run by Memories Resorts. It caters to families and couples and is also all-inclusive. It's a bit larger than Memories Caribe, but it still has a comfortable, welcoming, small-resort feel. You'll love the outdoor pool, the restaurants, and bars, and there are even activities for the kids.
Iberostar Cuba is on the north shore of the small island of Cayo Guillermo. This all-inclusive resort is very modern and offers multiple pools and a water park. You'll also love the beach here and the many restaurants and bars that are available to the resort's guests.
Best Times to Visit Cuba
Although there's no bad time to visit Cuba, there are some times of year that are better than others. The summer can be very hot, and it can also be rainy. Most visitors choose to come between October and April when it's a bit dryer and cooler. The beginning and end of this period are less busy than the high tourist months of January and February each year.
Weather in Cuba
Like most tropical locales, Cuba has a hot and wet season and a season that is cooler and drier. The hot and wet season matches up pretty closely with summer in Canada, and the cooler and drier season seems to coordinate with Canadian winters, making winter a perfect time to check Cuba out.
Plan Your Trip to Cuba Today!
As you can see, Cuba is a great place to visit and there is much there to see and do. In fact, you'll find activities and enjoyment for travelers of every type, and everyone will come home from Cuba excited to return again in the future.
If you're thinking about visiting Cuba, what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today. Any time that you travel outside of Canada, you should cover yourself with travel insurance, and that's where we come in. To learn more about our travel insurance offerings, click here, and please contact us with any questions. We can't wait to hear about your plans!