There’s something so thrilling about discovering new things as newlyweds and what could be more exciting that visiting Cuba on your honeymoon!? Since the fifty-six year embargo was lifted this year, many Americans are eager to explore this uncharted territory. There are still a lot of restrictions since tourism is technically illegal in Cuba. However, there are several ways to visit legally and photographer Jen Huang explains how she obtained her travel visa and what you should see and do in her three day itinerary.
Photos & Words: Jen Huang.
Getting Into Cuba
There are generally twelve ways you can travel to Cuba. A few of the categories include: family visits, journalistic activity, professional meetings and educational activities. I filled out a travel affidavit, which is basically how you obtain the visa. I traveled as a photographer under a work-research visa.
Where to Stay:
Once you get to Cuba, there are many different options for accommodation. I stayed at a Casa Particular which is similar to Airbnb and something you can book from the states. However, I would recommend doing your research and staying at a hotel. Hotels will be one of the few places with wifi. Which will be expensive and very limited.
Hotel Saratoga is equipped with a rooftop pool, gym, spa, and several restaurants. Built in the thirties, it’s on the edge of Old Havana, a central location within walking distance of many major sights. Jay Z and Beyoncé stayed here on their trip to Cuba in 2013!
Hotel Nacional de Cuba Located on the Malecón, this historic Art Deco building has more than 450 rooms and has hosted icons like Frank Sinatra, Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill to name a few.
Hotel Parque Central If you’re looking for a modern hotel in Havana, this is the spot. The five-star hotel has incredible 360-degree city views from the rooftop pool and is perfect if you want to stay somewhere new in an old city.
Packing for your Trip:
Bring extra cash because you will not have access to your US bank cards. So consider this a three day technology detox!
Try not to check your bags on the way to Cuba, it can take hours to retrieve them at baggage claim. Try not to over pack, but bring what you need because there’s not much “shopping” in the traditional sense.
Best Modes of Transportation:
Walking: Havana is safe and walking is the best way to see what the city really looks like.
Antique Taxis: The five-decade-long embargo ban on foreign vehicle imports, made it nearly impossible for Cubans to buy brand new, foreign-made vehicles. As a result most of the cars in Cuba are vintage or classic, including the taxis.
THREE DAY CUBA ITINERARY
Day 1 – Arrive in Havana in the late afternoon, check into your hotel. Have dinner at Casa Miglis then take a walk via Avenida Neptuno which connects Old Havana to Central Havana. Make your way to the Plaza Vieja in Old Havana for live music and mojitos.
3 Restaurants where you Need Dinner Reservations:
Cafe Laurent: Penthouse, 257 Calle M, La Habana 10400, Cuba, Enter a 1950s-style apartment building for Parisian-style outdoor dining on the rooftop of this historic building.
La Guarida: Tucked on the third floor of a shabby-chic residential building is the perfect f0r a romantic dinner. It’s known for its panoramic balcony views of central Havana and for being the location where the movie, Strawberry and Chocolate was filmed.
Atelier: The food options at this resturant changes every day, so there is a handwritten menu at every table. President Obama recently ate here, and if it’s good enough for the POTUS, I’d say it’s worth a try!
3 Restaurants where you Don’t Need Dinner Reservations:
Dona Eutimia: If you’re craving classic Creole dishes check this place out. It’s off the beaten path and very authentic.
BellaHabana: The perfect mix of family style and fine dining and reasonably priced!
El Trofeo: Located in the same building as two other popular restaurants. El Trofeo is reasonably priced and offers large portions.
Day 3 – Find your way via water taxi to the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña (The Hut Fortress) across the bay, there you will find the most beautiful view of Old Havana. Have a snack of grilled cheese at the historic Hotel Ingleterra and enjoy the beautiful old cars driving around the square.
Visit a Tobacco Farm or Factory:
If you have time, take a vintage taxi to Vinales, which is two hours outside of Havana. The drive alone is worth it. The farmers grow the best tobacco in the world. Here are a few other places you can get your Cuban cigar fix.
Cuchillas de Barbacoa: Also known as the Robaina Farm and is one of the most famous and one of the few working tobacco plantations in Cuba. Although it’s about two hours away in San Luís, Pinar del Río if you’re a cigar enthusiast it might be worth the trip. Get all the details and directions here.
Take The Secrets of the Tobacco Tour to see all the stages and processes of making one of Cuba’s world famous cigars. This tour visits multiple locations including a cigar factory and tobacco farm.
La Corona Cigar Factory is a modern cigar factory producing some of the most popular cigar brands on the market. It’s also conveniently located on Havana.