In February 2016, Cuba and the United States signed a monumental agreement that allows up to 20 commercial flights from the U.S. to land in one of Caribbean country’s 10 airports each day. This event sparked travel fever among those who wish to see the marvelous colonial-style architecture, lush mountains, classic cars and abundant tropical pleasures for themselves. While there is a limit on commercial flights, there aren’t any for air charter services, making it convenient for travelers flying to Cuba on a private jet. So, pack your bags, bring an appetite and get ready to enjoy one of Latin America’s once-elusive treasures.
A Note about Tourism in Cuba
Despite being able to travel to Cuba on a commercial flight and the country having an official tourism website, tourism for the sake of recreation is still illegal. When you apply for a visa, your purpose for traveling to the island must fall under one of the 12 categories outlined by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
- Visiting family
- Official business on behalf of a government agency
- Journalistic activities
- Professional meetings
- Professional research
- Religious activities
- Educational activities
- Attending public competitions, performances, clinics, workshops and exhibits
- Supporting Cuban residents
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities for educational institutions, private foundations or research
- Authorized exports and imports
Travelers to Cuba no long have to worry about the per diem limits previously imposed on visitors. You may import up to $100 worth of tobacco or alcohol products, as well as up to $400 worth of goods purchased for personal use into the U.S. However, you may not use U.S. debit and credit cards within the country. In Cuba, cash is king.
IBEROSTAR Ensenachos | Villa Clara, Cayo Ensenachos
A 10-kilometer drive from the Cayo (Key) Las Brujas Airport, you’ll find IBEROSTAR Ensenachos on a small island surrounded by white sands and turquoise waters. The luxury, all-inclusive resort offers an amenity that too few accommodations offer—air conditioning in the lobby and bar. Your stay includes a staff member to attend to all your needs.
Royalton Hicacos Varadero Resort & Spa | Varadero, Matanzas
A luxury, all-inclusive adults-only resort on the Varadero peninsula, the Royalton Hicacos Varadero Resort & Spa is appointed with a multitude of natural elements that will make you feel as if you’re paradise. Flower-edged paths lead you to elegant two-level accommodations with private verandas that overlook the water. Fill your belly at the mini-village of cafes. Relax in the cool cigar emporium. End your evening at one of the two nightclubs. After your first stay, you’ll see why many guests are repeat visitors.
Paradisus Río de Oro Resort & Spa | Guardalavaca, Holguín
Another adult-only, all-inclusive resort, Paradisus Río de Oro Resort & Spa overlooks a stunning coral reef on Playa Esmeralda. The eco-resort boasts a botanical garden with an orchidarium, as well as some of the best spa services in the country. Sign up to receive Royal Services, which include exclusive amenities, such as reservation guarantees at the spa and restaurant, lounge receptions, dinner service in your room, tea and snack service, and more.
Palacio del Valle | Cienfuegos
One of the most elegant restaurants in the country, Palacio del Valle is an architectural gem. The gracious mansion features crystal chandeliers, marble columns, Moorish-style arches and other fine details. While the food is delicious, you won’t take your eyes off the surrounding ambiance. If you like seafood, you’ll love the lobster.
Santiago 1900 | Santiago de Cuba
Located in the Bacardi family’s former mansion, Santiago 1900 is a local standard. This is where you go to enjoy traditional Cuban dishes and an eloquent ambiance. You’ll love the antique furniture. Try the ropa vieja (shredded beef) with Moros y Cristianos (black beans and rice) and a side of yuca and tostones (friend green plantains).
El Mesón de Quijote | Varadero, Matanzas
One of the most romantic restaurants in the area, you’ll find El Mesón de Quijote on a grassy knoll, next to a stone tower that once served as part of an aqueduct system for the DuPont estate. The restaurant offers Spanish, Cuban and international dishes, perfect for those tired of resort buffets. Try the paella or fabada mainera (seafood bean stew).
Dancing in Cuba, as in other Latin American countries, is an essential part of life. Hit the nightclubs to mambo, or take in some traditional Cuban tunes at a local musical house, like Casa de la Trova in Santiago de Cuba. If you prefer to watch others dance, purchase tickets to the elite Ballet Nacional de Cuba.
Baseball is big in Cuba. The country’s National League has 17 teams in four divisions, and there’s always a ball game going on somewhere. Instead of body makeup, fans bring musical instruments to encourage their favorite players. The country’s main stadium is the Estadio Latinoamericano, two miles west of Havana’s Central Park.
When Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, his second stop was Cuba’s northeastern coast, where he met the Taíno tribe. Thanks to his accidental find, the world was introduced to words like barbakoa (barbeque), cacique, caiman, kanowa (canoe), hamaka (hammock), iwana (iguana), papaya, tobako (tobacco) and more. Learn about Cuba’s rich history at the Museo Masónico, a place that most tourists overlook. When you arrive to the museum, the guard will send you to the 11th floor, where you’ll receive a personal guide. Be sure to ask to take pictures from the rooftop.