This year I decided to travel to Havana Cuba with the gang for my birthday. Although I'm in dire need of an adult only vacation I thought it was important to take Semaj and Symphony to experience Cuba with me. The opportunity to travel to Cuba is still fairly new due decades of travel restrictions between the USA and Cuba and the restrictions will soon be enforced once again, so I ceased the opportunity to travel to Havana Cuba my birthday weekend. There were so many things I wanted to do and see but I had to keep in mind that we were only going to be there for a weekend, which meant we spent our time Havana. So here we are in the land of the classic cars, I mean that's the reason why we all go to Cuba right, to ride in the 1950's American made vehicles (just kidding).
The best way I can describe Havana Cuba is beautifully ruined. The abandoned, buildings and homes, the beautiful colors and the architecture is still intriguing despite the fact that many of these buildings and homes are nearly destroyed. This picture is was one of the views from the Casa Particular we booked through Airbnb located on the Malecon. The Malecon is a must see. It's where the locals come in the evening to socialize and unwind. The Malecon is directly next to Atlantic Ocean and while you're taking a stroll, or just hanging out along the seawall watching all the young lovers, the fishermen and the waves crashing, your scenery gets better, you get to see a beautiful sunset.
As I mentioned already if I had my way we would've stayed in Cuba for at least a week and I would've been able to travel to Vinales (where the tobacco farms are), Varadero (for the beach lover in me) and Trinidad (a small colonial town). However we made the most out of our time in charming Havana.
What's a trip to Havana Cuba without riding in a classic american car. And yes it had to be pink. This was our first evening in Havana. We hopped in the first pink drop top taxi we saw and took a quick cruise to Plaza de la Revolucion.
As you may have heard food in Havana is not the best and options are really limited if you're vegan. Our first night we ate at Castropol it was within walking distance from our Casa Particular. Everyone enjoyed their dinner, the kids had pizza and I played it safe with with rice, beans and a salad.
Despite the rainy weather (we were in the middle of a tropical storm) we booked a tour with I love Cuba, our instructor Tony was a great tour guide. We spent most of our day seeing La Habana Vieja (Old Havana). The kids were serenaded while dad was buying Rum and Cigars, the serenade cost us 3 CUC. We visited Hotel Ambos Mundos where Ernest Hemingway lived, the Catedral de San Cristobal and we managed to make our way back to the Plaza de la Revolucion.
At last it was dinner time and we were fortunate enough to have reservations at La Guarida the most popular restaurant in Havana. This restaurant is housed in a 1913 dilapidated mansion, clearly under construction, located deep in the hood of Havana on a shady little street and yet it was still impressive. The service and the food was really good. It was the best meal I had the entire trip and remember I'm vegan so my options were limited here. Although Semaj enjoyed his meal and Symphony liked her yucca fries, they both were over it.
We hit the streets of Havana one last time before our journey home. We visited the Hotel Nacional a historical luxury hotel located on the Malecon, beautiful hotel; visited Fusterlandia a community right outside of Havana. An artist by the name of Jose Fuster transformed this neighborhood into an amazing work of art, reminiscent of Guadi in Barcelona. The kids and I were able to buy some cool souvenirs and artwork from local Cuban artist.
All in all I enjoyed getting away and experiencing Cuba. Needless to say I'll be visiting again, if possible.
How did Semaj and Symphony like Cuba?
Semaj was freaking out over the limited/no internet service but he was a trooper through it all. The two of us even managed to get some alone time while Symphony took a nap so he was really in good spirits. And he managed to take some great pictures that he was excited about since he was my designated photographer.
Symphony on the other hand was cranky the entire trip and would not let Daddy put her down and that was alright with me ; ) She and I both were looking forward to going to the beach and when she knew that was not going to happen (due to the tropical storm) she was over it.
Tips for Cuba
There's no need to take credit cards. You can not use them or debit cards anywhere in Cuba
Exchange American money to CUC before you get to Cuba or you'll lose a lot of money exchanging in Cuba (maybe not a lot but enough). We exchanged to Canadian currency then from Canadian to CUC (Cuban currency).
If you're doing a walking tour with little ones I recommend an inexpensive umbrella stroller because you'll still be in and out taxis the entire time and anything else is too bulky and unnecessary . I would also bring a carrier for the little ones 3 years old and under, my favorite is Tula carriers.
Of course you want to ride in a vintage car but you don't need to ride in one your entire stay because it get costly. Regular taxis are much cheaper. Don't let the taxi drivers charge you up either, always negotiate.
Plan exactly what you want to do and what tours you're going on in advance, especially if you're visiting Vinales
If you want to eat a La Guarida (which I highly recommend) book your reservation at least two weeks in advance.
Do not worry about communicating with anyone that's not with you. Take advantage of limited internet and phone service.
And yes you're allowed to bring cigars and rum home : )