Cuba

Upon his arrival in 1492, Columbus noted that Cuba was “the most beautiful land human eyes have seen”. Similarly smitten with this largest island in the Caribbean, Ernest Hemmingway penned “Old Man and the Sea” and “Islands in the Stream” after time spent sailing around the Cuban Keys.

Part of the archipelago of the Greater Antilles, Cuba continues to enchant visitors today. There’s a lot to take in, too. The iconic classic cars and weathered architecture of Havana transport visitors to Cuba’s “golden age” of the early 20th century. The country’s varied music – salsa, baroque, son cubano, and others – waft through the air at any given time. With everything from bustling nightlife and diverse restaurants to magnificent beaches and historic landmarks, it’s no wonder it sits under our “most visited” category.

It’s quite a diver’s paradise, too – with great visibility, more than 30 dive centers, over 500 varieties of marine life, and about 1,000 sunken ships to explore (some pirate, and some galleons). There are several exceptional spots to choose from, but certainly check out The Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud). Part of a marine reserve, it’s sheltered from South East winds, and boasts the most cave sites, as well as wrecks and dramatic drop-offs. In addition, the turquoise waters of El Ebano, which is accessible from the shore, reveal 24 diving sites and offers great snorkeling opportunities.

Diving isn’t the only draw for eco-tourists. Hiking (there are more than 100 nature trails here!), horseback riding, bird watching, and spelunking are all diversions worthy of your attention. Consider a trek to Sierra Maestra, Cuba’s largest mountain range. It showcases a wide diversity of birdlife, flora, and fauna. You might even spy creatures only found in Cuba, like butterflies with invisible wings. The highest point on the island, Pico Turquino, is also within this mountain range. While you’re there, don’t miss a visit to Fidel Castro’s rebel camp, Comandancia de la Plata, which is a popular tourist site.

Compared to other more flocked to Caribbean islands, Cuba is relatively affordable. Finding accommodations to suit your taste and travel budget isn’t difficult. In addition, there’s a substantial amount of incredible restaurants throughout Cuba – including some private restaurants, or supper clubs, in Havana. We recommend Restaurant El Gijones and La Bodeguita del Medio.

Cuba enjoys a subtropical climate, so you can appreciate the country any time of the year. However, a visit during Cuba’s dry season between November and April is recommended. You may be trading less chance of rain for higher priced accommodations, but it’s totally worth it.

If you like days filled with excellent diving and remarkable eco-tours, and evenings spent in bustling clubs and memorable restaurants, we recommend Cuba.