“Paradiso”: Top 5 Things to Do in Cuba | Guest Post

Travel Series: On Cuba

Editor’s note: 

It’s been almost a week since I flew across the Atlantic. I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but I don’t know when I will travel internationally again. The whole process was bleak and anxiety-inducing, and it makes sense that many of us are canceling or postponing travel plans at the moment.

Although it’s currently difficult to travel, I continue to make lists and daydream. After all, you can’t stop a traveller from making plans.

July’s travel series post will take us to Cuba because, well, I’m a bit biased.

Cuba has been on my list for a long time. Now that I’m back in Europe, the Caribbean Island has made it to the top of my bucket list. As I, like all of us, wait for the outbreak to die down, I plan for my future trip by reading about the island, and of course, Cuban literature. To this end, our official travel aficionado Aylin (read her post on Cape Town here) has worked her magic again to present us with a list of unmissable things to do in Cuba.

Before we get to Aylin’s post, here are some sources that I’m using to do research on Cuban literature:

Cuban Literature in the Age of Black Insurrection: Manzano, Plácido, and Afro-Latino Religion by Matthew Pettway

“Contemporary Cuban Lit: A Reading List” by Literary Hub

Reading Cuba” by Serafina Vick

Reading Cuba: An Overview of Cuban Literature” by Dick Cluster

Hemingway in Cuba by Hillary Hemingway and Carlene Brennen

Ernesto: The Untold Story of Hemingway in Revolutionary Cuba by Andrew Feldman

Goodreads’s List of Cuban Literature Books

Without further ado, here are top five things to do in Cuba!

Top 5 Things to Do When in Cuba

by Aylin K.

Aylin, the author of this post, is a life-long traveller. She has travelled around the globe, moved more than fifteen-times, and lived in eight different cities in the last seven years. She holds a BA in Political Science and International Relations from Bogazici University in Istanbul, a master’s degree in Migration Studies from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona and another master’s degree in European Studies from Aarhus University. Currently, she works as a migration expert in Turkey.

1. Visit Varadero to sink into the marvelous turquoise waters and white sand beaches. Find a big coconut tree to chill under; it is going to be baking-hot.

Welcome to the land of the turquoise waters!

Varadero is literally surrounded by magnificent beaches stretching miles and miles long. We took the Viazul bus from Havana to Varadero, which we booked prior to our trip.

There are many luxurious hotels in the area; however, we chose to stay at one of the casa particulares booked through Airbnb and were very happy to see the colorful houses and local way of life.

Varadero is definitely not like the rest of Cuba; there is not much to do in the city if you are interested in points of cultural interest. As soon as you arrive in Varadero, you will realize that the place is designed for tourists and tourists only who would want to have a Caribbean sea & beach experience.

If you’d like to lie down on mesmerizing Caribbean beaches and take a sip of your icy guayaba or mango juice, then this place is for you! I have to warn you though. if you are used to icy cold waters like myself – I spent a lot of my summers in the shores of Northern Aegean Sea in Turkey – you will have a jaw-dropping moment when your feet touch the sea for the first time because it is burning hot! Then you may end up in a vicious cycle: you feel hot so you go for a swim, but the water isn’t refreshingly cool so you have to get out of the water. The only way to break this cycle?

Salsa y Suarez Restaurant


In Varadero, definitely eat at Salsa y Suarez! The food at Salsa y Suarez is not really Cuban; it is more Spanish/Mediterranean yet it was the most delicious dinner we had in Cuba. The atmosphere is simple and chic. You can find many different types of tapas, Greek salad, fish soup, seafood and steak. We went back there for lunch the next day as well.

2. Do the tour with the old American cars!

I booked the Havana tour before my trip since my brother asked for a very specific car – Chevrolet BelAir 1955 – Red & White.

Amazing car, indeed.

It is also quite nice to be able to choose from a long list of cars. It is such a joy to do the sightseeing in these amazing cars! We had a lovely guide who told us about the history of all the places we visited; he also shared nice stories about Cuba. During the tour, we had a chance to see many of the historical sites, including Revolution Square. The tour ended at the statue of Christ – El Cristo de La Habana – which had an amazing view of Havana. The best part of these guided tours is that you get to see many important sites that are far from one another as the city is quite large, and all the while enjoying the ride in between sites. I suggest the 3-hour ride.

Great View of Havana from El Cristo de La Habana
Our famous Chevrolet BelAir 1955 – Red & White.

3. Try the Coco Taxis.

This is the most entertaining way of moving around the cities! t didn’t matter whether we were in Havana or Varadero, we always preferred Coco taxies.

It is so much fun to pass through the infamous Malecon on these taxis. Yet be aware; Havana can be extremely tiring. The crowd, gas from the cars’ exhaust pipe and being on these open motorbike taxis can make Havana feel chaotic. We enjoyed the calm in Varadero.

If you decide to take Coco taxies, remember that you can always negotiate the price!

In front of Hotel Nacional at Havana

4. Enjoy walking in the cobbled-stoned streets and among colourful houses of Trinidad and take a beach day off there too!

We took the Viazul busses from Varadero to Trinidad, which is quite a long drive.

You travel through magnificent views, which takes you to an adorable small town. Enjoy taking a walk around the quaint streets and have a drink or two in terrace bars with lovely views.

Our host at the casa particular, where we were staying, arranged us a taxi so we spent a day on the beach, drinking fresh coconut water. The taxi driver dropped us off at the Ancon beach in the morning and returned to pick us up around 5 pm.

Streets of Trinidad
Ancon Beach close to Trinidad

5. Do not shy away from cocktail and freshly squeezed guayaba or mango juice offers!

Traveling between cities on a bus and stop in the middle of nowhere for a break? Have a glass of piña colada.

Enjoying a famous landscape in the Viñales valley and taking pictures? Have a glass of piña colada.

Leaving your Airbnb to buy some water, run into a street bar, ask for a bottle of water but they only have rom and beer? Then have some piña colada.

Just say yes to any opportunity to have some delicious cocktails and juices everywhere you turn to!

6. Bonus for Turkish speakers: Find Fidel and hire him as your guide for a day or two.

If some Cuban guy approaches you and starts speaking Turkish fluently in a random restaurant that you’ve just walked in, don’t be surprised. His name is Fidel Abel Tapanes, and he told us that he’d lived in Ankara, Turkey when he was younger.

Fidel works as a guide in Havana so we asked him to show us around for a day. I got quite sick that week and couldn’t join, but my brother was very happy when he returned from sightseeing with him. Fidel showed him all the insider and affordable places, and they went out to eat pizza for lunch. Later, I learned that he also owns a casa particular so you can stay there too! He has a facebook page and a webpage.

Good luck, and have fun!

Have you visited Cuba? Share your experiences and recommendations with us in the comments! What about Cuban Literature? Any favorites and/or suggestions?

3 thoughts on ““Paradiso”: Top 5 Things to Do in Cuba | Guest Post

  1. Wonderful post – to visit Cuba is one of my absolute dreams, thanks a lot for these recommendations. I will be on a lookout for old Soviet cars too there – not only American.

    Liked by 1 person

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