8 things not to miss in Cuba

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Cuba jumped to a high spot on my travel list when it opened back up to the US. If you caught on Instagram, I just checked it off with one amazing week in Havana. Even after a bit of planning and researching, I was a little unsure of what to expect. The culture and way of life are so different than what I know and it was truly unlike any place I’ve ever been, which ultimately made for a fascinating trip. We did so much walking to explore the city, stopping at any place that caught the eye. There are plenty of wonderful places to visit in Havana but these are the 8 I think should not be missed. If you have any questions about traveling to Cuba — visas, tours, accommodations — I’m happy to answer in the comments!

1. Walk along the Malecón at night

During the day, this is a great spot to get a photo of those classic cars cruising along the water with a backdrop of beautiful buildings. But the area really comes alive at night. Catch the sunset here or go back after dark to see it crowded with locals hanging out, blasting music while enjoying rum and cigars.

2. Get a coffee at Café El Escorial

Take an afternoon break at a table outside at this cafe in Plaza Vieja. The coffee menu is extensive and exceptional!

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3. Have sugarcane juice, coconut water or a mango from a street cart

You’ll find these throughout central Havana or on the beaches. The mangos were my favorite! Don’t hesitate to barter (it helps if you can speak a little Spanish), we usually paid $1CUC for each.

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4. Go to Santa Maria del Mar

It goes without saying that there are so many beautiful beaches in Cuba. If you’re staying in central Havana, I recommend taking a taxi to Santa Maria del Mar. It’s pretty close, extremely picturesque and wasn’t crowded with tourists.

5. Walk down Paseo de Marti

Stroll down this street from the Capitol building to the Malecón. The walkway in the center is lined with benches and is another great spot to experience the city. Grab a drink, your camera, a book, anything and have a seat for some people watching.

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6. Have a drink on the roof at Hotel Saratoga

The view is unrivaled from the rooftop bar of this beautiful hotel – in all honesty, a place I insisted on checking out because Beyoncé stayed there. Settle down with a cocktail and catch the sunset here. There’s a second charming bar on the second floor with a piano player every night.

7. Have dinner at La Guarida

This storied building is a sight you must see. Go a few days early to secure a reservation. If you can’t get one, have a drink at the bar on the roof – the La Mansión there was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had.

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8. Pick out a classic car in front of the Gran Teatro and take a tour

What a view – the charming, colorful old American cars that one pictures when thinking of Havana line up in picturesque rows on the Paseo de Marti in front of the Great Theater and Hotel Inglaterra. Head over and pick your favorite for a tour of the city, with plenty of stops for pictures of course. We paid $30CUC for an hour in this darling pink car.

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