Places to stay
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Cuba is an exceptionally diverse island and offers a wealth of nostalgia, vibrant culture, abundant wildlife, sweeping white beaches and an intoxicating music scene that permeates the very soul.
2019 marks 60 years since Fidel swept into Havana to claim the island. The revolution has left an indelible impression on every walk of life in Cuba and it’s utterly fascinating to try and unpackage and understand this unique country that has existed in relative isolation for over half a century. Don’t listen to the curmudgeons who insist that Cuba should have been visited ten years ago. Revolution is being replaced by an evolutionary wave of private enterprise, self-expression and creativity. This is exactly what makes Cuba such an exciting place to visit right now.
Cuba remains in a socialist time warp. It is still a country locked in the last vestiges of socialism but now offers a greater level of accommodation, tours, and restaurants than ever before. It still remains a unique travel destination and we can help you avoid the crowds and the tired tourist trails. As Cuba’s restrictions on it’s citizens and private enterprise relax, we are seeing an explosion of creativity that is expressing itself in some remarkable modern art. Witness this revolution through private audiences with a new wave of artists.
Visit their studios and galleries and the outstanding Fabrica de Arte Cubano in Havana. Steppes Travel can introduce you to knowledgeable and welcoming guides who are keen to share their experience of life in Cuba in increasingly imaginative ways as well as find the empty beaches, take you behind the scenes at exhibitions and unearth little-known clubs where you can dance the night away.
Cuba remains a complex destination with socialist revolutionary ideas, a struggling economy and a very different concept of service. And demand now entirely outstrips supply. Despite it not always being an easy place to visit, it is still well worth exploring. The Cuban people are warm, cultured and welcoming. The country is a true melting pot where colonial Spanish buildings stand side by side with the monolithic edifices of the communist revolution. The Caribbean beaches are in contrast to the mountainous rain-forested interior. The state-run restaurants are indifferent but we will advise you where to find the private family run paladares often found in the ballroom or drawing room of a grand old family house.
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Visit Cuba’s oldest existing building, constructed in 1515.
Visit these gardens that contain one of the largest collection of orchids in the world.
Dive, snorkel and relax at Maria la Gorda or Cayo Levisa.
Horse ride past waterfalls, old coffee plantations and across rolling hills in Las Terrazas.
Take a moment to enjoy sunrise and sunset over the stunning limestone valley complex of Vinales.
Explore the site of Castro’s ill-fated first attempt to overthrow Batista in 1953.
Soak up some great traditional music and excellent mojitos at the Casa de la Trova.
Pay your respects to poet and revolutionary hero Jose Marti, at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery.
Marvel at El Morro Castle, built to defend the city from pirates but ransacked by Henry Morgan.
Stay in a beautifully restored colonial mansion in the heart of this UNESCO city.
Our experts have created and curated these holiday ideas to get you started. Take the time to search through them and find something to spark ideas for a unique adventure.
A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.
James first travelled to Cuba in 2007 and was amazed by the wonderful people and smiling faces.
Since 1999, John has returned multiple times to explore this fascinating Caribbean island that charms and challenges in equal measure. Attracting visitors with a heady mix of music, cigars and revolution, there is a dynamic new generation of artists, entrepreneurs and thinkers waiting to be discovered beneath the surface.
Prices are similar to Europe or the USA. Cuba is not a ‘developing country’ in terms of prices.
Yes, there is basic street food, such as pork rolls, rice and beans, however, we wouldn’t recommend it. There are some incredible paladares for local culinary experiences.
Cuba has a dual currency system: the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) – which is roughly equivalent in value to the US dollar – and the national peso (CUP). Transactions involving foreigners almost always take place in CUC as it is worth substantially more than the CUP. Visitors should, however, familiarise themselves with both currencies as it is a common scam for merchants to give change in CUP instead of CUC.
Yes – however there are restrictions in place for US citizens visiting the country. Check with your embassy for full details.
The average cost of a Cuba Libre or Mojito cocktail is 2-3 CUCs (around £2), and it is very cheap to buy a decent bottle of rum (older Havana Club or Santiago rum is around £4 a bottle).
Salsa is hugely popular in Cuba and there is a Cuban variation of the dance – the Casino Rueda. Dance classes are available in Havana, and there are plenty of options to watch locals dancing too.
Accommodation in Cuba ranges from beautiful and atmospheric old Spanish colonial buildings to ‘Casa Particulares’ (Cuban home stays). Some of these are very simple arrangements where you are sharing a house with a family, but also include top-end, fully-serviced penthouse apartments.
IMPORTANT: Cuba is currently extremely busy. As we approach a time when the USA will finally end its long-standing embargo on its citizens visiting Cuba, Canadians and Europeans, in particular, are travelling here in large numbers. Over the peak season (Dec-Apr), hotels in Cuba are nearing capacity. Even the casas are struggling to cope with the demand. Consequently, you must be flexible regarding your choice of accommodation and be prepared to stay in casas where demand outstrips hotel beds. This is actually a much more interesting lodging option. While these rooms are often quite basic, they are usually air-conditioned and en-suite. Alternatively, we have a much better chance of securing your preferred accommodation choices over the lower season (May-Nov).
Camilo Cienfuegos was part of Fidel’s gang, a leading member of the Granma Expedition and famous for defeating Batista’s troops at the battle of Yaguajay in December 1958, following which they took Santa Clara. Considered one of the heroes of the revolution, Cienfuegos was appointed head of the Cuban armed forces in 1959 after the success of the revolution. He was suspected to have died in a plane crash later the same year, although the wreckage has never been found. Che Guevara was so close to Camilo that he named his son after him.
You can export up to 20 cigars without documentation. If you would like to export 50 cigars or more, they must be in their original container, closed and sealed with the hologram. Do not buy cigars on the street or from unofficial sources – you will be scammed.
Yes, there are lots of classic American cars on the streets. You can take a tour in one and even have one drive you around the country (with a driver/guide, but not as a self-drive).
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John knew the ins and outs of Cuba and was able to answer every question (big and small) that we had. We really feel that we had an off the beaten track experience in this already mysterious country.
Our knowledge and expertise sets us apart. So too our curiosity. A curiosity of the world and of you, and your passions. It is this that drives us to create a journey that is really bespoke to you, all the while ensuring we travel and operate sustainably.
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