Almost four years after the historic 17D, Cuba remains a fashionable destination. The new freeze in relations promoted by the Trump Administration may have placed new obstacles for the Americans’ trips; but the interest to visit the Caribbean archipelago continues to grow. In addition, several of the big companies in the tourism industry have decided to invest more millions of dollars in building new hotels or restoring existing ones located in attractive places in the country. In 2018, Cuban authorities expect to receive, for the first time in history, five million foreign visitors, a figure that would mark a growth of 6.4%, compared to the previous year. One of the most booming activities has been cruises. According to the Minister of Tourism in Cuba, Manuel Marrero, the growth in 2017 was an impressive 230% and that favorable behavior should be maintained in the upcoming months.
A tour around Havana allows us to appreciate that in several key points of the city new hotels are being built. Currently, 20 international chains are present in Cuba, which, through 88 contracts, manage 43 252 rooms, 63.6 percent of the hotel properties in the country, according to José Daniel Alonso, general director of Development, Investments and Businesses of the Ministry of Tourism. The company that controls a greater number of facilities is Meliá, which will add this year to its already extensive portfolio the Meliá Internacional, in Varadero, with 934 rooms, and the Paradisus Los Cayos with 802 rooms. However, not even the remarkable growth in the total number of rooms is enough to satisfy all the demand, so the rent of private houses and apartments has become a flourishing business. What are the preferred destinations of Cuba? At PanamericanWorld we have prepared a list of 10 must-see places that combine spectacular beaches with cities that seem stopped in time.
SUN AND BEACH
The sun and beach destinations are among the most desirable in Cuba. The so-called “eternal summer”, without defined seasons and always-warm temperatures is very attractive. The largest number of hotels, under the regime of “all inclusive”, are located in Varadero, the areas of keys to the North and South of the country and in Holguin.
The Varadero beaches, in the Hicacos peninsula, extend for more than 20 kilometers and are world famous. The main hotel chains present in the country have at least one facility in this spectacular beach, where there are also restaurants, nightclubs, a golf course, three international marinas, diving centers and water sports.
Holguin is currently considered the third most important Cuban tourist destination. There, on its North coast, there are beaches such as Guardalavaca, Esmeralda, Turquesa, Don Lino and El Pesquero. In this area, there is a wide hotels network that, all combined, add more than 4800 rooms.
JARDINES DEL REY
Jardines del Rey is part of the Sabana-Camagüey archipelago, made up of more than 2,500 islands and islets. Here, Cayo Coco, Paredón Grande and Cayo Guillermo stand out, famous for the quality of their beaches and the fact that they communicate with the mainland through a 17-kilometer-long road. In the area, more than 16 hotels have been built, “all inclusive”, with 4 and 5 stars category. Diving and Kite Surf lovers find in Cayo Guillermo different options to practice these activities.
CAYO SANTA MARÍA
To get by land to the beaches and hotels of Cayo Santa María, Ensenachos and Las Brujas, it’s essential to pass over one of the wonders of contemporary Cuban architecture: a “pedraplén” [stone-road], 48 kilometers long, built with rocks placed on the sea. It has 46 bridges, which facilitate the exchange of water between one part and other, without affecting the marine ecosystem. The beaches of these keys are spectacular and this, along with being located in an almost virgin nature area, with 4 and 5 stars facilities, “all inclusive”, attracts thousands of tourists every year.
CAYO LARGO DEL SUR
The most visited keys in Cuba are on the North coast; but the South also has its charm, especially the area of Cayo Largo, 25 kilometers long, located at the eastern end of the Canarreos archipelago and in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. The beaches of Cayo Largo are also known worldwide, due to the intense blue of its waters and the wide sandy strips; in addition, the fact of being located in an almost virgin natural environment adds a special attraction to visitors.
Havana will celebrate its first 500 years of history in 2019. This city is the most visited in the country and, within its many attractions, the oldest area, where it is possible to see a unique mix of architectural styles stands out. The Cuban capital has a wide diversity of hotels (from three to five stars), thousands of private homes available on platforms such as Airbnband MyCasaParticular, globally renowned cabarets such as Tropicana and El Parisién, private restaurants where it’s possible to taste traditional and international food, nightclubs, a golf course, the Hemingway marina, more than 30 museums and theaters, as well as public and private art galleries.
SANTIAGO DE CUBA
Santiago de Cuba is the second most important city in the country and in it one can see a special interrelation between the Sierra Maestra, which is the main mountain system of the nation and the Caribbean Sea. The city has a huge historical and cultural heritage and, like Havana, shows visitors colonial-era fortresses, plazas and museums that are very attractive. On the southeast coast stands the Baconao Park, where the Gran Piedra, the Automobile Museum are located, as well as beaches that, without the splendor of those on the North coast, are very welcoming.
Trinidad was one of the first towns founded in Cuba, in 1514. The city seems to have stopped in the 19th century, so its colonial architecture is one of the most striking in the country and this attracts thousands of visitors every year. UNESCO decided to recognize it as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity and many call it in the world “Museum City of the Caribbean Sea”. Among the most interesting sites in Trinidad, we highlight the Valle de los Ingenios, which is also a World Heritage Site and El Ancón beach..
VIÑALES AND BARACOA, TWO UNIQUE NATURAL LANDSCAPES
Nature tourism is a type that has gained ground in Cuba. One of the favorite destinations for those who prefer to get away from the hectic city life is the Viñales Valley, located in the center of the Sierra de los Órganos, in Pinar del Río, which was recognized by UNESCO as a Natural landscape of humanity. In Viñales, the mogotes stand out, which are a peculiar mountainous formation; in addition, there are the typical crops of tobacco, since in this area of the country is where the best leaves grow with which cigars are then made. In this site, also stand the cave systems, considered among the largest in Latin America.
This was the first Cuban town, founded by Diego Velázquez in 1511. Baracoa’s architecture is very striking for visitors; in addition, the natural environment of this small city is spectacular, since the Miel and Toa rivers pass through there and there are beaches not far from the urban center. In Baracoa, there is the Cross of the Vine, nailed by Chritopher Columbus in the entrance to the bay of Porto Santo, in 1492.