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Cabinet of Chic Curiosities

Cuba

Do you have any insight into Cuba? Places to stay and beach destinations?

Try not to pressure yourself into visiting the entire country. 

This is a list of things to do between Havana – Trinidad (for some real beach time), staying mainly in the centre/western side of Cuba. I recommend staying at Casa Particulars, which Airbnb has made much easier to reserve of course. 

Havana

Foodie Finds

Restaurant La Guadia – the three small rooms of a converted apartment, walls covered in old photographs, reached by climbing three stories of steep, narrow staircase.

Restaurant Hanoi

El Chanchullero – hole in the wall place in run down looking part of Old Havana, walls are covered with graffiti and photos.

Ivan Chef Justo – looks like you’re eating in the chef’s living room, located on the second and third floors of a building that must be 200 years old

Hector’s Pizza – order a Cuban pizza made on a rooftop of an old building by Hector, comes down in a basket. 

Local Food Market Agromercado

Restaurant Dona Carmela

Unusual places & Cuban oddities

Arte Corte Papito’s – a hairdressing salon that is also an “interactive museum” where the customer, while comfortably seated in a hundred year-old chair awaiting their turn, may view antique scissors, razors, mirrors, vials, shaving brushes, combs, brushes and advertisements, along with original paintings and drawings by Cuban artists, all focusing on the topic of hairdressing.

Jardinas de la Tropical

Calle Obispo – a time capsule shopping street. 

Houses marked with 101, 103, 107, 159 and 161 on Cardenas Street– are amazing examples of Art Nouveau where we expect photographer Michael Eastman spent a lot of time. 

Teatro America – theater preserved to this day all of its original details, including the furniture.

Museo del Naipe Marqués de Prado Ameno – Playing Card Museum, displaying a collection dating back to the 19th century, spanning themes from rock stars and divinity to tarot.

The Pharmacy of Havana Museum

Chasing Hemingway

La Bodoguita del Medio – an old grocery store turned restaurant in the 1940s. Visitors include Hemingway and Bardot.

Finca la Vigia – a classic. 

Check out the lobby of the Hotel Victoria, a modern day writers’ hangout. 

Barrio Chino (Chinatown), where Hemingway used to favor the cheap eateries.

Hotel Ambos Mundos, first opened in 1925. Hemingway lived here from 1932 through 1939, paying $1.50 a night; he started his novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in room 511. Today, the small suite is maintained as a shrine to the expatriate writer. It’s said that not even Fidel Castro himself could spend the night in #511 if he asked. Open to visitors with a small entrance fee. After visiting the room, be sure to make your way to the roof garden bar where you can get marvellous views of Havana.

Discovering the arts & culture scene housed in old colonial buildings of Habana Vieja

Centro Wilfredo Lam – one of the city’s best art galleries

Galeria Carmen Montilla Tinoco

Callejon de Hamel – the narrow two-block long alley that’s become a shrine to Afro-Cuban religions. The buildings are lined with brightly-colored paintings, murals, sculptures and objects, which depict rituals and deities. Also, rumba groups play here every Sunday.

Urban exploration sites in Havana (cannot guarantee entry)

The Royal Bank of Canada

Teatro Campoamor

The Art School

Ghost Towns along the coast < an hour drive from Havana

Hershey (Camilo Cienfuegos) Ghost town in Cuba  / the ghost town that Hershey built

Guanabo – beach resort ghost town.

Hotels/ Airbnbs of note

La Rosa de Ortega Havana

Airbnb 1

Airbnb 2

Airbnb 3

Airbnb 4

Casa Densil

Noteworthy stops en route to Trinidad

San Miguel de los Baños – after the Cuban Revolution, all the balnearios or “the baths” in Cuba became nationalized.. then they began to deteriorate until they were all completely abandoned. The hotel was abandoned in the 1920s, a spa/luxury resort until a nearby sugar mill started dumping its waste into the source and the hotel and spa were abandoned shortly after. There’s a small town nearby with many more old but not quite abandoned buildings, a cross between an alpine village and a Wild West ghost town. This once opulent settlement has lost most of its wealth, with the wood-panelled ranch-style houses and villas on the hillside among the few reminders of what San Miguel de los Baños once was. These faded signs of success are part of the enchantment of a place that made its fortune during the first half of the twentieth century through the popularity of its health spa and hotel. (additional images)

Cienfuegos (1 night) – French historical city, close to the beach. Best shrimp and lobsters in Cuba. “The Pearl of the South” rich in aborigine and Hispanic legends. Sip rum and watch sunset from the rooftop of Hotel La Union, head to Punta Gorda (upper-end seaside neighbourhood) and Cienfuegos Club to dance the night away or Benny More ClubEat lunch at the beautiful Arabic Palacio de Valle and dinner at Villa Lagarto

El Nicho national park (in between Cienfuegos Trinidad) 

Juragua – Abandoned Soviet nuclear power plant

Trinidad

You could spend around 3 days in Trinidad, “The Museum City of Cuba”. It’s one of the country’s most colourful and perfectly preserved and restored colonial settlements.

There’s lots of live music in the evening (Casa de la Musica and Disco Ayalu, a nightclub in a huge cave). 

Best views on the city are served from the tower of Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, an old convent that has been converted into a museum dedicated to the history of bandits.

Restaurant Sol Ananda, situated in one of the town’s oldest houses (dating from 1750). 

Stop by Trinidad’s nearby postcard-perfect beach Playa Ancon

Places to stay

Casa Muñoz/ Hostal la Lluvia de Oro, a few km down the beach, in the semi-rural village of La Boca, there are lots of casas for rent on or within a few meters of the beach. See www.cubacasas.net/cities/trindad

You can take a taxi collectivo ride directly to Havana airport. The ride takes four hours and it will set you back $30. Here’s a useful link for tips on travelling around in general.