Cuba is a place some travelers visit only once in a lifetime, due to travel restrictions in their countries. In case you never end up returning, your first visit should be a comprehensive one. Here are some attractions for every first-timer’s itinerary:

  • Plaza de la Revolucion: This is the giant square where the residents of Havana gather to hear Castro and other members of the Communist Party speak. Empty except at the annual rallies, the square is supposedly under government surveillance. Take an elevator to the top of the Jose Marti memorial building and look out upon the vast, empty square, and contrast it with the pictures taken on days of the rally. This will also give you a view of the outline of Jose Marti's face, done in metal on the side of one of the government buildings.
  • The Malecon: Literally the sea wall, this is where the locals congregate on warm Havana nights. If you speak Spanish, the Malecon is the perfect place to converse with natives of all ages, but especially young people. There are many bars and clubs within walking distance if you feel like partying a little harder.
  • Bay of Pigs: The site of the infamous U.S. invasion of Cuba has actually been converted into a hotel and resort, the Playa Giron. It is now possible to swim in the historic bay, as there is a protected area with a sandy shore and palm trees. As in all of Cuba, the water is warm year-round.
  • The Isle of Youth: This small island off of mainland Cuba is a scuba diver’s paradise. Small motorized boats will get you to the island in a couple of hours; upon arriving, you should head straight to Bibijagua Beach for some of the best diving in the Caribbean.
  • Havana Airport - Transfers
    For the uninitiated, arrival at any airport can be confusing. You will emerge from Havana passport checking and if your holiday company has not sent a rep and your name does not appear on one of the many boards held up as you exit the arrivals area then you may need to locate your coach transport. If you don't have a number for the coach (they are clearly displayed painted on all buses) then turn left out of the arrivals area and a small office opposite the coffee bar area will have staff able to help. They have a list of all passengers for whom transfers have been arranged.
    Once you know the number of your bus, exit the airport, cross the road on the pedestrian crossing and turn to your left. A parking area for buses is opposite the airport directly ahead along a short path.