January 2016

In the last year, President Obama reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba, and after 50 years, the embassies reopened. As a result of this, more Americans are interested in traveling to Cuba, which is located only 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

The largest city in Cuba is the capital, Havana. Havana is a popular tourist destination, attracting people from all over the world. The city’s cultural diversity matches its diverse history; one will find a mix of tradition from the 16th century to the revolutions in the 20th century. Havana is an interesting travel destination, and three “must-do’s” are Old Havana, the Museum of the Revolution, and a baseball game.

When traveling to Cuba, it is essential to have cash to transfer into the Cuban currency: Cuban convertible pesos (CUC). Though some Cubans know English, it is also beneficial to know some basic Spanish phrases. The climate in Cuba stays warm year-round, with averages above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Old Havana is a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, according to autenticacuba.com. Old Havana was originally the center of the city and was built in the 1500s. It is composed of five plazas: Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San Fransisco, Plaza de Cristo, Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza Vieja. Each plaza offers something unique to tourists whether it is impressive architecture, galleries or museums, local shops and markets, or authentic Cuban cuisine. La Bodeguita del Medio is a popular restaurant/bar that claims to be home of the mojito, according to the locals. It was also a favorite of Ernest Hemingway whenever he was in Cuba.

The plazas in Old Havana contain major architectural sites like the Catedral de San Fransisco, the Catedral de la Habana, and the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales. While walking around Old Havana, tourists have the opportunity to interact with Cuban natives, whether by carrying on a conversation or buying a handcrafted item.

Near Old Havana is the Museo de la Revolucion (Museum of the Revolution) is a popular tourist attraction and presents visitors with the history of the Cuban Revolution. The museum building is the former Presidential Palace, which is historic itself. The museum is home to many artifacts used in the Revolution such as weapons and flags. It also displays the progression of Cuba, beginning with the Pre-Columbian age and moving into the current socialist state. Behind the Presidential Palace is the yacht Fidel Castro and the revolutionaries sailed to Cuba in, the Granma. Other war vehicles are found outside, too, along with a memorial in honor of the Revolution. The Museo de la Revolución is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is 4 or 6 CUC, depending on which type of tour one chooses, according to visitarcuba.org.

Even though baseball is considered “America’s National Pastime,” it is widely popular in Cuba. Attending a baseball game is a great way to see the passion the Cubans have for the sport. The Havana team, Los Industriales, play in el Estadio Latinoamericano, which is located in the Cerro district of Havana. Holding over 55,000 people, it is the largest stadium in Latin America, according to beisbolencuba.com.

In an article for the Player’s Tribune, an American Publication, Brayan Peña, a Cuban Major League Baseball player wrote: “Latinoamericano is like the Yankee Stadium of Cuban Baseball.” Similarly, if you ask any of the locals, Los Industriales are the “Yankees of Cuba.” For fans attending a baseball game, the love of baseball is on display. Fans of all ages gather, cheering, blowing air horns, and truly enjoying the sport. Tickets are available at the box office outside of the stadium are roughly 3 CUC.

In addition to walking around Old Havana, visiting the Museum of the Revolution, and going to a baseball game, Havana is a place full of many other attractions and events for tourists. The restaurants, shops, and nightlife scene are abundant and are attractive to tourists, too. More information can be found on Cuba’s website for the ministry of tourism, autenticacuba.com.

All photos by Anna Pankiewicz.