Whether you’ve never visited Cuba or you’re a returning traveler with a fondness for the island nation, 2019 is the perfect year to go to Cuba. We’ve put together a list of the top 10 reasons you should travel to Cuba with Austin Adventures this year.
1) Havana’s 500th Anniversary: This once-in-a-lifetime event happens – oh, every 500 years or so! We’ve said it once and we’ll scream it out from the rooftops – you do NOT want to miss out on this special adventure surrounding Havana’s 500th birthday! During our time in Havana, we’ve kept our itinerary purposely flexible to accommodate any and all festivities that are bound to develop as we draw ever closer to Havana’s anniversary date of November 16th!
2) The Host: Austin Adventures’ very own Vice President of Operations, Kasey Austin, is going on this trip. Kasey has traveled the world and is constantly on the lookout for the coolest up and coming destinations. If Kasey is going to Cuba to celebrate Havana’s 500th anniversary, you know this is going to be a trip for the books!
3) The License: We are taking a different, unique approach to operate our new Cuba itinerary by running it through OFAC’s “Support for the Cuban People” license. This means our guests will have meaningful interactions with Cuban individuals who have created privately-owned businesses. We’ve secured rooms at private Cuban residences (casas particulares) and we’ll be eating at privately owned Cuban restaurants (paladares). Even the activities we’ll be embarking on, such as horseback riding, bicycling, and kayaking, are run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas). We truly believe this will make for an unbeatable Cuban experience.
4) The Lodging: You won’t be staying at any of those old, run-down hotels on this itinerary…. In Trinidad, you’ll first overnight at a bed breakfast on a private horse ranch. With only 8 rooms with private bathrooms, this hidden gem is perfect for nature and animal lovers! In Havana, we overnight for 4 nights in a freshly renovated Colonial Mansion featuring a mix of vintage, colonial, and mid-century designs. The in-house art gallery contains works by contemporary Cuban artists. A stay here kind of feels like being at your best friend’s home, if your best friend had an impeccable sense of style!
5)The Activities: We aren’t down with the laid-back, bus-tour style of traveling. We want to immerse ourselves into all that Cuba has to offer by providing you with truly local and authentic experiences. We’ll learn about sugar production on a horseback ride with a local expert in the Valle de los Ingenios outside Trinidad. We’ll taste coffee from a local grower in Topes de Collantes before hiking into the Escambray Mountains to seek out the perfect waterfall pool for a satisfying dip. We’ll discover Bay of Pigs and its fascinating history from the water on a kayak tour out of Playa Giron. We don’t want to just watch Cuba pass us by behind the windshield of a vehicle; we want to experience Cuba!
6)The Meals: Cuban cuisine is a tantalizing blend made up of Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences. We’ll be sure to hit all of our favorite paladars (small family-run restaurants) from Trinidad to Havana, trying local dishes like ropa vieja (Cuban-style shredded beef), arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), and la caldosa (chicken soup). Meals are sure to be complemented by a mojito or two; after all, this is the home of Cuban rum, which is truly in a class all of its own!
7)The Classic Cuban Experiences: No trip to Cuba is complete without the classic Cuba experiences that everyone thinks of when they hear “Cuba.” And don’t worry, we’ve made sure to include the best of the best! We’ll ride along the Malecon in vintage 1950’s cars with the sea breeze blowing through our hair. We’ll learn the secrets of making a top-notch Cuban mojito and daiquiri from a professional barman. We’ll even discover the art of hand rolling the perfect Cuban cigar in a factory specializing in this centuries-old practice. See? We told you – classic Cuba!
8) The Guides: Sure, you can “go it on your own” on any trip, but any adventure is going to be enhanced by local guides who can only add value and expertise to an already incredible trip itinerary. Our local Cuban guides understand how to bridge the gap between Cubans and Americans with our vastly different cultures. Your guides will be knowledgeable in the history and politics, flora and fauna, and everyday living practices of the locals…because they’re, well…locals! And they’re definitely going to know exactly where we should be and when for the 500th-anniversary celebration in Havana!
9)The Culture: Cuban culture is a complex mix of different, often contradicting, factors and influences. Your mission for your week in Cuba, should you choose to accept it, is to absorb as much of Cuba’s culture as humanly possible. We’ll see plenty of art throughout our tour (one of our accommodations is practically an art museum in and of itself), we’ll sway to the sweet rhythms of a private performance by a famous Cuban guitarist. Heck, we’ll even do some salsa dancing. We only ask that you come with an open mind and let Cuba’s fascinating culture quite literally, sweep you off your feet!
10) The Trendiness: Cuba in and of itself is hot right now. Ever since the US government changed its legislation to make it easier for travel between the US and Cuba back in 2015, Cuba has been a key travel destination for American tourists, rightfully so! While travelers still have to meet certain requirements, which oftentimes requires a special license (don’t worry – we’ve got that covered on our trip), Cuba remains a destination at the top of many Americans’ bucket lists. And while travel to Cuba is big currently, the 500th-anniversary celebration of Havana is absolutely going to be huge! Talk about trendy!