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Caribbean Cuba Travel

Trinidad: Museum City of the Caribbean

Traveling to Cuba? Visit Trinidad! Even tho its a half day traveling (by bus) from Havana, it is worth the ride. This post will cover the charm, things to do, where to stay & some things to be aware of when in Trinidad.

Why I love Trinidad

The whole vibe gets you. Wander around in its cobblestone streets and be amazed by your surroundings! Bright, colorful buildings around you and music comes out of every corner. The buildings itself hint their colonial heritage, as one of the best preserved historic towns that’s on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek

Trinidad seems to be untouched by time, by the looks of the vehicles. There are Russian Lada’s dated from the 50’s everywhere and occasionally you’ll see a horse-drawn cart pass by. Can you imagine?!

Take a walk towards the heart of Trinidad: Plaza Mayor. Filled with palm trees, colorful flowers & some benches to rest while getting really aware of everything around you. Especially since there are no cars allowed in this area. The city has a great laid-back Cuban vibe โ€” I also recommend getting away from the main square to explore the rest, losing yourself into its streets & alleys.

Where to stay

When you get off the bus you’ll be bombed by locals who are desperate for you to choose their casa. We booked our casa in advance, but in Trinidad you could easily get a casa on the spot. I can not shut up about the need to choose a Casa Particular above a regular hotel! If you want to read more about what it is and how you easily book a casa, read my previous Prepping for CUBA! post.

Since we didn’t know how to get to the casa we took a bicycle cap. Turned out to be quite the adventure on the cobblestone roads (bumpy ride!) and a driver who didn’t exactly know where to go.. but we made it!

๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek

We stayed at Casa Rogelio Inchauspi Bastida. This blue building used to be the old pharmacy of Trinidad. It is filled with peculiar objects & a lot of green plants. We had breakfast every morning in the garden which displayed a lot of slavery artifacts. The room itself was at the first floor, offering a private patio with it & access to one of the balconies. Gorgeous views all over town, overseeing the streets & looking upon the famous Trinidad church tower & the surrounding mountains.

To book your stay at this casa, click here.

What to do

Highlight of any trip to Cuba in my opinion โ€“ the music! How couldn’t it be? Enjoy the salsa & the rumba every night at Casa de Musica – Open air live music! These iconic steps get transformed into a terras and the live music makes it so vibrant. Watch people start dancing, order a cocktail or two and enjoy the night.

Go on an adventure & book yourself a trip to one of the natural reserve parks. We went to Parque El Cubano and went for a hike. The hike takes you a hour to get to the top and there you’ll find a gorgeous waterfall. We went in for a rewarding dip, and oh my it was so worth it after the walk. Best feeling in the world.

If your more of a salt water type you can also go for a swim at Playa Ancon Beach. This blindly white beach is a nice get a way for ultimate relaxation. We were dropped off here after the hike & we just went for it. First a beer and a bite at the Grill Ancรณn beach bar – since it’s logo is a shrimp, naturally we order shrimps – followed by a stroll on the beach & a ocean dip. You have some small bars along the beach were you can buy a small bottle Havana Club Rum for just 2.50 CUP (that’s only 3 dollar). Made our own Cuba Libre & combined PIZZA slices that were sold by locals on the beach… like I said, we went for it. Fully.

There are so many other options and things to do to choose from. Since we only were here for 2 days we made above choices. Trinidad also offers trips to the old plantations, horseback riding & there is a discotheque build in an old cave.

Wine & Dine

While you might not write home about the traditional food – Cuba is better known for its coffee, rums & cigars – we were not disappointed in what Trinidad had to offer.

First encounter with the food in Trinidad was right after the long bus trip. We strolled around the corner of our casa and stumbled upon so many places to choose from! We went in a typical Cuban states restaurant & tried some of the local cuisine. Shrimps & chicken, with a lot – and I really mean a lot – of rice on the side. Not particularity special, but very traditional.

The same evening we went for tapas at Salรณn 1851. The tapas was fantastic! We were guided to the upper terrace and watched the sun set while we enjoyed the food. From fish dishes to slices of pizza, we tried a bit of everything they had to over. Very successful & very tasteful.

The second day was our adventure day – including our lunch on the beach. The evening we spent however in a most lovely restaurant, Los Conspiradores. OH MY, this was by far the best dinner I had during the whole Cuba trip. For prices that are unbelievable low you can enjoy a full lobster dinner, bottle of wine & live music. The staff was delightful. The surroundings were glorious as well, located right next to Casa de Musica. Flowers swirled around the balcony, all different kind of plants & even more flowers & a blossom tree.. Do I need to say more? When in Trinidad, definitely make sure to have dinner here.

๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek
Lobster dinner at

A less amazing fact about Trinidad

Although the city was lovely at first glance, we couldnโ€™t help but be in shock at just how many tourists and touts there were. It is bulked with tourists. Because the city is a lot smaller in comparison to Havana, the tourist stand out way easier. Itโ€™s certainly a tourist town – but even with other travelers around, Trinidad doesnโ€™t lose its charm.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Traveling to Trinidad from Havana? I recommend to book a bus tour via one of the Hotels – they often buy a lot of space for their guests and have spots available. Much cheaper than booking online or taking a cap.
  2. Wear well fitting shoes! Trinidad consists out of cobblestone streets. Do yourself a favor and leave the fancy shoes at home.
  3. Get out there! Wander around. You’ll only discover the best parts of the city if you’re willing to get off the main routes.
  4. Want to do some things just outside of Trinidad? Ask your casa hostess for tips & recommendations. Often you’ll find he or she can arrange the pick up and tour, mostly for a better price.
  5. Trinidad is know for it’s lobster dinners, so by all means if your a seafood lover make sure to try out a full lobster dinner at least once while you’re there.

The mix of colonial architecture, laid-back local vibes, vintage cars & horse-drawn carts, plus all the outdoor adventurous possibilities made Trinidad one of my favorite destinations.

 

Categories
Caribbean Cuba Travel

Discover Havana: Mojito’s, Bites & Wander-ful Places

Havana is a city where you wander on and on. So many different places to discover! In my previous Getting around in Havana post you can find everything about the Havana way of getting around & where to stay during your trip. This post will focus on places to go, restaurants to visit & the best spots for daiquiri’s & mojito’s.

Where to wander

When in Havana make sure to make a stroll through Obispo Street. In the heart of Old Havana (Habana Vieja) you’ll find this most peculiar street; it’s full of old book stores, cafe’s and people. Great old buildings and so much to see. There is this cute little market full of handmade souvenirs and this street even offers you a place to witdraw money (with debit cards, which is very rare in Havana). It’s almost the only street in whole Havana where you’ll see this many shops next to each other or so nearby. Very modern for Cuban standards.

Another favorite spot is Havana’s vintage market. Here you’ll discover old vinyl records, revolution posters, timeless old watches and forbidden books. We’ve visited so many times and every time we were amazed by the obscure objects – we couldn’t help ourselves to bring some home with us. You’ll find this little gem at the corner of Plaza de Armas.

๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek

Take a walk on the sea side: El Malecรณn. This 7 kilometer long boulevard is the city’s safeguard from the sea’s waves. Walking along and on the Malecรณn itself in the sunlight gives you a great, adventures feeling. At one side you have (old) cars passing by and all the noise of the city, at the other you’ll find the restless sea bouncing at this blockade. It’s a great place to have a break in the sunlight and to watch the cars pass by.

Havana has 2 museums you can not skip. First of all it’s most famous Revolution Museum. Situated in Havana’s old presidential palace, with the bullet holes still in its walls. This museum is very complete and gives in a chronological order a lot of details about the revolution. Displaying many objects, from soldiers hats to war stained shirts. Most is presented in Spanish, but there is a lot in English too. If you go downstairs to the courtyard you’ll find vehicles used during the revolution. Ships, tanks and even planes. The way this museum present it’s collection, and of course the historical place of the palace itself, leaves a great impression.

๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek

The second museum I am definitely recommending is the Museum del Ron Havana Club – the Havana Club Rum Museum. Here you’ll learn everything there is to know about your favorite Cuban rum. Where it originates from, it’s history, how they make it and the importance of it in Cuban culture. There even is a maquette of a sugar factory and train transportation from the early 1930’s. A highlight for the real rum lovers: at the end of the tour at a Sloppy Joe’s bar replica you’ll get a Havana Club 7 years tasting!

There even is a (different) bar next to it which you can visit separate from the museum.

๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek
Havana Club Rum Bar

There are a few more spots I would like to cover. A famous spot for tourist is – of course – Plaza de la Revoluciรณn. If you know a little bit of Cubans history – from Fidel’s famous speeches to the goodbye ceremony of Che Guevara – this spot is a must visit.

A familiar looking building at the gates of Havana centrum is El Capitolio. A building build during the roaring 20’s and it’s supposed to be a replica of the US White House. Fun fact: they intended to make it bigger than the original. Unfortunately for the Cubans, the architect took some of the construction money for his own benefit – they had to slim the size of the building mid building it. Therefore its out of proportion thus smaller than the original.

๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek
El Capitolio

When you’re in the neighborhood of any of the old Cigar Factories, don’t hesitate to take a look inside. We found one behind El Capitolio that was deserted, but still very impressive. Its original cigar shop is still intact and open, and some of the old factory employees still hang around to tell you their stories. Some might even saved some of their daily free cigars – which they will sell (behind closed doors) for a decent price. Worth your money and 100% the real deal.

While doing a vintage car tour – highly recommended! – we stopped at the John Lennon Park. Here you’ll see a statue of John sitting on a bench. Nothing special really, but if you happen to be nearby – why not. Good excuse to get on the picture with the one and only – Cuban statued – John Lennon.๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek

Think I have discussed all my favorite markets yet? Don’t think so. Havana is full of them! The last one I will mention is it’s Hand Craft Market. This is basically a handmade souvenir & art market. This one is nearby the harbor and gigantic. Never have I ever seen so many souvenirs. My interest was most peeked by the outer corners of this market. Here you can find unique local art – and not just the once you see elsewhere in the city. People here are proud of their work – and they should be. I’m a proud owner of a very nice piece hanging in our living room.

Where to eat

Havana has so many options for where to go for a bite. From paladres to state owned restaurants, or street corner food trucks with its own delights. Don’t expect to find state of the art cooking – the Cuban kitchen is simple, therefore very pure in its taste.

Our first night we ate at Cafe Paris. This restaurant has nothing to do with the French! It is a very cozy spot at the corner of Obispo & San Ignacio. Very cheap but very tasteful. Simple food but fine for cuban standards. A lot of nights they have live music – a real cuban get away.

Our second night in Havana we had dinner at Hotel Nacional. We took a blue vintage car to drive us all the way up the Malecรณn to this marvelous hotel. The building is very large and old and looks a bit extravagant. It is kind of a mythical hotel with a lot of history as well. With a sea view over the Malecรณn nothing could go wrong – except for the food. It was a big disappointment. Beautiful building so you could always visit for a drink – but I wouldn’t recommend eating here.

We did visit other places to eat as well, but I think these were the main things. Best dinner I had in Cuba happened to be in Trinidad – you’ll read more about that in a later post ๐Ÿ˜‰

Where to go mojito

There we are – the part where we all waited for – where in Havana do they serve the best Mojito’s? Let me start with this: the first day we stumbled upon this cute little bar – La Reliquia – where we tried our first mojito’s in Cuba. The music was giving het Cuban vibes, we even danced – after our second cocktail – and had a lot of fun with the staff.

๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek
La Reliquia

Feeling a bit naughty? Try sneaking up to one of Havana’s 5 star hotel rooftops. The view is to die for! We’ve been successful 2 out of 3 times. At Iberostar they serve the most delicious fruity mojito’s: we’ve tried orange and pineapple. I know – not the classic ones – but oh my these are just delicious. Sipping these while sitting in the sun enjoying the overwatch view of the city.. Trust me, it’s worth it.

We also had lunch at their gorgeous inside patio – El Portico Bar – it was a delight as well.

๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek
Cuba Libre & Pineapple Mojito

For all the Hemingway fans: Havana’s famous 2 Hemingway bars. La Bodeguita del Medio is famous for their mojito’s and it’s Hemingway quotes. Tourists are lined up to see the spectacle of the making of a dozen mojito’s at a time. To be honest – not the best mojito’s in town – and not the cheapest. But hey a true fan will visit anyway. Even if it’s just to read his famous quote: “My mojito in La Bodequita, my daiquiri in El Floridita”.

You may have guessed it, Hemingway’s second bar El Floridita is one you may not mis from your travel list. This bar is legend! With a copper Hemingway at the bar and live music that’s a delight for your ears this is a must visit. Although it’s a very touristic hotspot, never the less worth the wait for a place to sit and to enjoy a daiquiri. My tip: order the one with aรฑejo rum instead of the regular one. This one is darker and has so much more layers of taste! The bites here are a treat too. One of my favorite bars in Havana.

Havana stole my hart. This city is alive and has its own way of doing things. Walking around gives you a stroll through history, with beautiful buildings, vintage cars and the people around you. Don’t hesitate to just wander around and get off the beaten path! This city offers so many possibilities to discover and explore, you won’t get bored. Every corner there’s something going on or something to see.

Bueno Vista! Havana is an experience I will never forget.


Categories
Caribbean Cuba Travel

Getting around in Havana

Havana stole my heart. It is one of the Caribbeans most authentic cities I’ve visited so far. In this post I’ll share with you where to stay & what kind of vehicles this city has to offer. It’s the first part of my city guide of how to get around in Havana.

Cuba is an island like no other. With its own charms, time-bending surroundings it will mesmerize you for sure. We stayed a total of 8 days in Cuba. The first 3 nights in the beautiful city of Havana, traveled for 2 nights to the authentic city of Trinidad & stayed our last 2 nights in Havana again. We had a bit of rain, but when you live on a sunny island yourself you don’t really mind.

Havana can be divided in 3 main area’s: Habana Vieja (Old Havana), Central Havana & Vedado. We stayed all our Havana nights in Habana Vieja but we’ve seen Havana Centrum as well.

๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek

Getting around

Cuba is famous for its old vintage cars. You’ll not be disappointed! Everywhere you look you see these amazing cars in all colors you can possibly imagine. There are plenty of them in the city used for taxi, Classic Car tours to all of Havana’s touristic main points or for personal use. When in Havana you should definitely take a ride with such a car at least once. We’ve tried to take as many vintage car rides as possible. The smell, sound & feeling in such a car is just indescribable.

Classic (American) Cars are not the only way of getting around. There are the state caps, coco taxi’s & bicycle taxi’s.

A coco taxi is a small yellow circle on 3 wheels. It’s a crazy, weird vehicle but very popular in the city. One of its popular features is the difference in price compared with a car taxi. It is a lot faster than the bicycle taxi as well, but slower than a normal car. It also ain’t that steady so you better make sure you divide the weight equally. It was an adventure to ride in one of those!

A bicycle taxi is as referred to: a taxi that’s being bicycled. Its in the shape on an triangle and goes really slow. Sometimes the driver has a radio build on top which will make the experience even more fun. It’s the most cheap way of getting from A to B (Apart form walking of course). We took a bicycle taxi in Trindad (you’ll read more about that in the Trinidad post!).

Where to stay

While planning your trip to this city you want to make it unforgettable. One way of doing that is by booking your stays at a casa particular.

What is a casa particular?

As mentioned in my previousย Prepping for CUBA!ย post, a casa particular is basically a personalized bed&breakfast. We have experienced the Cuban life by our friendly hostesses who invited us into their homes. More Cuban than that you won’t get!

Casa Zaiden - ๐Ÿ“ธ by Niekartistiek
Rooftop Balcony at Casa Zaiden

Casa Zaiden

This casa was probably my favorite of all. It is at a perfect spot in Old Havana (La Habana Vieja) from where you can easily get to all the main points. Our hostess was a friendly, helpful, enthusiastic young woman who introduced us to her cute daughter and to her home. The house itself is very old and furnished with all these old odd little gems. It has a balcony at the common room & a table at the patio for breakfasts.

Our room was build on the roof with 2 private balcony’s : one directly next to our room & one above it. From here you could overlook the ocean, the city and the Russian Orthodox Church. The streetview of all 3 balconies were amazing too: such an authentic experience. To book her casa (highly recommended!) clickย here.

More photo’s of Casa Zaiden:

Casa El Patio

Our last 2 nights in Havana we stayed at Casa El Patio. This Casa has a more modern interior build in an old house. It is located at the other side of El Capitolo (Cuba’s replica of the white house) and therefore in a much different neighborhood. It is still part of Old Havana but at the other edge. Here there is more traffic, more people. I have to admit that this neighborhood was in comparison to the others my least favorite.

What I do loved about this casa where it’s animals! Such cute dogs and a cat that came to greet you each morning while you had your breakfast at its patio. The patio itself is gorgeous, with a lot of greens around you and gives you a quiet, peaceful space in the middle of all the fuzz and buzz of the city. To book your stay at El Patio click here.

Photo’s of El Patio:

 

So many things to share about this amazing city. Can’t wait to show you guys how to get around for hotspots, restaurants & ofcourse Havana’s bars (hint: mojito’s everywhere).