Cuba is notoriously difficult to get into, even as a tourist. Actually moving there is even more of a challenge. However, for those who do manage to live in Cuba, the country has a lot to offer. Here are ten of the best recreational activities to try in Cuba.
Horse-riding: This is quite popular among tourists, and for many expats, that’s an indicator of something that’s best avoided. However, don’t be quick to dismiss a bit of horse-riding – it can be a beautiful, memorable experience.The beach-side rides are usually a waste of time, but if you can, do a proper trail over sugarcane and tobacco fields, hills, valleys, and mountains. Make sure that your horse is healthy and well cared for – some look weak and malnourished, and it’s within your power to encourage the owners who treat their horses well.
Cigars: Smoking a cigar is probably best avoided unless you’re able to keep it as an occasional indulgence. However, taking a tour of a tobacco plantation and a cigar factory is definitely something worth doing, especially if the cigars are hand-rolled. Cigars are an important and integral part of Cuban history and culture, and even if you don’t smoke, this is an experience we highly recommend.
Live music: This is a no-brainer and it hardly needs a recommendation. Live music is everywhere in Cuba, from large association halls to famous music clubs to local joints, and the musicians are almost always incredibly good.
Classic cars: In Cuba it’s possible to rent a classic open-top car and ride around in it. The cars are gorgeous and usually well maintained, and it’s a great way to explore the country. Sitting in a car that’s half a century old, looking at magnificent buildings that are even older – the whole experience can make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time.
City centers: Wandering around a city center in Cuba is a wonderful experience, and is something you should do in both your own city and any city you happen to visit. Walk around a bit, pop into a local bar, grab a drink, enjoy some live music, explore the street markets, and enjoy the street food.
Museo de la Revolución: The Cuban Revolution looms large in Cuban culture and imagination, and for anyone living in Cuba who didn’t grow up there, it’s important to develop an understanding of it. The Museo de la Revolución in Havana is an enjoyable way to do this. The building was once the Presidential Palace, and now houses exhibits from throughout Cuba’s history, but with a focus on the revolution of the 1950s.
Beaches: Again, this one is quite obvious, but how could we leave out the beaches? Cuba’s beaches are quite varied, from the color of the sand to the surrounding topography; from the activity on the beach to the water itself. What they have in common is that they’re all gorgeous.
Salsa: For most Cubans, salsa comes as easily and naturally as walking. It can be a bit intimidating for an outsider to walk into a club and see the general level of skill, but don’t worry – the locals are usually happy to teach you, especially on salsa nights, and it’s an incredibly fun way to learn. However, if you prefer, you can take a few proper lessons before you hit the clubs.
Baseball: Many people tend to see baseball as a uniquely American sport, and are quite surprised to find out how important it is in Cuba too, especially given the antipathy between the two countries. However, baseball in Cuba goes back over a century, and today there are regular matches, both big and small, all through baseball season. Whether or not you already enjoy baseball, give it a try – it’s a fun way to be a part of the local culture.
Paladares: These are privately-owned restaurants in Cuba (till the 1990s, only state-run restaurants were legal). The paladares today still have many legal restrictions, including on their size, so they tend to be small family-run establishments run out of people’s homes. The quality of these establishments varies – some are mediocre, but there are certainly a few that are outstanding in their food, décor, and overall experience.
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