The nightlife in Cuba is surprisingly on fire! King Bar is a bottle service high end place in an expensive and very quiet neighborhood that will make you feel like you are not in Cuba, while La Gruta is a local joint with an around the way feel where the beers are cold, rum and cokes are abundant and the young taut Cuban ladies are looking to connect. Don Cangrejo has a good mix of locals and tourists. It is an outdoor large club where you can listen to live Cuban music and gaze up at the stars as you lean back with sweet drunkenness. You must visit the Hotel Nacional, here is where all the international celebrities stayed, and stay. With its art deco details from the ’30’s you can enjoy cold minty mojitos while gawking towards Florida and inhaling the majestic view of the Havana harbor. At minimum grab a few bottles of rum and sit in the Malecón, a five mile long sea wall that stretches along the coast of Havana. This is where all the locals hang out and party because of the lack of money. A night hanging out there is sufficient to create abundant memories and conversations.
*Guys aren’t allowed to wear shorts or open toe sandals to enter the night clubs.
Cuba is a country with food insecurities. You order and eat what they have, not what you want. So start out by asking “what do you have today?” My advice is to always order the (always fresh) sea food with rice and beans and/or steak. While veggies are an anomaly, fruit is abundant. Stay away from American foods like pasta, hamburgers and pizza. Shift your attitudes towards your food choices and honor and respect a country where food is rationed and limited. The government allows Cubans to host their homes as restaurants called “casa particulares.” They are abundant so I encourage you to walk around and eat in those with the most customers. A must place to eat is La Torre located in the 31st floor of the tallest building in Cuba – FOCSA – and enjoy fried shrimp and panoramic views of Havana. A foodie’s haven Cuba is not.
Wi-Fi does exist in Cuba. The best approach is to switch to an international plan that includes Cuba with your U.S. provider. Or you can pay $40 for a SIM card there.
There are gorgeous beaches in Havana, the best one is Mar Azul Playa Santa Maria. Arrive by 9 a.m. or all beach chairs and umbrellas will be rented out. Or, you can hire a driver to take you to the beach town of Veradero. It’s a two hour drive, but the sleepy town is arresting in its beauty.
Souvenirs & Cigars
Because holding on to your CUC’s is key – wait to buy souvenirs until you depart at the airport. They accept dollars and you can buy magnets/t shirts, bottles of rum ($5) and legitimate cigars ($40-$60 a box). For purists, do not buy cigars anywhere that is not a government approved storefront in Havana. Hotel Nacional, too, has great cigars to purchase.