Cuba is closed to tourism from the United States, starting around 2004 and continuing to today. You may travel to Cuba if you have relatives already in the country. The trade embargo sanctioned by the U.S. Congress in 1996 has limited industry development and depleted necessary money to establish a stable infrastructure in Cuba, yet it is a beautiful country, rich with flavorful food, interesting architecture and beautiful beaches.
Havana is the "cosmopolitan" city of Cuba, with a shopping district, hotels and restaurants; you can walk through the city and experience the architecture and waterfront. Access Havana by plane, train, bus or car. Cuba is famous for its rum--visit the Havana Club Rum Factory for a tour and tasting. See the Plaza de Revolución, with its statue of Che Guevara. Americans may appreciate the John Lennon park, which offers the only statue of a Western musician in the entire country. Check to see if he has his glasses, as they are often stolen and replaced. Stroll through the streets and admire the cathedrals or stop by Hotel Habana Libre, which is where Castro's soldiers lived for years after overtaking the city. There are historic pictures in the lobby of this time period. You can also visit the Eastern Beaches (Playas del Este) by taking a 30-minute bus ride from the Hotel Inglaterra.
You can get to Santa Clara, the capital city of Cuba, by bus and train from the other major cities. The mausoleum for the fallen Cubans of the Revolución, including Che Guevara, is there. Santa Clara offers many city parks, with the most popular being Parque Vidal, which covers an entire square block. Another popular statue, of Marta Abreu de Estévez, a Cuban rebel sympathizer, is a prominently displayed in Parque Vidal. Climbing the Loma de Capiro, Capiro's Hill, is worth the view of the city.
Varadero is an upper-class city in Cuba with private hotels, romantic beaches and the country's only full golf course. You can get there by bus or plane. Varadero offers Parque Josone, a family-friendly park in the center of the city. The Bellamar Caves, with their expansive rock formations and windy descending steps, are a must-see for a tourist. The Seafari Cayo Blanco offers snorkeling, the option to swim with dolphins, music and a cocktail bar. Many will grab a drink and enjoy the sunset from this location. Take a day trip to Matanzas to escape Varadero, as that city is only a bus ride away.
Baracoa, reached by a bus from Santiago de Cuba, is a natural wilderness with hiking trails. Hiking to the top of El Yunque to take in breathtaking views is worth the 30-minute commute from the city. The Yumuri river gorge also offers fantastic walking trails with beautiful foliage and animals. Salsa clubs in the city offer a different type of fun.
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is the birthplace of the current government. The Revolución was launched from this city in the 1950s. You can get there by plane, train or bus. It is known for the popularization of salsa. Stroll around the city to take in the decorative stone buildings and palm-tree-lined streets.
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