How has Cuba changed?
I first visited in 1994 and most recently last year, and it’s remarkable how much is different. What hasn’t changed, though, is that this is country where it’s still all about the inside track.
What should people consider when going to Cuba?
Know the right people – which we do - and you can unlock doors and enjoy experiences that give a true insight into an extraordinary and truly original country.
I always recommend organising as much as possible before you go to Cuba, rather than winging it.
And the sorts of things you can conjure up?
Thanks to our contacts we can arrange private visits to see superstar ballet stars dance, or Cuba’s greatest jazz trumpeter rehearsing.
What was your favourite moment on your last trip?
Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures that are most memorable in Cuba, such as heading out with a subsistence fisherman to haul in his catch of the day before throwing fish on the barbecue for an impromptu lunch.
For a first trip to Cuba, what would you recommend doing?
Leave plenty of time to enjoy Havana - there is a lot to do.
And for a 'Deep Cut' more in depth trip?
Head east to less touristy areas such as Cuba’s second city Santiago de Cuba and the serene Baracoa - the first Spanish settlement on Cuba. As Christopher Columbus described: ‘This country is so enchantingly beautiful that it surpasses all others in charm and beauty’.
Cienfuegos is a seldom visited city to the South of Havana with UNESCO World Heritage status since 2005. It has a striking French influence, with palaces, domes and avenues. On the doorstep is the Bahia Cienfuegos bay, with the Castillo de Jagua fortress dating back to 1742 and guarding the entrance. There is also some interesting wildlife close by, with the Guanaoca nature reserve boasting 15,000 acres with 170 bird species and 2,000 resident flamingos.
What made you fall in love with Cuba?
In many respects Cuba is like a living museum, but you feel the passionate urge for change and development. The music, the people, the dance and the constant rhythm all make this a one of a kind destination.
Is Cuba somewhere to go as a couple or with family?
Havana is perfect for couples, as it oozes old world romance, with music wafting out of every doorway. There’s enough to see and do in the capital to justify a week there, let alone a Big Short Break. For families a combination of Havana and somewhere on the beach would work a treat.
Recommendations for Cuba
Best books you've read about Cuba?
The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemmingway), Cuba Libre (Elmore Leonard)
Where have you not been in Cuba that you are desperate to go to?
Jardines de La Reina, a diver’s paradise. Cayo Guillermo, where in 2020 there is a game-changing Kempinski hotel opening with overwater villas. It should be – by far – the best place to stay in Cuba.
Best local food to order in Cuba?
Vaca Frita. This is one of the rare dishes made with numerous spices. If you're bored with the food you're eating in Cuba, find vaca frita. Typically it involves skirt steak marinated in oregano, parsley, cilantro (coriander), garlic, cinnamon, and red wine vinegar, then braised until it just falls apart. It's served with lime-infused onions and peppers.
What is the perfect souvenir from Cuba?
Cuban Cigars - if you are allowed to take them home!
Insider tip for Cuba?
Self-driving is really easy with our app, which gives you good directions and takes away the reliance on the pretty poor signage. Don’t drive at night though because there are some prodigious potholes and cattle are often wandering around on the roads.
Place in Cuba you could go back to again and again?
Hacienda La Casona, tucked away on the edge of Trinidad, is a colonial era hacienda that’s home to the finest horses in Cuba and some terrific hiking and birdwatching.