There are many reasons why travel to Cuba for your vacations. We’ll cover seven of them just to give you a foretaste of what awaits you in Cuba and things worth trying when visiting the island.
To name few, coffee, cigars and rum, music, beaches, weather. But there’s nothing compared to a hospitality and kindness of its people. Getting to know the Cubans is the best takeaway you will get at the end of your trip.
Part 1 - Four things you'll love about Cuba
There are those who characterise the island as being the best place to taste coffee, cigars, rum and music. Maybe it is not an absolute truth, but it’s a fact that Cuban coffee, cigars, rum and Cuban music have earned a well-deserved international recognition.
1st reason why travel to Cuba: The unmistakable flavor and aroma of Cuban coffee
Reasons why travel to Cuba: Drinking a steaming cup of coffee for any Cuban is one of the first things in the morning. Everyone will offer you a sip (buchito) of the aromatic nectar when visiting their house (casa particular). It’s also an obligatory closing of any Cuban table talk.
The coffee arrived on the island with the French colonists. They brought it with them when they emigrated from Haiti at the end of the 18th century. And it’s here to stay. There is a saying in Cuba with the letters of the name describing a perfect cup of COFFEE.
C: CALIENTE – HOT
A: AMARGO – BITTER
F: FUERTE – STRONG
E: ESCASO – SCARCE
That’s why when you drink an authentic Cuban coffee, it should be exactly like this!
2nd reason why travel to Cuba: Witness the tobacco rolling process and making of the premium Cuban cigars
There is a long tradition of smoking cigars, especially in European countries.
When the explorers with Columbus in the lead arrived at the island, native inhabitants of Cuba presented to them dry leaves of tobacco as one of their most cherished goods.
On the island the cigars, known also as habanos (Havana cigars), are called tabacos. The capital, Havana owes its name to this commodity since historically it was loaded in the Havana Bay. This city is still home to its most famous factories.
Although tobacco is grown almost everywhere on the island, one of its main plantation regions is the historic Bariay (located in the west part of the island), where Columbus disembarked in 1492 and discovered Cuban tobacco. However, Remedios (located in the centre of Cuba) is the largest and oldest tobacco producing area of the island. This city was one of the first towns founded by the Spaniards, and is characterised by singular traditions, such as popular festivities of bustle and pure joy, popularly known as “Parrandas”. This region produces all types of tobacco leaves used in the making of cigars.
It is a tradition to give cigars as a gift for baby showers, baptisms or weddings. The pleasure of smoking an “habano” is something special that imposes a feeling of harmony, rolled in the form of cigar. When smoking all our senses are sharpen: sight, touch, taste, smell and even hearing. All this is part of the cigar smoking ritual.
After the appearance on the streets of fake or stolen tobaccos, those involved assume the risk to sell them to tourists. These, often without noticing origin or quality, pay an excessive price for this jewel of the Caribbean land. This has led to the decline in sales of cigars, experts say. Situation that has damaged the economy of the country and undermines the image of the product.
Although, as a common characteristic of Cubans, they managed to benefit from this cumbersome situation. The plantation traditionally producing the tobacco leaves are transformed into tourist attractions. The most prominent example is the busy Viñales Valley. There you can take a horseback tour through the valley. This experience will surely make your trip unforgettable as you can discover the island with the unmistakable smell of tobacco. Accommodation in Viñales.
3rd reason why travel to Cuba: Taste Cuban rum
Reasons why travel to Cuba: Rum is obtained by fermenting and distilling the juice of sugarcane, or with molasses and by-products from the manufacture of cane sugar. Since 1650 it was called “kill-devil” or “rumbullion”. It is in 1667 that it was called simply “rum” to be definitively referred to as ron.
The history of Cuban rum is as old as the colonisation itself. The guarapo was transformed into alcohol and then into aguardiente. Distilleries and brands emerged in the country. Distilleries were built in Cárdenas, Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and Havana. Several brands were introduced to the world. Among them: Matusalem, Santiago and Mulata, or the best known: Bacardi and Havana Club.
With the perfection of the liqueurs, a Cuban cocktail bar with worldwide fame emerged, bringing life to drinks such as: Cuba Libre, Mojito and Daiquirí. Each one speaks for itself when you take the first sip at a bar on the island.
4th reason why travel to Cuba: Dance to the rhythm of Cuban music
Reasons why travel to Cuba: Cuban music is the expression of original rhythms and melodies of the island of Cuba. Some natives, others, introduced by the Spanish colonisers and Africans who arrived in the sixteenth century. Although some Asian influence can be noted as well.
There are many styles and rhythms. They include popular music, folk, danzón, rumba, trova, mambo, cha-cha-chá, new trova and salsa or are Cuban son, among other rhythms. Other foreign genres such as jazz, rock and feeling are sources of incredible musical arrangements. Cuban musicians improvise on them with a remarkable singularity.
It is said that the “Salsa” is an innovation based on Cuban music. Some say that musicians of Cuban and Puerto Rican origin came together to create the most popular Latin style after Chachachá. All recognise the benefit of using a common term to name the Son, Mambo, Guaracha, Guajira (music genre), Guaguancó and other genres of Cuban music.
Cuban musicians have earned official international acclaim. Many have received Grammy awards and several appear in Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame”:
- Gloria Estefan, 1983.
- Celia Cruz, 1987
- Israel (Chacao) López, 2003.
- Emilio Estefan, 2005.
- Pitbull, 2016.
Prelude of the second part
The second part of this article continues where we comment on three other things that you will love about Cuba and that will make you visit the island. Undoubtedly, there are thousands of reasons to travel to Cuba. It is difficult to summarise the charms of this dynamic country in only 7 points. We could give you many other why and wherefore, but each and every one of them is valid for you to venture into your vacations.