Hotel

10 Things to do in Havana, Cuba (and a day in Viñales)

I recently returned from a trip to Havana, Cuba with a good girlfriend of mine and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about visiting the country. The architecture and beaches were colorful, the people were friendly and the food was delicious. I found Havana to be fairly walk-able and we were even able to squeeze in a day trip to Vinales.

Wondering what a trip to Havana would look like? Here’s a high-level look of what my friend and I did…

Meet some locals and stay in an Airbnb: we rented this one. It was super affordable and directly across the street from the Capitol which made for a gorgeous patio view. The hosts were extremely kind and the place itself was just what we needed – two beds, private bathroom and a/c. They even provided drinks in the mini fridge for 1-2 cucs and breakfast in the morning for a fair price. If you haven’t signed up – click here! That’s my referral link so we both get a credit to our accounts.

Walk around Habana Vieja: We had so much fun just strolling through the city and looking at all the buildings and plazas!

Try lots of different foods (it’s all affordable and delicious): I’ll admit, some places I travel to just for the food. Cuba wasn’t one of these, so I was very pleasantly surprised and some of the great meals we had at beautiful restaurants. La Lamparilla and Los Nardos (right next to our place and great atmosphere – we went twice!) stood out to me. We would also stop by a little stand on the corner next to Parque Central that sold hot and melty ham and cheese sandwiches for 50 cents. Another stand was selling fried “donuts” with guava jelly – also super cheap and delicious! On one of our walks we walked into a cafe that didn’t even have a sign – but it was one of my favorite meals – salty grilled pork with the perfect fried plantains. So have some fun exploring the different traditional foods of Cuba!

See a live music show: We went to the Havana Libre Hotel where they have a nightly live music show, El Turquino.

Visit the Hotel Nacional: We originally went to book a tour to Vinales with the concierge (see next topic!) but spent a few hours in the garden enjoying the shade, view and a few drinks.

Take a day trip to Vinales (tobacco farm): Through the Hotel Nacional, we booked a day tour to Vinales. It cost 100 cuc each which was fairly expensive compared to how affordable everything else had been. We scheduled the driver to pick us up the next day. It wasn’t what we were expecting, but ended up being a highlight of the trip. We thought we’d be getting an official “tour,” but a taxi driver shows up and asks us what we want to do! Luckily, this driver was a great guy – very friendly and knew where to take us. After a 2-3 hour drive, we went to a tobacco house where we learned the process of picking, drying and rolling tobacco. We could even purchase premium cigars for half the price than they are sold by the factory. Then we went to Cueva del Indio (with sugar cane juice and rum in hand) where we got to cool down in nature’s a/c and take a boat ride through the beautiful caves. Next stop was the Vinales Valley which was SUCH a beautiful view – it almost looks like Jurassic Park. Then we stopped by our driver’s friend’s house who was a sweet older woman who offered us coffee in her adorable pink house. It was such a fun day!

Find a roof top view: Because, why not? We ducked into Hotel Ambos Mundos to check out their roof top bar (pink hotel near the cathedral!) Unluckily for us… it started to rain as soon as we got up there!

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Ride in an American classic car: OK,  I have to say… this was one of the coolest things about Cuba visually. The gorgeous, well-kept classic cars are everywhere. Most of them are taxis, so take a ride – just make sure you agree on a price before hopping in the car.

Explore the local museums: There are quite a few museum choices in Havana! We went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Fine Arts Museum) which had all genres of arts and only by Cuban artists. I wanted to go to the Revolution Museum but we did not have a chance.

Bus to the beach: we spent a morning at Santa Maria beach. From our Airbnb, it was a 5 minute walk to Parque Central where we caught the T-3 bus that took us there. It was 5 cuc round trip. The beach itself was beautiful and relaxing. You can rent beach chairs and buy drinks. It was not crowded at all and the water was gorgeous – I got in waist deep and could still see my toes.

So, have I convinced you? I’ve also posted some general travel tips for Cuba here.

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San Francisco, California

My boyfriend and I recently returned from a quick trip to San Francisco to celebrate our two year anniversary. It was my first time in the city as an adult and I absolutely adored it. There was so much to do in so little time, so I’d love to back and see more. Here’s what we did with our time in SF.

Day 1 (Thursday night)

  • Checked in to the hotel: Hilton Union Square. I loved staying here! It was central and walking distance to most of what we wanted to see. We received a complementary upgrade to a room with a balcony and awesome view of the city.
  • We were hungry after a four hour flight and walked over to Super Duper Burger for some cheese burgers, garlic parmesan fries and beer. The name says it all… the food was super duper and I’d highly recommend! It was so good, I didn’t even have time to snap a picture. I believe this is a chain restaurant, but it was totally new to us.

Day 2 (Friday)

  • We walked over to farm : table for coffee and breakfast. This was such a cute spot with a daily menu, great coffee and a friendly pug dog! We ordered the daily toast – brioche toast with mascarpone and fresh fruit – the egg croissant sandwich, lavender latte and cappuccino. The toast and latte were FANTASTIC! I wish I could eat here again and again! If you’re ever in the tenderloin neighborhood of SF, you should stop by!
  • After we were caffeinated and full, we started our walk toward Golden Gate Bridge. Enough said, right? I  mean, we’re in San Francisco and the weather was perfect. We walked about six miles to the Golden Gate National Park recreational area and loved every minute of it. On the way, I saw a stand selling donuts and coffee, Dynamo Donuts. I ordered the maple bacon and toasted coconut donuts. It was the perfect snack to keep our energy up for the long walk.
  • After our walk, we were starving! We ordered an Uber to get us closer to our hotel and ordered a late lunch at a Thai restaurant, Lers Ros. We got the Tom Kha Gai Soup, Pad Kee Mow and Pad Kra Prow Moo Krob (crispy pork belly with basil) – and it was all delicious!
  • We had some down time and then headed to Chinatown for some more grub. Unfortunately, we missed the window for Dim Sum, so stopped at Great Eastern Restaurant which proudly boasts that Barrack Obama came by for takeout once (not the first time I’ve visited a food place after the Obamas). I ordered steak and scallops – it was just OK. Walking down the streets of Chinatown, I was mesmerized by someone in a shop window making Dragon Beard Candy. I had to stop in and try some. While the texture is just how I’d imagine eating a cotton ball is like,  I really enjoyed the taste of this unique Chinese candy! Then we were back at the hotel in time to watch the post-baseball-game fireworks from our balcony.


Day 3 (Saturday)

  • We started the day with brunch at Brenda’s French Soul Food, which is a fancy way to say Cajun food (as we call it here in Texas). We got there around 9 a.m. and there was already a long wait. However, I’d definitely go here again. The beignet sampler and fried shrimp eggs benedict were delicious and highly recommended!
  • OK, every time I told someone I was planning a trip to SF, they insisted I go to the Ferry Building Market. We strolled around after brunch, but it was way too crowded to enjoy myself. Plus, I have a very special place in my heart for Pike Place Market in Seattle, so it didn’t really compare. We got a cold brew and a couple bags of coffee beans to take home from the Sightglass Coffee stand at the market. Damn good coffee, too! While sipping coffee, we walked down to Pier 39 to watch the sea lions for a bit.
  • While walking back to the hotel, we noticed a line outside Boba Guys. As a long time fan of boba tea, I had to check it out. I got the dirty horchata and my boyfriend got an unsweet green tea. They have a unique menu of drinks, and it’s worth checking out!
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Then, we had round two of Super Duper Burger (we love burgers) and the trip was over in a flash. What’s on your list of great things you’ve done or want to do in SF? Share in the comments!