When one travels to Havana for the first time, you must ride in a convertible classic car. You must also try a refreshing mojito and perhaps a real habano (Cuban cigar). However, since I’ve been to the City of Columns or the Rome of the Caribbean almost countless times, I have some favorite must-dos that are NOT so common.
Three Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventures in Havana Cuba
If you are on a repeat trip to Cuba OR prefer to travel a bit differently, enjoy these Havana, Cuba travel tips via video and explained in the post.
Take the ferry to Casablanca
In the port of Havana, in between the cruise terminal and the San Jose market, you will see a newly built ferry terminal with ferries going to two communities across the bay: Casablanca and Regla. These ferries are primarily used by Cubans as a commuter ferry that live on the other side of the bay and work in La Habana. Of the two destinations, I would suggest you go to Casablanca to witness a piece of authentic Cuban life as well as a way to walk about fifteen minutes uphill to the Christ statue. From the statue, you can continue to walk to the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña where many taxis would be available to take you back to the other side. The ferries are very affordable 1 local peso for Cubans and 1 CUC for foreigners. The ferries aren’t fancy. There will be standing room only with many bringing their bikes or carts onboard. Although I felt very safe on my multiple rides, I would suggest being mindful of your belongings. If you decide not to take a cab from the fort, you can always return via the ferry. The ferries run about every fifteen minutes.
Experience the Cámara Oscura in Plaza Vieja
Unknown to most travelers to Old Havana is the Dark Camara, which is located in Plaza Vieja. On a corner building near Café Taberna, you can take the elevator to the top floor to witness a periscope view of all of Havana narrated by a bilingual (English-Spanish) guide. The periscope, designed by DaVinci, reflects the images of the architecture outside into the dark room in real time. After your brief show with the periscope, you are free to enjoy the terrace with panoramic views of Old Havana, the port, the Capitol, Centro Havana, and Vedado (New Havana). The cost per person is 2 CUC.
Get on a bike whether bici-taxi or an electric bike tour
One thing that most travelers notice about Cuba is multiple modes of transportation on the roads all at the same time with little to no chaos. The classic cars tend to steal the show, but I think that most Cubans would say that they utilize taxis a lot. There are collective taxis and private taxis, but also bici-taxis. Via bici-taxi is my preferred way to get around Old Havana. Typically, a bici-taxi can accommodate two passengers. It is an excellent way to get beyond the touristy plazas and cruise through more authentic streets around the Capitolio or between the San José Market and the cruise terminal. Just like any taxi in Cuba, it is wise to negotiate the fare before getting in and giving a 10% tip for good service. Usually, a ten-fifteen-minute ride is 5 CUC.
However, if you like to be a bit more adventurous and ride a bike, I would suggest a tour of the neighborhoods outside of Old Havana via electric bike. I took my mom on an electric bike tour over 18km in one day where we went through parks, the outskirts of Havana, and along the National Highway to the Botanical Garden. As the bikes were electrical, we were able to cover much more ground that under our own power, but also, we could stop whenever and witness more of real Cuban life. If you would be interested in doing an electric bike tour in or around Havana, I would suggest you contact me. I can introduce you to the tour company that we used.
These Havana Cuba travel tips and off-the-beaten-path activities are some of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them and perhaps see Havana through new eyes.
Want more about Cuba?
If you would like to learn more about Cuba, grab a copy of my book, Cubicle to Cuba, review these Cuba posts, and by all means, travel to Cuba. If you would like to travel to Eastern Cuba with me in the fall of 2020, contact me.
**As of 6/5/19, there have been some changes in US travel to Cuba; however, Americans can still go to Cuba legally. Read how.**
Of course, if you have questions not addressed here, please leave a comment below.
As always, here’s to looking up!