I first saw the Cuba I wanted to visit when James Bond toured the island in his 1957 Ford Fairlane in Die Another Day. Unbeknownst to me at the time was that the movie was actually shot in Spain.
Still, the urge to drive one of those cars from the 50’s, roll a cigar and dance the night away in Havana has been at the top of my travel list. And, no longer do I need to smuggle myself into Cuba, thanks to Obama recently opening the doors a little bigger than they were when I first started plotting a trip to Cancun then to Havana.
But what is there to do in Cuba? Lots. If you like rum, cigars, great coffee and checking out an incredible view of the Atlantic.
But, you have to get there quick. Opening the island to American business means that the local bodega will soon be replaced with a McDonald’s and Havana Club Rum will be replaced with Bacardi or the Captain.
One sign that you’re living back in the 1950’s are the calls. With ties to the Soviet and early American exports, the Chevy’s, Ford’s and Cadillacs are the perfect way to ride down the avenue in Havana.
You’d never know South Beach was only a few mere miles of sea away, as Cuba’s 3,000 miles of beaches remain quiet, yet stunning. Stay at a resort in Varadero or find a local spot to kick off your flip-flops and dig into something from Iam Flemming or Hemmingway in between dips into the ocean.
It was good enough for Hemmingway, so it’s got to be good enough for me. This is the one must-visit bar on my list, but with a booming rum-infused culture, you can’t go wrong sipping Mojitos listening to Latin Jazz at Bar-Cafeteria la Dichosa or visit the local sports bar Bar Bilbao, which I’m sure is just like Buffalo Wild Wings.
Honestly when I started talking to my friends about taking a trip to Cuba, the last thing on our mind was a good hike. Between the cars, the beaches and rum, who wants to bask in the 90 degree weather, strap on a backpack and hike? However, before we hit the beach in the morning, we can work off those rum drinks with a short hike through Varadero where we can check out 2,500 year old ruins while taking in the sunrise.
I figure anyone can go to Cuba and buy a cigar or 3, but why not go deep into Cuba’s roots and find a master roller and get in on the action. Try a tour of La Carona Cigar Factory and then enjoy your own hand-rolled Cuban watching the sun set from your hotel balcony at while you wait for your next Mojito at El Floridita.
Well, if Conan O’Brien can drink rum from a box along this iconic strip of Coastline, then it’s a must-do on mine and your trip to Cuba before it’s torn down for high rising Marriott’s and Hilton’s.
The music — I imagine it to be like a live version of the Budos Band who I am in love with right now. Makes me feel as if I’m in a spy movie where bond is hanging out in a bar waiting to find his mistress of the evening.
Whipping up a home-made Bulletproof Cuban Coffee has become a staple of mine in the morning. Problem is, to get the real taste and aroma of Cuban coffee, it’s best to get it right from the source. And I figure I have to do it before Monsanto gets ahold of the beans. Bonus points if I get there early enough to tap on my iPad and channel my modern Hemmingway.
I knew Cubans could play baseball even since Livan Hernandez defected and helped my Marlins win the World Series back in 1997. A true baseball fan can see that the natural talent in Cuba runs deep. Stop by Estadio Latinoamerica to catch an afternoon game with 55,000 of your new Cuban baseball friends.