When it comes to holiday destinations in the Caribbean, Cuba might not make the top of your list. After all, what comes to mind when you think of Cuba? Cigars, Castro, and communism? An inebriated, mojito-sipping Hemingway? Despite some image problems with some western nations over the years (mostly the United States), Cuba has a long history of tourism and remains a popular Caribbean holiday destination to this day. Cuba draws over two million people every year to its little patch of paradise, and tourism is one of Cuba's main sources of income. Keep reading to find out why Cuba is one of the best holiday destinations in the Caribbean.
Until the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the most common tourists to visit Cuba were Americans. Cuba's capital city, Havana, had more visitors between 1915 and 1930 than any other city in the Caribbean. In the aftermath of the communist revolution, Americans were banned from Cuba until very recently, but this didn't stop European visitors from enjoying Cuba's serene beaches and rich culture.
Holidays in Cuba these days are better than ever before. Cuba embarked on a major effort to bring international tourists to the island – between 1990 and 2000, the government poured over $3.5 billion into the tourism industry.
When it comes to sight-seeing in Cuba, Havana should be at the top of any traveler's list. Founded in the late sixteenth century by Spanish settlers, Havana was called the “Key to the New World and Rampart of the West Indies,” a phrase that can still be seen on the city's coat of arms. Located on the northwestern of Cuba, Havana has been at the center of Caribbean history, politics, and culture for centuries.
Some of the most popular sites in Havana include:
There's more to Cuba than Havana. Like all Caribbean islands, Cuba has spectacular beaches and resorts with ocean views. Playas del Este is one of these beaches, located not far from Havana. Varadero, or Playa Azul, is another great resort beach. Besides the clear blue water at Varadero, tourists can explore the nearby caves or take a day trip to one of the virgin cays.
Cayo Coco (Coco Key in English), on the other hand, is a tiny island in central Cuba famous for its luxurious and exclusive resorts. Because Cayo Coco remains relatively untouched by man, the coral reefs to the north of the island offer some of the best scuba diving in the Caribbean. Cayo Coco even opened its own international airport in 2005, making travel to the island easy.
As for nightlife, be sure to visit one of the salsa discos in Havana or Santiago de Cuba. Unlike the rest of the Caribbean, whose music is mostly Afro-Caribbean in origin, the musical traditions of Cuba have a more Latin influence. In the 1960s, Cuban musicians started mixing in elements of jazz and rock with their traditional dance music, and salsa was born.
Don't know how to salsa? No problem, you can take salsa lessons at a local discotheque. You can learn to salsa during the day, and dance with the best of them at night.
In short, a holiday in Cuba is sure to please the whole family. Whether you want a Caribbean holiday that includes beaches and scuba diving or history and culture, you can find it in Cuba.
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