Best Nightlife Havana Lounges

The Ultimate Library of the Best Nightlife in Havana

Best Nightlife in Havana includes Live Music!

Live Music in Havana

My Complete Library of the Best Nightlife in Havana

Music is constantly blasting in Havana, but the real party doesn’t begin until after dark.   Besides getting to Cuba, one of the most asked topics I receive is recommendations on best nightlife in Havana.

Luckily for you, there’s nothing more synomous than Marissa and Social Life. Soy la reina de la pachanga (party) and it extends to anything Trip Advisor could give you.

But let me warn you on a few things before I get to my recommendations.  Cuba hasn’t quiet evolved in the drinking scene like most of the world. There aren’t 200 beers on tap (there’s not even tap) or a list of fancy mixology drinks a guy with a mustache makes.

Those things come secondary to Havana’s nightlife. Cuban’s drinking culture is little to none. Our purpose for going out isn’t to drink, it’s to dance.

And if you’re thinking your tourist central casa particular in Habana Vieja is the spot to be in for music and bars, sadly you’re mistaken.

It’s all about el Vedado, a residential part of the city that’s bustling with restaurants and bars.  And while there are some places in Habana Vieja, most close early and locals aren’t found there. But don’t worry, ask any taxi to take you to the spots I’ll recommend.


Overall Best Nightlife in Havana:

Fabrica Del Arte Cubano – El Vedado

Let’s just get this one out of the way. Fabrica Del Arte Cubano (or FAC) is hands-down a must in Havana. If you have only one night in Cuba, it’s the only place you have to go. It’s that amazing.

Part art gallery, part bar, part club and part exhibition shows FAC is the accumulation of all Cuban culture inside a giant venue.

From its various different rooms, it has something to offer everyone.

Mari Tip: Open from Thursday-Sunday, get there by 9pm to enjoy it without waiting in long lines.  This is an extremely popular spot for both locals and tourists so make sure you can enjoy it!

FAC is modeled, cleverly, after the Cuban libreta.  Each person has a libreta and instead of paying for each drink, the bartender will stamp your card with the appropriate drink. At the exit, they calculate your consumption and charge you then.

Don’t lose your libreta or FAC charges $30CUC per person!

Best Nightlife in Havana - Fabrica Del Arte cubano

Outside FAC – A MUST in Havana

Casa de la Musica – Miramar

One of the most famous and popular music venues in Havana, Casa de la Musica hosts Cuban musicians from around the world.

Depending on the night, you can spot locals here dancing away to Cuban son and timba (a form of casino or salsa).

Mari tip: Casa de la Musica is a bit touristy and there can be jinteros outside hustling their way (especially if they see a group of girls or group of guys), but depending on the act, it’s worth it! Not all nights are created equal though and prices tend to be high for locals to get in.


Don Cangrejo- Miramar

Another music venue that boost rich Cubans and tourists is Don Cangrejo.  But don’t dismiss it just yet. Its outdoor restaurant and venue will have you dance the night away. Located right on the water, some of the best and famous Cuban bands play here daily.

Mari’s tip: Best night hands down is Friday.  Friday in Havana is hosted at Don Cangrejo and its no secret. It gets VERY crowded so make sure you get there at 10pm when the day restaurants becomes a night-club.


King’s Bar – El Vedado

Calle 23 Enre D/E

King’s bar has never disappointed me when we’re too lazy to go to the other end of el Vedado. Located near La Rampa (23rd entre D/E), it’s semi secret entrance leads its way to a nightclub with tons of locals. The small club feels intimate but the party is huge!

What I like the most about King’s bar is that the prices are reasonable and there’s a variety of different music anywhere from reggaeton to American pop to electronic music.

Best Nightlife in Havana King Bar Restaurante

King Bar in Vedado


Corner Café- El Vedado

Calle B y 1ra

If you want an amazing time with locals while hearing live music, there’s nothing better than Corner Café. It’s reasonably priced and offering tapas that aren’t all Cuban (a blessing being Cuban and having nothing but Cuban food ALL THE TIME in Cuba).

Mondays is jazz night. Thursday is rock.  And in between are local bands that are pop/rap.

Mari’s tip: Awesome breakfast spot too!


Sarao Bar- El Vedado

Calle 17 en E

Super trendy comes with super trendy music and atmosphere. This club looks like its off Ocean Ave in Miami. Seriously, it’s beautiful and modern for Cuba standards.  It attracts an equally trendy crowd with locals and tourists.

Like many places in Cuba, Sarao doesn’t start till around midnight.  Go at 11pm? Early. But unlike many places in Cuba, the prices aren’t as reasonable for tourist standards of Cuban prices (and unreachable for many Cubans, but many rich middle class Cubans are spotted here).

If you want a trendy and more upscale/fancy night out, Sarao is for you.

Best Nightlife in Havana Saroa

Saroa Bar in Vedado

Sangri-La – Miramar

Cool kids. Trendy Kids. And Local Ones.  This basement bar gets PACKED during the weekends as its currently a very popular bar. Its in Miramar so many Cubans with more $$ attend this bar as well as many foreigners living in Cuba. It get SUPER fun after 1am so drink that cafecito!


Espacios- Miramar

Another place where all the cool kids go.  Espacios is hidden from plain sight and what looks like a normal house. The difference? You’ll see a lot of cars and guards in the front.  It hosts local affluent Cubans and their expatriate friends. Chi Chi. It’s not for the poorly dressed or anyone not willing to party until 6 am. Yes, 6 am.

Mari Tip: Come with friends as it tapas are to share! There’s also a beer garden. I think it’s the only beer garden I’ve ever seen in Cuba,



Submarino Amarillo – El Vedado

Calle 17 y 6

Calling all friki’s (Cuban for rockers)! If you love rock music or the Beatles, this is the place for you! Some of the best Cuban rock groups play here during the weekend.

I am a secret friki to be honest. I grew up with classic rock thanks to my father so when I went to Submarino Amarillo I felt right at home.

Mari tip: Check out the decorations as it matches the theme and its very unique to Cuba!

Best Nightlife Rock Club in Havana

Submarino Amarillo for the best Rock Club


Jardines 1830

Near FAC, Jardines is widely known in Havana as the go-to spot for Salsa on Thursdays and Sundays.  Although salsa is a dying trend in Cuba, it still draws crowds especially for tourists.

Live music from the stage gets everyone in the mood to dance and guaranteed you’ll be asked by locals to dance with you.  If you don’t know casino, don’t worry someone will teach you.

On the malecon, Jardines is exactly that: Jardines. Its on an old fort so while you’re taking a break from dancing, you can go out towards the fort on the water and overlook the Gulf of Mexico (romance!)

Mari tip: Be careful single tourists! Lots of jineteros here. But only as a precaution, you’ll still have an amazing time! In fact, I celebrated my 29th birthday here

La Gruta – El Vedado

If you love salsa, love Cuban culture, love dance shows, love HOT HOT HOT (literally HOT) places, La Gruta should be on your top list.

The dance floor is really a spectualar show of locals and tourists showing off their best slasa moves. Don’t know how to dance? Its Cuba. Someone will show you.  Know how to dance? Get ready for serious comeptiton.

It’s also a good mix of cubaton and salsa music. Last time I was there it was a $3CUC entrance but the $3 includes watching beautiful Cubans dance beautiful salsa. Well worth it

Mari tip: The AC is broken. Last time I was here.  Good place to burn some extra calories. Best night is Wednesdays.

Best Salsa Nightlife in Havana

La Gruta for Best Salsa in Havana


La Flauta Magica – El Vedado

One of few rooftop bars in La Habana with a POOL on the top. Although you cant swim in it, the ambiance is beautifully overlooking the malecon.  It has one of the best pina coladas I’ve ever had and on Sunday’s electronic music is playing from upcoming and emerging Cuban DJs.

It’s a perfect place to spend the later hours of the evening but be warned, it also gets pretty crowded.

Best Nightlife Havana Lounges

Nightlife at La Flauta Magica

EFE Bar – El Vedado

On Tuedays (I believe) EFE has local DJs spin its really charming interior. Everytime I have been its been a great place to chat and lounge with friends although I have heard it gets crowded during later hours.

Its cabana style tables are perfect for tapas and drinks with friends and we’ve never had a bad time here.

Best Nigthlife in Havana: Electronica

Inside DJ set at EFE Bar

Encuentro – El Vedado

Another rooftop bar (very close to Flauta Magia) offers a beautiful enviorment and some of the best mojitos in El Vedado. It’s also popular with locals. And the bartenders have dance moves to certain songs.

It’s a perfect place to chill, relax, and make some Cuban friends!



For more on Havana, check out my Cuban 101 Guide.

Want to come to Cuba and experience it as a Cuban? Sign up for my tour notifications. I’ll be offering tours very soon!
















Travel Cuba Legally in 2018: Here’s How

Malecon in Habana

View from Hotel Nacional, Tourist Hotel.

Despite Travel Warnings and Trump Reversals, You can Still Travel to Cuba Legally in 2017

Here is How:

After a significant change in US-Cuban relations under President Obama in 2015, Cuba experienced a wave of fresh Americans willing to see their closest Caribbean neighbor.

It was a new era.  People whispered quietly passed the ears of the CDR their hope Cuba’s economy would change for the better with the influx of tourism.  We waited and waited hopeful that Obama would officially end the 60 year (ridiculous) embargo.

We waited. Then waited some more.

Then Obama came. Here is comes!!!!! Finally!


It’s okay, we thought. People are still coming, one day. One day.

Then November 2016 happened. President Trump months later reversed everything we had hoped for.

As if we clung on to the little hope we could finally see our families without diplomatic problems, send money to them without ridiculous fees, and call them to hear their voices only 90 miles away without being one of the most expensive places to call in the world.

President Trump, with one speech and one signature later, removed the essential visa category that made traveling to the island much easier. The individual “people-to-people” category.   This category was extremely vague in its description and did not require American citizens to officially sign up with a tour group.

Regardless of the removal of this category, going to Cuba is STILL LEGAL using different visa categories.

Legal visa to travel to Cuba

Cuban tourist visa

Let me break it down for you if you plan to come to Cuba from point of entry inside the United States or US territories.

Before we start, it is important to note that Cuba does NOT have an embargo against the United States. Regardless of what passport you carry or what country (if you come from a third country i.e. Cancun to Havana) in from, Cuba will welcome you with open arms, café, and most likely dance lessons.

Under current 31 CFR 515.560 law, Americans can use one of 12 reasons to enter the Cuba.  Here are the three most Americans can apply for:

  1. Support the Cuban-People visa

Provision found in § 515.574 of the CACR, US government.

It defines the visa as activities are recognized human rights organization, independent organizations designed to promote democracy or individual’s organization that promote independent activity intendent to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Provision § 515.574(A) to this means the traveler must have a log of their itinerary for up to 5 years.

In English?

It means this visa has to record that you kept a full schedule seeing individuals or organization that directly help or show Cuban society.

You can’t you use your bank card to it, as that evidence against “supporting the Cuban people”).

But this visa category is extremely vague.  The OFAC does not or will have a list of such organizations or individuals that promote “democracy” or “civil society” in Cuba.  Nor can the OFAC track your cash money on the island.

What you need to do to fall under this category?

Like all categories, you must have a log of your itinerary for up to 5 years (501.601).  It also means that itinerary has to show at least 8 hours of cultural experience.

Itineraries of such activities can include several tourist experiences. Curating a local tour with a local guide can be considered a “support of a Cuban” person.

Going to local paladar (restaurant) can be considered “support of the Cuban people”

Will you get caught?

There is a EXTREMELY rare chance that American customs will care that you went to Cuba. In fact, the last person who got fined was over 10 years ago.

Unless you caused extreme disturbance while on the island, you will be fine.


  1. Educational Activities Visa

Provision § 515.565.  This one is a bit trickier since most of you will not be enrolling in a college class in Habana or a university sponsoring a class in Cuba.

But there is a provision to the law under § 515.590( B) that states:

General license for people-to-people travel. The travel-related transactions  not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program are authorized, provided that:

(1) Travel-related transactions pursuant to this authorization must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities

(2) Each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba;

(3) The predominant portion of the activities engaged in by individual travelers is not with a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba, or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party,

(4) For travel conducted under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization must accompany each group traveling to Cuba to ensure that each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities;


En Ingles?

Visa requirements include, like the Support of the Cuban-People, to obey the record keeping laws and record activities that engage Cuban people and have educational elements to it.

For example, if an individual plans to travel to Cuba to engage with local artists and have extended dialogue with farmers in Cuba and can demonstrate those activities in a log for up to 5 years, you fall under the visa category.


  1. Family Visa

This is probably the weirdest way to enter the country, but also the least recordkeeping needed.  Now, I know you’re thinking…wait, I’m not Cuban! I don’t have Cuban family in Cuba.

Well, you don’t. But that’s okay.

Under this general license, §  515.560 the US government states: “Persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and persons traveling with them who share a common dwelling as a family with them are authorized to engage in the travel-related transactions.”

You and those accompanying you can travel to a “close relative located in Cuba”

What’s a close relative?

According to § 515.339 a close relative is defined :

“as any person… who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person”

Yes, you still don’t have anyone in Cuba.

But what is the likihood the US is going to commission a non-american to a DNA test? US has no jurisdiction to Cuban nationals.

This isn’t the “legal” way, but it is a way to get you out of logging things.

Tourists in Cuba

Americans enjoying La Habana!



Traveling to Cuba can be tricky, but we assure you that its possible and LEGAL. It can be even easier if you book a tour that provides you itineraries. I will be having set tour dates in 2018 that fall under these categories.  If you are interested, please reach out here:

And remember, you will only need the tourist visa to enter Cuba. The affidavit (where you put what category you are traveling on) will be provided to you at the embarkation point in the United States or abroad.  It’s a piece of paper you fill out and check what category. They keep the paper, you get the visa.  That is it.


When coming back to the US, customs MIGHT ask you where you came from and you say Cuba. They stamp your passport, and you go on your merry way.


For cultural and educational trips that go beyond tourist areas, check out my tours in 2018 here.


I can assure you, like yourself, Cubans are desperate to engage with Americans without this political nonsense.  It does nothing for either side when two nations cannot engage diplomatically.

In the end, it hurts relations for everyone.


But you don’t need to add to it. Come to Cuba worry free and enjoy your time in the most unique place in the world!


Nos vemos.


3 Amazing Beaches in Cuba That Aren’t Varadero

Yup, you read right. I know, I know… everything you read online about Cuba mentions Varadero (and Vinales, Cienfuegos, Trinidad… the typical tourist route). Let me tell you why you should probably skip over Varadero and go to beaches equally as amazing and accessible for tourists.

So why skip Varadero? Here are some reasons:

1. There’s nothing Cuban about Varadero

If you look up where Varadero is on the map, its literally a mini peninsula that jets out. Because of this, its exclusively owned by hotels. The entire peninsula is hotel after hotel after hotel. There is no “city” there and absolutely zero culture.

Why come to Cuba if you’re going to be enclosed in a hotel? Go to Cancun instead and save yourself the hassle of visa and money issues (for Americans).

2. Its overpriced (Not Budget Friendly for Budget Travelers)

Because every single blogger/adviser/guide book pushes Varadero (mainly because they don’t know about other amazing places in Cuba), Varadero is extremely overpriced. Sure, its all-inclusive but the prices for some hotels can range $200cuc-$400cuc PER PERSON PER NIGHT. You can get SO much more out of a Cuban vacation with a beach for much much less

3. There’s better beaches

I’m not going to say Varadero isn’t beautiful, because it is. Its pristine clear waters transforms the magic of this country but that magic isn’t just seen in Varadero. There’s nothing exclusive or special about the beach in Varadero (only that there’s hotels after hotels on it). There’s plenty of other beaches that are easily accessible to tourists traveling the island.

Here are my suggestions:

Cuba offers amazing beaches!


Caibarien – Cayo Santa Maria

If you’re dying to go to Cayo Santa Maria (another mini version of Varadero) I suggest you stay in Caibarien. Its a small fishing town right outside the entrance of Santa Maria and its absolutely charming and filled with Cuban culture. It even has its own Malecon that’s much bigger than Cienfuegos! For about $20cuc and a $10cuc ride (message me if you need transportation advise) to the beach, you can get culture and amazing beach experience.


Cayo Jutias

A Cuban Family enjoying the beach at Cayo Jutias

One hour from Vinales, stay an extra day and experience this breathtaking beach. With mangrove trees jetting from the crystal-clear ocean, we nickname it “starfish beach.” Its a big enough beach that you don’t feel like the entire Canadian spring break is at the beach with you unlike Varadero. There’s a store there and local cubans also playing in the ocean.

Maria La Gorda

Known for its amazing scuba diving, Maria La Gorda on the tip of western Cuba is less accessible but that means it’s more remote if you want that kind of adventure. It sits on its own, near nothing. It costs $20 to enter with $12 to consume (so only $8cuc) and you can spend the day out in the ocean snorkeling or other water activities. Its gorgeous and there’s an entire bay of beaches you can explore with practically NO ONE around.

If you want the all-inclusive getaway with no culture, no adventure, nothing special then go to Varadero. Nothing wrong with that.

But if you want to come to Cuba, I say shy away.

Critical Items to Gift or Donate to Cubans

This blog post will help you know what you can donate to Cubans, how you can donate, and who you should donate to.

Updated: July 2019

First and foremost, THANK YOU.

When it comes to tourists coming to on holiday to Cuba, a question I often get is “Can I bring anything?” “How can I help the Cuban people?”

There’s probably no better question I love answering than that one.

There’s several reasons why the economic situation in Cuba is the way it is. The combination of the economic embargo alongside the internal situation has stifled the country at low monthly wages at high cost of living.

Unfortunately, many items that are easy to find in other countries become extremely hard to find in Cuba even if you have all the money in the world to buy it.

But as I sit here trying to google “donations to Cubans” that search becomes just as hard to find as the items Cuba needs.

I’m shocked there isn’t more out there in form of blog posts given the almost 2 million Cubans living in the United States alone.

So that’s why I’m here.

Here is a list of essential items you can donate to Cubans –

Many of them you’ll likely be packing for your vacation anyways.

  1. Medicine

There is nothing more necessary in Cuba than medicine. Sure, there’s free health care but care is limited when vital medicine is in low quantity. And, its really no secret.

Over the counter medication is in high demand. Some of these include:

  • Tylenol
  • NSAIDs
  • Anti-inflammatory cream (Cubans love Bengay)
  • Cough syrup for children
  • Tums
  • Bayer
  • Eyedrops
  • Cough drops (!!!!!)
  • Sudafed
  • Other over-the-counter

And Cuban Liquid Gold is always, always: BENGAY

As of 2019, pre-natal pills are in need. 

  1. Bandaids

Bandaids, gauze, and medicine tape are very expensive. A roll of medicine tape costs around $2CUC (a huge expense if you’re making $20 a month).

Bandaids are extremely light and small to pack and probably the most important item to gift a Cuban household.

  1. Toilet paper

Outside your Cuban resort and/or Cuban casa particular, toilet paper is a huge luxury for a lot of Cuban families. Its 90 cents a roll an trust me, its no Charmin.   A few rolls goes a long way.

  1. Deodorant

If deodorant was a drug, it could kill. Sweat and Smell go hand in hand on that island. That $1 bar from the 99 cent store costs nearly quadruple.

  1. Soap/ Shampoo/ Conditioner

See above for explanation

  1. Shoes

Good quality shoes are essential, especially for kids. It’s not rare to see people outside in the countryside especially barefoot or children running barefoot. Shoes are extremely expensive and very low quality.

Shoes break in 2 weeks if they aren’t an American recognizable brand. No joke. One time my shoes broke in the middle of the Olga Tanon concert in La Habana just by walking. No bueno.

Mari Pro Tip: If you want to bring shoes, working shoes in the countryside and boots are always needed. Many people in our little rural town of Pilotos have shoes with holes in them because of their long hours in the field.

  1. Brushes – Hair, Tooth

Here’s a story: It took me 3 days to find a hairbrush in Pinar. 3 days. Then it broke… 2 brushes later. #noesfacil

Toothbrushes and toothpaste are in huge demand as well. Children go nuts for the themed ones they sell outside the island.

  1. Sheet and Towels

Another two items that are in huge demand. You’ll likely see the same sheets in a Cuban home used for years.

  1. Other toiletries

Some items you’re likely already carrying are:

  • sun block
  • lotion
  • Wipes
  • Hair gel
  • Hairspray
  • Hair ties for the ladies!!!
  1. Feminine Products

Outside of high tourist areas like La Habana or Cienfuegos, many women have little to no access to choice within feminine products. Meaning, theres no tampons.

Tampons are light and small as well and will go a long way to helping any lady out.

  1. Toys

Children love toys and unfortunately toys are expensive in Cuba. The #1 item you can gift a girl of course is a Barbie. A boy? A soccer ball.   Move over baseball, soccer is HUGE in Cuba.

But most importantly are basic school supplies for Children: coloring books, pens, crayons, pencils, erasers.

13.  Diapers – Baby and Adult

Diapers are extremely expensive in Cuba. A package of 8 can cost $10! For an American salary, thats A LOT so imagine for a Cuban one.  Many older citizens, like our grandma, are bed stricken due to illnesses such as  arthritis.  Getting them cleaned is a LOT of work and causes bed sores. Diapers would really help.

Same thing for babys. While its common to use clothe diapers, many babies are sensitive and can only use diapers. Please bring if willing, a variety of sizes.

How to Donate to Cubans?


The biggest help you can give is is tourism.  Tourism helps the economy in so many different ways: From helping the taxi man earn more money, the the dancer on the street getting tips.  Its funnels through the economy.

There’s no better way to spend your time in Cuba than actually SEEING THE COUNTRY. Forget the cheap resorts you can find anywhere else in the Caribbean. This is a unique island with unique culture and we’d love for you to see it as authentic as possible.

Donations can be done multiple ways, but one thing is for certain. DO NOT DONATE PUBLICALLY ON THE STREETS. The Cuban government is concerned not only for saftey but its public image. No one wants to be seen as the country who needs American saviors for basic items, especially when there is already so much political tension.

Cuba is tricky when it comes to donations. If you are bringing large quantities of 1 thing, Cuban government officials might get a bit suspicious you’re trying to supply black markets than donating.

Mari tip: If you are so kind enough to donate, please bring a variety of things. Do not bring 50 USB sticks or a luggage full of shoes.  

To get customized tours email me here. For small-group tours, you can see our itinerary. 

Who to Donate To?

Cubans are inventors, but you might not know there are different economic classes on the island like any other country. Most casa particulares owners are living very well off tourism and same goes with any tourist driven employee (that’s why its so hard to get a tourist license).

We suggest going to places that are off-the-grid. In Havana alone there are several marginalized communities who would love donations. We can help in arranging that.

I also suggest thati f you don’t have time to go outside of Havana to leave donations at Cuba Libro.  Cuba Libro is a local coffee shop run by an American. They always take in donation and do their best to distribute.

Mari Tip: I suggest if you want to give to please donate items to a community project or any family living in the countryside (not Vinales because, again, very touristy). Many Cubans are not as fortunate to have family on the outside that can send them remittances. Plus, you’ll get a very local and cultural experience doing it that way!

If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 


Cuba 101: Intro Guide to Traveling to Cuba

Trust me: This is Everything you need to know about going to Cuba

It seems that all-of-the-sudden the world figured out the largest island in the Caribbean still exists. Maybe it was the cars, maybe it was the Kardashians.  Either way, Cuba has become a major hot spot for all the world’s coolest travel blogger Instagrams.

And now you want to go. You want the vintage picture. You want to say, “I went before it changes” (more on that later).

But, I know like many, you might not know a single thing about Cuba. Or you’re interested but you have no idea where to start.  Lonely Planet says one thing, that really awesome travel blogger says another.  Or you suddenly get caught reading  into a political battle.  

And now you’re here. But, don’t worry, like we say, “Tranquilo” (calm). Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Cuba before you jump onto that plane.


Cuba is literally 35 minutes away to the closest major USA airport. From Cancun, 1 hour.   You take longer figuring out what outfit to wear for that club than it takes to get to Cuba.

Cuba’s rich history combined with its culture and of course, its disconnectivity to the world makes it alluring, mysterious and most-of-all, fun.

It’s the only place in the world where you’re immediately welcomed with a cup of coffee, a hug and reassurance that whatever you need is not a problem. It’s also one of the only places in the world where you hear music coming from all directions ALL THE TIME (yes, if you’re sensitive, bring ear plugs… ).

Plus there’s all the other amazing things like salsa dancing on the beach, drinking mojitos on the Malecon, and riding in antique cars.


If you’re American, you need one annnnddddd its complicated.  I wont get into the nitty gritty details (like I did here), but I will say:


YOU CAN STILL GO TO CUBA (as of September 2017)

I offer legal and hassle-free itineraries you need to make your trip legal in the eyes of Uncle Sam. But even more rewarding is that they will help the Cuban people and you’ll get to explore our culture much more than if you went to Cubano-Med (Club Med).

The visa costs around $100 and you can purchase it from Cuba Travel Services before or at check-in.  You’ll mark either “education” or “support the Cuban people” as one of the 11 categories.

Because the government of Cuba does not have an embargo on the United States, no one in Cuba cares why you’re there- they are just glad you are.  Immediately seeing your passport, they will ask you if you want it stamped. Up to you now but more on this in my other dedicated visa blog post.


In case you didn’t already know, your credit card won’t work in Cuba. Sorry, no travel points for you.

You MUST bring cash. I don’t care if you’re Canadian, Spanish, German or Martian… bring it. And lots of it.

ATMs are only seen in major cities and the only place I know that accepts credit cards as a form of payment are in hotels.  SWIPE OR INSERT CHIP HERE does not translate in Cuban.  It just simply doesn’t exist.

And to complicate things even more, Cuba has not one but two currencies.  TWO.

Lets take the Cuba Currency 101 Course:

  1. CUC (pronounced “cuuk” or C-U-C) is peso convertible.  This is the currency banks and hotels will give you.  Its valued at 1 CUC = 1 USD.
  2. CUP (coup or peso cubano) is peso nacional.  This is the currency small business and people on the street use.   Its valued at 25 CUP = 1 CUC


25 CUP= 1 CUC = 1 USD

Left: CUP (Peso Cubano, Nacional) Right: CUC (Convertible Peso)

How can you tell if something is in CUC or CUP? Well, if you’re ordering a pizza from a fast food stand and the menu says “12”, put your gringo hat on and think “$12 for one pizza?” Nope. That’s CUP. So 12 peso cubano which is about half a cuc is roughly 50 cents.  

MARI MUNDO TIP:  Most places in Havana will use CUC in restaurants. Anywhere outside will either charge in CUP (small places) or give you an option.

Now that you (hopefully) understand the valuation of currency, how do you get it?

SPECIAL BONUS MARI MUNDO TIP: Well, luckily for you I have amazing tips that you wont find anywhere else here that will save you a bunch of money when getting hit by the Cuban tax (especially if you’re American).

I will say that all banks will trade your currency. They are called cadecas.  The most common are: Canadian Dollar (CAD), Pound Sterling (GBP), Euro (EUR), Dollar (USD), Russian Ruble (RUB), and Swiss Franc (CHF).  Some places will also have the Mexican peso and the Japanese yen.

Be aware if you plan on going to a Cadeca, you will be waiting in line especially if in Havana (as with everything in Cuba… a line).



The biggest hurdle of daily life for Cubans is transportation.  As a tourist, it’s a bit easier, but you can easily join the Cuban club when it comes to moving around the island.

Transportation can be tricky but depending on where you are, you can still get around.


Taxis come two ways in Cuba: colectivos (shared fixed routes) or pick-up style (traditional, private).  Like New York, just put your hand out and grab a taxi.

IMPORTANT: Always negotiate a price BEFORE you get into a taxi. Rides around La Habana Vieja- El Vedado shouldn’t cost more than $3cuc and to Miramar $10cuc.  

And like its own intuitive uber system, prices always raise at night due to fewer cars.

Collectivos are always fijo (fixed). They run certain routes and these taxi’s cost 20 peso cubano per person per ride (or like if you took my Cuban Currency class right above is almost $1 cuc).  You can usually find colectivos where you see Cubans lined up and cars picking them up (most common for tourists is in Plaza Central across the street from Hotel Inglatera or on the corner of Copelia Ice Cream and 23rd.  

The taxi driver will come up to you and you tell him where you’re going.  He will say yes or no.  You get in if obviously yes. Along the way he will pick up other people going the same direction. They come and go.

If you need a taxi from the airport to your destination (and most of you will) you can always contact me and for $30 CUC you can get yourself to your Airbnb.


Viazul Bus – Tourism.

Cubans call buses GUAGUA for the noise it makes: waaa-waaaaaaa. There are plently of inner-city buses in La Habana but I really don’t recommend it unless you want to get extremely close to a random Cuban while sweating and not know where you’re going.  But if you’re in the mood to adventure or you’re a budget traveler, Cubans are always willing to help anyone get to where they are going. You just have to ask.

If you plan on taking a bus from city to city, tourists buses are run by Viazul. Viazul sells tickets either online or at certain stations.

A bit of caution: As with everything else in Cuba, Viazul is not reliable form of transportation. They are infamous for being late and/or breaking down.  I cant say its 100% guarantee this will happen, but something to keep in the back of your mind when going from one city to another- flexibility and a “go-with-the-flow” mentality.


Tourist cars are marked by “T” on the license plate.

For the most flexibility and freedom, I always recommend travelers to rent a car especially if they want to see other parts of the country Viazul does not go through.

They are, though, expensive.  The most economic car during peak tourist season will run you almost $80 a day not including the very expensive gas.

You will also be required to get premium or special gas as all tourists cars (marked by a T on the license plate) is by law required to purchase that gas. Although, if you bat your eyes or give a little tip to the worker he might let you slide with normal gas.

You can rent cars here and prepay them with a credit card.  Please be aware that you need to rent a car for at least 3 days with a $150-$200 deposit (in cash).

MARI MUNDO TIP: If you decide to rent a car do not rent at the airport as you will have to pay a $20 airport fee and they will only give you back your deposit in your national currency with a penalty.  I suggest renting from Paseo y 3 in La Habana across the street from Hotel Melia Cohiba. They are 24 hours unlike other places.



Ay, if I had a CUC for every time someone asked me how to get internet on the island I could fund my own internet company.

Yes, there’s Internet in Cuba.  Yes, you can get it. Yes, I get it.  And yes, it sucks.

For $1.50 an hour you can buy this ETESCA card and connect to the internet following the instructions:

Prepaid Internet Card

  1. Buy a ETECSA card from anywhere that says “recarga” or at hotels
  2. Go to a public park or inside hotel lobbies that offer wi-fi
  3. Jump on ETECSA wi-fi
  4. Wait (sometimes impatiently) for the log-in page to appear
  5. Enter the two codes
  6. Online! But this is Cuba not Starbucks. It isn’t fast. It isn’t reliable.  

Want to know what applications work and will make your life much easier? I list them here.


Cubans rely heavily on inventing new ways everyday to eat.  Ration cards leave much to be desired and hardly support anyone for a week much less an entire month.  

Cuba is infamously known for pork, lechon or puerco.  It’s the national dish and a staple along with white rice and beans.  Sweet potato (or bonito) and plantains are always always a side dish.

But what you know is this: Ropa Vieja.  How much I love ropa vieja.  But did you know, its illegal to kill a cow in Cuba? Yup.

La Habana has the best food by far in the island. It’s the capitol and surprisingly you can find many cuisines from around the world.   The combination of increased tourism with the uprising of private restaurants has paved the way for a new generation of Cuban cuisine.  Here are some of my recommendations in La Habana.


I am willing to put money that Cuba is by far the safest island in the Caribbean, the saftest country in Latin America and probably North and South America when it comes to violent crimes.

It is however not crime-free, of course.   The biggest thing as a tourist you must look out for is petty scams.  It happens and it happens all the time.

Tourists are EXTREMELY easy to spot.  Even if you are Cuban-American, your clothes, your attitude, your skin color, and everything about you is noticeable.  You aren’t from here.  

And Cubans know that.  Many times they will trick you into going into a restaurant and you will pay more than the normal price. Or taxi drivers will charge you much more. Worst offense is confusing you with the double currency.

But, as with every other country, it happens and you cannot let it affect your vacation.  After all you should be enjoying experiencing a new culture and understand many of this is due to necessity.

Cuba does redeem itself in all other terms when it comes to safety.  As long as you aren’t a drunk idiot (screaming wheres the marijuana in the middle of Habana vieja at 2 am…. Yes, I rescued an American girl doing this last year) you’ll be safe anywhere in the island you go to.

I cannot overstate enough of friendly, welcoming and helpful Cuban people are.  You are NEVER alone or lost on the island. Never.

Itinerary in Cuba

Throughout this blog, you’ll see many places to go.  Of course, I cannot make a website and not mention the most popular places in Havana

  • La Habana (La Habana Vieja, Centro Habana, El Vedado, Miramar, Playa)
  • Trinidad
  • Cienfuegos
  • Varadero
  • Vinales
  • Cayo Coco/Santa Maria

Those are the most common and tourist centric places in Cuba. Its where you’ll find most information on the internet and where all the other travel bloggers have mentioned in their “ultimate guide to cuba”

But, keep on the look out for some places you never knew existed. Those are the exciting ones.  And I’m so excited to show the world a Cuba its never seen before.


The Yuma’s Guide to Getting a Visa To Cuba

September 2017

You’re an American and you heard you couldn’t legally travel to Cuba. WRONG.
As of September 2017, you can still travel legally to Cuba.
In June 2017, U.S. President Trump signed an executive order that rolled back many of the advancements the Obama Administration made with Cuba including the individual people-to-visa visa category. Under this reason, travel to Cuba was very relaxed and pretty much anything could be categorized as “people-to-people”
Trump thought that was a bad idea (I however will remain comment-less on that for now) and will now reduce the 12 categories down to 11.
But don’t worry, tranquilo. You can still travel to Cuba legally and if you’re still worried, you can do it the old fashion way: Through a 3rd country.  Lets break it down.

Legal Travel Between US and Havana
As of now, you can still purchase a commercial flight to Cuba (thanks JetBlue, Alaska, American, Southwest etc) and a direct flight from Miami to Cuba runs now about $200 RT.  I know, not bad!!
When you are booking, under OFAC regulations you will be required to choose a category. If you’re not quite sure yet, pick any you believe best suits the trip. Many of you will go under “supporting the Cuban people” visa or “education.”   This is less important at this stage because this is only a requirement to purchase not to enter.

How to Apply for the Visa
Good News! There is no “application.” You quite simply check-in at your connecting gate to Havana and you can purchase the visa right there and then. It runs between $50-$100 depending on what airline you are traveling with.
This is where you’re the reason of your travel is really recorded.  When purchasing, you will be asked to fill an affidavit.   Here you will check in your reason for travel, your name, and the address of where you are staying.
Please remember that Cuba does not care why you’re entering Cuba. The United States does as the United States has placed a travel embargo on the island.
After you sign your affidavit, you will get your visa.  PLEASE FILL YOUR VISA CAREFULLY OR YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO PURCHASE A NEW ONE.
The visa asks for your Last Name, First Name, Birthdate, Passport Number, and Nationality on two sides.  Again, please fill this out carefully.
After you do that, you’re on your way!! It’s THAT simple and seriously THAT easy.  No boogie man will come down, no secret spies…. Just a cup of coffee, hugs, and music waiting to greet you.

When you Get to Customs in Havana
You are required to give your passport and you’re your declaration to the officer.  They will ask you to stand in front of a camera and ask for our picture.
They will also ask you, upon seeing your visa, if you want it stamped.  That’s up to you (but if you’re direct from Havana to US on the way back, obviously you came from Cuba).
After Customs
Pick up your bags and get in a taxi for about $30 cuc to your destination! If you need arrangements, please contact me here.
Coming back to the United States
In the Havana airport they will ask you for your boarding pass, your visa (again), and another photo.  They will then stamp either your passport or your boarding pass and you’ll be asked then to go through security.
After coming back to the US, the customs officer will ask you where you came from. This is how the dialogue goes: Officer: Where did you come from? American: Cuba Officer: Did you have fun?  American: Absolutely!  Officer: Have a good day.
Enough said.

This is a good option if you aren’t comfortable with the visa regulations and extremely traveled by Americans.
Cubans know this and they don’t care.
If traveling from a third country (most popular being Mexico), you can purchase your entrance visa at the connecting gate for $20 from most latin American countries.  Please look up visa requirements from others.
At Havana Airport
When going through customs, a Cuban officer will see your American passport. If they don’t already, while they are reviewing your paperwork ask them to please not stamp your passport. They won’t.
Going Back to 3rd country:
Repeat above.
When in the United States:
You were just on a week vacation in Mexico when asked and  should have no evidence (because of no stamp in your passport) that you were in Cuba. Ole!!
Yes, that might seem very weird and strange, but it is an EXTREMELY common form of American travel to Cuba and on very extremely rare cases does anyone get “caught” and “fined.”

The most important part is to not worry so much about getting to Cuba as much as having fun IN Cuba.  You won’t regret your trip, you little espionage.
And Cubans love love love Americans (and the American flag on their bodies, apparently).

Top 5 Restaurants in Havana


There’s a different kind of revolution brewing in Cuba and unlike its infamous 1959 counterpart, this one brings a lot more “candela.”

Since the Cuban government has issued licenses for small privately owned businesses like paladares (restaurants), the rise of young entrepreneurial Cuban chiefs has left Havana’s dining scene growing faster than Che’s facial hair.

And since the world has seemed to suddenly remember the biggest island in the Caribbean still exists, tourists are wandering data-less and clueless around the streets of La Habana Vieja or El Vedado hungry.   

So let us help you find where you can find the best cuisine in the islands capital.

Santy Pescador  (Miramar, Habana)

Famous for hosting tourists and locals alike, Santy Pescador overlooks Rio Jaimanitas and boosts a twist on traditional Cuban seafood – sushi.   And if you are lucky enough to visit Havana during tuna season, you cannot pass anything Santy Pescador makes with tuna. An incredibly laid-back atmosphere with great views of the sea and marina is a great way to spend lunch or dinner in Havana.  (Mari’s Pro Tip: Santy Pescador is a bit outside center Habana but a few streets down is Fusterlandia, a MUST SEE for anyone interested in local beautiful art.   Fusterlandia is an entire neighborhood dedicated to eccentric Cuban art by artist Jose Fuster.   If you decide to go, I’d suggest to arrive after all the tour busses and crowds leave around 2pm-3pm).

El Del Frente (La Habana Vieja)

Tucked away by the overly flamboyant streets of La Habana Vieja is one of the best Cuban restaurants in the touristy neighborhood. El Del Frente is on O’Reily and Aguilar and on the top floors of the building with a beautiful rooftop terrace.  Enjoy amazing Cuban cuisine and finely made cocktails in a very unique setting.

El Chanchullero (La Habana Vieja)

You’ve probably come across this one if you’ve done any sort of research of Cuban restuarants and it’s worth the buzz. El Chanchullero is also in touristy Habana Vieja but makes probably one of the best ropa Viejas I’ve had in the area (and that’s a very tall order for me!). It has a great bar decorated with wine bottles and posters.

Somos Cuba (La Habana Vieja)

Somos Cuba (we are cuba) is EXACTLY that.  From the location to the hosts to the food, you CANNOT get any more Cuban than this.  Located in a solar (buildings that are divided into very very small apartments in center Havana), Somos Cuba’s chefs Ivan and Leidi serve you in the kitchen itself.  They welcome you as any Cuban would- with love and food.  It’s a bit pricey for Cuban standards but the experience and the food is well worth it.  Pro-Tip: There are stairs with graffiti pointing you to the restaurant. If you think its not where you should go, it most likely is!  Packed times include lunch and early evening hours so you might want to go a bit later.  Its small so don’t be shy to be a bit Cuban-like and talk to your dinner neighbors.

Flor de Loto:  Chinese in Cuba  (Centro Habana/Barrio Chino)

Yes, I’m recommending Chinese food in Cuba and it may surprise you that Chinese roots are essential to the fabric of Cuban culture.  Chinese immigrants have been calling Havana home for generations now and their food still inspires.  I’m putting this on the list because I always think its great to experience a different kind of cuisine than in the country you are visiting. Plus, lets be honest… theres just so much rice, beans and meat that one can eat.  Well Flor de Loto fits the bill! Right in the center of you guessed it, Barrio Chino, Flor serves the best fusion Havana has to offer.  I mean where else in the world can you get perfectly fried plantains and the best crabmeat with fried rice all in one huge (HUGE, yes the portions are CRAZY BIG) plate?  Only in La Habana! 

Bonus: Download A La Mesa!

A La Mesa is a Cuban app (yes, tech start ups are a thing in the land of no data but that’s another blog post) that lists restaurants of all major cities in Cuba.  They give you filters for live music, bars, tapas, and price range.  Its no yelp, but it works off-line and is an amazing app to have while visiting the island.   


Insider Tips to Exchanging Cuban Currency

Insider Tips to Exchanging Cuban Currency

In my Cuba 101 post, I gave a crash course on Cuban currency. We have two. Yes two. Go ahead and take it. It will take you 2 minutes to read.

Currency is a tricky thing in Cuba and as many of your know (or some that don’t), your credit card wont work here. I don’t care if you are Canadian, European or Asian. Credit card machines aren’t very common. Your ATM card will work (not for Americans) but you’ll be standing in line at a cadeca (bank) in Havana forever to get some money.

You need cash… and, lots of it. Most guides will say if you have USD to change to Euros. And then do some sort of mini forex (currency) market exchange all in your head.

You will loose more time and/or money if you do change from USD to EURO to CUC back to EURO to USD.

And its confusing… also, its not common sense.

Here are two ways to exchange currency to maximize your vacation money. Keep in mind, this is mainly for those using USD as any other currency is easily exchangeable (again, if you’re willing to wait in line if outside the airport).

Exchange with fellow foreigners at the airport

This seems the most common- sense to me and a tip I never see from fellow bloggers. It’s the way I always change to CUC and its honestly, pretty easy. Here’s how you do it: When you get to Havana, from arrivals go to departures (upstairs… there is an escalator in the international terminal). You will see your fellow yuma’s (Cuban for foreigners) at the cadeca terminal. Go up to the line and ask, descreetly, how many CUC’s they have left over to exchange with you. Do this until you have enough (or all). Bam, 1:1, no loss, and EASY AF

Change in Havana on the Streets

I guarantee you any owner of a casa particular in Havana knows 1-1000 people who make money from exchanging with tourists. The exchange rate for most tourists I have asked is between 90-95 for every $100. This is MUCH better than the exchange rate at the cadeca that will hit you hard at $87 for every $100.

MARI TIP: Bring your cash is $100 as $100 will exchange easier and for more than $20s or any other denomination.

If you do decide to go through government banks/hotels to exchange your money, the same currency rate is applied everywhere at every cadeca.


Cuba- the only place where the CUC is valued considerably lower than the USD (in the free market) and the government will still give you less for it. ☺