10 Activities that Support the Cuban People

Coming to Cuba as an American (or from an American city) under the Support the Cuban people visa category and wondering what the “f” does that mean? Don’t worry, I got you.

As you might already know, visiting Cuba is completely LEGAL under this visa category.  While in Cuba, you’ll quickly discover no undercover American patrol unit is following you around making sure you’re behaving and not drinking the communist kool-aid.

But, legally speaking, what does “Support the Cuban People” actually mean? Well according to the law, Americans are required to participate in activities that support independent institutions.

The Office of Foreign Asset Control, the US department that regulates these laws, gives Americans some examples: “Staying at a casa particular” or “eating at a paladar (restaurant)” are some of the things Americans can do.

They go on to state that you’ll need to provide a full-day itinerary of activities that support the Cuban people on the VERY EXTREMELY RARE chance they question you.

Need not fear, my American dears! Here’s a list of suggested activities Americans can do that also do something pretty cool…. actually, support the Cuban people.

Hey, if you’re in Cuba you might as well give back to the many thousands of entrepreneurs, local taxi drivers, and everyday hustlers trying to make a life on an island that’s experiencing a pretty hard economic situation.

 

  1. Take a Day Tour of Havana!

    • You can take a tour of the beautiful Old Havana with a local guide (me hehe) that takes you through the many historical parts of the city and gives you a local perspective of how many Cubans live.
    • If interested in this tour, shoot me an email!

10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

      • Walk the streets of Habana Vieja with a local who gives you a different perspective

 

  1. Ride an American Classic Convertible

    • What is Cuba without the classic American cars? You can ride one as well around the city and its COMPLETELY LEGAL! The classic cars are owned by private citizens and help support the local economy.  Yes, its super touristy but it’s an absolute must DO!
    • 10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

      Whitney Riding The Malecon!

  1. Learn how to make Cuban food and eat some!

    • You can just eat at a local restaurant, but why don’t you learn how to make a Cuban dish prepared by a local chef!? That why you are taking an “educational class” and filling your belly at the same time! Plus you’ll learn how restaurants in socialist Cuba are adjusting to the everyday struggles of getting more supplies, the right amounts of food, and searching how to make their new client bases happy.. tourists!
    • Want 10% off every reservation for this experience? Click here and book with jLeL-o7wr code to ALAMESA, a Cuban app that cultivates these experiences and more

10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

A typical Cuban meal: Rice, Beans, Meat and Veggies

  1. Drink cocktails with a Cuban mixologist

    • Learn how to make the classic Cuba Libre, Daiquairi, and Mojitos with a mixologist! Our friends at Jibarao in Old Havana are trained doctors of Nuclear Physics turned restaurant owners so they know how to mix REALLY well.
    • Want 10% off every reservation for this experience? Click here and book with jLeL-o7wr code to ALAMESA, a Cuban app that cultivates these experiences and more

    • 10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

      Learning how to Make Cocktails at Jibarao with our friends from New York!

 

  1. Smoke some Cubans in the Heart of Tobacco Country

    • Cuban cigars are infamous all over the world. I mean, if you’re coming to Cuba and NOT smoking a Cuban cigar, what are you even doing here?
    • Pinar del Rio, Cuba Is famous for growing Cuba’s best cigars and in the heart of the region stands Vinales, a small farming town. We take you there to meet our family friends who own a tobacco farm. Leo, Domingo, and Mingo will show you how to roll a cigar, educate you on how tobacco is run, and show you around our beautiful land!
    • Take this experience with me on my Vinales/Pinar del Rio tour!
    • 10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

      See a Tobacco House where they grow the tobacco for the famous Cuban Cigar!

 

  1. Have dinner in the Cuban countryside

    • Homemade Cuban dinner in the countryside is the epitome of heaven. Seriously….we aren’t joking. Cuba has 100% organic food, but it taste even better prepared by guajiros (Cuba’s countryside people) and farm fresh.
    • Get an intimate view on how most Cubans live outside of tourism in the countryside with my FAMILY! <3
    • Take this experience with me on my Vinales/Pinar del Rio tour
10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

My beautiful Norwegian friends escaping the cold winters and eating at our families home in Pinar del Rio!

  1. Stay at a Casa Particular

    • Mentioned above, but Casa particulares (“private homes”) are a great way to support the Cuban people. Since the liberalization of small businesses, the island has boomed with casa particulares tourist can rent.
    • Tip: In many cases, casa particulares are much nicer than hotels run by government conglomerates. They pay special attention to their clients and cleanliness is a priority.
    • Interested in staying in a Casa particular in Cuba? Email me here!

 

  1. Learn how to Dance Salsa with a Salsero!

    • If its not the rum, the cigars, or the cars that bring you to Cuba, you need to add DANCING SALSA to that itinerary.. NOW! Cuban music is recognizable all over the world and salsa dance is something every tourist should experience!
    • Learn how to dance salsa with a professional. Honestly, I cant even dance that well and he taught me SO much in less than an hour!
    • Get your rumba on, here!
    • 10 Activities that Support the Cuban People

      Alyssa and Megan getting their rumba on with our friend Carlos!

 

  1. Explore Cuba’s Nature

  • Cuba is a gigantic island with many parts still left unconstructed and untouched. See the lush tropics and almost Jurassic park-ish feeling the island has.
  • Whether its waterfalls in Artemisa (1 hour outside Havana) and in Cienfuegos or cascading rivers in Trinidad, Cuba has something to offer everyone
  • Click here for more information on Cuba’s nature!
10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

Me walking through the countryside!

 

  1. Go to the Beach

    • Now this one might seem that it isn’t part of “activities Supporting the Cuban people” but who says!? You can hire a private driver that can take you there, eat at a local restaurant, and go to a local beach!
    • There are beautiful beaches near Havana and all around the island.. you can take a tour there with us or stay at a casa particular if far that supports the Cuban people with some pretty amazing views!

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,

 

BEST ROCK CLUB:

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

BEST SALSA CLUBS IN HAVANA

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

BEST OF ELECTRONICA/ LOUNGES

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.