la habana

one fateful night over dinner and drinks, 3 friends agreed to go to cuba together and decided on dates within the hour. flights and accommodations were booked within the month, and a few weeks after that, annie, yukkie and i were in cuba.

a few things

  • special thanks to jane and ashley for sharing their respective recommendations and travel tips with me before we left.
  • fair warning: while i make an effort to check my phone and email less often while on vacation regardless of where i am, going cold turkey for 6 days because there simply is no cell or internet reception was stifling to say the least.
  • on average, i spent ~80 CUC per day, not including cigar shopping days.
  • we each exchanged either CAD or GBP in lieu of USD because of the 10% fee.
  • wifi was extremely hard to come by for us, in comparison to our friends. we ended up going to a hotel and buying 1hr of wifi, which we shared among the 3 of us.
  • my local beer of choice: cristal + presidente.

despite the unwelcome inconveniences (toilets without seats, carrying toilet paper everywhere we went, so many animal carcasses on the street, cash only everything) the cuban natives we met truly made this trip worth it. the majority of the people we encountered were welcoming and genuinely helpful.

vedado + old havana (below) with a separate entry dedicated to day trips to follow next week.


coming from new york, my girl friends and i can't stand tourist-congested areas, so staying in vedado was perfect for us. the distance was a long leisurely stroll or a 10–15 CUC cab ride from old havana.

local coffee scouting is an immediate necessity. cafe brown a few blocks away from our airbnb became our daily kickoff with their awesome cortados and tasty pork sandwiches. (the rest of the food here was not so good.)

personal faves

  • dinner at la guarida (above) was beautiful—drinks, appetizers, and dessert were all great but the entrées were underwhelming.
  • bilky, on the corner of the airbnb we stayed in, was a quick and easy dinner after a day of traveling—simple, clean food with a crisp cold beer.
  • paladar los amigos for traditional cuban food. we went for back-to-back meals because it was so f-ing good. "beef with sauce" is what i had. 
  • coppelia for ice cream
  • hotel nacional for yummy mojitos and pretty view of the malecon
  • much to my despair, the famous fabrica was closed for month-long renovations when we visited. bar sarao's was a fun alternative for live music and dancing.

old havana

most of our time in old havana was spent getting lost the streets and taking in the sights. that said, 2 of my favorite meals from the trip were in old havana, listed below.

with my old trusty haerfest backpack and new quay sunnies that were perfect for this trip. 

so happy we stumbled upon this beautiful drugstore.

personal faves

  • après lunch at paladar mercaderes in old havana, which was my favorite meal by far!! the pineapple lobster dish was delicious.
  • 304 o'reilly was a close second in terms of overall meals in cuba. the lobster tail with grilled veggies i had was delicious, but if i could go back, i would get the chicken curry pasta dish that annie had. drinks here are a must!!
  • restaurant van van for drinks.

words from the wise: check hours of operation as best as you can before planning excursions. above, you will see we missed the antique book sale at the stunning plaza de armas in old havana. below, you will see we arrived at the incredible fusterlandia 15 minutes (!) after they closed. our taxi driver graciously waited for us to walk around the town anyway before driving us home.

on the list for next time

  • el del frente, where (according to a local) michelle obama and her daughters visited and cried as they were overwhelmed by the chanting crowds, "michelle! michelle! michelle!" 
  • san cristobal, where the obamas dined
  • roma, bar / lounge established by a new yorker, which we were very curious to see. it was unfortunately shut down indefinitely when we were there at the beginning of the month.
  • casa de la musica, which we almost went to but were warned by a local that it was a prostitute pick-up spot. i'm sure it's a lovely place, but as 3 women tourists, we erred on the side of caution…
  • fabrica, the one that got away