Cuba is already a big destination for tourists from all over the world.
According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, 2.9 million people visited last year, and more people went to Cuba in the first nine months of 2014 than any Caribbean island except the Dominican Republic. While recent steps by the U.S. government to open relations with Cuba aren't providing carte blanche for tourism, it's likely that, for the first time in five decades, it will soon be easier for Americans to go and legally spend money there.
But the political and ethical considerations of traveling to Cuba are complicated and personal. If you choose to visit, it's important to be informed about the country's history, respectful of the people who live there, and aware of how you spend your money. What follows is a list of things to see and do.
1. Stay up all night on The Malecón.
2. Visit University of Havana.
3. See live music — everywhere.
4. Feast on delicious street food.
Small businesses are cropping up all over Cuba's streets and many new entrepreneurs are focusing on street food. Try pork hamburgers, fruit milkshakes, and coconut pies, to name a few. Here are five street foods you should try in Havana.
5. Wander and admire the architecture in Vedado.
6. See Interactivo perform.
7. Learn to salsa at 1830.
8. Hang out in Plaza Vieja.
9. Take a bus to Baracoa.
Baracoa sits on the opposite side of the island from Havana. This is part of Guantanamo province, and where Columbus first landed in Cuba. Chocolate and cacao are an important part of Baracoa's economy, so munch on some while you take in the the view of El Yunque, a 575-meter-high table mountain, across Baracoa Bay. To get there, you can fly to Gustavo Rizo Airport from Havana, but flights are infrequent. Most people take a bus, which leave from Havana on alternate days. (Note that this, like all public transport schedules, is worth double-checking before you go.)
10. See a dance show at Teatro Nacional.
11. Take in the sunset from El Morro.
El Morro — a 16th-century fortress that was also used as a prison for many years — now serves as an excellent vantage point where you can catch beautiful Atlantic sunsets. Every night at 9 p.m., a ceremonial canon is fired from the fortress walls.
12. Hike the highest point on the island of Cuba: Pico Turquino.
13. Head to Varadero and hit the beach.
14. Eat dinner at La Guarida.
First, some homework: See Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate, 1994), the Academy Award-nominated period piece and darling of Cuban cinema. Then, make a reservation at La Guarida, the Central Havana haunt with excellent fare that serves as the stage for most of the film.
15. Spend a day in Trinidad.
16. Visit Ernest Hemingway's house, Finca Vigía.
Hemingway lived in the house — which is now a museum — from 1939 to 1960, and wrote most of For Whom The Bell Tolls there.
17. Go to a baseball game at Estadio Latinoamericano.
18. Visit the Museo de la Revolución.
An earlier version of this post misidentified the stadium pictured in #17. The image has been updated. Play ball!