Cienfuegos and Mantanzas

Cienfuegos

I chose to combine Cienfuegos and Mantanzas since we spent the least amount of time in these locations and we didn’t schedule any airbnb experiences for these days.

We arrived in Cienfuegos by a collectivo (shared taxi), after having been in Havana. It was nice to be next to the water and to explore. The city square was so cute and the city was very easy to navigate. It seems there was probably more that we missed but we really enjoyed the sculpture garden that we happened upon while walking around.

The breeze while sitting next to the water and enjoying some pina coladas was amazing. We also loved the glasses sculpture right at the point! We also happened upon a pottery store that had lots of nice things for minimal money!

We scheduled our collectivo to Trinidad through our airbnb host and we decided to stop at El Nicho ( an area with waterfalls and natural pools), on our way there. The driver will wait for you for the 2 hours that you can be in the park. Mandi and I truly enjoyed it and we would definitely say it’s worth it!

Mantanzas

We went from Trinidad to Mantanzas. We honestly didn’t get to see much of the city because of arriving later than we had anticipated, but we heard so many good things that we want to go back!

Our airbnb hosts were absolutely amazing! They recommended several places to eat and to visit. Unfortunately for me, I got food poisoning that evening and wasn’t able to explore at all. When our hosts found out, they gave me tea and they offered to let us stay longer for me to rest. Mandi enjoyed the patio at the airbnb and walked down to the beach the morning before we headed back to Havana.

Check back soon for our favorite spots and what we did in Trinidad!

Havana, Cuba

Honestly, my favorite part of Havana was the street art. Turns out we missed a lot that we could’ve seen, it seems. Just another reason to head back!
Mandi and I used Airbnb Experiences for planning our trip. This was our first time and we will definitely use it for future trips as well.

On our first full day in Havana, we did a classic car tour. This was a great way to experience the city and to learn some about the history of Cuba. The weather was also nice since it was early in the day. They also were so kind to pick us up and drop us off at our Airbnb.

Later that day, we did a Cigar, Coffee, and Rum experience with Able. It was absolutely amazing. I had never smoked anything in my life and Able explained how coffee and rum can change the flavor of cigars. He also talked to us about the planting of the tobacco and how cigars are rolled. We left with a lot of knowledge and he also let us know where we could buy some of these items. The restaurant, Café O’Reilly, that we had the experience at was so cute and we would recommend going even if you can’t do the experience for some reason.

Ernest Hemingway House

Our next day, we went to Ernest Hemingway’s house (there is a cost, I believe it was 5 CUC per person). We found that it was cheapest to take a yellow taxi there – this cost us 40 CUC round trip, whereas a classic car would’ve been 50 CUC round trip. I was a Lit major in college, so I had the desire to go to Hemingway’s house. I’ll be honest, it was neat to see where you can imagine Hemingway sitting and writing (and of course, drinking!) but you cannot go in the house, so it’s all based off looking through doorways. Once we got back, we went and saw the Floridita but it was so crowded that we just took a few pictures and went on exploring!

That evening, we did a hike through history with Benito. We enjoyed this because we got a different perspective of Cuba. We also got to ride on the bus and the ferry!

Another experience that we did when we returned to Havana was a printmaking class. I actually wasn’t able to participate very much in this one because of the after-effects of food poisoning. But, here’s what I can tell you – I WILL be going back and experiencing a class with Octavio. Octavio and his wife, Beatriz, were so incredible! It was amazing to hear about Octavio’s training and education and the opportunities that they are creating within the art community in Cuba. This is an experience that cannot be missed!

Our next stop was Cienfuegos! To read about Cienfuegos and Mantazas, check out this post!

Traveling to Cuba

Havana, Cuba

Most importantly, as I am writing this on August 31, 2019, you are still allowed to go to Cuba from the United States!!

Before my breast cancer diagnosis, Garth and I had planned a trip to Ireland but due to the uncertainty of what was ahead for me, it had to be cancelled. After learning that I wouldn’t have to have chemo or radiation a friend of mine, Mandi, asked about a trip. We landed on Cuba!

Cuba was absolutely amazing. I left part of my heart there and I cannot wait to return! Honestly, traveling there was quite simple. We probably over-prepared for our trip but it’s better to do that since you never know when you’ll have internet in Cuba. Now to get down to the details…

Preparing for Cuba:

  • We used Airbnb for all of our Casa Particulars (which is what you’ll need to stay in unless you stay in a non-government run hotel) and our experiences.
  • Download Maps.Me App before leaving and get familiar with it. You can bookmark key places so you can find your way back to them. It will also sync with Airbnb locations.
  • Download Google Translate. Make sure to download the dictionary part, otherwise it won’t work offline.

Traveling Tips:

  • We flew Delta to Fort Lauderdale, FL. Delta flies into Terminal 2 and SouthWest (which we flew to Havana), flies out of Terminal 4. Use the airport shuttle to get between terminals (pay attention to the horrible signage to make sure you get to the right spot).
  • At the SouthWest check-in, there’s a kiosk right next to it that you can get your Visa (also known as a tourist card) if you didn’t purchase it prior to your trip online. Pricing wise, it was $75 per visa and that was cheaper than what it was online at the time. You can purchase them online here, if you are interested.
  • When you’re on the plane to Havana, you will receive two different pieces of paper to fill out- one is a customs sheet and the other is a health questionnaire (You have to have health insurance to go to Cuba – this is included in the price of your plane ticket).
  • When you arrive in Havana you will go through and get your passport stamped and your visa stamped. Then you will go through security. As soon as you pass through security there will be a small table in the middle of the room where you will drop off your health questionnaire and then as you exit there will be someone to take your customs form.
  • Out of Terminal 2, you’ll exit out of the airport and go to the left for Currency Exchange and WiFi Cards (which we didn’t find until returning to leave). For WiFi cards, I would highly encourage you to only buy 1 hour cards. We never could figure out a way to log-off the internet. If you buy a 5 hour card, make sure you know how to log-off otherwise you’ve wasted 5 hours! Also, if you are traveling with someone or staying in a shared Airbnb, ask if you need your own WiFi card or if you can use the same one. We got lucky and we were able to connect when others were on or we could just use one single card.
  • If you cannot find the WiFi cards at the airport, you can go to ETESCA stands to purchase them.
  • As females, we did get catcalls but nothing that we felt uncomfortable with really. But, be prepared for people asking you to go to a place that’s “Only open today for specials on X (cigars, rum, coffee, souvenirs)” Don’t fall for scams!

Here was our itinerary:
August 10-12 – Havana
August 13-14 – Cienfuegos
August 15-17 – Trinidad
August 17/18 – Mantanzas (we were only here for one afternoon/evening)
August 18-20 – Havana

For more details about Havana, make sure you don’t miss this post! And to see about Cienfuegos and Mantanzas, check here!