Cayo Santa Maria is only connected to mainland Cuba by a single road, which snakes across the sea and comes to a dead end on the island. No-one lives here, but more hotels have started to pop up along the postcard-worthy coastline in the last few years. It’s still something of an in-the-know location, but white sand beaches and a stellar diving scene mean that might not be the case for long. The beaches are typically Caribbean, but that’s by no means a bad thing. They’re much quieter than you’d expect, but still come with the envy-inducing checklist of palm trees, powder-white sand and sparkling turquoise waters.
Havana is like a snapshot of years gone by. Classic Cadillacs and Chevrolets chug along the streets, and colonial landmarks melt into noisy neighbourhoods, where tables and chairs spill out onto the cobbles. In a matter of minutes you can go from snapping pictures of the mighty Capitol Building, to chowing down on ropa vieja from a street vendor in the old town. In Revolution Square, you’ll see a huge image of the iconic Che Guevara, and you can take a lift to the top of the Jose Marti Memorial for birdseye views of the city. Very little of Havana is polished or pristine, but that’s exactly where it gets its rough-around-the-edges charm.
It doesn’t get more tropical than Cayo Santa Maria’s palm-lined strips of sand, but the turquoise waters are a major draw, too. They’re great for taking a dip, especially if you’ve succumbed to a spot of sunburn, and the rainbow-coloured coral reef beneath the waves is one of the biggest in the world. Dive centres are dotted along the peninsula, and once you’re in the water you’ll see parrotfish and lobster, plus the occasional eerie-looking shipwreck. If you’d rather keep your hair dry (for a little bit, at least) you can try jet-skiing, parasailing or kayaking. We can’t guarantee you won’t make a splash, though.
Cuba is famous for its rum-fuelled nightlife and love affair with fat cigars. You’ll see plenty of uncorked bottles and smouldering cigar tips around the streets of Havana, but there are a few official places you can tick off, too. Partagas has been making smokes since 1827, and is one of three factories dotted around the colour-splashed city. Rum, a staple ingredient in any good mojito, is the other feather in Havana’s boozy cap. You can take a tour of the Havana Club factory, where you’ll see the rum-making process from start to finish.
Havana hasn’t always been such a laid-back city, and has a history book peppered with revolution and revolt. In the 1950s, Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led a coup to overthrow the government, backed by infamous rebel Che Guevara. They claimed power in 1959, which kickstarted 50 years of unrest with the neighbouring USA – only recently resolved by the powers that be. Raul Castro is still in charge today, and memories of the uprising are still visible across the city. From the aptly-named Revolution Square, to a museum dedicated to the revolt, Havana makes no bones about its history.
Take a twin centre tour to the . You’ll get the buzz of Havana and Varadero’s beaches in one.
is an adults-only getaway sandwiched between a beach and a cluster of local bars and restaurants.
is pushed up against one of Cayo Santa Maria’s sandy beaches, and comes with eight restaurants and nine bars.
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