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Finally, Experience That Cuban Flair

For Americans, travel to Cuba is allowed only under specific circumstances, namely humanitarian or educational “people-to-people” trips with a licensed group. However, Cuba’s food, music and beauty make it a top Caribbean stop for travelers from other parts of the world.

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Ryan Van Duzer in Santiago de Cuba
The Start in Santiago de Cuba

The Start in Santiago de Cuba

“I began the 850-mile bicycle adventure in Santiago de Cuba, on the far eastern side of the island. I didn't have a set route … all I knew is that I needed to be in Havana in 20 days. It was an incredibly liberating feeling to have no itinerary. It was just me, my bike, and the open road.”  960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Adrian

Adrian

“It's very easy to make friends in Cuba. I met friendly and curious people every day who wanted to know all about the United States. There aren't a lot of American tourists, most visitors are from Europe and Canada. I met this guy Adrian on the streets of Santiago and he proudly showed me around his city.”  960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Sunset

Sunset

“The sun sets behind the mountains on the Bay of Santiago. This is the city where Fidel Castro announced the victory of the Cuban revolution on January 1, 1959.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Bike POV

Bike POV

“Cycling in Cuba is an absolute dream. There's barely any traffic and the scenery is stunning. The only thing I had to worry about was having enough water. This Colorado boy wasn't acclimated to the tropical heat.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Coconut

Coconut

“In the States, we pay top dollar for Coconut water, but in Cuba, it's one of the cheapest roadside refreshments. This guy chopped open 6 coconuts and I quickly drank them down. It was the best 50 cents I ever spent.”  960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Best Way to Get Around

Best Way to Get Around

“Bicycles are the main form of transport for most Cubans. They're simple, easy to fix and a safe form of transportation since there isn't much vehicle traffic on the roads.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Bike Taxis

Bike Taxis

“Bike taxis rule the streets in every city on the island. They cost a few pesos and can carry a few people.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Cuban Host Family

Cuban Host Family

“Lourdes and Alexi were my host family in Guantánamo. I never stayed in hotels. I preferred to rent rooms in Casas Particulares. Many Cuban families supplement their meager incomes by opening their doors to tourists. It's a great way to get to know the locals, and if you're lucky, they'll prepare a tasty meal for you.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

La Farola

La Farola

“The eastern side of the island is home to the Sierra Maestra, the highest mountain range on Cuba. The jungle clad hillsides are a beautiful sight, and a challenging ride if you’re on a bike.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Rice and Beans

Rice and Beans

“Luckily, I love rice and beans, because this is pretty much what's available. Food is pretty simple, as they're limited to eating only what's grown on the island.”  960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Cool Off with Ice Cream

Cool Off with Ice Cream

“After cycling for hours in the heat, I always searched for the ice cream man, it was my favorite way to end the day. People set up shop outside their homes and sell these tasty treats for one peso (about 10 cents).”  960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Horse Parking

Horse Parking

“It’s not uncommon to find valet horse parking in the colonial city of Trinidad.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

La Boca

La Boca

“La Boca, a tiny fishing village south of Trinidad, is a great place to jump into the warm Caribbean water. This is also where I attempted to even out my horrific tan lines.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Local Pizza

Local Pizza

“In addition to rice and beans, I ate a lot of these tiny pizzas. Although not quite as tasty as a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza … they did the job.”  960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

School Children in Old Havana

School Children in Old Havana

“A trio of kids walk to school on the streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana). Cuba is the safest Latin American country I've ever visited, and the streets were always full of kids playing games.”  960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Dominoes

Dominoes

“My favorite time of day in Cuba was when the sun went down – it's when the streets come alive. Kids play baseball, vendors sell food and the Domino players come out in full force.”  960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Ché Guevara

Ché Guevara

“The revolutionary Ché Guevara is admired all over Cuba. Locals pay homage to him on billboards and artistic murals. He can also be found on souvenirs in shops everywhere if you want to take him home.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Jo Garcia, A Friendly Local

Jo Garcia, A Friendly Local

“Cuba is not a place where you'll ever feel lonely. The locals pull you aside and strike up a conversation everywhere. This is my buddy Jo Garcia. I sat with him for 30 minutes while he told me all about growing up in Havana.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Traffic in Cuba

Traffic in Cuba

“I shared the roads with many a horse-drawn cart. I swear everyone is always smiling in Cuba. These are definitely my kind of people.”  960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

Vintage Car

Vintage Car

“There are not a lot of cars in Cuba, and the ones that have survived are beautiful relics from the 1950s. I felt like I had traveled back in time to my grandparents’ generation.” 960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

A Bike for a Gym Teacher

A Bike for a Gym Teacher

“At the end of my ride, I gave my bike to this guy, Yuleti. He's a gym teacher and will use the bike to ride to work. Although there are many bicycles in Cuba, they're mostly old Chinese clunkers. This bike will hopefully last him a lifetime.”  960 1280

Ryan Van Duzer  

cuba, Trinidad, view of Museum National de la Lucha Contra Bandidos
Trinidad and the nearby Valle de los Ingenios

Trinidad and the nearby Valle de los Ingenios

Located in central Cuba, the town of Trinidad and the nearby Valle de los Ingenios (“Sugar Mill Valley”) gained recognition and flourished from the late 18th century through the late 19th century thanks to the prosperity of the sugar industry. The former bell tower (pictured), which was converted into the Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra Bandidos in 1986, is arguably the most recognizable building in all of Trinidad. The Valle de los Ingenios is now a “living museum,” featuring 75 former sugar mills and plantations. 960 1280

Jane Sweeney / AWL Images / Getty Images  

Habana Vieja (Old Havana)

Habana Vieja (Old Havana)

Full of narrow streets lined with beautiful baroque architecture and neoclassical monuments, Old Havana — or, at the time, Havana — was founded in 1519 along Cuba’s northwestern shore. Encircled by former city walls and dotted with large plazas and fortresses, Old Havana, aka Habana Vieja, made the UNESCO World Heritage List in the early 1980s because of the vast number of ancient structures preserved over the course of several centuries. 960 1280

John & Lisa Merrill / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images  

San Pedro de la Roca Castle

San Pedro de la Roca Castle

Sitting atop a 200-foot-high peninsula at the entrance of the Santiago de Cuba Bay, San Pedro de la Roca Castle was built in 1638 to protect the port of Santiago from piracy because of conflicts between Spain and England. Converted to a prison in the 1800s, the former fortress now acts as a pirate museum and is considered one of many fortresses that helped define Cuba during the 17th century. 960 1280

DEA / V. GIANNELLA / Getty Images  

Parque Nacional Desembarco del Granma

Parque Nacional Desembarco del Granma

Desembarco del Granma National Park may have made the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of its pristine coastal cliffs, magnificent marine terraces and many spectacular waterfalls, but it gets its name from the yacht (Granma) that carried Fidel Castro and 80-plus supporters of the Cuban Revolution, including Che Guevara, from Mexico to the Cuban shoreline in 1956. 960 1280

By VIChapayev at Wikitravel CC BY-SA 1.0 via Wikimedia Commons  

First Coffee Plantations in the Southeast of Cuba

First Coffee Plantations in the Southeast of Cuba

After the Haitian slave revolt in the late 1700s, French immigrants began defecting to Cuba, and Santiago de Cuba in particular. Once there, they set up coffee plantations and built beautiful stone mansions on the land. La Isabelica (pictured), which was named after the owner’s slave mistress-turned-wife, now acts as a museum, housing several pieces of original furniture and various instruments used to cultivate the crop during the 1800s. 960 1280

Christina Hanck / iStock / Getty Images Plus  

The Urban Historic Center of Cienfuegos

The Urban Historic Center of Cienfuegos

Most of the neoclassical buildings in the historic city center of Cienfuegos remain unharmed by human touch, but because of the city’s location on the bay, several of the structures have been damaged by hurricanes. While renovations occur after a natural disaster, the city center is still considered to be the best example of 19th-century urban-planning principles used by the Spanish. The streets are designed to be straight and symmetric, with monumental buildings lining them on each side, including the iconic former City Hall (pictured). 960 1280

Jane Sweeney / AWL Images / Getty Images  

Valle de Vinales

Valle de Vinales

Located in the Pinar del Rio province in the Sierra de los Organos (“Organs Mountain Range”), Valle de Vinales has become a popular tourist destination, thanks to its stunning scenery, vast limestone rock faces for climbing and many hiking trails. Considered to be one of the lushest parts of the island, Valle de Vinales houses some of Cuba’s — and the world’s — best tobacco plantations. 960 1280

Walter Bibikow / AWL Images / Getty Images  

Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt

Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt

Regarded by UNESCO as “one of the most biologically diverse tropical island sites on Earth,” Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is home to several plants and species endemic to the Guantanamo region of Cuba. Because it has such a large number of native inhabitants and a wide range of ecosystems, the park has gained global recognition and is one of the most well-preserved parks in the world. 960 1280

Holger Leue / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images  

The Historic Center of Camaguey

The Historic Center of Camaguey

From art deco and art nouveau to neoclassical and neocolonial, the historic center of Camaguey is filled with architecture influenced by several different styles from past centuries. The third-largest city in the country is known for its numerous churches, which fill Camaguey with history and Cuban heritage. 960 1280

Jane Sweeney / AWL Images / Getty Images  

Turkey: Raki
Turkey: Raki

Turkey: Raki

Known as the national drink of Turkey, raki — pronounced “raka” — can be found at most large-scale liquor stores in the US. The trick to making the drink correctly? Use 1 part raki and 2 parts ice-cold water. Because the anise oils in the raki emulsify when mixed with water, the clear liquids combine to form a white beverage known as Lion’s Milk. It’s named that because Turks believe that raki gives you the strength of a lion. 960 1280

  

Russia: Vodka

Russia: Vodka

According to legend, a monk named Isidore -- from Chudov Monastery inside the Moscow Kremlin -- made the first Russian vodka. Since then, Russian vodka producers like Smirnoff, Stolichnaya and Russian Standard have become popular among vodka connoisseurs. This spirit is traditionally drunk neat, but it is also commonly used in cocktails like the vodka martini, Bloody Mary, Sex on the Beach, Screwdriver and White Russian. 960 1280

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Peru: Pisco Sour

Peru: Pisco Sour

Chile and Peru both claim the Pisco Sour as their national drink, but the cocktail originated in Lima, Peru. American bartender Victor Vaughn Morris invented and then served the first Pisco Sour at the counter of Morris’ Bar in the early 1920s. This concoction is usually made with bourbon or whiskey, lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener. 960 1280

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Japan: Sake

Japan: Sake

With its origin dating back to the 3rd century, sake is the beverage of choice in Japan. Sake is made from fermented rice. Undiluted, it contains 18 to 20% ABV (alcohol by volume). That’s double the amount of alcohol found in most beer. So sip slowly -- and savor its taste. 960 1280

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Mexico: Tequila

Mexico: Tequila

Tequila is made from the blue agave plant, located in the city of Tequila, in Jalisco, Mexico. And if you didn’t know already, Mexico has claimed the exclusive international right to the word “tequila,” which allows the country to take legal action against countries who manufacture the distilled blue agave spirits. Mexico’s national drink is the Paloma -- made by mixing tequila with a grapefruit-flavored soda, a lime wedge, and served in a glass rimmed with salt. Tequila is also mixed to make cocktails like the margarita, Tequila Sunrise, Matador and Tequila Slammer. 960 1280

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France: Champagne

France: Champagne

Wine and absinthe are popular spirits in France, but champagne is, too. The sparkling wine is produced from grapes grown in the country’s Champagne region, which includes Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims and Vallée de la Marne. Since the 17th century, champagne has been associated with luxury and power among royalty throughout Europe. Times have changed and now the tasty beverage is mixed with orange juice to create a mimosa, a tangy breakfast concoction. 960 1280

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New Orleans: Sazerac

New Orleans: Sazerac

In New Orleans, the Hurricane is a popular cocktail, but did you know about the Sazerac -- sometimes referred to as the oldest American cocktail? Mixologists believe this drink originated in the period before the American Civil War. This stiff drink is a mixture of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe or Herbsaint, sugar and Peychaud’s Bitters. 960 1280

Patrick, Flickr  

Puerto Rico: Piña colada

Puerto Rico: Piña colada

Puerto Rican bartender Ramon Marrero created and sold the piña colada in 1954, while working at the Caribe Hilton International Hotel. He received numerous accolades, which included receiving an award from Coco Lopez -- the maker of the coconut cream used in the drink -- for selling his 3 millionth cocktail. In 1978, the government declared the piña colada the official drink of Puerto Rico. 960 1280

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Brazil: Caipirinha

Brazil: Caipirinha

Sit back and sip on Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha. The sweet, but refreshing cocktail is made with cachaça (sugarcane rum), sugar and lime. Looking for a more fruity taste? Try the caipifruta, made with cachaça, crushed ice and crushed fresh fruit or fruits, including tangerine, lime kiwifruit, passion fruit caju, mango, grapes, lemon, caja and/or pineapple. 960 1280

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NYC: Manhattan

NYC: Manhattan

Dr. Iain Marshall was the genius and creator behind the Manhattan cocktail first served at a banquet in honor of US presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden in 1870. Usually garnished with a maraschino cherry, the Manhattan is closely related to the Brooklyn cocktail, made using dry vermouth and Maraschino liqueur. A Manhattan is made with sweet vermouth, whiskey and bitters, an alcohol flavored with herbal essences. 960 1280

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Greece: Ouzo

Greece: Ouzo

A symbol of Greek culture, ouzo is an anise-flavored aperitif usually served with a small plate of appetizers that usually include small fresh fish, fries, olives and feta cheese. This drink is popular in Greece and Cyprus. It evolved from tsipouro, a beverage created by a group of 14th-century monks living in a monastery on Mount Athos. 960 1280

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Scotland: Scotch

Scotland: Scotch

After a long day at work, slowly sipping from a glass of Scotch whisky seems to make the worries of the world melt away. Scotch is a malt or grain whisky made in Scotland and aged in oak barrels for at least 3 years. Notable Scotch whisky brands include Bell’s, Dewar’s, Johnnie Walker, J&B, Chivas Regal and Cutty Sark. 960 1280

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UK: Pimm's Cup

UK: Pimm's Cup

James Kent was the first to serve Pimm’s Cup, in 1823 at a London oyster bar, making it a popular drink in England, particularly southern England. It is the one of 2 staple drinks at the Wimbledon tennis tournament, Henley Royal Regatta and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. There are 7 Pimm’s products, but only Cup Nos. 1, 3 and 6 are still available. For a refreshing summer cocktail, we recommend the gin-based Pimm’s Cup No. 1 with chopped fruit and mixed with ginger ale or champagne. 960 1280

Whitney, Flickr  

Spain: Sangria

Spain: Sangria

Stop and share a pitcher of sangria with friends if you’re strolling through Barcelona’s Plaza Mayor. This tasty wine punch consists of wine (of course), chopped fruit, a splash of brandy and a sweetener, like honey, sugar, syrup or orange juice. Sangria is popular is Spain, Portugal, Mexico and Argentina. 960 1280

Kurmanstaff, Flickr  

Cuba: Mojito

Cuba: Mojito

Historians believe the African slaves who worked in Cuba’s sugarcane fields during the 19th century were instrumental in the mojito’s origin. The traditional Cuban cocktail consists of white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water and mint. The mojito is not only popular in Cuba but was also author Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cocktail. 960 1280

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Singapore: Singapore Sling

Singapore: Singapore Sling

In Singapore, Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender working at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel Singapore, created the Singapore Sling sometime prior to 1915. The original recipe used gin, Cherry Heering, Benedictine and pineapple juice. Decades later, the hotel served the premixed drink from an automatic dispenser, but customers can request a shaken version from the bartender. 960 1280

Vasenka, Flickr  

Italy: Bellini

Italy: Bellini

Try this delicious cocktail if you’re visiting Italy. The Bellini is one of Italy’s most popular long drinks created by Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice. The color of the drink reminded the mixologist of the color of a saint’s toga in a painting by the 15th-century artist Giovanni Bellini. So what’s in it? This mixed drink consists of Prosecco sparkling wine and peach puree. 960 1280

  

Belgium: Black Russian

Belgium: Black Russian

Belgian bartender Gustave Tops created the first Black Russian cocktail in 1949, at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels, in honor of Perle Mesta, who was (at that time) the US ambassador to Luxembourg. This cocktail contains 3 parts vodka and 2 parts coffee liqueur, owing its name to the use of vodka, a traditional Russian spirit. 960 1280

Todd Lappin, Flickr  

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