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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  

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