If you are thinking of a good cigar or a nice, strong cup of coffee the first thing that comes in your mind is probably Cuba. Cuba truly excels when it comes to its strong and dark coffee, they have been growing their own coffee beans since the mid-18th century. Cuba has a creative environment, you don’t have to go to a museum or art galleries to see true art, the streets are filled with music, colorful graffiti and street art that you will not be able to see anywhere else.
Best coffee in Cuba
Coffee production in Cuba started in the mid 18th century, today coffee plants grow in three main regions – the Sierra Maestra mountains, Pinar Del Rio and Escambray, the coffee is produced for domestic consumption as well as for export.
The coffee bean roasting takes a lot of skill in order to bring out the best coffee flavor, rather relying on the machinery and instructions Cubans roast their coffee by using their well-trained noses and ears to determine if the roasting process has been done properly.
If you are ordering coffee in one of the local cafes here are some tips on choosing the right cup of Café Cubano for you:
- Cafécito or Café Cubano – a small shot of coffee with sugar, similar to Italian espresso;
- Colada – a large coffee which comes with little coffee cups and is usually shared;
- Café con Leche – steamed milk with a shot of espresso;
- Cortadito – a smaller version of café con Leche.
Cuban coffee is in the center of every social gathering, we recommend stopping by Café El Escorial on the corner of the Old Square of Havana, Café de Los Artistas, a tourist hot spot or El Dandy located on the corner of the Plaza del Cristo.
Cohibas Cuban cigars
The premium cigars of Cohiba brand in Cuba are filled with the tobacco that comes from the Cuban region of Vuelta Abajo. The Cohiba brand was established in 1966 as a private supplier for Cuba’s political leader Fidel Castro as well as other political officials in Cuba. The Cohiba cigars were often given as diplomatic gifts as they showed the high status, later on in 1982 they were released for commercial sale.
The tobacco for the Cohiba cigars is selected from the Vegas Finas de Primera which are first-class tobacco fields in Vuelta Abajo. The cigars are later on made in the El Laguito factory in Havanas Miramar district.
The Cohiba brand is the most expensive cigar brand in the world and the price of a cigar box can cost you from $60—320 depending on the cigar size as well as Cohiba brand. Watch out for the fake cigars, there are some sellers that claim that they can get you a discounted price and great deals on your cigar boxes, keep in mind that the real cigars cannot be bought on a bargain.
If you are in Cuba you will most likely visit one of the many souvenir shops to spend your last CUC´s. Rum, cigars, keychains, and magnets will be seen on every corner, this time we recommend bringing home something completely unique.
Paintings – during your trip to Cuba you will take countless photos that will never see the light of the day, rather than photos bring home a painting. There are specialized shops and numerous art galleries, but we suggest buying a painting from the local street artists, they tend to be cheaper, but even more unique than the commercial stuff out there. Visit the Varadero street market to find the most unique paintings and souvenirs in Cuba
Wooden Handicrafts – visit the Almacenes San Jose which is the largest craft market selling clothing, paintings, souvenirs and many types of wooden figurines and wood carvings.
Make sure to bring home at least one bottle of rum, the most popular brand in Cuba is the Havana Club which is sold worldwide, we recommend buying a bottle of Ron Santiago de Cuba aged for 11 years and is most loved rum brand in Cuba.
Incredible Cuban music
Everywhere you will set your foot in Cuba you will find art, music, and fun. Cubans can dance, cook, make beautiful art and –yes, they can sing. The music is mixed and influenced by African rhythms, European melodies and Spanish instruments.
Salsa is the most popular style and dance in Cuba, even traveling on the limited time you can still learn some moves from the locals who are always more than happy to teach you.
Danzon is the official music and dance of Cuba, it dates back to the 1800s it is elegant, slow and considered very intimate.
Trova dates back to the 19th century, the Trova music is rhythmic, romantic and tender.
Cuba’s Rumba is African influence. Rumba is energetic, soulful and cannot keep your feet calm.
Apart from the well-recognized music and dance styles that are performed by professionals, you must make sure to keep an eye and an ear out for the street performances. Every Sunday at noon you can listen to the performances of Rumba at the Callejon de Hamel which is a small alley in the Havana center.
Another must-see place is the Fabrica de Arte Cubano. It was opened in 2014 and became loved by tourists as well as locals, you can see and listen to live music performances, watch theatre plays, dance performances and even watch movies.
Paintings and Artworks
For Cuban street art visit Varadero street market, here you can find the best deals and most unique discoveries. All the products are handmade locally so you can be sure that you will not find anything like that anywhere else in the world.
Head to the Almacenes San Jose market where the local artists exhibit and sell their work. There you can find leather goods like handbags, wallets, shoes and belts. The market also sells –wooden carvings, ceramic items for the kitchen, toys, souvenirs, paintings by local artists who have been self-thought, clothing, jewelry, sculptures, ornaments, musical instruments and many other art items.
The San Jose market is one of the most visited places in Havana. It has the best offers as well as is perfectly located near other places that are worth visiting.
For those who simply didn’t have time to get anything we recommend checking out Moon Travel Guide which shows many artists selling their work online – check out the Latitudes World Décor – they provide work of high end Cuban artists. The Mall Cubano website promotes the work of local artists and includes many other products.