People constantly cite a need to visit Cuba "before it changes." But the reality, as easily seen on the streets of Havana, is that this is a country that's stuck — charming, old-fashioned, and impossibly photogenic — in the 1950s. This is very good news for honeymooners. Cuba is a stand-out romantic destination that's defined by its grandeur and elegance.
You could plan your honeymoon in Havana, with its refined old cafés, antique-filled hotels, and vintage Plymouths and Cadillacs. Or venture out to the coast: outside the capital city, most of Cuba's shoreline is refreshingly unspoiled, meaning plenty of space on the balmy Caribbean beaches for just the two of you.
Wherever you stay, you'll enjoy Cuba's famous nightlife scene. This is the place where the mojito, daiquiri and Cuba Libre were invented, after all, and Cuba also had a hand in inventing music styles from rumba to jazz, salsa and reggaetón. Night and day, Cuba offers one-of-a-kind romance that's impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world.
Practical Tips for Planning a Honeymoon
Consider it part of the charm of Cuba: some elements of organizing a vacation here are harder than elsewhere. These general tips will help you plan a great honeymoon.
Factor in some flexibility, for starters. Things don't always work reliably in Cuba. If you're relying on public transportation, allow yourself extra time: cars and buses break down, schedules change, and so forth. When in doubt, just order a drink and wait for the next bus.
Next, be sure to plan ahead. Don't rely on making all of your online and telephone reservations while you're in the country, as internet speeds are slower in Cuba, and telephones don't always work.
With respect to accommodations, consider casas particulares (B&Bs) as well as hotels: Cuba now has some excellent options. For more on this and on planning travel to Cuba in general, check out this article.
Cuba's Romantic Experiences
Havana will almost certainly be your first port of call on your trip to Cuba. Simply sitting on the iconic Malecón, Havana's beautiful waterfront, or strolling the streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is romantic in itself. You'll be in the good company of plenty of Cuban couples.
Havana is the place to arrange a tour in a vintage car, a great way of seeing outlying city sights. Afterward, go for a romantic drink in one of the capital's many beautiful old hotels and bars. Try the beautiful Art Deco-style Hotel Nacional, in the Vedado district, or the original La Bodeguita del Medio in Habana Vieja, a bar that's been visited by everyone from Pablo Neruda to Nat King Cole and Ernest Hemingway.
Couples in love also enjoy the trip up the Vedado's 39-floor Edificio Focsa, Cuba's tallest building, with sensational city views in every direction from the restaurant at the top, La Torre. In the mood to hit the dance floor? Unsurprisingly, Havana has many a number of dance schools to choose from. One to try is Casa del Son in Habana Vieja.
For travel planning ideas and inspiration, take a look at this suggested four-day itinerary around Havana.
Expert Tip: There are good beaches in the Havana area, at Playas del Este, a short drive east of downtown. But if you're staying longer in Cuba, you'll want to venture further out: there are downright glorious beaches elsewhere on the island.
Peace and Quiet in Valle de Viñales
Head to western Cuba, and the bucolic Viñales — surrounded by tobacco plantations, verdant valleys and steep conical hills — to experience the country at its most picturesque. There's plenty of peace and quiet here. Idyllic activities range from romantic horsedrawn carriage rides to trips out to two of Cuba's best beaches, Cayo Levisa and Cayo Jutías.
The area is also one of the best for countryside walks: though much of Cuba has no hiking trail system at all, the Parque Nacional Viñales (Viñales National Park) offers a handful of short hikes, taking in the area's rural life from the steep hills to the rust-red tobacco plantations. Horseback riding, a favorite activity among visiting couples, can take you on a journey across this beautiful landscape and out to a number of swimming holes.
What's the best time to visit for optimal hiking weather? Find out by reading this article.
Expert Tip: Buses from Havana to Viñales will sometimes stop en route at the eco-village of Las Terrazas, where forested hillsides cradle one of Cuba's loveliest countryside hotels, Hotel Moka. There's also a host of stunning hiking trails nearby that head out to lakes and coffee plantation ruins. It's well worth lingering for a few days here.
Beaches & History in Baracoa
Out on a limb in the far east of Cuba, sultry Baracoa will take a while to reach, which is maybe why it exudes such a peaceful, cut-off feeling. The country's oldest city, founded in 1511, Baracoa offers a beautifully preserved historic center and some truly stunning nearby hiking and beaches.
In town, sample Cuba's most distinctive regional cuisine, distinguished by its coconut-flavored dishes. Sweet-toothed lovebirds will relish the stand-out delicacy, cucurucho, made with dried coconut, honey, and exotic fruits. Honeymooners can then embark on the five-mile hike up the mountain of El Yunque, where the views from the summit are only rivaled by the fascinating bird and plant life along the climb.
Expert Tip: A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Parque Nacional Alejandro Humboldt northwest of Baracoa is one of the most biologically diverse places in the Caribbean. It's home to such fauna highlights as the world's smallest bird and smallest frog species. A trip there also allows for a stop at the area's best beach, picture-perfect Playa Maguana.