7 most romantic places in Cuba
1. The northern cays
The romance of Villa Clara’s northern cays starts with the drive: a 48km cruise along a causeway flanked by turquoise waters. The beaches here are of the white-sand #nofilter kind; in fact the late Fidel Castro himself is rumoured to have described them as being superior to Varadero‘s. Head to Cayo Las Brujas for a less expensive, non-package experience, or splash out at one of the glitzy hotels at Cayo Santa María.
Trinidad is one of Cuba’s most complete colonial towns, with its pastel-coloured buildings and cobbled pedestrianized centre. But, unsurprisingly, Cuba’s most photogenic streets lure in a healthy tourist crowd, and after a day or two you may want some respite. There are a few options for scenic horseriding trips out of Trinidad, including clip-clops into the foothills of the Sierra del Escambray or guided excursions to the hamlet of La Pastora.
3. Havana’s Malecón
This is the place to get romantic like the locals. Havana’s sociable seafront promenade follows the sea wall for four kilometres, and attracts as many smooching teenagers as it does guitar-strumming musicians and fast food vendors. In the evenings this is the place to crack open a can of Bucanero beer with a loved one, although be prepared for your romantic moment to be interrupted by a friendly local innocently looking to strike up a conversation.
4. Casa de la Trova, Santiago
Santiago de Cuba has loads of brilliant live trova music venues, but if you’re only going to visit one the Casa de la Trova is a solid bet. Musicians play soulful and melodic trovasongs here day and night; originally the genre developed from solo travelling musicians who would disperse news through their songs, but these days you’re more likely to hear two voices in perfect harmony. If you want a slightly less touristy experience, just follow your ears as you wander Santiago’s insomniac streets.
5. Museo Ernest Hemingway, Havana
Literary associations aside, the Museo Ernest Hemingway is a romantic spot for an afternoon excursion from Havana, with its lovely views over the city, well-kept gardens and the villa’s attractive late nineteenth-century architectural detail. Hemingway lived here between 1940 and 1960, and the house has been preserved with exquisite attention to detail.
6. The back seat of a classic car
Don’t even think about leaving Cuba without taking at least one ride in a classic American car. There are around sixty thousand of these vintage motors in Cuba, many of them still on the road. Spare parts became hard-to-come-by following the US trade embargo of 1962, so pretty much all of these cars have been kept running by that Cuban ingenuity you’ll encounter everywhere. The engine splutters and exhaust coughs are all part of the charm.
7. Viñales Valley, Pinar del Río
The undulating, lost-world landscape of the Viñales Valley makes it one of the most romantic spots on the island. Less romantic are the dark, dripping cave systems that are dotted around the area, but they’re still well worth checking out. The labyrinthine Cuevo del Indio is the most accessible if you’re staying in Viñales village.