Cuba

The island nation of Cuba has long been a place of mystery. Its troublesome past mixed with skepticism from people today make it one of the least traveled to countries in the Caribbean. This is quite unfortunate given that Cuba is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. In Spring of 2017, myself and a friend coordinated a community service trip to Havana that brought nine high school students as well as several chaperones. We restored a destroyed cemetery, brought supplies, toured the city, and met with locals. The experience was unforgettable and I was lucky enough to go again in 2018. 

The city of Havana is vibrant and full of life. Delicious restaurants are everywhere for affordable prices and there are plenty of sites to see. The beaches of Cuba are also some of the best in the Caribbean. Due to less tourism as a whole, they are much cleaner and have clear water. They're perfect for relaxing in the sun, enjoying picnics, swimming, snorkeling, and more. 

One of my favorite things about Cuba was the food. You can find traditional Cuban cuisine on any corner with fish, meat, and vegetarian options. While there is a considerable lack of beef due to agricultural and water systems in place, the national dish of Cuba, Ropa Vieja, is something you'll be craving at home. 

The biggest concern for many people traveling to Cuba is safety. While the current situation in Cuba is dangerous due to social uprising against the regime, while I was there it was not like this. Its a sad truth but the Cuban government is much more concerned with their image to the outside world than their citizens. We were given special help from police and other government workers. There are also many places in Havana that only allow for tourists and even your tour guide may not be allowed in. It’s hard to see but we were told by our guide that arguing and protesting the discriminatory rules would only result in trouble for the guide and the same goes for other Cuban locals. It is great to see that change is happening and progress is trying to be made but for the foreseeable future, it will continue to be like this. But if your only concern is the security of yourself while traveling to Cuba, you are perfectly safe due to the emphasis the government puts on outside image. 

Although there are many political and social issues going on in Cuba, it is an amazing place for travel from any part of the world. Increased tourism (especially from the United States) only helps locals and could eventually lead to the end of the Cuban Embargo put into place during the Cold War. 

Image by Juan Luis Ozaez