Cuba Beyond the Beaches and Havana

Cuban Crocodiles, Sugar and Steam Trains

We decided that it would be nice to see a bit more of Cuba without venturing too far from Varadero, and so we booked a tour to see a sugar mill with steam trains, as well as a crocodile farm and a replica indigenous village on the Zapata Peninsula.

Is this Cuba? It certainly is!
Zapata Peninsula

I’m sure the more intrepid of travel bloggers would have hitch-hiked their way there, but bugger that! I went for the easy and comfortable option of an air conditioned mini bus! The heat and humidity are almost unbearable if you are away from air conditioning or a swimming pool for too long.

Steam train at a sugar mill in Cuba
Ride a steam train at the sugar mill

The first step was the sugar mill museum where we learnt how sugar is produced and then tasted some sugar cane juice. It tasted very sweet (as you would imagine) but also had a ‘rooty’ kind of taste I can’t describe. Afterwards we took a little ride on one of the several steam trains they had there.

Take a tour of a sugar mill in Cuba for something beyond the beaches and Havana
Take a tour of a sugar mill in Cuba

Next step was the crocodile farm in Boca de Guama where we got to see the famous Cuban crocodile, from teeny babies to giant beasts. The Cuban crocodile can grow up to a whopping 5 metres in length although the ones we saw weren’t quite as big as this.

Famous Cuban Crocodiles
Cuban crocodiles!

We also got to see a few more of Cuba’s famous animals – iguanas, turtles and jutia, an endangered mammal that reminded me alot of the quokkas on Rottnest Island in Australia.

Jutia - large rodent of Cuba

After lunch at a Paladar (private restaurant), we headed back to where the crocodile farm was situated to catch a boat across Laguna del Tesoro (Treasure Lagoon). The lagoon was named for the gold that the Taino (aboriginals) supposedly hid in its waters. The boat ride took around 20 minutes and was a joy to feel the wind in my hair!

Boat ride on the Treasure Lagoon in the Zapata Peninsula
Treasure Lagoon

When we arrived we could walk around a replica Taino village, where people can actually stay although to be honest, besides a bar and a couple of gift shops, there’s not alot else there.

Once we’d got the boat back across the lagoon we headed back to Varadero (which took just over an hour and a half) and jumped straight into the hotel pool!

Replica Taino Village in Cuba
Replica Taino Village
Replica Taino village in Cuba
Replica Taino Village

I would love to have seen a bit more of Cuba’s native creatures (flamingos live in the Zapata Peninsula although we didn’t get to see them) but I enjoyed my day of seeing a bit more of Cuba beyond the beaches.

Liked this? How about 24 hours in Havana?

24 hours in Havana

24 hours in Havana - what's a great way to spend a day in Cuba's vibrant capital?

So you have one whole day in the capital of Cuba? Well here is my recommended way to spend 24 hours in Havana.


Take a tour of the city in a vintage car. You can’t visit Havana and not take a ride in one of these beauties. Although they are available to hire all over the city, we chose to pre-book our tour before we left the UK. We booked with Old Car Tours as they had good Tripadvisor reviews, plus you could choose which car you wanted to ride in. I chose a pink one (obviously!) – a 1952 Chevrolet to be exact. You will get taken to all the main historic sites such as El Capitolio and Revolution Square in style!

Iconic Che Guevara at Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba
Iconic Che Guevara at Revolution Square

Rather than returning us to our hotel in Vedado district, we asked our driver to drop us off at Habana Vieja (Old Havana) at the end of our two hours.

Posing in a 1952 pink Chevrolet at Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba
I’m a Barbie Girl in a Barbie World

Late Morning/Early Afternoon

Stop for refreshments at a shady terrace of one of the cafes at Plaza de Armas (or indeed any of the Plazas) and spend some time meandering the four main squares of Habana Vieja. Afterwards, head up Calle Obispo for shopping and you may want to stop for a daiquiri in the air conditioned comfort of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite haunt – El Floridita, although it was too crazy busy in there for my liking so I didn’t bother, can’t say I’m familiar with Hemingway’s work anyway!

Calle Obispo - a pedestrianised shopping street in Havana
Calle Obispo

At the El Floridita end of Calle Obispo, cross the street to see all the vintage cars parked opposite the iconic El Capitolio and the beautiful architecture of Gran Teatro de la Habana.

From the Gran Teatro de la Habana, you can take a stroll along Paseo de Marti – reminiscent of Las Ramblas in Barcelona – leading on to the Malecon.

El Floridita - apparently the best place for a daiquiri in Havana
El Floridita

During our time in Havana we stopped for drinks and sandwiches at several different cafes in the squares, Calle Obispo and Paseo de Marti, so there are plenty of options to choose from depending on how hungry/thirsty you are feeling. Just remember to take a map with you!

Late Afternoon

You will most probably be craving a refreshing dip in your hotel pool after all that sightseeing! We stayed in the Vedado district so walked along the Malecon to get to our hotel, although there are plenty of taxis touting for business to take you where you want to go – just remember to agree a total price beforehand.

Alternatively you may wish to go and get some ice cream – Cubans love ice cream! The most popular place being Coppelia, although I didn’t try it for myself as the queue was incredibly long and it was over 30 degrees heat!

The queue outside Coppelia - a very popular ice cream parlour in Havana, Cuba
The queue outside Coppelia


After rejuvenating yourself from the heat of the day, get dressed up for dinner. We enjoyed a meal at Cafe Laurent, one of Havana’s most famous Paladars (a privately run restaurant). It is situated in Vedado and has a pleasant outdoor rooftop terrace where we could watch all the vintage cars drive by below. The restaurant is fairly popular so I would recommend making reservations in advance. We had a couple of fish dishes which were beautifully presented. My husband was a fan of the house red wine but I wouldn’t recommend the Tropical Daiquiri (unless you like papaya, that is!).

Enjoy a meal at Cafe Laurent, Vedado, Havana
A meal at Cafe Laurent

After your meal, take a walk down Avenida 23 and stop by Sofia for some drinks and live music. You can eat here too but I’ll be honest, the music and atmosphere was alot more enjoyable than the food in my opinion (although to be fair, I didn’t enjoy much of the Cuban food to be honest!).

After drinks and perhaps some spontaneous salsa dancing at Sofia, make your way to La Zorra y el Cuervo – Havana’s premier Jazz club. You enter the club through the quirky London-style phone box. The club opens at 10pm, we arrived a few minutes before and got a table no problem, but if there is a popular act on any particular night, people have been known to start queuing as early as 9pm. For a price of 10 CUC per person you gain entry as well as two drinks – pretty good! The club closes at 2am but we only stuck around until 12.30am.

La Zorra y El Cuervo during the daylight - Havana's premier Jazz Club opens at 10pm
La Zorra y El Cuervo during the daylight

Of course there’s more on offer in Havana but if it’s cars and culture, mojitos and music you’re after, then this is a good place to start!

Mojitos and jazz are a winning combo at Havana's La Zorra y el Cuervo
Mojitos and jazz at La Zorra y el Cuervo

Have you ever been to Havana? What would you recommend doing or seeing? Let me know in the comments below!

Alphabet Dating - C is for... Cuba!

Alphabet Dating – C is for Cuba

If you’ve been following my Alphabet Dating adventures, then you will know that May is the month of our ‘C’ date. More of a happy coincidence rather than a lavish gesture, our ‘C’ date ended up being a holiday to Cuba! (I told you it would be a good one!).

We were toying with the idea of Costa Rica (coincidentally another ‘C’) but for what we wanted to do that would have required alot more planning so we decided on a ‘book it, pack it, fly off’ getaway to the Caribbean island of salsa, sunshine and copious amounts of rum. We owed it to our 2009 selves as Cuba has been on our bucket lists for many years now.

The trip got off to the perfect start as I was lucky enough to win Meet & Greet Parking at Gatwick Airport courtesy of the lovely Emily at The Cosy Traveller and Purple Parking. Meet & Greet Parking isn’t something I’ve ever done before but it definitely makes the beginning of your holiday easy and straight forward as we were greeted right there on the doorstep to the airport, handed over our keys and off we went! Thank you Emily and Purple Parking!

Alphabet Dating in Cuba - we went on holiday to Cuba for our letter 'C' date. How fancy!
Alphabet Dating, Alphabet T-shirt

Of course I will write more about our holiday but to give you a little taster, we spent 3 nights in Havana where we marvelled at the architecture, took a tour in a 1952 Chevrolet Deluxe (which was pink, FYI!) and enjoyed live music and plenty of cheap cocktails. We followed our Havana visit with a week-long stay at a beach resort in Varadero – where the sand is white and the sea a brilliant blue.

C is for Cuba ...follow my blog for Alphabet Dating adventures
Like Barbie and Ken or something

I’m glad I visited Cuba as I have been wanting to go there for a long time, but I’m not sure I would hurry back. Havana was interesting, Varadero beach was beautiful, the music was lively and the drinks were good. Sadly I had more than my fair share of feeling unwell and with a couple of exceptions I really didn’t enjoy the food too much! Plus let’s not forget that there’s so much more of the world to explore!

Stay tuned for more Cuba posts. And if you missed them, follow the links for our A date and B date.

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