Photo: Getty Images
There hasn’t been a Caribbean spot as hot as Cuba in recent memory. Not that the other islands aren’t gorgeous—they are. But Cuba, just now being opened up to Americans for the first time since the diplomatic break in 1961, is en fuego. It’s also, of course, literally quite steamy. These factors and many others make it a buzzy, memorable and ideal beach honeymoon destination.
An ever-growing list of tour operators offer chic and stylish Cuban getaways, but it’s also a good idea—especially if going it alone, as in just the two of you—to have an idea of the must-sees and must-dos around the capital and beyond. With direct and affordable America-to-Cuba flights has come greater exploration of the island, but because internet connections are still extremely rare, it’s not as if you can run a Google search for a restaurant to visit that night, nor read Yelp reviews of it. Once you land, it’s as if you’ve gone back in time—talking to locals will take you far — they’re extremely friendly and love visitors.
One can’t-miss is a place natives consider the hottest ticket in town, where VIPs go. La Guarida is in fact the most buzzed-about restaurant in Havana, and arguably the most delicious and romantic, too. If you need proof it’s that Beyonce and Jay Z dined there while celebrating their anniversary this April. (Also, Usher is rumored to have gotten married there.) It’s a paladar, meaning a privately owned restaurant, perched at the top of a crumbling yet impressive marble-clad home. It’s hard to go wrong ordering from the eclectic menu—think suckling pig, filet mignon and duck (none of which you’ll find on offer at government-owned eateries). Afterward, daiquiris under the stars on the elegant rooftop bar are a must.
See More: How to Honeymoon in Cuba
Also in Havana, visit El Del Frente for dinner or, at the very least, finely prepared cocktails. The bartenders use tweezers to put together the vivid libations that are as refreshing as they are tasty. Rio del Mar is another private spot in the tony neighborhood of Miramar with excellent food and pineapple mojitos, served all day long. Those who love to dance can indulge in a sweaty salsa session accompanied by a live band at Casa de Musica, but beware the show doesn’t usually start until around 1 a.m.
In between mojitos and piña coladas, a trip to the cigar factory allows a fun look into the making of those legendary smokes, and a wander down the Malecón—the pathway along the ocean, where waves crash dramatically at all hours—after nightfall gives you a sense of real Cuban life. A drive in one of Havana’s famous ’50s classic American convertibles should be a non-negotiable. Pick out your colorful ride after strolling on the Prado, where artists sell their wares, and enjoy the feeling of the wind in your hair as you cruise, cuddling in the backseat, past the city’s highlights.
To get off the beaten path a bit, consider also checking out another area such as Santiago (the second capital of Cuba has colonial architecture, lots of music, some beautiful beaches and a huge Carnaval celebration every July) or Trinidad. The latter is quaint and very walkable, full of pastel-hued facades, small museums and a lively set of cobblestone steps where locals and tourists gather with canchanchara cocktails (rum, honey, lime) to watch live bands play every night and, of course, dance along. Sandy beaches lined with Royal palms—the national symbol of Cuba—are also close at hand. And in Viñales, a couple-hour drive from the capital, it’s possible to ride horses through farms, learn to roll a cigar and eat incredibly fresh organic cuisine. When it comes to Cuba “love at first sight” definitely applies.