Starting in September, nonstop flights from the US will be available to many far-flung Cuban destinations, which means now is the time to explore. While the capital of Havana is a busy, urban paradise, the rest of the country moves at a slightly slower, less frenzied pace. Still relatively new to tourism, many of these cities are still not used to visitors, allowing them to retain quite a bit of authentic charm. Cuba's tourism is growing by leaps and bounds, so if you want to experience a little slice of the "Old Cuba" go soon, and get off the beaten path at some of these special spots.
For Salsa Lovers: Trinidad
Trinidad is a charming city that offers live outdoor salsa music and dancing every night of the week in the main square. It’s hard not to fall in love with the electrifying energy the city exudes both during the daytime and late into the evening hours. If you can't stand baking in the heat of the cobblestone streets, visit nearby Topes de Collantes National Park and dive into the famous icy-cold waterfall.
For City Folk: Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's second largest city (after Havana), is a rich melting pot of Cuban and Caribbean culture thanks to its distinctive location on the Southeastern tip near Haiti and Jamaica. The perfect place for a weekend city break, it's home to almost every genre of Cuban music, and you can catch some live tunes at Casa de la Trova. The city is also famous for its rum (which is arguably the best on the island) so make sure to visit the rum museum and factory for a sample or two.
For History Buffs: Giron
Giron is a dream come true for those interested in Cuba's tumultuous past, as it’s the area where Bay of Pigs occurred. Visit the small but informative museum, Museo Giron, which is dedicated to the events, but brush up on your Spanish first, as nothing is translated into English. Afterwards, you can continue on to Cienfuegos to check out the colonial French architecture reminiscent of a quaint European village given a colorful Cuban touch.
For Che Fans: Santa Clara
If you're a fan of revolutionary leader Che, pay a visit to Santa Clara to see the Che Guevara Mausoleum and a museum dedicated to his life. If guerrilla activism isn't your cup of tea, the Spanish-inspired city will still wow you, especially after a stroll through the picturesque city center which includes the famous Parque Vidal and its historic monuments.
For Beach Combers: Playa Larga
If you’re into the typical all-inclusive, white sand beaches with endless drinks, Varadero is your spot. But those with a taste for adventure should head to Playa Larga, where you can snorkel in some of the loveliest turquoise waters you may ever lay eyes on. Make sure to visit the Cueva de los Peces, a natural saltwater cave that's over 70 meters deep. Hire a guide and scuba through this incredible natural wonder. If you don't want to get your hair wet, birdwatching is also popular in this area (keep your eyes peeled for egrets and flamingos).
For Country Mice: Viñales
If relaxing on a porch, cigar in hand, sounds like your ideal vacation, head to Viñales. This small town devoted to agriculture consists of clusters of charming one-story wooden houses, many of which are now B&Bs. The Viñales Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its natural beauty, and this spot is the perfect place to chill out and soak in the local vibes.