The frenzy around President Obama's historic visit to Cuba is increasing an already piqued interest in our island neighbor. From touching personal stories like this reporter's to curiosity about Afro-Cuban culture there are so many adventures waiting for American tourists.
It is technically illegal for Americans to enjoy a leisure beach type vacation to Cuba. Our travel must fit under one of the 12 permissible categories. While there are ways to piece together a bare bones DIY back door entry trip, I'd prefer a (legal) easier tour. ;). For those who love a bit of edgy let's hope we don't get caught and detained' fun, here's a great blog post.
While travel restrictions are changing, for the time being one of the most rewarding ways to soak up the culture is a people-to-people exchange program. This is one of 12 approved ways to obtain a visa for Cuban travel. Several tour companies offer charter flights on scheduled group departures from Miami or you have cruise options from Miami and Montego Bay. (Soon direct flights from Atlanta to Havana could be available) On these tours you'll have a full itinerary of cultural immersion activities that showcase Cuban culture. From expected Havana delights like salsa lessons, cigar making and classic car caravans to unique explorations of artist enclaves or lectures on the economy and the dual currency system. American travelers need to understand just how different a trip to Cuba is from any other Caribbean nation. The allure of a country largely untouched by American commercialism makes people forget that the comforts you're used to aren't widely available either. If you're really worried about that, opt for the cruise. You'll be assured to return to your comfy stateroom at night if local accommodations might be too rustic for you. For now, Cuba is a chance to see a culture without Starbucks on every corner without going halfway around the world. That's what I'm all about, culture and adventure close to home!