The Natural Wonder of Shete Boka National Park!

Curacao is not all just about the stunning beaches, great shopping and warm weather. There are also some great places to get a true sense of nature’s power. If you have hired a car, then be sure to take the drive from your Aruba accommodation, up to the northern most point of the island to Shete Boka National Park.
If you enjoy escaping off the beaten track and out into the countryside, then Shete Boka is for you. The landscape is sparse and volcanic, and you are likely to hear the roar of the sea before you see it.
The name Shete Boka literally translates as ‘seven inlets’, which is named for a series of coves carved directly out of the limestone cliffs along the 10km coastline. You are able to walk and drive between coves, with the starting point being the impressive Boka Tabla, where unpredictable waves crash into the hidden cave below.
A second inlet worth stopping at is Boka Pistol, which is a very narrow inlet where every time the sea rolls in, you can witness the startling explosion of waves that follow.
Three species of turtle nest in the area, making it a very protected piece of land. Visitors are able to stroll comfortably along the well-marked trial that hugs the coastline and take in the incredible views of the sea. You are also likely to see some of the area’s most common inhabitants, the green iguanas.
Two of the most popular hiking trails include:
Boka Pistol Trail- This is a one hour walk that will lead you through the area of Boka Brown, which is a known area where sea turtles come on land to lay their eggs. Boka Pistol is a landmark where the waves roll through cracks in the rock, causing an explosion like gun fire.
Boka Wandomi Trail- Again, this one hour walk will take you through the rolling lava hills of Curacao, down to Boka Wandomi. The limestone bluffs create a natural bridge which is a real sight to behold.
After a long day of hiking, a cocktail back at you Aruba villa will be very well deserved!


The Cuban Daquiri!

There are a huge range of cocktails that have found their way into the world thanks to the taste of the Cubans. The first cocktail that comes to mind when you think of the country is likely to be the Cuba Libra, simply made using the finest local rum, coke and lime. However, this is not the cocktail that is most associated with the country’s capital, that role falls to the classic daiquiri which can be enjoyed both in your Cuba accommodation, and outside of it.

Cuban rum wasn’t always as popular as it is today, in fact, it wasn’t until 1862 when different production methods were used that people really started to sit up and take note of this drink. It was at this time that Havana became one of the richest counties in the Americas.

History claims that the birth of the daiquiri came about when the American mining engineer named Jennings Cox, migrated to Cuba. Legend says that he was entertaining guests but run out of gin, and as a replacement he decided to use Bacardi, mixing it with lime juice, sugar, water and ice, naming the condition a daquiri.

Although this seems to be the story relating to the birth of the drink, the Royal Navy were drinking a very similar mix way back in 1740. Plus, there were various other similar drinks being made all over the country, all that was needed was something sweet, something sour and of course, the rum.

Although it may have been an American that gave this classic drink its name, it was a Cuban who perfected it. The bartender of ‘La Florida’, named Constantino Ribalaigua, discovered that the best way to serve a daquiri was mixing it with ice before straining it into a cold glass. Hemingway was a regular at this particular bar, and definitely enjoyed a good daquiri or two, so it is definitely worth a venture out of your Cuban vacation rental to visit.

Today, the frozen version of the drink has all but pushed out that of the original, but it can still be found if you ask for a ‘daquiri natural’, perfect to be enjoyed in your Cuban private villa with a pool.


Cuban cooking classes

Cuban food is varied, fresh, and plentiful, full of strong flavours and natural produce. Although there is a huge range of restaurants and bars around the country where from you could sample some Cuban delicacies, there is nothing better than being able to cook it yourself in the comfort of your accommodation in Cuba.

In many of the main cities and towns, you will find local markets that stock all the ingredients that you will need for Cuban dishes, the majority of which would have been grown in the immediate area.

One of the best ways to learn how to cook Cuban style is to take a cooking class. Although you will find classes no matter where your Cuba villa rental is located, the hub of cooking class activity seems to be Havana. There are countless tour operators that offer this as an excursion, and it is easy to find one that meets your preferences.

Taking a class is great way to learn about the daily life of a Cuban, that starts first thing in the morning with a trip to the local market. In Havana, these markets are names mercados, and it is where Cuban people purchase their fruit, vegetables, and meat. Once you have purchased everything you need for the dishes that you will be cooking, your tour guide will take you back to the kitchen to begin your culinary adventure.

There are a range of Cuban dishes that you can try your hand at making, the most common of which include:

  • Ropa Vieja – This is a Cuban-style shredded beef dish that is often served with rice and accented with olives and capers.
  • Chicken Stew – This is not chicken stew that most people know; it draws flavours from the alcaparrado and contains a mix of pimento-stuffed olives as well as capers and sweet raisins.
  • Fish with Escabeche Sauce – Made with lots of garlic, sliced yellow onion, bell pepper, and bay leaves, this dish is a Cuban favourite.

Once you know how to cook some of these amazing dishes, you will never have to leave your vacation rental in the Caribbean again!

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Havana’s ‘Golden Mile’

While there are many wonderful locations to rent a house in Havana, many long to stay as close as possible to the Golden Mile, right in the heart of the city’s historic centre. The Golden Mile is located at the Paseo del Prado end of the Obispo, a busy pedestrianised street that’s a true hub of activity. 

The Golden Mile is where you’ll find some of Havana’s best restaurants, most lively bars, and even the Tourist Information Office, which can be useful if you can’t remember how to get back to your Havana accommodation. It’s arguably one of the best preserved parts of the Old Town.

When you picture Havana in your head, you picture the Golden Mile. This is a place of old, cobbled streets that feel uneven underfoot, it’s a place of colonial architecture of days gone by, and it’s a place where the  Havana holiday home waits to welcome visitors to Cuba.

Street musicians fill the Golden Mile with soft music, and flower sellers add a touch of colour and vibrancy. Cuba is very much a country where old meets new, and that’s exactly what you get when you stroll along the Golden Mile.

But the Old Town isn’t just about the Golden Mile. In fact, there are many reasons to rent a villa in Cuba in this part of Havana. Not only are you near the city’s cultural district by the Paseo del Prado, which features a number of museums, but you’re also just a stone’s throw from the grand El Capitolio building.

Although there are some travellers who enjoy staying close to The Malecón, others prefer being close to the Obispo, and the Golden Mile. However, whatever location in Havana you choose, it’s hard to go wrong. The city is such a fascinating place, with something new to see around every corner!

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What to buy in Havana

What is there to do in Havana? Aside from the stunning coastline to stroll along, handfuls of beaches to discover, and some amazing apartments in Havana that you can relax in and enjoy the views, there are also fantastic opportunities for shopping! Havana is one of the top shopping destinations in the Caribbean, so on your next visit to Cuba, here’s what to stock up on.

Carved Wood

Driftwood is a very common sight at Cuba’s beaches, and the locals can be seen collecting it and whittling away, creating intricately decorative souvenirs out of the wood. Some of these treasured items can be purchased from a small craft market called Almacenes San, located near the ferry terminal.

Cuban Serrano Coffee

For many people, the first thing they do when they wake up in their Havana holiday rental is make a big cup of Cuban Serrano. It’s a medium roast coffee that’s renowned for its full-bodied flavour. If you forget to pick up a bag while in Cuba, you can usually find some at the airport before you leave.

Sugar

Cuba was once the world’s largest exporter of sugar, and the quality of the sugar on the island really is second to none. You may notice the hosts at your casa particular in Havana add a little Cuban brown sugar to their meals for a touch of added sweetness. You’ll be able to pick up a bag at most stores.

Import Regulations

Keep in mind that there are restrictions on what you can bring home from your Cuba vacation (and restrictions on suitcase size, too!), so always check the import regulations of your country before you travel. If you plan to try all the different varieties of Cuban rum, for example, you may want to enjoy it by the pool at your Havana villa, and bring just one or two bottles of your favourite back home.

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All about Cuban art

With African, North American, and Spanish influences, as well as some South American and other European aspects thrown into the mix, Cuban art is something completely unique. You won’t find a style like this anywhere else in the world, so make sure to take some time to appreciate the art during your holiday in Cuba. You’ll notice that there are few competing but well-blended concepts, with a heavy focus on modernism.

Work by Jose Salazar Vazquez.

Post-Revolution Artwork 

Following the Cuban Revolution, the government began to sponsor artwork, which is why art has remained an important cultural aspect of Cuba and why Cuban art is so famous today. However, the arts scene, particularly in Havana, has changed in recent years. Today, there is a big street art scene, which makes Havana one of the most photographed places on the island. In fact, many people book a Havana holiday rental solely to photograph the local graffiti, which helps makes the city so colourful.

Famous Cuban Artists 

There are many renowned artists who were born in Cuba or worked in Cuba. Amelia Peláez and Federico Beltran Masses were known for their paintings, while Wifredo Lam was famous for his unusual Afro-Cuban designs. There is perhaps no one more well-known that photographer Alberto Korda, who took that iconic black and white picture of Che Guevara back in the 1960s.

The Best Places for Cuban Art

Simply take a short stroll from your Havana villa and you’re sure to see some amazing street art or bump into local sellers exhibiting their latest pieces. If you want to visit some studios, there are two amazing places in Cuba that are well worth seeing. The first is Yudit Vidal Faife in Trinidad. It’s quite a journey from Havana, but worth the trip. You can even take a tour, conducted by artist Yudit herself!

A little closer to most Havana accommodations, and perhaps easier for most visitors to get to, is Lolo Galleria-Taller, which is located a short distance away in Matanzas. This studio displays world class art, with a heavy focus on sculptures and ceramics.

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Swimming in Havana, Cuba

When you’re on holiday in Cuba and the Caribbean sun is blazing down, there’s one great way to cool off: take a swim! But where are the best places to swim in Havana? Here are a few great options.

Your Villa with a Private Pool in Havana

If you love swimming but hate crowds, why not treat yourself to a luxury villa with a pool in Havana? Wake up and enjoy an invigorating swim before breakfast on the patio, or cool off in the pool at the end of a busy day sightseeing.

Hotels

If you’ve opted for a villa in Havana without a pool or a downtown apartment, don’t worry! Many of the big resort hotels in the city offer day passes for non-hotel guests which provide access to many of the building’s facilities, including swimming pools and gymnasiums. Day passes can be very inexpensive, which makes them a good choice.

Public Swimming Pools

Although these are few and far between, there is one olympic-sized swimming pool in Havana which is open to the public between competition events. Located on Avenida Monumental, Complejo de Piscinas Baraguá is famous for hosting events during the 1991 Pan-American Games.

Beaches

The nearest beach to Havana that offers clean and safe swimming opportunities is Playa Santa Maria, which can be reached from your Havana accommodation in about 25 minutes by local bus or taxi. Playa Guanabo is another beach neighbourhood that can be reached on foot from some of our Havana villas!

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The Havana International Book Fair

If you love to read, then you’ll love the Havana International Book Fair, which takes place every February at the city’s San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress. The event has been a Havana staple since 1982 and is now so big that it has become an unofficial national holiday in Cuba. Festivities are held in many venues throughout the Old Town, including the Cuba Pavilion and the Dulce María Loynaz Center. The event celebrates Cuban literature, encourages literacy, and acknowledges international literary works.

February is a great time to rent a house or apartment in Cuba, even if you’re not much of a bookworm. During the event, there’s an unmistakable party atmosphere and a very lively environment, including street food stalls, carnival rides that are great for the kids, and live bands around every corner. Each year’s festival is different, with a different celebrated literary icon and a focus on literature from a different nation, so you can return year after year and never get bored!

Nearly half a million people travel from all over the world to attend the event in Cuba’s capital, so be sure to book your Havana accommodation early! If you do miss the festivities in Havana, don’t worry. The International Book Fair goes ‘on the road’ and travels all over the country, ending in Santiago de Cuba in April. The event’s finale is often a little less busy, so you may find some great accommodation in Cuba in this area during April.

If you do attend the fair in Santiago de Cuba, there are a few sights and attractions you can’t miss: the San Pedro de la Roca UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Turquino National Park, and the Bacardi Museum.


Five vegan-friendly restaurants in Havana

If you’re a vegan renting a vacation villa in Havana, you may be concerned about the food options in a culture with a fish- and meat-heavy diet. But thankfully Havana has something for everyone! Here are five vegan-friendly restaurants to try out in Havana.

San Juan Bar & Grill

For Caribbean, Latin, and Spanish cuisine, check out the San Juan Bar and Grill, a cozy, rustic, yet traditional-style restaurant with delicious food and amazing cocktails. Their vegan menu consists of soups, delectable salads, vegetarian tamales, fried peppers, and sweet desserts.

San Juan Bar and Grill

El Del Frente

This restaurant has a lively atmosphere that features live music, a terrace for Habanos smokers, delicious cocktails, and amazing tapas. The interior is simple, elegant, and vintage while the exterior has outdoor seating, a full bar, and views of the city. For vegans, they offer amazing soups, salads, pasta, vegetables, tacos, and delectable desserts. Round out the meal with an eye-opening Cuban coffee.

Nero Di Seppia

This traditional-looking Italian restaurant offers both classic and unique dishes alike. The family-family atmosphere helps diners feel right at home, and live musical acts occasionally take the stage. Their food is fresh and made with love. For vegans, they have dozens of pastas, soups, and salads.

Mediterraneo Havana

A choice between Mediterranean and Italian, you are sure to find something you love at Mediterraneo Havana. Located in a gorgeous blue-and-white building that looks like a local’s personal home, the space offers shaded patio seating with beautiful views of the city and tropical vegetation. Their vegan menu has many offerings like risotto, pasta, roasted potatoes, and more.

D’Next Bar Cafeteria

This American bar and cafeteria is known for its amazing pizza! The restaurant is bright and colorful, with modern décor and delicious meals. Vegans will love the sandwiches, salads, desserts, and bread.


Our picks: Top 5 museums in Cuba

The tiny island nation of Cuba is chocked full of history, and many who visit the island don’t know much about it. The best way to learn more about the history and culture of Cuba during your holiday in Havana, check out these five incredible museums.

Museo Napoleonico

This gorgeous museum will teach you all about Napoleon Bonaparte: his life, history, and the time period he lived in. You can view memorabilia throughout the house, as well as beautiful artwork, classic architecture, and amazing stained-glass windows. Take a guided tour, check out a death mask of the would-be emperor’s face, and get a great view of the city of Havana.

Museum of the Revolution

Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolucion)

If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the 1959 revolution in Cuba, this museum is certainly one to check out. You’ll see artifacts from the revolution, learn more about Cuban history and old Havana, and brush up on former leader Fidel Castro. Housed in the gorgeous presidential palace, not only will you learn a lot, but you can admire the artwork and architecture of one of the most beautiful buildings in Havana.

Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi

Once one of the best cathedrals in Cuba, this church and convent is now a renovated concert hall and museum. Along with intricate architecture, you also can enjoy artwork, tombs, art exhibits, and archeological finds that are sure to keep you busy. You might even be able to check out a concern during your stay!

Martha Jimenez’s Studio Workshop

Martha Jimenez is most well-known for her work in terracotta ceramic sculptures. When you visit this workshop, you’ll be able to view plenty of her artwork, from sculptures to paintings. There also is beautiful garden where you can relax away from the sun. Learn about Jimenez’s life, inspiration, and works, as well as what she is up to today.

Work by Jose Salazar Vazquez.

National Museum of Fine Arts

If you love art, you’ll want to check out this amazing art museum where you’ll learn about many Cuban artists, their history, and inspirations. Opt to hire a tour guide so you can learn about the time periods of the pieces and the history of the artists.

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