Travel

Boston Traveler: Havana, Cuba

Be prepared to abandon your itinerary: This once-forbidden Caribbean capital has its own colorful, unforgettable plans for you.


Photo via iStock

GETTING THERE

Hop on JetBlue’s brand-new nonstop from Boston to Havana, which runs on Saturdays. Just choose one of 14 approved reasons for travel when booking and pick up your license to enter the country at the airport check-in.

STAYING THERE

For those seeking luxury, Havana does have options, the newest being the five-star Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski. But for a more genuine glimpse of city life, you’ll want to stay at one of the state-sanctioned Casa Particulares, marked by small blue signs on the doors of locals’ homes.

Photo courtesy of Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski

A.M.

Begin the day with a stroll along the Malecón, a 5-mile seaside esplanade that serves as a tour of the city’s three popular sections. Walk from the most modern neighborhood, the Vedado, to bustling Centro Habana, before ending in Old Havana. There you’ll want to grab an outdoor table at Café Bohemia, in the middle of Plaza Vieja, to enjoy chorizo, local cheese, and eggplant on a baguette while taking in the colonial architecture. Stroll around the rest of the old city, stopping to photograph the Cuban baroque Catedral de San Cristóbal and the Capitolio Nacional, styled after the Panthéon in Paris, before ducking into the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes to check out the Cuban art wing. Splurge on a ride back to your hotel in a restored 1960s convertible.

P.M.

Another unique feature of Havana hospitality are the eateries known as paladares. Run by private citizens and not the state, they dish out authentic food in stylish rooms filled with local art. Café Madrigal, one such gem, features a circular balcony ideal for savoring caipirinhas and tapas. Or try dinner at nearby Atelier, where local cuisine such as ropa vieja (shredded beef with peppers and onions) is served in a Mediterranean-style house. Although chances are you’ve heard tunes playing on every street corner, you’ll still want to head to Café Teatro Bertolt Brecht to see the best Cuban musicians play. Just like everything else in this city, you’re never sure what you’re going to get—from hip-hop to Afro-Cuban jazz fusion—but it’s guaranteed to be nothing short of magical.