How Can Americans Travel to Cuba?

In an effort to normalize relations, the U.S. Government has revised the rules and regulations concerning travel to Cuba by American citizens. While regular travel for Cuba vacations is still banned, the restrictions for 12 other types of travel have been relaxed. For example, it is now easier for people to visit their relatives, attend sporting events, participate in humanitarian relief efforts and take educational people-to-people trips. In contrast to purely recreational activities, such as a day at the beach, these people-to-people excursions are designed to bring residents of each country closer together through shared experiences. The trips, which are open to everyone, have pre-arranged itineraries filled with stops at historic sites, museums and other cultural attractions like lectures and visits to community projects. These itineraries ensure that the trip complies with the U.S. State Department travel restrictions. The guidelines governing the amount of free time that occurs on these trips have yet to be determined. Tours of Cuba often include visits to Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Varadero, the three most popular destinations in the country.

The capital of Havana is a vibrant Caribbean city with a Latin vibe set against a history of swashbuckling pirates and Spanish colonialism as well as the glitz and glamour of the 1950s. Accentuating the spectacular beach, the Malecon is a popular five-mile-long seaside boulevard with stunning views of the bay and the city’s eclectic mix of architectural styles. Historic buildings include the restored 18th century Fortress of San Carlos and the National Capitol. The fortress is the largest Spanish colonial bastion in the New World, and the ornate National Capitol houses the world’s third largest indoor statue and the Room of the Lost Steps, which is renowned for its acoustics. The Old Town area, including the museums of the restored Castle of the Royal Forces, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to the extensive collection in the national art museum, guided tours of the city generally include visits to an authentic cigar factory and the Havana Club Rum distillery. Along the cobblestone Merchant Street, visitors can experience museums, shops and restaurants as well as ongoing social projects and a statue of Simon Bolivar.

Located on the southeast coast, Santiago de Cuba is the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution. It was from this seaside town, that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara launched their movement in the 1950s. The city has also played a part in the evolution of Cuban art, music and literature with its Afro-Caribbean influences. Santiago de Cuba is the location of Don Facundo Bacardi’s first rum factory and the Casa de Diego Velazquez, the oldest extant residence in the country. The imposing UNESCO World Heritage Castle of San Pedro sets atop a promontory overlooking the harbor. Visit the museums dedicated to rum and the revolution as well as the famous Moncada Barracks and the meticulously restored frescos and hand-carved wood of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. Fidel Castro and 100 followers stormed the military garrison in 1953 as one of their first revolutionary acts. Erected in the 16th century, the cathedral contains the remains of Diego Velazquez, the island’s first colonial governor. The Cemetery of Santa Ifigenia is the final resting place of national hero Jose Marti and members of the Bacardi family.

Located on the Hicacos Peninsula, Varadero boasts an uninterrupted 15 miles of crystalline sand and warm turquoise water. The country’s premier beach destination, the community is the center of Cuba’s burgeoning tourist industry. Varadero is home to the natural beauty of the Parque Josone with its botanical gardens and bird habitats as well as the Bellamar Caves, a national monument featuring impressive underground galleries and rock formations. The park also hosts numerous cultural events celebrating traditional Cuban music and dance. Visitors can also attend a performance of the famous Cuban cabaret-style Tropicana Show. Cuba’s marine and undersea splendor is on display with scenic boat tours, exceptional diving and mini-submarine excursions of the mangrove forests, reefs and shipwrecks of the nature preserves on this island archipelago. An elegant historic beach house on the peninsula now serves as a museum with period furnishings, photographs and other exhibits that chronicle the story of the resort.

To book a flight and travel to Cuba, American citizens must work with a professional agency that has an official license issued by the State Department.

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