January 9, 2013
Buicks, Chevys, and countless other cool-finned cruisers rumble down the crumbling streets of Havana, many abandoned by their American owners when they fled in 1959 and kept going by Cuban ingenuity. For us, this is undoubtedly the coolest way to take in the Havana sights. You can book a classic-car tour through Gran Car at all hotel tour desks. They’ll provide a car with a driver from about CUC 25-150, depending on the gorgeousness of the desired automobile. +53 7 881 0992.
Havana’s most lurid cabaret is also one of the world’s finest and, for us, an essential experience. Open since 1939, it is the oldest cabaret in Havana and has lashings of gaudy pre-Revolution decadence about it. We especially love the chorus girls with pineapples on their heads dancing madly against a backdrop of lush tropical vegetation. Order tickets from any travel desk in a hotel or buy them at the ticket booth from 8.30pm. Calle 72 y 43, No. 4505, +53 7 279 147, www.cabaret-tropicana.com. Open: 9am-6pm Mon-Sat; 10am-1pm Sun.
The animist Yoruba religion was imported to Cuba by West African slaves and is still prominent in the country. The word babalao in the Yoruba language means “˜father of knowledge’. We suggest a private consultation with a soothsaying babalao, which is one of the most strange and wonderful experiences you can have in Cuba. To arrange a visit, call Gilbert or Giselle at Havana Holdings, who run Santeria tours. Bungalow 892, Calle 3° y 84 Playa, +53 7 204 7710/11.
If you’ve seen the cult documentary Sons of Cuba, about how hard Cuban boys work to make boxing gold, then you’ll want to go and see the real thing at Gimnasio de Boxeo Rafael Trejo. It’s living proof that fancy equipment and money aren’t needed to make Olympic boxers. We recommend enquiring about boxing lessons with head trainer Carlos Miranda – aim to pay about 25 CUC for a few hours. Calle de Cuba 815, La Habana Vieja, +53 7 862 0266. Training from 4pm. Matches 7pm Friday.
Lounging on a catamaran is, for us, one of the delights of Caribbean travel, and Cuba is no different. The owner of Cloud 9, Tobi Brocklehurst, is an Englishman who loves to sail, and he’ll happily put together something tailor-made just for you. Or you can sign up for a yachting day trip – normally with food and drink inclusive, at any of the travel desks of the major hotels. Cloud 9, +53 7 206 9062, www.incloud9.com
Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Cuba from London Gatwick.