Wish You Were Here: Airbnb’s New Homestays on Cuba’s Coasts, Now Open to US Travelers
by Owen James Burke
This casa in Cienfuegos, Cuba includes world class flats fishing just off the patio, if you can work up the gumption to leave.
Airbnb just announced that they’ve begun listing over 1,000 new lodgings all over Cuba, now open to US citizens. I’ve gone through and cherrypicked some of the sunnier, sandier, and beachier spots to take up digs for a week (or month).
Be forewarned: each one of these places includes a veranda or esplanade that’s liable to keep you locked in a daze with your feet in the sand, Havana Club mojito in hand.
Barco Colorido in Punta Gorda, on Bahia de Jagua in Cienfuegos is probably more of a romantic getaway, but I can’t imagine it being miserable alone.
Casa Z, Just another gorgeous esplanade to while away along the sand flats of Cienfuegos.
Situated waterfront along the historic section of the Malecon Habanero in Havana, Magical B & B by the Sea is a place to stay if you’re looking for city by the sea with an old colonial feel.
Magical B & B by the Sea‘s parlor is decked out in true 1950s Cuban decor, painted all white with plantation shutters.
Playa Larga in Matanzas, Cuba is a good jump-off for watery adventures with everything from white sand beaches, coral reefs and deep sea fishing nearby.
Happy Dolphins on the Cienfuegos bayside is lush, quiet, and also backs up onto sand flats teaming with tarpon.
Isla de la Juventud
Cave drawings on Punta del Este, Isla de la Juventud. Photo: Péter Kesselyák/Panoramio
History buffs should look into taking a ferry across the Gulf of Batabanó to Isla de la Juventud (hydrofoils, 2 hours; cargo ferries, 6 hours), where pre-Columbian history is fuzzy, but a series of caves near Punta del Este beach preserve some 235 native drawings. Columbus arrived here on his second trip to the New World, calling it La Evangelista, and claiming it for Spain. After the Spanish-American War, the island fell into dispute between the United States and Cuba, as a small colony of US plantation owners had taken root there. Ultimately, the US population was driven out in 1959 during the revolution.
Presidio Modelo, Fidel Castro’s home between 1953 and 1955. Photo: Creative Commons
The island is also home to Presidio Modelo Prison, the place Castro called home for two years after his first (unsuccessful) attempt at a revolution. After the revolution, the prison was used to house counterrevolutionaries like Cuban poet and human rights activist Armando Valladares, who described the harsh conditions in his memoir, Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s Gulag.
The second largest of Cuba’s islands (and 7th in the West Indies) is littered with beaches, situated in the 350-island Canarreos Archipelago.
Go Get Lost
Cuba is huge, by Caribbean standards. Airbnb is just starting to put their thumb on its pulse, and while it’s nice to know where you’re going to drop your bags when you land, it’d be well worth just showing up and getting lost. Jardines de la Reina off the south coast is a world class marine reserve flourishing with life, and an excellent destination for (catch and release) flats fishing. It’s also one of Mission Blue’s Hope Spots, but you wont’ get there by Airbnb. Not yet, at least.
So, while you’re waiting for the snow to melt and the covers to come off the boats, bypass Florida this year for your early spring getaway and take a quick puddle jumper across to Cuba. Explore. — OJB
Read more about Airbnb’s new US listings for Cuba at the AP.