What’s New in Cuba For 2016

For Cuba, the tourists just keep pouring in as the ‘it’ country of the Caribbean sees global attention thanks to an on-going ease of travel restrictions for Americans. And every one else seems to want to see the island trapped in a time warp before the influx of Americans changes the Cuban landscape for good. The country is said to be on track for a record-setting year of tourism, topping last years record three million visitors. With this increase in popularity, it’s no surprise that many new hotels, attractions and tours are opening next year… after all, you’ve got to give the people what they want. Let’s take a look at some of the new openings in Cuba for the coming year:

1. CheapAir.com

The first part to think about when looking at a trip to Cuba is how you’re going to get there, and several American airlines are addressing those issues now. CheapAir.com is launching 3 new charter flights with American Airlines. The flights will commence on December 12, 19 and 26 and fly from Los Angeles (LAX) directly to Havana.

Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

2. Delta

American airline giant Delta has also announced plans for a weekly charter service from Atlanta to Havana which is said to commence April 2nd. Details around which charter operator it would partner with for the route have not been released yet.

Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

3. Ocean by H10 Hotels

More tourists means more accommodations are required (not that there aren’t a lot already) and the incoming American market will increase demand greatly. Spain-based Ocean by H10 Hotels already has properties in Varadero and Havana but is expanding their Cuban portfolio with two new properties opening in 2016. The 800-room Ocean Casa del Mar will open in January on the island of Cayo Santa Maria while the 470-room Ocean Vista Azul will open in Varadero in December.

Photo by: Fiture
Photo by: Fiture

4. Abercrombie & Kent

Luxury and adventure travel company Amercrombie & Kent will launch its first Cuban tour in 2016 titled ‘ Signature Cuba: A Private People to People Journey’. The 7 day tour will take participants on a private journey through Havana using local guides and making stops at many of Havana’s historic and cultural attractions and family-run restaurants. The price per person (based on double occupancy) starts at $10,795 USD. Even at this price, bookings for 2016 are said to be going fast.

Deatonphotos / Shutterstock.com
Deatonphotos / Shutterstock.com

5. Ya’lla Tours

US based Ya’lla Tours has eight organized Cuba tour departures scheduled for 2016 (one of which is already sold out) with the last tour of the year coinciding with the Havana International Jazz Festival in December. According to the tour operator, this departure will give people the opportunity to attend the festival concerts of their choice as well as have the chance to “Meet with Cuban Jazz musicians for a casual exchange and to learn about the famous local Jazz stars, as well as the current expressions and manifestations of Afro-Cuban Jazz.” Prices for the 7-night tour start at $5,995 based on double occupancy.

Nadezda Stoyanova / Shutterstock.com
Nadezda Stoyanova / Shutterstock.com

6. Central Holidays

While vacation company Central Holidays has been operating five Cuba programs for a number of years, their new 2016 offering titled “AFRO CUBANISMO” is a totally new experience. company CEO Gianni Miradoli says “We’ve lined up Cuba’s top historians and experts to lead the tours,” for the 10 day itinerary and they promise visits to artist studios and performance spaces as well as dining with artists and other community representatives. Prices start at $4,199 USD per person for double occupancy.

Havana Cuba

7. Island Destinations

Luxury travel company Island Destinations has a new tour for 2016 titled ‘Ultimate Itineraries-Cuba’ and promises participants “exclusive visits to private homes and businesses in Havana” with a small tour group setting (maximum 8 guests per tour). The 4-night tour starts at $5,245 per person based on double occupancy and not including airfare from Miami.

Havana Old Town

8. Sarao’s Bar

While this Havana nightclub has been open for a while already, it’s just gaining attention as one of the biggest clubbing hotspots in Havana. Celebrities are even giving the ultra-modern club the time of day and Katy Perry, Usher and Ludacris have all been spotted here in the past few months. With names like that, you can bet this club is only going to get more attention in the coming year.

Photo by: AlaMesaCuba
Photo by: AlaMesaCuba

9. Carnival Cruises

This past summer, cruise giant Carnival Corp. announced it would commence sailings to Cuba starting in Spring 2016. a seven-night ‘people to people’ tour to the island via ship is said to start in May while by-weekly cruises from Miami will start in April on the company’s new socially-conscious Fathom brand.

Cruise Terminal Old Havana

12 Amazing Airbnb Rentals in Cuba

With a surge of popularity thanks to travel restriction changes for Americans, gone are the days when the only way to see the beautiful country of Cuba was by booking a week at a secluded all-inclusive resort. More and more travelers are moving away from this style of travel and instead opting to immerse themselves in the local flavor and culture. The philosophy behind Airbnb is about connecting people to unique travel experiences at any price point, from budget to luxury, and having the opportunity to feel ‘at home’ in any country. With this style of travel being all the rage these days it’s no wonder that many rentals are popping up all around the country at every price point imaginable so let’s take a look at 12 awesome rentals in the Caribbean island of Cuba:

12. Stylish Spanish Mansion in Habana –La Habana

$60 USD/Night

If you’re looking for affordable charm in Havana, look no further than this Spanish-style mansion that rents by the room. Guests have access to a communal lounge, kitchen, dining room, rooftop area, and picturesque patio gardens. With an old-fashioned interior design, this house is the perfect home away from home. Its prime location makes sightseeing easy as the house is a 10 minute walk from the the beautiful waterfront boardwalk in Malecon, a popular destination in Havana.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

11. CF-2.2 Sun and Sea at Casa –Punta Gorda, Cienfuegos

$63 USD/Night

Sun and Sea at Casa is exactly how it sounds: a beautiful living space in the Punta Gorda area with an open terrace supporting an extended dock that allows renters to walk out onto the ocean. Swing in the sun in a hammock on the patio or sit and listen to the relaxing sounds of the ocean in one of the many lounges on the garden patio. This small and secluded sea view location is a tropical paradise for two – pina colada anyone?

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

10. Amazing location in Old Havana –Old Havana

$89USD/Night

This newly renovated two bedroom apartment located on a bustling street in Old Havana is lined with interior brick and includes one bath and three beds. Situated in a prime tourist spot, guest can step out the door and take a walk down the narrow cobblestone streets of Plaza de San Francisco or sit by the ‘fountain of lions’ and soak in the pleasures of a warm Cuban afternoon. Who needs a resort when exploring on your own is so much more exhilarating. Visit any of the various shops and restaurants located in the square, or take a stroll through the vibrant Plaza Vieja, one of the most popular squares in Old Havana.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

9. CASA AZUL –Santiago de Cuba

$25USD/Night

Located in the second largest city in Cuba, this rental home can accommodate up to four travelers with one bedroom, one bathroom and two beds. A recognized location by TripAdvisor in 2014 as a top travelers choice, this two storey house includes a secluded terrace with hanging greenery overlooking the bay. If you’re looking for something nearby, the historical Cespedes park, a central spot in the town with food and entertainment is only two blocks away.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

8. Hostal Refugio de Reyes –Holguin

$29USD/Night

This Holguin hostal was built in 1953 and can house up to three traveling guests with one third floor apartment and two main level rooms. The upper level apartment has a spacious outdoor terrace that offers spectacular sunset views and your very own private sunbathing spot. Sit back and relax on the main level – this outdoor patio is a tranquil green oasis with a garden of fruit trees and pond of exotic fish. The house is a seven minute walk from downtown and offers an array of available activities to renters. There is available parking so be sure to rent a car because it’s only an hour drive to some of the nicest beaches on the island!

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

7. Villa Moriah room with garden –Guardalavaca

$30USD/Night

Journey over to the northeast coast of Cuba and stay at the Villa Moriah where two guests can stay in a room with one bed and bathroom. This one level house has a small cottage feel with a private gated entrance, free parking, beautiful garden and outdoor terrace where you can sit and enjoy a meal. It’s a great spot for a quick vacation near Playa Guardalavaca, a hot tourist spot with white sandy beaches and warm waters.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

6. Superbe villa en bordure de mer –Juan Gonzalez

$120USD/Night

Translation: superb villa by the sea. This house sleeps six with one bedroom, three beds and two bathrooms. In a hot and dry climate you’ll be more than happy to cool off with a quick dip in backyard pool which looks out onto the ocean. Located 30 minutes from the city of Santiago, there is no shortage of things to do for tourists. People looking for a little adventure can try paragliding or swimming with dolphins, and those that are simply looking for a little bit of fun can stop by one of the nearby beaches or explore the city’s vibrant nightlife.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

5. Santa Lucia Beach –Playa Santa Lucia

$30USD/Night

The highlight of this rental property is the backyard gazebo designed for friendly gatherings and backyard cookouts. Just a short walk to the beach, this house sleeps six people and is rented by the room with two bedrooms, bathrooms and beds. Guests can wander through the city of Camaguey, but you’ll have to bring a map, this city is nicknamed ‘the maze’ because of its winding narrow streets. It has a vibrant history making it simply a sight to see, but there’s also plenty to do with many squares and parks to visit.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

4. Casa Santo Domingo –Trinidad

$22USD/Night

This colonial house in downtown Trinidad has a lively location with the beach down the street and city center just steps away, no rental car is necessary. Trinidad has a strong cultural heritage, with colorful houses and red brick streets, wandering off to the market and stores is an exploration  in itself. The house has two rooms to rent, each with two separate beds and one bathroom to share. Similar to a hotel, there is attentive service and a quiet atmosphere with access to WiFi, making it a popular business accommodation.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

3. Hostal Casa Blanca –Cienfuegos

$34USD/Night

This modern home offers a very comfortable and relaxing experience for guests located in the middle of a quiet neighbourhood near the Malecon. As an added plus, this location offers price quotes for nightly, weekly and monthly accommodation. With two rooms to rent, each supporting its own bathroom and terrace, the house sleeps five people and offers a communal patio for gathering outdoors to enjoy a little rest and relaxation.

Photo by: Airbnb

2. RHPLOF03 4BR Luxury Villa with Pool –La Habana

$500USD/Night

With high price comes high class! This Spanish Colonial Style Villa is a modern mansion in the middle of an exclusive upscale Siboney neighborhood and requires a three night minimum stay. The house can accommodate eight people in total, with four bedrooms (four beds), four bathrooms including three full baths with a shower and one half bath. The outside is just as luxurious as the inside. A big terrace with an outdoor kitchen and bar leads out to the large gardens and comes equipped with a king size pool that has plenty of surrounding green space and poolside lounges.

Photo by: Airbnb

1. Tropicana Luxury Vacation Penthouse –La Habana

$180USD/Night

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to this luxury penthouse at the top of a 10 storey building near the El Malecon oceanfront and walking distance of the city’s finest restaurants. Described as a couples retreat located near the city’s finest restaurants and entertainment in a restored 1950’s building, it accommodates two guests with one bedroom and one bathroom. Prepare to be swept away with a large outdoor terrace that offers 360 degree panoramic views of the city. This tropical paradise comes at a high price with the extra cost of a security deposit and cleaning fee.

Photo by: Airbnb
Photo by: Airbnb

Cuba Sees Surge in Tourism Before the Americans Come

In the weeks after Washington announced it would renew ties with Havana, travel bookings to Cuba jumped 57% -well for one New York tour operator anyway.

InsightCuba is a tour operator based out of New Rochelle, New York and has reported an increase in bookings of 187% for the month of February, and a nearly 250% increase for this month so far. Company President Tom Popper says he believes this is due to many people wanting to see the country before it changes as a result of renewed trade with the U.S.

The overall numbers paint a similar story as well; with Cuba reporting a 16% increase in overall tourism in January 2015 when compared with last year. Even still, 2014 set a new record as it welcomed a total of 3 million visitors to the sunny Caribbean country.

Hang Dinh / Shutterstock.com
Hang Dinh / Shutterstock.com

 

Though it will certainly take time for changes to trade and tourism regulations with the States to have an impact, many speculate that it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing American brands like those golden arches and coffee chains like Starbucks move into the scene that for decades has been fulfilled with homegrown brands.

While the tourism numbers prove that many travelers are eager to get in to see this ‘time capsule’ country before it loses its ‘charm’, residents of the country have a different outlook on the country’s future.

While foreigners see old-world charm and historic buildings, locals see run down buildings and new products that are priced out of their reach. Many say they are excited for the changes to come as they could mean increased access to the internet and the world outside the island – as well as generally better economic times to come.