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We have to admit that our memories of Cuba are a bit hazy. It was 2008, we were 22, wide-eyed, and inexperienced. We spent our week in Cuba soaking up the sun and enjoying free daiquiris by the pool on the small island of Cayo Coco. We didn’t learn a single thing about Cuba, its local customs, traditions, or its history. We didn’t get to see the best parts of this fascinating country.

Axel, the only local I met in Cuba. Cayo Coco. 2008

Axel, a wonderful bartender that was working at the resort was the only local I met in Cuba back in 2008. His daiquiris were my favourite!

Fast forward to today, and when it comes to countries in the Caribbean, Cuba is at the top of our travel list. Here are a few reasons why we would love to visit Cuba (again) and why you should too!

1. Because You Can

As a traveler with a Canadian passport, the United States embargo against Cuba has never impacted my ability to visit Cuba (hence my visit in 2008). Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for many of my American friends and fellow travelers.

The embargo was first imposed in 1960, and up until this year, it prohibited all Americans from traveling to any part of Cuba for business or leisure. That all changed earlier this year when President Obama announced his intentions to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, making travel to the island a bit easier. Americans eager to see Cuba can now check to see if they qualify for any of the 12 categories of travel permitted under a “general license.”

The easiest way to travel to Cuba is on a “People to People” itinerary with a tour operator that holds the license to conduct the tour (such as Insight Cuba and Collette). But there are other ways. Time’s article “Thinking About a Trip to Cuba? 5 Things You Should Know” explains.

2. It’s not Crowded and Overdeveloped… Yet!

As US travel restrictions ease, the demand for travel to Cuba is bound to rise. Demand will trigger supply, and within a few years, we’ll start seeing U.S companies like Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International expand their presence in Cuba. More resorts will be built, more buses will run, and the infrastructure will start to develop.

It’s not a bad thing for many, but for travelers that are after the authentic off-the-beaten-path experience, Cuba will soon start losing its colonial feel and its raw appeal.

Havana, Cuba. Photo by Chasing Adventure via Trover.com

Havana, Cuba. Photo by Chasing Adventure via Trover.com

3. Old Architecture and Cars

Visiting Cuba is like stepping into a time machine. The country’s mix of Spanish and African influences reverberates through its cobblestone streets. Here, the cars date back to the 1950s, the colourful colonial architecture dominates the surroundings, and the air is filled with a certain feeling of romance and excitement.

Two oldtimers in Havana, Cuba. Photo by Juriën Minke via Flickr CC

Two oldtimers in Havana, Cuba. Photo by Juriën Minke via Flickr CC

Back in 2008, I didn’t care much for the city sights, but now I would love to spend days strolling the streets with a camera in hand. It is a true photographer’s paradise. Just check out these 5 Cities That Bring Colonial Cuba To Life and you’ll be googling flights in no time!

4. Music and Dancing

If there is one thing I remember about Cuba, it’s the hot nights spent inside local bars filled with sounds of salsa, cigar smoke, and the enchanting aroma of coconut rum. The music in Cuba is infectious and the dancing is out of this world. Hello, have you seen Dirty Dancing?

Locals busting their best moves at a dance show in Cayo Coco, Cuba.

Locals busting their best moves at a dance show in Cayo Coco, Cuba.

5. Disconnect and Enjoy the Beaches

You can’t visit Cuba and not spend some time on its beautiful beaches. The country is home to over 300 stunning strips of white sand, with crystal clear waters and excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities.

Cuba is a perfect destination to truly disconnect. There is no cell phone coverage, no (or very limited) Internet connection, and no excuse to not kick back and relax.

Cayo Coco Beach, Cuba

Beach in Cayo Coco, Cuba

You can fly to Cuba from a variety of destinations in Canada, Mexico, and Europe, but flights from Miami and Tampa to Cuba are now also offered to authorized American passengers

I think it’s time for us to pay Cuba another visit.

Have you even visited Cuba before? What was your reason for traveling there?