There’s always something going on in Havana, but every now and then you want to get out and see a bit more of Cuba. Here are five destinations, from dreamy beaches to old-school neighborhoods, that are worth a day trip—or even an overnight stay.
In 1939, author Ernest Hemingway moved from Key West, Florida, to this Spanish colonial 19th century farmhouse, six miles southeast of Havana center. Translated as “Lookout Farm,” it is now a museum and cultural center preserving not only the rooms as they looked when Hemingway lived there, but more than 10,000 documents related to his career.
Km. 12 ½, fincafoundation.org
Two hours east of the city, on the narrow Hicacos Peninsula, the beaches of this idyllic resort are among the finest in the world. More than twelve miles of uninterrupted white sand lure locals and tourists to the town, which hosts multiple cultural and culinary festivals as well as activities including scuba diving and deep-sea fishing.
On the eastern side of the harbor, across from Old Havana, lies a hilly ward that offers a sense of the real Cuba. Quiet and charming, it is accessible via ferry (which provides stunning views). Climb to the top of La Cabaña hill to get a close view of the 66-foot Christ of Havana, then take a ride on the old Hershey Electric Railway or buzz around in a vintage car with Strawberry Tours.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Viñales Valley is a stunning landscape two hours west of Havana. Famous for its tobacco production—which is still done using traditional methods—the valley is dotted with flat-topped, otherworldly limestone hills (mogotes), some almost 1,000 feet high. Hiking and climbing are popular activities for visitors.
The capital city of its namesake province 56 miles east of the capital, Matanzas has a rich cultural heritage that earned it the moniker “the Athens of Cuba.” Credited as the birthplace of rumba, the town features the neoclassical Teatro Sauto as well as the 17th century (but largely rebuilt) Catedral de San Carlos Borromeo. It’s also close to the beaches of Varadero, if you fancy a post-sightseeing dip.