Old Havana, located around the five main squares, and has one of the most impressive ensembles of historical architecture. From Baroque to Art Deco, from Neoclassicism to Art Nouveau, the rainbow-colored facades of the area adorn the diverse cultural heritage of Cuba.
Founded in the early 16th century on the southwest coast of Cuba by Spanish conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez, Havana moved twice before taking permanent establishment on the Caribbean island’s northwest coast.
Strategically chosen for its location in the Gulf of Mexico, Havana became a mandatory stop for ships traveling to and from the New World, and quickly became the largest port in the Spanish West Indies. Today, the city still claims some of the oldest stone fortifications in the Americas, and Old Havana, or Habana Vieja, claims some of the most beautiful architecture.
Castillo de la Real Fuerza Castle in Old Havana, Cuba, one of Cuba’s most ancient castles. It is a great sample of military architecture during the Spain's rule over the Caribbean. It is located in the Plaza de Armas Square in Old Havana facing the sea. The Castle, as well as the rest of the old city’s fortifications, has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Castillo de la Real Fuerza Castle is the oldest fortress still preserved in all the Americas. It was built between 1558 and 1577, in the same location where a fort was destroyed by French pirates in 1555. The west tower is crowned by the copy of a well-known bronze weathervane called La Giraldilla. The original was made in Havana in 1630 and is quite similar to the Giralda of Seville.
El Capitolio, or the National Capitol Building is one of the most visited sites in Havana. This majestic construction, located in the Centro Habana, is similar to that in Washington D.C, but a meter higher, a meter wider, and a meter longer, as well as much more rich in detail. It was started to be built by Gerardo Machado in 1926 supported by North America.
Formerly, it was used as headquarters of the Cuban Congress, but since 1959 it has hosted the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the Science and Technology National Library. The entrance is sheltered by 6 huge Doric columns, on top of a 55 steps granite staircase. In both sides on top of the stairs there are two amazing sculptures in bronze, a masculine and a feminine one, both 6,70 meters high, by the Italian Angelo Zanelli. When you cross them you’ll arrive to the Hall of Lost Steps, named in this way due to its wonderful acoustics, and in which center is the Republic statue, a huge woman in bronze 14,60 meters high and more than 30 tons weight, representing the virtue of the nation and work.
Known for "naive" and "childlike" style, Cuban artist José Fuster created colorful, dream-like houses covered entirely with ceramic tiles.
Go back in the history, after successful gallery tours across Europe, Fuster was struck with a desire to recreate something like Gaudi’s public works in Barcelona and Brâncuși’s across Romania in his own homeland. He wanted to put his artistic reality into his real-world surroundings, and he began in his own neighborhood. In 1975, after moving into a modest wood house in the rundown neighborhood of Jaimanitas outside Havana, Fuster set about decorating his studio in colorful mosaic. Once he was done there, he asked his neighbors if he could decorate their homes and business as well. A few accepted his offer and the tile creations grew. Over the course of a decade, doctors’ offices, bus stops, fountains, benches, gateways, and more were enveloped by Fuster’s whimsical imagination. Today, his artwork coats the neighborhood in a rainbow of strange, enchanting fantasy.
Jaimanitas was an economically depressed area before Fuster arrived, and now it has turned into an artist’s paradise. Tourists are bussed into the neighborhood to admire Fuster’s still-growing kingdom, which has spawned a new generation of artists inspired by the surroundings they came up in.
The Malecón, first named Avenida del Golfo, is Cuba’s most famous sea-side avenue. The project was undertaken by Don Francisco de Albear, Cuba’s greatest engineer at the time. Albear came up with a complex but smart design for the seawall, which was to be a lot more than just a promenade. According to historical records, the avenue was supposed to be constructed 4 meters above sea level. The whole project would cost 850,000 pesos, but the Spanish government didn’t bring itself to issue the construction permit and Albear’s proposal was postponed.
The construction of the Malecón began in 1901. After the first stretch was completed, for which several public facilities were demolished, construction works were resumed in 1921, and again in the 30’s.The architectural richness of the Malecón is also expressed through 18th- and 19th-century stately homes, followed by a row of 20th-century buildings with an unusual combination of styles and profusion of portals, columns and pilasters that loosely follow classical lines.
But beyond the architectural values of the buildings, its greatest charm lies in being somewhere to stroll or hang out on a stiflingly hot day. It is a place where couples come to make amends, especially at sunset, in the company of children and fishermen. It is Havana’s outdoor lounge.
The name Bay of Pigs immediately brings to mind the failed invasion by a US-backed army of counter-revolutionaries that happened here in 1961. Nowadays however, it is a destination that is increasing in popularity for tourists for its natural beauty, birding and variety of wildlife, and as a place where excellent diving and snorkelling can be done from the shore. The waters are warm, clear, calm, and brimming with sea life. Back from the shoreline is some dense forest much of which is protect in national parks. There are some interesting excursions that can be done through these forests with local park guides, to caves and natural swimming holes.
Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes del Morro (Morro Castle) was erected between 1589 and 1630 to protect the mouth of the Havana port from pirates and invaders. The fortress stands on a rocky promontory known as El Morro, over the Atlantic. It was the King of Spain who ordered the castle to be built and appointed Juan de Texeda, a field commander, and Batista Antonelli, a military architect, to lead the works. The castle was originally planned to have an irregular polygonal shape, with three-meter-thick walls and deep moats.
The castle is an perfect example of renaissance military architecture, and is endowed with an harmonic elegance that melds with its natural surroundings through a series of terraces fused to the rock.
Nowadays, the castle offers impressive views of the sea and Havana. The lighthouse that crowns its tower was added in 1844 and helps guide ships docking in the port.
Discover the Planetarium of Havana in Cuba and let it take you on a journey through time and space!
The Planetario de La Habana (Planetarium of Havana) is a must-visit place in Cuba. It was built in 2009 with the help of the Japanese government and is located in Calle Mercaderes, near the Plaza Vieja Square in Havana.
The Planetarium has exhibitions including a scale model of the Solar System inside a huge sphere, a Big Bang simulation, and a theater where it is possible to see more than 6,000 stars.
The Planetarium has several telescopes, a projector that can lock onto more than 6,500 stars, a library of astronomy, a theater, interactive games, and a staff made up of physicists and astronomers.
Playa Jibacoa area, mostly chosen by Cubans, is located on the north coast of Mayabeque. It has resorts and several camping sites of good quality.
The area is notable for the beautiful typical landscape with a deep blue sea, surrounded by cliffs, on the side facing the land, and rocky hills where are located the hotels.
The excellent beaches are famous for their clear and shallow water and is a local and tourist favourite for snorkeling from the beach. It is worth noting the scuba diving area opposite the shore, where you'll find coral reefs and a good amount of fish and shellfish. There is a wide range of activities to practice in the area, from small hiking to horseback riding or it may be good to rent paddle boats
Discover the Rum Museum in Old Havana, Cuba, to learn more about and taste famous beverage!
The Havana Club Rum Museum ( Museo del Ron ) is located next to the Colonial Plaza de San Francisco de Asis Square , right in front of Havana harbor.
It is not necessary to drink alcohol to enjoy this wonderful museum , because by visiting it you'll still be able to delve into Cuban culture. This museum offers an interesting guided tou r exhibiting the complex rum-making process in old machines . This tour is available in Spanish, English, French, German and Italian. It explains the entire process, from the manufacturing white oak barrels to the rum's fermentation and ageing process, as well as a scale-model copy of a sugar mill.
One of the oldest and most historic regions of the country, Port Royal has maintained much of its independence as well as its heritage. Once the enclave of pirates and other outlaws, there is still a strong seafaring tradition. Much of the old city, described in the 17th century as the "wickedest city in the west", lies underwater beside the town, the result of an earthquake that in 1692 swallowed about two-thirds of the then-living space. Since then, another earthquake in 1907, numerous hurricanes, fires, and various population-decimating diseases have plagued the town. Despite all, the waters around Port Royal are a virtual archaeological gold mine, filled with pieces of history that tell of everyday life in the earliest days of English occupation. Port Royal is also home to the Archaeological Division of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), which recently completed a sonar survey of the underwater city, revealing a sunken pirate ship in the Kingston Harbour. To date thousands of artefacts have been recovered, and there are plans to develop a local museum to showcase these items once the research on them is complete.
The area on which the National Heroes Park now stands was once one of the most popular spots in Kingston. For 101 years, the land was the centre for horse racing in Jamaica. It was also the site for other sporting activities such as cricket and cycle racing. Being a place where people naturally gathered, the area was also the venue for travelling circuses that visited the island from time to time.
The site was officially renamed the National Heroes Park in 1973 and is now a permanent place for honouring our heroes whose monuments are erected in an area known as the Shrine.
Another section, reserved for prime ministers and outstanding patriots, adjoins the Shrine area, to the north.
24 Tucker Avenue is the former residence of the late Sir Alexander Bustamante. In 1940 Bustamante was held in detention at Up Park Camp for allegedly inciting workers to protest against low wages and poor working conditions. From this location he instructed his attorneys from the legal firm Judah and Randall, to build a home on the half-acre of land he had brought in 1939.
Bustamante's attorneys had the house completed within a year and around the same time Bustamante was released from detention camp. The house was at first rented for a couple of years before it was occupied by Bustamante. The building is a contemporary style 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom concrete house with a combined hip and gable end and timber shingle roof finish. Louvre windows are reflected throughout the design, with the exception of the pivoted sash windows of the bathrooms.
This Tucker Avenue home now has its place in Jamaica's history because a National Hero lived there and because of the eventful conferences which took place there.
The house is now open to the public as the Bustamante Museum and consists of a multimedia exhibition with artifacts on display.
Liberty Hall located at 76 King Street, Kingston was the centre of activities for the Kingston division of The U.N.I.A. It was acquired in 1923 for eight hundred pounds sterling (£800). The two-storey building was the first meeting hall in Jamaica that was fully owned and operated by blacks. It was the home to plays, concerts, dances, elocution pieces, adult and children's choirs. One famous play, which took place here, was the "Slave Ship", which recaptured the horrors of the Middle Passage.
Liberty Hall was so named because of Garvey's great admiration for the Irish independence movement and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union whose headquarters in Dublin was named Liberty Hall in 1912. It was at this place, described as "the fortress of the militant working class of Ireland" that many plans were made for Irish self-determination, and Garvey saw the U.N.I.A struggle as being akin to that of the Irish.
Liberty Hall is decked in colours red, black and green, which are of much significance. The red denotes the blood of the Negro race nobly shed in the past and dedicated to the future; black represents the colour of the skin and green represents a promise of a better life in Africa. This monument stands as a proud reminder to all Jamaicans, and indeed to all visitors of the works and achievements of the great visionary and National Hero the Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
The first fort to be erected in Port Royal was Fort Charles. It was built in the late 1650-60 and was originally called Fort Cromwell but was renamed Fort Charles. The fort underwent several changes between 1656 -1670. In 1667, the fort had 36 guns and by 1765 it had 104 guns and a garrison with 500 men.
There are many rare and beautiful species of tropical plants and trees at the Royal Botanical Gardens, including the Hibiscus elatus (blue mahoe), the national tree of Jamaica. Blue mahoe is a small spreading tree with flowers that open in primrose colour in the morning and change to orange and deep red as the day advances.
The Culture Yard today hosts a small museum which presents the phenomenal history of Trench Town along with articles, instruments and furnishing used by Tata Ford, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. The original 1940's buildings have been restored to their former glory and the site is truly a heritage tourism destination.
Jamaica's World Heritage Site, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, is one of the richest biodiversity sites in the world and a nature-lover’s paradise. It is home to over 1,300 flowering plant species, the largest butterfly in the Americas - the 6-inch Giant Swallowtail and over 200 species of native and migratory birds.
Sitting on 11 lush acres in the capital city, the stately Devon House mansion was the home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel. It was built in 1881, on what was originally a 51-acre property.
Visit the first military fort in the continent and discover more about the Colonial history of Santo Domingo.
Erected in front of the mouth of the Ozama River, the Santo Domingo Fortress or Fortaleza Ozama Fortress is the first military construction in the Colony, and one of the World Heritage jewels in the Colonial Area.
The simple and solid construction was built by the Spaniards between 1502 and 1507 at the request of the governor Nicolás de Ovando, providing it with a Medieval style. However, during the following centuries, the place was modified and extended until it became an interesting building that you can see today. The main purpose of its construction was to defend the city from the attacks of British, Portuguese and French conquerors, as well as from the pillage of pirates.
The Dominican Republic’s contemporary art museum, the Museum of Modern Art is located in the Plaza de la Cultura, next door to many other museums and the National Theater. It exhibits examples of the best of Dominican art of the 20th century, as well as temporary exhibitions.
Before going out to buy Dominican art, educate yourself by browsing through the permanent collections of Dominican masters of art at the Museum of Modern Art.
La Caleta Underwater National Park, one of the first in the region, is a popular dive site located close to Santo Domingo. It’s known for its multiple shipwrecks, but also for its abundant marine life ready to be explored by all levels of divers, from beginner to advanced. Depths go from six meters (20 feet) to 180 meters (591 feet), over an area stretching 10 km² (four square miles) from Las Golondrinas Cave to Punta Caucedo.
La Caleta’s irregular topography includes three defined terraces, underwater caves, and well-known shipwrecks. A variety of corals and schools of colorful critters thrive here, using the reefs as shelter and food source, including grouper, balloon fish, rays, lionfish, octopuses, and turtles. Among the more popular shipwrecks is the Hickory, a 1984 ship located at about 18 meters (60 feet) deep, submerged in 1984 by a group of submarine researchers to create an artificial reef for the proliferation of marine life. Additional wrecks include El Limón and Capitán Alsina, located about 30 meters (100 feet) deep, and the Don Quico at about 58 meters (190 feet) of depth. Nearby, an impressive system of karst rocks creates a meandering network of underwater caverns and tunnels over 100 meters (328 feet) long—an ideal place for technical diving.
The Alcázar de Colón is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Santo Domingo. The building dates from 1510 and is the oldest vice-regal residence in the Americas. It was originally the home of Diego Columbus, the governor of the colony and Christopher Columbus’ son.
If you’re going to Paradise Island to shop, a great place to start is Marina Village next to Atlantis. With over 20 designer and retail shops spread over 65,000 square feet—plus dining options ranging from casual and fine dining restaurants to grab-and-go meals and Starbucks—you’ll love strolling around this vibrant outdoor marketplace as you try to narrow down your purchases by asking yourself, “Will this fit in my suitcase?”
The retailers at Marina Village in Paradise Island are as varied as they are unique. So if you’d like to go a delightfully different kind of shopping adventure, head to Marina Village for such stores as Atlantis Signatures, Columbian Emeralds International, La Parfumerie, Pirana Joe Resort Wear, Carlo Milano, Paradise Blue Surf Shop, Pandora, The Plait Lady, and more.
The extraordinary 14-acre environment of Dolphin Cay at Atlantis, Paradise Island showcases one of the largest and most sophisticated marine habitats and animal rescue-rehabilitation facilities unlike anything in the world.
In addition to caring for dolphins and sea lions and studying their behavior, Dolphin Cay offers unparalleled educational experiences. Visitors can participate in creative, non-disruptive “interactions” that build real awareness, stir emotion, and help fund our conservation efforts.
Wearing a wetsuit and sitting in waist-high water, you will have the chance to get close to the dolphins, face-to-face, feeling that personal connection. What could be better than swimming freely with these extraordinary mammals in deep water? Underwater acrobatics and the rush of feeling the dolphins swim beside you are only a part of this magical encounter.
Head to the heart of Nassau for a unique visit to the Ardastra Gardens Zoo & Conservation Centre. As the first and only zoo in The Bahamas, it features more than four acres of lush tropical gardens inhabited by a dazzling array of animal species—including the national bird of The Bahamas, the Caribbean flamingo. Hand-feed playful parrots, meet beautiful Bahamian boa constrictors and be sure to watch the world-famous marching flamingos in action.
Originally created as a nature preserve by Jamaican horticulturalist Hedley Edwards in the 1950’s, Ardastra Gardens & Zoo has developed over the decades into a tropical garden, conservation centre, boutique zoo and now wildlife rescue & rehab facility. Today, thousands of visitors visit Ardastra annually to marvel at the tranquil, restorative gardens and enjoy close encounters with a wonderful collection of over 135 animals, complete with a petting zoo, secret garden and flamingo arena.
Located just three miles northeast of Nassau, Blue Lagoon Island (also known as Salt Cay) is home to dolphins and sea lions at Dolphin Encounters, but it also offers everything that you would want on a private island getaway. You can swim in a hidden lagoon with clear blue water, snorkel right off the beach and see coral reefs teeming with numerous species of tropical fish, sunbathe on white-sand beaches surrounded by coconut palm trees, and walk through lush natural vegetation that is the habitat for nesting birds.
You can purchase a package that includes round-trip boat transfer to Blue Lagoon Island, lunch, free access to the Inflatable Aqua Park, plus use of the facilities, beach sports and game equipment. Water sports equipment is also available to rent: paddleboards, kayaks, clear bottom kayaks, water bikes, underwater scooters, and snorkeling gear.
This long stretch of white powdery sand beach is a great place to pack a picnic basket and spend a relaxing day at the beach swimming and snorkelling. At low tide, you can walk or swim to Gaulding's Cay, a small island with a few casuarina trees. There is a place to park and shade is also available.
The Heritage Museum of The Bahamas opened in July 2014 and is the foundation of Graycliff new Heritage Village. Located in the historically preserved Mountbatten House opposite the Graycliff Hotel on West Hill Street, the museum offers visitors an in depth look at the history and heritage of The Bahamas, ranging from the prehistoric times to the present.
Browse the collection of Hamilton White, a well-known British antiques collector, his expansive collection greatly complements the history of West Hill Street with fossils, relics and treasures spanning the centuries. The oldest of artefacts being a slice of a meteorite, which is approximately 4.5 billion years old! The timeline explores natural history, the days of Columbus, the piracy era, slavery and plantation life, the Maritimes of the 18th century, life in the Out Islands during the early 1900’s, the days of the Duke of Windsor, the Royal Air Force, Bahamas Speed Weeks, and so much more.
Indulge yourself with the best European-style spa treatments infused with tropical Caribbean flair. At Red Lane Spa, natural island botanicals soothe and invigorate the body, mind and soul for a journey of relaxation, restoration and rejuvenation. Discover for yourself why Condé Nast Traveler readers named Sandals Royal Bahamian “Top Caribbean Spa Resort.” For a real treat, escape to Red Lane® at Sandals Cay, our private offshore island, and enjoy a salt scrub on the secluded beach or a massage on a sea raft.
From traditional stress-relieving Swedish massage like Tropical Bliss that will leave you island-style relaxed to Hot Stone Therapy and Feet First, which utilizes the ancient science of acupressure: Red Lane Spa will relieve tension and restore tranquility. Or for a different sensation, try the Scents of Love Couples Massage, which will take you on a side-by-side journey for two that will stay with you long after your vacation ends.
Right in the middle of the high-end and boutique shops on Nassau’s Bay Street you’ll find the world-famous Straw Market. It’s home to handmade Bahamian crafts, gifts, souvenirs, and items such as hand-woven straw hats, bags, mats, dolls, conch shell jewelry, and wood carvings—and all available at very reasonable prices, especially if you’re good at negotiating!
Located on Bay Street in downtown Nassau, The Nassau Straw Market is an authentic representation of an industry that has been growing throughout The Bahamas and the Caribbean since the early 1940′s. Originally, the craft and skills of plaiting, braiding, and weaving were useful when Bahamians led subsistence lifestyles, with baskets being used for carrying fruit and fishing traps. But following the end of World War II, many North Americans began visiting The Bahamas for their vacations, and straw craft souvenirs soon grew in popularity.
Downtown Nassau isn’t the only place known for a fabulous straw market! Conveniently located across the street from Marina Village on Paradise Island is The Bahamas Craft Centre. It features Bahamian handicrafts, conch shell jewelry, Junkanoo art, wooden carvings, clothing, straw work, souvenirs, and more. It’s also a place where you can both test your bargaining skills and watch local artisans work their magic.
Located across the street from Marina Village and next to Anthony’s Grill and Dunkin’ Donuts, The Bahamas Craft Centre is quite recognizable, because even from the outside it has a style all its own. Noted architect Jackson Burnside of Doongalik Studios designed the large Art Deco building that is painted in many shades of pastel yellows, oranges, and pinks. Overall it has a more quiet and sedate atmosphere than its larger cousin on Bay Street in Nassau.
The Bahamas Craft Centre features approximately 100 booths selling everything from clothing to woven straw goods and everything in between. You’ll find Bahamian handicrafts, paintings, sea treasures, blown glass, conch shell jewelry, rum cakes and candies, Junkanoo art, steel drums, candles, driftwood paintings, straw work, and pine seed dolls, as well as Androsia, a unique Bahamian fabric.