A very popular destination for American tourists up until the rise of Fidel Castro (and a resulting 1959 travel ban) US citizens may yet again visit Cuba under new rules set forth by the Obama administration — allowing Americans to join the more than 2 million other tourists each year from around the world who visit the tropical island.
UPDATE: Now it's going to get a whole lot easier for Americans to travel to Cuba.
In an historic announcement made on December 17, 2014 the White House announced it would resume diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than five decades of hostility between the two nations.
As of 2011, Americans have been limited to visiting the island in special guided "cultural tour groups" with little access to everyday Cuban life. Beginning in 2016, travel restrictions will be further eased to leave Cuba wide open to travel and tourism.
The new measures will also allow visitors to be able to purchase up to "$400 of general goods and up to $100 of alcohol and tobacco products" (including those world famous Havana cigars) as ATMS and the use of credit cards become available as US banks open branches throughout the Caribbean nation.
Although the US is still mum on lifting decades-long economic sanctions, the new relationship between the US and Cuba foretells a much stronger economy for Cuba -- and good news -- safer travels for Americans and other tourists visiting the island in the long term.
The bad news? Travel experts are also predicting that the stronger relationship between Cuba and the West means that the culturally unique country is about to go the way of McDonalds and Starbucks as consumerism is introduced to the "backward" island nation lying just off Florida.
Dilapidated Havana buildings (left) contrast sharply with Cuba's lush, green countryside near
Trinidad (middle) and spectacularly scenic white sand beaches along the coast (right).
Most famous for its cigars, mojitos, beautiful beaches and colonial architecture, Cuba's
main attraction is Havana,
which offers a busy cosmopolitan hubbub of main thoroughfares, street vendors, dilapidated buildings and, by night, a colorful and swinging nightlife.
Overall, authorities in Cuba are warm and welcoming to revenue-producing tourists, and police are likely to look the other way on minor discretions by partying vacationers (although it's probably best to not press your luck).
As Cuba remains under Communist rule, visitors are best advised to speak only in glowing terms (or not at all) of the political system, or the country's leaders. However, with the recent easing of tensions between Cuba and the US, hotels and tour operators are unlikely to be kept under close Cuban government supervision as they have in the most recent past.
Rooms are also available as bed & breakfast accommodations (casas particulares or "private houses") throughout Cuba that allow visitors to stay with local families. These are almost always preferable since, at half the cost, many families will go out of their way to make guests feel welcomed and well-fed throughout their visit.
Even a short stay affords a chance to experience what
many travelers say is Cuba's main attraction — its warm and welcoming people.
More about Cuba tourist attractions & travel information around the Web:
travel guide - Excellent insider guide from Wikitravel with a complete overview of top attractions, getting around by bus, car, taxi, bike (and the unofficial hitchhiking network), where to find the best accommodation, health & safety tips, and warnings about typical tourist scams.
Travel Information - Lonely Planet guide with expert tips about where to go, how to get around and top attractions to visit including Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, Cueva Punta del Este and more, plus advice from visitors in the online forum, photos, map, related resources.
- Find details, photos and colorful descriptions of "what makes Cubans tick" with overviews of Cuban food, history and heritage, art, architecture, music and more, with related resources to more information.