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  • Patronizing Paladares and Casas Particulares: The best way to appreciate Cubans, as well as, to have the opportunity to exchange ideas about Cuba and the outside world, is by stepping inside a paladar restaurant or a casa particular, the Cuban version of a simple bed-and-breakfast. These private initiatives, heavily taxed by the state, are one of the only ways Cubans can earn badly needed hard currency, and they allow travelers to interact with locals.
  • Exploring La Habana Vieja (Old Havana): The streets and alleys of this colonial-era city center have been immaculately restored. You'll feel sucked back in time as you visit the plazas, churches, and forts here. 
  • Spending an Afternoon at the Callejón de Hammel: This short alley is lined with Salvador González's colorful murals and punctuated with scrap sculptures and shrines to Afro-Cuban deities. If you can make it on a Sunday afternoon in Havana, you'll be treated to a popular Afro-Cuban dance and music celebration. 
  • Walking along Havana's Malecón: Your best bet is to start in La Habana Vieja and work your way toward the Hotel Nacional in Vedado. Take time to stop and sit on the sea wall. If you time it right, you will reach the Hotel Nacional in the late afternoon -- a good time to grab a cool drink and enjoy the setting sun from the outdoor terrace. 
  • Celebrating Las Parrandas: Near the end of the year, the little colonial town of Remedios gears up to host Las Parrandas, one of Cuba's grandest street parties and religious carnivals. Everything culminates on Christmas Eve in an orgy of drums, floats, and fireworks. 
  • Hopping on a Steam Train to the Valley of the Sugar Mills: The colonial mansions in Trinidad were built with the riches of a booming Cuban sugar trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. The best way to see the Valle de los Ingenios, an extraordinarily lush valley once home to 60 sugar mills, is aboard a vintage 1907 American steam train to one of the sugar estates, Manaca-Iznaga, where you can survey the valley's many shades of green. 
  • Following in Fidel's Footsteps: Waging a guerrilla war against the Batista dictatorship, Fidel Castro and his young comrades hid out in the Sierra Maestra mountains in the late 1950s. Their small-scale rebel base camp was never discovered, but visitors today can hike a trail through remote cloud forest up to Comandancia de la Plata, the command post where Fidel turned a country on its head. 
  • Joining a Carnival Conga Line: In the intense heat of summer, Santiago de Cuba explodes with the island's best carnival. Ripe with rumba music, conga processions, booming percussion, fanciful floats, and wild costumes, it's a participatory party. 
  • Beach time: Lying on one of Cuba's white-sand beaches sipping a mojito (Cuban rum cocktail) before dipping into the sparkling waters of the warm Caribbean Sea is one of the most heavenly things you can do.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.