Callejon de Hamel
We left our casa in search of breakfast. I asked an Afrocuban named Miguel,” where we could find breakfast”?. He stated that “we could find breakfast at Callon de Hamel”. He offered to walks us there because he was heading that way. Although I wanted to politely decline, my friend Maria wanted to take him up on his offer. We did not find breakfast and settled on lunch instead. The food was 20 CUC included fish, mashed potatoes, rice, beans, soda, ice cream, and coffee. Be prepared for lots of tourist coming to the restaurant as it is a popular landmark due to the Fast and Furious 8 was filmed nearby.
The best time to go to Callejon de Hamel is on Sunday from 12pm-3pm. At 12 pm, they start singing, drumming and dancing to the sounds of Rumba music. The alley is decorated with various art pieces made by Salvador Gonzalez. You can walk and see everything in a short amount of time but it’s nice to stay at least an hour or two listening to music.
After leaving Callejon de Hamel, Miguel took us to cigar festival. It is not an actual festival but cigar workers are allowed to take cigar home and sell them at cheaper prices. My friend Maria bought a box of cigars for $60 CUC.
After buying cigars, Miguel brought us to a WiFi park he demanded money for showing him around. Maria bought him a drink at the restaurant and gave him 5 CUC to which he was not happy about. I’m not mad at the hustle but I don’t like him not being honest. We constantly asked him if he was going to Callejon de Hamel he stated yes and we basically told him at the restaurant that he didn’t have to stay. So beware of those who may ask for money to take you around.
We took an old car tour with Urban Adventures. We booked this excursion with Yanet Maria who was very responsive to inquiries and request. Price per person was 30 CUC. They arrived with a red and purple old car. We were super excited to be driving down the Malecon, rooftop down, with the wind blowing in our face.
Our first stop was the Almendares River/Havana Forest. Almendares river is a water supply for Havana and flows all the way into Florida. The view inside the forest is very picturesque as it has lots of trees and vegetation.
The forest is known for its practice of voodoo or famously known as Santeria. Santeria is Spanish word which means worship of saints. Santeria is derived from the Yoruba people in Nigeria. This ritual includes animal sacrifice, drumming and dancing and communicating with ancestors. Although we did not see any ceremonies we did notice chicken feathers, bones, and clothing with blood inside the forest. (Yes I was praying while in the forest. LOL)
Plaza de Revolucion
Our next stop was Plaza de Revolucion or Revolution Square. It is the largest city square in Cuba. Political Rallies take place in this square. Fidel is known to have the Guinness world records for the longest speech in history. He spoke for 7 hours without taking a break. In Revolution Square, you will see images of 2 Cuban heroes Che Guevara “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (Until the Everlasting Victory, Always) and Camilo Cienfuegos “Vas bien, Fidel” (You’re doing fine, Fidel). As well as the Jose Marti Memorial.
Hotel Nacional is a luxury hotel near the Malecon that was built in 1930. We visited the Hall of Fame, a room that has a miniature version of the entire hotel as well as several walls with pictures of famous people who have stayed at Hotel Nacional. Famous people such as Winston Church Hill, Micky Mantle, Ernest Hemingway, and Barack Obama have stayed at this hotel.
In the evening, we enjoyed the Parisien Cabaret a Cuban dance show. The music is a mixture of Hispanic, African and Indoamerican and Cuban. The show starts nightly at 10 pm and doors open at 9 pm. Entrance fee is $40 and includes a mojito.
Our first Airbnb was located in La Habana, Cuba near the Malecon. We loved our host Piti because he was very helpful and droves us around our first day in Havana.
Don’t forget to check out Paladar Vistamar for dinner. Dinner is great and the views were surreal. Views consisted of the sun setting, and a infinity pool with the waves crashing in the background from the ocean.