Getting off the beaten track in Cuba

Posted: 08-Mar-16 10:26

In a recent blog entry for Travelandleisure.com, Lauren Matison recounts her experience of escaping Cuba's government-regulated tourism industry and discovering a wealth of hidden gems for the more adventurous traveller. Taking in local restaurants, Hemingway's favourite mojito haunt and several self-sustaining communities, her visit offers plenty of advice for aspiring new visitors.

Getting off the beaten track in Cuba

While American tourism may be up 77% in Cuba since travel restrictions were relaxed under the Barack Obama administration, the fact remains that a lack of online information has limited most visitors to only experiencing the country as the government would like to have it portrayed.

A recent blog post by Lauren Matison has, however, opened people's eyes to the wealth of discoveries that can be made in Cuba for those willing to venture off the beaten track and visit some of the country's more authentic restaurants, bars and sustainable farm communities on their trip.

Essentially a guide of what to see in Cuba before the influx of tourism will surely prompt a McDonalds to be opened on every corner, Matison's account of her visit takes in a trip to Vivero Alamar – a 25-acre farm on the outskirts of Havana – locally-sourced restaurants like Ivan Chefs Justo and Las Terrazas, a flora and fauna rich eco-community comprised of just 1,200 residents.

What you don't see in Cuba guidebooks

Visiting the country with the aim of aiding a struggling youth cycling club in a rural village 25 miles west of Havana, Matison travelled to areas of Cuba not featured in the guidebook, meeting local farmers like Isis Salcines, who supply organic vegetables to the local community and paladares. Miss Salcines explained:

"Havana is slower than the rest of the country when it comes to eating vegetables. At most state-owned restaurants you'll see them as a garnish, a symbolic vegetable on the plate beside a mountain of rice and beans and meat."

Salcines' farm, however, provides 90% of their produce to the local community in Alamar, with the remaining crops going to the paladares – the informal restaurants run out of the homes of many Cuban people that offer visitors a more authentic way of experiencing the island's food and culture.

An excellent way to inspire sustainability while venturing off the beaten path, these paladares, along with initiatives like the youth racing club visited by Matison in Punta Brava, offer visitors the chance to see the real Cuba, while also ticking the "educational visit" box required for visits to the country.


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