Travel Destinations


A Caribbean Island Full of Suprises and Charm.


Boaters in the U.S. are anxiously awaiting the relaxing of travel restrictions to Cuba. The vibrant island is just 90-miles from the Florida Keys, within easy cruising distance. Cuba, too, is anticipating this policy change and busily preparing for an increase in U.S. boaters. The construction of the Caribbean’s largest marina — set in Varadero, a beach resort destination about 80 miles east of Havana — is under way. Cuba currently has fewer than 1,000 transient slips in the whole country, but this new marina, to be called Gaviota Varadero, will have 1,200 slips all on its own. Megayacht docks and a full-service yard will be part of the facilities. There will also be joint memberships between the marina and the Hemingway Yacht Club in Havana.

Most U.S. boaters would likely start their Cuba cruise in the capital, Havana, docking and clearing customs at the Marina Hemingway. The Club Nautico Internacional de La Habana, which sits at the beginning of Canal 2 at the marina, is a beautifully decorated yacht club that overlooks the canal, the yachts and the power cruisers. The club currently has more than 2,000 members from 60 countries. It is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 with the goal of promoting pleasure boating, nautical sports and nautical tourism via competitions and events such as regattas. It also promotes friendly and cooperative relations with other nautical clubs, institutions, associations and celebrities of the international nautical community.


From the marina, it is a quick cab ride to Habana Vieja, the city’s famed historic district, full of beautiful colonial buildings and bursting with energy. Many people swing by La Bodeguita del Medio, one of Ernest Hemingway’s haunts, to sample the mojitos. Legend has it that the drink was invented there.

The next logical stop for a cruise would be Varadero, Cuba’s largest beach resort, where miles of white sand beaches are anchored by five-star hotels, all of which have popular water-sports facilities. Varadero is known for being one of the best vacation spots in the Caribbean, with stunning, sunny weather all year round.

Heading eastward, the next place to stop while cruising would be Baracoa. This is the country’s oldest city and was the first villa founded by the Spanish conquistadors. There was no road to the town until the 1960s, and it still has a timeless, sleepy air to it. It’s absolutely charming, with cobblestone streets, colonial churches, and several ancient forts. It sits on the Bahía de Miel (the Bay of Honey) and is surrounded by a wide mountain range that’s great for hiking. It’s also Cuba’s main chocolate manufacturing area. For now, boaters to Baracoa have to anchor in the commercial fishing harbour, but there are plans afoot to build a 55-slip marina along the coast here.


From Baracoa, the cruise would ideally go east to Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second-largest city. Santiago took a big hit from Hurricane Sandy last year, but its residents are working hard to make it beautiful again, and the city has an intimacy and a soulfulness entirely different from Havana’s charms. Founded in 1515, Santiago was the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution and is known as the heroic City. It’s easy to experience both ends of this historical spectrum: The Diego Velazquez Museum was home to the city’s first Spanish governor and is exquisitely preserved; the Moncada Barracks houses a museum to the revolution and the building’s exterior still sports bullet marks from when Fidel’s band attacked the complex.

Maestra mountains, on a pouch-shaped bay, and is a major sea port. The entrance into the bay cuts into high bluffs and is nearly invisible offshore. Sitting atop the highest bluff is Santiago de Cuba’s Morro Castle. Built to defend the city from pirates and privateers, it is considered the most complete system of renaissance European military engineering applied in the Caribbean area. The fortress was declared a Heritage of Humanity in 1997. Boaters can dock at the Marina Santiago de Cuba with 24 berths for vessels up to 120 feet. In the center of town on Cespedes Park sit the historic Cathedral Church.

Heading west from there and wrapping around Cuba’s southern coast would lead cruisers to Cienfuegos, one of the most historic cities in Cuba and brimming with gorgeous Neoclassical buildings. Cienfuegos has a fleet of rental - boat charter companies with very nice facilities, and it’s a great place to spend a week or two.

Boaters could also cruise over to Cayo Largo (the name means Long Cay in English). The docking facilities are on the small side, with a narrow entrance and reefs that are not very forgiving, so it’s best to come into the dock during the day. From there, an ideal cruise would include a stop at Cabo San Antonio, the westernmost point of the mainland, with excellent fishing. Through the yacht club in Havana it’s possible to arrange in advance for fuel to be dropped off here. Which means that for the return trip to Havana, boaters would have not a care in the world.

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