Virtuoso Traveler - June/July 2017 - 22
Hospitality flows freely on this warm Caribbean isle.
still surprised by these restored
classics, which he calls "a truly
amazing testament to the Cuban
people's will to keep these ancient
automobiles moving." You can
hire one for a tour, but the best
way to explore Havana is on foot,
he says, adding that visitors will
find the cobblestoned streets to
be incredibly safe. "I walked alone
into the wee hours and never felt
Bring your dancing shoes, because
Dalton found a band playing
everywhere he went. "At every city
bar and street corner," he says,
"every hotel lobby, even bars out
in the country, you'll find some
form of great live music." He also
recommends the elaborate cabaret
shows at Havana's historic Hotel
Nacional de Cuba.
Dalton's expectations for outdoor
adventure were easily met, especially because Cuba "does a good
job protecting its natural habitat."
He gives the area around the
Viñales Valley, located on the
island's western end, high marks
for hiking and trekking, with
numerous trails in the surrounding mountains. It's also a favorite
spot for birders, who can spy more
than 25 endemic species. Though
touristy, Varadero, a resort on the
north shore's Hicacos Peninsula,
offers beautiful stretches of uninterrupted beaches, Dalton says.
Visitors to the region can also
explore the lush trails and cave
paintings found in nearby Varahicacos Ecological Reserve.
NOW'S THE TIME
Dalton enjoyed the "colonial feel"
of the nightly cannon ceremony at
the eighteenth-century San Carlos
de la Cabaña fortress, during
which soldiers in period dress fire
the weapon over the harbor. Much
has been written about the capital's
coches americanos (aka "Yank
tanks"), yet the travel advisor was
While he appreciated Cuba's authentic character, Dalton notes that
the recent influx of U.S. visitors has
already begun to affect its culture.
He encourages travelers to visit
as soon as possible, given the inevitability of change. "I know that
when I return," he muses, "it will
be a different place."
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Clockwise from top: "Yank tanks" cruise Havana's Malecón,
palm-fringed Varadero Beach, Viñales Valley, and Cuba's capital is
alive with the sound of music.
"I've been to many places, but I think the warmest welcome
I've ever received was while walking around Havana."
2 2 V I R T U O S O T R AV E L E R
(CARS) BIM/GETTY IMAGES, (VARADERO BEACH) JOHN HARPER/ GETTY IMAGES,
(VIÑALES VALLEY) DELPIXART/GETTY IMAGES, (MUSICIAN) ALEX DALTON
Cuba lies just 103 miles off the
southeastern coast of the U.S., but
for most Americans, including
Florida-based Virtuoso travel advisor Alex Dalton, the island neighbor has been an enigma. So last
year, when the U.S. loosened travel
restrictions to the country and a
number of cruise and tour providers began visiting, he jumped at
the chance to travel there. Though
many Cubans don't speak English,
Dalton - who planned his trip with
Virtuoso provider Rico Tours to
"avoid any hiccups" - was struck
by the hospitality he encountered.
"I've been to many places, but I
think the warmest welcome I've
ever received was while walking
around Havana," he says. Here,
he shares his observations on this
lively, intriguing hot spot.