Havana is probably the most exciting city in Latin America managing to be both seedy and stylish. The Havana province owes its growth and prosperity to the almost natural perfection of its harbour. The Spanish, in the course of their conquest of Central and Latin America, earmarked the city as the ideal stopping-off point for their ships. In order to protect their vessels from English, French and Dutch attack, the Spanish built a wall around the city and constructed huge fortresses at the entrance to the harbour.
As Cuba’s political and economic center, it has become a museum to a broken communist dream, yet it is much more than just that: it is the focus of Cuba’s youth culture; the place where you’ll find the most magnificent hotels and the liveliest discotheques, where the Revolution seems to have come full circle and, uncannily, recreated the absurdly decadent world of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana.
Havana is an exhilarating place, but it can also be exhausting. There is a neurotic, anxious edge to life here, quite unlike anything you’ll find in the rest of Cuba.
The beaches east of Havana are known as "Playas del Este". They are just 20 minutes from Downtown Havana, and include from West to East: Bacuranao Beach, Tarara Beach, El Megano Beach, Santa Maria del Mar Beach, Boca Ciega Beach, Guanabo Beach, Veneciana Beach and Rincon Beach. Choose from 7 km of white sand beach...
Bacuranao Beach is the closest to Havana, and strictly speaking is in the Celimar, Habana del Este district. Through the beach runs the fresh water Bacuranao creek. The beach is not easy for the tourist to find, but is popular with the locals and the Habaneros.
Playa Santa Maria del Mar is a pleasant non-touristy beach, but packed with Habaneros at weekends. It has white sand with remains of coral and shells. Its waters are crystal clear with different shades of green and blue. Underwater, Santa María shows a beautiful landscape of coral reefs, shellfish and lively colored fish. It is an experience to dive in these waters, due to the abundance of the fauna and its irregular landscape.
Guanabo is a charming seaside town with a magnificient beach and a nightlife provided by many discos.
Along with Habana Vieja, Centro Habana is the most populated and overcrowded part of the city. It is a tumbledown residential / commercial area, the city's main shopping street, Calle San Rafael, traverses it from the Parque Central westwards. The large Partagas tobacco factory, directly behind the Capitolio, is the biggest export factory in the country, with 200 rollers turning out 5 million cigars a year.
Walking around this area you understand why Havana is sometimes referred to as a City of Columns; almost every buildings displays either one or a mixture of the Corinthian, Doric or Ionic types of this structure.
Cojimar is located on the east of the city, on the other side of the Havana bay, just across the tunnel. This is the fishing town where Ernest Hemingway kept his boat, the Pilar. After his death, the fishermen donated brass boat fittings which were melted down to create Papa’s bust. Here you will also find the famous restaurant “Las Terrazas de Cojimar” and one of the fortified towers that formed part of the defensive system built by the spanish colonizers, similar to the one located at the Almendares River outlet, on the limits between Vedado and Miramar. The “Complejo Turístico Panamericano” or Pan-American Tourist Complex is located at the place known as Villa Panamericana or Pan-American Village, built in 1991 for accommodating the sportsmen that participated on the 1991 Pan-American Games. Part of the buildings was kept as part of a complex of hotel and apartments for rent and the rest was given to the local citizens as private houses. We recomend you visiting one night this charming small and quite town, buying a beer, a coke or an ice cream at the Infotur (bar-cafeteria) and enjoy them sitting on the Malecon de Cojimar, located right across the street, breathing the fresh air that blows from the sea.
The Kohly district, which is in the Playa municipality, is situated on the western banks of the Almendares river, just upstream from Miramar.
The municipality of Playa, west of Vedado across the rio Almendares, includes the prestigious residential neighborhoods of Miramar, Kholy, Cubanacan, Nautico, Flores, Siboney, Atabey, Barlovento, and Santa Fe.
Yachties, anglers, and scuba divers will enjoy in Marina Hemingway at Playa’s west end.
A commercial and residential suburb of Havana between the elite residential districts of Miramar and Marina Hemingway. Marianao encloses the military base of Columbia, now called Ciudad Libertad. A production and commercial area, which has a fine beach. Founded in 1719 by Dominican and Augustinian monks, it was destroyed by fire in 1726. It was rebuilt in 1765 as Quemados de Marianao and grew with the 19th-century sugar boom.
Located at the exclusive residential neighbourhood of Marina Hemingway, near Habana’s International Conference Centre, to the West of Habana city, you can find Acuario Hotel and Paraiso and Pilar villas. Boasting a four stay category, they offer multiple choices for practicing any kind of water activities, providing comfortable and modern accommodations.
381 rooms, 314 hotel rooms, 36 bungalows and 31 villages overlooking the canals. All of them air-conditioned, with satellite TV, telephone, radio, mini fridge and safety deposit box. Some with easy access for physically challenged people.
Marina Hemingway Tourist Resort allows you to enjoy various offerts, among them, La Vigia shopping centre, Chan Chan club; Fiesta and Papa’s restaurants, the latter with a night club; La Cova Pizza Nova restaurant-bar, and the services of Cubunacan Nautica: diving, yacht rides and excursions, beach club, high sea fishing, marina and life-on-board services.
Further to the west this area is home to some of the most expensive hotels, restaurants in Havana and the majority of the country's foreign embassies, the tree-lined avenues and stately mansions on and around Fifth Avenue suggest that this is where Havana's elite reside.
The area contains a few interesting museums, most notably the Museo del Ministerio del Interior which will be of interest to any one wanting to brush up on the antics of the cold war.
The leafy residential district of Cubanacan is just inland from Nautico between Siboney and Miramar. It is characterised by large mansions on gently rolling hills, dotted among large trees and swimming pools.
In the centre of the Havana suburb is a largish lake called "El Laguito". Either side of this is the international exhibition centre, Pabexpo, and the convention centre, Palacio de las Convenciones. Adjacent to Pabexpo is one of the best havana restaurants.
On the fairways of what was once a pre-revolution country club golf course, are the extraordinary buildings of the National Shcool of Arts. This is well worth a visit.
El Nuevo Vedado, the New Vedado, emerged after the Avenida 26 was constructed in the late 1940s. Many fine large "modern" detached houses were built, such as the ones of architect Hugo D'Acousta. Living here were mostly those from the higher classes.
Until recent decades the district was important for its passenger and freight railway terminal, Estación de Tulipán, Tulip Station. More important today, near the zoo, is the Via Azul tourist bus terminal.
The Havana Zoo has primates, large carnivores, and many native Cuban species of mamals, birds, reptiles and trees. There is also a playground of train rides, ponies, carriages and a cafe.
In Nuevo Vedado, on Loma and 39, is the converted Greek Orthodox church, now the 150-seat Teatro Buendia, home to the eponymous company whose performances are always worth seeing.
The heart and soul of Havana is the old town Habana Vieja, declared a Heritage of Mankind Site in 1982 by UNESCO. It was keen to preserve the beauty of its architecture and promote the historical importance of its role within the region.
The following are just some of the interesting places to visit: Plaza de Armas, centred around a statue of the patriot Cespedes and emcompassed by shaded marble benches and second-hand booksellers, is the first public square built in the city. Plaza de la Catedral is perhaps the most beautiful square in the Caribbean which is surrounded by examples of the finest baroque architecture in the country. El Templete, small neoclassical temple which marks the spot where the first Mass was said in 1519. Castillo de la Real Fuerza is one of the oldest forts in the Americas, it holds modern art exhibitions downstairs and the battlements afford good views over the harbour. Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the seat of government and governor's residence was transferred from the fort to the built. The presidential palace and then the municipal palace until Castro seized power it is now Museo de la Ciudad de la Habana. Museo de Arte Colonial, fine palace constructed in 1720, its yellow courtyard and little-altered architectural features are complemented by a large collection of 17th- and 18th-century furniture. Calle Obispo is Old Havana's most important and smartest thoroughfare, pedestrianized with missile heads as bollards.
Inland from Nautico and Cubanacan, west of Marianao
La Lisa is one of the 15 municipalities (municipios in Spanish) in the city of Havana, Cuba. It has several nieghbourhoods such as Alturas de la Lisa, El Cano, Punta Brava etc. It can be generally thought of as a semi-rural municipality.