Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
The latest mood in Havana
I´ve been in Havana now for 10 days. I´ve made at least one visit to Cuba every year over the past 16 years, but this is my first total immersion in the capital city in three years. My feet are killing me! In fact, I had to take today off (my first rest day) as I´ve walked blisters onto my feet researching the new edition of Moon Cuba.
It´s remarkable how little Havana has changed in three years. The evolution of new tourist product has slowed considerably, as has the restoration of Habana Vieja (Old Havana). Only two new hotels have opened in the past three years. But at least two others are in the works. Stay tuned for additional posts on these. Cuba needs to pick up the pace considerably in the event that U.S. restrictions to travel to Cuba are lifted, not least because most of the several hundred houses that are licensed to operate as room rentals are also full.
The transport system, however, has improved considerably. Tourists can now hop aboard the Havanaturbus (see my earlier blog post) for an open-air sightseeing tour of Havana. And the crude makeshift camellos (camels), or jerry-rigged truck-pulled buses, that were both a joke and a blight have been replaced by an efficient network of articulated modern buses from China.
A few new restaurants have opened, but thus far my dining experience has been as lackluster as ever. Gourmands will be greatly dismayed. And vegetarians will be disappointed to learn that Havana´s chain of four veggie restaurants has been closed. So too, two of the finest paladares (private restaurants), leaving barely a handle of such dining options to choose from.
Surprisingly, too, no work is being done on expanding the two existing cruise ship berths. Cuba will be caught flat-footed if cruise companies are again permitted to visit Cuba. That said, I suspect that Cuba will choose to regulate the inflow of U.S. visitors by implementing a visa system and restricted landing and berthing rights... at least until it gets its prime-time infrastructure in place.
Fortunately, the electricity blackouts that were a nightly event are now relegated to recent memory. Otherwise, life for Cubans hasn´t changed one iota. A first-timers´ walk through Havana remains an exhilarating and disheartening slap in the face.
The good news is that the city has lost none of its surreal edge, nor its phenomenal albeit disheveled beauty.