**Fair warning, this post has nothing to do with triathlon training**
So, as the title suggests, I stopped all my triathlon training for a week while I traveled to Cuba! Because I work in politics, the pace of my job thankfully tends to slow down after the elections. Making December-March the perfect time to go on vacation! My friend Leah and I planned this vacation around the end of December, and randomly picked early February as our time to go. If you have not used Google Flights, and their flight map, I highly suggest you do. It will show you the cheapest flights for whatever dates and location you would like. We moreorless just looked at the various cheap flight locations, saw Cuba was a great option, and booked it!
(Havana: old cars, and the Capitolio in the background)
We flew Spirit airline out of Baltimore, with a layover in Ft. Lauderdale, ending in Havana. Total flight time was approx. three hours. Spirit is a discount airline; as in, you have to pay for a carry on, you have to pay if you want to pick your seat, etc. Between all the fees, we might as well have just paid a little more for a Delta flight.
The tourist industry (along with all other industries) in Cuba is government controlled. The hotels are government controlled, the cigar/rum industry is government controlled, internet access is government controlled, etc. You get the picture. Because there are so few hotels, the government gives out permits to regular Cubans to rent their rooms/whole apartments out to tourists. It’s an incredible way to see Cuba and get a feel for how Cubans live, so that’s what we ended up doing for our accommodations. You can actually book most of these casa particulares through Airbnb, making it incredibly easy. Staying in a casa and having that day-to-day interaction with a Cuban family also helps satisfy the US Cuban travel requirements of a “person-to-person” trip.
(Streets of Havana)
(Che Guevara at the Plaza de Revolution)
We stayed in Havana for three days, Vinales for three days, and then Havana again for our last night. I wish we had more time in either Havana or Vinales; attempting to split our trip between the two locations made it difficult to really see/do everything. I thoroughly enjoyed Vinales much more than Havana. In Havana, four out of five men catcalled us. Between offering taxi rides or offering to be your boyfriend, it gets way out of hand and really detracts from the beauty of the city. In Vinales, a more rural town to the southwest of Havana, there isn’t as much catcalling and there is hiking, climbing, and horseback riding to help get you out of town and into nature. Vinales was gorgeous and I 100% would return there for a hiking and climbing trip.
(I, of course, had to wear my 70.3 hat)
The rumors about the old vehicles in Cuba are true. We saw only a handful of newer cars, which are generally government cars. However, while there are really only old cars there, there are newer bikes! Being a triathlete, I naturally was interested in any bikes that we saw. I even saw some Treks and two tt/triathlon bikes out on the road! Cuba would be a beautiful country to use your bike as transportation, and I would definitely consider returning with a beater bike and traveling that way.
(The beaches were phenomenal)
I saw lots of great things in Cuba: beautiful beaches, tobacco fields, coffee plants, old cars, cigar stores. But, I saw lots of not-so-great things in Cuba: government propaganda billboards, poverty, catcalling, massive wealth disparity. I would definitely return, maybe next time on a bike to the rural areas where I could hike and climb to my hearts content.
(Riding in Vinales, limestone mountains/cliffs to the left)