Cuba, the 'Pearl of the Antilles', is the largest and least commercialized Caribbean country. Political factors have prevented Cuba from being sullied by mass consumer tourism, and it beckons the jaded traveler with its picturesque colonial towns, intriguing Afro-Cuban culture, rousing revolutionary monuments, catchy popular music, unblemished beaches, enchanting countryside, and potent rum -- the beer is excellent too. Even in resorts heavily frequented by tourists, such as Varadero, the Cuban people are sincerely warm and friendly, and US citizens receive the same spontaneous welcome that Cubans extend to all their guests: There's absolutely no ill will toward individual Americans, and Customs officials, to avoid them being hassled by the US State Department, will ask if they prefer to not have their passport stamped.
Classic Cuban architecture and a fountain in Havana.
The richness of Cuba's culture is well reflected in its many museums, several dozen of which are in Havana, the largest city in the Caribbean with 2.2 million inhabitants. The capital is a world-class artistic centre, with numerous galleries, theatres, and literary shrines gracing the quaint colonial streets and squares.
An art poster.
For the individual traveler, Cuba is a fascinating mixture of constant discovery and experience. It's a surprisingly easy country to visit. You can rent a car or board a bus and go anywhere. No special rules or regulations hamper foreign tourists. This is one of the last truly unspoiled countries in the world, nearly free of the hassles and and drug traffickers omnipresent on some other Caribbean islands. And, like the Cayman Islands, this is one of the area's safest destinations. The hotels are numerous and inexpensive, and visitors can also stay and eat in private homes.
Havana side street and an automotive vestige of pre-revolutionary US-Cuba trade.
For the tourist who wants only a week or two in the sun, Cuba provides numerous smart resorts, plus glimpses of history in the making. It offers the kind of adventure other destinations promise but seldom deliver.
A goat cart in a Havana park (left), and El Morro Fortress.
One of Cuba's many beautiful beaches, this one in Holguin Province.
Varadero Beach, east of Havana, is flanked by several first-class hotels.
Street scenes in the towns of Trinidad.and Cienfuegos.
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