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Travel site finds 62% of Americans interested in travel to Cuba

TripAdvisor says hotel rooms in Cuba average $113 per night

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Thawing relations between the United States and Cuba and this week's visit to the island nation by President Barack Obama has more Americans thinking about making their own trip to the nation.

A recent survey of 2,200 by TripAdvisor®, the web travel and booking website, found 62 percent of Americans were interested in booking a trip to Cuba, 25 percent are planning to go within the next 12 months.

With airlines lining up to begin commercial flights to Havana, 85 percent of those surveyed said they would fly. Another 17 percent wanted to cruise to the island.

“With the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba, many U.S. travelers will now be able to go on a cultural excursion there for the first time,” said Brooke Ferencsik, director of communications for TripAdvisor. “Those planning to go will discover appealing accommodation options to book and remarkable cultural attractions to enjoy throughout the country.”

The most common thing people wanted to do is visit an attraction such as a museum or national park, followed by tasting the local cuisine and viewing the island’s natural landscapes.

Top 5 most popular destinations in Cuba

1. Varadero – The beach town of Varadero boasts powdery sands and clear blue waters and is less than a two hour drive east from Havana. History buffs and those interested in local art will enjoy the interesting museums along the shoreline, including the Museo Municipal Varadero and the Taller de Ceramica Artistica. Nature lovers have plenty to explore as well, including the area’s many caves, keys and forests. Saturno Cave in particular draws large crowds with its impressive rock formations and crystal clear fresh water.

2. Havana – Cuba’s capital city appears suspended in time, where old world glamor meets Spanish colonial-era reconstruction. Travelers can catch a glimpse into the area’s history in the rich architecture of Old Havana, which is home to popular attractions like the beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral in the Plaza de la Catedral and the authentic open-air restaurants and shops of the Plaza Vieja. Regular travelers to the area also recommend setting aside time to explore Havana’s many smaller suburbs, such as the charming seaside town of Guanabo. 

3. Cayo Santa Maria – This small island off the northern coast of central Cuba offers many resorts along the expansive, picturesque coastline. Many visitors to the area recommend taking one of the bus tours of the mainland offered by the resorts on the island. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the Museo de Agroindustria Azucarera in Remedios, which explains the history of local sugar production. The Mausoleo del Che Guevara in Santa Clara also draws large crowds looking to visit the final resting place of the well-known figure of the Cuban Revolution.

4. Cayo Coco – Cayo Coco, like Cayo Santa Maria, is on the Jardines del Rey archipelago off the north-central coast and boasts superfine white sand and shallow, clear water. Travelers note its convenient location, with most hotels within 20 minutes of the nearby Jardines del Ray Airport. Those staying in Cayo Coco can take a daytrip to Sancti Spiritus, which is home to a variety of historic landmarks, museums and parks. Travelers to the area also enjoy the quaint character, colorful buildings and traditional Cuban craft shops in the small town of Trinidad de Cuba.

5. Holguin – Holguin, known as the “City of Parks,” is Cuba’s fourth largest city. Set among mountainous territory in the eastern part of the island, the scenic city offers travelers the perfect combination of cultural attractions and comfortable resorts. The city's elegant plazas, colonial buildings and museums offer an authentic look back into Cuba’s history. Travelers looking to break a sweat can make the 860-foot trek up the Hill of the Cross, which offers breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding landscape. Regular visitors to the area recommend booking a guided tour or hiring a car to fully experience the city and its culture.

With an average nightly hotel rate of $113, Cuba is home to a wide variety of inexpensive hotel options. Havana offers hotels with an average nightly rate of $105.

Cuba’s top 10 hotels

To help travelers determine where to stay, TripAdvisor has identified the top 10 hotels in Cuba:

1. Melia Cayo Coco – Cayo Coco – available for $230 per night.

2. Paradisus Rio de Oro Resort & Spa – Holguin – available for $333 per night.

3. Royalton Hicacos Varadero Resort & Spa – Varadero – available for $260 per night.

4. Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad – Trinidad – available for $204 per night.

5. Melia Las Americas – Varadero – available for $320 per night.

6. Iberostar Parque Central – Havana – available for $220 per night.

7. Blau Varadero Hotel Cuba – Veradero – available for $178 per night.

8. Memories Holguin Beach Resort – Rafael Freyre – available for $140 per night.

9. Hotel Melia Marina Varadero – Varadero – available for $229 per night.

10. Sol Rio de Luna y Mares – Guardalavaca – available for $153 per night.

Tips traveling to Cuba from the TripAdvisor travel forums

• For the best weather, prices and ocean temperatures, travelers should book trips to Cuba for April and May. June to November is considered hurricane season in Cuba, although posters to the forum report that bad weather is still relatively rare during that period.

• U.S. dollar exchanges incur a surcharge in Cuba, so travelers should plan to bring euros, British pounds or Canadian dollars instead. Travelers can find the best exchange rates at a bank or an official government currency exchange office, called a Cadeca.

• Although many Cubans speak some English, regular travelers to the area recommend learning at least some Spanish before making the trip. This will come in handy when visiting smaller towns or taking public transportation.

• While there are various transportation options available on the island, many forum posters recommend renting a car to fully explore the area. However, it’s not for everyone – travelers should know how to drive a manual and how to change a tire before taking the leap. Be sure to keep an eye out for unsuspected items, like oxcarts, in the road at night.

• The currency in Cuba is the convertible peso (CUC), and generally CUC$1 is appropriate for tipping hotel staff and bartenders. Travelers should also plan to tip about 10% in restaurants and taxis. Tips aren’t required at all-inclusive resorts, but are always appreciated.