- 1 / 7CoffeeThe tropical climate of the Caribbean makes its islands ideal for coffee production, so it’s no wonder why Cubans are always enjoying a great cup of joe. But part of the addictive nature of Cuban coffee is in how it’s prepared, with a foamy head—called an espumita—made of a mixture of sugar and espresso. Order a cup and a bag of strong coffee beans to bring home at El Escorial, near Old Havana’s lively Plaza Vieja. Then spend your morning people watching.
Photo by Alex Palomino
- 2 / 7RumWhen in the Caribbean, you must drink rum, and Cuba is no exception. Once sugarcane—the spirit’s key ingredient—was introduced to the island by the Spanish, rum production skyrocketed. Get a taste of the best by asking for Havana Club Rum at the local bar. (We recommend the añejo especial—its notes of vanilla and caramel, plus a hint of tobacco, mean it lends itself well to an authentic Cuba Libre with Coke, ice, and lime.) Or head to the Havana Club Museum of Rum, where you can get a lesson on the distilling process in a building that also features a bar and rum shop.
Photo by Jamie C2009/Flickr
- 3 / 7FragranceFew souvenirs can transport you back to a place the way fragrances can. At Habana 1791, pure scents such as rose, patchouli, vetiver, tobacco, and ylang-ylang are crafted onsite using only their namesake ingredients. Bring a bottle back (the small sizes are TSA-friendly!) and you’ll be able to smell the flowers in the streets or the hint of Cuban cigars long after you leave Cuba. If you can’t decide on just one scent, have the shop’s employees make you a specialized mix of your favorites.
Photo by @therichdale
- 4 / 7DominoesDominoes are widely considered to be Cuba’s second national sport (baseball is the first). Spend any amount of time on the streets and you’ll catch glimpses of tense matches, which generally involve lots of yelling as players triumphantly smack their pieces onto the table in front of them. The game has thrived because it’s free: Dominoes are easy to make. To buy your own hand-crafted set, try a local craft market like the Almacenes San Jose Artisans’ Market in Havana.
Photo by Gerry Balding/Flickr
- 5 / 7HoneyIsolation has some perks, at least: For example, Cuban farmers have had limited or no access to pesticides since the collapse of the Soviet Union over two decades ago. As a result, their organic produce market has thrived, including Cuban honey, which is raw—and delicious. Scope out local supermarkets and farmers’ markets, such as the Mercado Agropecuario Belén in Havana, to track down some of the elusive stuff, and opt for a no-label jar that allows you to see the honeycomb.
Photo by Karunakar Rayker/Flickr
- 6 / 7CigarsThere’s nothing that screams “Cuba” as loudly as a Cuban cigar. The three types of tobacco leaves used to make them aren’t native to Cuba, but the island’s soil and temperatures are ideal for growing them—something Christopher Columbus realized shortly after claiming the land for Spain in the 15th century. At El Conde Villanueva, a hotel and cigar shop in Old Havana, your stogies are hand-rolled as you watch.
Photo by Brian Geltner/Flickr
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