Cuba is changing. Yachting is better than ever.
This sensual island of fragrant flowers, heady rum and deeply resonant rhythms is an astonishing charter adventure. There are six UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and 3,570 miles of coastline with spectacular fishing and diving just offshore. While you can’t reach every port on one charter exploration, you can plot a course to reach what fascinates you most.
Cuba Yacht Charter: Havana
Take a seat on the bow as you enter Havana Bay. Imagine a timeline marked by the Spaniards, Pirates, Africans, French and Americans who sailed before you. The bay is guarded by the ancient Castillo El Morro fortress and rimmed by the promenade El Malecón. This is a great city for history buffs, music lovers and rum drinkers – not to mention cigar aficionados.
There are fine art galleries and fine architecture. Baroque churches, lavish palaces and colonial mansions are just around the corner from communist-era cement block housing. Talented musicians play in the clubs and the streets. Rum flows everywhere, but is best appreciated with a view. Rooftop bars are ubiquitous. Try a sunset Cuba Libre at the Hotel Parque Central or the Hotel Saratoga. For clubbing, head to Vedado’s sophisticated scene.
Cuba Yacht Charter: Veradero
Stretching along the idyllic Hicacos Peninsula on the north coast of Matanzas Province, Veradero is an international tourist destination for beach lovers. While there are some very exclusive resorts and villas, this strip of mainly all-inclusives is especially popular with Europeans seeking budget Caribbean holidays.
There are lots of arts and crafts markets, restaurants, shops and nightclubs. In the early 1930s, American millionaire industrialist Irénée du Pont de Nemours built his estate and golf course mid-peninsula; today his Xanadú Mansion is club house, hotel, restaurant, bar and wine cellar of the Varadero Golf Club. Anchor off this seaside playground for great for wind and kite surfing, snorkeling, swimming and sunning, mojito in hand.
Cuba Yacht Charter: Isla de la Juventud
Isle of Parrots, Isle of Pirates, Isle of Treasure, Isle of Pines and today, the Isle of Youth, has been the paradise of many. Columbus arrived in 1494. Pirates, Spanish exiles, British colonizers, Americans, and the Mafia, all called the island home at one time or another. Castro created an experimental student community here, which bequeathed a name but failed in purpose.
The island is mostly wilderness. Hike to Cueva Punta del Este to view caves with aboriginal paintings dating to 800 BC. Surrounded by shallow waters, anchor out for spectacular snorkeling, diving and fishing. There are more than 70 sunken ships in Bajo de Zambo, lodged among elkhorn, stag horn and black corals and home to snappers, barracudas, groupers, sea bass, grunts, tarpon, moray eels, and turtles.
Sparkling Cienfuegos is a nautical city positioned on a spectacular bay. Dive the reefs along the coastline, where a formation of coral columns known as Notre Dame creates an undersea maze to explore. There are several shipwrecks and some really big fish. The region’s calm waters are ideal for paddle boards and kayaks.
The city, settled by French colonists, retained its joie de vivre. Plan time for a leisurely stroll around town; the parks, plazas and monuments, and the shops and markets on Avenida 54. Head south on the Paseo del Prado, the longest waterfront Malecón in Cuba. Reach Punta Gorda’s ornate 18th—19th century mansions designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the museum with rooftop bar for mojitos, sunset views, and live music.
Cuba Yacht Charter: Trinidad
Now that Cuba has opened up, perhaps time will begin to move forward in this perfectly preserved, Spanish colonial city. Perhaps not.
To best absorb the art, architecture, history and culture, begin with a coffee in the Plaza Mayor. The surround of baroque architecture, colonial mansions, colorful adobe houses, red tile roofs, filigree wrought iron, and ancient cobblestone, deserve several moments of appreciation.
Visit the Museo Romántico’s collection of porcelain, glass, paintings and decorative furniture. The Museo Histórico Municipal reveals the dramatic history of this sugar-rich region. Climb up the rickety wooden stairs to the tower, which has terrific bird’s-eye views of Trinidad and the surrounding area.
Cuba Yacht Charter: Camagüey
While reaching this enchanting city requires an overland excursion, for lovers of the arts it is well worth the diversion. The historic center is the nexus of a maze of streets, deliberately twisted beyond logic to confuse marauding pirates, such as Henry Morgan.
The city hosts a sophisticated artist colony with many home-galleries open to the public. Camagüey supports a ballet company, theatre and music performances, as well as intriguing museums, galleries and fine restaurants. Plaza San Juan de Dios, surrounded by lovely blue, yellow and pink buildings, houses the imposing Museo de San Juan de Dios and the recommended Restaurant 1800.
Cuba Yacht Charter: Santiago de Cuba
This eastern seaport city, closer to Haiti than Havana, is Afro-Caribbean. The rhythms, aromas, spirit and style are distinct from the Spanish and French colonial heritage that informs the rest of the island. It is a metropolis of fierce individualists whose ancestors played a part in the evolution of Cuban literature, music, architecture, politics and ethnology.
Neighborhoods have distinct personalities. On almost every street, you can slip into a storefront to enjoy live music, day and night. The many museums include an opulent collection from the Bacardi estate. If you are an avid urban explorer, you will be dazzled Santiago de Cuba. Be prepared, this friendly, colorful, sensual, exciting city, like all big cities, also has a gritty edge.
Baracoa is a tropical gem, well off the beaten track. The seaside village is a bucolic retreat. Life moves at an unhurried pace, passively observed from front porch rockers and domino tables. El Yunque mountain, criss-crossed with ancient trails festooned with orchids and exotic birds, reaches a mile skyward. Bike through the wilderness, hike to a waterfall, go rafting on the Río Yumurí. The region is rich in palm and cocoa trees. Try local treats of white chocolate encased in palm bark, and cucuruchos; coconut, honey, and fresh fruit in a palm bark cone.
Some of Our Favorite Places
Havana: Hotel Saratoga: This splendidly renovated, historic hotel in the heart of Havana is the place to be for breakfast mimosas or sunset mojitos with breathtaking city views.
Veradero: Xanadú Mansion and Veradero Golf Club: visit this historic property to play 18 holes followed by cocktails and dining with lovely sea views.
Santiago de Cuba: Castillo de Morro (San Pedro de la Roca) Take a taxi from town to visit this 16th century fortification, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are a couple of good restaurants and souvenir stalls at the summit, but everything closes about 5:00pm. The road winds through beautiful landscapes and past the fantasy island of Cayo Granma, also a lovely destination. It’s a pleasant walk around the entire island.
Select Yachts can present excellent options for Cuba yacht charters, from superyachts for 12 guests to romantic catamarans for two or four. Contact us for details.