Cuba, the Caribbean's forbidden Communist isle, is renowned not only for cigars but also splendid beaches and colorful colonial architecture. Because the USA prohibits American citizens from entering Cuba without special dispensation, they can only enjoy Cuban attractions from afar ? close but no cigar. Other nationalities can make the most of this culturally complicated place, where wealth is contrasted by extreme poverty and urban areas the counterpart to naturally beautiful seashore.
For those who have the opportunity to disembark in Cuba, Havana's skyline stretches a modern silhouette against the soft curves of tangled tropical green, the first stop in any island tour. Peruse the historical museums, art at Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes, suck in the smell of cigars at a Havana factory, and admire the lines of the Catedral de San Cristobal. Round off your day with a trip to the theater, drinks at the cabaret and a live, rousing Salsa performance before retreating to your hotel for shut-eye.
While urban sights and sounds can keep you occupied for days, a trip to Cuba would be incomplete that did not include hours stretched out on a sandy beach or snorkeling around coral reefs. With dive centers punctuating this sea-oriented island, it isn't hard to find air tanks or an instructor. Try the Peninsula de Guanahacabibes for both beach and a bubble past the things that lie beneath. Southeast of Havana find shipwrecks, caves and coral, or head to the waterfalls of El Nicho for land-based activity.
Charter boats ply Cuban waters for deep-sea fish, but for inland river trips press on to the eastern tip of the island. Stretch your legs on a guided hike in Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt before whiling away an evening sunset on yet another lovely beach.
Havana is 105 miles south of Key West. The island is 48 miles west of the Bahamas and Haiti.