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Havana City Trip - Playa Santa Maria

The city at sunrise



Rise early and head to Playa Santa María, a shimmering, four-mile-long white beach about a 25-minute ride from Havana. You can also take the HabanaBusTour from Parque Central. Alternately, if you take a taxi, the fare should run about $25. Negotiate a price. On weekends, get there by 10 a.m. to secure a prime spot; by noon the beach will be chock-a-block with locals. By 2 p.m. beach-goers are cheek-to-jowl, a band is playing, and people-watching just doesn't get any better. Rent a white chaise lounge for $2 for the day.

Governor's Palace

Thatched-roof beachside restaurants, called ranchitas, serve cold cervezas (beers, $2/bottle) and simple seafood lunches. For $10 you can get the fresh grilled red snapper, while $15 will get you the lobster — both come with rice, homemade potato chips and salad. Keep an eye out for the fellow selling fresh coconuts carved into rustic goblets ($3). Order one and he'll carve a drinking hole out of the top. Customers then sip the coconut water, which he promptly replaces with rum.

Follow up the cocktail with a $10, full-body massage under a palm leaf shelter. Seeking a more active day at the beach? Paddle boats and Hobie-Cat rentals are available.

The Malecon seafront boulevard

To return to Havana, pick up a taxi on the beachfront boulevard and take a detour to Cojímar, the fishing village where Hemingway docked his sport-fishing boat, El Pilar. Stroll to the Monumento a Ernest Hemingway, along the waterway where children jump off the crumbling pier. A later lunch? La Terraza, one of Hemingway's watering holes, has waterside tables: try the hearty seafood paella. Pair it with a Caribbean-blue Coctel Fuente, named after Hemingway's sea captain, Gregorio Fuentes.

Then continue by taxi to the village of San Miguel de Padrón to visit the Museo Ernest Hemingway, the author's former home, Finca Vígia, untouched since he departed Cuba in 1960.

From here, it's a 30-minute taxi ride back to Havana and a very lively night scene — leaving you with one last chance to hear intoxicating Cuban music.


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