It is a persistent misconception that Cuba's rigid socialist government already provides a solid amount of social aid to its citizens, and travel to the island is challenging for those with U.S. passports. There are ways to travel legally to Cuba as a US citizen, and volunteers from the states can attest that voluntourism to Cuba is increasingly popular.
Programs are expanding, help is always welcome, and an important takeaway for participants is an in-depth understanding of Cuban culture and history. Volunteering is a rewarding way to see a country that is on the brink of massive change.
Catherine Greenberg, Vice President of Volunteer Communications at Globe Aware, which runs voluntourism programs in Cuba, says that the social and educational value of a trip to the island nation is greater for volunteers than beach bums.
"Most travelers go and stay at a resort, which doesn't give you any real insight to the true beauty and challenges of the culture and the people," she says.
Vacationers from the United States tend to write off Cuba as a non-option for Caribbean travel thanks to sanctions imposed by the U.S. But, Fidel Castro's diminishing presence, and a potential loosening of sanctions (through initiatives such as The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act) means we're likely now seeing the final window of opportunity to visit socialist Cuba.
Take a look through the gallery below to learn more about Cuba's prime landmarks, popular cities, and destinations where travelers are encouraged to volunteer their time.
Photo: Elizabeth Brady/HuffPost Travel