Since President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would ease diplomatic relations with Cuba, the number of people looking to travel to the largest country in the Caribbean has steeply risen. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about how the recent decision will affect Americans traveling in Cuba, but there are reasons to be optimistic.
A 15-minute cab ride takes you just outside of Havana to this idyllic beach that attracts locals and tourists alike. Flag down one of the roaming vendors for a refreshing rum-coconut water combo sipped right out of the coconut.
After lunch, we walk the cobblestone streets of this colonial town, stopping into local shops and art galleries.
The parking lot is a mix of cars from the 1930s all the way up to modern day -- American Chevys sit cheek-by-jowl with small Russian box cars; most vehicles look like they've seen better days.
If Cubans cannot help themselves, why continue to deny them access to the global stage?
She is thinking back to that day, four years earlier, when her son asked if he could take up ballet, the art that propelled his parents from this Caribbean island to the United States more than two decades ago. Francisco was 13; she had started her own training at 8.
I didn't go to Caibarién on purpose. My bus pulled into Remedios where I had planned to disembark. But when I looked out the window at yet another gorgeous colonial town, it left me dead.
A survey of 423 Americans who have traveled to Cuba as part of U.S.-licensed cultural exchange programs (known as people-to-people programs) shows that visiting the island nation dramatically transforms their opinions about Cuba, its people and U.S. policy toward that country.
Coppelia -- Photo: BitBoy | Wikimedia Eating my ice cream at Coppelia, I can't help but think of the striking first scene of Oscar-nominated 1993 ...
It is virtually impossible to stay in privately owned bed and breakfasts, rent cars or use public transportation, options available to everyone else in the world.
Some people assume the strictures of the socialist regime in Cuba suppress any form of expression until only a bland diet of state-sanctioned work remains. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Among the greatest joys of visiting a new place is the opportunity to get to know the locals. And after 30-plus years of traveling the world, one constant that I've found everywhere is that despite how different we look, live, work and play, people are essentially the same everywhere.
While it may not be entirely legal for Americans to travel to Cuba, the "green crocodile with eyes of stone and water" (as Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén calls the island) could make the non-traditional customs experience a tempting one.
Regardless of the effect that an absurd amount of American visitors would have on Cuba's culture, there are factors much more important to consider when discussing the 51-year-old trade embargo.
After years of U.S. Treasury Department travel restrictions, Cuba has taken on an air of mystery. Our 45-minute charter-flight from Miami and the bus ride into Havana make us feel like astronauts of a sort, touching down for nine days in a parallel world.
The Cold Warriors in Congress, less prepared to move forward than the Cubans, are turning a blind eye to all these developments.