Cuba and Miami in January 2016   2 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiian in Cuba”

starring: Lari

January 8 to 16, 2016

I decided that I wanted to go to Cuba before it changes with tourism opening there. So my friends, Marcus and Linda in Kansas City said they were going in December 2015, and I wanted to join their tour, but it was filled. I started looking for another tour and found Gate1 going from Miami in January, 2016, I asked a few traveling friends, who said no or had already been there, until Tom and Tyke from Fort Collins said they wanted to go with me. Yayy! Tom,Tyke, Marcus and Linda are part of “Roger’s Hiking Club” that met in Croatia 10 years ago. We named our group as such because they all knew that Roger hates to walk or hike, so it was all in fun.

So the tour started in Miami, and I booked two extra days there and contacted my friends Gary and Peggy from Orlando, to see if I could visit them, but they said it’s too far for me to drive, so they drove down to Miami, picked me up and I booked a nice AirBnB place for us three to stay in for 2 nights. It had two bedrooms, a bath, living room and a kitchen and was very convenient. We went to Fort Lauderdale to take a nice relaxing boat ride through all the fancy waterfront mansions, had lunch and that night we went to a wonderful Cuban restaurant for dinner. The adjacent bakery was a big hit with me and Peggy. The next day we drove down to Coral Gables and visited the Coral Castle built out of limestone/coral boulders by a very eccentric man from Latvia. They dropped me off at the airport hotel where the tour group was meeting.

We only had 3 days in Havana, but it was enough and the tour was less than $2000, including all meals, one night in Miami and the charter flight from Miami and back. There were 38 people on our tour and we met at the Crowne Plaza Miami Airport hotel for briefing. Being only 90 miles from the Florida coast, the flight to Havana was only 45 minutes long. The weather was not the best, with light rain on and off the entire trip. But the downpour was on the day we left, so we felt lucky. All of our meals were wonderful! They served mojitos before each lunch and dinner, with unlimited rum!

First day: the bus took us to Revolution Square, but everyone was fascinated when we saw the old cars parked next to the square. We took photos around the square, but mostly of the old cars. Then we drove along the Malecon, the highway along the ocean with a seawall where people hang out every night and the waves crash and splash over the wall. We had a fabulous lunch at El Literol right across the Malecon. We went to a cigar and rum shop to purchase our gifts to take home. We were allowed $100 in liquor and tobacco to take back to the states. So I bought $100 worth of cigars for my cigar-smoking friends here. Then we stopped to have margaritas at Floridita, where Hemingway used to hang out at the bar. After checking in to the hotel and a short rest, several members of the Old Style Car Club came to pick us up for dinner. We got to ride a red ’57 chevy convertible to dinner! After dinner, we went to San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, located in the municipality of East Havana, a UNESCO as World Heritage Site, where every night at 9 pm, a cannon goes off with a loud boom!

Second day: We spent the day in Old Havana, walking from St Francis Square to Army Square and to Cathedral Square. After lunch, we visited an art gallery barber shop owned by Pepito, who also started a barber school and a playground. For dinner we went to the Magic Flute on the 10th floor building next to the American Embassy. We had salsa lessons and a wonderful dinner there. Fun!

Third day: We drove outside of Havana to Santa Barbara Catholic Church, where they have a day care for toddlers and serve lunches to the elderly. We went to Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drinking spots, and also visited his home, where he lived for 21 years. After the tour, we enjoyed fresh squeezed cane juice and did a little shopping. After lunch, we went to “Fusterlandia,” the bizarre studio of artist José Rodriguez Fuster to see his amazing artwork all around with mosaics and even his neighbors’ homes were decorated in bright colors. His work is similar to Gaudi in Barcelona. After dinner, we went to Buena Vista Social Club night club show. It was very entertaining. The star was 80-year-old Tete Catura.

Last day: our flight back to Miami was delayed by 7 hours, so we spent 9 hours in the airport, which is very small and has hardly anything to eat… only ham and cheese sandwiches. People missed their connections in Miami, and had to stay overnight there and go home the next day. I had already reserved a motel near the airport, and so I checked to see if they had a room for Tom & Tyke, and the only room they had left was a suite for $150, so we reserved it. When we saw the room, we laughed so hard, because it was so raunchy with red lights, mirrors and a huge jacuzzi in the room. We all flew home the next day.

Lari’s Top Six:

6 Beautiful, old, and colorful architecture

5 Riding the red ’57 Chevy convertible

4 Salsa dancing lessons

3 Jose Fuster’s colorful home/gallery/studio

2 Pepito’s Art Gallery Barbershop and Barber School

1 Mojitos with every meal

*PHOTO CREDITS: Some of these photos are courtesy of Richard Brzeczek of Palm Beach, FL who has a fancy camera and graciously shared his photos with me.


Gary & Peggy Gentry drove from Orlando to Miami and took me around the city to eat and play.


Gary & Peggy took me to Fort Lauderdale on a relaxing boat ride along the waterways enjoying the lovely homes and huge yachts.


We had Cuban dinner at Versailles, but wait! they also have a bakery! We could not resist…


Coral Castle is a stone structure created by the Latvian American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin located in Leisure City, Florida.

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This bus took us all over Havana and more.

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The famous Malecón (officially Avenida de Maceo) is a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall which stretches for 8 km (5 miles) along the coast in Havana.


Revolution Square was our first stop on the tour in Havana with Tom & Tyke from Fort Collins, CO.


This was our first sight of the old cars at Revolution Square.


Revolution Square


Andrew, our tour director.


They took us to a tobacco and liquor shop, where we all bought cigars and rum. We are allowed only $100 worth of both.


I did not buy any rum, but just $100 worth of cigars for my friends back home.


The Havana Old Style Car Club picked us up at our hotel to drive us to dinner at La Moraleja.


Tom, Tyke and I chose a red ’57 Chevy convertible! It was so much fun to ride!


Old Havana street scenes.


Old Havana street scenes.


Old Havana street scenes.


Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana Plaza de Armas (army square) with book sellers.


Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.


Old Havana-Pepito’s barber shop art gallery.


Old Havana -Pepito’s barber shop art gallery.


Lari gives Liz a massage.

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Our local tour guide, is Iris in the middle enjoying sugar cane juice at Hemingway’s home.

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Hemingway house, where he lived and wrote books for 21 years


Hemingway’s custom made boat was built in Brooklyn for $7,400 and sleeps 8.


Salsa dance lessons were fun!

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Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and wild kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster, in Jaimanitas, at the northwestern edge of the Havana.


Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and wild kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster, in Jaimanitas.


Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster, in Jaimanitas. He remade the neighborhood in his own image, so other houses on his street have his creations.


While walking Old Havana, a cold coconut drink was in order! I was the first to get one, and I was finished when this photo was taken.

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Melia Cohiba Hotel Habana Club for Buena Vista Social Club fabulous show!

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Melia Cohiba Hotel Habana Club for Buena Vista Social Club fabulous show!

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Buena Vista Social Club: the star was 80-year-old Tete Catura.


Posted April 22, 2016 by lariyasui in South America

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2 responses to “Cuba and Miami in January 2016

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  1. Very interesting. Was very picturesque. Enjoy the cigars when you are in a relaxing frame of mind. 💃💃

  2. Great Post

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