Havana • Cuba

Havana is the capital city, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. It is the largest city in Cuba and in the Caribbean region.

In the 1950s before the Communist revolution, Havana was one of the vacation hot-spots of the Caribbean, and since Cuba reopened to tourism in the 1990s, it has become a popular destination once again. Albeit with many fewer U.S. citizens, due to an almost total ban on travel maintained by the U.S. federal government. However, there will be lots of tourists at any time of year, so expect huge crowds and long lines in places.

Cuba has two currencies, the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Most tourist will be using the CUC for all purchases, hotels, taxis and activities. The CUC was created to replace all the US$ that was used in the tourist industry until the late 1990s.

Havana was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and due to its strategic location it served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the continent becoming a stopping point for the treasure laden Spanish Galleons on the crossing between the New World and the Old World.

King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City in 1592. The Spaniards began building fortifications, and in 1553 they transferred the governor’s residence to Havana from Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island, thus making Havana the de facto capital.

The importance of harbour fortifications was early recognized as English, French, and Dutch sea marauders attacked the city in the 16th century. The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana‘s harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the Spanish-American War.