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Travel to Cuba: The Caribbean's Forbidden Island

Think Cuba, and vivid images come to mind: of men in Guayabera shirts and Panama hats, tropical breezes and cool drinks, steamy Latin rhythms and sultry women. It has always been an intriguing place, steeped in truth and in fiction by the novels of Ernest Hemingway.

In the pre-Revolution Batista days, Cuba was the sin capital of the Americas, a wild haunt of mobsters, corrupt politicians, loose women and petty thieves, all vying to stake their claim to a share of the profits from gambling, prostitution and other lucrative rackets. The easy money attracted some of America's biggest celebrities and high rollers, as well as a flood of tourists eager to indulge in the island's many carnal pleasures.

After decades of blight and neglect, the Caribbean's largest island is radiating a new self-confidence. Havana has regained much of its past allure, tourism is once again thriving, old bars, restaurants and hotels are enjoying a proud comeback, and stunning new attractions are being built.

Cuba is a destination worth discovering that's at its best right now. As a travel desination, its relative political isolation has kept it from being overrun with tourists. Once the U.S. government lifts economic sanctions and the travel ban, there will be a flood of investment into Cuba's economy that is sure to

change the face of the culture and landscape.

Cuba is home to just over 11 million people, with more than 2 million living in the capital, Havana. The island's Cuba's rich culture, interesting political history, and continued economic hardship make it one of the world's most eye-opening nations with a wealth of places just waiting to be discovered. The food, music, and, most of all, the warm hospitality of the Cuban people all combine to make it a great place to visit.

U.S. officials say open trade and travel to Cuba would strengthen Castro's oppressive government. But critics argue that the Cold War-era U.S. embargo, aimed at forcing a change in Cuba's leadership, has not achieved its goals after being in place for more than 40 years.

Despite the embargo, last year, 200,000 Americans visited Cuba (most through Canada or Mexico).

As one taxi driver put it, "We have the best cigars, best rum, best music, and most beautiful women in the world. What more could anyone want?"

I can't argue with that, and don't think you would either.

RESOURCES The Cuba Report, an expatriate guide, was recently published. For more information or to order, visit

About the Author

Phillip Townsend is the author of The Cuba Report, available at