I highly recommend packing in a carry-on. The airport isn't equipped for the influx of flights so getting your luggage can take hours! I would much rather be exploring the streets of Cuba than sitting inside an airport. I love my Raden suitcase and the USB charging ports make sure I always land with a full battery.
Where to Stay
Where I stayed: Melia Cohiba it was a great location in Havana right on the water and the pool was excellent. Friends were able to connect to free wifi.
If you prefer to rent a room/house/apartment Airbnb is very popular. You can tell a room is available for rent by the blue and white sign outside the door. Make sure to read the reviews before booking.
There isn't a Walgreens or Drugstore set up for tourists so please plan accordingly. Bring all of your essentials with you in your suitcase: feminine products, medicines, sunscreen, bug spray. I found these Deet wipes to be handy and easy to use. Also, hand sanitizer is key! Some bathrooms will not have toilet paper so plan ahead with a small pack of tissues for your day pack so you aren't stranded.
The organized group I was on chose all of the restaurants we ate at in Cuba. Note they were all private owned restaurants we did not dine at the government-owned establishments. Some were better than others. We had the option of fish, chicken, shredded beef (which is a Cuban specialty) and lamb. Beans, rice, and fried plantain were staples at every meal. We had an automatic "tourist menu" which gave you a welcome drink, appetizers, main dish, dessert, and coffee. Dessert would be flan, ice cream, or fruit. The average meal will be around 30 CUC
Where I ate:
Star Bien - great ambiance and the frozen mojito was THE BEST!
Paladar Vistamar - This restaurant had a beautiful pool and overlooked the water. We arrived just at sunset so we watched it from the outside patio. We dined upstairs and it was a lovely backdrop for a meal. Drinks were very cheap and they had watermelon mojitos.
Habanera - I loved dining in the back on the patio I felt like I was at a friend's house. The food was excellent. Probably my favorite fish dish.
El Cocinero Paladar - The best view - The best view for sunset. Go to the roof for cocktails. There is a bar in the tower that is worth checking out. The meal was good I would recommend the pasta with truffles. Head next door to Fabrica de Arte Cubano for drinks and art afterward.
El Litoral - This restaurant had a buffet of starters that ranged from pastas, cheeses, octopus, charcuterie, to even sushi. (skip the sushi you are in cuba) but overall the food options were great. Dessert was a key lime pie. Delish!
Mjoreleja - Great atmosphere, music and food. We ordered lobster and it was 10 CUC per order.
Fabrica de Arte Cubano is an old oil factory that was converted into a art space. Enjoy music, dancing and art exhibitions while enjoying nicely priced cocktails. This club charges 2 CUC for entry and they give you a card to keep your drink tally. Don't loose it as the fine is hefty.
Buena Vista Social Club - The entry was 30 CUC but you were given 3 drinks ranging from a mojito, daiquiri, rum and coke. Fun music and they even got us dancing on stage.
Nacional Hotel - We did a rum tasting here. The hotel is modeled after The Breaker's Hotel in Miami. We only saw it at night and it looked a bit dated but most of Cuba is dated. I would have loved to see it during the day.
El Floridita - Hemmingway's Bar where he created the original daiquiri. It is a fun atmosphere of bartenders and music. We snagged a table and seats at the bar but it can be quite full in the high season so be prepared.