Before the Batista dictatorship fell in the mid-1900s, Havana was one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Caribbean region. After decades of relative isolation, the Port of Havana has once again become one of the region's most popular hotspots. With more than one million tourists a year, the Port of Havana is well known for its monuments, architecture, culture, and history. Old Havana (Habana Viejo) is the most popular area for tourists with its colonial palaces, castles, fortress, and remnants of fortification walls.
The Port of Havana has a pleasant climate throughout the year. The Port of Havana has a tropical savanna climate with temperatures that are consistently above 18°C (64°F). Located in the trade winds belt and warm offshore currents, even the winters are mild and great for enjoying the beaches. Hurricanes are expected from June until November. Temperatures in the Port of Havana range from an average high of 31°C (88°F) from July through September to an average low of about 26°C (78°F) in January. Humidity levels in the Port of Havana are relatively constant at around 76%, peaking in October at 80% and falling to a low of 72% in April. The rainy season lasts from June through November. Rain is heaviest in October (18 centimeters or seven inches) and lowest in March (4.6 centimeters or almost two inches).
Across the street from the Terminal Sierra Maestra (the Port of Havana's cruise terminal) is the Havana Club Museum of Rum where visitors learn about the rum-making process from sugar cane to aging cellars. Located in a refurbished 18th Century colonial townhouse, tours take visitors from the first landing cooper shop demonstrating how the oak casks used to age the product are made. Upstairs is a real mule-driven cane mill used in the earliest sugar refineries and models of a steam locomotive and a rum distillery. Visitors tour fermentation and distilling rooms, aging rooms, and the popular tasting room with a beautiful wooden bar that recalls the 1930s. For sale in the bar are the finest Havana Club rums, popular Cuban cigars, and a variety of souvenirs.
Next door to the museum is the Havana Club Bar where the bartenders are experts at mixing cocktails from the classic Daiquiri and Mojito to the local favorite Cata Vertical. The club also offers a great menu of Creole dishes and traditional Cuban music presented by Solista Antia Marquetti and her band. The Port of Havana Club Museum is open every day from 9:30am until 5:30. While locals are admitted free of charge, visitors will pay $7US (about 6 euros). The Port of Havana Club Bar is open from 9:30 until midnight.
Evening walks along the 10-block long Prado Street, a pedestrian boulevard and park, is a wonderful way to get to know the Port of Havana. Busy with cafes and street life, staircases connect the walkway and street at each intersection. Prado Street connects the center of Old Havana with the Malecon, the walkway along the seacoast. Everything about Prado Street recalls the old days in the Port of Havana as it was completed in 1852. Beautiful antique light fixtures and shade trees line the walkway, making Prado Street a pedestrian oasis.
Old Havana (La Habana Vieja) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with many wonderfully restored colonial buildings. Founded in 1519, Old Havana is the ancient city built inside protective walls and protected by the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the oldest bastioned fortress in the New World and today's maritime museum. The museum covers Port of Havana history from pre-Columbian times to the 18th Century Royal Shipyard of Havana. The shipyard produced almost 200 ships for the Spanish Crown.
The Castillo de la Real Fuerza at the Plaza des Armas displays four-meter model of the Santisima Trinidad (Spanish) complimented by a big multi-lingual interactive touch screen describing life aboard an 18th Century sailing ship. In that time, the original ship was the largest in the world. It had four gun decks and 140 cannons, and it participated in the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. Exhibits downstairs include antique navigation instruments, underwater artifacts, and colonial gold and silver. The second floor of the museum offers wonderful views of the Port of Havana harbor and the city skyline. The Castillo de la Real Fuerza was built to protect the Port of Havana from pirates, although its location is a bit too far from the sea for that purpose. From 1899 until 1938, it was the National Archive. From 1938 until 1957, it was the National Library. In 1959 at the time of the revolution, it was home to the National Commission for Monuments and the Centre of Preservation, Restoration and Museology. In 1977, on its 400th anniversary, the fortress was opened as a museum and gallery for international and Cuban contemporary art. In 1990, it became the home for the National Museum of Cuban Ceramics. Finally, in 2010, the Castillo de la Fuerza reopened as the country's premier maritime museum.
Travelers who want to visit the Port of Havana by sea can find a list of scheduled cruises on the Cruise Compete website.
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