President Obama’s monumental visit to Cuba this week marked a new era in relations and travel interest with the mysterious and alluring island that appears to be stuck in time. Many adventurous Americans have already made the trip: According to Reuters, the amount of U.S. visitors to Cuba rose 77 percent in 2015, which was even before travel restrictions were further relaxed this year. And with investment from Starwood and other hotel operators in the works, that number will continue to rise.
My trip was organized with the help of Cuba Educational Travel, a tour operator that can curate different experiences based on your interests and desires. Before you plan your trip, check out some of the secrets I learned while getting there—plus where to shop, stay, sip, and savor everything the island has to offer once you do.