If you’re planning a trip to Cuba and have done some research, it is quite likely you’ve come across Marissa’s blog or Instagram profile where she shares her photography and commentary of the island. We got the chance to interview Mima about her experience being a travel blogger in Cuba and ask her about her favorite places.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Marissa (or Missa, Mima, Mari) and I’m a blogger. When I first started in 2015, I never thought I’d reach your eyes and I never thought I could call myself a “blogger.” I share my personal insight into Cuba and perception of its socio-economic reality can help you have a better and more culturally conscious trip. My tips, guides, blog, and tours will help you see Cuba (and soon, other countries) differently than what’s on other sites.
I made my blog in the hopes to see the world beyond Cuba and the United States. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Antilles Islands, Kenya and Tanzania.
What inspired you to travel and start your own travel blog?
I got inspired to do a travel blog because I got asked many questions about cuba and honestly thought it was easier to write a blog people could look up. There’s a lot of misinformation out there on Cuba especially when it comes to Travel. I also wanted to clear that up.
Can you tell us about your blog and your experience blogging from Cuba?
My blog is part informative part fun. I really try to explore the best of Cuba and bring information on how to travel inside, how the price system works, and how to enjoy your time there. I also try to focus on the Cuban experience, highlighting daily struggles of a 3rd world economy and how Cubans have been able to survive through it. It’s a very raw picture of life here that is not painted much to the outside world.
What is the most difficult part about being a travel blogger in Cuba?
The most difficult part is of course connectivity. I’m doing a job any normal person could easily do anywhere else around the world, except in Cuba. Internet is very expensive for us (at $1 an hour, it gets pricey if you do this multiple hours everyday) and the speed sometimes is aggravating. My tours really support two things: rent and my cost of internet. And, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve broken down emotionally because of the internet. It’s a very hard job but rewarding.
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Being a blogger here in Cuba is extremely difficult. It’s an expensive hobby that requires sitting on a (uncomfortable) park bench for hours praying to the ETECSA gods that your things will upload. But the more people that come, the more it sees. And when you see, you learn… and most importantly, you change. That’s why i do what I do, Thank you for allowing me to do that, with all of you… my friends from all over the world. Besos from #CUBA.
What has been your all-time favorite travel destination so far?
My favorite travel destination has definitely been Kenya! I was there helping children with aids and it’s an incredible country with beautiful nature and cities!
Which trip in Cuba has been the most memorable so far?
Anytime I take a group of foreign friends to Viñales its always my favorite and most memorable. I have so many memories here with my family and to me the beauty never gets old. It’s breathtaking. I also get to share apart of Cuban culture outside of tourism. That always brings me joy 🙂
A lot of foreigners say: ‘I want to go to Cuba before Starbucks and McDonalds are there.’ They mean this in the sense that they want Cuba to stay the unique travel destination it is: with old cars, crumbling buildings, no advertising for global brands on the streets. On the other hand, many Cubans, who actually live there, would be happy for Cuba to be more like the rest of the world. What do you think?
This question is complicated. But I’ll ask you: When you think about Italy, France, China, or even Argentina does McDonalds or Starbucks pop in your head? Or does their unique culture stand out? Yet all of these countries have both McDonald’s and Starbucks in their cities. To me, nothing gets my eyes to roll harder than hearing tourist say this. I understand their viewpoint, but they don’t live in Cuba. They don’t have to search multiple markets to get what they need. Cubans should get to enjoy things the rest of the world does as well. And honestly, Starbucks would probably fail here. Their coffee is gross and not nearly as strong as Cubans like it.
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Today, after 2 weeks of searching, I finally found butter. Yes, you read right: butter. When many visitors all over the world say the love Cuba because it’s “like stepping back into time”, do you think they’d love the fact that you have to search for weeks for common items? Do you think they’d love the fact that they have to pay triple the prices for a third of the wage? Do think they meant theyd love the fact that there is no freedom of information, no free connectivity to the world? No, i think they just meant the Old Cars.,……. if you’ve been here, what did you love about #Cuba? #habanavieja #oldhavana #havana #havanacuba
Can you share your best Cuba travel tips for those wanting a more authentic and less touristic experience?
If you want an authentic experience the best is with a Cuban who can take you around – show you their neighborhood, their homes.
>> If you want to book a tour with Mari, click here. <<
Most over-rated place in Havana?
Most over-rated place as got to be La Guarida. It’s expensive and the food isn’t worth it. There’s much better spots nearby that are cheaper and definitely less touristy.
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Last night I cried at La Guarida, the most famous restaurant in Cuba. I never realized that the staircases leading up sat below families still living in that solar (a building with very small apartments). And as nearly all the tourists dined with us were chitchatting over their meals, I wondered if they knew that just below them are many families that could never walk up those stairs to do the same? While the girls were posing with decaying backgrounds, did they realize that people live in decaying homes? I can’t wait for the day this country is not romanticized by poverty and everyday Cubans can travel around the world too eating at beautiful restaurants like this one. Viva Prosperidad. . . #endtheembargo #cuba #havana #lahabana #havanacuba #lahabanavieja #oldhavana #centrohabana #laguarida #staircase #havanacity #paladar
Your favourite place to go out on Fridays in Havana?
Favorite place on a Friday night where you will see us is either Encuentros Hookah Bar in el Vedado or King Bar in el Vedado. One is relaxing and the other one is always a good time!
Your favourite nature escape in Cuba?
By far and definitely Pinar del Río. There’s a little town called Guane that sits nearby a river the flows into caves. You can go camping there and cliff jump. It’s amazing and not known at all.