Ahoy, mateys! Before heading to Havana for a month I did a lot of research – and one of the things I tried to find out was if there was any interesting “pirate stuff” that you could see in Cuba. I’ve loved pirates since I first read Treasure Island in second grade, and that interest was further fueled by the release of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and a really cool pirate ship exhibit at the Field Museum – both of which also happened during my formative years. Anyway, as I went about my quest to learn more about pirates in Cuba, I was a bit disappointed to find that there was almost no information about such things! Argh! I thought it was about time I remedy that with this post. If you’re a fellow pirate enthusiast, please read on so that you can have the most swashbuckling time possible on your trip to Cuba!
1. Maritime Museum at Castillo de la Real Fuerza
Shiver me timbers! If I had to choose just one pirate-centric place to visit in Havana it would have to be Castillo de la Real Fuerza! It’s located in an actual old fortification–with a moat!–and is home to a maritime museum. There you can see lots of artifacts and displays about sailing and the high seas. I worked on some of my Spanish “ship vocabulary” and also enjoyed practicing my Spanish with some of the workers there. My favorite part had to be the treasure room! You can check out gold, silver pieces, and even gems like opals! Your inner pirate will love being able to see actual booty!
2. Other forts – Del Morro & La Cabaña
While the maritime museum is pretty awesome, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza is actually somewhat small. Luckily, Havana has several other larger forts that you can visit! Be sure to visit at least one so you can walk along the walls, keeping a wary eye out to sea lest you be besieged by pirates — in that event, you’ll have plenty of cannons at the ready and you’ll be able to fend off an attack! I saw the outside of Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta, which is on the Old Havana side of the bay, but I also visited Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro and Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabaña on the other side. I think there’s at least one other smaller fort that hosts an exhibit about Che Guevara, but I didn’t make it that far. Del Morro is really fun because it’s the furthest point out along the bay, and la Cabaña is fun because that’s where the Cañonazo ceremony takes place!
3. Cañonazo ceremony
The Cañonazo ceremony at la Cabaña is a super fun tradition, and a must for any pirate enthusiast! Why? Because you get to see a real cannon from pirate times shot over the bay! There’s also a whole lot of pomp and circumstance to the event (drums, military uniforms, marching, torch-swinging–as you can probably see from the above video!). It doesn’t cost any extra money if you’re already visiting the fort, so just be sure you plan your visit so that you’ll be there when the ceremony happens at 9pm!
4. A stroll along the Malecon
The Malecon is an 8km-long sea wall that is sort of a hub of activity at any time of day in Havana. In the morning, you might see people fishing or going for a quick swim… during the day people will walk or exercise along the wall, and at night it’s where people go to hang out and cool off with some ocean breeze. To enjoy it the pirate way? I recommend picking up a bottle of Cuba’s delicious, cheap rum (about $7 for a bottle of 3-year-aged goodness – the locals who recommended the Legendario brand and I must agree) and stretching your sea legs out along the Malecon at night. You’ll see other landlubbers hanging around and having fun — sometimes there might even be a little music! It’s a great atmosphere for any partying pirate. Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum!
5. Beach day at Playas del Este
Where should a hardworking Cuban pirate go to while away an afternoon on white sands? The beaches known as Playas del Este – “Beaches of the East” – near Havana! Enjoy the blue skies, crystal clear waters, and palm-fringed views at these beaches. For an extra marauding twist, why not pop open a Bucanero beer while you’re at it?
What did you think of this list? Are you ready to head on down to Cuba for a swashbuckling good time? Do you have any further suggestions that I missed? I’d love to hear them, so comment below!