11 “Nothing accurately paints the complex and contradictory reality of Cuban life,” advises Dash Harris of AfroLatino Travel, who o”ers cultural tours of the city together with her Cuban husband. And while it would take many visits to Cuba to fully understand this deeply layered island, an itinerary that takes in Hemingway-era highlights, the city’s rich history and artistic sights and tastes is sure to get you acquainted with Havana in an authentic way in a short period of time. The first place you should head for a feel for what Havana and Cuba is all about is the city’s waterfront main drag, the Malecón. The famed pedestrian walkway is also its indisputable communal heartbeat. And the Malecón runs for roughly four miles along a seawall from the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta in Old Havana (Habana Vieja) to the Almendares River. Strolling just a short stretch gives you a taste of what makes life in Cuba so di”erent from any place else. And since this is where Havana’s residents go to enjoy themselves with family and friends, too, the Malecón is a great spot to connect with locals. “What is so amazing about the Malecón is just watching the people sitting and enjoying themselves,” says Marji Sachs of Weston, FL, “There’s not widespread internet in Cuba, so families are actually having fun listening to music and interacting with each other while the ocean splashes up behind them. You see teenagers sitting on the wall holding hands and parents with their children playing…I could have watched it all day long.” And while you might be tempted to watch the goings-on here all day, too, there’s much more to see in Havana’s old city — and surely a tour calling your name. Immediately after departing the pier on a driving tour through Old Havana, you’ll be treated to close-up views of Havana’s iconic Spanish architecture, some of which dates to the 15th century. The city’s elegant main railway station is a national monument and a place to see retired steam trains. And at the entrance to Havana Harbor, look for the Spanish-built El Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro, which was finished in 1640 to keep ill-intentioned pirates and buccaneers at bay. In Vedado, prepare for a feast for the Art Deco and Art Nouveau senses as you get a view of the historic Nacional Hotel and stroll through the University of Havana, one of the first universities in the Americas that dates to 1728. It’s precisely this contrast in Havana’s old and newer neighborhoods — both equally alive with vibrant street life — that makes the city’s diverse views so alluring and unique. For Hemingway fans who’ve lost themselves in his literature — or perhaps just in his allure as an intrepid traveler — Havana brims with sites that illuminate the novelist’s personal history. One of the iconic Hemingway highlights is a stop at El Floridita, Hemingway’s favorite bar, known for serving up some of the city’s finest mojitos. “Ernest Hemingway was a regular in the 1930’s and 40’s, and today, a bronze statue commemorates his patronage,” says Gregory Shapiro, author of the handy guidebook “12 Hours in Havana”, adding that there’s almost always live music to enjoy along with a cocktail. Pose with Hemingway’s bronze likeness if you’re so inclined, or simply mingle with tourists from around the world over refreshing frozen cocktails that go down like a charm on a sultry Havana day. And if, like Hemingway, you enjoy a good puro Cubano, you’ll certainly have the chance to purchase a hand-rolled Cuban cigar during a tobacco factory tour in Old Havana, too. Just outside of the city and part of any Hemingway tour you’ll find another quintessential Hemingway highlight. Finca Vigía (the name means “Lookout Farm”), about 30 minutes from the cruise port and a must-stop on any Hemingway tour, is the author’s immaculately preserved Spanish-colonial home where he lived and wrote from 1939 to 1961. The author is said to have penned such famous novels as “The Old Man and the Sea” here. And a knowledgeable guide can really bring Hemingway’s spirit and inspiration to life as you peek into scenes of a storied life that are frozen in time. For any world traveler, a stop in a new port is a chance to try new foods. And in Havana, you can spend a fun-filled morning learning all about the farm-to-table process a lo Cubano by touring a local farm. The highlight comes when you sit down to a lunch of the fruits (and vegetables and meats!) of the farm’s labor right where almost everything was grown. And for the type of traveler who devours art in equal measure, Havana, too, is a moveable feast. Callejon Hammel is a downtown alleyway with a colorful collection of street art made from found objects. Here, the stylings of artist Salvador Gonzáles Escalona meld surrealism, cubism and abstract art in the primarily Afro-Cuban neighborhood of Cayo Hueso. For the most comprehensive display of Cuban art in the world and a collection that’s been compared to the best from New York, London and beyond, a visit to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is a must. The diversity of subjects and styles that encompass the 17th century to today is staggering. Should you wish to purchase Cuban art of your own, it will be hard to leave Havana empty-handed once you see Muraleando, a community art project full of murals, mosaics and sculptures where professional artists also gather to sell their works. Proceeds from the art are split between the artists and Muraleando’s projects benefiting local children and their artistic development. And whether you leave with a souvenir or not, you’ll likely have some fascinating conversations with locals and make memories of Havana that will stay with you long after you’ve sailed on. Freelance travel writer Terry Ward is based in Florida but frequently on the road (or at sea!) to report stories. Her work has been published by such outlets as Travel Channel, the Washington Post, Travel+Leisure and Cruise Critic. Visit her website to learn more, www.terry-ward.com.