Cuba – The Caribbean Gem

Cuba embodies a traveler’s paradise on many fronts.  Music, vibrant colors, gardenia-laced sea breezes, tropical fruit and warm smiles.  Yes, it’s the Instagram post we all dream of sending our co-workers at home.  In a quick search, it’s easy to find the top 10 things Cuba is famous for. Let’s take a look…

 #1 Beaches
With over 3,500 miles of coastline bordered by the Atlantic on the north and the Caribbean on the south, Cuban beaches are quite simply… legendary.

#2 Music
For a relatively small country with an 11 million population, Cuba has always punched far above its weight in the realm of the arts, particularly in music. Music genres invented in Cuba include the son Cubano, a mix of Spanish and African influences. Other genres are rumba, bolero, nueva trova, timba and more.  The popular salsa descends from the son Cubano but borrowed heavily from other Caribbean islands.  Cuban musicians are famous worldwide, and songs penned by Cuban composers are played universally. 

#3 Classic American cars
Due to the break in diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. in the early 1960s, there have been no new car imports into Cuba from the U.S.  The American cars you see in the streets of Cuba are re-engineered and repaired many times over.   The more beautiful cars serve as period vehicles to transport tourists around town in vintage style.  The ugly ducklings that can still perform are used as route taxis.   These cars have now passed on to become iconic symbols of contemporary Cuban tourism.  

#4 Fascinating architecture The Spanish explorers brought many cultural aspects with them to Cuba. The architecture was just one of them. Much of the architecture you see in Cuba today is a combination of styles. One of the most popular is Baroque, and the Cathedral of Habana, completed in 1777, is an example.

#5 The Cuban UNESCO World Heritage sites  Cuba has nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, each one unique, remarkable and beautiful.  The Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, The archeological landscape of the first coffee plantation in south-eastern Cuba, Old Havana and its fortifications,  the San Pedro De La Roca Castle in Santiago de Cuba, the city center of Cienfuegos, the city center of Camagüey, city of churches, Trinidad and the nearby Valle de los Ingenios or Valley of the Sugar Mills, the Valley of Viñales, perhaps one of the most naturally beautiful locations on earth and where the world-famous tobacco is produced and Desembarco del Granma National Park, overlooking the ocean from dramatic cliffs, this park is famous for its biodiversity.

#6 Unique flora and fauna Cuba has over 100 species of palm trees, 90 of which are native and one of which, the Royal Palm, is a national symbol. Cuba has over 350 bird species 24 of which are indigenous. As such, it is a bird watcher’s paradise.  The Bee hummingbird, native to Cuba, is the smallest bird in the world weighing 2.6g and measures 2 and a half inches.   The Cuban crocodile is found only in Cuba and is the most endangered of the crocodilian family. Of Cuba’s 121 reptile species, 103 are native to Cuba.

#7 Rum  
Rum is to Cuba what sake is to Japan or champagne is to France.  It is much more than a popular Cuban spirit- it is part of the nation’s cultural identity and runs through the veins of Cuba’s history and economy.  Cuban rum is made from molasses derived from sugar cane, a lifeblood of the Cuban economy since its introduction to the island by the Spanish. Cuban rum is lighter, smoother and crisper than other rums of the Caribbean making it, along with tobacco, a top revenue generator for the island.  Rum even infiltrates religion in Cuba. When a bottle of rum is first opened, it is customary to pour a few drops on the floor “for the saints.”

#8 Cigars
The classic cigars come from a stretch of land in Cuba’s westernmost province of Pinar del Rio called Vuelta Abajo.

#9 Cuban Cocktails 
All four Cuban Cocktails that circled the globe have rum as the main ingredient. These four cocktails are the mojito, the daiquiri, the Cuba Libre and the canchanchara. 
(Three things really exploded the Cuban cocktail’s popularity: 1. The prohibition in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933 made Cuba an appealing alternative for Americans that wished to imbibe legally. 2. Hollywood stars visited Cuba in the 40s and 50s and were photographed enjoying cocktails in luxurious surroundings like Havana’s Hotel Nacional. This made Cuban cocktails desirable and aspirational. 3. Ernest Hemingway loved Cuba and had a house there for many years.  He frequented the El Floridita bar to have his daiquiri and La Bodequita del Medio to have his mojito almost daily.  This exposure made the drinks even more popular and they have remained so to this day.)

#10 The people  Finally, Cuba’s major claim to fame is its friendly, welcoming people.

As apparent from this list, Cuba’s reputation for fly fishing has yet to be mentioned as world-renown in a broad manner.  However, for the seasoned and well-researched angler, Cuba’s landscape can present a unique opportunity to catch bonefish, permit and tarpon on the fly.  While perhaps young in terms of its relative history with international fly fishing tourism, the country of Cuba obviously has something to offer us single-minded angler folk. 

In this essay, photographer and seasoned angler Matt Harris illustrates the bountiful opportunity Cuba offers for those in search of a fly fishing adventure.  Enjoy the photos and add Cuba to your fly fishing bucket list.

But don’t forget about all the other important features that make Cuba a unique and delightful place.

Cuba’s landscape can present a unique opportunity to catch bonefish, permit and tarpon on the fly.

Contributed By

Matt Harris

I’ve been fishing since I was seven years old. The third time I went, I caught my first fish – a 6oz perch – we were both hooked. Since then, I’ve discovered fly-fishing and it is, for me at least, the most magical way to fish. I’ve caught all kinds of crazy-looking piscine beasties including huge salmon in Russia’s arctic circle, peacock bass and piranhas in the Amazon jungle and the prehistoric barramundi that infest the remote waters of Australia’s Northern Territories – all on fly. As a busy, London-based advertising photographer, fly-fishing represents the perfect antidote to the frantic world of photographing children for advertising. The solitude and opportunity for reflection, combined with the chance to experience wild, remote and fabulously beautiful locations around the globe act as the perfect counterpoint to the hectic world of the London advertising scene. You can see my mainstream advertising work at I’ve been making photographic images of fly-fishing for well over ten years, working for clients like Frontiers, Roxtons, Aardvark McLeod, The FlyFisher Group, Flycastaway, Fly Odyssey and Where Wise Men Fish, travelling to worldwide destinations that have included Argentina, Australia, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Iceland, India, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Scotland, the USA, Venezuela and Zambia. I have written and shot articles for publications such as Esquire, GQ Magazine,This is Fly, Catch Magazine, Trout and Salmon, Fieldsports Magazine, Trout Fisherman and The Farlows Magazine. Over the last few years, I’ve built up a large collection of images, many of which are displayed on this site. These Images are available for commercial reproduction and as limited edition Fine Art prints. If you are interested in sourcing an image that you can’t find on the site, or you’re interested in ordering a print or discussing a commission,
you can contact me by e-mail at

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