Cuba has long been the proverbial forbidden fruit of destinations for U.S. citizens, but the recent loosening of travel restrictions means that this island country is suddenly a quick flight away—with even easier access expected soon. Keep in mind that pure tourist visits technically still aren’t allowed, but there are now 12 broad categories of travel reasons that effectively allow you to approve yourself for a trip without applying for a special license. So where to go? Skip the resorts to explore the places likely to change the fastest under more open U.S. trade policies: the cities.
Like its Caribbean neighbors, Cuba boasts some great strips of sand. But the real soul of this country—now easier than ever for Americans to visit—lies within its vibrant cities. From legendary Havana, colonial Trinidad, liberal Santa Clara, music-loving Santiago de Cuba, and off-the-beaten path Baracoa, here are 20 other compelling reasons to explore this storied island.