Few authors are as manly as Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). Throughout his adventurous life, Hemingway survived anthrax, bullet wounds, wars, car & plane crashes, and a brushfire…oh yeah, and he found the time to write some of the most influential novels and short stories of the 20th century!
Hemingway traveled to many countries throughout his life, but Cuba held a very special place in his heart. After his first visit to the Caribbean island in 1928, the great American author instantly fell in love with the Cuban people, culture, and natural scenery. Cubans still love their most famous American resident and take great pains to preserve all of the places where he lived, worked, and, of course, drank.
With the easing of tensions between the Cuban government and the USA, it's never been a better time for American tourists to take a stroll through Hemingway's Havana. Below, we'll share a quick travel guide to help you have a fantastic Hemingway-themed adventure in this idyllic Caribbean travel destination.
Hemingway's Cuban Pad: La Finca Vigía
Let's start with the most obvious Hemingway-related tourist draw on the entire island: La Finca Vigía. Hemingway called this house & ranch area home for about 20 years. The reason this home is called the "Lookout Farm" is because it's located atop a hill in a Havana suburb called San Francisco de Paula. In 1939, Martha Gellhorn (Hemingway's third wife) discovered this property in a local paper and urged her husband to move there. Before that time, Hemingway was content to rent a room at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, but this room was too small for Gellhorn's tastes. From 1940 till 1960, Hemingway spent a great deal of time on La Finca Vigía writing, fishing, and breeding cats. Believe it or not, there were well over 55 cats on La Finca Vigía while Hemingway was here with his fourth wife Mary Welsh. In case you were wondering, there are no cats on La Finca Vigía's property today. Guests who visit Hemingway's Key West home, however, will find a few furry friends roaming around. One of the most famous attractions at La Finca Vigía is an almost 40-foot boat called Pilar, which was named in honor of Hemingway's first wife Pauline Pfeiffer. Hemingway bought this wooden boat in 1934 and used it on numerous fishing adventures. Although you can't walk in Pilar, you can certainly take pictures by it on your trip through La Finca Vigía. The two most famous books Hemingway partially composed while in La Finca Vigía include For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Old Man And The Sea. Also worthy of note, the Nobel Prize Committee sent the telegram to La Finca Vigía informing the author he had won 1954's Nobel Prize for Literature. Due to the importance this residence had on Hemingway's life & work, the Cuban government takes great pride keeping all of Hemingway's books and objects exactly as they were before he left for Idaho and tragically shot himself 1961. Expect to pay three Cuban convertible pesos to enter this museum. Usually this museum is open from 10AM till 4PM Mondays through Saturdays and 9AM till 1PM on Sundays.
In The Heart Of Havana: Hotel Ambos Mundos
Before moving to La Finca Vigía, the Hotel Ambos Mundos in Old Havana served as Hemingway's main Cuban residence. Built in the 1920s, this five-story hotel honors its most famous guest with dozens of vintage photos and a special museum in Room 511. Room 511 on the hotel's fifth floor was where Ernest Hemingway stayed between 1932 and 1939. Just like La Finca Vigía, everything in Room 511 has been left as it was when Hemingway left Hotel Ambos Mundos for good. Just before Hemingway left Hotel Ambos Mundos he started work on the iconic For Whom The Bell Tolls. A few famous works he finished while in this hotel include the novel To Have And Have Not and his travelogue New Green Hills of Africa. In addition to seeing Hemingway's typewriter and stacks of books, guests will get to take in the marvelous views he enjoyed of Casablanca, the Canal de Entrada, and the Catedral de la Habana. The Hotel Ambos Mundos' location makes it an ideal stop on your tour of Old Havana.
Experience The Thrill Of The Hemingway Billfishing Tournament
Besides writing (and drinking), one of Hemingway's greatest hobbies in Havana was fishing marlin. Not only was Hemingway interested in catching these fish for sport, he often traveled with eminent marine biologists intent on learning more about this fascinating creature. In May of 1950, Hemingway created the first Billfishing Tournament held at the Havana Harbor. It's estimated over 35 different fishing vessels took part in this first competition. Amazingly, Hemingway's crew won the first three of these annual competitions. Although interrupted in the 1960s due to the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, this Billfishing Tournament remains a major annual team-building event for local fishermen. This competition now fittingly takes place in the Marina Hemingway usually in the spring or summer. Check online before visiting Havana to see if you'll be in the city during this famed tournament.
Cojímar: Birthplace Of The Old Man And The Sea
Although Hemingway wrote most of his Pulitzer-prize winning novella The Old Man And The Sea at La Finca Vigía, he credited the seaside area of Cojímar as his main inspiration for the book. The author felt so indebted to the fishermen in this costal area east of Havana that he said his Nobel Prize "belongs to Cuba," and in particular Cojímar. The main Hemingway-themed attraction in the area is a statue of the American author near the Castillo de Cojímar. While there are no dedicated museums or other major tourist draws in Cojímar, it's well worth a day-trip from Havana if you're a fan of The Old Man And The Sea.
El Cobre: Home Of Cuban Hopes…And A Nobel Prize
When Hemingway said the Cubans deserve a share in his Nobel Prize, he really meant it. Once Hemingway received his award, he gave his gold medal to the famed El Cobre Basilica. Officially called the Basílica Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, this historic church houses a very special statue of the Virgin of Charity that was discovered sometime in the 17th century. Many Cubans visit this sacred place every year to offer gifts to the Virgin Mary. This church proudly guards Hemingway's Nobel Prize and, unfortunately, it's usually not on public display. Still, it's worth a shot to visit this important church if you happen to be in the area.
Where Hemingway Ate And Drank…And Drank Some More
Now that you know where Hemingway lived, let's talk about where Hemingway dined. It's no secret that Hemingway liked his booze, and, luckily for tourists, three of his main Havana haunts are still open for business. First, take a trip to La Terraza de Cojímar on Calle 152 #161 in Cojímar. Inside this restaurant you'll find a special table roped off where Hemingway would often take lunch with friends after fishing on Pilar. Here you'll enjoy gorgeous seaside views, live music, and a menu full of tasty Cuban delicacies. The two most famous Hemingway-related bars are La Bodeguita del Medio and El Floridita. Indeed, Hemingway scrawled on La Bodeguita's walls that he always gets his "mojito in La Bodeguita" and his "daiquirí in El Floridita." So, there should be no confusion over how to order your drinks while on a Hemmingway Havana tour! You'll find La Bodeguita at Empedrado No. 207 and La Floridita at Obispo 557 Esquina a Monserrate.
Go On A Hemingway Havana Holiday This Year
It's no wonder this Caribbean island is often listed as one of the world's top holiday destinations 2019 on major travel websites. The Cuban government has invested a great deal in its tourism industry and welcomes people from around the world to experience the nation's retro cars, glorious architecture, lively music, and, of course, superb cigars. As you can see, Cubans are also extremely proud to have such a strong link with Ernest Hemingway and they take great pains to preserve the places he loved. Literary buffs will find no shortage of Hemingway-related sites on their tour of this exciting travel destination. Anyone who's fortunate enough to visit this island will instantly see why Hemingway fell in love with the Cuban scenery & lifestyle. Please keep this travel guide in mind as you take your own unforgettable Caribbean voyage in the new year.