The Old Man and the Island: Hemingway’s Cuba

Aside from being a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Ernest Hemingway was known for his travelling, his womanising and his drinking. He did much of all three in Cuba, where he lived from 1940 until 1960 (with travels to Europe, Africa and the United States in between).

Hemingway was greatly influenced by Cuba, most notably in writing ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, which is inspired by his love of fishing in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Travelling round Cuba will therefore give you an insight into the man and his life, and it’s easy to get there with many a cheap holiday to Cuba available on the internet.

Hemingway's Cuba


Cuba is still very much a mecca for Hemingway tourists, and many of the bars and cafes claim some link with the great author. Havana itself is a vibrant and bustling city, and it is easy to see why an adventure seeker like Hemingway would make his home here. The warm Caribbean climate, and the Spanish-style architecture combine American, European and exotic influences in an intoxicating mix.

Hemingway also enjoyed the relative simplicity of life in Cuba, with fishing, drinking and sunshine all being part of a regular day’s activities. After the revolution, although Hemingway left, the Cuban government retained much of the architectural style, meaning that Havana is little different to how Hemingway would have seen it.

Floridita Bar

Floridita Bar

The Floridita Bar in Havana was known to be one of Hemingway’s favourite bars, and according to the Smithsonian magazine, was the birthplace of the daiquiri. The two are almost certainly connected. The bar is full of pictures of Hemingway, as well as the famous friends he brought for a drink there, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Errol Flynn. The bar is still there today, so you can pull up a stool and drink in (probably) the same spot that Hemingway once did.

Finca Vigia

Finca Vigia

If you are planning a Hemingway pilgrimage to Cuba, then you simply have to travel to Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s home on the island for 20 years. It would be impossible to walk around the Finca and not instantly realise that this was Hemingway’s home. From the animal heads on the walls (including a large and imposing water buffalo), to the extensive collection of books, the Finca Vigia serves as an on-going monument to Hemingway’s eclectic interests, as well as being the location in which he wrote some of his most famous works.

If you’re a fan of Hemingway, you’ve really got no excuse not to travel round the island that shaped his writing and his life. Although there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to write like Hemingway, you’ll certainly be able to live like him while you’re there.

Images by Tony Hisgett, Bit Boy and Bruce Tuten used under creative commons licence.

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Olivia Watson

Olivia is a world traveler who has been to 27 countries in just over 15 years. She loves to share her knowledge of traveling to help others travel safer, cheaper and have more fun.

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