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CNN Insider Guides are thoroughly checked for accuracy. Given the fluid nature of the travel industry, however, some listings may fall out of date before guides can be updated. The best practice is to confirm current information on official websites before making plans to visit any business or attraction.
(CNN)Exotic, mysterious, vibrant, Havana is steeped in time-worn splendor.
But with President Barack Obama announcing a historic overhaul in relations between the United States and Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean and its capital of Havana stand on the precipice of dramatic change.
Home to two million, Cuba's beguiling capital city resembles a Hollywood stage set, once glamorous, now patina'd by age, but still with plenty of action for travelers wondering what to do in Havana.
Old Havana overflows with colonial castles, convents and cobbled plazas.
Detroit dowagers with fins sharp enough to draw blood rattle along the Malecón seafront boulevard.
And the Tropicana cabaret -- a sensual salsa-charged extravaganza -- recalls the pre-revolutionary heyday of sin.
Welcome to communism, Caribbean style. Socialism and sensuality.
Havana's gritty, faintly louche authenticity is unique -- an enthralling amalgam of colonialism, capitalism and communism.
It's also uniquely charming. You won't want to sleep for missing a vital experience as you explore streets haunted by Ernest Hemingway's ghost.
But even before Obama's December phone call with Cuban President Raul Castro that reflected the first communication at the presidential level with Cuba since the Cuban revolution, Havana was in dramatic flux
Private restaurants (called "paladares") in private homes have been improving the dining scene for years.
Sophisticated boutique hotels exuding colonial-tinged Miami chic have already been filled with U.S. visitors (thanks to a recent "people-to-people" license provision), who now outnumber Canadian and European tourists.
Here's what to do in Havana.
Savvy European investors are behind the glam Saratoga, Havana's primo hotel.
Its colonial facade is just that -- within are cavernous rooms boasting chic styling and 21st-century amenities.
It's the only Havana hotel with free Wi-Fi.
The rooftop pool has a sundeck for lounging and tanning, perfect when planning what to do in Havana.
At the Moorish-themed Anacaona restaurant, you can puff a cigar and have a cocktail in the neon-lit mezzanine bar.
Hotel Saratoga, Prado 603 esquina Dragones Old Havana, Havana 10200 Cuba; +53 7 868 1000
Cigars, rum and Hotel Nacional. Beautiful traditions.
Rising over the seafront Malecón, this landmark grand dame is touted as the city's top hotel.
Through the decades, a parade of A-listers -- from Al Capone to Naomi Campbell -- has slept here.
Accommodations are a bit worn. Executive-level rooms fare better and are worth the splurge.
The Moorish-themed lobby offers a great architectural photo op.
Stogies and mojitos on the patio bar are a good precursor to the titillation at the hotel's Parisien Cabaret.
This sustainable community is where habaneros head for a breath of fresh mountain air.
Hiking trails and colonial-era coffee estates await exploration, and specialist birding guides will take you in search of the tocororó, the national bird. Landscape artist Lester Campa's pleasant studio is worth a stop.
You can grab an al fresco lunch at Fonda de Mercedes, and a cappuccino at Café Maria.
Las Terrazas, Autopista Nacional Habana-Pinar del Río, Kilometer 52; +53 48 57 8600
Parque Nacional de Viñales
For scenic beauty in Cuba, nothing surpasses Valle de Viñales.
Nothing in Cuba rivals the Valle de Viñales for scenic beauty.
It's a popular destination for nature fans who hike, horseback ride and gape at dramatic limestone formations called mogotes.
This is also primo tobacco country.
The best time to visit is winter, when the fields are planted; or spring, when the tobacco is harvested.
Parque Nacional de Viñales, 26 kilometers north of Pinar del Río and 212 kilometers west of Havana