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Yes, you can still take a great vacation in Cuba—here’s how

At $76,000, this is the world's most expensive Thanksgiving experience
At $76,000, this is the world's most expensive Thanksgiving experience

If you've been thinking about taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba, you haven't missed your chance.

In June, President Donald Trump promised tougher travel restrictions for American visitors to Cuba, and on Nov. 9, those regulations went into effect. But while tighter rules may make it harder to visit, experts say it is still perfectly possible to enjoy a trip to the island's shores.

Here's the deal: Tourist travel to Cuba has been banned by the U.S. embargo since 1962. (Authorized categories of travel are mostly for specific reasons, like family visits or journalistic activity.) But in 2014, during the Obama administration, regulations were loosened for Americans around a category called "people-to-people" travel, which requires an educational exchange element.

Now, the regulations enacted by Trump once again restrict this category of travel for individuals, though it is permissible in group, according to CNBC. Trump also restricted Americans from doing business with 180 hotels, stores, marinas and other organizations that are associated with the Cuban military.

Havana, Cuba
Danita Delimont | Getty Images

"Any American can legally travel to Cuba under the people-to-people category, they just have to now arrange their trip with an authorized [tour] company," Tom Popper, president of Insight Cuba, which books these kinds of trips, tells CNBC Make It.

This will likely increase the cost of the trip, The New York Times reports. Still, it is a good option, and the group you travel with can be your friends or family.

What's a people-to-people trip like?

"On a typical day on a people-to-people trip, we might go on a walking tour of Old Havana, but when we go to Old Havana, we might go up to an artists' studio on the second story of a flat with a group and meet different people and learn about their style of art," Popper explains, which is not only interesting, but fulfills the requirement of activities dedicated to sharing culture between Americans and Cubans. Another example he gives is an afternoon spent meeting with the elderly or young children.

Jose Pineda, the founder of travel agency AC Journeys, structures his people-to-people trips to Cuba the same way. A morning might be spent touring the city with an architect and, after lunch, the group "could see a dance troupe rehearse and have a conversation with the dancers about what it means to be a dance artist in Cuba," he explains.

Insight Cuba offers package trips where the itinerary is set, but you can also create your own. AC Journeys also offers signature experiences or the ability to customize your trip.

If you are planning to go your own way exploring Cuba, here are some unrestricted top Havanna spots to eat, drink and play that Popper and Pineda recommend.

Where to stay:

1. The Meliá Cohiba Hotel

A recommendation from Popper, guests at the Meliá Cohiba Hotel in Havana can find spa services, a fitness center and a large freshwater pool. According to Insight Cuba, the hotel is tended to by "an exceptional staff," and "boasts a cigar bar for connoisseurs (or amateurs wanting to feel like one)."

2. Hotel Parque Central

Popper also points to the Hotel Parque Central, which features sweeping rooftop views of the city. It is made up of two different buildings, a "colonial section and modern tower, linked by a stylish, underground tunnel. Both sections have independent lobbies, restaurants, and rooms," according to the hotel's website. The modern tower is described as sleek and contemporary, while the colonial side is traditionally Cuban. Both sides feature rooftop pools. The Kardashians were spotted in this hotel's lobby during their trip to the island.

3. The Hotel Nacional de Cuba

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is another hot spot, and was recommended by both Popper and Pineda. "It has a great location, it is really in the heart of the city," Pineda says. "It is right on the water, so all of the rooms have beautiful views of the ocean as well as the landscape of the city." Vogue recommends the hotel too, and points to its glamorous history, citing visits from Frank Sinatra, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, and Marlon Brando.

The hotel opened in 1930, and Pineda does warn that the rooms were last updated in the 80's, but emphasizes the true Cuban charm.

What to eat:

1. Atelier

At Popper's recommendation, Havana travelers can venture to Atelier, a private restaurant located inside a home in the Vedado neighborhood. The ever-changing menu, photographed by diners as handwritten on paper, offers fresh seafood and beef. Restaurants operated from homes are common in Cuba, and are called "paladares."

2. El Cocinero

Pineda recommends El Cocinero for the atmosphere and sweet treats. "The food is great," he says. "I have been there just to have dessert and ordered three of the same dessert within an hour. They have a frozen chocolate tart that is to die for."

3. Le Chansonnier

Another of Pineda's picks, he describes this restaurant as more of a "white tablecloth" kind of place, with upscale courses featured on the menu, like terrine of duck, pork tartare and spare ribs.

Things to do:

Cuba is internationally known for cigars and rum. When the Kardashian clan visited Cuba in 2016, they found both at the Museo del Ron Havana Club. Located in the historic Old Havana area, the museum houses aging oak barrels of liquor in its cellars as well as "a real-time experience of the rum-making process," according to its website.

For literature buffs, Ernest Hemingway's home in Cuba can be toured as a museum. Built in 1886, Hemingway bought the house in 1940 for $12,500.

You can also take a tour of Havana in Cuba's iconic and brightly colored vintage cars through a company like Old Car Tours or Old Cars Havana.

Eat, drink and sleep in this amazing underwater hotel room
Eat, drink and sleep in this amazing underwater hotel room