Lonely Planet Writer

Daily life in Cuba as seen through the eyes of a travelling photographer

For Dutch photographer Stijn Hoekstra, visiting the Caribbean island of Cuba recently was a dream come true. “Cuba has been on my list for as long as I can remember” he tells Lonely Planet News. “This was my first time there, and it definitely exceeded my expectations.”

Stijn captured some stunning portraits of locals during his three-week stay on the island. “There were a few photo moments that really struck me”, he recalls. “One was a portrait I shot really early one morning in Vinales. As I walked downhill, I saw a farmer walking towards me. Rays of sunlight were just peeking through the trees, and I knew I had to take his photo.”

“He didn’t pose, but knew exactly what kind of picture I wanted to take. Everything was just right, he was holding his old bicycle and had a cigar hanging from his lip. I was so blessed with that moment. After three days I was walking around in that same area, and I saw him again. When I showed him the picture I took of him, he got very emotional looking at himself, and was clearly very happy with his portrait.”

“We went to a family member nearby and I took their email address so I could send the picture to him. Next time I’ll remember to take a polaroid camera with me, it’s a nice gesture for taking someone’s portrait.”

See more of Stijn’s photography here.

 “Havana itself looks like one big movie set, the old cars and colourful buildings are a real treat for a photographer." Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
“Havana itself looks like one big movie set, the old cars and colourful buildings are a real treat for a photographer." Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
A portrait Stijn Hoekstra shot early one morning in Vinales of a local Cuban farmer.  Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
A portrait Stijn Hoekstra shot early one morning in Vinales of a local Cuban farmer. Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
"I woke up early every morning and wandered the streets, as the sunrise gave the city a beautiful colour.”
"I woke up early every morning and wandered the streets, as the sunrise gave the city a beautiful colour.”
“Because of the heat and small houses where entire families live, everybody is out on the streets, and that creates such a nice ambiance." Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
“Because of the heat and small houses where entire families live, everybody is out on the streets, and that creates such a nice ambiance." Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
"This was my first time there, and it definitely exceeded my expectations.” Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
"This was my first time there, and it definitely exceeded my expectations.” Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
Locals and tourists move through the  network of dusty streets walled with jaw-dropping buildings in Havana.  Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
Locals and tourists move through the network of dusty streets walled with jaw-dropping buildings in Havana. Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
"The people are extremely kind and generous, and after travelling to many other countries, I can definitely say that Cuba is one of the safest places I've ever visited.” Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
"The people are extremely kind and generous, and after travelling to many other countries, I can definitely say that Cuba is one of the safest places I've ever visited.” Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
“I stayed for a week in a beautiful Casa Particular – a kind of B&B where you stay in a Cuban family’s home." Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
“I stayed for a week in a beautiful Casa Particular – a kind of B&B where you stay in a Cuban family’s home." Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
A man strolls along The Malecón (Avenida de Maceo) a broad esplanade that stretches for five miles along the coast in Havana. Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
A man strolls along The Malecón (Avenida de Maceo) a broad esplanade that stretches for five miles along the coast in Havana. Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
"Havana appears as a city-sized film set, with its crumbling colonial buildings and its classic cars belching bluish exhaust fumes into the air."  Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
"Havana appears as a city-sized film set, with its crumbling colonial buildings and its classic cars belching bluish exhaust fumes into the air." Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
"Cubans are  passionate about boxing , with a world-beating haul of 38 Olympic gold boxing medals. Image by: Stijn Hoekstra
"Cubans are passionate about boxing , with a world-beating haul of 38 Olympic gold boxing medals. Image by: Stijn Hoekstra