Obama arrives in Cuba for first visit by a US president in 88 years

The end of the cold war era animosities between the two countries was heralded in 2014 when diplomatic ties were re-established.

Barack Obama arrived in Cuba on Sunday on a three-day tour, becoming the first American President to visit the communist state in 88 years.

Obama, the first president to step away from the policy of isolating Cuba after the Cuban revolution of 1959 that ousted a pro-American government, said the visit was historic.

"Back in 1928, President [Calvin] Coolidge came on a battleship. It took him three days to get here, it only took me three hours. For the first time ever, Air Force One has landed in Cuba and this is our very first stop," Obama told the US embassy staff in Havana.

Obama, his wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia were given a ceremonial red carpet welcome at the airport where they were received by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

The president will hold talks with Cuban President Raul Castro at the presidential palace on Monday, after a formal welcoming ceremony.

The end of the cold war era animosities between the two countries was heralded in 2014 when Obama and Castro announced the re-opening of diplomatic relations.

The two sides, fierce enemies during the cold war, signed commercial deals on telecommunications and scheduled airline service after the restoration of diplomatic ties in 2014.

Though Obama wants to make the friendship with Cuba an irreversible policy, the Republicans in Congress have blocked the president's move to remove a 54-year-old economic embargo on Cuba.

Even as Obama vouched for a big turnaround in ties between the neighbours, back home, Republican presidential front runner taunted him that while his Cuban trip was a "big deal" he got no respect, referring to the absence of an airport welcome by President Raul Castro.

Castro had arrived at the airport to personally welcome Pope Francis in September.

During the three-day visit, Obama will address Cubans on state media and meet business leaders. However, meeting revolution leader Fidel Castro is not on the agenda.