27 Unmissable Things To In Do Cuba

With so many things to do in Cuba, you really will have troubles picking what to do and where to go. In fact, you should consider spending two weeks there as a minimum to take in just a fraction of what it has to offer.

To be fair, Cuba is the kind of place that is better the second time around, when you can go in knowing exactly what to prepare (though I have a number of travel tips ready for you that will help you with that!). In fact, no matter how much you prepare for it, this is a country that will inevitably surprise you – both in a good and in a bad way, actually (you may have read my post where I describe my experiences with local people in Cuba).

Anyways, if you have limited time in the country you should carefully select what you want to experience. Which is why I have selected the things do do in Cuba you really should not miss, and put together some tips to help you make the most of your time in the country.

The Best Things To Do In Cuba

Explore Havana Vieja

Havana, in the Artemisa and Mayabeque province, is where most travelers start their trip around Cuba. The capital of the country, it offers an incredible range of activities – so I recommend spending at least 2 full days there. This is a good measure in order to get over the jet lag and to get acquainted with the local culture.

This is a city of paradox: right next to the recently restored Capitol building, there are apartment buildings that are either falling apart or must have been lined up for restoration such a long time ago that the scaffolding is completely covered in ivy.

Needless to say, visiting Havana Vieja is one of the unmissable things to do in Cuba. The old city is UNESCO protected, and where most attractions are located. Places you should not miss include:

MUSEO DE LA REVOLUCION – It will give you lots of insights into the most recent history of the country;

PLAZA DE LA CATEDRAL – Where the most beautiful church in town is located;

PLAZA DE ARMAS – Where you will find a lovely used books market;

PLAZA VIEJA AND THE REAL FABRICA DE TABAGOS PARTAGAS – Where you can learn everything about Cuban Cigars.

MUSEO NACIONAL DE BELLAS ARTES – With an incredible array of pieces of modern and contemporary art.

Havana Vieja is perfect for a simple stroll too, and it’s where you’ll also find a number of lovely small local restaurants and bars serving excellent cocktails (more about that in a bit).

You can book a free walking tour of Havana here or here.

For a private tour of Havana, click here. If you’d like a free night tour, click here.

Make sure to read my posts The Best Things To Do In Havana and The Best Day Trips From Havana.

See the Cañonazo de las nueve in Havana

The ceremony of “el cañonazo de las nueve” takes place each night at 9:00 pm, in Havana’s fortress of La Cabaña, which was completed by 1774 and made Havana the most fortified city in the “new world”. During the ceremony, soldiers dressed in the traditional costumes of the 18th century, shoot the cannon as a warning to close the doors of the walls surrounding the city, in order to protect it by the pirates and by the army of enemy countries.

The show is interesting, and the entrance ticket will also include a drink, which can be sipped while enjoying a beautiful view of Havana at night or wander about the various museums and art exhibition inside the fortress.

For a guided tour that also goes to the Cannon ceremony, click here.

Ride a classic car

This is one of the ultimate things to do in Cuba! Classic cars are everywhere in Cuba, but for the chance to ride one Havana is definitely the best place. You will see them line up at the traffic lights, along with motorbikes that still have sidecars; and bici-taxi drivers that will hustle you to jump on.

These classic cars are often just “taxis particulares” (private taxis), so you can literally haul one to take you where you want (though make sure to agree on the fee before leaving). But if you want something a bit more official (and a better car, because some are simply rotten old), opt for a guided tour.

For a private classic car tour of Havana, click here.

Go for a walk along Havana’s Malecon

Havana’s Malecon is a real institution. The 8 km (about 5 miles) of paved road along the sea are a favorite of locals, who especially enjoy it at sunset – though it’s beautiful at any time of day.

Take care to notice the buildings along the Malecon as some of them are gorgeous, and make a small detour to visit the Callejon de Hamel, a good example of street art in Havana.

Hotel Nacional

Stop by the Hotel Nacional of Havana

Along the Malecon, the Hotel Nacional is a beautiful neoclassic/art decò building which became famous in 1933 when, after the military coup of Fulgencio Batista, 300 army officers took refuge there hoping to receive the assistance of the US embassy. In 1946, Hotel Nacional hosted the biggest mafia convention of North America. Now, it is just a beautiful building with wonderful ocean views, where locals go to celebrate important events (ie weddings) and tourists enjoy a drink.

Stay in a casa particular

A casa particular is literally a home-stay in Cuba. Most people who have a spare room will rent it out to tourists to cash a bit more money. Some casas are absolutely gorgeous, located in colonial buildings and with stunning interiors. I stayed in a beautiful one in the Vedado, in Havana; and an even better one in Santiago.

Booking a casa is not exactly straightforward. Many places take bookings via email or phone, but it often happens that you show up and the room is not available and they will accommodate you at a friend’s place nearby (usually just as good). Now, some places can actually be booked via Airbnb so that if you have a specific place in mind you can at least secure it.

Wander around Havana’s Vedado

To get away from the crowds of tourists in Havana, go to the Vedado, a residential area packed with incredible colonial homes and full of parks and gardens. Take care to visit the Parque Almendares, also known as Parque Metropolitana.

You can book a free walking tour of the Vedado and modern Havana here.

About 10 minutes drive from the Vedado you will also find the famous Plaza de la Revolución, one of the unmissable places to visit in Cuba. It’s a memorial square dedicated to José Martí, one of the heroes of the Cuban revolution. That’s where you can also spot the massive image of Ernesto Che Guevara and his famous motto “Hasta la Victoria Siempre.”

things to do in Cuba

Have a cocktail, the Cuban way

The most famous Cuban cocktails are the mojito and the daiquiri. You will find them pretty much in any good bar in the country, but if you want to go all classic, have a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio and a daiquiri at Floridita – must like Hemingway would recommend.

For a cocktail tour of Havana, click here.

things to do in Santiago

Wander around Santiago de Cuba

Santiago, in the Santiago de Cuba province, is as Caribbean as it gets. This is the second largest city in Cuba, perhaps the hottest one and a city of tricks and trouble that may make some fall in love and others run away as fast as possible (that was my case!). It is also the Cuban capital of music, architecture, literature, people and politics, and for this reason one of the most interesting places to visit in Cuba.

The main attraction in town is the Parque Céspedes: it is lively, musical and surrounded by historic buildings and museums. Not far from it, in Calle Eredia, you will find the Casa de la Trova, a sanctuary of traditional music hosting artists such as Eliades Ochoa, who became famous thanks to Buena Vista Social Club.

Go to La Gran Piedra

For a fun day trip from Santiago go La Gran Piedra, a mountain range whose climate is pleasantly cooler than that of the city and where there are some old bust still functioning coffee plantations. From the parking lot where you will be dropped off it’s 459 steps to get to La Gran Piedra. Once there, you can admire the views of the Caribbean sea and then head to Cafetal La Isabelica for a coffee tasting experience.

El Cobre

Visit the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre

About 20 km (12.5 miles) from Santiago, the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre is a truly unique church. The road taking that goes there is stunning, but the highlight is actually inside the church, where you can see the tiny statue of the Virgen de la Caridad, which according to legend was found floating on the waves in the Bahia de Nipe in 1612.

Discover the secrets of Baracoa

Baracoa, in the Guantanamo Province at the Southwestern tip of the island, is one of the lesser known places to visit in Cuba. But trust me, once you visit it, you will remember.

The city is quite isolated from the rest of the country: La Farola (the lighthouse road), is the only road connecting Baracoa to Santiago de Cuba and the rest of the country. Built in 1964 thanks to Fidel Castro, the view from it while crossing the hills and the forest on the bus ride is spectacular.

Baracoa is really small and it can be visited in a couple of hours. It is pretty, if only a bit beaten up by the weather – this is the wettest region in the country, and it literally rains every day. Make sure to go for a walk along the Malecon and then stop in the historic center for a taste of chocolate in one of the many places in town – it’s completely different from the smooth texture you may be used to, but it’s actually really good.

Make sure to read my post What To See And Do In Baracoa.

Hike El Yunque

For one of the most fun things to do in Cuba, make sure to hike El Yunque. This mysterious mountain can actually be seen from Baracoa. You will need to hire a guide for the hike (they are available at the entrance of the park), and wear proper hiking boots as the terrain is muddy and very slippery due to the frequent rains. Make sure to also bring a swimsuit as at the end of the hike there is a chance to go to some very beautiful waterfalls with some lovely natural pools.

For a guided tour of El Yunque which includes transportation from Baracoa, click here.

Check out my post The Best Hikes In Cuba.

Where to go in Cuba

Relax in Playa Maguana

Surely, one of the things to do in Cuba is enjoying a proper day at the beach. You won’t have troubles finding a good one pretty much anywhere you will be, but Playa Maguana, not far from Baracoa, is certainly one that you will love. Picture a long, white, sandy beach and the coral reef that can be reached just by swimming!

You can book your transfer to Playa Maguana here.

Head over to my post The Best Beaches In Cuba.

Bike to the Boca de Yumurì

Baracoa is known as the city of 29 rivers – so you will want to visit at least one! For a nice day trip out of town, rent a bike and follow the coastal road all the way to the Boca de Yumurì. It’s a 30 km (18.6 miles) ride from town and you will also pass through the famous Tunel de los Alemanes (German Tunnel) on your way there. The canyon is 180 meters deep. Once there you can rent a pedal boat to explore the river.

For a guided tour which includes transportation, click here.

things to do in Cuba
Things to do in Cuba: spotting the locals riding a sidecar

Enjoy the delicacies in Baracoa

Baracoa is the gourmet capital of Cuba. Food here is simply heavenly and you shouldn’t leave without having tried the famous local lobster, shrimps or octopus in coconut sauce, best if eaten at Nilson’s Paladar, in Flor Combret 143 (he also rents out some rooms). Eating local food is easily one of the best things to do in Cuba.

Make sure to read my post A Guide To Cuban Food.

Get lost in Camagüey

Camagüey, in the Province of Camagüey, is a labyrinth. Some people love it, others hate it. But all leave with a strong impression of it.

The city was built in a medina style to keep away attackers who would get lost, and lost you’ll get, no matter how good a map you keep. Camagüey city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008, it is packed with art galleries. It is crowded and at times messy, but interesting nonetheless.

Make sure to read my post A Short Guide To Camaguey Cuba.

Where to go in Cuba

Fall in love with Trinidad

Trinidad, in the province of Sancti Spiritus, is perhaps the most popular place to visit in Cuba other than Havana. A beautiful city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a very well preserved example of a colonial architecture, it will give you the impression that time here has stopped in the 19th century.

Trinidad used to be the commercial heart of Cuba, where huge wealth was accumulated. No cars can get into the city centre (just donkeys and horse carriages), so it is lovely to wander around the many shops and painters’ studios. This is the best place to grab some souvenirs to bring home.

There are many things to do in Trinidad, which is packed with museums and places of interest. Even just a walk is lovely, as it goes through pretty cobbled streets, colonial buildings so well preserved that some even have original furnishings, and balconies decorated with beautiful flowers.

Among the things to do in Cuba there is dancing salsa – and you can definitely give it a try in Trinidad. Live music is literally played at every corner, and in the evening locals and tourists all gather for drinks, dancing and chats on beautiful staircase next to the cathedral.

Not far from Trinidad you will also find Playa Ancon, a lovely beach you can reach on a short taxi ride or even by bike.

For a free walking tour of Trinidad, click here.

Make sure to also read my post The Best Things To Do In Trinidad, Cuba.

Explore the Valle de los Ingenios

The surroundings of Trinidad are packed with sites of historical and natural interest. To get a better understanding of the history of slavery, head to Valle de los Ingenios. Visit the Manaca Iznaga, a former sugar cane plantation whose owner, Pedro Iznaga, was one of the richest men in Cuba thanks to the slave trade. The 44 meters high tower was an observation point to check on the slaves.

There are more, smaller and lessers known sites too but it is better to hire a guide to get there.

Hike the Topes de Collantes

Hiking the Topes de Collantes is one of the most fun things to do in Cuba. The heat, the humidity, the thick vegetation make it for a rather tiring hike, but you can refresh with a swim in the freezing Salto de Caburnì natural pools.

To hike the Topes de Collantes you will have to join a guided tour departing from Trinidad. There are several agencies in town that will organize that for you.

Wander around Cienfuegos

Cienfuegos, in the Province of Cienfuegos, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so relaxed and breezy, and a good place to have break from the frenzy of the rest of the country.

The city was founded in 1819, right by the sea, which can be admired from El Malecon or from Punta Gorda. Not too far from the city, the botanical gardens are perfect for a chilling afternoon walk and for observing various plants, including various kinds of bamboos.

Head over to my post A Great Guide To Cienfuegos Cuba.

Cienaga de Zapata

Visit the Cienaga de Zapata

Cienfuegos is a great starting point for many more places to visit in Cuba. Cienaga de Zapata is a huge fen that homes some of the most varied ecosystems in the country. There are different kinds of vegetation, various species of birds and rectiles, including criadero de cocodrilos. There even is a cenote – the Cuevas de lo Pesces – where you can go swimming for a small fee to admire the most incredible variety of fish.

places to visit in Cuba

Go diving in the Bay of the Pigs

It’s a fact that one of the best things to do in Cuba is diving, and few places in the country are as good for that as the Bay of the Pigs. Known locally as the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of the Pigs), you will be able to enjoy crystal clear waters and seeing the amazing coral reef.

Not a fan of diving? On the way back to Cienfuegos from the Bay of the Pigs you will find Caleta Buena, lovely cove perfect for snorkeling. There is an entrance fee, but this includes sun beds and all you can drink cocktails.

The Bahia de Cochinos is known in history as the place where the Kennedy administration memorably failed to invade Cuba in 1961.

Swim in El Nicho

El Nicho is a series of beautiful waterfalls on the Rio Hanabanilla with lovely natural pools where you can go swimming. There is a a hiking trail that will lead you to the various swimming holes, jumping spots and caves. The water is cold, but so inviting! Visiting is easily one of the best things to do in Cuba.

There are various pools, the less crowded ones are on the left side of the street that separates the two sides.

Explore the Valle de Viñales

Valle de Viñales, in the Province of Pinar del Rio, is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cuba – a great mix of a pretty yet tiny town, lovely country side, not too far beaches and tobacco and coffee plantations.

The main street has a cultural center facing the main square, a small souvenir market with lots of street food stalls (fried potatoes, churros, hand-baked pizza, and a piña colada stall right by the front of a house, baring a sign stating “aqui todo natural”, that makes the best piña colada in the world), and a few side streets which connect to the hills and countryside around.

It is pleasant to walk around: life is slow paced here.

Once in town, you will find an information desk right by the Viazul bus stop – it’s a good place to book excursions, but alternatively you can ask the owners of your casa particular.

Whichever way you decide to explore the valley, you will love it. Some prefer to hike it, others to go horse riding. I biked around, and I found it a great way to get closer look to the mogotes, isolated steep-sided residual hills generally having a rounded, tower-like shape and surrounded by nearly flat alluvial plains. During the tour you also get to see the Mural de la Prehistoria, meant to portray world history up until the age of humans on a rock wall.

When in Viñales, you will also have the chance to visit tobacco plantation and learn to roll a cigar – and you can even buy some to bring home.

Some tours of the valley also go to Los Aquaticos – you will need to hike up there to reach a tiny community of people who believe in the healing power of water. The view of the Valley from Los Aquaticos is breathtaking. Another place you should not miss for incredible views of the valley and mogotes is the terrace of the Hotel Los Jazmines.

For a free walking tour of Vinales, click here.

For a horse riding tour click here.

For a sunset hike, click here. if you’d like to go to the Valle de Palmarito, click here.

For information on sunrise hikes to Los Aquaticos, click here.

Make sure to read my post A Great Guide To Viñales Cuba.

what to do in Cuba

Spend a day in Cayo Jutias

Finally, is spending a day at the beach is one of the unmissable things to do in Cuba, you should head to Cayo Jutias, an easy drive from Viñales. It is a long, white and sandy beach, with mangroves growing wildly on it, reached through a lovely road that goes through a pedraplen (embankment). Once there, rent a sunbed and rest under the sun, go snorkeling or for a walk.

Snorkeling expeditions cost about 15 CUC and include all the necessary gears and a guide.

Enjoy the tranquility of Las Terrazas

Las Terrazas, in the Sierra del Rosario, is an eco-village founded in 1968 with the purpose to re-forestate the region, and is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It’s a great place for birdwatching, and you will find lots of nice, easy hiking trails – though not really marked and for which a guide is necessary.

The best is probably the hike to San Claudio, which goes to the San Claudio waterfalls; whereas if you want to do birdwatching you should follow the Sendero la Serafina, which starts at Rancho Curujey.

You can actually visit Las Terrazas on a day trip from Havana, but to make the most of its quiet atmosphere, plan to spend a night there. There is a state owned hotel where you can sleep, and a very good restaurant.

Further Readings

If you are planning a trip to Cuba, these other posts will come in handy:

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Discover all the things to do in Cuba - via @clautavani

154 thoughts on “27 Unmissable Things To In Do Cuba”

  1. I think you should go to Cuba ASAP, there are so many places to visit in Cuba before it gets spoilt!

  2. It is, and there are so many things to do in Cuba! Have you been there?

  3. Great guide with great info – thanks! Now that the US has made it so much easier to travel to Cuba for Americans and from the US, I’m very much looking forward to getting there with my US husband. Sad that they haven’t yet allowed travel for Americans for tourism sake but I’m hoping this is a move which will come very soon.

  4. Very informative post. I’ll definitely read it again, when it’s my time to visit Cuba.

  5. Well, everybody should know what to do in Cuba to avoid scams. And I definitely have met LOTS of persons (including myself!) who have lots of experience on that!

  6. Meg, you should go there alone hehehe. Kidding! I think travelling with a male partner in Cuba makes things so much easier.

  7. I am glad you find it useful! I am sure you can imagine there are so many more places to visit in Cuba, this is just a “concise” guide – sort of 😉

  8. Wow, fantastic guide and very useful information, thanks! Cuba looks like an incredible place to visit and I’ve been itching to do so now that it seems traveling to get there is easier for Americans. I’m bookmarking this page to use as a reference for a future trip!

  9. As an American I look forward to being able to explore Cuba for myself soon.

  10. Wow, what an comprehensive post. This is so helpful for anyone traveling to Cuba. Now that relations have eased, we look forward to heading to Cuba, via cruise ship, in the near future. We will return to this post to make sure we make the most of our visit to the island. Thank you!

  11. Glad you find it useful! When the time comes that you go there, you will know what places to visit in Cuba then 🙂

  12. Great and informative post! You sure have convinced me to get to Cuba sooner rather than later! Looks like an incredible place to explore 🙂

  13. Thanks for the extensive guide! Cuba is a country that I look forward to visiting someday, and I am happy to see that our countries archaic prohibition on travel to this country is slowly fading away.

  14. Ahhh! This has made me so excited. We fly to Havana in June after Colombia. That bike ride looks ideal. I had heard about the WiFi situation, might have to take a three week holiday from Two Scots Abroad *stresses* Great post, got me dancing inside.

  15. You will have to, for sure. There is no point in even trying to get online while you are in Cuba. It is your chance to detox and recharge your batteries. When I was there, I did not even turn on my mobile phone. If I really wanted to give my parents some news, I would buy a card and call them from a pay phone 😉 the lovely old way!

  16. Thank you for this very extended guide of Cuba! I’m not sure if I’m ever going to make it over there but it definitely caught my interest reading… happy traveling!

  17. I may have to delete your comment, Antonette. YOU HAVE TO GO TO CUBA hehehehe

  18. What a great guide. Cuba has been on the radar for a long time but I have to admit I never knew much past Havana really!

  19. There are so many more places to visit in Cuba other than Havana 🙂

  20. Awesome coverage! I’ve heard and seen a lot of hype about Cuba lately and after reading those posts, such as yours too, I’m absolutely eager to see this place. Thanks to your guide too, I’m sure to have a great time!

  21. You’ll surely have a lot of choice on places to visit in Cuba. Make sure to spend at least 3 weeks there!

  22. Cuba does look beautiful and its history fascinates me. I’d love to visit one day. Your photos are fantastic and really inspiring for someone who loves travel. What a country to explore!

  23. I am definitely not a good photographer, but the place is so incredible that yes, even I could take some good pictures!

  24. Thanks for the tips! Super thorough and definitely gave me heaps to keep in mind for my next trip! Really great photos too!

  25. Thanks Claudia, first,
    I admire your mission to enrich our collective consciousness
    by sharing your passion and lighting fires in the hearts of others 🙂

    Secondly Cuba has been on my travel list for a long time
    and your post made me feel like I’m already there.

    I can’t wait my own adventure there and you have given
    so many useful tips 🙂

    Loved this post and your blog overall.

    Love and light.
    Marko

  26. I’m going to Holguin in September and will take a trip to Havana, this made me so excited!!

  27. Awesome guide. Cuba is high on my list and will definitely use this post before visiting next year!

  28. Very nice blog and awesome guide for Cuba. I read and used it, and I found it very interesting, with a lot of useful informations about different places and suggestions for my trip. 🙂

  29. Not sure what Cuba you went to, but there is Wifi. In Havana: expensive wifi in some hotels and less expensive wifi (cards can generally be bought from people selling the 2CUC/hour cards for 3CUC in parks (occasionally I got them for 2 for 5CUC)

    Quite a few places in Havana and also in some smaller towns. I cannot remember all of them that had wifi in parks, but some were Matanzas, Santa Clara, the hotel at Maria la Gorda, Cienfuegos.

  30. Thank you for specifying this Amanda. In fact, I think it is only a couple of months ago (after I published my post) that I heard finally news of wifi hotspot in Havana. Good to know there is also in other places now

  31. Hi, when I was researching in preparation for my own trip to Cuba, I came upon your website. Very informative – thank you. I even stayed at Eugenio’s in Cienfuegos and went to El Nicho. Our threshold and (life) experiences are very different so I’m not blaming you but I just want to share my experience in Cuba with you and your website-visitors in the hope that people go to Cuba prepared better.

    For one, maybe we have been to better waterfalls (places), we didn’t find El Nicho “a paradise on earth” like you did. Although Eugenio (casa Olga y Eugenio in Cienfuegos) was really nice and came across as sincere, his arrangement for us to El Nicho and the casa at Trinidad which he recommended were really a HUGE mistake! I wouldn’t do it again but if you want to, please take caution.

    My 3 weeks in Cuba has been good and bad. I had also the “idea” that I should visit Cuba BEFORE all the mass tourism spoils it but really, the country is quite poor – I’m sure all of us know this – but e.g. many toilets do not have flush/water, you cannot wash your hands yet they have the audacity to charge us 1 CUC (1 EUR) to use their broken toilets while the locals pay maybe like 4 cents! I can imagine if we tourists decide to eat at “fancy” restaurants, we should pay “fancy” price but essentials like toilets and even transportation, we should pay the same price as locals. Some Viazul bus stations made it mandatory to pay them 1 CUC (1 EUR) each to load your luggage onto the bus, you should know that this is NOT mandatory but I was afraid they may throw out my luggage when I have boarded the bus so I was blackmailed to give them a CUC. Just think about it. That is 1 minute job and I am not even pay 1 EUR per min working in Europe! For comparison, their average monthly salary is 35 EUR. It may be low but 1 EUR per min is just daylight robbery.

    You will soon find that Cuba is an EXPENSIVE country. Many of us backpackers worked hard for our money which we would like to stretch when we go on holidays (in Cuba, South America etc). We didn’t come to a communistic country that is not providing “western standards” to have to pay western prices.

    The discrepancy in pricing and the way we are treated like “gold mines” were really disgusting. A lot of casa owners are also gold-diggers, they will sell you everything from horse riding to meals with them even before you have put down your backpack!

    I travelled alone but I met many people, mainly on the Viazul and most of us (90%) said we will never come back to Cuba; many said we will not tell our friends to go; and a few of us even said maybe it would have been better to wait until “western development” comes to Cuba then at least we have a choice on what to eat and a bit of simple everyday luxury that we would be happy to pay “western” prices for! And a few of us (me included) wanted to take the next plane out of Cuba after the first week. A guy even looked at flights to take him to Haiti or Guatemala where there are more things to do.

    Having said, I met a few very nice and kind Cubans, Cubans who did things e.g. taught me the dances yet they didn’t ask me for money, and there are a few amazing beaches in Cuba. Being back to a “normal” life, I feel less “hatred” for the scams and touts.

    FYI I went at the end of August/September 2015 – so this year – not very long ago. Cuba has internet/wifi now and there is no problem using our credit cards to take money out of the ATMs; debit cards don’t seem to work though.

  32. Dear Lillian, thanks for this long comment, I surely appreciate it.

    I know Cuba now has some (sketchy) wifi, although I have been told it works less than well. I should update my post to include this information. I think that if you browse my site, you will find more posts on Cuba and you will learn the whole story behind this blog. To sum it up: I experienced all that you have experienced in Cuba, including wanting to leave after a week and looking for flights to go to Jamaica! I truly hated it – until I learned to appreciate it. Cuba is the kind of place that is hard to digest but eventually gets to you. I even started a blog because – crazy me – I wanted to warn the world about all the possible scams I faced in Cuba and that tourists should absolutely avoid. Funny enough, I had the same idea of actually making sure none of my friends would ever go through the same experience as I did. But in the end, I understood a thing or two.

    I even have a post on not meeting the lovely Cubans everyone is talking about, in case you want to read it. Yes – I did not meet lovely people there, and most of the time even owners of casas tried to scam me. Go figure!

  33. Thank you for this great post! I’m planning my trip to Cuba in June and most of your advices will be really helpful. I can’t wait to visit this amazing country and to see the places you describe!

  34. Thank you for your lovely comment Margarita. Let me know how you get along and if you need any more information. Keep in mind that although they do say there now is wi-fi in Cuba, it is practically impossible to access it. And just watch out for the scams 🙂 It is an amazing place!

  35. Great post. Super informative. Must have taken ages to write. I’m heading to Cuba in a month so going to use this as my bible.

  36. Well it took me a while, but I hope you find it useful! By all means, let me know when you are back!

  37. Aaaw, brings me right back. I have been back there three times in total, and have done some serious backpacking. Super safe, everyone is super nice, loved it – really.

  38. I bet! There are too many things to do in Cuba for one… or even three trips to be enough. I am definitely ready to go back!

  39. Hi Claudia,
    I came across your blog while doing some research on Cuba travel. I am planning to go to Cuba in January with my husband. I speak a little bit of Spanish. I have traveled in many countries on my own and i am not afraid to face the scammers. It would be great if you can share some more essential info regarding traveling in Cuba. anything that you think is important to know.
    Looking forward to hearing from you

    Thank you
    Elya

  40. Hey Elya, thanks for getting in touch. If you go to my “In the Media” page (under “About”) you will see a bunch of posts I have written for other blogs and magazines. A lot of them are actually about Cuba and specific destinations in Cuba, or specific advice for those who travel to Cuba. I hope they help. Feel free to contact me again, here or via the contact form, for more questions 🙂

  41. Cuba is on our bucket list and we hope to visit there as soon as the US restrictions are lifted. Your article gives us some great insights on what to expect. I really appreciate your honesty and candor and we will be better visitors to Cuba because of it. We will be reading more of your Cuba posts!

  42. Thank you for your sweet comment Marvin. I am sure you will be able to enjoy Cuba soon and I really don’t think we need to worry too much about it being ruined if relations with the US change. I am very positive that indeed, things will get better for everyone, first and foremost for the Cubans. Stay in touch – I’d love to share more anecdotes with you 🙂

  43. Ciao Claudia, I hope you are well!
    My partner, Ruadhan, found your blog while planning our upcoming holiday to Cuba for 12 days in April – we’ve really enjoyed your great insights, stories and ideas. Would welcome mailing you directly for a little more feedback as we start booking places to stay in Havana, Varadero and Trinidad. I look forward to hearing from you!
    Ann

  44. Hello Ann! Sure 🙂 you can reach me via my contact form, or by email directly at clautavani@gmail.com – in both cases, it all goes to my inbox so I won’t miss it! I look forward to hearing from you!

  45. Hi Claudia, thanks for this post I will definitely be referring to it when I visit Cuba later this year!

  46. You are most welcome, and if you need any more info feel free to get in touch with me via email or through my facebook page 🙂

  47. Hey great blog post! I really loved the part about the security issues.. I run Cuba photo tours and people are always asking me about if it is dangerous or safe here. I am glad you shed some light on that topic. Keep it going!

  48. Before it gets spoilt? You mean while you can still gawk at people scraping by on $10 a month, food rations, being brutally oppressed, etc. Yeah, for sure. Go now while you can still watch the zoo animals in cages. As a Cuban, I am insulted every time I hear these absurd comments.

  49. Thank you for your comment Steve! Cuba is a fantastic country. I am jealous your run photo tours there. So photogenic!!

  50. This is easily the most well written and comprehensive travel guide on a blog I have ever red. Thanks for writing. We’re heading to Cuba later this year and are not too daunted by the prospect of Cuba, but are prepared for the poverty and challenges of everyday life in the country. I was wondering what your budget was like for Cuban track? The casa particulares you recommended and stayed at, how much did they average per night? We’re just trying to figure out how long we can afford to travel in Cuba as by all loin ts is much more expensive than enteral American travel.
    Cheers and happy roaming!

  51. WOW Monique, thanks for this lovely comment and I am so glad you find my post useful. As for the casas: the price vary depending on the location. Havana and Trinidad are more expensive than Cienfuegos and Baracoa. In Havana you can expect to pay 30 CUC for a double room, whereas in Cienfuegos it can be as cheap as 15 CUC per room. Sharing is good as the prices are always per room. Breakfast is never included and the price can be anything between 3 and 6 CUC.

    The overall budget varies depending on the kind of activities you do. While entrances to museums and parks can’t be negotiated, you can surely haggle the taxi rides to get there!!

  52. That’s great to hear, thanks so much. Can’t wait to experience Cuba first-hand!

  53. Claudia, I really liked your post I used it to try to figure out where to go. I am planning a trip to Cuba with a friend. I am debating whether to spend an extra day in La Habana or go to Baracoa, what do you recommend? Currently our itinerary looks like this:
    Day 1: Arrive in La Habana around noon, explore La Habana
    Day 2: Head to Cienfuegos spend day there (I was also debating whether this one is a must?)
    Day 3: Head to El Nicho and then to Trinidad spend day there
    Day 4: Head to Camaguey spend day there
    Day 5: Head to Santiago de Cuba spend day there
    Day 6: Head to Baracoa spend day there (or head back to La Habana)
    Day 7: Spend day in La Habana until flight home in the evening
    What are your thoughts, or recommendations for changes? We are trying to see as much as possible in the little time we have! Totally open to recommendations since we have never been before.
    Thanks in advance!!

  54. Hello Johanna, thank you for contacting me and I am glad you find my tips useful. However, I would encourage you to restrict your itinerary to two, or maximum 3 places – or else you would end up really seeing nothing and enjoying it even less. Besides, if you move around so much, you may end up spending a fortune in transportation (with such an itinerary, you’d have to count on taxis and they are expensive for long distances). Havana deserves 3 days, I think. I would then spend 2 days in Vinales (it is my favorite place in Cuba) to see the Mogotes and the tobacco plantations, and then 2 in Trinidad (and you’ll see, even then this is not enough) where you can see the gorgeous colonial city and perhaps Valle de los Ingenios (sugar cane plantations). Feel free to contact me in private for more info, and let me know if you want a proper consultancy 🙂

  55. Hi Claudia, thank you so much for your suggestions and quick reply. I’ll talk it over with my friend!! Enjoy your future travels 🙂

  56. CUBA was magnificent, what an amazing country and experience I had travelling around with my kids. I loved Vinales and Trinidad, wasn’t so taken by Cienfregos. Loved El Nicho …. Horse riding (one of my favorite past times), could go on forever.
    Thank you so much for your amazing help – my trip certainly wouldn’t have been as successful without it.

  57. I am so glad you enjoyed it Diana, and I can see you made the most of it. Makes me want to go again 🙂

  58. I am sure you will be able to soon. But I shall warn you, it is highly addictive 🙂

  59. Pingback: 11 Fun and Not-So-Obvious things to do in Havana, Cuba
  60. Incredible places to discover in Cuba. Claudia, you have managed to convince all readers to visit Cuba and experience a unique Cairbbean destination. Great post!

  61. Thank you Moira! Mine was an easy task 🙂 I would love to go back!

  62. Great post about an amazing country! Vinales and walking along the Malecon are definitely good recommendations.

  63. Great post, thank you for your share! Headed there in a couple of weeks of 15 days. Any recommendations where to stay in Trinidad or Santiago. Also curious, sounded like Santiago wasn’t one of your most favorite place, what was the reason? Thanks so much in advance!

  64. Hello there! The places I recommend are in the post – they are the ones I have used (and loved). In any case, in Santiago I stayed at Maruchi (more info within the post!), and in Trinidad at a house which was lovely but didn’t have a name!! I enjoyed Santiago, but it simply wasn’t my favorite place in Cuba 🙂 You will love it – it is a great country!

  65. Hi, we are wondering whether the casas partucalers are safe enough and how to pick an owner that can be trusted in terms of safety? The idea of going into a house with total strangers scares me.

  66. Hello there! Casas particulares are all safe! You are not going to sleep in some random room with a stranger. You will have your own room, your own bathroom, and be treated as a customer, despite in a more informal way. Make sure you do lock your precious belongings (money, etc) before you leave the room each day (as you would in any other place) and count your currency (and note it down) just in case. And if anything happens (which it won’t), just say you will call the police. You will be more than fine!

  67. Fabulous post and great advice, Claudia! Thank you so much for such a descriptive post. My husband and I might head out to Cuba for 10 lovely days at the end of the month; the harder part will be to actually choose from so many beautiful places to enjoy just a few in the alloted time… I guess we’re lucky to live in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and will have many opportunities to go back and finish discovering the islands and its treasures!
    Happy travelling yourself!
    Cheers!
    Jul’

  68. Oh you will love it, and it is so easy to get to Cuba from Cancun that even of you can’t see much on this one trip, you can go again and again! I am envious!!

  69. i only have 3 days in cuba, flying into havana. so we will have to stay nearby havana. with such limited time, which things would you do in these 3 days? we will go at end of january. we would like to include a fews hours at a beach with warm, clear water. thanks again!

  70. Hi Jeff, with just 3 days, I would only stay in Havana and explore it properly. You will see it is a gorgeous city to just hang out, and there are plenty of museums and other places to visit to keep you entertained. The nearest beach to Havana is Playas del Este, about 20 minutes drive from Havana.

  71. Hi Claudia. I’m cuban and I’m very glad that you have gotten to know my country that good. You are absolutely right about the scams, the “jineteros” and many other ills that affect our society. It will take a while before we can have a better Cuba, however, if one manages to meet the right people, it is possible to have a good time, discover wonderful places and be infected by the joy and good mood of cubans. I suppose that everything gets easier for me when I visit Cuba since I know of this “plagues” and how to avoid them…
    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your post which is indeed, a bible, as someone has commented. I’m trying to put together a list of tips for a friend who plans to visit Cuba and I will definitely send her your post, since I couldn’t have described better than you the pros and cons of my own country.
    Regards,
    Javier

  72. Your comments are most flattering! I am glad you find it to be a useful resource. Yes, Cuba is infectious. Just today I was looking for flights and there are such good deals from Italy to Cuba that I am considering going again!

  73. Hi Claudia,
    I really enjoyed reading through your blog posts and am using it as a guide for when I travel to Cuba next month! I had a question for you on the ease of travel via bus from Trinidad to Valle de Vinales. Would I have to go from Trinidad to Havana and then to Valle de Vinales, or is there a more direct route?

    As of now, my itinerary is:
    2 days in Havana > Travel to Trinidad, and spend 3 days > Travel to Valle de Vinales, and spend 2 days > Back to Havana.
    Please let me know if you recommend more or less days in one place or reversing the direction.

    Thank you again for sharing your travels!

  74. Hi Sinae, your itinerary makes sense to me – not too packed! I am not sure about buses from Trinidad to Vinales. I went to Vinales from Cienfuegos and there was a direct bus with Transtur, so chances are that there is one from Trinidad too.

  75. Hi Soni, I am glad you find it useful. I just hired a local guide when I arrived in Vinales!

  76. Wowwww, Seems good!! I go through your wonderful article in which lot of things i learn about Cuba and i want to say. It win my heart!! Love you cuba. Images are perfect!! Beautiful!! Awesome!!

  77. HI Claudia –
    My family and I with two other families are going to Cuba next week. Do you have any advice that you didn’t mention that could be useful for us? We are taking our two kids plus our little one (1 1/2 year old) Should we bring snacks? Medication? Can we buy stuff to eat easily over there? Thank you for all the information, it’ll be very useful for our trip.

  78. Hi Karol, I don’t have kids so can’t give much advice on how to travel with kids. Having said that: personally, I always carry any medication I think I may need. I even happened to give some motion sickness tablets to a kid on the bus once. Snacks… it depends on what your kids eat. In Cuba, it’s really easy to find fresh fruit all over, and it is very sweet and tasty. You can also find good churros, potato chips, and small pizzas in the streets in those little holes in the wall. And they are super cheap. If you are staying at casas, the owners will try to accommodate all your needs. If your youngest child still drinks formula, you may want to bring some. And diapers too. I hope this helps!

  79. This is so helpful for anyone traveling to Cuba. I`m from Poland and I have a plan to go this year with my wife for holiday. Please let me know when is the best time to go there?? Actually, we have a plan to go there on October or November. Lovely pictures and a lot of helpful information. Thank you!!

  80. Hi Claudia,
    Can you help me here, how does one find casas particulares? Would you recommend booking one or will I find something at arrival?

  81. Hi Martyna, I am surprised you ask, because I explain how to do this in the very beginning of this post, under “making reservations in Cuba”. The best thing is to make reservations for the first couple of nights (usually via phone), and from then on ask the owners of the casas you stay at to call ahead for you.

  82. Hi Claudia
    Great Blog,
    I am traveling with a group and will be staying in Old Havana the first two days, then we will be going to Varadero and staying in a resort for three days, from there we return to Havana and will be there in a house airbnb for the remaining 4 days. My question to you is how difficult would it be to rent a bus?

  83. Hi! First of all, I am massively jealous that you are going to Cuba. Now, back to your question, I have some questions for you: how big a bus do you need? Do you mean a minivan, or a proper bus? (Basically, how many of you are traveling together?).

  84. This information has helped me out a lot in regards to getting ready for my upcoming Cuban trip. I contacted some of the people you sugested. Gracias

  85. This part of Cuba called San Juan de los Remedios is one of my favorites because of all the history that it contains. I have visited it several times and it always impresses me to see something new here.

  86. Admin note: I removed the link as my comment policy doesn’t allow to insert links to commercial websites. Thanks for respecting this rule. Claudia Tavani

  87. Pingback: 13 Reasons to Start a Travel Blog (and 5 Reasons Not To) - Travel Blog Exchange
  88. I wouldn’t say Cuba is a big wildlife kind of destination. If you go to Las Terrazas, you can go bird watching. Or else, there’s a lot of incredible diving spots around the island!

  89. Wow!! What an excellent post. Thanks so much for all the great info. I need to get to Cuba. Sooner than later.

  90. Thanks for your informative writing on Cuba- Great read! I have not been back in 20 years almost so I’m really excited to go back in a couple of weeks! I have been looking for a dinner/musical/ live dancing or anything live in Havana, Old Havana and anywhere else your may have info on!?
    Thanks in advance!

  91. Hi Karen, I am going to send you an email with a bit more information, so stay tuned!

  92. To be frank, all I saw was the ocean as I am a beach person. But Cuba is beautiful and very inviting. Does cuba have ant hiking or trekking place?

  93. Of course! I hiked in Baracoa, and near Trinidad and Cienfuegos, and in Vinales… it’s all in the post 🙂

  94. Dear Claudia,

    Do we really need to take all our money with us and change it there, or is it more or less safe to rely on finding some ATM machines (in Havana, Vinales, Trinidad, Cienfuegos) where we can withdraw money with our (not American) Visa card? I

  95. Hi Nele, my advice is to use a mix of both: rely on your card to withdraw cash, and take some euro with you to exchange it if needed. Make sure to withdraw cash a day prior to traveling (ie a day before you are supposed to take the bus, or pay for a cab, etc), just so that you don’t get stuck in case anything happens (I almost got stuck in Baracoa as I could not withdraw cash). Also, whichever money you have: make sure you count it, put it somewhere safe and locked, note down somewhere how much cash you had left, in case someone manages to go through your stuff. The chances this happens are very slim (nobody ever stole anything from me!), but you want to be extra safe.

  96. Hey Claudia!
    This is an amazing guide! Very detailed and informative, so thank you very much. I like to keep myself informed about how foreigners see Cuba and I have to say you seem to have a very good understanding about Cuba. I really appreciate your honesty, especially regarding thought topics like scams, most of us are not proud of this either, but as in many other places, it happens. Be alert and prepared, just in case. If you come to our country with and open mind and heart, I think you will enjoy it. You will learn to appreciate the smaller things in life that normally you take for granted. We are complex, that´s for sure, but if you give us the chance, you might find out that you are quite a different person from the one you were before coming to Cuba.

  97. Hi! Did you do the antique car tour in Havana mentioned in your blog? I’m looking for a car tour for my family and wanted to know if you liked it and what to expect.

  98. Hi Shannon, I haven’t actually – keep in mind that when I visited Cuba in 2013 Get Your Guide wasn’t a thing yet, so I could not book anything, let alone accommodation. I know a lot of my readers have done it though, and nobody has ever come back to me to complain, and I am regularly in touch with GYG to tweak the products they offer. I’d give it a go. By all means, let me know how it goes!

  99. Thanks for sharing these all amazing things. The smallest bird in the world can be found in Cuba. It is the Bee Hummingbird, which only grows to be 2 inches in length.

  100. Pingback: 13 Reasons to Start a Travel Blog (and 5 Reasons Not To)
  101. I’ve been in Cuba 2 years ago and for me it was great. But I can confirm the scams. Especially in Havana you should be wary of it. Claudia, may I leave a link to my article about scams in Cuba? Maybe your readers are interested in it. For me it was really annoying and I hope to give the other tourists some useful information so they can avoid it.

  102. Claudia, thank you so so so much for this great information. A few months ago I decided to go travel across Latin America. In november I’m starting in Cuba. The last few days I was scared that booking a month in Cuba would be to long, but after reading your blog, I feel like I already don’t want to leave the country anymore :-). If you would by chance be there in november as well, please let me buy you a mojito in La Bodeguita or a daiquiri in the Floridita in order to thank you :-).

    Kind regards and saluditos

    Eline from Belgium

  103. I am so glad it helped! Also make sure to read my other post “Cuba vs. Cubans” – really!!

  104. Pingback: Ideas for Your Next Family Holiday - Beyond Blighty
  105. We’re planning to travel to Cuba as a family (we’ve got two little girls) in mid-Feb. I have to say, I’m a bit worried about this ‘holiday’ – having read the blog and the comments. We plan to go to Havana, Vinales and Trinidad; 6 days itinerary – any tips will be welcome. We’ve travelled a fair bit, and being from a country where the economic disparity is enormous, we know how to deal with pushy local businesses and can smell scams a mile away. But something tells me there’s more. Pray we will still meet the lovely Cubans and enjoy Cuba.

  106. Hey! Thanks for your comment. To be honest, if you have read the post in full, you’re all set to go! Have you also checked my in depth guides on Havana and Trinidad?

  107. That’s right Irene, avoid going there now and take away all opportunity of “your” people having a better life. Unnecessary and silly comments.
    Everybody go to Cuba (preferably before Starbucks arrives), it’s one of the most beautiful countries I’ve been to.
    Great blog Claudia, thanks for the information.

  108. Hello, excellent guide thank you. I was wondering did you go and see the ballet whilst you were in Havana?

  109. Hi Dorraine, thank you for your comment. No, I didn’t see a ballet show in Havana. Have you?

  110. Hello! Thank you for lots of good information. I am planning a trip in just a couple of weeks. I am prepared for the heat during the days, but really need to find SOME cold during the nights. Will casas particulares have any air condition at all? Or does this leave me with finding hotels?

    I am thinking about skipping the longest transportation, and am therefore looking at spending a total of two weeks in Havana, Trinidad and the national park there, Cienfuegos, Valle de Vinales and to finish of on a resort at Varadero.

    This is mainly because of your Cuba-guide. Would you, “on this side og Cuba” add any suggestions or things to do?

    Thanks again for the report.

  111. Hi Herman, I think you itinerary makes sense as it is! I can’t say if casas will have air conditioning or not. Some definitely do – I had it in my casa in Trinidad. Others don’t. But keep in mind I was there in February. The best thing you can do is to check all the details of the casas you intend to book. I have linked to a few of them in this post and in my other guides, so make sure to check!

  112. Hi! Thank you for answering!

    Regarding casas… Is it best to order it online? If so? Is it on Air BnB, booking or another site? As I read your report, it seemed like you don’t necessary get what you have ordered (and paid) for. So is it any point of ordering this, instead of finding a room after leaving the bus? Can it be situations were we have paid for rooms and have to pay again? If we don’t get the room we pay for, I also guess air condition may be random to get.

    Another question is the bus system. Is it just to «show up» at bus stations or should this be booked online? I assume it will be comfy for us to use private transportation when the price is low, but from what I heard, it seldom is.

    My last question I hope to get answered is if you have any experience with the national park close to trinidad. Do we need to get a «guided tour»? (I dont want to get bit by a snake, haha). If we need to, what is the best way to organize this… and again, online or something to fix There?

    Again, thank you so much for replying quick. We will actually order a trip to Cuba in a couple of hours because of this report and your kind replys

  113. Hey Herman! Please read my answers below!

    1) Casas: I have linked to recommended casas in this post, in my guide to Havana and in my guide to Trinidad. Use those links to make the bookings. I assume that since you do them through a company, your payment is safe and you get what you pay for.

    2) Definitely book buses in advance, at least a couple of days. My understanding is that it is getting increasingly harder to get bus seats, so if you want to be sure to depart at a certain date / time, book your on transport. Again, there are links in this post or in my other posts to book your private transfers.

    3) Not sure which park in Trinidad you are talking about. If it is Topes de Collantes, you can’t hike it alone – you will have to get a guide once you are in Trinidad – go to a local agency.

    I strongly advise you to read my guides to Havana and Trinidad for more detailed information about the two cities and plenty of links to casas, transportation and tours.

    Hope this helps!

  114. I also enjoyed these all most amazing and interesting things during my last journey and I have a joyful time with my buddies.

  115. Hi Claudia, thanks for this post I will definitely be referring to it when I visit Cuba later this year!

  116. Hopefully it will come in handy! Make sure to read my other posts about Cuba too 🙂

  117. Great post! You mentioned many wonderful places: Havana, Viñales, Cienfuegos, Bay of Pigs, Trinidad etc. How many days would one need to visit these places?

  118. Hi Claudia.
    Thank you for sharing this great information. Love your “What to pack” checklist it helped me a lot for packing my gears.
    Favourite place Trinidad love it..

  119. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Cuba lately as it is very high on my list of places to visit. And this was another great read about that country! Thanks for creating this post.

  120. I like Cuba too much!
    I wish i can travel to Cuba once. <3 From Turkey , we mostly travel to Cuba for medical treatments but I hope I will have chance to go and see there. Thanks for your blog.

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