The Most Fantastic Things To In Do Cuba: The Ultimate Guide

There is such a wide range of things to do in Cuba, that it would be a pity to go for just a week. 

I love traveling to Latin America. I have a particular obsession for this amazing continent, and Cuba has always ranked very high on my bucket list. Although I have already been there, I would like to visit again, because there are many incredible things to do in Cuba.

I believe that Cuba is always better the second time around, when one knows what to expect based on their first hand experience rather than on the information they have gathered on the web, or from friends who have been there, which may often be misleading. And with all the places to visit in Cuba, a second time there is guaranteed to be completely different from the first.

things to do in Cuba
Biking around Vinales Valley is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba

No matter how much I prepared myself before visiting Cuba, this incredible country took me by surprise. It has charmed me and infuriated me at the same time. With my guide on all the things to do in Cuba, and my further post on what to do in Cuba when facing scams, I aim to warn readers as much as possible on what they should expect, and on how to avoid some common traps tourists fall for, as well as to give a good idea about the places to visit in Cuba.

Sure enough, one thing Cuba tourism should not be proud of is the scams that tourists face every day. I fell for a few of them – to read more about them, head over to my post “Where are the lovely Cubans?” 

However, before getting into the actual things to do in Cuba and into the places to visit in Cuba, I shall provide some advice on how to prepare for the trip. I shall also add that though I enjoyed traveling independently around Cuba, one of the best things to do in Cuba may be joining a guided tour, to take away the stress of organizing everything. Click here for some excellent guided tours of Cuba.

Incredible Things To Do In Cuba: The Ultimate Guide For A Trip To Cuba 

Deciding when to go to Cuba

The country can be visited in any season, but if I must recommend when to go to Cuba I would suggest to go between November and March, when temperatures are not as hot and it rains less. This way, it is possible to enjoy all the things to do in Cuba. The prices of flights don’t change much throughout the year. The average return flight from Europe to Cuba costs around 700 US dollars, depending on the carrier and on the town of departure. It costs around 350 US dollars to fly from Cancun.

what to do in Cuba
What to do in Cuba: who wouldn’t want to snorkel in these waters?

Finding out what is needed in order to go to Cuba

Along with a round trip ticket that proves one is leaving the country, all those traveling to Cuba will need to buy a good travel and health insurance (you can do so here) – this is required by Cuban national laws – and a visa, known as tarjeta de turista, which is normally valid for 30 days but can be extended while in Cuba. This costs around 35 US dollars and can be bought through the Cuban consulate, or, better, through a good travel agent.

Ask Easy Tourist Card to arrange your visa for Cuba for just $35 USD!

In theory nobody can enter Cuba with a one way ticket. In practice, one may or may not be asked by immigration upon arrival, and since this is a possibility and one may be denied access once in Cuba, most airlines won’t allow passengers to fly unless they have a round trip ticket. Sure enough, getting a round trip ticket is one of the most important things to do in Cuba.

Americans can legally visit Cuba on the “support for the Cuban people” license tours – yes, they can still go despite all the new restrictions. All it takes is joining a guided tour that works under that definition and that really works to support the local economy by staying in local casas particulares, eating in locally owned restaurants and getting involved in activities that really support the local people and economy.

Make sure to read my post How To Get The Visa For Cuba In 8 Easy Steps (Also For Americans).”

Cuban currencies

One of the most important things to do in Cuba is learning about the two currencies and making sure not to get confused with the notes – some are very similar, but one may be worth much less than the other. There are two currencies in Cuba: the CUC, or Peso Convertible, used by foreigners and by Cubans to buy certain specific things, and worth about one US dollar; and the MN, or Moneda Nacional, whose conversion rate is 25 to a CUC.

Considering that the average salary for Cubans is 15 CUC per month, and that the average price of tourist accommodation in Cuba 20 CUC, it is easy to figure why most locals aim to work in the Cuba tourism industry one way or another.

Paying by cash is what to do in Cuba, pretty much anywhere. It is possible to withdraw cash in most places, save for the occasional power cuts that at times may leave tourists stuck with little to no cash. For this reason, I recommend as one of the most handy things to do in Cuba withdrawing cash the day before traveling, as otherwise one may get stuck in a place with no money for the bus ticket! Cards generated by US bank accounts are not accepted.

things to do in Cuba
One of the most fun things to do in Cuba is interacting with the locals

Security issues in Cuba

This is a safe country to travel alone, as a single woman, or even with children. Criminality rates are low, save for the occasional theft of clothes and money from suitcases locked and left inside the room: one of the things to do in Cuba that I wholeheartedly recommend is to always count money and items left locked and and write it down on a notebook.

If realizing that something is missing, threatening to call the police is what to do in Cuba: just this will make everything magically reappear.

Cuban men and women often comment on the good looks of women (and men) and even mildly harass tourists by insisting on dancing, offering flowers, or inviting for a drink. That’s why all of them want to work in Cuba tourism: the tourist would inevitably have to pay the drink or meal. It is almost a custom that when someone invites a foreigner to something in Cuba, the person invited actually pays and most likely the guest is getting a commission by the bar or restaurant.

Unless willing to pay an extortionate price for a drink, one of the smartest things to do in Cuba is politely refusing any invitation, or simply ignoring.

Another one of the things to do in Cuba is wanting to say extra safe is going around with a local.

things to do in Cuba
Traveling by bus is one of the things to do in Cuba – but check the tires first!

Getting online in Cuba

Certainly, getting online is not among the the things to do in Cuba. It is a good opportunity to forget all social media accounts and Whatsapp, which in a way is liberating. Internet is usually available at ETECSA centers but it is so slow that it is better to go without. Warning family and friends that one isn’t going to be online while traveling is what to do in Cuba.

If talking is necessary, one of the easiest things to do in Cuba is to call (calling cards are available at ETECSA centers, and can be used on any phone) or send a text message. Detoxing from internet and social media is definitely what to do in Cuba.

Wifi is now available in major Cuban cities, but the costs are so high, and the speed so low, that I would dare say that accessing the internet is not one of the smartest things to do in Cuba.

Planning a trip to Cuba

Take it from someone who’s quite a travel planner: one of the hardest things to do in Cuba is planning the trip. No matter how hard I tried to stick to my plans, something would happen almost every day that caused a change – much to my frustration.

Before traveling to Cuba, I thought I’d want to get closer to the local culture. This became a mission impossible, to the point that I eventually gave up. Yet, getting to know locals is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba.

To take away the stress of planning the trip and the worry of being unable to have a real local experience, I recommend to joining a guided tour with a reliable international tour operator. Click here to find out which tours I recommend.

Making reservations in Cuba

In recent years, more and more people travel around with a tablet or small laptop, even if they are just going away for a short period of time. This way, they can take advantage of the free wifi at hostels to browse in search of accommodation for their next stop. This is not one of the things to do in Cuba: there is hardly any wifi.

If staying at hotels, one of the best things to do in Cuba is to arrange all bookings before traveling so as to avoid the hassle of having to look for (unreliable) internet. There’s decent hotels in pretty much the entire island and the number of those that are listing themselves on booking engines such as Booking.com is growing.

Travelers who aren’t staying at hotels are then left wandering what to do in Cuba when it comes to bookings. The simple answer is: hardly anything!

Most people likely land in Havana after a long flight (besides, this is one of the places to visit in Cuba). If this is the case, one of the easiest things to do in Cuba is to look for a casa particular (a private home) there: nowadays, a few engines such as Cuban Eden allow to make reservations for cases particulares. Otherwise, take that suggestion from a friend or acquaintance who has been there already, double check on trip advisor for recommendations (some casas are listed), then send an email or, if speaking Spanish, make a phone call.

Indeed, Cubans mostly work via phone, and most casas won’t have an email address that can be used to contact them. In case they do, one of the recommended things to do in Cuba is to be patient until they reply – and remember that internet in Cuba is not to be taken for granted.

Owners of casas particulares have an interest in accommodating their clients, and they would usually say that yes, they have availability when in fact they don’t. Despairing is not what to do in Cuba: if unable to accommodate visitors at a specific casa, owners take guests to that of a friend or a relative nearby, which would be just as nice.

Owners will normally ask about future plans so that they can suggest a good casa for the next stop – they know people running casas particulares all over the country. They are generally glad to make the phone call and the booking for their guests. Relying on this system if one of the nicest things to do in Cuba. And if, for whatever reason, one has no reservations at all, the minute he or she gets off the bus at the station, he will be literally surrounded by owners offering to rent a room. This is what happened to me in Baracoa.

what to do in Cuba
Wondering what to do in Cuba when you don’t have any accommodation reservation? Simply get off the bus

Where to stay in Cuba

This is the one place in the world where cheaper accommodation is actually better! One of the most fun things to do in Cuba is staying at casas particulares, which are private homes where the owners rent up to three rooms to travelers and for a small additional price also provide really good meals.

Casas particulares are thriving in Cuba tourism; they way more personable than hotels, they allow to actually experience a bit of the Cuban lifestyle (I remember seeing friends and relatives going in and out of the house, and met so many!); they are clean, and they are way cheaper than hotels.

Owners of casas particulares are always keen to provide information – some of them are literally living encyclopedias on the country, as they often are university professors! – on things to do in Cuba, places to visit in Cuba, on where to eat, and they will arrange transportation and laundry. Besides, they are the best persons to warn their guests about scams.

Some casas are beautiful colonial buildings. Rooms in casas particulares are usually private doubles, with a private bathroom. The price stated is per room, meaning that traveling with a friend will imply considerable savings.

Meals at casas are not included but the owners are usually great cooks who will be very keen to prepare some of their best recipes (lovely breakfast, packed lunches and incredibly good dinners), waiting on their guest keenly to receive praise for their culinary abilities. Eating meals at casas is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba.

Prices of rooms vary between 15 and 30 CUC – so between 7.5 and 15 CUC per person. Rooms are more expensive in Havana, Trinidad and Santiago (around 30 CUC for a good casa), and cheaper in other locations (2O to 25 CUC in Viñales, up to 25 CUC in Baracoa, up to 20 CUC in Cienfuegos).

Some casas particulares can be booked online. If staying at casas particulares is what to do in Cuba to get closer to the local culture, hotels are a good alternative and they have the plus side of allowing online reservations through sites such as Booking.com.

Eating and drinking in Cuba

Food in Cuba is cheap and good. One of the smartest things to do in Cuba is eating in casas particulares and paladares (privately run restaurants), where a full meal costs between 5 and 12 CUC (where for 12 CUC one can actually eat lobster, which is one of the things to do in Cuba!). Paladares give huge portions that can be easily shared.

Street food is tasty: pizza from the “holes in the wall” costs just 20 MN, as well as sandwiches, ice cream, churros, potato chips, etc. The other option would be eating at State owned restaurants, but food there is boring, and has that bland taste that food in school cafeterias or hospitals do. I would not recommend it as one of the nicest things to do in Cuba.

Beef is not common, while pork, fish, shrimps or lobster (oh that’s too bad!) and chicken, and at times even lamb are available. They are usually accompanied by tostones (fried plantain croquettes), rice, beans (congris), and a season salad. The tastiest food in Cuba is in Baracoa: eating shrimps, octopus and lobster in coconut sauce is what to do in Cuba! Drinks are good too: Cubans all have their own special recipe for mojitos and piña coladas, but whichever one I tried, I did love it.

One of the coolest things to do in Cuba is taking a cooking class and trying all the local specialties. Owners of casas particulares are usually happy to teach!

To learn more about food in Cuba read my post “The Most Delicious Cuban Food.”

what to do in Cuba
Riding a vintage car is definitely what to do in Cuba when looking for a unique experience

Haggling and avoiding scams in Cuba

With the exception of restaurants, casas particulares, or tourist buses like Viazul, one of the recommended things to do in Cuba is haggling, especially with taxis. When I was in Cuba, I was hardly able to take a step without jineteros (a word used to refer to an intermediary, that will normally get a commission for taking tourists to a specific casa, paladar, or getting a specific taxi) following me around.

Jineteros normally state the price for a taxi, but knowing the actual price to pay should be much cheaper haggling till reaching a more reasonable price is what to do in Cuba.

Jineteros compete so much for clients that, if they find out a tourist is going to a casa particular that is not the one they recommend, they may even tell them that the owner has died and the casa has been closed. They would do anything to make tourists believe that the bus they need to take is already full and that it is better to hop on taxi. And, sure enough, the price they would indicate for the taxi they offer is always much higher than what one should actually pay. Not trusting jineteros is one of the smartest things to do in Cuba.

While it isn’t possible to haggle the prices of state owned taxis, this should definitely be done for taxis particulares. For long distance taxis, I recommend as one of the things to do in Cuba to first find out how much a bus ticket would cost. If the price of the taxi is only 1 or 2 dollars more of what the bus would be, per person, it is definitely worth opting for the taxi – it is much faster, it won’t stop randomly to allow the driver to say hello to his family or drop his groceries at home (yes, they do so!).

So for example, if the bus from Viñales (which is one of the places to visit in Cuba) to Las Terrazas (which, on the other hand, I don’t particularly recommend) costs 8 CUC per person, and the jinetero offers a taxi ride for 80 CUC for the same distance, offer to pay no more than 20 or 25 CUC. Sticking your ground in cases like this is one of the things to do in Cuba.

The same goes for short distance taxis: it is good measure to ask the owner of the casa particular how much taxis around town should cost. And if the jinetero is refusing to go down on the price, start walking. Yes! The minute one starts walking, jineteros come running, agreeing to go to the picked destination for a reasonable price. Mark this trick as one of the things to do in Cuba.

In the case of long distance rides, try to gather a group of other travelers (it’s easy to find them at bus stations, when asking for information) to share the expenses of a taxi – ie when traveling from Camaguey to Trinidad (another one of the places to visit in Cuba), the taxi would cost 80 CUC for a ride of about 4 hours, but squeezing 4 persons in the car, t the taxi only ends up being 20 CUC per person and way more convenient than taking the only Viazul bus, which leaves at 2 am. Another of the smart things to do in Cuba.

Going around with a local guide is what to do in Cuba to be extra safe from scams. It’s just a matter of finding a local you can trust.

Traveling around in Cuba

One of the nicest things to do in Cuba is using local transportation, but as of late, this is hardly available to tourists. When I visited, I mostly relied on Viazul buses to move around the country and cover the longest distances. I’d just go to the station as soon as I arrived in a new place, and make reservations for my next trip.

Nowadays, Viazul buses are more difficult to catch, so tourists mostly have to make use of private taxis, with all that this implies with regards to haggling and timings (I still remember the endless ordeal of looking for a taxi to take me from Camaguey to Trinidad, when the taxi showed up at its own time and demanded a different price than what we had agreed!). In order to avoid disappointments, delays and long haggling arguments, I suggest making online bookings for private transfers as one of the things to do in Cuba.

Cuban Eden offers private transportation that is easy to book: travelers can pick the kind of car they want (classic, standard or even a minivan for larger groups); the time and place where they want to be picked up, and the drop off point. It saves a lot of hassle. Click here to discover all available transfer options and to check out the prices.

places to visit in Cuba
Trinidad is definitely one of the places to visit in Cuba

What to pack for a trip to Cuba

Cuba is a country like no other, with a constant shortage of goods travelers may take for granted. Having said so, one of the most important things to do in Cuba is packing smartly, being prepared for anything that may happen, and keeping in mind that shopping the way we know it isn’t exactly a thing there.

First of all, among the smart things to do in Cuba is traveling with a backpack rather than a suitcase. Streets in Cuba are full of potholes and it is virtually impossible to carry around a suitcase. My favorite backpack is the Osprey Ariel 65, which in my opinion fits perfectly and carries just the right amount of stuff. A good alternative is the Berghaus Wilderness 65+15, which however is significantly larger.

And here’s what goes inside the backpack:

  • Hiking boots – yes, they are heavy to carry but I always wear them on a flight or when I am moving from one place to another. One of the coolest things to do in Cuba is hiking, and they will be necessary.
  • A pair of Havianas– useful to go to the beach (which is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba) and even to walk around on a hot day. However, make sure to take a pair that isn’t worn out. If they break, it is quite hard to find another pair.
  • Walking shoes – I am a huge fan of Converse All Stars, which I find comfortable and smart. Alternatively, wearing a pair of good sandals is what to do in Cuba to stay comfortable and cool.
  • One or two pair of shorts– they are good to go to the beach and walk around town on a hot day.
  • Hiking Pantsicon, or leggings– especially the latter are easy to wear and easy to wash even in a small sink.
  • A pair of jeans or other kind of nicer pants – one of the nicest things to do in Cuba is going for a drink and it is nice to be a bit more dressed up.
  • A sun dress and a skirt– for the same reason as above, and they can also be worn during the day.
  • Up to 5 t-shirts and tops – better to wear cotton ones, as they are easier to wash.
  • A fleece sweater for as warm as it is year round, Viazul buses are freezing inside, and there’s no way to convince the driver to turn the air conditioning off. Wearing layers is one of the best things to do in Cuba when traveling by bus. For the same reason, I also take a scarf.
  • A waterproof jacket. My favorite one is by The North Face– it may rain, and it is good to have some sort of protection.
  • A bikini or another swimsuit – one of the nicest things to do in Cuba is snorkeling, so this is a must!
  • A toiletry bag – this should contain a good shampoo and conditioner, a soap or shower gel (actually hard to find in Cuba: one of the things to do in Cuba is carrying extra bars of soap as the locals often stop tourists to ask for it), tootbrush and toothpaste, a good sunblock, deodorant, and mosquito repellent.
  • Pharmaceuticals – aside from prescriptions, I recommend carrying off the counter paracetamol, motion sickness pills, imodium and some cold and flu medications.
  • A quick dry towel – it folds really small and dries so quickly that carrying one is among the smartest things to do in Cuba.

Finally, take a day pack where to put stuff such as sunglasses, a camera, powerbank, wallet and any other travel documents, and even a travel guide book (remember that wi-fi is hardly a thing in Cuba, so using a good old guide book may well be one of the smartest things to do in Cuba).

7 Beautiful Places To Visit Cuba

I didn’t have to think hard when deciding where to go in Cuba. It is such a beautiful country, there are so many places to visit in Cuba, that I could have easily spent a month traveling and still feel like there was more to see. I boarded my return flight with the feeling that there are so many things to do in Cuba, that I hoped to go back again in the future, to explore more of it.

Keeping in mind that there are so many places to visit in Cuba, I will highlight where to go in Cuba when having limited time – these are my favorite picks, but as I have said, there are so many more to see!

things to do in Cuba
One of the nicest things to do in Havana is admiring the city from above

La Havana

Havana, in the Artemisa and Mayabeque province, is where most flights are going to land, making it the first among the places to visit in Cuba. There are so many things to do in Havana, that one can easily spend 10 days wandering around. I recommend spending at least 2 full days, a good measure in order to get over the jet lag and get acquainted with the local culture. I am sure nobody needs reminding, but perhaps I shall highlight why I think Havana is one of the places to visit in Cuba.

Havana 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. Seeing these kind of things is one of the most interesting things to do in Cuba.

For a more complete guide to Havana, check out my post 27 Absolutely Unmissable, Fun And Quirky Things To Do In Havana.”

Make sure to also read my post “10 Fabulous Day Trips From Havana.”

This is where vintage cars line up at the traffic lights – and it is fun to take a tour of Havana in a classic vintage car; motorbikes still have sidecars; and bicitaxi drivers laze about sending text messages. Watching local life is one of the most fun things to do in Cuba.

things to do in Cuba
Havana is one of the unmissable places to visit in Cuba

Among the things to do in Havana, there is visiting one of its many museums and historic buildings; going to one of its lively bars and listen to some live music (I love jazz, and I was delighted in knowing that the Festival Internacional de Jazz takes place in February, right when I was visiting).

One of the best things to do in Havana is attending the ceremony of “el cañonazo de las nueve” in Havana. It takes place each night at 9 pm, in the fortress of La Cabaña, which was completed by 1774 and made Havana the most fortified city in the “new world”. During the cerimony, soldiers dressed in the traditional costums 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. A taxi to get there from the centre should cost around 3 CUC – a price worth paying for one of the most interesting things to do in Havana.

Other things to do in Havana include a visit to the Museo de la Revolucion in Havana, which definitely gives a good understanding of the Cuban revolution; a walking tour of Havana Vieja which goes to the Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas with its book market, Plaza Vieja and the Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas. Callejon de Hamel is a good example of street art in Havana.

One of the things to do in Havana is go on a sunset walk on El Malecon – 8 km of paved road along the sea, where the ocean waves splash and local go to relax and flirt after a day of work. 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 a stunning view of the Malecon.

I also recommend getting to the Vedado, a residential area packed with incredible colonial homes and full of parks and gardens. It is one of the nicest and most unique places to visit in Cuba.

Finally, if looking for things to do in Havana at night, make sure to go to La Bodeguita del Medio to have a mojito and to Floridita to have a daiquiri. Sure, they are definitely not the best mojitos and daiquiris in Cuba, but they are cool places to visit and if there often is live music.

Here’s some of the best tours to do in Havana:

things to do in Havana
Walking along the Malecon is one of the nicest things to do in Havana

Where to stay in Havana

As I have already said with regards to accommodation, one should not give too much thought on where to stay in Cuba: staying in casas particulares is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba. If looking for where to stay in Havana, I particularly recommend Casa Particular Abalidia in Vedado, in calle 15, between E and F. Felix and Lidia are wonderful hosts. Lidia is incredibly sweet, but never pushy. She is a great cook and her breakfast is perhaps the best I’ve had in Cuba. Her lobster dinners and congrì rice are memorable. Felix is a university professor, he loves anything Italian and knows a lot about Cuban history.

The house is a beautiful colonial building, with a nice patio at the back. Only two rooms are rented to guests. Felix regularly checks his email and if unable to get in touch him, communicate with his Italian friend in Rome who is regularly in touch with him via phone and can make the reservations. The email is abalidiahouse@gmail.com; the Italian contact is Lucia Nardi, lucianardi@yahoo.it. A little bonus? Abalidia arranges rides from the airport. Expect to be picked up by Felix’ friends, who has a beautiful Ford 1956 – remember, riding vintage cars is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba.

Other places to stay in Havana

things to do in Santiago
One of the nicest things to do in Santiago is enjoying the beautiful historic centre

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago, in the Santiago de Cuba province, is where to go in Cuba for a truly Caribbean atmosphere. There are regular Cubana de Aviacion flights connecting La Havana to Santiago de Cuba, at the South of the Country, or it is possible to get there via a 16 hours bus ride with Viazul.

This is the second largest city in Cuba, perhaps the hottest one and, according to the Lonely Planet (which I do not dare contradict on this!), a city of tricks and trouble that may make visitors want to run away as fast as possible (that was my case!). It is also a cultural capital interesting for its music, architecture, literature, people and politics, and for this reason, one of the most interesting places to visit in Cuba.

There are many things do to in Santiago and right outside the city. The Parque Céspedes is a must see, for it is lively, musical and surrounded by historic buildings and museums. Not far from it, one of the places to visit in Cuba is in Calle Eredia, and it is the Casa de la Trova, considered a sanctuary of traditional music hosting artists such as Eliades Ochoa, who became famous thanks to Buena Vista Social Club.

One of the nicest places to visit in Cuba that can be visited on a day trip from Santiago is La Gran Piedra, a mountain range whose climate is pleasantly cooler than that of Santiago and where there are some old bust still functioning coffee plantations – a tour of a coffee plantation (with a taste of the amazing, strong, dark coffee) is one of the things to do in Cuba! Cafetal la Isabelica is not far from the peak of La Gran Piedra, which can be reached by climbing the 459 steps and from where it is possible to admire a splendid view of the Caribbean sea.

At a distance of about 20 km from Santiago, the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre is one of the places to visit in Cuba. The road taking that goes there is stunning, and inside it is possible to spot 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.

places to visit in Cuba
La Gran Piedra is one of the places to visit in Cuba – best to hike there

Where to stay in Santiago

As I have already stated, staying in casas particulares is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba. In Santiago, Casa Colonial Maruchi is the best place to stay. Ms Maruchi has a fabulous casa particular in Hartmann 357, between General Portuondo and Maximo Gomez. This is perhaps one of the best places to stay in Cuba: the house is simply a safe haven from the noise and pollution of Santiago!

Maruchi is among the few Cubans using the internet for business, and bookings can be arranged online here. Maruchi is a santera, a representative of “santeria”, a syncretic religion hiding its african roots under catholic symbolism. The name is due to the colonizers joked about the African slaves’ way to pray to the saints. Though I don’t recommend asking her directly about santeria, appreciating Maruchi’s aura is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba.

Other places to stay in Santiago:

  • Melia Santiago Hotel: although staying in casas particulares is one of the most fun things to do in Cuba, including in Santiago, a good alternative is the Melia Santiago Hotel, which has the advantage that it can be easily booked online.
Where to go in Cuba
Playa Maguana, near Baracoa, is where to go in Cuba to enjoy a relaxing day at the beach

Baracoa

Baracoa, in the Guantanamo Province at the South West tip of the island, is likely to be among the places to visit in Cuba that people haven’t heard of. The good thing about it, however, is that once visited, it is remembered forever.

One of the hidden gems of the country, it is not on everybody’s list of where to go in Cuba, because it is pretty much 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. I recommend a drive on La Farola as one of the nicest things to do in Cuba.

There is a daily 5 hours Viazul bus connecting Santiago to Baracoa (another one of the places to visit in Cuba, but not among my favorites). Travelers are better off making the bus reservations (it literally is just a matter of minutes, done by putting the name on the list of passengers) one day before leaving, directly at the bus station. It will leave passengers at the only station in Baracoa, from which there normally isn’t any problem reaching a casa particular.

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 rains every day here. As in any proper Cuban city, there are see lots of murales of Che Guevara and other revolution heroes. Admiring them is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba.

Around Baracoa there are some of the best places to visit in Cuba. It is known in Cuba as the city of the 29 rivers. A cayuca takes visitors across the Rio Toa, whose waters are so clean that all one may want to do is to swim in there.

places to visit in Cuba: El Yunque
Hiking El Yunque is one of the coolest things to do in Cuba – but be ready for the challenge

A cayuca is what is also used to cross the river on the way to El Yunque, which is where to go in Cuba if looking for a unique hike. This is a mysterious mountain that can be seen from Baracoa. In order to hike El Yunque (one of the most fun and exhilarating things to do in Cuba) it is necessary to hire a guide for the hike, and wear proper hiking boots as the terrain is muddy and very slippery due to the frequent rains. I also recommend wearing 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.

Surely, one of the things to do in Cuba is enjoying a proper day at the beach. Playa Maguana is one of the best beaches in Cuba, and it is not far from Baracoa. Picture a long, white, sandy beach and the coral reef that can be reached just by swimming!

Finally, a lovely bike ride along the coast goes all the way to the Boca de Yumurì, one of the nicest places to visit in Cuba, where it is possible to rent a pedal boat to explore the river. They also do guided tours of Yumurì.

These are some excellent guided tours in the region of Baracoa:

Foodies will be glad to know that Baracoa is the gourmet capital of Cuba. Food here is simply heavenly and nobody should leave without having tried 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 one of the yumiest things to do in Cuba.

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

Where to stay in Baracoa

As staying at casas particulares is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba, I found that a good casa particular in Baracoa is Casa Colonial Gustavo y Yalina, in Flor Combret 125, phone number 0053 21 64 25 36: a nice colonial house with very big rooms facing an internal yard. Yalina is a sweet and helpful lady and her lobster in coconut sauce is delicious. These are other good places to stay in Baracoa:

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

Camagüey

Camagüey, in the Province of Camagüey, is a labyrinth. Some people love it, other hate it. I must say I did not totally love it, but I can see why some would. It simply is a unique city, and it among the places to visit in Cuba to see something completely different.

It was built in a medina style to keep away attackers who would get lost, and lost I got, no matter how good at reading a map I can be (I admit I am not, I am an unsuccessful backpacker). Camagüey city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008, it is packed with art parlour and lovely tiny alleys. It is crowded and at times messy, but interesting nonetheless. Some would say that visiting Camagüey is one of the things to do in Cuba.

Camagüey can be reached with the bus that leaves Santiago at 7:30 pm, and only gets there at 2 am, to then continue to Trinidad. Not a very convenient time to arrive there, nor to leave town to go to Trinidad (this is when bargaining a taxi and trying to find other people to share the expenses may be a good idea and one of the smartest things to do in Cuba), really. But I stayed at Casa de Caridad, and the owner made sure to arrange a taxi to take me home.

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

Where to stay in Camagüey

If staying at casas particulares is one of the things to do in Cuba, Casa de Caridad is a good choice in Camagüey. This is one of the best places to stay in town, located in Oscar Primelles 310A between Bartolomé Masò and Padre Olallo (0053 32 29 15 54). The huge house has very high ceilings, antique (but perfectly functioning) bathrooms, a lovely garden at the back, and the most motherly owner: she took good care of me when the heat of the city hit me, but would also tell me off if she thought I was doing something not recommendable, and needless to say she is an excellent cook. 

These are some good alternatives:

  • Hostal La Isabela is located in traditional colonial building in the heart of the city.
  • Casa Torralbo also in the heart of town, you’ll find plain but clean rooms.
Where to go in Cuba
Trinidad is where to go in Cuba when looking for a beautiful historic city

Trinidad

Trinidad, in the province of Sancti Spiritus, is perhaps the the epitome of Cuba tourism (aside from all-inclusive resorts of Varadero), and it definitely is among the places to visit in Cuba. A beautiful city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a very well preserved example of a colonial city, it gives visitors an overall impression that time there 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 artesania shops and painters’ studios. And if shopping is not one of the things to do in Cuba (there really aren’t many shops), it is one of the things to do in Trinidad.

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 covered in colorful bouganvillea.

Among the things to do in Trinidad there is dancing salsa, listening to the music that is played at pretty much every corner, and in the evening right on staircase next to the cathedral.

things to do in Cuba
Listening to live salsa is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba

The surroundings of Trinidad are packed with sites of historical and natural interest. if ever wandering about what to do in Cuba 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 less touristic sites too but it is better to hire a guide to get there.

Those that enjoy hiking will find that hiking Topes de Collantes is one of the most fund things to do in Cuba. The heat, the humidity, the thick vegetation make it for a rather tiring hike, but it is possible to refresh with a swim in the freezing Salto de Caburnì natural pools.

Some of the best beaches in Cuba are near Trinidad. Playa Ancon is among them and can be easily reached by a taxi ride that should not cost more than 5 CUC.

These are some of the best tours of Trinidad and the surrounding areas:

If you need more information about Trinidad, read my post Trinidad, Cuba: The Most Complete Guide”.

For other amazing Cuban beaches, check out my post “The 31 Best Beaches In Cuba.”

Finally, check out my post The 7 Best Places To Go Hiking In Cuba.”

Where to stay (and eat) in Trinidad

As one of the best places to go in Cuba, there are hundreds of casas particulares in Trinidad, but getting there early during the day is a good thing to do since if not having any reservations. There is a good casa in Callejon de Peña, at the back of a beautiful jewelry shop. Prices are roughly around 30 CUC for a double room.

Other places to stay in Trinidad: 

A meal in a good restaurant (there are many) is about 25 CUC (a splurge compared to the rest of the country, but this is the most touristic destination in Cuba). I really liked Paladar Sol y Son, in Simon Bolivar 283 between Frank Pais and Jose Marti. Yes, it is touristy, but it looks like a museum, and the food is tasty. The traditional cocktail is canchanchara, made with aguardiente, rum, honey and lime and served in traditional earthenware. Eating and drinking are among the best things to do in Cuba and this is the place to go for that!

places to visit in Cuba
Bay of the Pigs, locally known as Bahia de Cochins, is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cuba

Cienfuegos

Cienfuegos, in the Province of Cienfuegos, is close to Trinidad. There are 6 buses per day connecting the two cities in little over one hour. It is at about 6 hours from Havana and 7 from Vinales (there are daily direct buses). I loved it, and will gladly recommend it among the places to visit in Cuba.

Cienfuegos is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so relaxed and breezy, and there are so few jineteros here, that it is 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. Discovering its flora is one of the things to do in Cuba.

What’s best, Cienfuegos it is 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.

From Cienfuegos it is also possible to visit the famous Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of the Pigs), definitely what to do in Cuba to admire crystal clear waters and seeing the amazing coral reef. It is a good spot for diving too. From here, the Kennedy administration memorably failed to invade Cuba in 1961. Not far from it, Caleta Buena is lovely cove perfect for snorkeling. There is an entrance fee, but this includes sun beds and all you can drink cocktails.

One of the best places to go in Cuba to see some spectacular natural pools is El Nicho, a series of beautiful waterfalls on the Rio Hanabanilla. There is a a hiking trail, natural pools where it is possible to jump in and caves. The water is cold, but so inviting! There are various pools, the less crowded ones are on the left side of the street that separates the two sides.

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

things to do in Cuba
Swimming in the cold pools of El Nicho is one of the most refreshing things to do in Cuba

Where to stay (and eat) in Cienfuegos

Casa de Olga y Eugenio, in Avenida 50 n. 4109, between Calle 41 and 43 in Cienfuegos is one of the best places to stay in Cuba. A lovely family, and a relaxed atmosphere, topped off by very good value for money (only 15 CUC per room). It is very close to the centre of town and the bus station. Eugenio speaks a bit of English, and always makes sure to protect his guests from scams and puts them in touch with good local guides and drivers.

Other good places to stay are Casa Colonial del Valle, in a colonial building, and Casa Mabe Hostal, the most recommended one in town.

Las Mamparas, in Calle 37 n. 4004, is a very good paladar in Cienfuegos, popular among the locals too. A huge meal costed about 6 CUC (drinks included). Restaurante Dona Nora in Calle 37 has a lovely balcony overlooking the Prado and prices are good too. If enjoying local food is what to do in Cuba, these are the places to go to.

Valle de Viñales

Valle de Viñales, in the Province of Pinar del Rio, is one of the places to visit in Cuba: so wonderful that I recommend leaving it last as one of the nicest things to do in Cuba. It is one of the most wonderful places I have ever seen, a great mix of a pretty yet tiny town, lovely country side, not too far beaches which are among the best beaches in Cuba, tobacco and coffee plantations.

The main street has a cultural centre facing the main square, a small artesania 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. Easy to see why it is one of the best places to go in Cuba.

things to do in Cuba
Exploring Vinales Valley is one of the nicest things to do in Cuba

There is an information desk right by the Viazul bus stop, where to get information on things to do in Cuba too, and also book a lot of excursions and even salsa lessons.

Whichever mode of explorations of the valley, it is enjoyable. 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. The Mural de la Prehistoria, meant to portray world history up until the age of humans on a rock wall, is also seen during the ride.

Viñales is where to go in Cuba in order to visit a tobacco plantation and observe how artesanal cigars are made.

things to do in Cuba
Visiting a cigar farm is one of the most unique things to do in Cuba

Some bike tours also go to Los Aquaticos, although it is necessary to leave the bike at some point and 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 – from there, it is easy to understand why Vinales is one of the top places to visit in Cuba.

The final stop of the bike tour is usually at the Hotel Los Jazmines, where the public terrace has an incredible view of the valley and mogotes.

It is possible to book guided tour of Vinales Valley starting from Havana.

These are some of the best guided tours of Vinales departing from Vinales itself:

Cayo Jutias is one of the best beaches in Cuba and can be reached from Viñales. It is a long, white and sandy beach, with mangrovias growing wildly on it, reached through a lovely road that goes through a pedraplen (embankment). It is the perfect place to relax and snorkel or even dive and one of the best places to go in Cuba.

Snorkeling expeditions cost about 12 CUC and include all the necessary gears and a guide. There often are fishermen here offering to catch and cook lobster too. Eating lobster is one of the tastiest things to do in Cuba.

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

Where to stay in Viñales

As with the rest of the top places to visit in Cuba, there are many casas particulares in Viñales. I liked Casa Dovales, of Dr. Aracelys Dovales Corrales, in Adela Azcuy n. 2. tel 0053 48 696 669. The room was nice and clean; the lovely owner regularly saved me from being ripped off and she cooked amazing dinners for me. 

These are other good places to stay:

Despite being a small place, nightlife is lively in Viñales. There are a few bars around the main square and on the main street; some with salsa music. Centro Cultural Polo Montañez has a weekly “festa del campesino” (peasant’s party), during which locals participate in an improvisation singing game, with less than good results, but guaranteeing all a good laugh to locals and tourists assisting.

All that is left to do now is deciding when to go to Cuba.

If you need assistance in creating your personalized itinerary in Cuba you can contact me in private through the contact form.

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Discover the most amazing things to do in Cuba and the top places to visit in Cuba - via @clautavani

154 thoughts on “The Most Fantastic Things To In Do Cuba: The Ultimate Guide”

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

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
        • 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.

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      • 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.

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        • 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!

          Reply
      • 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?

        Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  1. 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.

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

      Reply
    • 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 😉

      Reply
  2. 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!

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

      Reply
  3. 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!

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

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  7. 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!

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  8. 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!

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  9. 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!

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

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

      Reply
  10. 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!

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

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

    Reply
  12. 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

    Reply
  13. 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. 🙂

    Reply
  14. 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.

    Reply
    • 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

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  15. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  16. 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!

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    • 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!

      Reply
  17. 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.

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  18. 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.

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    • 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!

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        • 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!

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  19. 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

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

      Reply
  20. 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!

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

      Reply
  21. 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

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

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  22. 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!

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

      Reply
  23. 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!

    Reply
    • 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!!

      Reply
  24. 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!!

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

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

        Reply
  25. 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.

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

      Reply
  26. Pingback: 11 Fun and Not-So-Obvious things to do in Havana, Cuba
  27. 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!

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

    Reply
  29. 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!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  30. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  31. 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’

    Reply
    • 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!!

      Reply
  32. 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  33. 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

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  34. 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  35. 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!!

    Reply
  36. 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!!

    Reply
  37. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  38. 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?

    Reply
    • 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?).

      Reply
  39. 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

    Reply
  40. 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.

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  41. Pingback: 13 Reasons to Start a Travel Blog (and 5 Reasons Not To) - Travel Blog Exchange
  42. 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!

    Reply
  43. 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?

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

      Reply
  44. 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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  45. 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.

    Reply
  46. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  47. 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.

    Reply
  48. Pingback: 13 Reasons to Start a Travel Blog (and 5 Reasons Not To)
  49. 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.

    Reply
  50. 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

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

      Reply
  51. Pingback: Ideas for Your Next Family Holiday - Beyond Blighty
  52. 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.

    Reply
    • 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?

      Reply
  53. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
      • 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

        Reply
        • 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!

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

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

    Reply
  56. 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..

    Reply
  57. 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.

    Reply
  58. 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.

    Reply

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