What to do in Cuba?
Cuba is a mythical island, a country stopped in time, as frozen in the 50s.
To visit Cuba is to meet its friendly people, discover the roots of salsa, marvel at collector cars or sunbathe on its paradisiacal beaches.
To help you organize your stay, I have prepared my top 16 places and activities that have marked me the most. Like this, you will not miss any places of unavoidable interest!
And I will not hide it: Cuba is one of my favorite destinations, its special atmosphere will seduce you!
So, what to do and see in Cuba?
This mythical city has everything to seduce. Havana , the capital of Cuba , is a big city with a human-sized center. Its many squares lined with colorful colonial buildings are worth a visit, and its wide avenues proudly display collector cars that have become the symbol of the island.
Do not miss:
- the Old Havana with the Cathedral Square, the Old Square and its streets bustling
- a walk at sunset on the Malecon
- attend the famous cabaret show Tropicana colorful
- to sway on Cuban salsa at Casa de la Musica
- visit the Hemingway Museum , the “Finca Vigia “, to discover its untouched world
- to travel back in time to Fort El Morro guarding the entrance to the bay
And as a bonus, here’s a tip forgotten travel guides: when you arrive in Havana , if you travel on a low budget, run exchange some CUC (convertible pesos, the currency used by tourists) against CUP (Cuban pesos, currency People).
1 CUC = 25 CUP, but in a cafeteria frequented by locals, you can find dishes at 7 CUP, sold 7 CUC in tourist restaurants … Thanks to this tip, I ate for less than one euro per meal for 10 days, a saving economy!
2. The valley of Viñales
Located in the Cordillera de Guaniguanico in the Pinar del Rio region, the Viñales Valley is to be made in Cuba! This place will satisfy the nature lovers: although quite touristy, it remains a protected corner of the West of the peninsula.
On the program: hiking in the mountains, walks in the middle of tobacco fields, horseback riding with a local guide, relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of Havana . From Viñales , you will enjoy a splendid view of the mogotes , the limestone mountains that give all its charm to the valley.
And not unlike the sugar loaves of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam …
3. Visit a cigar factory
Can not leave Cuba without visiting a cigar factory! There are 2 majors in Havana, very popular with tourists: the Real Fábrica de Tabacos Partagas , one of the oldest in Cuba, and the Real Fábrica de Tabacos Romeo y Julieta. The Vegueros factory in Pinar del Río is also worth a visit while producing cigars renowned around the world.
You will have the opportunity to see the workers at work and admire their precise gestures, always identical to produce homogeneous cigars.
The making of a cigar is a real art that few people master. Your guide will explain the most important points, and of course, will suggest you to leave with a box. Beware of scams: at the end of the visit, charlatans can expect you outside by offering copies of the real brand.
Former capital of Cuba , Santiago is a great metropolis nestling in the east of the peninsula. It is a very lively city , with a well-marked culture.
It is the most Caribbean Cuban city, and its streets are often the scene of Afro-Cuban concerts, dance, scenes of everyday life … If you have the chance to be between June 24 and July 26 you will attend the carnival of Santiago , an event not to be missed!
Discover the great attractions of the city:
- Heredia Street, highly animated
- The Cathedral of La Asunción and the Cespedes Park
- The Emilio Bacardi Museum presenting objects from the colonial era to independence
- The carnival museum which houses the costumes and instruments of the famous Carnival of Santiago
- The cemetery of Santa Ifigenia where important figures like Fidel Castro and José Marti rest
- Revolution Square and the famous Moncada barracks where the first attack by Fidel Castro took place, considered as the trigger of the Cuban revolution .
- The San Pedro Castle of Roca del Morro, a military fortress built in the 17th century, very well preserved and declared World Heritage. In addition to its fantastic view of the sea and the surrounding area, there is a museum on its history.
- The Sanctuary of the Virgin of Copper Charity : it is the patron saint of Cuba and true symbol of the island. This is an interesting example of a mixture of local and Catholic beliefs as it is associated with Ochun, the goddess who represents the mother in some African beliefs.
- The House of Diego de Velazquez : built in 1516 under the orders of Hernan Cortes, it is the oldest colonial house in America . Today there is a historical museum.
- La Gran Piedra : as its name suggests, it is a large rock on which one goes up to 452 stairs and offers a breathtaking view of the surroundings
If you travel by bus, plan a big day trip, the roads are not very good in the center of the island.
Ah, Trinidad … my favorite city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site . It’s definitely a must in Cuba ! If you want to jump in 1850, head for the south coast to this colonial city!
The colorful houses give a unique atmosphere to Trinidad, and the carriages on its paved streets create a pleasant background.
Take a tour of the Plaza Mayor with its architectural museum , the Convent of St. Francis of Assisi .
And do not hesitate to get away from the tourist streets: north of the village, on the hill, you will discover the true Trinidad, with its children playing in the streets, its modest musicians and coffee shops to crack
Do not miss the local Casa de la Musica , which hosts nightly concerts in high season (unfortunately frequented almost exclusively by tourists).
If you have a little time and want a nature getaway, take a trip to the Park Topes de Collantes which is in the Sierra del Escambray to see beautiful sites like the El Rocio Falls or the Salto del Carburni … perfect for swimming!
This city, partially built by French colonists is to see in Cuba. Its perfectly squared streets and typical buildings will immerse you in a whole new atmosphere.
The city is small and you will have gone around in one day. Do not miss José Marti Square, one of the most beautiful places in the country, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Purisima Concepcion, the art deco-style Jerry Theater and its famous Botanical Garden , home to nearly 1600 different species!
Feel free to go to Punta Gorda one of the most beautiful areas of Cienfuegos with the Palacio de Valle , a jewel of architecture that now houses a seafood restaurant, a bar and a museum.
Another colonial city and third-largest city in Cuba, Camagüey is not to be missed. A little further from the capital towards Santiago , it presents a beautiful historic center with the Plaza del Carmen , as well as many museums and churches like the Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria.
Life is lively in the evenings , and there are traditional Cuban music concerts that can be found elsewhere.
Feel free to discover the local art of ceramics . Get lost in the winding alleyways, visit the rum distillery , have a drink at the bar La Trova , and relax on the Place de la Révolution .
Village located at the eastern end of Cuba , Baracoa has been preserved from mass tourism because of its difficulty of access. It is a place to see in Cuba when you have a little time (the bus ride is long).
This small fishing village , very well preserved , is located in an exceptional natural landscape : lush forests, intimate beaches and paradise coastline. The possibilities of hiking and swimming are not lacking, and you can also go to the discovery of local rivers, little known to tourists.
9. Santa Clara
Santa Clara is a city rich in history , which will amaze the amateurs. Indeed, it is here that Ernesto Guevara , commonly called Che, is buried. The city has a mausoleum erected in his memory, but also several museums that trace the history of Cuba and its revolution.
It is also a beautiful city for beautiful cultural walks , at the bend of a church, a pretty square or a street band. To have :
- The mausoleum Che Guevara
- Santa Clara Cathedral of Asis
- The pretty theater La Caridad
- Leoncio Vidal Park, the main square of the city
- The museum of decorative art that presents objects of the colony
- From Santa Clara, you can take the road to get to the colonial town of Remedios and then continue to Cayo Santa Maria (1h30), a real paradise with beautiful beaches!
10. Playa Giron
This beach located in the Bay of Pigs is among the best known and most appreciated of Cuba. What more to say about it, except that it is worthy of a postcard, it has fine white sand and a turquoise water at ideal temperature?
Just pay attention to sand flies, or jejenes , which are very aggressive in high season. Their bites are not very painful, but they can cause itching that sometimes lasts several weeks …
And do not forget to protect yourself from the sun, because in Cuba, it beats even under a thick layer of clouds!
11. Cayo Coco
Cayo Coco is a relatively well-preserved haven of peace, best known for its white sandy beaches, ideal for resting, diving and water sports .
Some of the best beaches are Las Coloradas, Playa Larga, El Paso and Playa Pilar between Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo , just next door.
Spend at least two nights to enjoy the tranquility and beautiful scenery. To do also on the spot:
- visit the city of Ciego de Avila , typical and pleasant, known for sugar cane and pineapple
- discover the cigar factory and bring back a box as a souvenir
- take a walk in El Baga Park to see an authentic and preserved fauna and flora
12. Isla de la Juventud
This island is especially for lovers of diving and snorkeling .
Cuba is known to be one of the best sites in the Caribbean , and among the various spots in the country, divers prefer Cayo Largo and the Punta Francés National Park , located on the Isla de Juventud .
Its advantages? Clear and gently bluish water, a calm sea with little disturbance and a lively and preserved coral reef , populated by thousands of colorful fish .
Ask about the various diving clubs in the area, knowing that they offer almost all the same benefits and rates.
13. The Ciénaga de Zapata
If you are looking for wild and untamed nature, take the road to Ciénaga de Zapata . This marshy area, the largest in the Caribbean , is arguably the most unspoiled site in the country .
Classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve , the marsh is home to the famous Cuban crocodile, Helen’s tiny hummingbird and various species of amphibians and reptiles.
You can hike in this untouched nature, indulge in fishing accompanied by a guide, or bring your binoculars to observe the endemic birds . You will come out amazed!
14. Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra
It is here that is the highest Cuban mountain , Pico Turquino (1974 m).
Discover this unique park for hiking in its exceptional landscapes, observe its rich fauna and dozens of rare bird species and admire a preserved flora, ranging from tiny wild orchids to giant ferns.
15. El Nicho
El Nicho is a waterfall not to be missed between Cienfuegos and Trinidad . Beautiful and impressive, it is nestled in a dream setting on the Habanilla River . At its feet, you can relax in a natural pool with translucent water, while breathing fresh air and revitalized with the lush vegetation surrounding.
16. Las Terrazas
Here is the green hippie village of Cuba, located in a nature reserve.
Founded in 1968 by a group of ambitious and hopeful young people who wanted to reforest the area, this eco-village is populated by musicians, artists and people who want to protect their environment.
The architecture of the place is unique, good vibes abound, do not hesitate to go visit them!