Between rolling mountains and dazzling shores, fine cigars and vintage cars, Cuba captivates visitors with its abundant tropical pleasures and cultural treasures. White-sand beaches entice sun worshippers by day, and clubs pulsing with Afro-Cuban jazz own the night. In Havana, locals debate baseball on street corners shaded by royal palms and neo-classical buildings while Studebakers whiz past. In the colonial town of Trinidad, villagers gather in plazas lit by wrought-iron lamps, and in the countryside, tobacco fields tended by guajiros (farmers) spread across the Viñales Valley. Cuba Vacations is a great way to enjoy a wonderful beach vacation that has so much more to offer.
Central Cuba is Cuba’s geographic heart which beats with the rhythms of Afro-Cuban music, of turquoise waves crashing on white-sand beaches, and of life unfolding in splendid colonial cities. Its coral reefs are awash in color, its mangrove swamps attract flamingos by the thousands, and its lush mountain valleys are filled with birdsong of all types. Central Cuba’s northern and southern coasts have many beautiful stretches of sand. The beach count leaps dramatically when you include the hundreds of cayos (keys) that flank the shores.
Eastern Cuba is the region known as El Oriente has a variety of sublimely beautiful settings—from palm-lined beaches to the city of Santiago. Resorts rise in many a cove on Holguín’s northern coast, especially around Guardalavaca. The white-sand beaches here, and their dark-sand counterparts on Granma’s southern coast, draw Canadians and Europeans seeking isolated vacations. Along both shores, water-sports outfitters stand ready to help sailors, fishermen, scuba divers, and snorkelers.
Western Cuba has pristine strands of María la Gorda to Varadero’s internationally popular white-sand beaches. The provinces of Matanzas, Artemisa, and Pinar del Río, along with the Municipio Especial Isla de la Juventud, offer attractions that range from the traditional tobacco plantations of Viñales to the cosmopolitan beaches of Varadero to the wilds and wetlands on the Península de Zapata. In addition, pristine beaches and nonpareil diving opportunities can be found off—among other spots—Cayo Levisa, the Península de Guanahacabibes, Cayo Largo, and the Zapata Peninsula. Cuba vacations has it all. For more information on Cuba’s beautiful beaches, visit our Greater Antilles Travel page.
Cuba Weather – When to Visit
The best time to visit Cuba is between January and February. The island’s location in the Caribbean affords warm temperatures year-round, with the average lows in Havana dipping to 65 degrees. Because of its location, there are really only two seasons in Havana: wet and dry. The dry season runs through “winter” in Cuba, (November to April) while the wet season (May to October) overlaps with hurricane season, making the likelihood of precipitation very high. But hurricanes in Cuba aren’t common and if a storm of any kind were to strike, it would likely happen during August or September. Festivals of all kinds occur year-round. If you want to see Havana at its most colorful, visit in August during Carnival. If you want to see the city at its most political, attend the International Workers’ Day at Revolution Square in Havana in May, where a speech is made by the president annually.
Cuba Attractions (Havana)
El Malecón is a 5-mile-long boulevard that stretches along the water, with Havana Bay on one side and the edges of Old Havana, Vedado and Central Havana on the other, depending on where you are. But metaphorically speaking, El Malecón is both a meeting point and place of refuge for locals looking to catch a breath of fresh air after a long day or night.
Old Havana (Habana Vieja)
This neighborhood is not just iconic to Havana and Cuba, but also to the world. Old Havana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to the impressive preservation of some of the area’s centuries-old architecture. Walking through Old Havana, you’ll see a plethora of architectural styles, including baroque and neoclassical design elements, decorated in the brightest of colors. The neighborhood is also brimming with equally picturesque cobblestone-lined plazas, automobiles that look like they belong in museums and throngs of equally interesting people, whether they be Cuban street entertainers or awestruck world travelers.
The cobblestone-lined plaza is flanked by brightly colored baroque and art nouveau-style buildings housing restaurants, art galleries, residences and even a camera obscura. Fiestas and festive processions were commonplace back in the day, as were bullfights and public executions. Plaza Vieja used to be a space for military exercises before becoming the site of an open-air market. After that, it was converted into a park, then transformed into an underground parking structure, if you can believe it.
Plaza de la Catedral
A top-rated attraction among many recent travelers, Plaza de la Catedral is worth the extra time for, unsurprisingly, its stunning 18th-century cathedral, also known Catedral de la Habana. Visitors were taken by the imposing baroque cathedral, which was once described by a Cervantes Prize-winning writer as “music made into stone.”
Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana)
This museum houses the largest collection of art in the country and is separated into two buildings; one for Cuban art housed in the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and (two blocks away) another for the rest of the world in the Centro Asturiano. The Cuban portion of the museum highlights a variety of artistic styles and mediums depicting everything from the Spanish occupation to the revolution. Visitors will view work from some of the country’s greats, including Guillermo Collazo and Raul Martinez, the Andy Warhol of Cuba. If you’re a fan of Picasso’s “Guernica,” seek out Servando Cabrera Moreno’s portrait of the Bay of Pigs.
Things to Do in Cuba
The SCUBALIBRE Diving Club Club offers several Scuba Diving Courses. Graduates will earn their International Certificates, including Discovery Courses (resort course). Our dives include; Reef Snorkeling tour, Reef, wrecks, caves, wall, deep, and night dives to depths of up to 131 feet (40 meters). Telephone: 53 5 2634648 Web: ScubaLibre Varadero.
Vintage Car Tours
Locally owned company offering customized day tours and transfers, their team will show the very best of Cuba. They are dedicated to providing you with an authentic and unforgettable Cuba tour experience. They can help you achieve in one adventure what has taken them years – to go inside the country in a deeper, more personal way. With VintageCars Tours you will have unrivaled access to local people from all walks of life while you experience an island that has so much to offer, that sometimes you won’t even know where to begin. Telephone: 53 45 614884 Web: Vintage Car Tours.
Bike Rental & Tours Havana
Their tours are for all ages, at an easy pace, enjoying the ride lasts about four hours with breaks. They visit the Malecon, Old Havana, Paseo del Prado, Capitolio, Central Park streets of Centro Habana, Revolution Square, Paseo, Vedado and Miramar. They can also go to White House, Christ of Havana and across the bay in Rule Ferri. Their tours are flexible, the customer can choose the itinerary. Telephone: 53 5 4637103 Web: Bike Rental & Tours Havana.
Caribbean Riders Kite School (CRKS) is without question the best kite boarding school in Varadero, Cuba. Founded by the local riders Carlos Casola and Darien Ramirez Sarabia, CRKS will ensure you learn this exciting sport with a professional kite boarding school committed to ensuring your safety and understanding of all aspects of kite boarding. Telephone: 53 5 2772388 Web: CaribbeanRiders KiteSchool.
Havana Windsurf is a club for everyone, no matter your level. If you windsurf with them, they´ll promise you to show you all the tricks and become better, and of course, you´ll have a lot of fun windsurfing with them! Havana Windsurf is at the beach La Concha, a very charming beach with crystal clear water. It´s only a twenty minutes drive from the Old City and the best; they are open every day. Telephone: 53 5 3574143 Web: Havana Windsurf.
Best Cuba Restaurants
La Fontana $11 – 30
La Fontana, encased in a hard-to-find but beautiful house in Playa, is one of the best restaurants in Havana, a position it has enjoyed pretty much since its inception in 1995 (back in Cuba’s culinary Stone Age). The secret: the restaurant has progressed with the times, adding space, dishes and multiple quirks like fish ponds and live jazz. Telephone: 7-202-8337 Web: La Fontana.
El Rum Rum de la Habana $11 – 30
El Rum Rum is the talk of Habana Vieja – an ambitious new restaurant run by a cigar sommelier that pays homage to seafood, Spanish gastronomy, cigars and throat-warming shots of the hard stuff. The restaurant is split into three areas. A front bar decked out like a Spanish tavern, an artier inner sanctum, and a patio for cigar smokers. A suave, non-obtrusive house band do the rounds of all three. If you’re struggling for choices, opt for the paella or the inky black rice with octopus. Telephone: 7-861-0806 Web: El Rum de la Habana.
Lamparilla 361 Tapas & Cervezas $11 – 30
Try the perfect tapa-sized lasagna, the crisp sautéed vegetables served in ceramic dishes, the rich espresso-flavored crème brûlée, or the table menus written on dried palm leaves. The restaurant has genuine friendliness and will greet you with sincerity even five minutes before closing time. The open-to-the-street interior is small but thoughtfully decorated. Telephone: 52-89-53-24 Web: Lamparilla 361 Tapas & Cervezas.
Doña Eutimia $11 – 30
They serve decent-sized portions of incredibly tasty Cuban food. The ropa vieja (shredded beef) and minced beef picadillo both deserve to be tried. Doña Eutimia was the first private restaurant to grace this small cul-de-sac near the cathedral. There are at least five other restaurants near Doña Eutimia, and they will try to lure you into their restaurant. Don’t deter from this restaurant, as the food is delicious and you’ll save money. Telephone: 53 7 8611332 Web: Doña Eutimia.
La Cocina de Lilliam $11 – 30
A legend long before Cuban food became legendary, Lilliam’s was once one of Havana’s only posh private restaurants – the long-standing diplomat’s choice. These days it has more competition, but maintains its prominence with classy service, secluded ambiance and freshly cooked food to die for. The experience is as much about the surroundings as the food. The restaurant is set in an illustrious villa in Miramar and you are served in a garden with trickling fountains and lush tropical plants. The menu changes regularly, but there’s usually good steak, octopus and pork options. Telephone: 7-209-6514 Web: La Cocina de Lilliam.
Best Cuba Bars & Nightlife
There’s a little more attitude at this chic and contemporary suburban house bar than some of the other, more quirky places on this list, but the gorgeous green-treed backyard makes even an ounce of pretension totally reasonable. Cuban drink staples abound, but you also might be able to find some international imports if you’re willing to pay. Telephone: 53 7 2022921 Web: Espacios.
Fabrica de Arte Cubano FAC
Located in a defunct oil factory, FAC is a prime example of the Cuban government’s dedication to arts and culture. The multi-floored, government-sponsored space — which is part art gallery, part DJ dance club, part concert hall, and part film/performance theater — is giant, with enough outdoor areas and bars to satisfy the hundreds of hipsters who wait in line for an hour to get in every weekend. Telephone: 53 7 8382260 Web: Fabrica de Arte Cubano FAC.
Cafe Fortuna Joe
The intrigue here is almost 100% the interior decorations. Vintage typewriters, sewing machines, cameras, radios, and even a toilet clutter the space, and tables are made from old cars and other assorted house parts. Imbibing here will make you feel like you’re back home, if your home is your hoarder grandmother’s basement. Web: Cafe Fortuna Joe.
El Chanchullero de Tapas
With only four small wood tables and a few barstools, plus El Chanchullero’s reputation as the premier hip hole-in-the-wall, don’t be surprised if you have to wait a little while before enjoying a first-rate mojito and the shrimp enchiladas. The graffitied interior makes it feel a little divey, but that’s exactly what a detour off the threaded tourist path should entail. Telephone: 53 5 2760938 Web: El Chanchullero de Tapas.
Casa de la Musica
The name is one of the best-known for live music, and there are two locales — one in Miramar and one in Centro (though the former is probably the one you want). All kinds of music is featured here — from big famous bands to Reggaeton to even occasionally electronica — but be sure to know who’s playing, lest you stumble in on an off night and find the place brimming with old men and sex workers. The party starts around 11pm! Telephone: 53 7 2026147 Web: Casa de la Musica.
Best Cuba Hotels
Melia Cayo Coco – Adults Only
Offering an outdoor pool and a private beach area, Melia Cayo Coco – Adults Only is set in Morón in the Ciego de Ávila Region. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. There is a 24-hour front desk, concierge service, hairdresser’s, and gift shop at the property. You can play tennis at this resort, and the area is popular for snorkeling. The resort also offers bike hire and car hire. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Melia Cayo Coco.
Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad
Offering personalised services and colonial style facilities, Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad is located in Trinidad. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar. Rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV. A terrace or balcony are featured in certain rooms. For your comfort, you will find bathrobes and slippers. There is room service and gift shop at the property. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad.
Royalton Cayo Santa Maria Adults Only – All Inclusive
Offering an outdoor pool and water sports facilities, Royalton Cayo Santa Maria – Adults Only is located in Caibarién. The resort has a spa center and sauna, and guests can enjoy a drink at the bar. There is a 24-hour front desk and gift shop at the property. You can play tennis at this resort, and the area is popular for snorkeling. The resort also offers car hire. Jardines del Rey International Airport is 47.2 miles from the property. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Royalton Cayo Santa Maria Adults Only – All Inclusive.
Melia Buena Vista – Adults Only
Offering a hot tub and sauna, Melia Buena Vista is set in Punta Madruguilla Beach, west Cayo Santa María. The resort has 2 outdoor pools and views of the sea, and guests can enjoy a drink at one of the 3 the bars. International food and Caribbean dishes are offered at one of the 3 restaurants: Los Caribes, Los Navegantes and Los Marinos. You will find a 24-hour front desk and hairdresser’s at the property. A number of activities are offered in the area, such as snorkeling and diving. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Melia Buena Vista – Adults Only.
Sanctuary at Grand Memories Varaderon Adults Only – All Inclusive
Offering a spa centre and water sports facilities, Sanctuary Grand Memories – All Inclusive – Adults Only is situated in Varadero. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar. There is a 24-hour front desk at the property. You can play tennis and table tennis at the hotel. The hotel also offers car hire. The nearest airport is Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport, 21.7 miles from the property. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Sanctuary at Grand memories Varadero.