Things to do in Cuba: Attractions and places to visit

Old Havana (Brian Snelson)  []  CC BY 
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Cuba, the varied island in the Caribbean, is always worth a visit. Holidaymakers can discover countless places where time seems to have stood still. Oldtimers from the 1950s, for example, are still driving through the streets of Havana. But collectors are not at the helm. No, they’re still fit for everyday use.

The morbid charm of the streets and alleys of Cuba’s cities has captivated many. But a lot has happened. The socialist country has invested in tourism. And this is especially noticeable around the many sights. The plaster hasn’t crumbled there for a few years now. But the island’s attractions also include nature and breathtaking beaches.

Holidaymakers can enjoy the sun in the white sand and bathe in the warm sea, which shines in more than 50 shades of blue. The forests offer cooling shade and lakes with crystal clear water. The best thing about it is that the island is now fully developed for tourism. You can discover all the sights on organised trips or by public transport.

Below we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Cuba.

Guapas Coloridas (Alex Schwab)  []  CC BY-ND 
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Sunset in Havana (José Eduardo Deboni)  []  CC BY 
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1. The capital Havana

Havana, once the pearl of the Caribbean, then for a long time a decayed beauty. It has always been a magnet for tourists. Just because of the impressive quay wall, the Malecón. The cautious opening of the country to capitalism has also done much in the capital. Many sights shine in new splendour.

Cuba’s capital has not lost its charm – quite the opposite. Many small shops, restaurants and lovely hotels have settled here. They all offer holidaymakers a very individual experience. And of course they still exist, the old classics of which Ernest Hemingway has already written. What would a holiday in Cuba be without a visit to the legendary Floridita Bar?

2. Isla de la Juventud

Cuba is a classic island state. There is of course the main island, but there are also some smaller islets. The most famous island is the Isla de la Juventud. A small patch of earth with an eventful history. Pirates once sought refuge here, targeting the capital.

Later it became a penal colony and a training camp for the offspring of the Socialist Unity Party. Hence the name, which means “island of youth”. Today it attracts tourists with its long white beaches. And last but not least, the reefs and atolls off the island are a paradise for divers.

3. Colonial heritage in Trinidad

A beautiful city situated on the Caribbean coast. The winding alleys take you back to colonial times with one blow. In the meantime, many of the houses have been lovingly renovated and give an impression of the golden age of the island. Once rich investors spent their summers in the magnificent villas on the coast.

Especially the many museums in the city are worth a visit. Above all the Museo Nacional de la Lucha contra Bandidos. It tells of the fight against crime on the island. An extra tip: From the tower of the museum you can enjoy a wonderful view over the roofs of the city.

4. Son – the unique sound of Cuba

Son is not actually worth seeing, but above all worth listening to. If you wander through the streets of the cities, you will discover combos at every corner. They sing about the beauties of the island and the sufferings of love. The musicians accomplish the feat of creating songs that sound both joyful and deeply melancholic.

The “Son Cubano” (short: Son) is undoubtedly an extraordinary musical style and strongly linked to the history of the country. A special experience is a visit to the Buena Vista Social Club, to which Wim Wenders dedicated a film. The detour to the outskirts of Havana is worthwhile, because here you will experience the real son of the island.

5. The most beautiful beaches in Cuba

Cuba is in the Caribbean. And what would a holiday in the Caribbean be without enjoyable, relaxing days on the beach? On Cuba there is a whole variety of dream beaches with fine, white sand and turquoise blue water. The best known is certainly the bathing paradise in the north of the island, Varadero. You won’t meet Cubans here, though.

The locals romp around in the east of the island, where the beaches are not leased to hotels. For our travel experts in the editorial staff are the most beautiful beaches on Cayo Largo, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco and on Playa Ancón near Trinidad.

6. Santiago de Cuba

Santiago lies in the very east of the country. The metropolis is not yet as touristically developed as the capital. But that’s what makes her so charming. Here it still exists, the morbid charm that has been sung about so often. And holidaymakers can discover a completely different side of the island here:

The African-American religion Santeria. Those who visit Santiago should also try the speciality of this region: the Canchanchera. A cocktail of rum and honey. In Santiago, there’s a drink on every corner. It was once conceived by bartenders who wanted to help people survive a long war.

7. Pinar del Rio

Make sure you make a detour to the region. This is where 80 percent of Cuban tobacco grows. The cigars are also produced here, a good opportunity to test one of these legendary glow stems. But not only tobacco thrives wonderfully here. In the woods you can take a break from the tropical heat.

The most courageous can also enjoy a cool dip in one of the many waterfalls. The tourist offers in the Vinales valley are very rich. If you like sports, you can hike or explore the region on a mountain bike. Those who want to take it easy can take part in a hike on horseback.

8. Pure nature: Alexander von Humboldt National Park

The famous explorer Alexander von Humboldt has never been to the island, but he would certainly have felt at home in this little corner of the world. UNESCO has declared this park in eastern Cuba a World Heritage Site – and it has paid off. The flora and fauna could develop here as well as in any other spot on the island.

Scientists even say that the biodiversity here is greater than on the Galapagos Islands. With a bit of luck, visitors will come across the smallest bird in the world, for example. There are also many other interesting encounters and impressions. The best way to explore the huge park is on a guided hike.

9. Cienfuegos – relaxed insider tip

You’re overrunning Havana and Trinidad? Then visit the insider tip Cienfuegos. The city has 170,000 inhabitants and is sheltered in a large bay. Unesco has also declared its centre a World Heritage Site. For this reason, the guided tour took great pains to preserve the old town.

In the middle of it lies the Parque Jose Marti, a palm oasis. Around them are all the important buildings of the city, from the town hall to the theatre to the famous cathedral. The city invites tourists to take a stroll and discover one of the most relaxed spots in Cuba!

10. Cigars and rum – the gold of Cuba

Wherever you go on the island, cigars and rum will accompany you every step of the way. You can help yourself. The cigars are turned on the island and also the tobacco grows here. Cuba is home to famous brands such as Cohiba, Montechristo and Romeo y Julieta. The manufactories are all located in the region around Pinar del Rio and can be visited.

The rum is also distilled on the island and the sugar cane thrives splendidly in the west. The first factory of the famous Havana Club can be visited in the capital. Here you will also find exciting insights into the history of this high-proof drink.

Best time to visit Cuba

We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of Cuba:

January, February, March, April, November, and December

You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for Cuba.

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