For anyone that loves to travel, Cuba is the ultimate token on the travel belt. Left behind by time due to political oppression and a hammering embargo, a visit to Cuba is like stepping into a real life time capsule. These Cuba photos have been put together to show you not only the stunning beauty of the island but also the people.
Without the people, Cuba wouldn’t be as special. The people have maintained their culture and kept the beating interior of Cuba alive even in the face of great adversity. It’s an amazing place to visit and learn from, so it is our hope that this post of Cuba photos will inspire you to consider a trip.
29 Cuba Photos Reveal Vibrant Beauty
Let’s start with Havana, the capital of Cuba. On our first visit we spent the better part of 4 solid days wandering the streets and taking it all in. Every day we saw something new and as we got braver and wandered deeper into Havana Centro, we discovered so much of the people and culture it was hard to believe that the place was real.
Havana easily won a place on our list of favorite cities in the World. It’s the ultimate in urban decay, classic cars and vibrant culture that begs to be photographed around every turn. This photo was captured in Havana Centro and if you look closely, you can see the modern slowly creeping into Cuba.
Plaza de Armas in Havana Vieja is a book lovers paradise. Lining the streets around the square are vibrant displays of vintage books, maps and propaganda posters. The last time I was in Havana I came across a vintage, first edition Lonely Planet Cuba book at one of the stalls.
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The way to tour Havana is to head for the tourist heavy areas and then wander away from the main streets. This practice will submerse you into the real Havana.
If you like street art, as I do, you’re in for a treat. While you can find street art throughout the entire city, the most thought provoking ones were found when we took the time to wander Havana Centro, away from Old Havana.
One day we were wandering the streets in Old Havana, not far from Plaza Vieja, when we heard a commotion and music. Jumping streets in pursuit, we came across this group of stilt walkers that were salsa dancing to the sounds of a Cuban band while marching down the streets.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer to someone that wants to visit Havana and really see the local life is to look up. So much life happens above street level that the first few times you look, you’ll be shocked. You’ll see swinging laundry, parties, cross balcony conversation, silent observers, startled pets and excited children. It’s a whole other world up there.
Havana is located right on the sea and the beloved shoreline is called the Malecon. It is not uncommon to see people relaxing, hanging out and fishing along this stretch of sea in the evenings. People stroll hand in hand, people play and classic cars whiz by with eager tourists stretching for a view of the water.
National pride can be seen on display throughout the country and it is not uncommon to see the proud owners of classic cars fixing Cuban flags on them.
Pinar del Rio
Heading West from Havana you’ll find yourself in rural Cuba and the heard of the tobacco industry. There are many beautiful places worth a stop as you make your way to the famous valley of Viñales to enjoy tobacco plantation tours and horseback riding.
Bask in fields of tobacco where Cuba’s world famous cigars come from. It’s a bit unreal to see this place in person as the fields go on for miles. Each property owned by a different farmer and maintained for the government. You can enjoy a tour by horseback through the fields for an up close look and appreciation.
Signs of the revolution linger in all corners of the country, even today and even in the most rural reaches. Che Guevara is beloved, held in high regard and his face hangs in the most interesting of places. You’ll be hard pressed to travel the country and not see him crop up in the least expected ways.
The production of Cuban cigars is heavily monitored by the government. In the case of Viñales, farmers are ordered to grow large crops of tobacco to harvest and dry. At this point, the government comes in to select their ‘share’ of the tobacco which largely amounts to 90% of the crop. They pay what they feel it’s worth at the time, the farmer accepts without question and is free to sell the remaining 10% locally and to visiting tourists.
Cuban farmers are no strangers to hard work in the field. A common scene during a visit to Viñales.
Los Jazmines is the setting of a fabulous lookout over Viñales Valley. This is usually the first stop before you arrive to the downtown area. The towering mogote mountains overlooking the rich valley make for the perfect introduction to your visit. I also like to stop on the way out for a moment of reflection.
Relaxation in the name of the game. Every single casa in Viñales has a front porch lined with handmade rocking chairs. A walk through town will afford you glimpses of the people rocking away, cigars in hand, telling stories from the day and enjoying the company of their family and neighbors.
It is not uncommon to see people selling things on the side of the highway as you make your way around Cuba. We pulled over for this man because he holds a large brick of mozzarella cheese with guava paste. Both items are hand made and a special treat in Cuba. The sale of cheese to passerby people helps support the family that is likely living on less than $20 per month.
Another worthwhile stop outside Havana, even possible as a day trip, is the lovely Las Terrezas. A government maintained nature reserve, the area offers great viewpoints, good hiking trails, camping options and a great way to experience nature.
Bay of Pigs
The infamous Bay of Pigs has a lot to offer with rich history and beautiful shorelines. It is also one of the best spots for scuba diving in the Caribbean with clear water, an abundance of marine life and crystaline visibility.
The sleepy town of Playa Larga gives travelers a reprieve from the tourist trail and a chance to experience quiet, less popular beaches. You come here for the culture and the history.
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While you won’t find the traditional white sand beaches along the Bay of Pigs, you will find bright blue water and rocky shoreline with coral outcrops. We love stopping along this coast line enroute to Trinidad to refresh and relax.
Second only to Havana, this province sees a majority of tourism in Cuba and with good reason. The sparkling colonial gem, Trinidad, draws people from all over the world to it’s cobblestone streets. Day trip options are also endless here giving you a chance to explore the Valle de los Ingenios sugar cane valley, Topes de Collantes to chase waterfalls and Playa Ancon where you can enjoy the mainland beaches or take a catamaran to islands off shore.
The best view in Trinidad comes from the top of the museum tower in the center of downtown. You can also climb the tower you see in this photo, but this view is far superior.
The lighter repair man with his street shop in session. Cubans have very limited access to things we would consider ‘throw away’ goods. They have adapted to making the best of everything and reusing simple things. This man repairs and refills lighters to make a living.
The best part of Trinidad is wandering the streets and uncovering gems like this. The main tourist area is small but the city spreads into various little districts and offers a better look at the architecture and local life in Trinidad. Wandering at golden hour is a must.
Of course, it is great to wander off the beaten path, but the popular areas of Trinidad are well worth the time spent too. The main square is a perfect place to watch people watch or watch the sun melt on the horizon and the colonial buildings give it so much texture.
A short ride out of Trinidad is the Valle de los Ingenios, the location of the biggest sugar cane valley in Cuba. Once the main economy of this island nation, the area was rife with rich plantation owners, slaves and sugar mills. Today it stands in ruins and cows graze in dusty fields where sugar cane once grew.
The wealthiest plantation owner, Manaca Iznaga, built the tallest tower in the valley to monitor his slaves while they worked the sugar cane fields. Today, you can climb to the top for unobstructed views of the entire valley and if you’re lucky a mind blowing sunset.
If you like hiking, nature and chasing waterfalls then a visit to Topes de Collantes is a must. The most popular trail leads you to Vegas Grande to witness one of Cuba’s most beloved waterfalls. The hike starts out very easy but the last descent is very steep on a rustic trail.
It’s not all waterfalls in this park. To even reach them, you first have to traverse the Escambray Mountain range in a soviet era Russian truck. In my opinion it’s worth it for these views. Just on the others side, you’ll find the hiking paradise from the previous photo.
Ditch the cobblestones for a day and enjoy one of Cuba’s beautiful beaches or islands. We ventured out to Cayo Blanco via catamaran on our last trip and were met with clear water and solace on this uninhabited island. While it touts resident iguanas, we didn’t see any.
Located in the province of Matanzas, Varadero is the resort capital of Cuba. However, you don’t have to buy into this to enjoy Varadero. We stayed away from the strip, in a small casa particular just 2 blocks from the beach. We couldn’t visit Cuba without seeing what all the fuss was about, now we get it. Have you ever seen such pristine water and beaches?
This photo combines two things we love, beaches and photo shoots. We’ve traveled far and wide but few places match the pristine shores of Varadero. While there are no reefs, the clean sandy bottom stretches for ages allowing you to float and play in the water without worry of damaging any coral.
Every night we were in Varadero was spent on the beach for sunset. We’d grab a couple Cristal beers before heading down to setup the cameras and watch the last rays of light melt into the ocean.
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If these photos don’t make you want to visit Cuba, I don’t know what will. It was very difficult to tell the story from our two visits in just 29 Cuba photos, but we are confident that showing Cuba to you through our eyes will ignite the desire to visit in the future. We just operated our first photography tour to Cuba this year with great success, stay tuned as we want to plan a return.
Planning a trip to Cuba? See our detailed Cuba itinerary
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Resources for Planning Your Trip to Cuba
Recommended Guide Books For Cuba: THE BEST ***** Lonely Planet Cuba (Travel Guide)
The Best Cuba Map: Cuba (National Geographic Adventure Map)
- StreetSmart Havana Map by VanDam – City Street Map of Havana – Laminated folding pocket size city travel map (English and Spanish Edition)
- StreetSmart Cuba Map by VanDam – Map of Cuba – Laminated folding pocket size country travel guide with detailed city street maps
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One of our most frequently asked questions is “what kind of travel photography gear do you carry with you when you travel?”
Below is a short list of what travel photography gear we carry to get photos like you see above. If you would like to see the full list check out our Ultimate Travel Photography Gear List. This travel photography gear list is not the be all, end all of travel camera gear lists. These items are the ones we prefer to use based on our styles, needs and wants when in the field.
- Canon 6d DSLR Body
- Canon 24-105mm L Lens
- Canon EW-83H Tulip Lens Hood
- Canon 100-400mm L Lens
- Canon ET-83C Lens Hood
- Canon 2x Extender
- Canon 11-24 Ultra Wide L Lens
- B+W Circular Polarizer MRC 77mm
- B+W UV Filter MRC 77mm
- ND4, ND6 & ND8 Neutral Density Filters
- MeFoto Travel Tripod
- Intervalometer & Remote Switch
- SanDisk Extreme Pro SD Cards
- Canon LP-E6 Batteries
- Canon Battery Grip BG-E13
- OptiTech Sling Comfort Strap
Click to read about all of the camera gear we carry: Ultimate Travel Photography Gear List
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