Cuba, a Caribbean paradise is characterized by its world-renowned cigars, lively street music scene, vintage Cadillacs, and crumbling mansions. Despite popular belief (that it is difficult to navigate around), the country has been gradually finding its place among some of the most popular tourist destinations for visitors from all around the world.
Recognized as a part of Central America, the communist nation offers plenty of experiences for the wanderlusting soul. Whether you prefer exploring the capital city of Havana on a classic vintage car or go horseback riding in Viñales, the country has something for everyone.
Let us now explore the main cities of interest and discover the best things to do in Cuba.
Don’t leave home without your Lonely Planet Cuba (Travel Guide).
Things to Do in Havana
The capital and the largest city in Cuba, Havana is best described as a city trapped in a time gone by and is one of the best places to visit in Cuba. A typical day in Havana is filled with local traditions, culture, music, and numerous attractions. One of the best ways to explore this vibrant yet ethnic Cuban city is to book a Havana Classic Car tour and wander around the streets of the city in vintage style. If you’re lucky (and know how to drive such a masterpiece), you may even get a chance to drive one of these. Aside from the obvious (sun, sand, and sea), there are a few other absolutely amazing things that you cannot miss, such as:
- Hanging out at Malécon (whether you are traveling alone or with friends) to socialize, grab a beer and a quick bite, and to watch as the sun sets over the historic stone that separates Havana from the sprawling ocean that flows on the other side.
- Visit El Floridita, Hemingway’s favorite spot, and order a daiquiri – they are known to be delicious and are highly recommended. Or, you can also order an oversized house mojito – it may very well be the best mojito you will ever have in your life!
- Attend the “el cañonazo de las nueve” ceremony at the La Cabana fortress that takes place at 9:00 PM on the clock every night. Watch as the traditionally dressed soldiers shoot cannons to indicate that it’s time for the city gates to be closed. Inside the fortress, there are several museums and exhibitions, and your entrance ticket includes a free drink (Yes! Everything about Havana includes a drink).
- Explore Old Havana on foot. The place is touristy, and everybody speaks English here, but walking through the alleys of Old Havana and Central Havana is an excellent way of experiencing the historic town.
- Get a 360° view of Old Havana through the Camera Obscura located on the top floor of Edificio Gómez Vila. Invented by Leonardo da Vinci, the Camera Obscura is the only one of its kind in Latin America (there are only 74 in the world).
Things to Do in Viñales
Just a couple of hours drive from Havana is the beautiful yet somewhat-hidden town of Viñales – not too many tourists populate this town and it has a unique Cuban vibe, so it’s definitely one of the best places to go in Cuba. Viñales is a small sleepy town with only a few streets and under 30,000 inhabitants. It is definitely not a party town, but this quaint Cuban haven has a lot to offer to its visitors.
- Hike or bike around the Vinales National Park a.k.a. Parque National Viñales. You could book a tour but it’s not necessarily required. Spend several hours amidst nature and explore hidden limestone caves.
- Take a horseback riding tour to visit the tobacco field of Viñales Valley. The town is the heart and soul of Cuba’s tobacco fame – yes, this is where all those famous Cuban cigars come from. Start early morning to avoid the crowds later in the day. Try a Cuban cigar yourself that you may be offered to smoke during your tour of the tobacco farms. Read about our experience horseback riding in Viñales.
- Visit the Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas – one of the biggest caves in the Americas. The best and the only way to explore them is with a tour. You could book one in advance or just turn up at the cave entrance and pay there.
- Zipline the Loma de Fortin Canopy. Somewhat different than most other things to do in the town, the 40-minute zipline adventure takes you over treetops and gives you a picturesque view of this little Cuban town.
- Go rock climbing and fathom at least one (or all) Viñales peak. The town is rich in limestone mountains which are not too high so are perfect for rock climbing. You can book a tour or hire climbing gear in town to DIY.
Don’t leave home without your Lonely Planet Cuba (Travel Guide).
Things to Do in Trinidad
Trinidad – best known as Cuba’s colonial gem is an intriguing mixture of 1850’s architecture and 1950’s vintage cars. One of the earliest towns to be founded by Spanish explorers, Trinidad is characterized by brightly hued colonial structures, cobbled streets, summoning mountains, and gorgeous beaches. Trinidad offers some fantastic things to do in Cuba.
Related article => The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need for Trinidad, Cuba
- Walk around Plaza Mayor – the heart of Trinidad and home to several historic structures such as Museo de Arquitectura Colonial, Museo Romantico, and Galeria de arte. The attractive yellow and green bell tower of Museo Nacional de Lucha Contra Bandidos is a sight to behold.
- Rent a bike to cycle from Trinidad to the nearby fishing village and weekend party central of Playa Ancón. One of the best beach towns in Cuba, the one-hour bike ride will bring you through several local towns and farmlands.
- Party at Casa de La Musica. Every Cuban town has one but the one here is regarded as the most special. Watch as hundreds of locals and tourists dance their heart out and when it’s time, bring your salsa on and join them.
- Hike or go horseback riding to Javira Waterfall. Swim in the turquoise swimming hole at the bottom of the cascade of water and traverse through the swimmable cave system that goes well beyond the waterfall.
- Take a classic steam train ride to visit the Valley of Sugar Mills. Admire the view from Hacienda Iznaga watchtower, enjoy an authentic Cuban meal at the plantation, and explore the secret ruins of saccharine revolution.
Things to Do in Playa Larga
Situated somewhere in between Havana and Trinidad is the town of Playa Larga, surrounded by Zapata Peninsula and its indisputable beauty. If you are in the mood for some beach time topped with amazing wilderness and mouth-watering seafood, this is where you need to be.
- Ripe with underwater flora and fauna, diving and snorkeling at Punta Perdiz and Cenote Mar is an absolute must. Crystal clear waters, exotic fish, and endless corals dominate the seaside of Playa Larga.
- Book a guided tour of Zapata National Park and get lost in the ultimate Cuban wilderness. Be awestruck by the rich species of animals, birds, and plants that inhabit the biosphere reserve. Look out for the pink flamingos – they are the park’s star attraction (and at times hard to spot).
- Watch the crab invasion that takes place on the beach every evening and then enjoy a scrumptious crab and seafood dinner. Casa Tiki, in particular, comes highly recommended not only for its quality and price of food but also for its ambiance.
- Spend the evening with locals across the road from Casa Tiki where, every evening, streets come alive with live music. An outdoor bar serves delightful mojitos.
- Take a day trip to Playa Giron – not technically in Playa Larga but very close. Located on the eastern bank of the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos), Playa Giron was one of the two significant sites to have played a role in the Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961. Visit the Bay of Pigs Museum to learn about Cuba’s invasion history.
Things to Do in Varadero
Regarded as one of the largest beach resorts, not just in Cuba but in the Caribbean, Varadero is the most popular tourist town in the entire country and offers some of the best things to do in Cuba. A narrow stretch of land along the Hicacos Peninsula, this Cuban beach town flaunts a 20-kilometer coastline dotted with at least 50 all-inclusive beach resorts.
- Visit the hauntingly beautiful Cueva Saturno, the main attraction of a complex cave system. Take a dip in the refreshing swimming hole inside the caves, admire the impressive stalactites, and snorkel amidst the stalagmites that rise from underneath the water’s depths.
- Paddle around the quaint lake at Parque Josone, constructed in the 1940s for a factory owner and his wife. Rejuvenate yourself amidst the ornate gardens and walk across the tiny bridge that looms over a small lake with ducks floating around peacefully.
- Visit the bat caves of Cueva de Ambrosio and Cueva de Musulmans at Parque Ecológico Varahicacos. Hike through the narrow trails (not suitable for children) and learn about the rock painting and pictographs from available guides.
- Swim with the dolphins at Delfinario. Kiss, cuddle, and play with your new friends within an enclosed saltwater lagoon. Enjoy a dolphin show and participate in fun tricks with them.
- Explore the sunken military vessels and shipwrecks at Cayo Piedra Underwater Park. Among the wreckage are a number of vessels, a deliberately sunk aircraft, a missile-launching boat, and a few yachts. Dive with schools of multi-hued fish and spot turtles and crustaceans.
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More on Cuba:
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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