Resting on the shores of Northern Caribbean region, Cuba is an island nation with several small archipelagos. Magnificent yet frayed at the edges, the decadent beauty of Cuba transcends the time. The weathered buildings surely have seen better days but look beyond the scruffy facades and you will find the luxurious details that once enveloped them. Cuba is famous for its beaches, and rightly so. The lazy Caribbean vibes, the warmth of sun and salty breeze are a definition of a perfect holiday. Head past the coastlines, and you will stumble upon lush forests, crocodiles camouflaged in miry swamps (hopefully not!), craggy mounts, coffee plantations and timeworn cities dressed up in crumbling grandiose.
'Havana, ooh na-na, Half of my heart is in Havana, ooh-na-na' is what you will be humming when you return from the Cuban city. At first glance, Havana appears to be a muddled portrait of colorful buildings, timeworn streets, Bohemian vibes, humid weather, and an adventuresome crowd with just a right touch of swashbucklery. Delve deeper and you will come across exotic art, idyllic beaches, friendly people, and deep-rooted history that goes back 500 years.
The capital of Cuba has plenty of must-visit sights, and one may feel a bit overwhelmed on where to start. Malecon, an oceanside roadway in Havana, is a perfect place to start. Stretching up to 8 km, the boulevard sees merry couples, chattering kids and idealists lost in their thoughts. The sunset brings out the best of the seawall as it is painted in a gold gleam. Habana Vieja, the historic heart of Havana, invites you to take quiet strolls through its plazas shadowed by weathered but magnificent buildings. Stop by Plaza Vieja, the colorful square detailed with Gaudi and Baroque designs. Another highlight you can’t miss is the star-shaped fort from the 16th century, Castillo de la Real Fuerza, that was built for protection against pirates.
Zany, unearthly, and offbeat are the words that come to mind when you visit Baracoa, the former capital of Cuba. The city is bordered by a range of mountains on one side and by the Atlantic Ocean on the other. In between, there are thriving forests, rushing rivers, rolling hills, cacao trees and coffee plantations. Visit the national museum and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. Right across the cathedral is the Bust of Hatuey with quite a grim history. Follow the scenic hiking trails of El Yunque, a mountain with an anvil-shaped top. Don't forget to indulge in chocolates and peanut butter bars.
Referred to as the cigar city, Pinar del Rio is Cuba's major tobacco hub. Brimming with jinteros and audacious vibes, the city's atmosphere can get to even the most seasoned traveler. To escape the touts, head over to Viñales Valley, a beautiful rural town perfect for hiking, biking, and unwinding.
Once known as the Isle of Pines, the second-largest Cuban island is where the time slows down. Compared to the rest of the country, there was never a race against time here - no booming cigar industries, no sugar mills, and an esoteric culture strikingly different from other Cuban cities. Come here to explore off-the-beaten paths, dive into the ocean and have surreal adventures. Visit Presidio Modelo, a museum housed in a prison, Museo Finca el Abra, Playa de Flamencos and Playa Larga - sun-kissed beaches, and Sea Turtle Breeding Center, a farm near Crocodrilo.
Trinidad - A UNESCO World Heritage Site noted for its waterfalls, colonial heritage, and salsa dancing.
Santiago de Cuba - Lying across the Caribbean Sea, the city is all about festivals, parades, and colonial architecture.
Maria la Gorda - a quaint village in Pinar del Rio known for its flourishing snorkelling and diving sites.
Cuban cuisine has strong influences of Spanish, African, and other Caribbean cuisines. Rice and beans are traditionally eaten almost every day accompanied by seafood, beef, or chicken. Try out mixto, a cheesy and meaty Cuban sandwich, widely available in every restaurant and cafe. Do try empanadas, picadillos, bolich and blood sausages. For dessert, have rice puddings, churros, custard, and the famous Cuban chocolate. Most of the restaurants are owned and run by the government. While they are cheap, the food is rather bland at most places. Private restaurants and Cuban homestays offer far better meals but at a higher rate.
From high-end bars to low-key hole-in-the-wall places, you can enjoy cocktails, beer, and rum in almost every corner in Cuba. Come to Cuba to immerse yourself in all kinds of dances and music genres. From ballet and classical music to jazz and salsa festivals, you will find all kind of scenes. Theatres, film culture and comedy shows are also spot on. While Havana is the heart of entertainment, other cities, even small ones, don't lag behind.
Cuba has a variety of accommodations ranging from cheap rustic lodges to lavish resorts. Your best bet is to stay at casas particulares during your vacation. They are locally-owned lodges with reasonable rates and facilities. State-owned accommodations can vary in condition. From chic and classy to rundown and battered, there is no guarantee of what you are getting into. In rural areas, campismos are popular. They are rustic cabins with very cheap rates. Do book in advance!
High Season in Cuba are the months from November to March and July and August. Prices are higher and it is advised to book accommodations in advance due to higher traffic. April and October are the shoulder season with fewer crowds that peak during Easter Holidays. Low season occurs in May, June, and September, and due to high risk of hurricane, most resorts, and facilities close down.
Cuba has 10 international airports that offer direct flights to the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. The major airport is Jose Martí International Airport, Havana. For Asia, Australia, and other countries, connecting flights are the only option. There are no other means of traveling to Cuba besides a cruise line. American travelers should check with the Department of State to see whether American nationals are currently able to travel to Cuba.
Cuba has dual official currency; Cuban convertibles (CUC$) and Cuban pesos (MN$; moneda nacional). Tourists mainly use CUC. There are hardly any ATMs in Cuba, so it is best to carry cash with you. Credits and debit cards aren't usually accepted.
There are no domestic flights within Cuba, and people mainly travel within the country via buses, trains, cars, and hitchhiking.
Cuba has dual official currency; Cuban convertibles (CUC$) and Cuban pesos (MN$; moneda nacional). Tourists mainly use CUC. There are hardly any ATMs in Cuba, so it is best to carry cash with you. Credit and debit cards aren't usually accepted.
If you decide to go away, book your hotel, flights and activities through our trip concierge for discounts and benefits. We offer free upgrades, free breakfasts, free hotel credit and VIP gifts at many luxury hotels for the same price as the hotel’s own websites. (Book direct and you don’t get these benefits so why would you?). Our packaged vacation prices tend to be considerably cheaper than flight and hotel prices available online.