Top 10 things to do in Cuba
TD Team | 20 April 2023
If you’re looking for a relatively untouched travel destination with unspoilt sights, beautiful weather, friendly locals, diverse culture and rich history; then a holiday in Cuba has it all. Since 1959, after the Cuban Revolution, the U.S has imposed an embargo on Cuba, which has greatly affected the country. Cubans often face shortages and have difficulty accessing items such as household essentials, toiletries, clothes and everyday food items that we take for granted. Despite these hardships, Cubans are not only friendly, warm and welcoming people, they are patient and resourceful, they work with what they have. You will also find no chain corporations or multinational shops, like McDonalds and Starbucks. Wi-Fi can sometimes be tricky to access, but we see this as an opportunity to switch off from the digital world and truly immerse yourself in this incredible country. Here’s our pick of the interesting things to do in Cuba.
1. Explore Havana
The largest city of Cuba and its capital, it was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century. Take a guided tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, see the incredible colonial buildings dating back 500 years and visit Havana Cathedral, Castillo de la Real Fuerza and Plaza Vieja. You can also visit the famous Malecon, a seawall that stretches along the city's coastline, and enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean and admire the many famous sculptures.
2. Take a classic car tour in Havana
A wonderful way to explore the streets of Havana is by driving in a vintage car. A true icon for this Caribbean Island; since the Cuban revolution the classic 1950's cars are famously associated with Cuba. When Fidel Castro became President, he implemented a strict trade embargo, from 1959 to 2013, that prevented any foreign-made vehicles entering the country, which meant the locals had to rely heavily on the existing output of cars.
3. Experience Hemingway's Havana
World renowned author Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba intermittently for thirty years of his life. Even after his death in 1961, his influence can still be seen in Cuban culture, from bookshops selling copies of his novels to locals honouring him with signature drinks at bars. Discover the places in Cuba that inspired Ernest Hemingway. Visit his home, Finca Vigía, where he wrote ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ or head out to the fishing village of Cojimar, which was the backdrop for ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’
4. Visit a tobacco plantation
Cuban cigars are world renowned due to the high quality of its tobacco, you can learn more about the process of making cigars with a guided tour of a tobacco farm in Viñales.
5. Enjoy Cuban music and dance
Cuban music is diverse and its origins can be traced back to its colonial period where the slaves brought over African rhythms, as well as indigenous people. Son Cubano is the most famous style of Cuban music which combines Spanish, African and jazz. Dance is also an important part of Cuban culture with the Salsa and Rumba originating in Cuba. No matter where you go in Cuba, you can easily find somewhere to enjoy live music and dancing.
6. Uncover Cuba’s history
Cuba has a complex history due to its influences from various cultures and times under colonisation. In 1959, Cuba’s president Fulgencio Batista and his government were overthrown by the communist revolution led by Fidel Castro. The country became a socialist state, which inevitably led to conflicts with the USA, such as the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion. Visit the Museo de la Revolucion in Havana and learn more about the Cuban revolution and its key player, Che Guevara. Visit the ‘Plaza de la Revolución,’ one of the world’s largest city squares, measuring 72,000 square metres. Fidel Castro addressed more than a million Cubans here on many important occasions.
7. Try Cuban rum and Cuban cuisine!
It wouldn’t be a trip to Cuba without sampling some local rum! You can learn more about the production and its history with a rum distillery tour at the Havana Club Museum. Try a Mojito, this refreshing cocktail was invented in Cuba, it’s a combination of white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water and mint. Delicious! Or try the lesser known cocktail of Canchánchara, the oldest known in Cuba, which is a mixture of rum, lime and honey. Prior to the 1990s, the Cuban government tightly controlled the restaurant industry, and state-owned establishments dominated the culinary scene. Now you have a choice of dining in state-run restaurants or Paladares, which are privately-owned, small-scale restaurants often operated out of people's homes. This where you can enjoy some of Cuba's most famous dishes, like Ropa Vieja, a shredded beef stew. The food in Cuba can be fairly basic and some ingredients can be hard to come by, which is an extra challenge for chefs. However, you can get very good seafood and lobster which is generally cheaper than you would find in other countries.
8. Relax on the beaches of Cuba
Cuba has some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world and on our holidays we’ll get to unwind in Varadero or Playa Azul, meaning ‘blue beach’ is one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean. Situated on the Hicacos Peninsula, sun worshippers can bask on the 20km long white sandy beaches and nature lovers can enjoy exploring nearby natural attractions such as caves and cayes.
9. Discover Rio Canimar
For nature lovers, take a relaxing boat trip on Rio Canimar, a river with crystal clear waters surrounded by lush vegetation, an array of flora and fauna, including a Cuban Spoonbill which is native to the area. It’s also a fantastic spot to take a swim.
10. Board the Hershey Electric Railway
In a tiny corner of Cuba, lies a unique town called Hershey. This model town was built in 1917 by chocolate pioneer Milton Hershey to supply his US chocolate company with sugar and many locals have since referred to it as ‘the sweetest place on earth’. Visit the town of Hershey to learn more about the sugar cane industry and take a scenic rail journey through the beautiful Cuban landscapes.
It’s important to remember due to the economic climate the country has a lower standard of facilities that we might be used to back at home and things might not always go to plan. However, if you have an open mind and avoid stress by accepting that this island runs on “Cuban time", it will all be worth it! As a holiday in Cuba offers a colourful mix of culture, historical sights, tropical scenery and friendly people. Visiting Cuba will feel like travelling back to the past, but in the most wonderful way.
Our Cuba tours are the perfect way to see all the top highlights, plus our local guides will be with you to share their passion, knowledge, recommendations and assist you in any way.