Best Things to Do in Cuba: 12 Top Places to Visit

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Cuba
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Are you pondering about visiting Cuba this year? Here are some of the most memorable and unique things to do in Cuba. These sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable Cuban adventure.

Ahh Cuba! A land of rhythmic salsa beats, vintage cars, and cigars that are the envy of the world. But beyond these iconic symbols, Cuba is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be explored. Nestled in the heart of the Caribbean, this island nation beckons travelers with its rich history, vibrant culture, and natural wonders. From the cobbled streets of Old Havana that tell tales of pirates and revolutionaries to the pristine beaches of Varadero where the azure waters kiss the golden sands, every corner offers a lot of things to do in Cuba that promise a story.

Dive into Jardines de la Reina to see marine life, or hike up Pico Turquino to the island’s highest point. And as the sun sets, let the aroma of authentic Cuban cuisine tantalize your senses, while the local rhythms make your heart dance. If you’re an adventurer or someone looking for that perfect Instagram shot, Cuba offers something for everyone. So, pack your bags, put on your dancing shoes, and get ready to immerse yourself in the Cuban experience. Ready to embark on a Cuban adventure? Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Cuba. Vamos!

The top places to visit in Cuba right now
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Best Places to Visit in Cuba

Ready to explore all the coolest things to do in Cuba? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this magnificent vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Cuba places to visit.

Are you looking for Caribbean attractions and unique cuisines? Or would you prefer a tranquil beach getaway? Whatever you’re planning, these must sees in Cuba can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Cuba that you should know about.

1. Old Havana

One of the coolest activities in Cuba is taking a leisurely walk through the historic heart of its capital, Old Havana. As you meander through its narrow alleyways, you’ll be transported back in time, with its colonial-era architecture, vibrant buildings, and the distant hum of salsa music echoing from nearby bars. The area, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a living testament to the island’s rich history and cultural tapestry.

Every corner seems to have a story to tell. From the grandeur of Plaza Vieja with its colorful buildings and lively atmosphere to the impressive Catedral de San Cristóbal, a masterpiece of baroque architecture. Don’t miss the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, which once housed the island’s governors and now serves as the City Museum. As you wander, you’ll likely come across local artists selling their crafts, musicians serenading passersby, and children playing in the squares.

And of course, no visit to Old Havana would be complete without sipping on a traditional mojito or daiquiri at La Bodeguita del Medio or El Floridita, bars once frequented by the legendary writer Ernest Hemingway. Starting your journey in Old Havana is an absolute must. It’s a sensory delight that captures the essence of Cuba in every nook and cranny. Is this one of the coolest things to do in Cuba? You bet!

Old Havana's historic streets, where colonial architecture and vibrant culture blend in a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Old Havana’s historic streets, where colonial architecture and vibrant culture blend in a UNESCO World Heritage site.

2. Tropicana Cabaret

When considering the best places to go in Cuba for an unforgettable night, the iconic Tropicana Cabaret tops the list. Nestled under a canopy of stars and towering palm trees in Havana, this open-air nightclub has been dazzling visitors since the 1930s with its high-energy performances and vibrant atmosphere.

From the moment you step in, you’re greeted with a kaleidoscope of colors as dancers in glittering costumes sashay to the pulsating rhythms of salsa, rumba, and cha-cha-cha. The show is a mesmerizing blend of music, dance, and acrobatics, capturing the very essence of Cuban culture and its African and Spanish roots. As the night progresses, the energy only intensifies, with performers pulling guests onto the stage to join in the fun.

Pair this with a classic Cuban cocktail in hand, and you’ve got the recipe for a night to remember. The Tropicana Cabaret is an experience, a journey into the heart of Cuba’s musical heritage. Let the rhythms of Tropicana sweep you off your feet. It’s a celebration of life, love, and the infectious spirit of Cuba. It’s easy to see why this is one of the best things to do in Cuba!

Havana's Tropicana Cabaret captivates visitors for decades with high-energy performances under the stars.
Havana’s Tropicana Cabaret captivates visitors for decades with high-energy performances under the stars.

3. Cueva Del Indio

Looking to visit one of the best places in Cuba? Add this to your bucket list! Nestled in the lush landscapes of Viñales Valley, Cueva Del Indio is a natural wonder that beckons adventurers and history enthusiasts alike. This ancient cave, carved out by the San Vicente River over millennia, offers a glimpse into Cuba’s prehistoric past. It’s a journey through time, where stalactites and stalagmites form intricate patterns, telling tales of ages gone by.

Upon entering, the cool air contrasts with the tropical heat outside, and the echoing drips of water create an almost otherworldly ambiance. Guided tours lead visitors along well-lit paths, showcasing the cave’s impressive formations and sharing stories of its indigenous inhabitants. Halfway through the tour, a surprise awaits: a boat ride! The subterranean river carries visitors through the cave’s deeper chambers, revealing even more of its hidden beauty.

For those seeking rest and relaxation, Cueva Del Indio is one of the best places in Cuba you should know about. Let the whispers of the past guide you through enchanting corridors and leave you with memories to cherish. Fly to the Caribbean and this is definitely one of the first things you’ll want to see!       

Viñales Valley's Cueva is one of the best things to do in Cuba.
Viñales Valley’s Cueva Del Indio is an ancient cave with intricate formations, beckoning adventurers and history enthusiasts.

4. Playa Ancón

A visit to Cuba would be incomplete without a trip to the Playa Ancón. Located just a short drive from the historic town of Trinidad, this beach is a slice of paradise that offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

As you lay on the sun-kissed shores, the world seems to slow down. The warm sun, the soft sand beneath your toes, and the rhythmic sound of the waves create a serene ambiance that’s hard to resist. For those looking for a bit more activity, the clear waters are perfect for snorkeling, revealing a vibrant underwater world teeming with colorful marine life.

Nearby beach bars serve refreshing mojitos and local delicacies, ensuring you’re well-fueled for a day of relaxation. And if you’re in the mood for some exploration, the nearby town of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers a rich tapestry of history and culture.

So, if you’re wondering where to visit in Cuba for a perfect blend of relaxation and exploration, Playa Ancón should be at the top of your list. It’s a reminder of the simple joys of life, and the beauty that Cuba has to offer.

Playa Ancón: a paradise beach near Trinidad, offering a tranquil escape from city life's hustle and bustle.
Playa Ancón: a paradise beach near Trinidad, offering a tranquil escape from city life’s hustle and bustle.

5. Fusterlandia

This is one of the best things to do in Cuba, hands down. In the outskirts of Havana lies Fusterlandia, a mosaic wonderland created by the talented artist José Fuster. As you wander through this colorful neighborhood, it feels like stepping into a whimsical dream. Every corner, every wall, and even the streets are adorned with intricate mosaics that tell tales of Cuban life, history, and imagination.

Let the art guide your way. The myriad of colors, patterns, and designs are a feast for the eyes. From depictions of Cuban musicians to abstract designs, the creativity on display is astounding. It’s a place where art comes alive and interacts with its surroundings.

Visitors can also meet local artists, purchase unique souvenirs, and even try their hand at mosaic-making. The community’s welcoming spirit ensures that everyone feels at home amidst the art. With so much charm and personality, Fusterlandia is one of the top places to visit in Cuba.

Fusterlandia is a mosaic wonderland by artist José Fuster, a whimsical dream of mosaics telling Cuban life, history, and imagination.
Fusterlandia is a mosaic wonderland by artist José Fuster, a whimsical dream of mosaics telling Cuban life, history, and imagination.

6. Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca

Attractions in Cuba come in all shapes and sizes, but this one is among the best! Perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca stands as a sentinel to Cuba’s rich history. This UNESCO World Heritage site, also known as El Morro, is a testament to the island’s strategic importance during the colonial era. Built in the 17th century to defend against pirate attacks, the fortress is a marvel of military architecture.

The castle offers a journey back in time. Its thick walls, cannons, and watchtowers have witnessed countless battles and have withstood the test of time. The panoramic views from the top are breathtaking, offering a sweeping vista of the sea and the surrounding landscape.

Inside, a museum delves into the history of piracy in the Caribbean, showcasing artifacts and tales of legendary pirates. Evening visitors are in for a treat as the traditional cannon-firing ceremony takes place, a ritual that dates back centuries. As one of the top Cuba attractions, you’ll definitely want to add this to your travel itinerary. It’s a vivid reminder of Cuba’s resilience and enduring spirit.

Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, a UNESCO fortress perched on a cliff above the Caribbean Sea.
Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, a UNESCO fortress perched on a cliff above the Caribbean Sea.

7. Jardines de la Reina

Imagine a pristine marine paradise, untouched by the modern world, where vibrant coral reefs teem with life and the waters are crystal clear. Welcome to Jardines de la Reina, or the “Gardens of the Queen.” Named by Christopher Columbus in honor of Queen Isabella of Spain, this archipelago is one of the coolest activities in Cuba for diving enthusiasts.

Spanning over 90 miles off the southern coast of Cuba, this marine reserve is a diver’s dream come true. Sharks, rays, groupers, and colorful schools of fish dance around the corals, creating a mesmerizing underwater ballet. The mangroves and seagrass beds play a crucial role in nurturing marine life. This makes the ecosystem here incredibly rich and diverse.

As one of the top Cuba attractions, you’ll definitely want to add Jardines de la Reina at the top of your list. As you descend into the depths, the wonders of the marine world unfold before your eyes, reminding you of the sheer beauty and mystery of nature. It’s an experience that captures the essence of Cuba’s wild and untamed spirit.

Jardines de la Reina is one of the best things to do in Cuba.
Explore Jardines de la Reina: Cuba’s untouched marine paradise, a diver’s dream with vibrant coral reefs and crystal-clear waters.

8. Paladares

For those who believe that the way to a country’s heart is through its stomach, Cuba won’t disappoint. Among the best places in Cuba to experience authentic Cuban cuisine are the local paladares.” These privately-owned restaurants, often set within the charming confines of a local’s home, offer an intimate dining experience that’s hard to match.

From the classic “ropa vieja” (shredded beef in tomato sauce) to the tantalizing “malanga fritters,” every dish tells a story of Cuba’s rich cultural tapestry. As you sit down in a cozy dining room, perhaps with vintage décor reminiscent of the 1950s, you’re not just having a meal; you’re embarking on a culinary journey. The fusion of Spanish, African, and Caribbean flavors dances on your palate, each bite a testament to Cuba’s diverse heritage.

Where to visit in Cuba for a genuine taste of its culture? A paladar, without a doubt. Engage in delightful conversations with the owners, learn about the history behind each dish, and leave with your heart full and your taste buds satisfied. It’s about the warmth, the stories, and the passion that makes dining at a paladar one of the most memorable things to do in Cuba.

Discover Cuba's heart through its cuisine at "paladares," intimate local restaurants offering authentic dining experiences in charming homes.
Discover Cuba’s heart through its cuisine at “paladares,” intimate local restaurants offering authentic dining experiences in charming homes.

9. Callejón de Hamel

Cuba’s heartbeat is its music, and there’s no better place to feel that pulse than at Callejón de Hamel. Located in the heart of Havana, this vibrant alleyway is a kaleidoscope of art, culture, and rhythm. For a unique experience like no other, you’ll want to check out this top place to visit in Cuba. Every Sunday, locals and tourists alike gather here to celebrate the Afro-Cuban religion of Santería through dance, music, and art.           

As you step into this colorful world, the beats of the rumba will beckon you. Musicians with their congas and bongos create a rhythm that’s impossible to resist. Before you know it, you’ll be swaying, clapping, and dancing along with the crowd. You can immerse yourself in the local culture and feel a deep connection with its people.

Murals and sculptures adorn the walls, each telling a story of Cuba’s African heritage and the spiritual beliefs of Santería. Cuba attractions like Callejón de Hamel are places where the soul of the nation comes alive. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Cuba to experience its cultural richness, let the rhythms of Callejón de Hamel guide you. It’s a celebration of life, love, and the enduring spirit of the Cuban people.

Callejón de Hamel: a vibrant Havana alleyway celebrating Afro-Cuban Santería through dance, music, and art every Sunday.
Callejón de Hamel: a vibrant Havana alleyway celebrating Afro-Cuban Santería through dance, music, and art every Sunday.

10. Bay of Pigs Museum

For those keen on understanding Cuba’s past, a visit to the Bay of Pigs Museum is one of the must-see in Cuba. Situated in Playa Girón, this museum offers a detailed account of the infamous 1961 invasion.

As you walk through its halls, you’ll be transported back in time. Photographs, artifacts, and detailed exhibits narrate the story of the Cuban exiles’ failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government. Supported by the U.S., this operation ended in a victory for the Cuban forces, and the museum showcases this from a Cuban perspective.

Outside the museum, the serene beaches of Playa Girón beckon. It’s a stark contrast to the intense history the area holds. After soaking in the historical insights, you can take a refreshing dip in the azure waters. It’s this blend of history and natural beauty that makes the Bay of Pigs one of the best places to go in Cuba.

Bay of Pigs Museum: a Playa Girón site offering a detailed account of the infamous 1961 invasion.
Bay of Pigs Museum: a Playa Girón site offering a detailed account of the infamous 1961 invasion.

11. Viñales Valley

In the heart of Cuba lies the breathtaking Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site that offers a slice of the country’s most pristine landscapes. For those who yearn for a blend of adventure and tranquility, this is one of the best places in Cuba to experience.

Dotted with dramatic limestone cliffs called mogotes, the valley is a testament to nature’s artistry. Traditional tobacco farms stretch across the landscape, where you can witness the age-old process of cigar-making. You can watch skilled farmers hand-roll the world’s most coveted cigars.

Horseback riding is a popular way to explore the valley, allowing you to meander through its vast tobacco fields, caves, and serene lakes. For a panoramic view of the valley, a visit to the Hotel Los Jazmines lookout is a must. The vista from here is nothing short of spectacular, with the emerald green of the fields contrasting against the deep blue sky.      As such, this Cuba attraction is one of the most popular sights in the state.

Discovering Viñales Valley is one of the best things to do in Cuba.
Experience Cuba’s heart in Viñales Valley: a UNESCO site of adventure and tranquility, showcasing pristine landscapes.

12. Trinidad

Nestled between the Escambray Mountains and the Caribbean Sea, Trinidad is a destination that captures the essence of Cuba’s colonial past. As you wander through its cobbled streets, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. This well-preserved town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the coolest Cuba things to do for history lovers and culture enthusiasts alike.

The town’s vibrant buildings, with their pastel hues and wrought-iron details, tell tales of a bygone era. Plaza Mayor, the heart of Trinidad, is surrounded by grand colonial homes, now transformed into museums that offer a glimpse into 19th-century life. Climb the bell tower of the Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra Bandidos, and from the top, you’re rewarded with panoramic views of the town against the backdrop of the azure sea.

As evening descends, Trinidad comes alive with the pulsating rhythms of Cuban music. Casa de la Musica, an open-air venue, is the place to be for live performances. It’s easy to see why this is one of the coolest things to do in Cuba!

Trinidad: Cuba's colonial essence, a UNESCO site. Wander cobbled streets for a historic step back in time.
Trinidad: Cuba’s colonial essence, a UNESCO site. Wander cobbled streets for a historic step back in time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the Best Things to Do in Cuba

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Cuba? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Cuba:

Is it safe to travel to Cuba?

Absolutely! Cuba is known for its warm hospitality and is generally safe for travelers. However, like any destination, it’s always wise to take standard precautions and stay informed about the local customs.

What’s the best time to visit Cuba?

The dry season, from November to April, is the most popular time to visit. The weather is pleasant, making it perfect for exploring the outdoors and lounging on the beaches.

Is 7 days enough for Cuba?

Yes, 7 days can be enough for a trip to Cuba, depending on what you want to see and do. While you won’t be able to explore every corner of the country, a week gives you a reasonable amount of time to experience some of Cuba’s highlights. Here’s a general idea of how you might structure a 7-day trip:

  • Days 1-3: Havana: Explore the capital’s vibrant streets, plazas, and historical sites. Take a ride in a classic car, visit the Revolution Museum, stroll along the Malecón, and enjoy live music.
  • Day 4: Viñales: A day trip or overnight stay in the Viñales Valley allows you to experience Cuba’s countryside. This includes the famous tobacco farms. You might take a guided tour to learn about traditional cigar-making.
  • Days 5-6: Trinidad or Cienfuegos: Head to one of these beautiful colonial cities. Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture. Cienfuegos is known as the “Pearl of the South” for its elegant French-influenced buildings.
  • Day 7: Return to Havana: Spend your last day shopping for souvenirs, enjoying some final sightseeing, or relaxing on a nearby beach like Playas del Este.

Some travelers might also choose to spend a couple of days at a beach resort area like Varadero. Or, they may explore other cities like Santiago de Cuba if time permits.

Remember, travel in Cuba requires more planning and flexibility, as transportation and accommodations can be less predictable than in other destinations. Working with a local guide or reputable tour company can help ensure that you make the most of your time there.

Do I need a visa to travel to Cuba?

Yes, most travelers will need a tourist card or visa to enter Cuba. It’s essential to check the requirements based on your nationality before planning your trip.

Old colorful houses across the road in the center of Havana.
Old colorful houses across the road in the center of Havana.

Can I use credit cards in Cuba?

While the situation is improving, many places in Cuba still operate on a cash-only basis. It’s a good idea to carry enough cash for your expenses and exchange it for Cuban pesos upon arrival.

What’s the primary language spoken in Cuba?

Spanish is the official language of Cuba. However, in tourist areas, you’ll find many locals who speak English.

What are 3 things Cuba is known for?

Cuba, a vibrant island nation in the Caribbean, is renowned for several distinct cultural, historical, and social aspects. Here are three things that Cuba is particularly known for:

  1. Cigars: Cuban cigars are famous worldwide for their quality and craftsmanship. The country’s favorable climate and soil conditions make it an ideal place for tobacco farming. Moreover, Cuban cigars are often considered the best in the world. They’re seen as a symbol of luxury and are highly sought after by aficionados.
  2. Music and Dance: Cuban music is a rich blend of African, Spanish, and indigenous influences. It results in unique styles such as son, rumba, and mambo. Cuban music has significantly influenced genres like jazz, salsa, and cha-cha-cha. The lively music scene is matched by a strong dance tradition, with the Salsa being one of the most popular dances.
  3. Vintage Cars: The streets of Cuba are known for their colorful array of vintage American cars from the 1950s. Due to the U.S. embargo and restrictions on car imports, Cubans have maintained and restored these classic vehicles for decades. They’ve become a symbol of Cuban ingenuity and perseverance and are a prominent feature in the country’s urban landscape.

These aspects of Cuban culture and history reflect the island’s unique heritage. As such, it contributes to its appeal as a distinctive and intriguing destination.

What activities do people do in Cuba?

In Cuba, visitors often indulge in activities like exploring the historic streets of Old Havana, dancing to the vibrant rhythms of salsa and rumba, and relaxing on the country’s pristine beaches. Additionally, many travelers venture into the lush Viñales Valley for tobacco farm tours, dive into the clear waters of Jardines de la Reina, and savor authentic Cuban cuisine at local paladares.

Is Cuba worth visiting?

Absolutely! Cuba offers a unique blend of rich history, vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and pristine beaches. This makes it a captivating destination for travelers seeking both adventure and relaxation.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Cuba

Cuba, with its rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty, offers an experience like no other. From the rhythmic beats of Havana’s streets to the tranquil beauty of its pristine beaches, there’s something in Cuba for every traveler. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or someone looking for the coolest activities in Cuba, this Caribbean gem promises memories that will last a lifetime. So pack your bags, put on your dancing shoes, and get ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant and enchanting world of Cuba. It’s not just a destination; it’s a journey through time, music, and soul.

The top things to do in Cuba for all types of travelers
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