History is still very much alive in the Pearl of the Antilles. We’re here to show you some amazing things to do in Cuba.
As the largest island in the Caribbean and with the nature of recent political events, Cuba might seem like a world apart. Revolutions and Communism are still on the mind and travelers are skeptical to visit even in spite of America’s lifted travel ban. Even the hills are marked by the footprints of its past. Men like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro carved their name into the very culture of the country. Sugar plantations stand as nature’s reminder of the colonial boom and dark tales of slave driving. But with history at every turn and a resilient spirit blowing in the wind, there’s no denying you have to go and experience some amazing things to do in Cuba.
One of our favorite places in the world is old Havana. Teeming with vivid colors, glorious plazas, and Baroque builds, it’s home to some of the most lively spirits and best jazz after dark. During the day, 1950s Cadillacs cruise the streets, an enticing smell of ropa vieja wafts through the air, and locals erupt into spontaneous song and dance. As you explore, you’ll begin to pull back layers of a woven cultural tapestry, unearthing a land of an undefinable magic.
Here Are Some of Our Favorite Things to Do in Cuba
1. Explore the Streets of Old Havana
We’re going to start you off right. Of all the things to do in Cuba, exploring old Havana should be at the top of your list. At the heart of the country, this UNESCO site encapsulates the fervor of the people in one of Central America’s most authentic places. Striking architecture creates a kaleidoscope of colors by way of old Baroque buildings, hidden cantinas, and sprawling historic squares.
From central Plaza de Armas to Plaza de la Catedral, you will find gorgeous churches, neoclassical palaces, and more. Seventeenth and eighteenth-century fortresses tower over the canals. Scattered throughout the wall are cracks from cannon holes, marks of battles fought long ago.
2. Spend the Day Marveling at Works of Art in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Wander down the historic streets of La Habana Vieja until you reach this museum. Inside the Museo Nacional awaits a world of art chronicling the island’s artistic periods and the people who lived in them. Among the most famous works are the psychological portraiture of Federico Beltran Masses, political paintings of Guillermo Collazo, and breathtaking sculptures crafted by Rita Longa. Nearby, another branch of the museum offers guests the opportunity to see a myriad of art from around the world. Greek vases, a canvas painted by El Greco, and other lovely works grace the exhibits.
3. Go Visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum
Located in Santa Clara, this eye-catching memorial stands in memory of Che Guevara and the 29 other guerrillas who died with him while in Bolivia. Perched on a hill overlooking the city, you can’t help but notice the imposing statue. This city was the last point of conflict during the Cuban Revolution.
Batista attempted to impose his last attempt to retain power. He was met with forces driven by Guevara. Only twelve hours after the Battle of Santa Clara, the revolutionary forces achieved ultimate victory with Batista’s flight. In memory of this groundbreaking event, boxcars remain in the spot of the ammunition train Guevara derailed to this day. In 1982, the Cuban government began construction on the memorial for him. Six years later, on December 28, 1988, the memorial opened, detailing his life on an expansive ground.
Here’s the most fascinating part of the story. The initial memorial did not include a mausoleum. When Guevara died in Bolivia in 1967, executed by military forces, his body was dumped into an unmarked grave. For a long time, his remains were unidentifiable. Many years later, fingerprints were finally taken from his corpse and sent off to verify that this rebel was indeed Che Guevara.
4. Walk Where Giants Once Stood at Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
Far from the hustle and bustle of Havana, you’ll find solitude in citadel crowns and craggy cliffs on the southeastern coast. Just a skip away from the port town of Santiago de Cuba, you’ll find one of the most beautiful and well-preserved fortresses. Today, this 17th-century complex has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition, it stands as an important reminder of one of history’s greatest power struggles that once consumed Cuba and the Americas throughout the era of colonization.
5. Hike Through the Sierra Maestra
One of the most amazing things to do in Cuba is experience the wonder of the Sierra Maestra. As Cuba’s largest mountain range, it holds great historical significance in the country’s culture. This area has served as a campground and refuge to Cuban rebels in times past. In addition, it holds significance as the location of three wars of independence against Spain in the 1800s as well as a revolution against the dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Walk these historical grounds today and you will find spectacular showcases of flora and fauna. A great diversity of wildlife is found in colorful bird life, small frogs, and a myriad of indigenous life forms that can only be found in Cuba. One of the most fascinating is a butterfly species with invisible wings.
6. Visit Valle de Vinales
Visiting Valle de Vinales is one of our favorite things to do in Cuba. Spend an early morning with a hot cup of coffee and watch as fog rises up from the valley. One of the areas most visited sites are the old limestone pillars, a highlight of Cuban travel. In this region, the fertile land gives way to produce like some of the world’s best tobacco. The people here are as pure as the lifestyle. If you’re looking for an authentic place to visit, this is it.
7. Spend Some Time Exploring Trinidad
Are you going on a holiday in Cuba? Trinidad is one of those places you just can’t miss. Whenever people ask us what things to do in Cuba, we name exploring Trinidad. This small sixteenth-century village is crowded with colonial churches and buildings, interwoven with old cobblestone streets.
Idyllic plazas provide the perfect place for travelers like yourself to get acquainted with the locals. If you’re lucky enough to be staying for a while, you have to visit Disco Ayala. After all, it’s not every day that you come across a place where you can have a dance party in a cave.
8. Soak Up the Sun in Peaceful Guardalavaca
Are you looking to soak up some sun? Guardalavaca offers just the place – and here’s the best news. Unlike Varadero, you won’t find that many tourists around. Here, the beaches are much quieter and untainted. Overgrown shrubbery lines the pathway to the sand, a lone fisherman casts his reel, and the only sound you hear are seagulls as they fly off into the horizon.
From here, you can always opt to take a jungle excursion, which makes your stay in Cuba that much more exciting. We know that the biggest thrill of travel is the authenticity of a place – and you won’t find a more Cuban spot than this.
9. Get A Good Look at the Wildlife in Peninsula de Zapata
Have you heard of this national park before? Spending the day at Peninsula de Zapata is one of the top things to do in Cuba. Nature lovers can explore the Caribbean’s largest marshlands, take in incredible views, and get to see the wildlife. Just immersing yourself in nature alone is worth spending a few days here. The Zapata swamp is teeming with crocodiles and home to an astounding 150 different species of indigenous birds.
10. Get Your Groove on with Salsa Lessons in Havana
There’s more to Havana than old streets and classic cars you know. One of our favorite things to do in Cuba is to go dancing. What better way to dive right into the heart of the place? Even if you’re salsa moves are short of amazing, there’s still hope for you yet. If you plan your vacation in line with the International Cuban Dance Festival, you can enjoy seven days of nonstop salsa. That’s one way to pick it up. Do you think you’re up for the challenge?
11. Embark on a Snorkeling Adventure Near Isla de la Juventud
Varadero is a paradise for divers and snorkelers. Did you know that there are over 30 different dive sights to explore here? There are even more reefs to be found near Isla de la Juventud. This island off the coast of Cuba pretty much guarantees that you will see spectacular marine life around every splash and turn. So, if you love getting in the water, add exploring Isla de la Juventud to your list of things to do in Cuba.
12. Learn How to Roll a Cigar
Every tourist takes pictures on vacation. But travelers immerse themselves in the culture and identity of a place. Clearly, we all know that Cuba is known for its cigars and excellent tobacco grown in the countryside. This tobacco is transported to Havana, all around the country, and internationally as well. Take a tour of a cigar factory and learn how to roll one yourself. One place that offers a fun experience is Partagas. For about 9 or ten Euros, you can learn the ways of the locals. And add a cool party trick to your list. It seems like a win-win situation to us.
13. Roam the Countryside of Baracoa
Since we’re on the topic of authenticity and things to do in Cuba, Baracoa needs to come into the mix. If you’re ready to be amazed by the natural beauty of a land, bring your camera and buckle up for the ride. Come and explore the southernmost part of the island where the greenery never fades and skies have never been bluer.
The landscape consists of mountain peaks poking through the clouds, vast rainforests teeming with life, and wild rivers that flow through the midst of it all. In the morning, push back your curtains, pour a hot cup of coffee, and watch as the fog rolls back behind the warmth of the rising sun.
14. Climb the Seemingly Insurmountable Obstacle of Pico Turquino
Climb your way up to the tallest point in Cuba. Piercing the sky with more than 6,400 feet in height, this is a challenge even for the most experienced outdoorsman. Besides its grand stature, the Pico Turquino is notable for other reasons. Let’s just say that if you are brave enough to climb it, you will be following in the footsteps of the Cuban revolutionary army.
15. Play in the Water at Cayo Coco
Travel along the northernmost part of the island until you reach the Jardines del Rey Archipelago. Of all the places to go and things to do in Cuba, spending some time at Cayo Coco needs to be at the top of your list. This place is truly a gem. Vibrant turquoise waters meet pristine white sand all under the warmth of a cloudless blue sky. If you’re looking to dive, surf, swim, or just veg out, this is the place to be. If you want to take a tour here, you have your pick of so many good places.
16. Taste the Best Mojitos You’ve Ever Tried
When in Cuba … Now that you know about all the museums to visit and history to take in, we’ve got another surprise for you. It’s time for mojito tasting. We don’t care how many you’ve tried in the states – or anywhere else for that matter. You’ll never find ones as good and fresh as the ones straight from the source. Whoever wants to really know the Cuban culture has to taste it. Even if you’re not a fan of cocktails, give it a go. You just might become a fan.
17. Pop by Hemingway’s for a Spell
Hemingway’s house is here and it is amazing. Of all the things to do in Cuba, bump this one to the top of your list. While he passed in 1961, his colonial home in Havana has been preserved just the way he left it. Sadly, due to a number of petty crimes in the area, the doors are locked. But you can still peek through the windows of the Musea and envision what he looked like inside as he penned works like the Old Man and the Sea.
Book Your Trip and Explore Your Bucket List of Things to Do in Cuba
We hope you enjoyed reading our article on the best things to do in Cuba. As one of the most underrated travel destinations, there is a whole world of options waiting to be explored. Cuba’s rich, culture, history, and spirit of resilience come together in the most captivating way.
What do you picture when you think of Cuba? If this is your first time visiting, we encourage you to keep a travel journal down for your records. Write down what you think Cuba will be like before you go. Jot down fun discoveries, thoughts, and happenings while you’re there. Reflect on your travel a week after you’ve left. There’s nothing quite like comparing your preconceptions to new life experiences.
Which one of the places on our list would you like to visit most? Let us know in the comment section below.
Are you looking for more information on travel in Cuba? Check out these articles for more information:
- The 10 Best Beaches in Cuba: Discover Your Coastal Paradise
- Cuba Was Just Approved for New U.S. Flights
- Tour Operators Rule that Cuba is Still Safe to Visit
Questions and Comments
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