16 Things To Do In CubaDecember 17, 2019
Cuba is one of the most vibrant and fascinating countries in the world, offering an extraordinary array of culture, history and nature for travelers to explore across its 3,570 miles of Caribbean coastline.
Follow along as we highlight sixteen of our favorite things to do in Cuba.
1. Walk the halls of history
In Cuba, awe-inspiring spaces withstand the test of time and recall the tales of a by-gone era. Visit the iconic Hotel Nacional, built to resemble the extravagant Breakers Hotel of Palm Beach. Once the playground of Hollywood stars, this visually stunning national monument was the site of the Havana Conference, a historic meeting of American mafia kingpins. Sipping a mojito on the beautiful terrace overlooking the seafront promenade is a life experience not to be missed!
2. See the island’s impressive architecture
Havana’s rich history has endowed it with perhaps the most varied architectural styles in the Western hemisphere. Impressive Colonial (1600s), Baroque (1700s), and Neoclassical (1800s) architecture of heavy Moorish and Spanish influence abound. As well as some of the best Art Deco, Eclectic, Art Nouveau and Modernist structures in the Caribbean. Discover Havana’s architectural marvels through a meandering exploration of Old Havana or with a more informative architecture tour with Cuba Candela.
3. Visit Famous Landmarks
These are just a few of the multitude of unique and iconic landmarks to see in Cuba.
- Hemingway’s house: well-preserved and fascinating.
- Fusterlandia: a community project with public art in the style of Gaudí.
- El Morro Castle: historically interesting with beautiful panoramic views of Old Havana.
- Plaza de la Revolución: the famous Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos murals.
- Gran Teatro Opera House: recently restored opulence recalling Havana’s golden age.
- El Capitolio: a top ten global landmark holding the world’s 3rd tallest bronze statue.
- Museum of the Revolution: gain a new perspective on history.
- Old Havana’s Four Plazas: worth passing through but not overly programmed except for history buffs.
- El Malecón: the seafront promenade that you must take by convertible car!
4. View amazing works of art
There are at least three ways to explore art in Cuba. First, the National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo de Bellas Artes) houses art that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. It is a must-see and provides meaningful context to the history and people of Cuba. Plan to spend at least 90 minutes here.
Cuba also has a well-developed fine art industry, and its most prominent artists are uniquely open and available to explain their work and sell pieces directly from their home studios. Lastly, Cuba has a thriving underground art scene, from street art to emerging local collectives
5. Dance your heart out
Cuba’s dance culture is unparalleled. Take a private salsa lesson with world famous dancers. Attend a performance of the breathtakingly elegant Cuban National Ballet in the historic Gran Teatro de La Habana. Grab a table front and center at the historic Tropicana cabaret. Dance is a reflection of Cuba’s soul—and it is a happy soul.
6. Catch live music performances
Music is at the core of Cuban culture. It emanates from every mobile phone, doorway and pore in Cuba; driving the rhythmic flow of everyday life. There are incredible live music performances every night, from salsa to rumba, opera to classical and of course jazz! Ask us for the best of the week, and we can arrange VIP table service or private performances from Cuba’s best music groups.
7. Get a taste of the nightlife
Fábrica de Arte Cubano (“FAC”) is the hub of cultural nightlife in Havana, a landmark in its own right that must not be missed on any trip to Havana. Locals and visitors mingle in the eclectic spaces that comprise the FAC, from the rotating art galleries that display Cuba’s emerging artists, to the live music stages, open-air cinema, food truck, restaurant and bars buzzing with energy.
8. Eat delicious food
Cubans are known to do a lot with a little, and your palate will agree. On your plate, you’ll find an array of flavors, rooted in history and skillfully prepared with simple and fresh ingredients. The Cuban people have re-imagined their culture through food, as exemplified by the emerging and hip culinary scene in Havana. Learn about the island’s cuisine for yourself with one of Cuba Candela’s immersive cooking classes!
9. Smoke cigars and drink rum
Cigars and rum are integral to Cuba’s culture and history, and there is no shortage of activities to explore. No trip to Viñales is complete without a visit to a local tobacco farm and private cigar rolling demonstration with a guajiro (Cuban cowboy). Back in Havana, Cuba Candela can arrange a private cigar rolling demonstration, with a rum and coffee tasting or a visit to a cigar factory to witness puros rolled right before your eyes. Skip the rum museum and enjoy a glass of Cuban rum on a private rooftop gazing out across the city as the sun goes down on Havana. Rum distilleries are not open to the public, but ask us about our exclusive rum tasting experience if you are interested!
10. Experience authentic Cuban cultural immersion
Dive into authentic cultural experiences from a local’s perspective. Go off-the-beaten path, behind the tourist façade, away from the tour buses, talk with locals and go into locals’ homes. Our travelers interact with members of the community and see how the real people of Cuba are and how they live. Hear their stories and genuinely connect. When our guests leave Cuba, they walk away with a real, from-the-heart understanding of this once closed island nation. It’s not what most people expect and has been a life changing experience for many.
11. Ride around in classic cars
No trip to Cuba is complete without cruising in a classic American convertible car. There is truly nothing quite like it on this planet. Step back in time and take in the sights, sounds and smells of the city from the backseat of a perfectly restored bright blue 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible. Don’t forget to dress island chic for the perfect photo!
12. Experience the island’s sports culture
Did you know that Cuba holds the 3rd most Olympic medals in all of the Americas, trailing only the United States and Canada, with nearly double the number of medals that the next highest country, Brazil has received? Cuba took home five gold medals at the 2016 summer Olympics alone, with three in boxing and two in wrestling. Lace up and take a boxing lesson in Havana with a former world champ! Alternatively, check out a local baseball game!
13. Shop for souvenirs
While rum and tobacco products may not be brought back to the United States from Cuba, you can shop for other local goods to take home. Bring back fresh Cuban coffee (Café Serrano is the best), vintage Cuba posters, antique books, street art and fine art. We take you to the best spots all privately owned and supporting local entrepreneurs.
14. Take in the island’s abounding natural beauty
Cuba is an ecological phenomenon. Rumor has it that when Columbus first arrived in Cuba, he declared it “the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen.” Aptly nicknamed “The Pearl of the Antilles,” Cuba boasts the largest expanse of unharmed reefs, swamplands, and rainforest, as well as the greatest diversity of plants, birds, and marine species, in all of the Caribbean. The island’s unique geological composition and strong emphasis on preservation have helped it maintain a natural mystique. Two popular destinations for nature lovers are the Viñales Valley and the colonial city of Trinidad. Viñales offers impressive views with its unique mogotes, as well as great horseback riding, cave exploration and hiking. While Trinidad is known for its beautiful waterfalls, distinctive wildlife and hikes. Looking to spend time outdoors soaking in Cuba’s natural beauty? Consider including Viñales and Trinidad in your itinerary.
15. Go deep sea fishing and scuba diving
Cuba is known for its spectacular fishing, particularly deep sea game located just miles off of Havana on the island’s northern coast, where a deep sea shelf opens up to marlin and other large fish. After all, it was Cuba’s alluring deep sea game that first attracted Hemingway to Cuba decades ago.
On the island’s southern coast is one of the world’s top dive spots, still largely untouched by humankind, named The Gardens of the Queen by Christopher Columbus. Marine biologists have called it the “most incredibly well protected and flourishing reef” in the world. Access is complicated and requires approvals. Ask us how we can arrange these activities for you in full compliance with U.S. and local rules.
16. Visit a local beach
Cuba is comprised of over 4,000 islands, home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Due to the U.S. travel restrictions prohibiting “tourism,” Cuba is not a great destination to go “lay on the beach.” That being said, there is something magical about a vintage American car parked on the sand, amidst swaying palms and a gentle ocean breeze. Ask us how to include a legal stop at one of Cuba’s beautiful beaches on your custom itinerary.