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50 Best Things to Do in Cuba + MAP with Attractions

Home | Travel | The Caribbean | Cuba | 50 Best Things to Do in Cuba + MAP with Attractions

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There are many things to do in Cuba , a country with a peculiar political history and some of the best beaches in the Caribbean.

The Cuban Revolution marked a turning point in the history of post-colonized Cuba. When the world began to globalize, a communist regime was established on the island, and it’s still present today despite international pressure and global blockades. However, that is exactly the reason why the Cuban tourist attractions are unique and very different from the ones you’ll find in other Caribbean islands.

The country is breathtaking, full of incredible landscapes and rich culture. Regardless of when you visit it, you will always find interesting activities in Cuba . Although you should go as soon as possible if you want to know the authentic Cuba because just two weeks after our 15-day trip to Cuba , Fidel Castro died and the island is changing very quickly since then.

To help you plan your trip, here are the 50 best places to visit in Cuba. Also, at the end of this article, you will find a map with all these tourist attractions of Cuba so you can make the most of your time. I also recommend you read our guide to  planning a trip to Cuba .

1. Havana, the most important city to visit in Cuba

Havana  is one of the most important  places to visit in Cuba  since it’s the capital of the country. It’s a city of contrasts, where greatness and decadence collide, and most people have a love/hate relationship with it.

As I explain in our guide on things to do in Havana , the capital city is divided into the neighborhoods of  Old Havana, Central Havana , and  Vedado . This is where you’ll find some of the most  famous places in Cuba , such as the Malecón de La Habana, the Museum of the Revolution, and the Christ of Havana.

Havana, best thing to do in Cuba

But this is just the beginning of what the city has to offer. If you visit, I recommend checking out our guide to learn more about Havana.

We flew into Havana airport and booked  this transfer   to the city center. As soon as we arrived, we left our bags at our hotel and took this  free tour  to see the main  points of interest in Cuba . It’s a group tour, but if you prefer something more personal, you can take the  tour with a local guide .

Two other free tours in Havana that I recommend are the  colonial Havana tour  and the  night tour,  where you can enjoy the city’s best nightlife.

2. Visit Viñales Valley, one of the best things to do in Cuba

The  Viñales Valley  is one of the most  beautiful places to visit in Cuba . Not only is it one of the most popular natural areas in the country, but it’s a  UNESCO  World Heritage Site and National Monument.

What makes it a  must-see in Cuba  is the gorgeous natural landscape of native plants and  mogotes . These rounded mountains are no taller than 100 feet, but they’re eye-catching. Since they formed from limestone, the Caribbean rains have gradually eroded them, creating caves. Some of these caverns have underground rivers, such as the  Cueva del Indio , which I will tell you about later.

Valle de Viñales, things to do in Cuba

As I mentioned in our guide to the best  things to do in Viñales , you cannot miss the area’s coffee and tobacco plantations. I also recommend standing in front of the Prehistory Mural, a large painting on the rock of the mogote Pita. However, this area of ​​the island has much more to offer.

We loved this  bike tour , but be prepared to end up sore because the slopes are killer. If you want to save yourself the effort, this  electric bike tour  may be a good option.

I recommend spending 3 or 4 days in this area, although if you don’t have time, you can take this  1-day tour  from Havana to see the most important things.

3. Varadero, one of the most famous beaches in Cuba

Varadero  boasts some of the most beautiful beaches, so this is one of the top  areas to visit in Cuba . Since it’s so popular, Varadero has several luxury resorts. If you want to spend a few days in total comfort, this is the place to go.

The town has over 13 miles of pristine white sand beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters. Here, you can disconnect from it all and spend your time swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, or water skiing.

Varadero, what to visit in Cuba

This  tourist attraction in Cuba  also has several impressive caves, such as the  Saturno Cave . Stepping inside this archaeological structure, you’ll be amazed at the rock formations. Best of all,  it has a natural pool inside where you can enjoy a dip.

So, if you’re looking for  fun things to do in Cuba , Varadero is a place you must visit. If you don’t have much time, you can book  this excursion  from Havana to see Varadero in one day.

4. Trinidad, a must-visit in Cuba

Trinidad  is one of the  best cities to visit in Cuba . It’s in the center of the island and is an area of great cultural and historical significance.

As I mentioned in our guide to the  best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba , this city still has remnants from the Spanish colonial era. It’s a lovely place, and I encourage you to get lost among its cobblestone streets and colorful buildings. Walk down  Real de Jigüe  and  Amargura streets, and you’ll feel like you’re stepping through a postcard.

I also recommend visiting  Plaza Mayor , where you can have a  canchánchara , a traditional Cuban cocktail. Another  must-visit in Cuba is Casa de la Trova , in Trinidad, where you can enjoy the nightlife and listen to authentic Cuban music.

Trinidad, the best place to visit in Cuba

Trinidad is also home to two interesting museums: The  Municipal Historical Museum  and the  National Museum of the Fight Against Bandits . The first has a rooftop terrace where you can get amazing views of the city, while the second has artifacts related to Cuban independence.

Another cool place to go is the  Church of the Holy Trinity,  one of the largest churches in the country.

If you want to discover everything about this beautiful city, I recommend this  free tour  to see some of the most  famous landmarks in Cuba .

5. Cienfuegos, one of the most beautiful places to visit in cuba

Cienfuegos , also known as the Pearl of the South, is one of the top  cities to visit in Cuba . It’s on the way to Trinidad from Havana, so it’s a convenient place to spend a day.

Located on the shores of the bay of Cienfuegos, this town stands out for its buildings from the colonial era. The historical urban center of Cienfuegos is also a  UNESCO  World Heritage Site.

Some other impressive places in Cienfuegos include the  José Martí Park, Ferrer Palace , the  Benjamin Duarte Provincial House of Culture , and the  Purísima Concepción Cathedral .

Cienfuegos, famous places in Cuba

5. Cienfuegos, another must-visit in Cuba

Another cool activity in Cuba  is walking along the  Paseo del Prado , the largest promenade on the island. It eventually leads to the  Malecón de Cienfuegos  in Punta Gorda. As I mentioned in our guide with the  best things to do in Cienfuegos , this is where you can enjoy one of the best sunsets in the country.

6. Santa Clara and the Che Guevara mausoleum

Che Guevara is one of the most important figures in the country’s history, so visiting the Che Guevara Mausoleum is one of the most important things to do in Cuba . You can find it in Santa Clara , a central city on the island.

Santa Clara stands out for its historical monuments that reflect the independence revolution. The mausoleum also includes the ashes of Guevara’s 16 comrades who were killed during the Bolivia campaign in 1967. The monument on the mausoleum grounds, at over 20 feet tall, is also worth seeing.

In this same area, there is a museum dedicated to the life of Guevara and an “eternal flame” that Fidel Castro lit in his memory.

6. Santa Clara and the Mausoleum of Che Guevara, must-see in Cuba

6. Santa Clara and the Mausoleum of Che Guevara, an important place to see in Cuba

While you’re in Santa Clara, take the time to visit some other  tourist attractions in Cuba , like the  Leoncio Vidal Park and the Armored Train Monument . The latter commemorates the end of the Batista dictatorship and the start of the Castro socialist regime.

Unfortunately, we had to cancel our excursion to Santa Clara due to an amoeba infection, which I mentioned in our article on  travel insurance for Cuba . Luckily, it was nothing serious, but it’s a good reminder that travel insurance in Cuba is a necessity.

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7. Visit Santiago de Cuba, the 2nd largest city in Cuba

Visiting Santiago de Cuba is another great thing to do in Cuba. While it’s the second-largest city in the country, it’s on the southern end of the island, while Havana is on the northern end. So, if you’re going to spend less than two weeks in Cuba, you’ll have to decide between visiting Havana (and the Northern half of the island) or Santiago (and the Southern half).

We opted for Havana, but we plan to come back so we can discover all that Santiago de Cuba has to offer. This includes beautiful colonial architecture, a rich revolutionary history, and several  famous landmarks in Cuba .

Santiago de Cuba, places to visit in Cuba

7. Visit Santiago de Cuba, another prominent city to visit in Cuba

Enramada Street  is the main artery of the city and where you can access the main tourist attractions. I recommend spending time in the old town, visiting  Parque Céspedes  and the  Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption .

Santiago de Cuba also has one of the most famous boardwalks in Cuba, where you can mingle with the locals. This city is also steeped in history, so stop by the  Moncada Barracks and Museum, Plaza Marte , and the  Santa Ifigenia Cemetery . This is where Fidel Castro’s ashes and the body of José Martí are buried.

8. Ride in a classic car, something to do in Cuba with family

One of the most typical  things to do in Cuba  is to  take a ride in a classic car . In Havana, these types of tours are all over, although they can be a bit pricey. We opted for  this tour  and explored the city in a classic 1950s automobile.

Our driver, Armando, asked us which parts of the city we’d already visited, so he could take us to new places. Along the way, he told us lots of anecdotes that we wouldn’t have heard if we didn’t do this tour. Also, he let us stop a few times so we could take photos. At the end of our tour, we asked Armando to drop us off at a different spot than the pick-up location, and he happily obliged.

Ride in a classic car, best things to do in Cuba

If you want to explore Cuba in style, this excursion is the way to go. You can see iconic sites like the  Plaza de la Revolución, Almendares Park,  and the  Malecón promenade . Plus, riding along in a classic car makes you feel fully immersed in the city’s vibrant atmosphere.

9. Have a mojito in La Bodeguita del Medio, another fun thing to do in Cuba

Another  fun thing to do in Cuba  is to  have a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio . Although a few replicas have cropped up on the island (and around the world), the original La Bodeguita del Medio is in Old Havana.

The restaurant has long been a meeting place for writers, artists, and politicians. When you visit, you will find out that some personalities have left their sign on the walls, including Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Neruda.

La Bodeguita del Medio, tourist attraction in Cuba

9. Have a mojito in La Bodeguita del Medio, one of the best things to do in Cuba

This is also the  best place in Cuba  to drink a Cuban  mojito . Made with rum, lime, and mint, it’s the traditional cocktail of Havana, and a great way to end your day.

That said, La Bodeguita del Medio is one of the most popular  tourist attractions in Cuba ‘s capital city. So, if you want a relaxing evening, you won’t find it here! We went very early so we could avoid the crowds, which worked out quite well. Plus, there was live music, and the drinks weren’t that expensive (about 5 CUC).

10. Buena Vista Social Club, the best place to enjoy Cuban music

Buenavista Social Club  is one of the  best places to visit in Cuba  if you want to enjoy authentic Cuban music. Located in Havana, it’s one of the most popular clubs on the island and the perfect way to enjoy the nightlife.

Like all the clubs in the country, it closed its doors during the 1959 revolution and the rise of the Castro regime. Fortunately, it was able to reopen in the 1990s, and since then, it’s been a  must-see in Cuba .

Buena Vista Social Club, fun things to do in Cuba

Here, you can watch the Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club perform live, as well as the Afro-Cuban All-Stars. These are two of the best Latin bands in the world, so if you’re looking for  entertainment in Cuba , look no further.

Since this is a popular club, I suggest booking  your ticket  in advance. This entry ticket includes a three-course dinner and drinks prior to the performance.

11. Tropicana Cabaret, something fun to do in Cuba at night

The  Tropicana Cabaret in Havana is one of the most popular cabarets in the country and even won the 5 Stars Diamond for the Best Cabaret in the Americas. If you’re wondering  what to do in Cuba at night , Tropicana has all the fun, music, and color you could want.

What makes this cabaret unique is that it’s outdoors in a tropical garden. The stage is surrounded by beautiful palm trees, creating a fitting atmosphere. Tropicana dates to 1939, and world-renown artists have graced its stage over the years.

Tropicana Cabaret, where to go in Cuba

Taking in a show at the Tropicana is one of the most  exciting things to do in Cuba . While you sip a mojito, you can watch dozens of performers take the stage. It’s an incredible display of movement, dance, music, and colorful costumes.

The cabaret is very popular, so I recommend booking your  ticket in advance. Also, consider the dress code before you go. Men should wear long pants, closed-toe shoes, and a polo shirt or button-down. Women should also dress semi-formally and should only bring small bags. Otherwise, they’ll have to leave it at the entrance.

12. Topes de Collantes, one of the best hikes in Cuba

If you like hiking, one of the places you can  visit in Cuba  is the  Topes de Collantes  natural park. It’s just a few miles from Trinidad, so you can take advantage of your visit by stopping here along the way.

The park is in the Sierra del Escambray mountain range, a lush area that’s home to nearly 50% of Cuba’s native species. It’s also full of natural wonders, such as the 210-foot  Caburní Falls , the highest waterfall in the Caribbean.

Topes de Collantes, tourist attactions in Cuba

12. Topes de Collantes, one of the best places to go hiking in Cuba

We loved this place, and we were even able to see and photograph several small Cuban hummingbirds hovering around the flowers next to the waterfall. Getting there was a bit difficult because of the rain, but it was more than worth it. If you visit, just bring the right footwear!

While you’re here, check out some other hiking paths, such as the  Vegas Grandes trail, that leads to another beautiful fall; or the Gruta Batata trail, which offers amazing panoramic views and leads to natural pools where you can bathe.

Topes de Collantes is also close to the  Hacienda Codina mud baths  and the  Paseo Ecologico  nature walkway.

13. Dance in the House of Music, something to do in Cuba for couples

If you’re looking for some nighttime  activities in Cuba , I recommend visiting the  House of Music . We went to the ones that are in Havana, Trinidad, and Viñales but almost all major towns have one.

Here, you can groove to live musical performances, which vary by the day. Several well-known Cuban artists and groups have performed here, such as Los Van Van orchestra and Bamboleo.

Dance in the House of Music, where to go in Cuba

Besides the music and dancing, the House of Music is a great place in Cuba to enjoy a mojito or even a Cuban cigar.

Admission varies depending on who’s performing that night, but the tickets are usually quite cheap. The club is open from 10 pm to midnight, so if you’re looking for fun things to do in Cuba  at night, this is the best place to go.

14. Zapata Swamp, one of the best national parks in Cuba

The  Zapata Swamp  is one of the best national parks to visit in Cuba. It’s in the Matanzas province on the Zapata Peninsula, and it’s the largest wetland in the Caribbean, covering 1,680 square miles. Thanks to its aquatic bird population, the park is a  UNESCO -declared Biosphere Reserve and  Ramsar Site .

Here, you can explore lush forests filled with about a thousand different native plant species. There is also a wide variety of animals, some of which are endangered. Zapata Swamp serves as a refuge for more than 65 migratory bird species, and it’s home to Cuban crocodiles and alligators. You can go to the park’s  Crocodile Farm  to learn more about these reptiles, and it’s a fun  thing to do in Cuba for kids .

Zapata Swamp, things to see in Cuba

You can also explore other areas near the national park, such as  Taino Village . There, you can learn more about pre-Columbian life in Cuba by examining the sculptures and ruins. Another  interesting place to visit in Cuba  is  Playa Larga  in the Bay of Pigs, one of the most popular beaches in the country. I also suggest visiting  Laguna del Tesoro, Guamá , and the  Hatiguanico River .

You’ll need an entire day to explore this area. It’s a bit difficult to navigate on your own, so I recommend  this tour from Varadero.

15. Cueva de los Peces, the deepest natural sinkhole in Cuba

Close to Zapata Swamp is  Cueva de los Peces , another cool  attraction in Cuba . This natural sinkhole is known for its impressive depth, and it’s a natural wonder you should stop and see.

The sinkhole is 230 feet deep and sits among beautiful scenery. It’s open to the public, so you can bathe in its crystal-clear waters and see the fish swimming under the surface. I think it’s a great  activity to do in Cuba  as a couple. Plus, the Bay of Pigs is right across the road, and it’s the best place to go snorkeling in Cuba.

La Cueva de los Peces, beautiful places in Cuba

15. La Cueva de los Peces, the deepest natural sinkhole in Cuba

Besides the incredible amount of tropical fish you’ll see, this area is also full of sea sponges and colorful coral. I highly recommend checking out this place if you’re looking for an  adventure in Cuba . There is even a small resort where you can rent snorkeling equipment.

16. Valle del Silencio, one of the best places to see the sunset in Cuba

Watching the sunset in the  Valle del Silencio  is one of the most  romantic things to do in Cuba . Many people would agree that this is the most beautiful place in Viñales, so you don’t want to miss it.

This lush Caribbean valley is home to several tobacco and coffee plantations, and it’s one of the most scenic  sites to see in Cuba . While the most popular way to explore the valley is  by horseback , we took this  sunset hike  and loved it.

Valle del Silencio, top sites in Cuba

On our hike, we visited a tobacco plantation, where we learned how the farmers dry the plants for distribution. We also got incredible views of the valley as the sunset bathed the mogotes in orange. Without a doubt, it was one of the best  outdoor activities in Cuba  that we did.

17. Learn about Santeria, something interesting to do in Cuba

Before I went to Cuba, I didn’t know that the primary religion, in addition to Catholicism, is  Yoruba . Also known as  Santeria , this religion has its roots in Africa and came to Cuba during the colonial slave trade.

Santeria is more present on the island than you might think. For example, during our trip, we saw hundreds of people dressed in white from head-to-toe, signifying that they have been “sanctified”. You’ll have to take this Yoruba religion tour to know what that means! Without a doubt, this is one of the most interesting things to do in Cuba  if you want to dig into the country’s culture.

Learn about Santeria, something to do in Cuba

The tour is in Havana, so you’ll get to see many of  Cuba’s points of interest . This includes the  Museum of the Orishas  and the  Callejón de Hamel , which is the epicenter of Afro-Cuban culture. You’ll also visit the home of a  babalao , or Santeria priest, who will show you some Yoruba rituals.

18. Visit Cayo Levisa or Cayo Jutias, the best beaches in Cuba

If you want to enjoy some of the best beaches in Cuba, go to  Cayo Levisa  or  Cayo Jutias .

Cayo Levisa  is an island that’s about 4 miles off Cuba’s northern coast. Typically, visitors arrive from Viñales, so I recommend  this excursion  to get there. It doesn’t include the cost of the ferry, which is about 15 CUC.

Once in Cayo Levisa, you can enjoy all kinds of beachy  activities in Cuba , such as swimming and snorkeling. The gulf waters off the coast are home to a diverse array of fish and reefs.

Cayo Levisa or Cayo Jutías. beautiful place to go in Cuba

18. Visit Cayo Levisa or Cayo Jutías, the best beaches in Cuba

If you’re looking for more affordable things to do in Cuba , head to  Cayo Jutías , which I consider one of the top beaches in the country.  This excursion leaves from Viñales and you won’t have to take a ferry to get there.

The beaches of Cayo Jutías look like paradise and are perfect for sunbathing. You can also go swimming and snorkeling here, and I also suggest trying the lobster at one of the nearby restaurants, as it’s a specialty here.

19. Hotel Nacional, one of the most iconic hotels in Cuba

The  Hotel Nacional de Cuba is a classic hotel in Havana and an iconic place to visit in Cuba.

This hotel first opened in 1930, and it’s still as elegant as ever. Its first-class services have solidified it as a benchmark within the Cuban hospitality industry.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where to go in Cuba

19. Hotel Nacional de Cuba, one of the most iconic hotels in Cuba

Moreover, several high-profile celebrities and public figures have stayed at the hotel. A few examples include Marlon Brando, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, and Alexander Fleming. Once you see this  famous landmark in Cuba , you’ll get a sense of its grandiosity and glamour.

A fun fact about the hotel is that in 1946, all the bosses of the United States mafia met here. Today, there aren’t any mafia bosses at the hotel, but it’s still fully functional, and you can book a room during your visit to Cuba. If you want to stay here,  book in advance  because the rooms sell out quickly.

20. Alejandro de Humboldt National Park

Alejandro de Humboldt National Park  is one of the  best places to visit in Cuba  to reconnect with nature. It has been a  UNESCO  World Heritage Site since 2001, and its lush vegetation and wide variety of native species makes it a must-see.

Experts believe there are more than 340 plant species that are exclusively in this park, making it one of the top places in Cuba. Here, you can enjoy beautiful scenery and views, as well as pleasant walks in nature. If you’re going to be in the southern part of the island, you can’t miss this national park.

Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, attraction in Cuba

20. Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, a lovely place to see in Cuba

The most popular area to walk around is  El Copal . It’s just over one mile and offers amazing panoramic views of the park. Best of all, the path ends at an incredible waterfall that cascades over black rocks into a small natural pool where you can cool off.

Another interesting trail is  El Recreo , which is slightly longer. Along the path, you’ll see all kinds of flora and fauna, as well as a viewpoint overlooking Taco Bay.

With all the trails and pretty wildlife, this national park is one of the best  attractions in Cuba . You can even take this  day trip  from Baracoa to learn about the tropical forest and biodiversity of the place.

21. Rock climbing in Viñales, an exciting thing to do in Cuba

If you’re looking for a unique  thing to do in Cuba , I suggest  rock climbing in Mogote del Valle , Viñales. This area is the most popular place to rock climb in the country, and it attracts climbers from across the globe. Not only does Mogote del Valle have plenty of vertical walls to climb, but the tropical views are out of this world.

Rock climbing in Viñales, the best activity in Cuba

Even if you’ve never rock climbed before, there are different excursions and tour packages for all skill levels. Of course, if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to book a guided tour, so you stay safe while enjoying this exciting  activity in Cuba .

If you’re determined to pursue this  adventure in Cuba , keep in mind that the best time to go is from November to March since there is less rain.

22. Explore the caves of Viñales, something to do in Cuba with family

Viñales sits on an impressive karst valley, which makes it perfect for climbers. Another benefit of this terrain is that it has formed some incredible caves, and they’re one of the top sites to see in Cuba.

One of the coolest caves in the area is the  Great Cavern of Santo Tomás . It’s the largest cave system in the country and the second-largest in all of North America at 28 miles long. Unfortunately, during our trip, the site was under construction due to a landslide, so we couldn’t visit it.

Explore the caves of Viñales, something to visit in Cuba

However, we did see the  Cueva del Indio , one of the most  popular places to visit in Cuba ‘s Viñales area. The San Vicente River runs through it, so you must take a boat tour to explore the cave’s depths.

Another interesting cave is the Cueva de San Miguel, also known as  Palenque de los Cimarrones  for the African slaves who sought refuge in it after escaping the sugar mills. This cave isn’t as geologically interesting, but it’s historically significant and still worth visiting.

The caves of Viñales are a must-see, but they’re not at a walkable distance from each other so I suggest booking this tour to visit them.

23. See the sunrise at Los Acuaticos, a romantic thing to do in Cuba

One of my favorite memories from our trip was taking a trek at 3 am to see the sunrise at  Los Acuaticos .

This may be an  unusual thing to do in Cuba  because the trail is a little-known secret. We did the trek on our own but got lost a few times! Still, it was worth it to see the sunrise and the warm glow rising over the  mogotes.

Los Acuáticos, things to do in Cuba for couples

23. See the sunrise at Los Acuáticos, a romantic thing to do in Cuba

That said, I don’t want you to get lost in the dark here, so I suggest booking  this guided hiking excursion . Not only will you get the best views, but you’ll learn more about the community of Los Acuáticos . This traditional village believes in the healing power of water and, as such, has some unique customs.

24. Take a salsa class, something you must do in Cuba

Taking a salsa class  is one of the most enjoyable  activities in Cuba . The island has a rich history of salsa dance, so you can find lots of bars and clubs offering classes.

I must admit, watching Cubans salsa dance is quite hypnotic, and it seems that the rhythm pulses through their veins. Most salsa classes provide instruction as well as some background history about Cuban and Afro-Caribbean rhythms and movements. Practicing the steps with your partner is also a  romantic thing to do in Cuba .

Take a salsa class, fun things to do in Cuba

If you’re looking for salsa dance lessons in Havana, I recommend  this class . The one-hour class includes instruction from professional dancers, who will teach you basic salsa moves, as well as the merengue and the cha-cha-chá. Without a doubt, it’s a  fun thing to do in Cuba with your loved one.

25. Camagüey, one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Cuba

While  traveling in Cuba , be sure to visit the city of  Camagüey . A  UNESCO  World Heritage Site, Camagüey is full of culture, history, and religious significance. It’s also one of the most  beautiful places in Cuba , so if you’re visiting the center of the island, be sure to check out this city.

Besides, most of the tourist attractions in Camagüey are quite close to each other, so you can see them all in one day.

The  Ignacio Agramonte Park  is a historical spot commemorating the War of Independence with a statue of this Cuban revolutionary. You can learn more about him at the Ignacio Agramonte Birthplace Museum  in Plaza de los Trabajadores.

Camagüey, where to go in Cuba

Plaza del Carmen  is another  point of interest in Cuba . In this beautiful square, you can see the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the only religious building in Camagüey with two Cuban-style towers.

I also recommend visiting  Our Lady of Candelaria Cathedral , which dates to 1735; the  Teatro Principal , headquarters of the Camagüey ballet; and the  Casino Campestre Park , one of the largest natural parks in Cuba.

26. Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, a unique place to visit in Cuba

The  Santa Ifigenia Cemetery  in Santiago de Cuba is something you should see if you’re  traveling in Cuba ‘s southern region.

The cemetery is over 150 years old and the second-largest in Cuba, after the Necropolis of Christopher Columbus in Havana. The area is home to several funerary monuments, such as the hexagonal marker of José Martí, representing the six ancient provinces of Cuba. Here, you’ll also find  Fidel Castro’s tomb  and the final resting places of several prominent Cubans.

Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, the best thing to visit in Cuba

You can get a better understanding of the cemetery and the historical figures buried there by booking  this tour . Along with the cemetery, you’ll visit the  Barracks of Moncada  and the  Museum of Bacardi , two other interesting  attractions in Cuba .

27. National Capitol of Havana, another must-see in Cuba

The  National Capitol Building  in Havana is a  famous landmark in Cuba  worth visiting. It dates to 1929 and, in addition to being one of the largest buildings on the island, it’s a National Monument.

Construction on  El Capitolio  began during the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado with the help of North American financiers. As a result, the national building resembles the White House in Washington D.C., especially the neoclassical columns and grand dome.

The dome once held a large 25-carat diamond to symbolize Kilometer 0 on the Central Highway of Cuba, although it has been replaced with a replica diamond.

National Capitol of Havana, top place to visit in Cuba

While you can visit the capitol building on your own, there are official one-hour guided tours that take place daily. It could be an interesting way to learn more about this prominent  place in Cuba .

During the tour, you’ll visit the  Hall of Lost Steps , with the impressive Statue of the Republic at its center. You’ll also see the former conference room of  Baire Hall , the French-style  Bolívar Hall , the neoclassical  Baraguá Room , and the  Martí Room  in the library’s anteroom.

28. Cayo Santa Maria, one of the best beaches in Cuba

Cayo Santa Maria  is one of the  best places to visit in Cuba , especially if you want to enjoy spectacular beaches with turquoise blue water.

This island is north of central Cuba and links to the mainland via the world’s longest stone seawall (30 miles). So, you can reach Cayo Santa María by car, taking in all the wonderful coastal views along the way.

Cayo Santa María, tourist attraction in Cuba

28. Cayo Santa María, one of the best beaches in Cuba

Once you arrive, you can sunbathe on the white sand beach or go snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters. Another  fun thing to do in Cuba  is to take a boat trip and try to spot dolphins in this Caribbean paradise.

If you head to the southern part of the island, you can take a nature walk among the lush vegetation. If you’re not sure  where to go in Cuba  to disconnect and unwind, Cayo Santa María is your best bet. To make things nice and easy, consider  this excursion  from Santa Clara with transportation.

29. Visit La Isabelica coffee plantation, another interesting thing to do in Cuba

Near Santiago de Cuba, you’ll find  La Isabelica Coffee Plantation , a  UNESCO  World Heritage Site and one of the most important  places in Cuba .

Located over 3,700 feet above sea level, this impressive  cafetal  boasts social and historical significance. It doubles as a museum dedicated to the coffee slave trade and to the economic grown that the area saw when French emigrants from Haiti arrived in that part of Cuba and raised over 600 plantations.

La Isabelica coffee plantation, vacation in Cuba

Besides visiting the extensive coffee drying rooms, you can access  La Isabelica Coffee Museum . This two-story mansion features period furniture and objects related to plantation work. The second floor has been restored to replicate the original home, so you can get a better idea of life back then.

About a mile away is  La Gran Piedra , another popular  tourist attraction in Cuba  that I’ll talk about next.

30. La Gran Piedra, an amazing place to visit in Cuba

In the Sierra Maestra mountain range is  La Gran Piedra , one of the most peculiar  places to visit in Cuba .

La Gran Piedra (The Great Stone) is a huge volcanic rock weighing around 60,000 tons. It is over 165 feet long, 80 feet tall, and nearly 100 feet wide. It has become one of the most popular  attractions in Cuba , despite the 459 steps you must climb to get to the top.

It’s worth it because the views from up there are magnificent. Over 4,030 feet above sea level, La Gran Piedra is even in the  Guinness World Records  book as the highest rock of its size in the world.

La Gran Piedra, the best hike to do in Cuba

While you’re atop the rock with the entire Sierra Maestra underfoot, you’ll notice the big domed tower nearby. It’s a meteorological radar tower that records the climate changes in the region.

If you want to see La Gran Piedra, you should visit during your trip to La Isabelica coffee plantation. It’ll make for an unforgettable experience in Cuba .

31. Take a train ride through Valley of the Sugar Mills

One of the most  interesting   things to do in Cuba  is to take a  train ride through the Valley of the Sugar Mills , a  UNESCO  World Heritage Site.

This area was home to the sugar mills and distilleries that exported supplies to Europe. While it yielded a large profit, it was unfortunately at the hands of African slaves. Taking a journey through this region means facing the darker parts of Cuba’s history.

Train ride through Valley of the Sugar Mills, things to do in Cuba

31. Take a train ride through Valley of the Sugar Mills, an interesting thing to do in Cuba

You can take a ride on a steam train from Trinidad to  Manaca Iznaga , one of the most lucrative plantations. Once there, you can visit the slave barracks and the watchtower that kept a close eye on the laborers.

Another sugar mill to visit is  San Isidro de los Destiladeros . It’s close by but not as crowded as other similar  sites in Cuba , so you can take your time looking around. The plantation is in good condition, as are the buildings and watchtower, from which you can get great views of the valley.

32. Ancon Beach, a calm place to go in Cuba

If you’re looking for the top places on the island to watch the sunset, consider  Ancon Beach . Not only is it one of the  best vacation places in Cuba , but the reddish hues of the sun reflecting on the calm sea is something you can’t miss.

This beach is close to Trinidad, so if you’re going to be in the area, it’s the perfect day trip. Ancon Beach boasts an expansive coastline, and it’s more secluded than other resort towns on the island.

Ancón Beach, the best beach in Cuba

Best of all, this beach is one of the most  beautiful places in Cuba  to go snorkeling. Along with the crystal-clear waters and fine white sand, the area has loads of colorful tropical fish. You can rent some snorkeling equipment on the beach and dive into those pristine waters.

We visited this beach several times, both by taxi and by bike, which takes 40 minutes from Trinidad. My word of advice is not to stop at La Boca, because although it may seem pretty, there is a lot of sewage. Instead, go straight to Ancon Beach, where you can relax on the clean shores.

33. Visit Baracoa, an important city in Cuba

Baracoa , also known as the First City, is a  must-see in Cuba since it was the first established city on the island.

Despite its historical importance, Baracoa isn’t the most  popular place in Cuba since it’s in the southern part of the country, in Guantanamo. Even so, it’s worth visiting, thanks to its preserved traditions, sites, and mix of jungle and seaside activities.

To start, visit  Seboruco Castle  to enjoy some beautiful panoramic views of Baracoa. Then go to  Parque Independencia  in the city center, where you’ll find lots of bars and restaurants.

Baracoa, things to see in Cuba

I also recommend stopping by the  Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption . Inside, you can see the  Cruz de la Parra , the last of the 29 crosses that Christopher Columbus took to the New World and a beloved Christian relic.

If you get tired while walking the streets of Baracoa, you can take a stroll along the Malecón promenade, which always has a lively atmosphere. You might also enjoy one of the excursions that leave from Baracoa, such as the  Alejandro Humboldt National Park ,  Maguana Beach , or Yunque de Baracoa and the Yumirí Canyon, which I’ll mention next.

34. Yunque de Baracoa, the best place to hike in Cuba

Yunque de Baracoa  is one of the best  places to visit in Cuba  to enjoy wildlife and nature walks. Due to its historical, environmental, and cultural value, it has been declared a National Monument.

This nature reserve is one of the most well-known areas in the country and sits 1,310-1,890 feet above sea level. It gets its name from the peculiar flat surface at its peak, which looks like an anvil. If the distinct shape and impressive height of this place don’t astound you, the plentiful vegetation will.

Yunque de Baracoa, places to visit in Cuba

Walking along the Yunque’s nature trails is one of the top things to do in Cuba with family , so I highly recommend it. The trail to the top takes around 4 hours, but it’s an enjoyable and scenic journey in the tropical forest. You’ll also spot different wildlife species along the way.

Once you get to the top, you’ll have gorgeous views. You’ll also see the bust of General Antonio Maceo, also known as the Bronze Titan.

If you want to discover all that the Yunque has to offer, I suggest booking this full-day excursion .

35. Yumuri Canyon and Belete waterfalls, a breathtaking place to go in Cuba

If you’re going to be in Baracoa, one of the top  Cuban points of interest  to see is the  Yumuri Canyon . It’s a protected natural area with some of the best biodiversity in the country. Plus, it’s ideal for birdwatching, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

What’s nice about the canyon is that there are different walking paths, so you can choose one that suits your level. However, I highly recommend the trail that leads to the  Belete waterfalls . It’s about 4 miles each way, but it’s worth it to see those clear emerald waters and breathtaking 65-foot falls.

Yumurí Canyon and Belete waterfalls, tourist attractions in Cuba

35. Yumurí Canyon and Belete waterfalls, a breathtaking place to go in Cuba

The entire Yumurí Canyon is one of the most  beautiful places in Cuba , full of lush rainforest, different animal species, and natural wonders. You’ll be surrounded by lovely tropical scenery the whole time, making you feel like you’re in paradise.

If you want to make the most of your time here, I suggest  this excursion , which includes a visit to a cocoa plantation and the beautiful beach of El Manglito. You’ll also get to take a boat ride along the Yumurí canyon river.

36. Stay overnight in a casa particular, a unique experience in Cuba

One of the most authentic things to do in Cuba is staying overnight at one of the casas particulares , or  private homes . Even if it’s just for one night, it will be an unforgettable way to meet the locals and immerse yourself in the culture.

Since 2000, Cuban families have been able to obtain permits that allow them to offer a room in their home as tourist accommodations. While  traveling in Cuba , you will see signs for room rentals all over around.

Among the many perks of renting a room in a family’s home, I’d like to highlight the great prices, flexible dates, and the incredible opportunity to learn about Cuban culture first-hand.

Stay overnight in a casa particular, where to stay in Cuba

This type of accommodation is usually quite charming, and each one is unique. Plus, the host families are super friendly and often greet you with a fresh drink or snack upon your arrival. They’re also a great source of insider information about where to go and  what to do in Cuba . You could spend hours chatting and learning about their life on the island and how it has changed over the years.

I mention more about these private rooms in our guide on  how to plan a trip to Cuba , so check that out if you’re interested in this type of accommodation!

37. Museum of the Revolution, one of the most important museums in Cuba

The  Museum of the Revolution  is the best museum in Cuba to learn more about the 1953 revolution.

It’s in Havana’s city center, inside what was the Presidential Palace. The last president of Cuba to use it was the dictator Fulgencio Batista. After the revolution, it became a popular  tourist attraction in Cuba , exhibiting photos, documents, and other objects related to this pivotal event.

Museum of the Revolution, things to do in Cuba

The museum is clearly propaganda, with an emphasis on the economic and social achievements of the communist system. I found the  Cretins’ Corner  to be quite humorous and intriguing, as there are giant caricatures of George H.W. Bush, his son, Fulgencio Batista, and Ronald Reagan.

The revolution was a crucial event that marked a distinct before and after in the country. If you want to learn more about its historical significance in Cuba, check out this  walking tour , which includes stops at some of the most important and  famous landmarks in Cuba .

38. Learn about Cuban cigars on the Tobacco Route

Whether you smoke or not, one of the most  unique things to do in Cuba  is to learn about the culture of Cuban cigars and how they’re made.

You can journey along the  tobacco route in   Pinar del Río  province and see some of the main cultivation areas and Cuban cigar factories. While exploring the natural landscape, you’ll learn more about the country’s tobacco tradition and its economic importance.

Another option is to visit the Raúl Reyes Estate in Viñales, which is what we did. Besides being one of the most  interesting places to visit in Cuba , the owner is humble and kind, so it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Tobacco Route, something to do in Cuba

38. Learn about Cuban cigars on the Tobacco Route, another must-do in Cuba

During our time here, we saw the tobacco drying houses and plantations. Raúl Reyes explained the entire process and offered unique insights about his life and work in the field. We ended up purchasing a few cigars and some coffee as souvenirs.

Along with the tobacco plantations, another  cool place to go in Cuba  is a tobacco factory. The most famous one is Partagas in Havana, which is also the oldest in the country. Here, you can watch Cuban cigars being made and visit the accompanying museum.

39. Maria la Gorda, the best place to go diving in Cuba

While I’ve already mentioned some great beaches where you can go diving, there are a few other  places in Cuba  you should check out if you want to enjoy this activity.

María la Gorda  in the northwestern Pinar del Río province is the  best place in Cuba for diving . Here, you can swim over black coral reefs and among barracudas, crabs, lobsters, and other sea critters.

Be sure to check out the María la Gorda International Diving Center before you hit the water. There, you’ll find all the necessary information about the place, as well as interesting spots to dive. You can also rent diving equipment or book a boat ride.

Maria de la Gorda, things to do in Cuba with kids

39. Maria de la Gorda, the best place to go diving in Cuba

From Pinar del Río, you can visit the  Isle of Youth , another popular diving spot in Cuba. This area is good for both beginners and experts, and it boasts some amazing geological formations, as well as sharks.

If you’re going to be mostly in Havana, check out this  snorkeling excursion , which explores the City of Alexandria and the SS Olivette shipwrecks. Another great diving trip is  this one  in Santiago de Cuba, which explores the Almirante Oquendo battleship that sank in 1898.

40. Attend the cannon firing ceremony, an unforgettable thing to do in Cuba

The  cannon firing ceremony  is one of the oldest traditions in Havana, dating to 1774 when soldiers would fire the cannon to announce the closing of the city gates. Hearing the boom of the cannon reverberating throughout the city is a memorable  thing to do in Cuba  that you don’t want to miss.

The cannon is at the  San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress , a  UNESCO  World Heritage Site surrounded by thick walls to keep bandits and pirates at bay. These days, the ceremony is part of Havana’s cultural tradition, and participants even wear 18th-century clothing to recreate the colonial era.

Cannon firing ceremony, what to see in Cuba

40. Attend a cannon firing ceremony, an unforgettable thing to do in Cuba

Again, if you’re visiting Havana, be sure to check out this impressive ceremony. I should warn you that the fortress is a bit out of the way from the city center, but this tour can pick you up from your hotel and take you there. You’ll also get to tour Old Havana and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

41. Have a daiquiri at El Floridita, something to do in Cuba at night

Along with the mojito, the  daiquiri  is one of Cuba’s signature cocktails, so you can’t leave Havana without trying one. Ernest Hemingway even said, “My mojito at La Bodeguita, my daiquiri at El Floridita.”

And so, it is, that you should go to  El Floridita for a daiquiri  and a fun night on the town. If you want to try the famed author’s particular drink, it’s made with 4 ounces of white rum with lemon and grapefruit juice, crushed ice, and six drops of maraschino cherry liqueur. We tried it, and it was quite good!

Daiquiri at El Floridita, things to do in Cuba

Even without its connection to Hemingway, this bar is a great  place to go in Cuba . The atmosphere is quite distinct, with the waiters in 1950s uniforms and live music playing most nights. Also, don’t miss the steel statue of Hemingway leaning on the bar.

Moreover, if you’re a bookworm or a big fan of Hemingway, I suggest  this guided tour  through his home,  La Vigía,  and the town of  Cojímar , which inspired his book  The Old Man and the Sea . You’ll also see his regular hotel room at Ambos Mundos Hotel  before ending the tour at El Floridita.

42. Watch the sunset at the Malecón in Havana, something to do in Cuba as a couple

The  Malecón in Havana is a broad promenade along the city coast. It extends for 5 miles and is known as one of the most famous landmarks in Cuba . Here, you’ll find locals meeting up, tourists sightseeing, and lovers watching the sunset.

There’s no doubt that this is the perfect spot for people-watching. The lively atmosphere and mix of visitors make it an  attraction in Cuba  worth seeing. Of course, what makes it so popular is the  stunning sunset views  you can get here.

Malecón in Havana, beautiful place in Cuba

While Havana’s malecón may be the most important boardwalk in the country, it’s not the only one you should visit. The coastal towns of  Cienfuegos, Baracoa,  and  Puerto Padre  also have lovely promenades. If you’re going inland, check out  Santa Clara , which has a boardwalk along the Cubanicay River and another next to Teatro La Caridad.

Whichever one you visit, you’re sure to strike up a conversation with the locals, who are super open and friendly!

43. Have an ice cream at Coppelia, the best thing to do in Cuba with kids

Coppelia  is Cuba’s national chain of ice cream parlors that became internationally popular after the film  Strawberry and Chocolate . You can find Coppelia parlors throughout the country and enjoying one of those sweet treats is a fun  thing to do in Cuba with kids .

These ice cream shops are a little different because they only serve three flavors. However, the flavors change daily, so there is always a reason to stop by!

Coppelia, visit in Cuba

As the most popular  place in Cuba  to get ice cream, Coppelia can be packed, especially if you go in the evening. We went to one in Havana around noon, and the line wasn’t bad at all. Yet, even if there is a line, it’s worth it because the ice cream is to die for.

Again, we went to Coppelia in Havana, but you can also visit the ice cream parlors in Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, Sancti Spíritus, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, and Guantánamo.

44. El Nicho waterfalls, an amazing place to go in Cuba

El Nicho  is one of the most  beautiful places to visit in Cuba , and a must-see if you’re around the Topes de Collantes park. I mentioned the Caburní Falls earlier, however, El Nicho is much more accessible and just a short drive away from Cienfuegos.

As a result, the El Nicho waterfalls tend to be one of the more crowded  attractions in Cuba . Still, I think they’re well worth seeing, with their clear blue water and lush tropical vegetation. You can bathe in the natural pools under the waterfall, too, so remember to bring your swimsuit.

El Nicho waterfalls, points of interest in Cuba

While you’re there, explore the surrounding areas. There are several nearby caves as well as hiking trails. I recommend the main trail to the falls, also known as the  Kingdom of the Waters . It’s only about half a mile, so it’s the perfect  thing to do in Cuba with kids .

45. Climb Pico Turquino in Sierra Maestra, the best hike to do in Cuba

One of the most  beautiful places in Cuba  is the  Sierra Maestra National Park  in the southeast. It’s also known as the Turquino National Park because of its highest point,  Pico Turquino .

At 6,475 feet tall, Pico Turquino is also the highest mountain in the country and one of the few sites in Cuba  that has recorded snowfall, back in 1900.

Some say the name Pico Turquino is a mispronunciation of  turquesa , or turquoise, which reflects the vibrant blue hues you can see from atop the mountain. Even Che Guevara said that the peak had a mystical air to it, so it’s something you must see during your visit. Also, on the hilltop is a bust of José Martí, which marked his 100th birthday.

Pico Turquino in Sierra Maestra, attractions in Cuba

Getting to the top isn’t easy, but if you like hiking, this is a must-do in Cuba . Two paths lead to the top; a 7-mile trail from the Turquino Caves on the coast, and an 11-mile trail from the Bartolomé Masó neighborhood of Santo Domingo.

You can decide which path to take, but you must hike with an official park guide. There is also the option to do a 2-day route, but you’ll have to make a reservation at the San Joaquín campsite.

46. Disconnect in Cayo Blanco, the best thing to do in Cuba as a couple

Have you ever dreamed of going to a deserted island and disconnecting from everything? Well, that is something you can do in Cuba,  at  Cayo Blanco , a true island paradise.

The best way to get to Cayo Blanco is via catamaran.  This trip  leaves from Varadero and transports you to that idyllic spot in luxury. The deserted island is perfect for getting away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. You can explore the breathtaking Caribbean waters and pristine beaches in total peace.

Cayo Blanco, things to do in Cuba as a couple

A visit to Cayo Blanco is a great  thing to do in Cuba as a couple , too. You may choose to relax and sunbathe or you might want to enjoy some outdoor activities like snorkeling. The seabed is absolutely gorgeous and full of sea sponges, lobsters, crabs, coral reefs, and colorful tropical fish.

The catamaran excursion also includes a buffet lunch and cocktails, so it’s the best way to enjoy a romantic plan in Cuba with your partner.

47. Eat in a paladar , a popular thing to do in Cuba

Paladar  translates to ‘palate’ in English, but in Cuba,  paladares  are owner-run restaurants. Eating in a  paladar   is one of the  best things to do in Cuba  if you want to taste authentic Cuban food.

These restaurants are typically in a Cuban family’s home, and they’re one of the few private businesses permitted in the country. Eating at one is like sitting down at the family dinner table and enjoying a home-cooked meal. It’s the best way to experience the local and traditional flavors of the island.

Eat in a paladar, things to do in Cuba as a family

47. Eat in a paladar, a popular thing to do in Cuba

Most paladares  in the cities are now restaurants like anywhere in the world. However, you can still find authentic paladares in smaller towns and villages throughout the country. The dishes are usually modest yet delicious and include a base of rice or beans and sometimes pork or chicken.

Grab a seat by the window or door so you can people-watch while you eat. Without a doubt, it’s a  fun thing to do in Cuba if you want to feel like a local!

48. Visit the Bay of Pigs, an incredible thing to do in Cuba

If there is something you  must see in Cuba , it’s the  Bay of Pigs . The site of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, is today a remarkable natural beach with crystal-clear waters and idyllic beaches. Unlike other beaches in Cuba, the Bay of Pigs isn’t as touristy, which makes it even more enjoyable.

Here, you can find the Crocodile Farm, Cueva de los Peces, and Long Beach, some  tourist attractions in Cuba  that I mentioned earlier. There is also  Playa Girón , where the Bay of Pigs invasion took place. It’s a nice area for sunbathing and snorkeling, as are  Playa Coco  and  Caleta Buena .

Bay of Pigs, an important place to go in Cuba

Another interesting thing about the Bay of Pigs is that after the first springtime rains, the road is covered in crabs migrating to the water to spawn. Try to avoid going around that time so you can avoid making a mess!

49. Rent a bicycle, something to do in Cuba as a family

The best way to get around Cuba is via shared taxi, Viazul bus, or the public buses called  botellas . I go over all the transportation options in our guide to  planning a trip to Cuba .

That said, once you’re at your destination, the easiest way to get around is by  renting a bicycle . This is one of the most common  activities in Cuba , so you won’t have any trouble finding a place to rent a bike. After asking the locals which sites to check out, we traveled by bike through Havana, Trinidad, and Viñales.

Rent a bicycle, the best thing to do in Cuba

Moreover, you don’t have to worry about parking when you travel by bicycle. Our  experience in Cuba  was quite positive, and we felt safe while traversing the area on bikes. Plus, we never had problems with storing them, even when we forgot to lock them up!

50. Take in some colonial and Cuban street art

One of the things that struck me the most about Cuba was the  colonial buildings and street art . The visual splendor in this country speaks of historical events and moments of greatness. All the art and architecture here is most impressive when you first arrive, but it’s still worth mentioning.

It’s also quite a sight to see spectacular palatial buildings from Cuba’s golden era, today completely in ruins due to economic and political turmoil. Despite the peeling paint, rusty balconies, and grime, the locals have worked hard to turn these ruins into art, and it’s something you  must see in Cuba .

Colonial and Cuban street art, something to see in Cuba

50. Take in some colonial and Cuban street art, another must-do in Cuba

The communal effort of local artists and residents has transformed Cuba into the colorful country we know it as today. If you’re interested in seeing some of the best street art on the island, check out  Callejón de Hammel . This neighborhood is the epicenter of Afro-Cuban culture in Havana and a striking artistic  attraction in Cuba , full of murals and sculptures.

With that, you now know the 50 best things to do in Cuba . I hope this guide helps you plan your visit! Here is a map of the  tourist attractions in Cuba  that I mentioned so you can more easily find them.

I wish you safe travels and an enjoyable time in this historically-rich country. If you have any questions, leave them below, and I’ll do my best to help!

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Must-see attractions in Cuba

Old graveyard, Havana; Shutterstock ID 19926790; Your name (First / Last): Josh Vogel; GL account no.: 56530; Netsuite department name: Online Design; Full Product or Project name including edition: Digital Content/Sights

Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón

Havana's main cemetery (a national monument), one of the largest in the Americas, is renowned for its striking religious iconography and elaborate marble…

Cuba, Santiago de Cuba Province, Santiago de Cuba, Lighthouse at Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro

Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro

Santiago de Cuba

A Unesco World Heritage site since 1997, the San Pedro fort sits impregnably atop a 60m-high promontory at the entrance to Santiago harbor, 10km southwest…

Vintage car passing modern bar nestled between dilapidated Art Nouveau buildings along the Av de Malecon.

The Malecón, Havana's evocative 7km-long sea drive, is one of the city's most soulful and quintessentially Cuban thoroughfares, and long a favored meeting…

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Capitolio Nacional

The incomparable Capitolio Nacional is Havana's most ambitious and grandiose building, constructed after the post-WWI boom ('Dance of the Millions')…

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Plaza de la Catedral

Habana Vieja

Habana Vieja's most uniform square is a museum to Cuban baroque, with all the surrounding buildings, including the city's beguiling asymmetrical cathedral…

Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro

Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro

Regla, Guanabacoa & the Forts

This wave-lashed fort with its emblematic lighthouse was erected between 1589 and 1630 to protect the entrance to Havana harbor from pirates and foreign…


Where does art go after Antoni Gaudí? For a hint, head west from central Havana to the seemingly low-key district of Jaimanitas, where artist José Fuster…

Museo Conjunto Histórico de Birán

Holguín Province

Fidel Castro Ruz was born on August 13, 1926, at the Finca Las Manacas near the village of Birán, south of Cueto. The sprawling ranch, bought by Fidel's…

Plaza Vieja, bustling with restaurants and cafes in evening.

Plaza Vieja

Laid out in 1559, Plaza Vieja is Havana's most architecturally eclectic square, where Cuban baroque nestles seamlessly next to Gaudí-inspired art nouveau…

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Playa Sirena

Isla de la Juventud & Cayo Largo del Sur

Cayo Largo's (and, perhaps, Cuba's) finest beach is the broad westward-facing Playa Sirena, where 2km of powdery white sand is wide enough to accommodate…

Comandancia de la Plata

Granma Province

Topping a crenelated mountain ridge amid thick cloud forest, this pioneering camp was established by Fidel Castro in 1958 after a year on the run in the…

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Plaza del Carmen

Around 600m west of the frenzy of República sits another sublimely beautiful square, one less visited than the central plazas. It's backed on the eastern…

Courtyard in National Museum of Fine Art (El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes).

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

Spread over two campuses, the Bellas Artes is arguably the finest art gallery in the Caribbean. The Arte Cubano building contains the most comprehensive…

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Arte Cubano

The Bellas Artes' 'Colección de Arte Cubano' houses purely Cuban art. Works are displayed in chronological order, starting on the 3rd floor, and are…

Museo Nacional Camilo Cienfuegos

Sancti Spíritus Province

This excellent museum was opened in 1989 and is eerily reminiscent of the Che Guevara monument in Santa Clara. Camilo fought a crucial battle in this town…

Parque Histórico Militar Morro-Cabaña

This unmissable military park, included in the Habana Vieja Unesco World Heritage site, is arguably the most formidable defensive complex in Spain's…

Casa de Arte Jover

Camagüey is home to two of Cuba's most creative and prodigious contemporary painters, Joel Jover and his wife Ileana Sánchez. Their magnificent home in…

Playa las Tumbas

Pinar del Río Province

If they gave out Academy Awards for Cuban beaches, Las Tumbas might just win, edging out Playa Sirena on Cayo Largo del Sur (too many tourists) and Playa…

Moncada Museum

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Salto del Guayabo

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famous tourist attraction in cuba

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In the courtyard area of the Museum of the Revolution in Old Havana, Cuba...Cuba, February 2015 before changes in U.S.-Cuba relations began. Trip via UCLA Alumni Travel

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Calle Mercaderes wall mural.

Calle Mercaderes

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Nuestra Senora de Regla Church, Havana, Cuba; Shutterstock ID 176550071; Your name (First / Last): Josh Vogel; GL account no.: 56530; Netsuite department name: Online Design; Full Product or Project name including edition: Digital Content/Sights

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Cuba, Havana, Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana

Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña

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Presidio Modelo

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Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara monument and statue.

Conjunto Escultórico Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara

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Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana in Plaza de la Catedral.

Catedral de la Habana

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Alegría de Pío

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Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

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Interior of Teatro Tomas Terry, shot with fisheye lens, Parque Jose Marti, Cienfuegos, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cuba, West Indies, Central America

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Loma de la Cruz or Hill of the Cross in Holguin, capital city of the province of Holguin, Cuba.

Loma de la Cruz

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Antiguo Cafetal Angerona

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More destinations you need to see

Boats on the beach for sunset.

18 Stunning Places to Visit in Cuba

Adventurous Kate contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Of all the wonderful places to visit in Cuba, the city of Havana tops most travelers’ lists. And while old Havana is a spectacular place, where else should you go in Cuba? Are there other good cities, or beaches, or nature spots?

I’m glad you asked! Cuba is one of the most interesting of the Caribbean islands, and there are so many cool places to visit in this island nation. Cuba is like nowhere else in the world, and there’s a surprising amount of diversity in the island.

Here you can make your way from colonial cities like Trinidad and Cienfuegos to gorgeous beaches like Playa Maria la Gorda and Playa Giron, as well as natural wonderlands like El Nicho and Viñales Valley.

I asked my travel blogging colleagues to share their favorite spots, and WOW. You are going to love them.

Also, if you’re American and thinking about visiting Cuba, YOU CAN! I did as an American in early 2020, and plenty of Americans visit on a regular basis. I wrote a complete guide on how to visit Cuba as an American and what you need to know before you go.

This post was last updated in April 2022.

Table of Contents

Map of Places to Visit in Cuba

The capital of Havana , the outdoorsy paradise of Viñales , and the colonial city of Trinidad are the top destinations in Cuba and very popular with tourists.

Varadero is a popular Cuba beach resort destination with gorgeous beaches. Playa Giron and Playa Larga are other great beach options.

If you want to visit places that many other tourists don’t, check out the fascinating town of Sancti Spiritus and the island of Cayo Levisa.

You will likely start your trip in Havana. From there, you can travel around via the Viazul bus line or take shared taxis (colectivos), or more expensive private taxis, depending on your location.

A street in Havana with people walking down it, lots of overhanging balconies, and a bright yellow classic car.

Submitted by Anne Betts of Packing Light Travel

Havana boasts a rich mixture of history, art, architecture, politics, culture, and food. One of the best ways to enjoy a pleasant introduction to these facets of Cuban life is through a food tour while feasting on churros or sipping a mojito.

In Old Havana, visit a couple of other memorable works of José Ramón Villa Soberón, including the one of Ernest Hemingway at El Floridita. The famous cocktail bar is credited with introducing the world to the frozen daiquiri in the 1930s, a favourite drink of the author. Ordering a daiquiri isn’t mandatory, but it’s desirable.

Best things to do in Havana: Take a tour of Havana landmarks in one of the vintage cars. A popular stop is Parque John Lennon  in Vedado, where tourists cozy up to a bronze statue of the famous musician relaxing on an ornate park bench. Created by José Ramón Villa Soberón, the sculpture warrants its own security guard to safeguard the replica of the circular-rimmed glasses that were a recognizable signature of Lennon’s period of political activism.

How to get to Havana: Havana is the main hub of Cuba, and all flights and travel routes lead through Havana.

Where to stay in Havana: The best place to stay in Havana is at a casa particular , or guesthouse, where hosts may or may not live on the premises. It’s an opportunity to forge meaningful connections with Cuban residents. Enjoy home-cooked meals, receive recommendations on things to do and help with transportation and bookings at casa particulars in other regions.

In Havana, the Vedado neighbourhood is a good choice. Compared to Old Havana and the city center, there’s less traffic and more green spaces that translate into cleaner air. The neighbourhood is dotted with old mansions oozing loads of character, and services such as supermarkets, money-changing centres, and Wi-Fi zones.

Visit a restaurant in Vedado, and chances are it’s an establishment serving Cuban specialties and is one frequented by locals.

Two young boys in striped shirts and cowboy hats leaning on a pile of wood in front of a green field.

Submitted by Bella from Passport & Pixels

Viñales is a pretty, colourful town in the Pinar del Rio region in the west of Cuba, surrounded by the Sierra de los Organos mountains and the lush green farmland of the Viñales Valley. Its main attractions are all outdoors — hiking, cycling, horseback riding or even rock climbing in the steep-sided limestone hills — just pick your favorite outdoor adventure!

Best things to do in Viñales: One of the most popular things to do in Viñales is to take a horseback riding tour of the valley. These usually last about 3-5 hours and are a great way to enjoy the region’s stunning scenery of rolling hills studded with palm trees.

But if horses aren’t your thing, you might prefer to do a day hike to visit the tobacco farms for which Viñales is famous. Here you can meet local farmers and learn about how they produce Cuba’s most iconic export — cigars — and even get to try one yourself.

How to get to Viñales: Viñales is about a 2.5-hour drive from Havana, and the easiest way to get there is either by bus or private taxi. The best way to do this is to first take a taxi to the central coach and taxi station, and then haggle with the drivers there. You’ll get a much better price than if you try to book through your hotel, and you might even get to ride in one of  Cuba’s gorgeous classic cars .

Another option is to join a shared taxi (colectivo) from Havana.

Where to stay in Viñales: The best place to stay while in Viñales is in one of the private homestays known as casas particulares. These give you a much more authentic (and often nicer) experience of Cuba than staying in a hotel. Just turn up and look for the signs on people’s front doors or book through Airbnb.

Three kids walking up a street in Trinidad Cuba in front of a yellow building with green doors

Submitted by Trijit Mallick from  DogTravel Buff

With bright-colored buildings, pastel houses, and cobblestone streets, Trinidad is one of the best-preserved colonial towns in Cuba. It is a small town but packed with history, beautiful architecture, scenic beauty, and delicious local cuisines.

After a few hours in Trinidad, you’ll soon see why it’s one of the best places to visit in Cuba!

Best things to do in Trinidad: Plaza Mayor is the best place to start exploring the city. It is the main square where the Church of the Holy Trinity is located. The stunning pale yellow-colored church is a great spot for photography. Make sure to visit Brunet Palace, a large yellow building consisting of two floors. You will also find some other historical buildings and restaurants in this area. Sala Class is very popular in Trinidad. You can go for a group lesson for a unique experience.

If you are a beach person, Playa Ancon is a must-visit place for you. You can rent a bike or take a public bus that takes around 30 minutes to reach Playa Ancon. Enjoy the beautiful combination of blue waters, white sand beach, and palm trees.

There is no shortage of bars and restaurants in Trinidad. Restaurante San José is a solid option for people looking to taste authentic Cuban cuisine. The canchanchara is the original signature cocktail of Cuba and it’s very popular in this region.

How to get to Trinidad: Bus service is available from all major cities (like Havana, Viñales, and Varadero) to Trinidad and is the cheapest way to get to Trinidad. If budget is less of a concern, hire a shared or private taxi (colectivo) or rent a car for a more flexible journey. It takes around four hours to reach Trinidad from Havana by road.

Where to stay in Trinidad: You can stay at casas particulares which are basically private homestays like B&B. These private B&Bs offer air-conditioning and hot water at a very reasonable price.

A palm tree on a white sand beach with turquoise water in the background in Varadero Cuba

Submitted by Martha from May Cause Wanderlust

Cuba is teeming with culture, but it also has wonderful natural beauty and some stunning beaches — and the most spectacular beach is at Varadero, a peninsula in the north of Cuba.

Varadero beach  is 20 km of fine white sand, lapped by bright turquoise water and lined by lush green coconut trees. It really is special. By far the best thing to do here is to relax in the warmth of the Caribbean sun, letting the sound of the waves soothe you as you sip on fresh coconut milk.

Best things to do in Varadero: If you like to be active, there are things to do in Varadero like scuba diving, kayaking, fishing and golf. There’s also an ecological park with some ancient cave drawings.

You can even visit the former homes of the American millionaires and gangsters, who once made Varadero their playground, before the revolution. Al Capone’s old house is now a restaurant!

How to get to Varadero: Varadero has its own international airport, so many people fly straight in. If you’re driving from Havana, Varadero is about a 2.5-hour drive east of there, along the Via Blanca.

Where to stay in Varadero: Varadero has been one of Cuba’s major tourist resort areas since the 1990s, and there are plenty of 4-star and 5-star hotels, mainly in the middle and eastern end of the peninsula, including several Iberostar hotels. 

However, if you prefer to travel independently and/or you’re on a budget, there are plenty of lower-cost guesthouses on the western end of the peninsula.

A plaza with several bright yellow and blue buildings in front of a small park.

Sancti Spiritus

Submitted by Sarah Carter from Cuba’s Best

One of Cuba’s oldest cities, Sancti Spiritus is usually bypassed in favor of the more touristy Trinidad, but this lovely city is great for visiting if you’d like some time off the tourist trail.  Although it’s not so far off the beaten track that you can’t easily get here on the Viazul Bus (which is your best option for transport). 

There are colonial buildings, lovely squares, a medieval bridge that wouldn’t look out of place in rural England, and some fabulous spots to just chill out.

Puente Yayabo, the bridge in question is worth the walk and is best viewed from the Taberna Yayabo while clutching a refreshing drink. To get there, walk down Calle Llano the most atmospheric street in Sancti Spiritus. You’ll find the center of life in Sancti Spiritus in Plaza Serafin Sánchez where people-watching is the main thing to do.  

Best things to do in Sancti Spiritus: For something unique, go to the Casa de La Guayabera. The Guayabera is a style of shirt, with a collar and pockets, worn primarily by farmers, but made popular by Fidel Castro.

Cubans claim that the shirt was invented here and so, the free museum displays a collection of the shirts previously worn by the famous people and you’ll get to see local ladies making more shirts too. Sancti Spiritus has the look and feel of Trinidad without the jiniteros. Come here for a little slice of regular Cuban life!

How to get to Sancti Spiritus: Sancti Spiritus can easily be reached on the Viazul Bus.

Where to stay in Sancti Spiritus: Stay at the Real Colonial Hostal for a great location close to the main square and super friendly staff.

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Submitted by Antoine and Marielle of Offbeat Escapades

Cayo Coco is one of Cuba’s most beautiful places, as well as one of the country’s more remote islands. Featuring turquoise waters and fine sands, it’s no wonder why Cayo Coco has starred in many movies and novels such as Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream and The Old Man and the Sea .

It is also a great place to go if you’re looking for a unique destination in Cuba that feels offbeat, isolated, and laidback.

Best things to do in Cayo Coco: Given Cayo Coco’s idyllic waters and landscapes, beaches are the main attraction and best thing to do on the island. The most well-known beach in Cayo Coco is Playa Los Flamencos. This stellar beach is over 5 kilometers long, facing the Atlantic Sea, and features pristine white sand.

If you’re looking for a quieter beach, you can also check out Playa Prohibida which is more suitable for hikers or those who want a more peaceful yet adventurous nature experience. Finally, Cayo Coco is also well-known for bird-watching activities.

How to get to Cayo Coco: Cayo Coco is connected to the mainland by a bridge so to get to the island, you can either drive, or if you prefer a more convenient option, you can arrive by airplane from one of the major airport hubs in the country.

Where to Stay in Cayo Coco: Once you arrive, you can stay in one of the island’s many luxurious resorts and hotels such as Melia Cayo Coco Hotel and Memories Caribe Beach Resort. These hotels offer a relaxing atmosphere with beachfront views.

A white colonial building with lots of columns and zig-zag lined windows among several palm trees.

Submitted by Claire from Tales of a Backpacker

Cienfuegos itself is much like other Cuban cities, with colonial architecture and an attractive main square.  In the evening, stroll down to Punta Gorda and enjoy the views of the sunset from the Malecón, or even better, from the terrace of the Palacio de Valle restaurant for 360-degree views.

Best things to do in Cienfuegos: You can visit El Castillo, a small fortress built to defend the city from pirates, but what really makes Cienfuegos worth adding to your  Cuba itinerary  is the wealth of things to do outside the city. 

Laguna Guanaroca is a nature reserve where you can take a boat trip out to the lake to watch flamingos – a rare time to enjoy peace and tranquillity in Cuba!  There is also a  güira  orchard here, a fruit that is used to make maracas, as well as other species of birds and trees to admire. 

The beautiful waterfalls at El Nicho are another must-visit, an hour and 15-minute taxi ride away from the centre of Cienfuegos.  Here you will find a series of natural pools and waterfalls for swimming and bathing – even better if you have a bottle of Havana Club chilling in the cool water.

How to get to Cienfuegos: Cienfuegos is on the road to Trinidad from Havana, about a 90-minute drive from Trinidad.  There are buses that pass through Cienfuegos from Havana and Trinidad, or you can hire a collectivo taxi from Trinidad which can work out cheaper than the bus if you club together with other travelers.

Where to stay in Cienfuegos: Stay at one of the casas particulares in Cienfuegos, such as Casa Vista al Mar, which has a swimming pool and a seafront terrace. Be sure to eat at least one meal at Doña Nora, an excellent restaurant serving great value local specialities like  ropa vieja .

A person swimming in clear blue-green water with waterfalls running into it

El Nicho 

Submitted by Paul Healey from Anywhere We Roam

Topes de Collantes is a nature reserve stretching across the Escambray Mountains in the center of Cuba, close to Cienfuegos. The reserve is made up of 5 smaller parks and one of the most impressive is  Parque El Nicho . Here palm trees clear intermittently to reveal canyon views and waterfalls drop into crystal clear natural swimming pools.

It’s a beautiful place to visit in Cuba to unwind in nature and enjoy scenic wild swimming.

Best things to do in El Nicho: A short hiking trail (1.5 kilometers) called El Reino de los Aguas includes the most scenic sections of El Nicho, including several waterfalls and lookout points. Surrounded by palm trees and framed by large rocks, this natural swimming spot at the base of the main waterfall is the perfect place to unwind after exploring the park.

There is a small fee to enter, however, at press time they are currently only accepting euros as payment. A tour guide is not necessary to visit the park, and you can easily stroll around on your own.

How to get to El Nicho: A popular way to get to El Nicho is to take a colectivo from Cienfuegos on the way through to Trinidad. The driver will look after your luggage in the car and wait for around two hours while you explore the park. Your host or hotel in Cienfuegos will be able to arrange transportation.

Where to stay in El Nicho: It’s best to stay in the nearby city of Cienfuegos and use it as a base for visiting El Nicho.

Bright blue water surrounded by grass covered rocks

Playa Giron

Submitted by Raluca of Travel With A Spin

Playa Giron lies in the Bay of Pigs , around three hours away from Havana or Varadero by Viazul or a shared taxi. The region is pretty remote by Cuban standards.

But if you love white sand and clear turquoise waters with few tourists and no hotels, Playa Giron and Playa de los Cocos are perfect options for sunbathing and a quick swim.

Best things to do in Playa Giron: Besides sun and water, here one can enjoy snorkeling among fish and coral reefs. The best places to do so are Caleta Buena, Cueva dos Peces and Punta Perdiz.

While there’s a bus connecting these beaches, a popular option is to rent a bike and ride to one of them. The road is mostly flat and there aren’t many cars, making it an easy ride. Besides, the landscape is nice and you can stop wherever you want to admire it, talk to the fishermen or take some nice photos.

At Museo Girón you can learn everything about the historical conflict between Castro and the United States that led to the famous embargo. A little farther, Zapata Swamp is a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site mostly unknown to foreigners. This incredible place boasts diverse landscapes, including a lagoon, Fidel’s crocodile farm, and underwater shipwrecks. 

How to get to Playa Giron: Playa Giron can be accessed via the Viazul bus or a shared taxi. It’s located about a three-hour drive from Havana and Varadero.

Where to stay in Playa Giron: Playa Giron is a small village and although there’s a hotel, this is a great place for a more authentic experience. Most of the locals rent their spare rooms to tourists.

A great option is Hostal Sur Caribe, close to the center of the village. The owner is knowledgeable, prepares delicious breakfasts and can help guests rent bicycles.

A few down a sandy path with palm trees on the left and grass on the right and the sea in the background

Submitted by Carley from Home to Havana

Located on the eastern end of Cuba, Baracoa is one of Cuba’s oldest and most historic cities. A perfect combination of history, culture, and natural beauty, this small town is a great addition to any Cuba itinerary.

In addition to having a charming historic center — one of Cuba’s most beautiful and laidback — Baracoa also has a number of beautiful white sand beaches to enjoy. Playa Maguana, just a 30-minute drive outside of Baracoa, is also a local favorite for its unspoiled beach and white sand.

Best things to do in Baracoa: If you’re a nature lover and looking to appreciate Cuba’s natural beauty beyond the beaches head to El Yunque to discover some of the  best hiking in Cuba .

El Yunque — or “the anvil” in Spanish because of its distinct flat top shape — is one of the most unique mountains in the Caribbean, and was detailed in Christopher Columbus’s journals about his arrival in Cuba. Here you’ll find lush tropical forests and waterfalls, perfect for swimming in after the three-hour hike to the mountaintop.

How to get to Baracoa: Baracoa was once only accessible by sea until the creation of a highway after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, but today Baracoa is easily accessible via a two-hour drive from nearby Santiago de Cuba. You can also find direct flights from Havana into the small airport in Baracoa. 

Where to stay in Baracoa: Stay at one of the many casas particulares for the best, most local experience at every price point.

A strip of untouched beach, white sand next to bright blue water, a few beach chairs and palaces on the beach.

Cayo Levisa

Submitted by Alex Tiffany of Just Go Exploring

If you’re looking for a slice of paradise, minus the other tourists, be sure to include Cayo Levisa in your Cuba itinerary .

This beautiful little cay off the coast of Pinar del Rio province in western Cuba is a picture-perfect Caribbean island, straight out of a postcard.  Most of the north shore is one long beach, with soft white sand and perfectly clear, clean turquoise water. On the south side you’ll find thick mangrove swamp teeming with birds and marine life.

The best thing about Cayo Levisa is how undeveloped it is. There is only one (small) hotel on the island, offering a few simple bungalow-style rooms. Other than that, the island is mostly natural and untouched.  

Best things to do in Cayo Levisa: You can walk the length of Cayo Levisa and see very few people. Once you get away from the hotel, you basically have the whole place to yourself. Swim in the sea, sip a coconut in the shade, or just laze the day away in a hammock.  Enjoy your own (almost) private island.

Several excellent diving spots are accessible from the north shore, with amazing visibility and loads of tropical fish and coral reefs. You can arrange diving trips from the hotel reception. Alternatively, the snorkeling is also pretty good just off the beach.

How to get to Cayo Levisa: To get to Cayo Levisa, you need to take a ferry from the village of Palma Rubia. The ferry runs twice a day, going out to the island at 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM, returning visitors to the mainland at 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM.  

Palma Rubia itself is an easy 45-minute drive from Viñales. If you don’t have your own transport, either organize a tour from Viñales or take a taxi (but be sure to arrange a return pickup as you might struggle to flag a cab in Palma Rubia – there’s not much there).

Most people visit the island as part of a day trip from Viñales.  However, if you have time, I recommend you stay here for at least a couple of nights.  Cayo Levisa is even more magical and unspoiled once the day-trippers have left.

Where to stay in Cayo Levisa: There is only one (small) hotel on the island, offering a few simple bungalow-style rooms. 

An antique pink convertible on a cuba street in Matanzas

Contributed by Allison of Eternal Arrival

Matanzas is a cultural hub in Cuba, with lively streets and bustling plazas often bursting with live music. It’s a wonderful place to visit if you want to travel a little off the beaten path when  preparing for your Cuba trip .

Located just a 55-mile drive from Havana, Matanzas makes a great day trip or is a good stop along the route between Havana and the resort city of Varadero, with its stunning beaches.

Best things to do in Matanzas: Matanzas is also home to several museums, including the Junco Palace Museum (which focuses on regional history), the Museo de Artes de Matanzas, as well as the Museo Farmaceutico, a unique pharmacy museum. 

Be sure to check out the Castillo de San Severino, one of the largest fortresses in the Caribbean, which dates back to 1734. Don’t miss the Museum of the Slave Route located inside, which tells the story of the enslaved Africans who built the fortress.

Check out the areas around Plaza de la Vigia and Plaza de la Libertad to see street life in Cuba at its finest!

How to get to Matanzas: As with most travel in Cuba, arranging a private taxi is typically the most straightforward way to get between destinations, though it’s the most expensive. You can also take a taxi colectivo from Havana’s Central Park, or the Viazul bus. Depending on your transit mode, it’ll take between 1.5 and 2.5 hours between Havana and Matanzas.

Where to stay in Matanzas: As with most Cuban destinations, casa particulares are the way to go with accommodation. While I often relied on word-of-mouth referrals when choosing where to stay (Cubans network like no other!), you can also find cute accommodations on Airbnb, like this private room at  Casa Manzaneda .

A scuba dive boat propped up on a patch of grass

Playa Larga

Submitted by Gemma from Two Scots Abroad

Playa Larga in Cuba is a historically significant area located in the Bay of Pigs, known for the failed US invasion in 1961. Today, one of the best reasons to visit the Bay of Pigs in Cuba is to explore underwater via diving or snorkeling. 

Best things to do in Playa Larga: As with most activities in Cuba, you can organize your dive the day before, and sometimes this is the only option. Aim to find a casa around the small town of Caleton or book a resort at Playa Larga or Girón, then ask your host or taxi collectivo driver to set up a session with a local dive school such as The Octopus Club. 

A driver will pick you and the other divers up from casas and resorts and drop you off at the dive center where you will be kitted out with equipment. Next, you will hop back on the bus to the dive site, a quiet beach with stretches of calm waters.

After a quick introduction and dive instructions in Spanish with hand actions to translate, it is time to walk into the water. Yes, you physically walk into this dive site, which keeps costs down as there is no need for a boat. 

Under the water, you will see lots of colorful fish and reefs, a truly magical and very affordable diving experience. 

As always, if you don’t want to dive, you can snorkel instead!

How to get to Playa Larga: To get to the Playa Larga area, you can attempt the Viazul bus, but not all drivers will stop. To secure transport, book a taxi collectivo from  Havana , Viñales or Trinidad, which will be pricier but offers a guarantee. 

Where to stay in Playa Larga: For accommodation, consider a casa particular in Caleton or Playa Larga, which you can ask your taxi to find for you or book via Airbnb before you arrive. 

A white sand beach with crystal clear blue water and a building in the background

Playa Maria la Gorda

Submitted by Džangir Kolar from Dr Jam Travels

Playa Maria la Gorda is a beautiful Cuban beach located in the western province of Pinar del Rio on Guanahacabibes Peninsula on the far west point of the main island.  When you get to this destination you will find yourself in a typical Caribbean paradise with palm trees, white sands, and turquoise clear water.

As this is a quintessential Cuban beach, Playa Maria la Gorda features activities like swimming, sunbathing, and partying with cheap rum drinks during the night.

Best things to do in Playa Maria la Gorda: The waters off Playa Maria la Gorda are full of marine life, so this place is perfect for snorkeling or diving. You can just swim off the coast or take a tour with the dive center. You can hire a guide and explore the area, maybe even see crocodiles or turtles nesting.

How to get to Playa Maria la Gorda: You will be arriving probably from the capital of the region Pinar del Rio in the east. With a car, it will take you around 2.5 hours. The bus will take an hour more. Coming from Viñales will take an extra half hour.

Where to stay in Playa Maria la Gorda: The only accommodation option here is Hotel Maria la Gorda.

A horse drawn carriage and an antique red car on the corner of a Cuban street

Santa Clara

Submitted by Dan from Layer Culture

When looking for the best places to visit in Cuba you are spoiled for choice — but one city that captivates many travelers is Santa Clara. Here there are two large monuments and a special museum commemorating Che Guevara, a must-see for people interested in Cuban history. 

Best things to do in Santa Clara: Whilst exploring Santa Clara you can learn all about Che Guevara via the Mausoleum, a gigantic marble-made monument that was originally put up in 1988. The landmark, which is open year-round also has a small museum open 8:30 AM until 12:30 PM, but be aware that visitors are prohibited from carrying any personal items inside.

Other popular  things to do in Santa Clara  include hiking up Loma del Caprio and visiting Teatro la Caridad, one of the last colonial theaters that remain in Cuba. You also have Leoncio Vidal Park, which is a fantastic spot to sit and enjoy the Cuban lifestyle in the evenings. It’s not unusual to see locals dancing around here while enjoying rum cocktails.

How to get to Santa Clara: You can arrive to Santa Clara directly from Havana using the Viazul bus service which takes around 3-4 hours. 

Where to stay in Santa Clara:  By booking a stay at Hostal Vista al Mejunje you’ll feel right at home and the huge breakfast spread they put out in the mornings will leave your eyes wide open.

A woman cycling down a plaza with several colonial buildings, including one bright green and one deep blue.

Submitted by Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World

Lesser visited compared to many other places in Cuba,  Camaguey  can be puzzling for those who choose to visit. While it’s somewhat less touristy compared to Havana or Trinidad, Cuba’s third-largest city (located exactly at the center of the island) is actually packed with touts — locally known as jineteros — who will hardly leave a traveler alone.

That should not detract you from its beauty — in fact, the historic center of Camaguey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was built in a medina style to keep pirates at bay. It means getting lost in Camaguey is almost a given; but on the other hand this will allow you to discover its many corners and hidden gems.

Best things to do in Camaguey: The city is packed with beautiful churches and squares. The ones you should not miss include the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, the 1748 church of Nuestra Señora de la Merced.

Parque Ignatio Agramonte is the prettiest square in town, so make sure not to miss that either — there’s also a museum by the same name which has an interesting display of antique furniture and an exhibit of 19th and 20th century Cuban art.

How to get to Camaguey: You can get to Camagüey by Viazul bus from Havana and Santiago — it’s the line that connects the two cities and goes on to Trinidad and Cienfuegos. The trip from Havana takes about 10 hours. It’s 6.5 hours from Santiago and five hours from Trinidad.

Where to stay in Camaguey: The best place to stay in Camagüey is the Casa de Caridad, a casa particular in Oscar Primelles 310A between Bartolomé Masò and Padre Olallo. It’s a large colonial house with antique furniture and a beautiful garden at the back.

A Cuban street with salmon-colored buildings and green doors

Santiago de Cuba

Submitted by Jordan from  Hamburg and Beyond

The second-largest city in Cuba after Havana, Santiago de Cuba is bursting with bright colors and charming architecture . Santiago de Cuba played an important role in the Cuban Revolution, with the revolution beginning at the Moncada Barracks in the city in 1953 and ending with Fidel Castro declaring victory on the balcony of Santiago de Cuba’s city hall in 1959.

Best things to do in Santiago de Cuba: Besides roaming the colorful streets of Santiago de Cuba, center yourself around Céspedes Park – the main square of the city.

Make sure to visit the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption. First constructed in 1514, this is considered a minor basilica by the Holy See and became a national monument in 1958.

Less than a block away from this cathedral are two great places to get drinks: the porch area of Hotel Casa Granda and Casa de La Trova. The former offers a perfect people-watching location and is beautifully designed, while the latter offers a more authentic experience with live music.

How to get to Santiago de Cuba: It’s easy to reach Santiago de Cuba via plane by flying into Antonio Maceo International Airport. As the city is on the opposite side of Cuba from Havana, driving to/from Santiago de Cuba is a bit more treacherous!  The city’s airport has connections to Havana as well as other nearby islands and Paris, France. 

Where to stay in Santiago de Cuba: Hotel Casa Granda is also the ideal place to stay due to its proximity to everything in the city and high-class amenities. 

More on Cuba and the Caribbean:

Can Americans Travel to Cuba? Yes. Here’s How.

Puerto Rico Has it All

Why Travel to Antigua and Barbuda

A Weekend in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Have you been to Cuba? What’s your favorite place? Share away!

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Cuba is a charming Caribbean island nation trapped in time. It’s a place where the most beautiful cars of the 1950s and 1960s fill the streets, good Wi-Fi is hard to find, and major western brands are all but absent. 

The Cuban capital, Havana, is the center of Cuban cultural life. It’s home to museums, art galleries, and an opulent theater housing the Cuban National Ballet. Havana also is home to countless hole-in-the-wall restaurants, a handful of top-notch jazz clubs, a growing number of galleries and boutiques, and more mojitos than you can drink. 

But there’s far more to Cuba than Havana. Pristine beaches, architectural gems, diving, snorkeling, and off-the-grid cultural experiences are waiting just outside the city and beyond.

Unwind at the Beach in Varadero

Varadero is a beach town 80 miles east of Havana, with a beach that's known for its white-sand beaches and all-inclusive resorts. This is a dreamy place to bask in the sun or read a book under an umbrella. It’s also a popular scuba diving and deep-sea fishing destination. Expect to spend at least $80 each way to hire a car and driver to get to the beach. The drive takes about two hours. Viazul bus rides between Havana and Varadero are around $3 each way and take around three hours .

Ride Around Havana in a Classic Car

TripSavvy / Anna Haines

Nothing is more synonymous with Havana than a well-maintained classic car from the 1950s, and there’s no better way to see Havana than from one of those vintage cars. Tours typically pass by the Havana Capitol, Barrio Chino, the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, and the  Plaza de la Revolución, a public square that has hosted many political rallies and popes over the years. Classic car tours of Havana can also be booked online through sites like Airbnb and Get Your Guide or ahead of time directly with drivers or through Airbnb hosts.

Immerse Yourself in Cuban Art

Fábrica de Arte Cubano is a multimedia art experience that’s redefining Havana’s nightlife landscape. Fábrica de Arte Cubano is part dance club, part art gallery and part live performance venue. The exhibits start outside the entrance to this venue, a repurposed oil factory. Inside Fábrica de Arte Cubano, you’ll find many bars, a restaurant, and a casual snack spot to take a break in between exploring exhibits from local artists and taking in thumping multimedia performances by local musicians and dancers.

Sip a Daiquiri at Hemingway's Former Haunt

El Floridita is where the daiquiri was born and a favorite hangout of author Ernest Hemingway. It was his preferred place to drink a Cuban daiquiri, and nowadays patrons can drink daiquiris alongside a life-size bronze sculpture of Hemingway, perched at his favorite spot along the bar.

Explore the Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Hotel Nacional de Cuba is a glamorous Art Deco highrise that was a favorite of Al Capone and mid-century Hollywood. (Want a peek into the mobster's room? Look for the window with a green curtain.) Have lunch, and a mojito on the hotel’s expansive patio then make your way towards the edge of the property nearest the water. It’s here you’ll find Hotel Nacional’s most interesting spot: a Cold War-era bunker that’s open to visitors.

Shop for Old Books in Havana

At the open-air ruins of the former Casa de Jústiz y Santa Ana, you’ll find a reader’s paradise. This outdoor market features secondhand books as well as postcards, vintage posters, and notebooks. The well-worn books here have served generations of Cubans, and this street market is a well-worn piece of the fabric of Havana. Except for holidays and rainy days, you’ll find this market east of Plaza de Armas—its former home–just off of El Malecon.

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at a Giant Ice Cream Parlor

Coppelia was meant to be a cathedral to ice cream, yet was designed to resemble a spaceship or UFO. It occupies an entire city block in the La Rambla section of Vedado and can hold up to 1,000 guests at a time. It doesn’t have the selection that was envisioned at its 1966 opening, but the few flavors it does carry are worth waiting in line for.

Go Dancing in Vinales

There are few places in the world where you can dance outside in the shadows of a historic church. Vinales is one of them. Listen for the music after dark near the town’s main church and follow the sound to a night of dancing you’ll never forget.

Listen to Live Jazz

Cuba is a place known for its jazz music and one of the best places in the world for catching a live jazz show. For an intimate jazz club experience in Havana, try La Zorra y el Cuervo. For more of a supper club experience, head to the Jazz Club in the Galerias de Paseo shopping center.

Experience Cuban Cabaret at El Tropicana

The Tropicana club opened its doors in 1939 and nowadays brings together 200 performers for a Las Vegas-style Cuban dance extravaganza in an outdoor garden. This is a show geared squarely toward tourists but still a unique night out.

Learn to Roll a Real Cuban Cigar

Cuba is almost synonymous with cigars. It’s the home of the legendary Cohiba and Montecristo brands, and there’s no better place to learn how to roll a cigar. Airbnb Experiences offers many cigar-rolling classes across the country.

Mix Up a Bespoke Fragrance

Habana 1791 is a perfumery dedicated to the scents of colonial Cuba. It carries a dozen fragrances that can be blended into bespoke perfumes and colognes. Customers can package their scents in the handcrafted bottles of their choice.

Take a Salsa Class

Are you looking to learn something new on vacation? Take a salsa class in Havana. Book ahead through Airbnb experiences and expect to spend a couple of hours dancing into the evening on an expansive patio dance space in a classic Havana neighborhood.

Explore a Spanish Settlement

Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage site and former pirate haven that, at one point, produced one-third of Cuba’s sugar. Trinidad is a place to wander among grand mansions built with sugar money, while nearby Mountains and beaches offer ample opportunities for diving, snorkeling, and ecotourism. Trinidad is about a four-hour drive from Havana.

Sip Guava Rum in Vinales

Guava rum isn’t something you’ll find on most bar menus or duty-free shops, but it’s a drink that’s worth seeking out. Book a tobacco plantation tour or a horseback ride and it’ll most likely include a stop to sample this Pinar del Rio specialty. And no, it isn’t available at the duty-free shop in the Havana airport. To book, go through a local tour company, Airbnb Experiences, or through your accommodation.

Shop for Cuban Art

If Cuban art is on your shopping list, head to Almacenes San José. This art market inside a sizeable two-story warehouse features works from dozens of Cuban artists. You'll find lots of paintings, ceramics, handmade jewelry, and more. (As an added perk, you won’t have to battle a blazing hot sun while you shop.)

Learn About the Cuban Revolution at the Museo de la Revolución

This museum is housed in an opulent former presidential palace and features exhibits focused on the Cuban revolution and recent Cuban history. The building itself boasts an interior designed by Tiffany & Co. and other landmarks, like the Salón de Los Espejos, a room designed to emulate Versailles' Hall of Mirrors.

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20 Best Places to Visit in Cuba: A Local’s Guide [2024]

Your trip to Cuba should be so much more than just tracing the well-worn tourist path. From hidden beaches and waterfalls to historic sites and energizing cities, you’ll find it all here. Cuba is a much more richly layered, multi-faceted destination than many other Caribbean islands .

We’re locals and have seen everything Cuba has to offer – and think that these are the best places to visit in Cuba that you just can’t miss. We’ve included everything from the best cities in Cuba to the best beaches that Cuba has to offer and narrowed them all down to help you find the perfect spots for your trip.

havana cuba

This post contains affiliate links that may reward me monetarily or otherwise when you use them to make qualifying purchases – at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, please read our  disclosure policy .

Best Places To Visit in Cuba

As the largest island in the Caribbean, you’d be surprised to learn how large Cuba is – and how much it has to offer travelers. From soaring mountains and hidden jungle waterfalls to its well-known white-sand beaches with crystal-clear water, there are countless unforgettable places to visit in Cuba.

These are our favorite places to visit in Cuba – the ones we recommend that ALL travelers consider as they plan their Cuba itinerary , no matter how long they plan to spend in the country.

Cuba Travel 101

  • Currency in Cuba: A Local’s Guide for Travelers
  • How to Get Wifi in Cuba [Updated!]
  • Is Cuba Safe? Updated Cuba Safety Guide
  • Ultimate Cuba Travel Guide – A Local’s Advice for Travelers

cuba hotels

You can’t come to Cuba without visiting Havana . This is the beating heart of Cuba, filled with history, culture, art, and countless things to do and see that you just don’t want to miss.

While there are truly endless things to do in Havana , these are just some of the highlights that we recommend to all visitors:

  • Check out the Fábrica de Arte Cubano, a mixed-used arts and performance space beloved by everyone from Anthony Bourdain and Questlove to Michelle Obama. It was named one of Time Magazine’s World’s 100 Greatest Places.
  • Explore Old Havana
  • Walk the Malecón sea wall
  • Visit Clandestina and grab coffee and brunch at El Cafe , just around the corner
  • Learn about the Cuban Revolution at the Museo de la Revolución and Plaza de la Revolución 

Havana offers much more to its visitors than just the vintage car show on constant display in the streets that you may have in mind when visiting. If you spend a few days in Havana exploring the city, you’ll be able to do the best of the city. 

If you’re tempted to skip Havana and just fly right into Varadero (or another beach resort spot on the island) for your vacation, consider adding a day or two in Havana to your Cuba itinerary . You’ll fall in love with this fascinating city and its people. 

Plan Your Trip to Havana

  • 47 Best Things to Do in Havana, Cuba
  • 3-Day Ultimate Havana Itinerary
  • Where to Stay in Havana
  • 15+ Best Hotels in Havana

things to do in trinidad cuba

2. Trinidad

Trinidad is a popular “second city” for visitors to Cuba looking for more places to visit in Cuba beyond Havana – and is easily one of the best cities to visit in Cuba . While often overshadowed by Havana, Trinidad can easily stand on its own as an unforgettable destination in Cuba.

Trinidad is best known for its stunning historic center. With beautiful cobblestone streets, historic churches, and impressive colonial architecture , it’s truly impressive and well worth spending a few hours exploring – even if you’ve just been to Old Havana .

Trinidad is also a great base for exploring some of southern Cuba’s most impressive and memorable sites. To the east, the Valle de los Ingenios is the best place to learn more about Cuba’s important role as a sugar producer in the colonial days, and visitors can explore historic plantations in the lush valleys while learning about the history of the area.

You also won’t want to skip Playa Ancón, just a few minutes south of Trinidad and considered the nicest beach on Cuba’s southern coast.

Plan a Trip to Trinidad, Cuba

  • Trinidad, Cuba | Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
  • 10+ Best Things To Do in Trinidad, Cuba
  • Where To Stay in Trinidad

best places to visit in cuba

3. Cayo Largo del Sur

Have you heard of this stunning beach destination in Cuba ? Though Cayo Largo del Sur might not be the first destination you think of when considering where to hit the beach in Cuba, it’s one of the best places to visit in Cuba for a dreamy beach escape.

Cayo Largo del Sur is a skinny strip of an island (one of the thousands of tiny cays in Cuba ) located off the southern coast of Cuba, close to Isla de la Juventud, best known for the pure white sand and crystal clear waters.

The beaches that line the southern and western edges of the island are easily among Cuba’s best – Playa Sirena on the west side of the island and Playa Blanca and Playa Larga are each better than the best.

While it may be a bit harder to reach Cayo Largo del Sur than the beaches in Guardalavaca and Cuba’s northern cays, don’t count it out – for in-the-know travelers, this is one of the best places to visit in Cuba for a beach vacation.

Read More: Cayo Largo del Sur: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide

Travel Essential

Don’t think about traveling to Cuba without a good  VPN (Virtual Private Network) . Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers.  We’ve used  NordVPN  for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, especially in Cuba. 

jardines de la reina cuba

4. Jardines de la Reina

If you’re a diver, you’ve almost certainly heard of Jardines de la Reina . Known as one of the most protected areas of the Caribbean Sea, this national park to the south of Cuba is known as a haven for unique corals, beautiful tropical fish, undersea landscapes like caves and canyons, and several varieties of sharks.

Not a professional diver? Jardines de la Reina still has a lot to offer visitors of all levels of dive experience – and even those not interested in diving at all. The area is also beloved for its sport fishing – it was one of Fidel Castro’s favorite fishing spots in Cuba – though it is exclusively a catch-and-release area.

The tiny cays throughout the area are home to mangroves and tiny hidden beaches that make for a great few hours of rest and relaxation among pristine nature. If you venture to this stunning area of Cuba, you’re in for a treat.

Read More: Jardines de la Reina: A Traveler’s Guide

resorts in varadero cuba

5. Varadero

Voted year after year as one of TripAdvisor’s Best Beaches in the World , Varadero is a stunning white-sand beach just two hours east of Havana, and an easy choice for one of the best places to visit in Cuba for a beach getaway.

If you’re looking for somewhere off the beaten path, Varadero is not it; this is by far Cuba’s most popular beach destination, both with international travelers and Cubans looking for a beach escape. However, Varadero is also the most convenient place for a beach getaway in Cuba.

While there are endless resorts in Varadero to choose from, the 16 km of white-sand beach that runs the length of this unique peninsula is easily accessible and public, meaning that even on the busiest beach day, you’ll be able to find a space for some peace and quiet if that’s what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for more excitement, choose a spot near the restaurants and bars near the beach. Or, even get a day pass at a hotel to make the most of the activities and amenities here. Things to do in Varadero include snorkeling and diving, or a bit further inland, you can explore caves with underground swimming holes. You’ll be surprised how much Varadero has to offer.

Plan a Trip to Varadero

  • Ultimate Travel Guide to Varadero, Cuba
  • 10+ Best Resorts in Varadero
  • 12 Best Things To Do in Varadero
  • Havana to Varadero: 5 Easy Ways To Travel

fabrica de arte cubano

6. Fábrica de Arte Cubano

You don’t have to take our word for how cool Havana’s buzziest evening spot is Fábrica de Arte Cubano is so cool that it was named one of the best places in the world by Time Magazine in 2019 .

This mixed-use art space was revolutionary when it first opened its doors a decade ago, and it still is. It combines fine art installations with live performances and shows ranging from documentary screenings and dance classes to live music and DJ sets , all while offering spaces for dancing, eating, and multiple bars and lounge spaces.

If its accolades in Time Magazine weren’t enough to convince you that a visit to Fábrica de Arte Cubano is one of the best things to do in Havana , the space’s famous fans range from Michelle Obama and Anthony Bourdain to Questlove and Cuban stars like Cimafunk.

Fábrica de Arte Cubano is open from Thursday through Sunday every week, starting at 8 PM. However, it closes for brief seasons every three months to change over the art installations and remake the space, just as a traditional gallery would. Make sure to check out their schedule online before you visit.

vinales valley

While the stunning Valley of Viñales is a favorite day trip from Havana, don’t limit yourself to just a few hours in one of the most incredible places to visit in Cuba. One of the most stunning natural spots in the interior of Cuba, Viñales is a must-visit destination for any traveler in Cuba.

Viñales is best known for its impressive limestone “karsts,” jutting out from the ground like sheer-faced mountains, giving the lush valleys an impressive and completely unique to anything you’ve seen.

Make sure to get a sunrise view over the valley with breakfast and Cuban coffee at Balcón del Valle; the morning haze lifts over the valley to reveal the stunning view of the unique landscape.

Other than being beautiful, Viñales is also known for being home to Cuba’s best tobacco plantations , so a visit to these family-owned farms to learn about one of Cuba’s most famous exports is a must. You can explore the farms on horseback or by hiking through the valley – it is one of the best destinations for hiking in Cuba .

Plan a Trip to Viñales

  • Ultimate Travel Guide to Viñales, Cuba
  • Havana to Viñales Day Trip Guide
  • 10 Best Things To Do in Viñales

things to do in cayo guillermo

8. Cayo Coco

Cuba’s northern central coast is rimmed with stunning white-sand cays , many of which are famous for their resorts and pristine beaches. While you’ll have your choice of fantastic beach destinations in this area of central Cuba, one of the best places to visit in Cuba in this amazing region is Cayo Coco .

This tiny white sand cay is one of the most underrated Caribbean islands , though it’s a popular destination for those looking for a beach resort stay. It is easily accessible from its own Jardines del Rey Airport or from the nearby provincial capital city of Ciego de Ávila. Whether traveling by bus, shared taxi, or plane, you’ll have your choice of transport options.

Stick around in Cayo Coco for the duration of your stay at one of the best resorts in Cuba, or head to neighboring Cayo Guillermo for an even more varied vacation. It’s just as beautiful and home to one of the most impressive beaches in Cuba : Playa Pilar.

Plan a Trip to Cayo Coco

  • Cayo Coco: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
  • 7 Best Resorts in Cayo Coco


9. Guardalavaca

Would it surprise you to learn that the province of Holguin is one of the most popular places to visit in Cuba? Home to the stunning beaches of Guardalavaca and other white-sand spots like Playa Pesquero and Playa Esmeraldas, this area boasts some of the best beaches in Cuba and more stunning resorts than you can count.

Just about an hour from the province’s capital city of Holguin, Guardalavaca is the most popular beach city in the area. Whether you’re staying at one of the nearby resorts or a budget-friendly apartment or beach house rental closer to town, you’ll likely travel through this small and accessible city, which has all the amenities you’ll need for an easy trip.

While Cuba’s northern cays generally are too expensive for backpackers or budget travelers, Guardalavaca and its nearby beaches can be a bit more of a budget option without sacrificing the stunning and relaxing beach experience you’re looking for.

Plan a Trip to Holguin

  • Holguin, Cuba: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
  • 8 Best Resorts in Holguin
  • 6 Best Casa Particular Guesthouses in Holguin

topes de collantes

10. Topes de Collantes

Located in the Escambray Mountains along Cuba’s southern coast, Parque Natural   Topes de Collantes , or simply, Topes de Collantes , is one of the best places to visit in Cuba for nature lovers. Packed with impressive hiking trails, plunging waterfalls, and even hidden coffee plantations, travelers come traveling from across the island just to experience it.

Topes de Collantes sits nearly equidistant between the cities of Cienfuegos and Trinidad , making it a popular day trip destination for travelers staying in both cities. Exploring by horseback or on foot are both popular ways to experience the park, including the most popular attraction: the famous El Nicho Waterfall and its crystal-clear swimming hole.

Whether you’re looking for a full-day excursion or just a quick half-day trip to the area, you’ll be happy you added Topes de Collantes to your Cuba itinerary .

What to Pack for Cuba

Check out our  Ultimate Cuba Packing List   to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Cuba and what we never travel without.

baracoa cuba

11. Baracoa

Known as the “First City” of Cuba, tiny Baracoa in Cuba’s far east is a stunning spot, boasting plenty to draw visitors to this relatively remote spot.

With a charming historical town, great beaches, and lush, mountainous surroundings so beautiful Christopher Columbus wrote about them in his journals, Baracoa is an unforgettable travel destination.

Would you believe that Baracoa was only accessible to the rest of Cuba after the Cuban Revolution when a road was built to the town from Santiago de Cuba in the 1960s? Until then, the historic city was only accessible by boat, the dense jungles impenetrable.

One of the most popular things to do in Baracoa for visitors is hiking El Yunque; this anvil-shaped table mountain is a distinctive feature of the area’s “skyline” and makes for a great day trip to appreciate the lush jungles around the city. It’s one of the best destinations in Cuba for hiking .

Plan a Trip to Baracoa

  • Baracoa Ultimate Travel Guide
  • 12 Best Things To Do in Baracoa

alejandro de humboldt national park

12. Alejandro de Humboldt National Park

Just outside of Baracoa, no trip to the area is complete without a visit to the impressive Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, considered by  UNESCO  as “one of the most biologically diverse tropical island sites on earth.”

The park is massive, and visitors must enter with a guide, though this is the best way to see the very best of this massive and unique area. You’ll get the chance to see animals, insects, and tons of flora and fauna endemic to Cuba while enjoying stunning vistas wherever you look.

Excursions from Baracoa are one of the most popular ways to visit the park , though dedicated multi-day tours from other parts of Cuba are available as well. 

Read More: Best Time to Visit Cuba: Month-by-Month Breakdown

cayo santa maria cuba

13. Cayo Santa Maria

Untouched, lush forests blanket the tiny islet of Cayo Santa Maria along Cuba’s northern shore, stretching until they reach some of the most pristine white sand beaches in the entire Caribbean . Long overshadowed by Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Santa Maria is finally coming into its own, now boasting some of the best resorts in Cuba .

There isn’t much to do in Cayo Santa Maria , but to be honest, that’s the whole point of a visit. Stretch out on nearly-empty sand with a tropical drink in hand and enjoy some of the most beautiful corners of Cuba.

Cayo Santa Maria is about a five-hour drive from Havana or just over an hour and a half away from the city of Santa Clara, which receives flights from Havana and a few key international destinations.

Plan a Trip to Cayo Santa Maria

  • Cayo Santa Maria: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
  • 9 Best Resorts in Cayo Santa Maria

pico turquino

14. Pico Turquino

When you think of visiting a Caribbean island , you probably don’t think of climbing mountains. However, climbing Pico Turquino – the highest point in Cuba – is a great, unique addition to a Cuba itinerary for the avid hiker.

Covered with lush jungles, trekkers will enjoy spectacular views along the way to the summit. The hike is moderately difficult, and though steep and potentially muddy at parts, Pico Turquino is not a technically challenging climb.

Hikers climbing Pico Turquino from the trails to the north of the mountain can stop off at the Comandancia de la Plata, one of the most important places to visit in Cuba to learn about the country’s revolutionary history. This mountain camp of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and other revolutionaries was used as a base from which to launch early attacks on the Cuban government.

Visitors can see the radio station revolutionaries used to broadcast their messages across the island, Che Guevara’s field hospital (he was a trained doctor!), and barracks. It’s a fascinating break from this unique hike.

Read More: Pico Turquino + the Best Hiking Destinations in Cuba

santiago cuba

15. Santiago de Cuba

As the lively eastern capital of Cuba, Santiago de Cuba is a vibrant city with historic architecture and plenty of unique cultural events and is home to many of Cuba’s world-famous musical traditions.

Make sure to visit the colonial fortress Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, lauded by UNESCO as “the most complete, best-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture.” The architecture is impressive, and the ocean views from the top of the fortress are stunning

The city is also home to many Afro-Cuban religious traditions and celebrations from santería . This religious tradition syncretized the Catholic religion of Spanish colonizers with African religions brought over with enslaved peoples. It is widely practiced across the island, though it’s particularly popular in Santiago.

If you’re interested in learning more about these traditions, Santiago de Cuba is the place to visit. You can see countless activities and events celebrating these traditions, including the famous Carnival of Santiago de Cuba.

Plan a Trip to Santiago de Cuba

  • Santiago de Cuba: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
  • 10+ Best Things To Do in Santiago de Cuba

cienaga de zapata

16. Ciénaga de Zapata

For those looking for a unique experience while visiting Cuba, consider adding a trip to Ciénaga de Zapata to your itinerary. Located along Cuba’s southern coast, this protected natural area is home to countless species of flora and fauna, many of which are endemic to Cuba.

Visitors can enjoy hiking, kayaking, and exploring mangrove forests, as well as spotting birds, Cuban crocodiles, flamingos, going kayaking with manatees , and more. The area is home to a wildlife refuge and other unique protected areas.

Most visitors also take advantage of a trip to nearby southern coast beaches or head onward to Cienfuegos or Trinidad .

Travel Insurance

Cuba requires that all travelers have proof of a comprehensive travel insurance policy in order to enter the country. Check out our guide to travel insurance for Cuba for more details. We recommend these brands for Cuba travel insurance:

  • Visitors Coverage : Coverage for Cuba travel available to citizens of all countries, though not currently available to residents of New York and Maryland in the United States.
  • Insubuy : Coverage for Cuba travel available to citizens of all countries and states of the United States.

playa giron

17. Playa Girón

If you’ve never heard of Playa Girón, maybe you’ll recognize it by its other name – Bahia de los Cochinos, or in English, Bay of Pigs . Despite its unique and dark place in Cuba’s history, this coastal town has plenty to offer travelers to earn it a spot among the best places to visit in Cuba.

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path spot with cool, hidden swimming holes, plenty of opportunities to connect with locals , and well located to reach other awesome destinations in Cuba, Playa Girón is one of the best cities in Cuba for you.

Located on Cuba’s southern coast, Playa Girón is also excellent to pair with a trip to Ciénaga de Zapata . It is home to stunningly clear water, unique beaches and swimming holes, and charming, affordable accommodations. Make sure to check out Caleta Buena for great snorkeling among caves – though admission to the area is ticketed, lunch, beverages, and access to facilities are included.

Cuba Accommodation Guides

  • Best Resorts in Cuba: Ultimate Cuba Resort Guide
  • 15 Best All Inclusive Resorts in Cuba
  • 15 Best Hotels in Cuba

cienfuegos cuba

18. Cienfuegos

If you can’t get enough of the charming historic architecture you’ll find across Cuba, consider visiting Cienfuegos in central Cuba. This historic city has plenty of fine examples of stunning colonial architecture while maintaining a laid-back and relaxed vibe you won’t find in Havana and Trinidad ‘s busier and more touristed destinations.

Cienfuegos is also a great destination from which to explore the nearby Escambray mountains, home to lush jungles with coffee plantations and stunning waterfall hikes like the famous El Nicho.

Easily combined with a trip to Trinidad, Ciénaga de Zapata, or Playa Girón, this lovely city is an easy choice when considering the best places to visit in Cuba.

Plan a Trip to Cienfuegos

  • Cienfuegos, Cuba | Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
  • 10+ Best Things To Do in Cienfuegos

playa pilar

19. Playa Pilar

There are plenty of gorgeous beaches in Cuba worth visiting , but few are as special as Playa Pilar. Regarded as one of the best beaches in the world, this white sand stunner is even dreamier than the beaches you see on postcards.

Playa Pilar is perched on Cayo Guillermo , one of Cuba’s countless northern cays located in the Jardines del Rey area. While a few resorts dot the shores of the beach – including some of the best resorts in Cuba – it feels untouched, pristine, and uncrowded, adding even more to its intrigue and beauty.

Playa Pilar was famously immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s book Islands in the Stream, and monuments to the writer are found all around the island. In fact, this particularly stunning beach was even named Pilar in honor of Hemingway’s boat.

Plan a Trip to Cayo Guillermo

  • Cayo Guillermo: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
  • 8 Best Resorts in Cayo Guillermo

isla de la juventud

20. Isla de la Juventud

The largest of the islands that sit offshore from the Cuban mainland, Isla de la Juventud – in English, the Isle of Youth – is a little-visited but totally unique destination in Cuba. Accessible via flights from Havana to the island’s capital of Nueva Gerona or via a ferry from Batabanó, it can be a bit of a hassle to reach but is well worth the journey.

If you think Cuba feels like a trip back in time, it has nothing on Isla de la Juventud. Zip down beachfront roads in vintage cars, stroll peacefully through historic plazas, and sip coffee at corner cafes. The laidback feel of the island is like none other, making it the ultimate destination for an unplugged vacation.

There’s little traditional tourism infrastructure here, though the smattering of charming casa particular guest houses makes a for memorable accommodation experience. Stick to Nueva Gerona; there’s very little elsewhere on the island.

Carley Rojas Avila

Carley Rojas Avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Home to Havana and Explorers Away. She is a serial expat and traveler, having visited 40+ countries and counting. Carley has written for publications like Travel + Leisure, MSN, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Wealth of Geeks, and more. Find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.

Best things to do in Cuba

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For the last two decades, the popular refrain on visiting Cuba has been “Go now before it changes forever”. There have been some startling developments in that time, but the Cuban story, and the country itself, never ceases to captivate and enthral. Here's our list of the best things to do in Cuba.

1. Relax at the Villa Clara northern cays

2. enjoy the white sands of jardines del rey.

  • 3. Explore Cuba's history at Museo Presidio Modelo

4. Visit La Habana Vieja — one of the best things to do in Cuba

5. alejandro robaina tobacco plantation for fine tobacco, 6. viñales valley for its remarkable nature, 7. diving off the southern coast, 8. hike the la plata mountain trail, 9. punta gorda, cienfuegos — for a different flavour, 10. take a trip to santiago in july.

  • 11. Visit Trinidad's old town — one of the best things to do in Cuba

12. Witness National League Baseball

13. drive in american classic cars, 14. havana jazz festival — a must-see, 15. exploring baracoa’s countryside - one of the best things to do in cuba for hiking, 16. browse plaza de armas book market.

  • 17. Havana's Malecón: the city's defining image

18. Hotel Nacional

19. fábrica de arte cubano for arts, 20. ecotourism in las terrazas, pinar del río, 21. discover the labrynth of colonial camagüey, 22. visit che guevara mausoleum, santa clara, 23. the abandoned refineries of valle de los ingenios, trinidad, 24. relaxing at cayo coco beaches - one of the best things to do in cuba.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Cuba , your essential guide for visiting Cuba .

Tailor-made travel itineraries for Cuba, created by local experts

Cuba - Family, Beach, and Culture

15 days  / from 2938 USD

Cuba - Family, Beach, and Culture

Enjoy a 2-week family adventure visiting highlights and hidden gems of Cuba. Marvel at the colonial architecture in Havana, enjoy a ride in a Classic Car, explore the forests close to Trinidad, and relax on white sandy beaches of Cayo Levisa - this trip packs it all into one itinerary.

Bike Cuba

5 days  / from 999 USD

A moderately challenging cycling holiday through Cuban countryside visiting the tobacco fields of Viñales Valley and a pristine Caribbean beach in Cayo Jutias.

Western and Central Cuba by E-bike

13 days  / from 3483 USD

Western and Central Cuba by E-bike

Combine a leisurely activity with an insight into some of Cuba’s most fascinating cultural highlights on this new e-biking tour of Western and Central Cuba. Explore the tobacco region of Viñales, cycle along the Bay of Pigs and relax on the fine sandy beaches of Cayo Las Brujas.

The cays' stunning white-sand beaches sit in isolated splendour at the end of a narrow causeway. Cayo Las Brujas is the most suitable for non-package visitors. Cayo Santa Maria, and its smaller counterpart, Cayo Ensenachos are largely the exclusive domain of hotel guests. Though a couple of commercial “villages” have been built on Cayo Santa María in the last few years.

The drive down the 48km causeway from just outside Caibarién to the islands is quite spectacular. The drive itself is half the fun of a visit. The dark, deeper waters nearer the land give way to shallow turquoise around the cays. They become almost clear as the network of islets increases in number and complexity.

This tailor-made trip to Cuba will take you beyond Havana's city limits, with its cigar-smoke-filled jazz bars, to discover other towns, rural villages and plantations across Cuba, not to mention the idyllic Varadero Beach.


Santa Maria beach, Villa Clara key, Cuba © BobNoah/Shutterstock

One of Cuba's most popular resorts has miles of beaches, including one of the country's best — Playa Pilar. This is Cuba's largest coral reef and its top kitesurfing spot. Two of the islands – Cayo Coco and smaller Cayo Guillermo – have a string of all-inclusive hotels planted along their northern shores.

On the western tip of Cayo Guillermo, gorgeous Playa Pilar is named after Ernest Hemingway’s yacht, Pilar. This beach was the author’s favourite Cuban hideaway. With limpid clear shallows and squeaky-clean sand, Playa Pilar is, without a doubt, the top beach choice on Guillermo, if not in the entire cays.

You will find more beach destinations in our guide to the best beaches in Cuba .


Pilar beach, cayo Guillermo, Cuba © Kako Escalona/Shutterstock

3. Explore Cuba's history at Museo Presidio Modelo

Tour the isolated prison where Fidel Castro and his cohorts were incarcerated. The looming bulk of the Museo Presidio Modelo lies 2km east of Nueva Gerona. Although this massive former prison has housed a fascinating museum for over thirty years and is now one of the most-visited sights on the island, its forbidding atmosphere has been preserved.

Surrounded by guard towers, the classically proportioned governor’s mansion and a phalanx of wardens’ villas mask the four circular cell buildings that rise like witches’ cauldrons from the centre of the complex.


Prison Presidio Modelo © Danita Delmont/Shutterstock

Remarkably unmarred by modernity but famously ravaged by time and climate, Habana Vieja (Old Havana) remains a true vision of the past, making it a must-see destination for those looking for things to do in Cuba. Cobbled plazas, shadowy streets, colonial mansions, leafy courtyards, sixteenth-century fortresses and, at its core, hardly any motorized traffic, make it a real living museum.

But though its central streets are heaving with visitors, Habana Vieja is no sanitized tourist attraction, and the area buzzes with a frenetic sense of life.


Plaza Vieja Havana, Cuba © Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock

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As the Carretera Central heads southwest from the provincial capital, it cuts through the famed Vuelta Abajo region, one of the most fertile areas in the country. Here is the source of the finest tobacco in the world. There are countless vegas (tobacco plantations) in this zone, but one, the Alejandro Robaina, has an edge over the rest.

The owners have gone further than any other vega in their efforts to attract tourists, offering engaging guided tours of the plantation, product sampling opportunities and even the chance to meet members of the Robaina family.


Tobacco farm, Cuba © best time photos/Shutterstock

An official national park and by far the most visited location in Pinar del Río, the jewel in the province’s crown is the valley of Viñales. With its fantastically located accommodation, striking landscapes and an atmosphere of complete serenity. The valley feels very remote, with a lost-world quality. That’s mainly due to the unique mogotes, the boulder-like hills that look as if they’ve dropped from the sky onto the valley floor.

The valley supports its own microclimate. From roughly June to October, it rains most afternoons, making it a good idea to get your sightseeing done in the mornings. Mosquitoes are also more prevalent at this time of year and insect repellent is a definite must for any visit.

Take this tailor-made Highlight Tour of Western Cuba to explore the main areas: From Havana over the Viñales valley to Trinidad and Che's monument in Santa Clara. This fast-paced itinerary is packed with highlights.


Vinales, Cuba © RudiErnst/Shutterstock

Cuba is a scuba-diving paradise. Most of the major beach resorts, including Varadero, Cayo Coco, Santa Lucía and Guardalavaca have at least one dive centre, with numerous others all over the island, including several in Havana. The most reliable dive sites are generally off the south coast where the waters tend to be clearer, away from the churning waves of the Atlantic Ocean, which affect visibility off Cuba’s northern shores.

The Rough Guides to Cuba and related travel guides

In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.

The Rough Guide to Cuba

Among the marine life you can expect to see in Cuban waters are nurse sharks, parrotfish, turtles, stingrays, barracuda, tarpon, moray eels, bonefish, snapper and tuna. The best time to see whale sharks, arguably the highlight of any diving trip to the island, is in November, while in the spring the fish are in greater abundance.


Diving is one of the exciting things to do in Cuba© wildestanimal/Shutterstock

Bring Cuba’s recent history to life with a day of mountain trekking to explore Fidel Castro’s revolutionary base camps, a unique and exciting addition to your list of things to do in Cuba. The trail is well marked and you can complete the reasonably strenuous climb in around four hours return.

The headquarters are spread over two or three sites, the first of which is the very basic hospital that Che Guevara founded and ran. The second site comprises the guard post, a small but worthy museum and the grave of a rebel who fell in battle.


La Plata, Sierra Maestra, Cuba © David Evison/Shutterstock

The southern part of the city, Punta Gorda, has a distinctly different flavour from the rest of Cienfuegos. Open streets and spacious bungalows – unmistakeably influenced by the United States of the 1940s and 1950s – project an image of affluence and suburban harmony.

Other than the magnificent Palacio de Valle, Punta Gorda has no museums and few historic monuments, but does feature the Club Cienfuegos leisure complex and boat trips from the marina.

Discover the charismatic country of Cuba. Begin in the iconic city of Havana, where you'll explore the old town, and enjoy our tailor-made trip to the Highlights of Cuba: Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos .


Palacio del Valle Punta Gorda, Cienfuegos, Cuba © DeepGreen/Shutterstock

July is the best time to visit Cuba’s second city. This is when its vibrant music scene boils over and the annual carnival brings fabulous costumes, excitement and song to the town. The extravaganza that is Santiago’s carnival has its origins in the festival of Santiago which is held annually on July 25.

Carnaval takes place every year from around July 18 to July 27. The main parade is on the first day and is followed by smaller parades on the second, third and fourth days. On the 25th, there’s a general parade from 10 pm in honour of the city’s patron saint; the 26th sees a grand parade, and there’s prize-giving on the 27th.


View to the city centre with old houses and Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba © Vadim Nefedoff/Shutterstock

11. Visit Trinidad's old town — one of the best things to do in Cuba

This much-visited sixteenth-century town is packed with colonial mansions and churches, threaded together by cobbled streets and compact plazas. The beautiful Plaza Mayor is the heart of Trinidad’s colonial old town, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a glimpse of Cuba's rich history and culture on their list of things to do in Cuba.

The fabulous Museo Romántico is an essential part of Trinidad’s delve into the past. With one of the country’s finest and most valuable collections of colonial furniture packed into its fourteen rooms, this 1808-built mansion, formerly owned by Count Brunet, is well worth visiting.


Trinidad, Cuba © rphstock/Shutterstock

Take a seat alongside the exuberant crowds at one of the country’s timepiece baseball stadiums. For some outsiders, the national Cuban baseball league, the Serie Nacional de Béisbol, is not only one of the best leagues outside of the US to see world-class players in action. It also represents a nostalgic version of the game, harking back to a time when the sport elsewhere wasn’t spoiled by celebrity and commercialism.


Cuba Baseball © ygor/Shutterstock

Ride around Havana or Varadero in one of Gran Car’s classic 1950s cars, a testament to Cuban ingenuity. Perhaps the most clichéd image of Cuba is of a classic American car rolling past a crumbling colonial building, and you don’t have to spend long in the country to see why this image has become so ubiquitous.

There are said to be around 60,000 vintage American cars in Cuba. Known as almendrones, most of them are still on the road. Almost all of them were imported from the factories of Detroit during the 1940s and 1950s when the US was Cuba’s most significant trade partner.

Take the family a step back in time: Explore Havana in classic cars and on foot, take a boat trip to the Cueva del Indio in Viñales and relax on the white, sandy beaches of Cayo Levisa on this tailor-made Family Trip to Cuba .


Old school American car in Cuba © Julian Peters Photography/Shutterstock

This lively festival is the perfect showcase for Cuba's jazz musicians. Organized by the Cuban Institute of Music and featuring performances by jazz legend Chucho Valdés, this event is a highlight in the international jazz calendar and a must-see for music enthusiasts looking for unique cultural experiences on their list of things to do in Cuba.

It consistently attracts an excellent line-up: Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Haden and Max Roach have all played in the past, alongside Cuban luminaries such as Bobby Carcassés, Roberto Fonseca and of course Chucho Valdés himself. Venues across the city include Teatro Mella, Teatro Karl Marx, Teatro Amadeo Roldan, Teatro América and the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza.


Trumpet, Havana, Cuba © AlfredoLopez/Shutterstock

Cradled by verdant mountains smothered in palm and cacao trees, and threaded with swimmable rivers, the Baracoan countryside has much to offer. El Yunque, the hallmark of Baracoa’s landscape, can easily be climbed in a day. While if you have a car and a little time to spare you could take a drive east along the coast and seek out some quintessentially Cuban fishing villages, including Boca de Yumurí.

Alternatively, just head for the beach – there are a couple of good options northwest of town.

Try this moderately challenging cycling tailor-made trip through the Cuban countryside visiting the tobacco fields of Viñales Valley and a pristine Caribbean beach in Cayo Jutias.


Baracoa el Yunque, Cuba © Haico Stegink/Shutterstock

The colourful stalls set around this lovely Old Havana square offer a feast of fabulous vintage and pre-and-post-revolution magazines, postcards, photos, posters and vinyl, from Cuba and the US. Havana’s largest book market, which for many years dominated the Plaza de Armas, has relocated around the corner.

Among the revolutionary pamphlets, Che Guevara tomes and the occasional novels you can find vintage Cuban and US tourist brochures, postcards and lifestyle magazines. Some reflect on life before Castro. You can also find copies of rare books and all sorts of other collectors’ items — like revolutionary posters and Cuban film art. Starting prices are high – be prepared to haggle.


Plaza de Armas, Havana, Cuba© Maridav/Shutterstock

17. Havana's Malecón: the city's defining image

The most picturesque way to reach Vedado from Centro Habana or Habana Vieja is to stroll down the famous Malecón sea wall, which snakes west along the coastline from La Punta for about 4km. It’s the city’s defining image, and ambling along its length, drinking in the panoramic views, is an essential part of the Havana experience.

But don’t expect to stroll in solitude: the Malecón is the capital’s front room and you won’t be on it for long before someone strikes up a conversation. People head here for free entertainment, particularly at night when it fills up with guitar-strumming musicians, vendors offering cones of fresh-roasted nuts, and star-gazing couples, young and old alike.

If you are looking forward to explore local cuisine - read our guide to the best restaurants in Havana .


Malecon, Havana, Cuba © Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

Set on a bluff above the Taganana cave and with a magnificent view of the ocean, the Hotel Nacional is a landmark. Home to a princely tiled lobby, and an elegant colonnaded veranda looking out to sea across an expanse of well-tended lawn commandeered by tame guinea fowl.

The perfect cinematic backdrop for a mojito, it was built in 1930 and quickly became a favourite with visiting luminaries. Among them are Ava Gardner, Winston Churchill, Josephine Baker and John Wayne – and more. Recently it has added the likes of Naomi Campbell and Jack Nicholson to its clientele.

Aerial view of the Hotel Nacional in Havana © Kamira/Shutterstock

Aerial view of the Hotel Nacional in Havana © Kamira/Shutterstock

Few venue openings have caused the stir that this avant-garde arts-centre-cum-club has, with profiles in international papers including The New York Times and The Guardian. Housed in an old peanut oil factory in the far reaches of Vedado, and decked out with sleek lines, minimal shades and multiple rooms, Fábrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) follows the tried and tested route of counter-culture colonization of industrial spaces.

FAC is a unique blend of cosmopolitan culture and traditional Cuban spirit, offering a diverse array of contemporary art and live music. It is a must-see stop on any list of things to do in Cuba for those seeking an authentic experience.


Mojito, Havana © Ivan Novelo/Shutterstock

A wonderfully harmonious resort and small working community, Las Terrazas, 74km southwest of Havana, is one of the most important ecotourism sites in the country. About 2km beyond the tollbooth on the main access road, where you pay your entry fee unless you’re staying at the resort’s solitary hotel, there are right- and left-hand sideroads in quick succession.

The right turn leads to the Rancho Curujey visitor centre. Meanwhile, the left turn leads several hundred metres down to the village, a well-spaced complex of red-roofed bungalows and apartment blocks. They are beautifully woven into the grassy slopes of a valley, at the foot of which is a man-made lake. Below the housing, you can see the compact Las Terrazas village buildings dotted around the lake.


Las Terrazas, Cuba © Tupungato/Shutterstock

The most overlooked of the country's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the 500-year-old heart of Camagüey, is a great place to wander around. You'll want to explore its tangle of streets, abundant churches and lovely squares. It is also a great place to stay, with an outstanding set of boutique hotels and casas.

On first view, Camagüey is a bewildering place to negotiate, with a seemingly incomprehensible labyrinth of roads that were laid out in a futile attempt to confuse marauding pirates. An aimless wander along the narrow cobbled streets, overhung by delicate balustrades and Rococo balconies, is one of the delights of a visit. Round corners onto handsome parks and happen upon crumbling churches.


Camaguey, Cuba © Julian Peters Photography/Shutterstock

The Che Guevara Mausoleum is a memorial in Santa Clara that contains the remains of revolutionary leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara. It was built in 1997, on the 30th anniversary of Guevara's death. The mausoleum is a simple concrete structure that houses a bronze bust of Guevara, as well as an eternal flame that burns in his memory.

The remains of Guevara and his comrades, who were killed in Bolivia in 1967, were exhumed and brought to Santa Clara in 1997, where they were interred in the mausoleum.

Che Guevara Monument, Plaza de la Revolution, Santa Clara, Cuba © Shutterstock

Che Guevara Monument, Plaza de la Revolution, Santa Clara, Cuba © Shutterstock

The Valle de los Ingenios is a sprawling, open valley bordered by the eastern slopes of the Sierra del Escambray. It was once one of Cuba’s most productive agricultural areas. In its heyday, it was crammed with dozens of sugar estates and refineries on which Trinidad built its wealth during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Today just one functioning refinery remains. However, the remnants and ruins of the manor houses and mills that occupied the estates remain dotted throughout the valley. The most intact example is Manaca-Iznaga – though San Isidro de los Destiladeros is also worth visiting,

Valle de los Ingenios near Trinidad, Cuba © Shutterstock

Valle de los Ingenios near Trinidad, Cuba © Shutterstock

With 22km of creamy-white sands and cerulean waters, Cayo Coco has some of the best beaches in Cuba, hands down, and effortlessly draws holidaymakers to its shores. The best beaches are clustered on the north coast, dominated by the all-inclusive hotels whose tendrils are gradually spreading along the rest of the northern coastline.

Cayo Coco’s big three beaches, home to the all-inclusive and packed with boisterous activities, hog the narrow easternmost peninsula jutting out of the Cay’s north coast. For a pocket of tranquillity, escape the main beaches and head to Playa Los Flamencos. The beach offers 3km of fine sands and transparent waters where tangerine-coloured starfish float through the shallows. There’s also good snorkelling out to sea.

Arrive in Havana and make your way all throughout the island with stops in Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Cayo Coco, Camaguey and Santiago before returning to Havana on this tailor-made trip to Complete Cuba - Nature, Tradition and Sights of the Revolution .

Bridge over the green water of Cayo Coco © Shutterstock

Bridge over the green water of Cayo Coco © Shutterstock

If you are inspired by Cuba and its attractions read our guide to the best things to do in Puerto Rico . Also, Cuba is one of the best places for a family holiday. In our guide to the best places to go with kids , you will find other attractive family-friendly destinations.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Cuba without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

Ready for a trip to Cuba ? Check out The Rough Guide to Cuba . If you travel further in Cuba , read more about the best time to go and the best places to visit in Cuba. For inspiration use the itineraries from The Rough Guide to Cuba and our local travel experts . A bit more hands-on, learn about getting there , getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

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Top Historic Sites to Visit in Cuba

Cuba is rich in history-laden spots—and a relaxed travel ban will make it easier for Americans to visit

Bess Lovejoy

Parque Central in Old Havana, Cuba

From Christopher Columbus’ trip in 1492 to the Bay of Pigs and beyond, Cuba has seen its fair share of historic events. With the restrictions on American visits significantly relaxing as of January 16, it might be a good time to consider everything the nation once known as the "Pearl of the Antilles" has to offer. American travel to Cuba must still fall within 12 categories—including religious, educational, cultural, professional, journalistic or humanitarian activities—although the  administration says  there will now be fewer hoops to jump through, and Americans will be able to spend money more freely within the country.

"Cuba boasts some of the oldest cities in the hemisphere," says Emilio Cueto , a researcher specializing in Cuban culture who advises the Smithsonian Journeys excursions. "To travel to Cuba is to travel in many directions and throughout many heritages."

Here are our picks for the sites that tell Cuba’s story, from its days as the staging area for Spanish explorations of the Americas to the tumultuous political events of the 20th century. 

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Founded by the Spanish in 1519 and once the largest port in the region, Havana's historic city center retains an time-warped, atmospheric allure. Bounded by the original city walls and marked by five large plazas (each with its own architectural style), Old Havana is a mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments and narrow streets lined by private homes. Highlights include the baroque Catedral de San Cristóbal (one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas, and once home to the remains of Christopher Columbus) and the Castillo de la Real Fuerza (the oldest extant colonial fortress in the Americas). UNESCO has designated all of Old Havana a World Heritage site, alongside its vast network of centuries-old defensive installations—which include some of the biggest and the oldest stone fortifications still standing anywhere in the Americas.

Parque Histórico Morro y Cabaña, Havana

famous tourist attraction in cuba

The main attractions at this historic park across the harbor from Old Havana are two serious fortresses: Morro Castle (popularly known as "El Morro") and La Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña (aka "La Cabaña"). Built by the Spanish beginning in 1589 to protect against pirates, the picturesque El Morro now houses a series of mini-museums. Visitors can also explore the ramparts, barracks, and a still-working lighthouse, and enjoy stunning views of Havana and beyond.

Located across a deep ravine, La Cabaña, built in the 18th century, functions almost as a miniature city. (Che Guevara used it as his command post in 1959, a fact commemorated in one of the most popular exhibition halls.) It even has its own cigar shop. Every night, an honor guard in 18th-century military dress fires one of the fort's canons, creating a deafening blast before a crowd that can swell up to a thousand people.  

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Tucked within the central Cuban province of Sancti Spíritus, the 16th century city of Trinidad is a triumph of historic preservation—scholars say its maze of pastel mansions and churches forms one of the best collections of colonial architecture in the Americas. The city owes many of its buildings to the heyday of the sugar industry, which flourished nearby from the late 18th century to late 19th century. The whole town (and the nearby Valley de los Ingenios, or Valley of the Sugar Mills) is a UNESCO heritage site , not to mention an extremely picturesque photo op, but the elegant Plaza Mayor is one the top attractions—it includes the neoclassical-style Palacio Cantero, which houses the municipal history museum and a chance for some spectacular views.

Comandancia de la Plata, Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Perched atop a mountain ridge usually shrouded by mist, this was the rebel headquarters Fidel Castro established in 1958 while fighting against the Batista government. Getting there involves a four-hour climb through the woods, but it’s probably worth it: the camp remains much as Fidel left it. The main attraction is probably Casa de Fidel (Fidel's House), which includes no less than seven secret escape routes . There’s also a museum, a radio building that transmitted rebel broadcasts, rebel huts, and a primitive hospital founded by Che Guevara.

Playa Girón, Matanzas

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Although Americans will forever associate the Bay of Pigs with the botched CIA-backed invasion of 1961 , Cubans are more likely to think of the area known as Playa Girón as a relaxing vacation spot. Tom Miller , author of  Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels through Castro’s Cuba , says the site is one of his favorite historic places in the country: “Growing up in the United States, the words 'Bay of Pigs' signify everything that can go wrong politically and militarily. Yet when you arrive at the beachfront Cubans call Playa Girón, the place is actually sunny and cheerful. In crab migration season your car might crunch a few crustaceans as they crawl across the highway.” A small museum offers detailed exhibits explaining just how badly things went awry for the Americans in 1961, although some tourists prefer to focus on the scuba diving and snorkelling options.

La Finca Vigía, San Francisco de Paula

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Ernest Hemingway lived at this hilltop estate (the name translates to "Lookout House") for more than 20 years, writing several of his classic novels there, including For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea . It’s now a museum featuring Hemmingway's original furniture, artwork, 9,000 of his books and memorabilia. Miller says, "In all my travels, I've found Finca Vigía the best place I have ever seen to write. Ernest Hemingway's Cuban home has moist Caribbean air, a view of the city miles away, a gently sloping front yard, as well as sturdy trees with protective shade, a friendly neighborhood, and sweet sunlight. And that's just outside. There's also the design of the house, solid bookshelves, well-placed windows, a living room with its phonograph—and two minutes away on foot, the swimming pool for a sunrise dip. Finca Vigía is both practical and romantic."

Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara, Santa Clara

famous tourist attraction in cuba

This is the final resting place for Ernesto "Che" Guevara, buried at the site in 1997 after his remains were discovered in formerly secret location in Bolivia. The location features a massive bronze sculpture of Che above a museum and mausoleum. Bob Guild, vice president of Marazul Charters , which has been arranging visits to Cuba for 35 years, says the spot is among his favorite historic locations in the country: "The mausoleum and small museum are done with great taste, and always seem to be visited by thousands of young students from Cuba."

Casa Velázquez (Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano), Santiago de Cuba

famous tourist attraction in cuba

Built in the early 16th century to serve as the official residence of the island's first governor, the Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez , this is the oldest house still standing in Cuba—and one of the oldest in the Americas. The magnificently preserved building now houses the Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano, a museum of decorations and furnishings from the 16th to the 19th century, as well as former gold foundry on the first floor.

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Bess Lovejoy is a writer and editor who lives in Brooklyn. She is the author of Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses .

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  • 11 Beautiful Natural Attractions In...

11 Beautiful Natural Attractions in Cuba That Will take Your Breath Away

Baracoa, Cuba

Visitors to Cuba will be blown away by the buzz of life in the big cities like Havana and Santiago, but there are so many natural attractions that you should make time to see. Here are some of the stunning natural wonders that will take your breath away.

Maria la gorda.

The westernmost point in Cuba is best known for its amazing diving. It’s a tough place to get to due to a lack of public transport, but make the effort and you’ll be rewarded with well-preserved reefs and a laid-back diving camp.

Maria La Gorda, Cuba

Guanahacabibes Peninsula

Viñales valley.

A popular stop on the tourist trail, and with good reason. Get out of the town centre and explore on horseback, by bike, or hike some of the many trails. You can also go bird watching and rock climbing in the area.

Viñales Valley

Alejandro de Humboldt National Park

Over in eastern Cuba lies this spectacular park which is known as the best-conserved area of forested mountain ecosystems in the Caribbean. You can organise tours of the park in Holguín.

Alexander von Humboldt National Park

Cienaga de Zapata National Park

This national park occupies an entire peninsula on the south coast of the island. It’s home to swamps, mangroves and wetlands where you can spot flamingos, crocodiles and many other species.

Cuba has some fabulous beaches , and Varadero is the most well-known. However, make the journey to Cayo Coco and you’ll have unspoilt stretches of sand to yourself. As an extra claim to fame, the beaches were featured in two Ernest Hemingway novels.

Fisherman at Cayo Coco

Topes de Collantes nature reserve

Escape from the tourist crowds of Trinidad and visit the pine-covered mountains of the Topes de Collantes natural park. It’s just outside the city in the Sierra del Escambray, and there are some good trails and waterfalls to explore.

Topes de Collantes is full of waterfalls

Las Terrazas

This planned tourism project isn’t as wild as some of the other attractions on this list, but it’s close to Havana and a great place to spend a day or two. Hike the trails, fly down zip lines, and dive into the swimming holes.

Las Terrazas

Sierra Maestra

It’s the highest and longest mountain range in Cuba, and it’s also famous as the hideout of the Castro brothers and their revolutionaries during the 1950s. Head to the southern areas to see how the mountains sit almost on the coastline.

Sierra Maestra

Another one for beach lovers. It’s known as the first settlement in Cuba, and there is a flat-topped mountain called El Yunque that has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It’s also close to the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park.

Baracoa, Cuba

Desembarco del Granma National Park

Named to commemmorate the landing of the Castro revolutionaries in a yacht called the Granma, this coastal park is home to amazing cliffs and waterfalls. There are reefs and mangroves to explore, and the rest of the park boasts a strange terraced topography thanks to limestone formations.

Desembarco del Granma National Park

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