What are the places to visit in Cuba you can’t miss?by Juan José Herranz | July 29, 2020
Cuba is an island that truly touches all of your senses. You’ll likely find yourself listening to the rhythm of Salsa and Rumba penetrating the streets, feeling the soft, white sand under your feet while walking on the beach, or tasting the best cocktails while gazing upon breath-taking landscapes. And never forget the allure of the famous Cuban rum and cigars!
Many travellers may have the misconception that Cuba is only about Havana and rides in colourful American vintage cars. But believe me, it is so much more than that!
In this article, I will be giving you 5 different places to visit in Cuba, including where you should go and why you will end up falling in love with this Caribbean paradise! Remember that most nationalities require a visa for Cuba.
Havana, Cuba’s capital, may be one of the most famous places in Cuba, but it’s only one part of a trip to the island. Whether you are in Centro Habana or Old Havana, you will find colourful buildings, sounds of lively music everywhere you go, children playing outside and people gathering to make the most out of life. It becomes blissfully obvious that Cubans have an exceptional taste for life!
Enjoy a tour in a vibrant vintage car from the 50s. While Havana is the most visited out of all the cities in Cuba, it comes as no surprise that prices for food, transport, accommodation and activities are higher compared to other parts of the country. If you are a city lover, you will relish in the charm of Havana’s buildings and their rich history, as well as the various museums and parks.
We highly recommend Old Havana for its authenticity and how it captures that Cuban spirit we all envision when we think about places in Cuba.
Plus, you can dive into the ‘real’ life of its residents and enjoy lower prices compared to Habana Centro. Even if you tend to stay away from tourist hotspots, you still should spend at least 3 days in Havana enjoying the sites.
Varadero is considered to have one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba, or perhaps the world, and one of the most popular places to visit in Cuba. The Varadero Beach or Playa Azul, are locations that will leave you speechless. Their white and pink sands, crystal-clear water and the virgin nature, made my long flight to Cuba all the more worthwhile.
You will see that the tourist area of Varadero is quite different from the typical Cuban style you can find in other cities. Varadero is a big ‘Californian style’ resort area where you go to have a relaxing vacation, to enjoy cocktails on the beach and for long, alluring nights. However, we would recommend enjoying Varadero in Cuba from another angle and stay in a private home to experience life as Cubans do while being able to take in all that Varadero’s virgin nature has to offer.
With the time in Cuba being enjoyable all year round, Varadero is perfect for water activities such as diving and snorkelling. It is also great for walking around the city and visiting a few places like Parque Josone, a park with fantastic green and relaxing scenery. You will be able to discover the natural treasures of Cuevas de Bellamar (Bellamar Caves) or Cueva Saturno (Saturn Cave) and dive into its amazing interior lagoon.
Trinidad is considered a city-museum for its impressive colonial architecture, full of narrow streets, beautiful churches and stunning buildings. One of the places in Cuba that will transport you to another time!
This is a city that reflects the Cuban spirit as it takes you back to a time when simplicity ruled. Amongst the countless places worth admiring, I should mention the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santísima Trinidad, the Casa Templo de Temayá and, if you want to learn more about the history of Trinidad, the Museum of History.
Another staple that Trinidad is famous for are its plazas. The renowned plaza of Santa Ana is the perfect spot for some ‘people-watching’ and checking out Cuban residents and the way they enjoy their lives. Plazuela Las Tres Palmitas and the Plaza Mayor offer superb views over other parts of the city.
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is a city portraying history from its colonial-era beginnings through its buildings and monuments along with the picturesque landscapes that you cannot miss! You should pay a visit to the various museums located in the city, such as the Museum of the Historical Cuban Atmosphere, the Museum of the Clandestine Struggle, the Granjita Siboney Museum and the Plaza de la Revolución Square to learn about the city’s history.
Then discover the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción Cathedral, and finish up with a tour of the Diego Velázquez House to know more about the colonial period.
After enriching yourself with knowledge, it’s time to set your eyes upon the amazing landscapes from Pico Turquino Summit. The beautiful green images from the Gran Piedra, and the breath-taking view of the Santiago de Cuba Bay from the San Pedro de la Roca Castle shouldn’t be missed.
You can go hiking, climbing or even camping in the beauty of the city’s national parks: Turquino National Park and the Baconao National Park, which is my favourite activity.
Cayo Santa María
Do you want to enjoy a real paradise beach on your trip to Cuba? Cayo Santa María is the largest island in Cuba with 18 kilometres of pink and white sand beaches and crystal clear water. This is one of the most beautiful places in Cuba, you shouldn't miss it! Similar to the natural beauty of the Varadero beaches, Cayo Santa María lets you experience nature tourism, especially in the south of the island.
Don’t miss any of the water activities, including catamaran tours, snorkelling, diving and even swimming with dolphins! If you want to connect with the island countryside, you could join a Jeep Safari tour to discover Cuban rural living, wildlife and scenery. Mountain lovers cannot miss a tour through the Parque Natural Topes de Collantes, where you can climb up to Guanayara and go down to enjoy El Venado, a natural pool!