The best time to go to Cuba is between the months of December through to May. During this time you can expect warm, dry, sunny days with an average of 7-10 hours of sunshine per day. Towards the end of the peak season of April and May, you will be able to see your money go further as the hotels, resorts and flights tend to lower their prices.
From the months of June through to October is Hurricane season with the worst of the storms building in the latter months. Although due to the rise in tourism in Cuba, more and more people are visiting the country during the summer months as prices are certainly lower compared to the peak season.
Try to plan your holiday to Cuba between 9-12 months in advance, especially if you are looking to travel during the peak season
Capital City: Havana
Currency used in Cuba: Pesos, but bear in mind these Peso’s are exclusive to Cuba so make sure that when you are exchanging your money that it is the Convertable Peso (CUC) which is for tourists travelling there.
Cash is king in Cuba so it is best to exchange your money firstly rather than relying on credit or debit cards out there. However, your bank will be able to confirm this for you.
Main Airports: Gustavo Rizo Airport | José Martí International Airport | Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Airport | Ignacio Agramonte International Airport | Antonio Maceo Airport
Visa & Entry Requirements: You must have a valid passport and return ticket. Visas are also required by all British and EU nationals and has a validity of 30 days. You can check out any further requirements needed here.
Average temperature in Cuba: June is the hottest month with an average temperature of 27°C and coolest in January at an average of 21°C.
Cuba is a country stuck in a time-warp from over half a century ago due to the economic embargo laid upon it. However, this is exactly what it makes it an astounding, colourful photograph of the past. Without the abundance of massive corporations or Conglomerates congesting the region, it allows Cuba to show her true self with old Spanish colonial buildings to retro 1950s classic taxi cars. A main selling point to the Cuban tourism industry many would argue, and I believe the country will continue to hold this vision.
Walking down the cobbled streets of Havana, you can feel the sense of being transported back to another era where everything was much simpler and joyful. Colourful architecture, white-sandy beaches, well-preserved history and the sound of salsa music are just some of the things to be enjoyed during a trip to Cuba.
What to do in Cuba
Culture & Festivities
The Cuban people are from African, European and Indiginous American descents and through the centuries these ethnic origins have combined to form the culture of Cuba today. With the economic embargo during the Cold War, Cuba had been sanctioned and imports and exports to the USA had been stopped. Within the last few years, relations between Cuba and USA have grown but without the presence of big industrial companies from the past, Cuba has maintained its own piece of paradise.
Cuban music is a big part of its culture and has influenced many other genres such as Salsa and Jazz. Cuban’s enjoy many other genres such as the Son, Rumbo, the Mambo.
Cubans celebrate many traditions and festivals throughout the year that invites people from around the world to come and join.
One of Cubas most exhilarating events, Carnavel is held in Santiago de Cuba on the southern end of the island. It runs for the last two weeks of July and is certainly a time for partying, dancing and getting involved with the locals.
During the Carnavel, you will see parades, congas and salsa bands. Dance into the moonlight and join-in on the late night parties.
The Havana Jazz Festival
When it comes to Jazz, this is one of the events on the calendar not to be missed. Held in mid-December, local and international performers come together to put together one of the best Jazz festivals in the world. Performers such as Charlie Haden, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach have played in the past.
The festival is held in many venues across Havana and is definitely one for any lover of Jazz.
Festival del Habano
This is the Cuban Cigar Festival held in Havana and Pinar Del Rio at the end of February. It’s a chance for any cigar enthusiast to check out the cigar factories and plantations with tastings available.
Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano
This is one of Cuba’s most anticipated events, its a ten-day festival in December held in Havana that celebrates the newest and classic Cuban, Latin America and Western films. It gives independent directors to network and gain access to screenings, seminars and talks.
Festival de Matamoros Son
Held in Santiago at the end of October, this festival pays tribute to Santiago de Cuba musician Miguel Matamoros. It brings together performers from around the country to take part in concerts and dance competitions. It is mostly based around Son although other traditional styles of music can be heard such as Salsa.
Best beaches in Cuba
Cuba has a glorious shoreline of powdery-white sandy beaches dotted with tall swaying palm-trees that resembles something straight off a postcard. It’s beautiful warm, turquoise waters are a wealth of colourful coral reefs and home to incredible tropical fish. Many luxury resorts line these beaches and provide the ultimate island life experience.
Playa Los Flamencos
Take a trip over to the peninsula of Cayo Coco, located on the eastern side of Cuba, and you come across the most beautiful, stunning white-sandy beaches with crystal-clear cerulean waters. Whilst here, take a visit to Playa Los Flamencos. This beach is 3km of powdery-white sand that blend into these incredible waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkelling in.
This tranquil beach has plenty of space for beach-goers so you should have no problem in getting your own spot of paradise for the day.
Playa Perla Blanca
This beach can be a bit of trek to get to although totally worth the drive when you see the beauty it beholds. Take a drive from the mainland and cross the 48km causeway of Pedraplen a Cayo Santa Maria and you will come across to a network of small islets. Towards the end, you will see Cayo Santa Maria that holds the captivating Playa Perla Blanca.
The beauty of this beach is that feels untouched from the outside world but it boasts perfect creamy-white sand and turquoise waters with sailboats simply drifting by in the distance. A new luxury resort, the Valentin Perla Blanca has now made its home here and offers an exceptional service for all its guests.
Located on the small islet of Cayo Guillermo, around a 30-minute drive north of Cayo Coco you will discover more breathtaking beaches up the coast but if there is any one to visit, its that of Playa Pilar.
It can be found on the western tip of Cayo Guillermo, that offers crystal clear shallow waters and a stunning white beach. Playa Pilar is more of a tranquil beach without the crowds, and because of that it promotes an unmistakable beauty and sense of serenity.
Varadero is one of Cubas most popular beaches with over 25km of peninsula, its around a 2-hour drive from the capital of Havana.
It’s a long beach that can become quite populated but due to its sheer size, you will be able to find your own perfect spot on the sand. The beach itself has warm, golden sand dotted with swaying palm trees. The water is a fluorescent turquoise colour that is calm and tranquil so ideal for swimming and snorkelling.
There are plenty of palapas available so if the warmth of the sun is getting too much, you can take shade here.
Playa Los Pinos
This beautiful isolated beach is well off the beaten track but is truly one of the most outstanding beaches in Cuba. It lies on the east coast, just north of the town of Manati.
It remains untouched in all of its natural beauty and stretches along the coastline with its soft powdery-white sand that blends perfectly into its calm turquoise-coloured waters. As Playa Los Pinos is out of the way from the usual tourist hot-spots, there is a sense of tranquillity and allows for plenty of your own space to sit and relax in the golden sun.
Playa Ancon can be found just a quick 17-minute drive from the city of Trinidad on the south-western side of Cuba. It is one of the more well-known beaches in the area and tourists and locals alike flock to this beach everyday.
It is a long beach that will take around 45-minutes to walk from one end to the other so finding your own spot on the sand will be no hassle at all. The beach itself, has incredible sugary sand with warm cerulean waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
There is a reef just off the shoreline that is popular for scuba-diving with many watersport vendors available if you wish to try it out.
Where to dine
Cuba is a place of diversity and when it comes to its food, there is no exception. Walking down a street in Havana, you can discover the incredible smells of Cuban food and that of many other culinaries from around the world that excites the taste buds.
Try out some of these magnificent restaurants:
Otramaneralahabana – Calle 35, Havana (Latin, Cuban, International)
Habana Mia 7 – Paseo No. 7 Altos, Havana (Italian, Seafood, Vegetarian Friendly)
Los Naranjos – Calle 17, 715 Altos | entre Paseo y A. Vedado, Havana (Fusion, Italian, Caribbean)
La Guarida – Concordia. No. 418 | Gervasio y Escobar, Havana (Caribbean, Latin, International)
Restaurante Cafe del Oriente – Entre Amargura y Lamparilla, La Habana Vieja, Havana (Caribbean, Latin, Cuban)
Le Chansonnier – Calle J No. 257 e/15 y Linea, Vedado, Havana (Cuban, Fusion, Vegetarian Friendly)
Restaurante San Jose – Maceo No. 382 | entre Colon y Smith, Trinidad (Italian, Caribbean, Latin)
Cafe Don Pepe – Piro Guniart, Frente al Museo de Lucha contra Bandidos, Trinidad (Cafe)
Restaurante Museo 1514 – Juan Manuel Marquez y Fernando Hernandez Echerri, Trinidad (Caribbean, Latin, Seafood)
Paladar Sol Y Son – Frank Pais and Jose Marti, Trinidad (Caribbean, Cuban, Fusion)
Sol Ananda – Real 45 | Frente a la Plaza Mayor, Trinidad (Caribbean, Latin, Cuban)
Santiago de Cuba
St. Pauli – Entre Barnada y Placido | Centro de Ciudad, Santiago de Cuba (Caribbean, Latin, Cuban)
Restaurante Aurora – General Portuondo # E/ General Moncada y Calvario, Santiago de Cuba, Santiago de Cuba (Latin, Cuban, Caribbean)
Pinar Del Rio
Café Ortuzar – Calle Marti | Colon y Calle Nueva, Cuba (Cuban)
Restaurant La Berengena – Mariana Grajales # 1 Entre Salvador Cisneros Y Rafael Trejo | Viñales, Pinar del Rio (Caribbean, Cuban, Vegetarian Friendly)
Carol y Ale – Calle Isidro de Armas # 18 | Entre Gerardo Medina e Isabel Rubio, Pinar del Rio (Italian)
Christopher Columbus arrived to Cuba in 1492 and subsequent invasions took place by the Spanish. During this time, the native aboriginal groups died off as a result of either disease or the conquests. Due to the limited population of Cuba’s natives, the Spanish colony grew here and their culture, language, and religion prevailed.
During the 19th century, Cuba became a major sugar producer in the world and slaves from Africa were transported over to work on the plantations.
Toward the end of the 19th century, Cuban socialist views changed from having loyalty to Spain due to Creole rivalry and so began the Ten Years’ War against Spain from 1868– 1878 with Cuba failing to gain independence.
In the 1950’s, Fidel Castro seized power on January 1, 1959, following his successful revolt against the U.S.-backed Batista government. Relations between the US and Cuba deteriorated rapidly and on October 19th 1960 the US imposed an embargo on Cuba.
Tensions grew between the two governments during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 once the United States revealed the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.
However, on 20th July 2015, the United States restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, but has maintained the commercial, economic, and financial embargo against the island.