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Things to Do in Cuba: Top Activities and Excursions Guide

by Cristóbal Manjón | July 11, 2019
Driving vintage cars is one of the things to do in Cuba

What are the top things to do in Cuba? Cuba is a Caribbean island rich with culture. The birthplace of rumba and salsa music, this island packs a punch for any tourist. Relaxing in the shade of the palm trees by day and dancing the night away once the sun sets, Cuba is one destination that has all the trappings of a tropical island paradise.

Here we explain what to do in Cuba and in some specific places around the island.

Things to do in Cuba

Exploring the natural landscapes

While many tourists make a beeline for Havana, it is important to not neglect the natural beauty Cuba has to offer

By taking a boat to Cayo Largo del Sur, you can relax on its white sand beaches as well as observe the small island’s sea turtle conservation efforts. If you’re looking for a tropical Caribbean paradise, this tiny island just off the coast of Cuba’s mainland is exactly that.

For those staying on the mainland, there is the Viñales Valley which offers hiking, rock climbing and spelunking, as well as many plantations you can stroll by. 

There is also the Topes de Collantes nature reserve, which offers natural pools, rivers, caves, waterfalls and rainforests. The hills here are full of the fragrant mariposa lily, Cuba’s national flower, as well as many species of orchid. Bananas, plantains, jasmine flowers and coffee beans all grow freely here.

You may also find birds such as the tocororo, cartacuba and hummingbird making their home in the rainforest. 

Don’t forget to explore at least one of the Cuban national parks, true holders of natural beauty in the island.

Learning about their history, an essential thing to do in Cuba

Like much of the New World, Cuba has a lot of history. Remnants of pre-Columbus Cuba exist in the Sierra del Cristal mountains, where several villages still practice indigenous tribal traditions. However, much of the heritage sites on Cuba are from the colonial period and beyond, such as the Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro sea fortress, built in the 16th century, and the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, a fort located in Havana’s harbor.

There are many museums that commemorate Cuban history too, such as a museum inside the La Cabaña fort or the Museum of the Revolution.

Cuba tourism is exciting and fulfilling for any tourist whether you’re looking for culture, heritage, natural beauty, or simply a place to relax and have fun. The list of things to do in Cuba could go on and on!

tropical Caribbean paradise beach with palm trees

Things to do in Havana, Cuba

Part of the joy of the places to visit in Cuba is to wander through Havana and observe city life, island-style. Of course, this means trying the local food. Rice dishes such as arroz con pollo are popular, as well as frijoles, ropa vieja and pasteles.

Havana is full of bars and eateries where you can meet the locals, listen to Cuban music, and enjoy Cuban food. Bars are an especially exciting place to visit in the evenings: Cuba is known for its many cocktails, such as the Piña Colada, Mojito, and the classic rum and coke (Cuba Libre). Having a drink at La Floridita is one thing to do in Cuba that almost everyone does, at least to take a quick picture with the life-size statue of Ernest Hemingway.

Other things to do in Cuba located in Havana are walking in Old Havana, renting a vintage car to tour the city and touring the Museum of the Revolution, a former presidential palace which is now home to exhibits detailing the Cuban Revolution, the life of Fidel Castro and the War of Independence. 

Things to do in Varadero, Cuba

Without a doubt, going to the beach in Varadero is one of the things to do in Cuba that should be featured in every single travel itinerary. Why? Because they’re some of the best in the world! 

Varadero Beach, the closest one to the small city center, looks like it came out of a postcard. With white sand and turquoise, calm water, it’s a treat for single travelers and families alike. 

Do you like snorkeling or would like to try scuba diving? Varadero is a great place for it. There are many tour providers in the city waiting for you to book with them. 

Things to do in Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba is the biggest city in the country after Havana, and it was also previously the capital of the island (but not anymore). 

If you plan on visiting Santiago de Cuba, try to go during the carnival as it’s probably the best thing to do here. 

This city played an important role in the Cuban Revolution, and some of its main attractions reflect this. For example, the Cuartel Moncada (Moncada Barrack) was attacked by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in 1953, which is widely considered to be the starting point of the revolution, and there’s now a museum attached to the barracks. 

Visiting La Gran Piedra is also a great way to see Santiago de Cuba and the Sierra Maestra in a different way. A special treat for those who love to hike!