The 17 Best Attractions & Things to Do in Cuba

Cuba is a gorgeous island in the Caribbean that has only recently become a tourist-friendly destination.

The dramatic landscapes, vibrant culture, and stunning beaches attract visitors from around the world. 

It’s almost impossible to run out of things to do in Cuba. The island’s rich history, deep traditions, and fun activities make it incredibly difficult to experience in a single trip. 

17 Top-Rated Things To Do In Cuba

1. Old Havana

Old Havana, also known as Habana Vieja, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a fantastic place to see Cuban history. The area’s cobblestone streets, neoclassical architecture, and gorgeous squares make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

The Plaza de la Catedral is here as well as the Catedral de San Cristobal, which may have once housed the remains of Christopher Columbus. While you’re there, you can also stop in for dinner at Bodeguita del Medio, a famous hangout of author Ernest Hemmingway. 

Another area that should top your Cuba itinerary is the Plaza Vieja, a bustling gathering spot with plenty of historic buildings and local culture. Similarly, Plaza de Armas is the oldest square in Havana, laid out in the 1520s and lined with royal palm trees.

The Convento de San Francisco sits in an Old Havana square with the same name. Inside the monastery, you’ll find the Museum of Sacred Art, and standing out front are three statues representing the Immaculate Conception, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Saint Dominic de Guzmán.

2. Rent a Classic Car

Cuba is famous for cigars, colorful art deco architecture, and vintage cars. So, to visit Cuba and not take a vintage car out for a day would frankly be a shame. 

But, if you aren’t comfortable renting an older car, you can always take a tour around Havana in one. You can usually negotiate dropoff points, so taking a guided tour of the city can also double as a taxi ride.

3. Smoke Real Cuban Cigars

One of Cuba’s most significant exports comes from its tobacco farms. Cuban cigars are some of the best in the world, and in Cuba, they’re much easier to get your hands on than elsewhere. 

While you’re visiting Cuba, you can opt to tour a tobacco farm and learn to roll cigars or just kick back and enjoy a Cuban cigar while you listen to some live music. Pinar del Rio is the tobacco hub of the island and worth a visit if you’re interested. 

4. Visit Hotel Nacional

Gaining widespread notoriety from its appearance in The Godfather II, Hotel Nacional has an eighty-year history of elegance, opulence, and decadence. The hotel has been host to many of the most important visitors to Cuba, including Ernest Hemmingway, Winston Churchill, Jimmy Carter, and Frank Sinatra. 

Whether you want to stay a few nights or stop by for a drink and some photos, the hotel is a must-see place to visit in Cuba. 

5. Relax on the Beach

Like many other Caribbean Islands, Cuba has lots of beautiful white-sand beaches. So, if you’d rather not stay directly in the cities, there are plenty of beach hotels and all-inclusive resorts along the Cuban coastline.

While it would be a shame not to get out and explore Cuba fully, you can make an entire vacation out of staying on the pristine beaches and soaking up the sun from their powdery white sand. 

If you want to get out of the touristy areas and slow down, Playa Larga should be your beach of choice. There are no large hotels or resorts, and many call it the most beautiful beach in Cuba. 

6. Celebrate the Biggest Carnival in Santiago de Cuba

The biggest Carnival celebration in the Caribbean Sea happens every year in Santiago de Cuba in mid-July. The festival dates back to the 17th century, typically lining up with the harvest.

The festival is one of the coolest things you can do in Cuba, with street art, parades, dancers, and conga lines. Just be sure to book your trip in advance, as buses to the city sell out well before the festival. 

7. Visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum

If you want to immerse yourself in the history of Cuba, make a stop in Santa Clara at the Che Guevara Museum. Che Guevara was a revolutionary and guerilla leader who fought in Latin America and eventually helped establish Cuban Socialism. 

His mausoleum and adjacent national museum are worthy of a day trip during your visit to Cuba, where you can see original items from the Cuban Revolution. 

8. Go Scuba Diving or Snorkeling

Many people dream of sinking under the waves, and the Caribbean is the place to do it. Cuba, in particular, has several incredible dive and snorkel spots, with stunning coral reefs completely covered in marine life. 

The Jardines de la Reina is a small archipelago in southern Cuba boasting 80 world-class dive spots. Most of the area is less than 40-meters deep, making the sea life there accessible for even beginner divers. 

Maria la Gorda is perhaps the best place to dive in Cuba. The crystal clear waters give you amazing views of the sea turtles that have made the area famous. 

9. Go Salsa Dancing at Centro Cultural Polo Montañez

This center is hands down the best place to learn to salsa in Cuba. 

The school has plenty of teachers and locals to practice with if you want to learn. They also host events and parties for you to get a real taste of local life. 

10. Have a Drink at the Birthplace of Mojitos

Sometimes a cool, stiff drink is just what you need at the end of the day. And La Bodeguita del Medio is a bar and restaurant located in Havana and the birthplace of the mojito. 

Additionally, after a hot day, one of the best things to do in Cuba is cool down with this rum and mint drink. 

11. Walk Through History at the Bay of Pigs

Playa Giron is a beach and village that was the landing spot for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. 

The CIA meant for this invasion to overthrow dictator Fidel Castro. However, the operation ended in the capture of upwards of 1,200 service members.

Today, the beach is a popular dive location with a few tourist restaurants and is one of the quieter places to visit in Cuba. 

12. Visit One of the World’s Largest Open-Air Murals

The Mural de la Prehistoria depicts the evolution of world history from the beginning of the earth to when human beings came into existence. Leovigildo González Morillo painted the mural on a sheer rock wall in a neolithic caveman style of artwork. 

While some consider the art simple and overhyped, the mural and adjacent areas towards the north coast are beautiful and overlooked hidden gems of Cuba.  

13. Learn About Sugar Production in Valle de Los Ingenios

The Valley of the Sugar Mills is famous for the sugar cane plantations that helped make Cuba one of the top sugar exporters in the world. Plus, the valley is a World Heritage Site noted for its rich history involved in the sugar trade.

While you’re there, you can tour a sugar cane plantation and learn what living conditions were like for workers and how they process sugar today. 

14. Baracoa Cocoa Plantations

Along with the sugar, tobacco, and coffee plantations Cuba is known for, they’re also famous for their chocolate. 

Baracoa is the oldest city in Cuba and the center of chocolate production on the island. You can take a bus to the city center and then bike or walk out to take a tour of the chocolate plantations to sample handmade sweets made by the local farmers. 

15. Go Horseback Riding in Viñales

Another World Heritage Site, the Valle de Viñales, is a treat for nature lovers. The area is home to plenty of tobacco plantations but is one of the best things to do in Cuba to get out and experience Cuba’s natural world. 

There are also plenty of trails you can hike, but horse riding is the best way to see the valley

16. Mingle with Flamingos

Located on the northern coast of Cuba is the small resort area of Jardines del Rey. The site is made of ten minor keys and has tons of beautiful wildlife. 

You can find dolphins, turtles, sea stars, and even flamingos in the shallow water of the inlets. 

The area is pretty laid back, and it’s an excellent place to spend part of your trip, grab a lobster dinner, and take in the natural beauty of the island. 

17. Visit a Sea Turtle Nursery

Cayo Largo del Sur is another small resort area with stunning white beaches, but many of the tourist operations stop during certain times of the year. However, the beaches on Playa Tortuga are huge sea turtle nesting grounds, where there’s a conservation center and turtle farm you can visit if you go during the right season. 

Things to Know, Before You Go

While Cuba is a beautiful and exciting place, you should avoid doing certain things while you’re there. 

Casas Particulares are bed and breakfasts you can stay in instead of a hotel. While Casa Particular used to mean staying in another family’s home, in most cases today, it’s essentially a home or property rental. 

You should consider staying there instead of a hotel or resort, as they’re typically cheaper and nicer. They’re also a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the culture. 

Furthermore, while many countries have peculiar customs and things that they find rude, it’s especially important to be mindful while you’re in Cuba. It’s best to avoid any political conversations, government criticism, or law-breaking of any kind. 

Of all the things to do in Cuba, a police interrogation should not be on your itinerary. 

You should also know that there are two forms of currency on the island, the CUC and CUP. The CUC is the official currency, and one CUC is about 25 CUP. 

Knowing about currency conversions before you go can help you avoid scams when you’re haggling. 

Conclusion

Cuba has a diverse history, gorgeous natural landscapes, and a unique culture that brings people to the island. There are plenty of spectacular things to do in Cuba, and it’s no wonder that the country has become more popular with tourists in recent years.

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