Cuba is a country, that from an American perspective, gets a bad rap. While the Cuban people have had ups and downs and face different challenges, it doesn’t mean its a destination you shouldn’t visit. With the help of some other travel bloggers, I’ve put together this list of the best places to visit in Cuba.
Best Places to visit in Cuba: Viñales
Submitted by Jarrod Heil from Ramble Around the World
Viñales, Cuba is tucked amongst towering limestone mogotes that protrude from the ground like a scene from Jurrasic Park. Sun-soaked and beaming with green flora off its sheer cliff faces, it seems like paradise. Viñales is home to a unique set of geomorphological formations that only exist in China, Malaysia and this area of Cuba. It is the perfect place to take a day trip from Havana.
Under the lush green palm trees, red-dirt unpaved roads and colorful colonial-style houses lie a network of karstic caves that weave through the mogote mountains and into the beautiful valley. A valley that produces nearly 90 percent of Cuba’s tobacco, which then packs those famous Cuban cigars known the world over. The tobacco farms of Viñales are also a great place to get local honey that is used to dip the end of cigars in to make them even more tasty. If you need something to bring your back to Cuba after the cigars and honey are gone check out Waypoint Goods’ Honey scented candle. Every time I light it it brings me right back to Viñales.
Viñalesis located just 2.5 hours from Havana, but due to its remoteness, it sees very few visitors from outside of Cuba. Its downtown streets are filled with hostels, Airbnbs and casa particulars all renting rooms for as little as $3 USD per night. You can find three-course meals at many locally-owned restaurants for as little as $7 USD.
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You can wash down a day of horseback riding, tobacco farm visiting, karstic cave exploring or trail hiking with an ice-cold mojito. Mojito where it was invented in Cuba and you can enjoy one for as little as $2 USD per glass. Staying in Viñales is extremely affordable, but getting to this remote paradise isn’t easy or cheap.
How to get to Viñales
People wishing to visit Viñales must do so by the way of:
- An 11-hour classic car tour from Havana
- Hiring a private taxi
- Taking a private bus
- Relying on the unsavory schedule of the government’s public transportation.
While getting there and back will cost anywhere from $25 to $100 USD, Viñales is a special place to see and will be worth every penny.
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Top Destinations in Cuba: Santa Clara
Submitted by Clare from The Adventurous Flashpacker
Santa Clara is a small town in central Cuba, which is best known as the resting place of Che Guevara. Che was the Argentine guerilla who became a leader of the 1950s Cuban revolution. In 1958, Guevara led and won the final battle of the Cuban revolution in Santa Clara.
Not surprising then that Santa Clara appears to be somewhat dedicated to Guevara. From frequent Guevara statues and iconography to the excellent Che Guevara museum and memorial.
Things to do in Santa Clara
Don’t miss Tren Blindado, a small park which is the site where Guevara and his men derailed an armored railway car. The park includes the actual derailed train cars, along with historic information.
As well as revolutionary history, the best things to do in Santa Clara Cuba include:
- Meandering around the bustling streets filled with colonial architecture
- Walking up Loma del Capiro hill to take in sweeping views over Santa Clara
- Watching the world go by in the main town square, Parque Vidal.
In Santa Clara, it’s best to stay near the city center around Parque Vidal. That way, you can walk to all the main attractions and will have plenty of places to eat and drink on your doorstep.
It may surprise you to learn that Santa Clara has some of the best nightlife in all of Cuba. If you’re up for a party, you can’t go past iconic El Mejunje, a hip bar located inside a dilapidated colonial building.
If you prefer your nights to be a little more low key, make your way to Parque Vidal. It is lined with a range of restaurants and bars and is the perfect spot for soaking up the local atmosphere.
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Best Places to visit in Cuba: Havana
Submitted by Hannah and Adam from Getting Stamped
It seems as though Cuba is still a very undiscovered place, even though it’s a huge Carribean country that has tons of amazing things to do! When we visited, we only had 10 days and we checked out four different cities, including Havana. If Havana isn’t on your list of must-sees, then put it on there now!
Things to do in Havana
Havana is a lively, unique and friendly city, full of Baroque-style colonial buildings, lush city parks, multicolored buildings and Classic American cars cruising around. You could literally spend the entire day just roaming around and exploring, but we have a few recommendations.
To get a great sense of a city, we highly suggest taking a Havana City Tour in a cool classic car. You can’t leave Cuba without taking a ride in one of these cars! And for some great sightseeing, make sure to check out Morro Castle, a 16th-century fort that boasts some great city views.
Because Havana is such a vibrant city, you must go out to the bars and dance in the streets with locals! One of the coolest bars you must go to is El Floridita, home of the famous daiquiri drink. And if you’re hungry, there are endless possibilities when it comes to food, as the food scene is thriving with authentic Cuban food.
Where to stay in Havana
If you’re looking for where to stay in Havana, we highly recommend looking at Airbnb options. Some good areas to check out are Habana Vieja or Old Havana, Centro Habana and Vedado. Looking for a hotel instead? The most iconic hotel in Cuba is the Hotel Nacional.
Top Destinations in Cuba: Playa Giron
Submitted by Scott from 4 Degrees of Destination
This beautiful spot is located in the Bay of Pigs, famous for defeating a U.S lead invasion. Playa Giron is situated just over 200 kilometers from Havana and is part of the Viazul bus route. It’s a small town with less than 2000 people but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit.
Things to do in Playa Giron
There are a couple of beach spots to explore, Playa Coco and Playa Giron. We opted for Playa Giron, which is surrounded by an outer sea wall that you can walk across. The beach itself is nice, though not really one of those white sand Cuban beaches you see in photos. Our kids loved Cuba especially splashing and swimming as the wall makes it safe and calm.
Those looking to learn more about the U.S failed invasion need to check out Museo Giron. While it mainly focuses on the Cuban perspective, for 2CUC it’s well worth a look. It’s a small museum but has plenty of exhibits and artifacts as well as detailed accounts of how the Cuban troops trained, lived as well as those killed.
One of the major draw-cards is Caleta Buena only 9kms from Playa Giron, It’s a rocky cove inlet with crystal clear water and an abundance of fish. It’s the perfect spot to snorkel and for those keen on scuba diving. There is a small walking track around the inlet with plenty of sun lounges to relax. The cost to spend the day here costs 15CUC, this includes a buffet lunch and all your drinks.
Where to stay in Playa Giron
There are plenty of accommodation options. We stayed at Los Pinos, Xiomara and Gerardo are incredible hosts and know how to look after their guests. Gerardo is an amazing cook and makes one of the best Mojitos in Cuba, picking fresh mint from the garden.
Best Places to visit in Cuba: Trinidad
Submitted by The Van Escape
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, over 500 years old, Trinidad is a must-see town in central Cuba. Walking around the town along its cobbled streets is the best idea to see the city and to feel its atmosphere. People are still riding horses and carriages. You can watch how they live and how they work. Time has stopped here so that you can feel the spirit of the 19th century.
Visit Plaza Mayor
The historic center of the town is Plaza Mayor. The buildings surrounding the plaza date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, they have warm, pastel colors, and amazing architecture details. In the center of the square, there is a beautiful garden with palm trees and an ornamented iron fence, where you can rest during the heat.
Enter the tower of the Church and Monastery of Saint Francis
The best viewpoint of the town and the surrounding mountains is the tower of a historic Church and Monastery of Saint Francis. There is also the Museum of the Fight against Bandits inside.
Listen to Cuban music live
Trinidad is full of music. Cuban rhythms can be heard at every step. So, you can listen to music in restaurants, bars, and streets. For live Cuban music, we highly recommended Trinidad Paladar El Criollo, which also has a rooftop with perfect sunset views. You can also attend concerts at La Bodeguita de Trinidad each evening.
What to eat in Trinidad
Trinidad is located near the sea, so if you like seafood, you should eat it here. If you prefer Cuban cuisine, there are many restaurants to choose from. The best restaurants in Trinidad are Paladar Sol Y Son, Bistro Trinidad, Taberna La Botija, and mentioned before Paladar El Criollo and La Bodeguita de Trinidad.
Where to stay in Trinidad
The best option for accommodation in Trinidad is to rent a room or apartment or B&B from Cuban families. This type of lodging has the name Casa Particulares. You will help the Cubans this way. But if you prefer hotels, you have some great options to choose from as Iberostar, or Hotel E La Calesa.