Best Places to Visit in Cuba
The largest island in the Caribbean archipelago is Cuba, which is less than 160 kilometers from the southernmost point of Florida in the United States. Although still closed to U.S. visitors, Cuba is open to other world visitors eager to explore the island’s rich culture. When choosing the best places to visit in Cuba, be sure to balance the rural and urban experiences. The perfect trip to Cuba will include Havana, but it will also go off the beaten track and explore the incredible scenery and culture of the entire island. Below are;
14 Best Places to Visit in Cuba
For those who love history or architecture, Trinidad is a great place in Cuba. The center of Trinidad is Plaza Mayor, which is a main square surrounded by neo-Baroque buildings. Next to the square is a colonial monastery, now home to the Anti-Rogue War Museum or Lucha Contra Bandidos. After visiting the museum, walk uphill from Plaza Mayor to buy handicraft souvenirs. Popular items on sale include hand-sewn tablecloths and napkins. Another breathtaking building in Trinidad is the Palacio Brunet Mansion, which is now the Romance Museum. See a wonderful collection of 19th-century art and antiques.
Last but not least is the city of Havana. As Cuba’s capital and main transportation hub, almost all tourists will spend at least some time exploring Havana. This sophisticated, retro and cosmopolitan city is known for its spectacular nightlife, but it is equally exciting during the day.
Start in La Habana Vieja or the old town, where crumbling colonial architecture and vibrant mid-century architecture coexist. When leaving Hawa, be sure to check out the hand-rolled cigars in the small factory or taste some of the local rum freshly baked from the winery. Deal with the locals along the Malecón, which is the seawall along the coast, where you can enjoy the sea view and have a lot of fun.
Although there are several national parks in Cuba, none are more beautiful and easier to reach than the national park in the Viñales Valley. Viñales is an amazing destination, and history shows that it is Castro’s favorite place on the island. The valley is surrounded by mountains, tobacco is still growing to make iconic Cuban cigars, and countless caves add extra adventure for brave travelers. One of the most popular caves is the Cuevas del Indio or Indian caves, where you can actually take a boat tour entirely within the cave system.
10. Jardines del Rey
The archipelago north of the mainland and connected by bridges is Jardines del Rey. Jardines del Rey, the King’s Garden, is a series of islands including Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Paredon Grande and Cayo Romano. It was not until the 1990s when the first hotel was built that these islands became real tourist destinations. Even today, many tourists come because of the fact that the chain is still largely undeveloped. Playa Pilar on Cayo Coco is one of the most beautiful and popular beaches, a short walk from many all-inclusive resorts.
4. Maria La Gorda
At the westernmost point of Cuba is the small town of Maria La Gorda. Although Maria La Gorda may not have many infrastructure or large tourist attractions, there are still a large number of tourists throughout the year. That’s because Maria la Gorda is one of the top diving destinations in the Caribbean. If you are a scuba diver, then please go to the area for a guided sea trip. Underwater marine life is abundant, and regular trips depart from the pier. Many tourists choose an all-inclusive package that includes accommodation, meals and diving. Snorkeling trips are also very popular, but not as common as diving trips.
A short drive from Havana is Varadero, a popular beach resort town on the Chicacos Peninsula. The coastline that stretches for miles allows you to admire the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean, and the white sandy beaches and warm blue waters are truly breathtaking. Although the beautiful beaches are what makes Varadero one of the best tourist attractions in Cuba, there is still a lot to do. Parque Josone is a beautiful park with botanical gardens, lakes, wildlife and bridges, not to mention music, hawkers, and even children’s camel riding activities. Also worth exploring is the Bellamar Caves, an extensive cave system that has been used by tourists for more than 150 years.
Although Havana may be the modern capital of Cuba, it is not always the center of Cuban politics. Baracoa is sometimes called the first city, and it is the first capital of the island. Baracoa was established in the early 16th century by the famous explorer Diego Velazquez and retains most of the colonial architecture. Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion is just an example worth trying. Baracoa is also an ideal base for visiting El Yunque, a mountain overlooking the city, where visitors can hike to explore the green and dense tropical rain forest just 30 minutes away from the beach.
7. Cayo Largo del Sur
Cayo Largo del Sur, also known as Cayo Largo, is a small island off the Cuban mainland. If you visit Cuba to find beautiful and sparsely populated beaches, then visiting the resort island of Lago is very meaningful. The largest and most popular beach on the island is Playa Sirena, an ideal place to relax and soak up the sun. Common activities in Cayo Largo include swimming, snorkeling, surfing and kayaking. The pier is the hub of the island, and it is also a place where you can find the fascinating turtle hatchery, which provides regular excursions for tourists.
Guardalavaca, in the province of Holguín, is surrounded by sparkling beaches and is quieter and more remote than Varadero. The dense foliage surrounds the endless beaches here, providing many shaded places for those seeking to stay away from the tropical sun. Divers and snorkelers can explore a large number of marine life along the coral reef.
Day trips to Guadalajara include jungle adventures, sailing trips and sightseeing tours of Santiago de Cuba. Bahia de Naranjo is located west of Guardalavaca and includes a large coast and three islands, including Cayo Naranjo and the popular dolphinarium, so you can get close to these social creatures.
Chorro de Maita is another surrounding travel option in Guadalavaca, with indigenous Indian cemeteries and reconstructed Taino Indian villages.
Cienfuegos is a city in Cuba, different from other cities on the island. Since it was founded by French rather than Spanish, it has a unique atmosphere. This city is called La Perla del Sur, or the Pearl of the South. For those who appreciate the modern architecture of the Middle Ages, the Punta Gorda Peninsula is a must visit. There are still many houses from the 1950s, many of which have been carefully preserved. The centre of Cienfuegos is Pueblo Nuevo, where you can explore the history museum, dine in outdoor cafes or take Spanish or French courses.
10. Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is located in eastern Cuba and is a coastal city known for its colonial history. Santiago de Cuba was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and is known as the second city of Cuba. The center of the city is Parque Cespedes, a central square surrounded by many historic Spanish colonial buildings. In recent history, the square was where Fidel Castro famously declared the success of the revolution in 1959. You can also explore Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, a 17th century fortress overlooking the bay.
11. Cocoa Island
Cocoa Island is another idyllic beach destination in Cuba and one of the most isolated places. The island appears in Hemingway’s novels “Island in the Stream” and “The Old Man and the Sea” along with the nearby Guillermo Island. As part of the Jardines del Rey, the Sabana-Camaguey combined archipelago, Cocoa Island is connected to the mainland by a bridge, but most tourists arrive by plane.
The sun-drenched beach is the main attraction. Playa Los Flamencos is located on the Atlantic side of the island and is known for its 5 kilometers of sun-bleached sandy beaches, while the quiet and undeveloped Playa Prohibida provides a tranquil nature trail. The island also provides excellent bird watching services.
12. Che Guevara Mausoleum, Santa Clara
When beach towns and resorts look the same, and you are looking for unique activities in Cuba, Santa Clara will add some depth to your Cuban itinerary. This is the famous site of the last guerrilla war led by Che Guevara in 1958.
Che’s body is buried here, his mausoleum (Mausoleo del Che Guevara) and monument, Comandante Ernesto “Che” Guevara monument is the main attraction of the town. Engraved on the bronze statue of Che Guevara in Revolution Square is his last letter to Fidel Castro, and the mausoleum is located below.
The Museo Histórico de la Revolución, adjacent to the monument, displays some of Che’s personal belongings. Fans should also see the sad Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado, a small boxcar museum and the site of the final battle between Che Guevara and Batista’s army.
13. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
If you are an art lover, don’t miss the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) in Havana, which has an impressive collection of international and Cuban art.
The collection is located in two buildings and includes works from ancient to modern times. The restored Spanish Renaissance style central Asturiano palace is made of gorgeous Italian marble and was designed by Manuel Bustos in the 1920s. It showcases international art, including the works of European masters; ancient art from Greece, Rome, and Egypt; and works from Asia, the United States, and Latin America.
The striking marble sculpture “Form, Space and Light” welcomes visitors at the entrance of the second site, which dates back to 1959. This rationalist-style Palacio de Bellas Artes displays a thought-provoking collection with a focus on sculptures, prints, and paintings from the 17th century to the present day.
14. Zapata Peninsula
The Zapata Peninsula is a paradise for birdwatchers and nature lovers. It is a remote, sparsely populated area of Cuba with diverse landscapes and is one of the largest wetlands in the Caribbean. Ciénaga de Zapata, or affectionately known as the Zapata Marsh, is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is home to approximately 150 different bird species, including water fowls, parrots and herons. Crocodiles are also very common.