When it comes to the Caribbean islands, Cuba is definitely a must-see destination. Not only is it a beautiful island full of history and culture, but it is also a totally unique island that is unlike any other. Being an island that has been under communist rule for some time, it is often said that Cuba has somewhat been frozen in time. The Cuban streets reveal vehicles from the 1950s and pastel coloured Spanish-colonial buildings. As well as highlighting the past, Cuba is brimming with energy and excitement. Live music and salsa take over the streets at night which only underlines how rooted the island is within its art and culture.
However, what has made Cuba such a unique island in comparison to others is surely bound to change in the future. Cuba remains to be a unique gem of the Caribbean, offering visitors an unprecedented world, stripped back but full of beauty. With a holiday to Cuba, you can discover vast stretches of white beaches, tobacco fields which play a major role in Cuba’s production of cigars, and striking colonial towns and cities which host a wide range of cultural landmarks. If Cuba sounds like an inspiring holiday destination for you, check out our tips on how to plan the ideal Cuba escape.
Before we get our teeth into the fun stuff of where to stay, what to eat and what you can see and do in Cuba, there are some things which should be explained. Important to every traveller are certain aspects of planning their trip, relating to things around money and even a stable WiFi connection. So here it is all explained:
First and foremost, it is worth providing an explanation concerning Cuban currency as it can get slightly confusing. There are two types of Cuban currency: the Cuban Peso (CUP) for locals and the Cuban Peso Convertible (CUC) for tourists. CUP isn’t available outside of Cuba, you can only get it in Cuban banks or Cadecas (currency exchange offices). When you wish to exchange money during your Cuba holiday, head for banks or Cadecas which can be found in airports, hotels and resorts or even shopping centers. Taking euro or GBP pound sterling prove to be the most profitable to exchange in Cuba. You’ll notice that 1.00 CUC = 1.00 USD, but there is a 10% fee for US Dollars.
Before travelling to Cuba, it is worth ringing your bank to make sure that your credit or debit card will work on the island. This is especially the case for US issued bank cards, although due to growing diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, US citizens will be able to use their cards in Cuba too. Aside from getting cash from ATMs, you can use your credit cards to make transactions, although they carry a 3% surcharge.
In Cuba you’ll be able to find WiFi hotspots available for an extra charge. These hotspots are usually in public places like close to major hotels or main squares. In order to gain a connection, you’ll need an internet scratch card that can be bought in certain shops for around 1.5 CUC. Each scratch card lasts for an hour. Sometimes you might be lucky and find a hotel or restaurant which has free WiFi.
Right, now the small print is out of the way, let’s get stuck in!
Where to stay
There is a huge selection of hotels to choose from on loveholidays for your Cuba holiday. Many situated in the main parts of town and in the main tourist areas, so you’ll be able to get around and explore easily. It can be a great idea to establish your main base in a hotel and explore the surrounding area. However, if you plan on moving around Cuba, you may want to look at more affordable options rather than large resorts.
- Havana – A stay in the island’s capital is worthwhile. With plenty of culture and landmarks on your doorstep, it makes for a great start to your Cuba holiday.
- Varadero – This is often a popular choice for many looking for all inclusive resorts during their stay in Cuba. A beach resort town, you’ll come across stretches of white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters.
- Cayo Coco – An island just off the coast of central Cuba, known for lovely beaches, coral reefs and all inclusive resorts.
- Santiago de Cuba – Stay in the southeast of the island in a city which is brimming with history from Cuba’s revolution and is home to a Carnaval in July.
One of the best ways to get around Cuba is by taxi or taxi colectivos (collective taxis) meaning you’ll share your taxi with others. The huge majority of these taxis are old American cars, so you’ll be getting around in style. You can book them and the price you’ll end up paying is quite cheap in order to get around. Cuba also has a bus system which is ever so slightly cheaper than taxis, so it really depends on what you’re more comfortable with and what is also more convenient for you.
Where to eat
Cuban cuisine is said to be a mixture of different styles, from Caribbean and Spanish to even Mexican influences. There are plenty of little restaurants to discover and there are also often food vendors selling quick fixes along the street. Some restaurants will be advertised as paladares meaning they are privately owned and operated, often as family-run businesses. You can find many which serve up delicious seafood and fresh fish, but there is a huge variety of dishes to be had on the island.
- San Cristobal Paladar – Havana
- Doña Eutemia – Havana
- Mogote Café – Viñales
- Monte y Mar – Trinidad
What to see and do
Cuba holidays are eye-opening and breathtaking to say the least. This island is packed full of cultural and historical sights, meaning you’ll always have something to explore during your stay. The great thing is that you’ll have a range of landscapes and setting to discover. From the small towns and cities filled with colonial houses and buildings, to moving towards the coast and soaking up the island ambiance by visiting a calm beach. Build up your Cuban itinerary with these fun things to see and do:
- Head to Havana to learn all about the Cuban Revolution – You can hop in a vintage car for a tour around Havana. Visit the Plaza de la Revolución and take in all the other sights which you wish to see in more detail. Havana is also home to the Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution) where you can learn even more through its exhibits.
- Spend the day in Habana Vieja – Explore the architecture and make your way through narrow streets. It is also near the Malecòn which is Havana’s waterfront promenade, which is definitely worth a stroll during the evening and night time when it starts to liven up.
- Make your way to Viñales – To cut down on costs, take a taxi to the Havana bus station where you can then catch a bus or collective taxi to Viñales. It is a largely green place, well known for its tobacco fields and farming which are accessible on foot or by horse. Or visit the Viñales valley which has a number of sights.
- Visit Trinidad – This delightful colonial town has so much to offer its visitors, from amazing views to authentic cobblestoned streets. After exploring the town, head to the gorgeous Playa Ancon, an amazing stretch of a white sandy beach and clean blue waters. Trinidad also offers you the chance to check out the Topes de Collantes National Park, overflowing with lush greenery and wonderful waterfalls.