Top 10 Things to Do in Cuba

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey
Smooth rhythms, rural edens, and white sand beaches: they don't call Cuba the Pearl of the Antilles for nothing. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 things to do in Cuba. A lot of travellers to Cuba stick to the resorts and hotels - but there's a whole country out there waiting to be explored. So for this list, we're looking at Cuba's funnest and most fascinating travel destinations.
Top 10 Things to Do in Cuba

Smooth rhythms, rural edens, and white sand beaches: they don’t call Cuba the Pearl of the Antilles for nothing. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 things to do in Cuba. A lot of travellers to Cuba stick to the resorts and hotels - but there’s a whole country out there waiting to be explored. So for this list, we're looking at Cuba’s funnest and most fascinating travel destinations.

#10: Gorge on Local Goodies in Baracoa

In Cuba’s northeast corner sits the country’s farflung former capital, Baracoa. Isolated by encircling mountains, and once accessible only by sea, the city has developed a unique local culture, and a mouth-watering cuisine inspired by the region’s cacao and coconut plantations. But there’s more to do than just eat: the surrounding area is a nature lover’s paradise packed with picturesque waterfalls, and set against a dramatic mountain backdrop. Come for the cacao, linger for the town’s laid-back charm, and stay for the natural splendor of a landscape no less than Christopher Columbus once called “the most beautiful place in the world”.

#9: Enjoy the Seabreeze in Cienfuegos

Cuban culture is a rich blend of indigenous, Spanish, and African influences. But the French too have left their mark. In 1819 French settlers from Bordeaux and Louisiana founded Cienfuegos, Cuba’s “Pearl of the South”. Hugging the shores of the amphitheatrical Cienfuegos Bay, the spacious seaside city boasts a World Heritage listed Historic Centre, protected by the impressive Jagua Fortress, built in the 18th century to guard against pirates. Wander the colonial old town, count flamingoes on Laguna Guanaroca, and admire the bay views from the Malecon.

#8: Explore Santiago de Cuba, the Country’s Cultural Capital,

It’s the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution, Bacardi Rum, and son - the music and dance that evolved into salsa. Located on the island’s southeastern edge, Santiago de Cuba is the country’s second-largest and most Caribbean city. A great way to feel out the town is by people watching in grand Parque Cespedes; while Spanish fortress Castillo de San Pedro del Morro offers sweeping views of the surrounding coastline. The city’s many museums will leave art enthusiasts and history buffs in heaven. But for most, the highlight is the city’s live music and dance scene - so hold some energy in reserve for when the sun goes down.

#7: Take a Walk on the Wildside in Ciénaga de Zapata

Time to escape the hustle and bustle, and hit the sticks. In Zapata Swamp, you’ll be in good company: with crocodiles, flamingoes, and proud locals eager to extoll the area’s natural wonders. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2000, the vast wetlands are well-known among birdwatchers. While wandering the trails, keep your eyes peeled for the world’s smallest bird, the bee hummingbird. And for a bit of ‘60s history, stop by the infamous Bay of Pigs. The reef-fringed bay is also a prime spot for offshore snorkelling and scuba diving.

#6: Soak in the Cultural Scene of Santa Clara

The spirit of revolution is alive and well in Santa Clara. A university town in Cuba’s heartland, Santa Clara is the country’s fifth-largest city, but one of its most animated - with a vibrant youth culture and an enduring reverence for the revolutionary Che Guevara. It was here in 1958 that Che led the final, decisive charge against the brutal Batista government. Santa Clara is also his final resting place, overseen by a gigantic bronze likeness in Plaza Che Guevara. For culture lovers, the city is the perfect place to seek out art exhibitions, poetry readings, and concerts; while for party animals, live music and dancing fill the midnight hours.

#5: Ride Through History in Old Havana

For visitors, Havana seems to exist in two different times. The Cuban capital is a temporal jumble of cobblestone streets, wifi hotspots, crumbling colonial residences, and European tourists in new fashions. Perhaps nothing sums up the paradox like the vintage vehicles that cruise Havana’s streets. Most of the classic cars you’ll see are actually taxis, and many offer round-trip tours. Seeing the grand plazas, neoclassical architecture, and city life from the back of a Cadillac convertible is a quintessential Havana experience. So pick a car, color and year, and take in the sights.

#4: Step Back in Time in Trinidad

If Havana is a temporal paradox, a trip to Trinidad’s colonial centre is straight up time-travel. Sitting at the edge of the idyllic Valle de los Ingenios, once covered in sugar plantations, Trinidad is Cuba’s best-preserved colonial-era town, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander past pastel-colored Spanish houses in the Plaza Mayor and admire the magnificent Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco. Outside the town, visitors can explore the ruins of sugar mills further inland; or relax on the white sand of Playa Ancón at seaside resort Casilda

#3: Relive a Classic in Cojimar

You wouldn’t guess from appearances, but this tranquil, picturesque seaside village is also the setting of a titanic struggle: the contest between patient fisherman Santiago, and a giant marlin in Ernest Hemingway’s classic “The Old Man and the Sea”. The waters around Cojimar were the American novelist’s favoured fishing grounds, and he’s immortalized in stone near the town’s Spanish fort. For the full experience, sit back by the water with a mojito in one hand and Papa’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novella in the other. It’s a great way to culminate a tour of other Hemingway hotspots, like his elegant Cuban abode and preferred drinking holes in Havana.

#2: Experience Country Life in Vale de Viñales

Zapata has its wildlife, Baracoa has its waterfalls, and popular Cayo Coco has its beaches. But when it comes to stunning natural beauty, Vale Viñales is up there with the best. This lush, green valley, scattered with limestone stacks that rise from seas of tobacco fields, is an outdoor enthusiast’s utopia. Just a few hours east of Havana, it’s an ideal location for hiking, horse riding, caving, and climbing. Embark on a tour to see how the country’s storied cigars are made, or just wander around on your own to take in the magnificent pastoral views.

#1: Get Your Groove on in Havana

Havana’s nightlife is legendary. Cuban melodies, rhythms, and dance forms have had an outsized influence on all music, and you can find pretty much all of them in the nation’s capital. So after an amble through Havana Vieja, grab a bottle of rum, wander down the Malecon, and, when you’re feeling footloose and fancy-free, dance up a storm in Havana’s bars and nightclubs. To see how it’s done in style, check out the spectacular dance shows at the famed Tropicana Club; but remember, you haven’t experienced Havana until you’ve busted moves yourself in the city’s bumping, live music discotheques.