The largest island in the Caribbean is also the one that packs the most punch! Cuba is a top destination for every style of traveler, no matter your interests. Here you’ll find history and culture, beaches and jungle, architecture and countryside, Cuba has it all.
Foods to Try:
Many people complain that the food is bland and flavorless, but in our experience, we were pleasantly surprised by the foods on offer in Cuba. Check out these dishes:
This is the national dish and is one everyone should try. Shredded beef or lamb is stewed with peppers, garlic and onions, and is typically served with a side of rice and vegetables. This dish is very flavorful and very filling!
There are endless options for seafood in Cuba. Snapper is a popular fish and lobster is also very affordable. You’ll see local fishermen selling their catch of the day on beaches, and you can even see them fishing right off of the Malecon in Havana!
Taverns and pubs are popular hangout spots in Cuba. Here you can order all sorts of snacks and finger-food. Everything from ribs to pastas, and salads to cheese sticks are on offer here. And as an added bonus, there is often live music at taverns!
Must-See Sites and Museums:
Because Cuba has been so cut off from most of the world for so many years, most of its buildings remain as they were in the 1950’s, making this an aesthetically pleasing place for tourists.
Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution): This is one of the best museums in Havana, and the whole country. The entrance fee is 8 CUC, which includes both the museum and the attached exhibit showcasing war planes and missiles!
Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña (Fort of Saint Charles): Also located in Havana, this 18th century fort is the third largest in all of the Americas. You can come here on a tour, or independently. Plan to spend a couple of hours exploring.
Plaza Jose Marti: Located in Cienfuegos, this is a very picturesque square. Surrounded by the Teatro Terry, Catedral de la Purisma and many more lovely buildings. This is a great spot for people-watching and relaxing.
Castillo del Morro: A 17th-century Spanish fortress located in Santiago de Cuba, it was originally intended to protect against invading pirates!
There are way too many top sites to list for Cuba. There are nine places that have been recognized by UNESCO, not to mention all of the colorful, neoclassical, Baroque, art-deco and colonial architecture that can be found around the country. Everything is a must-see!
Cities to Visit:
There are many fantastic cities spanning all across Cuba from Havana in the far west to Baracoa in the far east. The country is quite large, so if you only have a couple of weeks, we suggest seeing these top cities:
Havana – This is not only a top city in Cuba, but (in our opinion) the whole world! Upon arrival, you’ll be blown away by the architecture, the classic cars, the rhythmic music and the all-around fun vibe. With all of the incredible streets, museums, sites and beaches nearby, you could easily spend a whole week, or more visiting Havana.
Camaguey: Located in the east of the country, this was one of our favorite cities in all of Cuba. The people are friendly, there are many beautiful plazas and squares, and there is a very long pedestrian-only walking street. Plus, the food here was the cheapest we found in the whole country!
Trinidad: Although we were a bit put off by the hassle here, this is a top city for good reason. The colorful buildings and cobble stone streets are lovely, and the nearby Valley de los Ingenios is a great place for horseback riding and walking.
Vinales: The valley surrounding the small town of Vinales is where most of Cuba’s famous tobacco is grown. The limestone karsts, numerous caves, nearby beaches and beautiful countryside are what make this area so special. Definitely rent a scooter for your stay here and explore on your own steam.
Costs and Budget
Cuba has to be the most difficult country to come up with a set budget for. On one hand, it’s the cheapest destination we’ve ever traveled to, while on the other, it’s one of the most expensive.
There are two currencies in Cuba, one is called National Pesos (CUP) and one is called Convertible Pesos (CUC). If you were to only purchase items that are priced in CUP, then you would only be spending pennies each day. As an example:
A glass of fresh fruit juice at a peso shop costs the equivalent of $0.04 USD, while at a restaurant, it costs $2 USD.
A sandwich or a pizza at a peso shop will set you back between $0.40 and $1. At a restaurant, expect to pay between $3 and $10 for those types of foods.
You will always have to spend CUC for your accommodation and for tourist buses. But if you wanted to, you could eat only at peso shops (although we feel like you would be missing out on some of Cuba’s great cuisine). We suggest eating a mix of both peso food, restaurant food, and home-cooked food at a casa particular.
Most tourists will spend CUC currency, which is used for hotels/casa particulares, Internet, sit-down restaurants, cocktails, tourist buses and entrance fees to sites and museums.
A reasonable daily budget including sleeping at casas, eating a mix of peso and restaurant food, traveling by tourist bus, having cocktails and beers, and visiting many sites would be between $85 – $100 for a couple.
If you were to sleep at casas, eat only peso food, travel by hitchhiking or local means, not drinking alcohol and only visiting a few sites, your budget could easily be cut in half.
For more information on Cuba, check out our articles:
The Ultimate Guide to Independently Traveling Havana, Cuba
The Ultimate Guide to Independent Travel in Cuba
Planning a Trip to Cuba: To-Do List Before Travel