Cuba things to see and do

Tourist offices

Cuban Tourist Board in the UK

154 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8HL, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 7240 6655 or 09001 600 295 (24-hour brochure request line; calls cost 60p per minute).
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1700.

Cuban Tourist Board in the USA

80 Broad St, Ste 3200, New York, NY, 10004, United States
Tel: (212) 635 9530.
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1700.

Things to see and do

Bask on beautiful beaches

Cuba boasts beautiful beaches to soak up some sunshine, from Playas del Este near Havana, where the locals play, to exclusive island resorts like Cayo Coco. Santa Maria offers soft sand and turquoise waters just 20 minutes from Havana, whilst Playa Ancón near Trinidad, and Playa las Tumbas on the Guanhacabibes Peninsula, a UNESCO biosphere, are both picture-perfect.

Canter through the Cuban countryside

Saddle up and gallop through the scenic sugarcane fields around Trinidad and the Valle de Ingenios, or the hills, tobacco fields and valleys of Pinar del Río. At the likes of Rancho La Guabina, adults can try their hand at playing cowboy with lasso lessons, whilst Kids love pony rides offered at bigger Havana parks like Parque Almendares.

Climb Torre de Manaca Iznaga for views over history

Enjoy outstanding views of the Valley of the Sugar Mills from the Torre de Manaca Iznaga – a former slave watchtower by an old plantation house-turned restaurant. At the foot of the structure, the large bell that sounded in warning if a slave tried to escape still lies on the ground – a reminder of a sobering past.

Drink daiquiris like Hemingway in El Floridita

Follow in Hemingway's footsteps with a pub crawl to his favourite haunts, having a daiquiri (or three) at El Floridita and a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio. Follow up with a visit to his suite at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where he penned part of For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Explore Cuba's oldest fort, Castillo de la Real Fuerza

Wander around the Castillo de la Real Fuerza and its new shipwreck museum. The oldest of Havana's three forts is still standing because it was, to all intents and purposes, built in the wrong place.

Explore mountains and caves

Pinar del Río is arguably Cuba's most beautiful province, and its most outstanding feature must be the mogotes: oddly rounded limestone mountains, covered in lush vegetation. There is beauty below the surface too; the caves here are awash with stalactites and stalagmites, and underground rivers.

Feel the beat in Santiago de Cuba

Experience the country's best musicians and dancers hard at work in Santiago de Cuba. Don’t miss Ballet Folklorico Cutumba – their Afro-Cuban performances are simply spectacular – and the city’s annual carnival, a vibrant celebration of colourful costumes, choreography and traditional conga music. 

Find your revolution spirit at Museo de la Revolución

Visit the Museo de la Revolución for a historical context of modern Cuba. Outside is the Granma, a cabin cruiser built for 12 people. In 1956, 80 exiled rebels (both Castros and Ché among them) came perilously close to sinking the overcrowded yacht, as they sought to return to Cuba.

Grasp the horror of the Bay of Pigs

Take an emotional journey to the museum at Playa Girón, scene of the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. The display includes tanks, aircraft and personal items from the battle’s victims. Far from the Cold War, Playa Girón’s warm waters offer much for scuba divers, with flooded caves, a sea wall and superb visibility.

Meander along the Malecón

Join fishermen, families and couples, and take a stroll along the Malecón, the sea wall that links Old Havana to the western edge of Vedado. Careful though: during high seas and storms, the surf surges over the wall and the boulevard is sometimes closed to traffic as a result.

Meet a mummy at Museo Emilio Bacardí

Visit the Museo Emilio Bacardí in Santiago de Cuba (“the heroic city”). It contains the rum magnate's collection of antiques and fine art and the Moncada Barracks, where Fidel Castro launched an abortive uprising in 1953. The Castillo El Morro is now a museum of piracy.

Notice the novelties at Palacio de los Capitanes Generales

Head to the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana for a glimpse of colonial majesty at the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, former residence of the Spanish Crown's representatives. Now the Museo de la Ciudad, treasures include a leather cannon and a throne room built for the Spanish monarch but never used.

Party in Havana

Live the high life in Havana's Vedado district. The Hotel Nacional has hosted gangsters and film stars and is well placed for a mojito, as well as carnival processions along the Malecón. For a taste of the traditional, try a chilled daiquiri in one of the leafy patios of the Old Town.

Scuba dive at Treasure Island

There are 30 dive sites at Varadero alone and more reefs around Isla de la Juventud – the inspiration for Treasure Island. The island offers few crowds, bountiful marine life and the chance to wreck dive. One of the world's biggest reefs is offshore at Cayo Coco, and the underwater eye candy at María la Gorda is spectacular.

Seek out the characters of Baracoa

A visit to this lost-in-time corner of Cuba is a must for history and nature buffs. Getting to the quaint seaside town was made feasible only in the 1960s with the construction of La Farola – one of Cuba's most scenic roads. In isolation, Baracoa led a fantastical, fabled existence. The tall tales and colourful characters still remain today.

Take a plane to paradise, Cayo Largo

This small island off the southern coast was developed exclusively for tourism and boasts Cuba's most pristine beaches. Accessible only by plane, there is an air of exclusivity to the pure white sands and shimmering cyan seas. Nature enthusiasts will delight as the beaches here are sea turtle nesting areas too.

Take a tour of Capitolio Nacional

Take a tour of the Capitolio in Havana's centre. Built by a dictator to mimic Washington DC's Capitol (though the detailing on Havana's version is finer and structure taller), it housed a puppet parliament until the Revolution. Today it is home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences.

Take a trip back in time at Trinidad

Feel the history in the colonial town of Trinidad. Founded in 1514, time seemingly stood still in the late 19th century and today locals still ride horses down cobbled streets, past houses painted in pastel colours. Elegant mansions are now museums in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Trek through a tropical paradise

Walk in the footsteps of the revolutionary army to Cuba's highest peak, Pico Turquino (1972m), in the Oriente's Sierra Maestra range. Other hiking gems include the Sierra del Rosario and Viñales areas of Pinar del Río province, around Baracoa in Guantánamo and the peaceful peaks above the Embalse Hanabanilla reservoir.

Visit the resting place of a revolutionary at Santa Clara

Visit revolutionary Santa Clara, and the monument, museum and mausoleum of Ché Guevara. His body was only returned from Bolivia in 1997, 30 years after his capture and execution. In 1959, he and 300 rebels defeated 3,000 of Batista's troops here, leading to the dictator's flight just days later.