The Republic of Cuba is a country in the northern Caribbean where the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea meet. It comprises the island of Cuba, Isla de la Juventud, and several small archipelagos. It is a beautiful part of the world to visit with a vast array of activities and attractions for people of all interests to enjoy. If you want to visit this destination, you should plan your itinerary in advance to make sure you get the most out of your experience in this country. To help you plan your visit, here are the 20 best things to do in Cuba for first-timers.
20. Take a Train Ride Through the Valle de Los Ingenios
The Valle de Los Ingenios is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of three valleys, and it is one of the most beautiful parts of Cuba. Its name, when translated into English, is the Valley of the Sugar Mills, and the area has played an essential role in the industrial history of the country. It also has a dark history with the slave trade. Tourists can take a ride on the Baldwin Locomotive through the valley, and there are stops for visitors to climb the slave towers to enjoy the impressive views across the valley.
19. Have Fun at the Fiesta de la Cubani
If you want to combine having fun with absorbing yourself in Cuban culture, then you should head for the town of Bayamo. IN this town, the Fiesta de la Cubani is held each week. This involves street performances of musicians playing Caribbean tunes and Cuban dancers. There are also food stalls selling the fiery traditional dishes of Cuba.
18. Explore the Sierra Maestra
Those who enjoy the outdoors and hiking should go to the rolling hills of Sierra Maestra. These hills are set in the southern part of Cuba and lead to the Caribbean Sea, stretching from Cape Cruz to Guantanamo River. Although the hills are a beautiful part of the island, they also have a dark past. They were also used by revolutionaries, such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
17. Go to the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
One of the most significant landmarks in Cuba is the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, says The Lonely Planet. This fortress and citadel sit atop of the rugged cliffs on the south-eastern coast of Cuba close to the historical port town of Santiago de Cuba. Built in the early 17th-century, this castle has turrets, cannon batteries, palisades, and artillery platforms. It played an important role in the power struggles of the colonial age.
16. Learn About 20th-Century History at the Museum of the Revolution
Located in Havana, the Museum of the Revolution is housed within the Presidential Palace. It is one of the best places to learn about the revolutionary history of Cuba. The exhibitions include artifacts from the 1950s, when the country was at the height of its upheaval, including weaponry and the boat that brought Fidel Castro to the shores of Cuba. Another of the exhibitions is devoted to the communist rebuilding of the country during the 60s and 70s.
15. Stroll Along the Malecon of Havana
The Malecon is an iconic part of Havana, and it is also the main coastal thoroughfare. You can either drive along the road, take a trip in a classic car, or walk the 7 kilometer stretch on foot. You will see locals sitting on the roadside smoking cigars, street entertainers keeping visitors and local entertained, and Cadillacs driving along the bumpy road. It is also a fantastic place to admire the diversity of Cuban architecture, as you will see both Baroque and Art Deco structures. It is a place where you will see Cuban culture at its best.
14. Visit the Che Guevara Museum
The Crazy Tourist recommends a visit to the Che Guevara Museum. Che Guevara is one of the most significant political figures in Cuba’s history. This museum, which is located in Santa Clara, is dedicated to the life of this revolutionary. The main feature of the museum is the great marble mausoleum, which is the final resting place of Che Guevara along with 29 of his fellow revolutionaries. There is a diverse exhibition of artifacts relating to Guevara and a bronze statue of him. You will also see architectural artworks that represent his character.
13. Walk Around Old Havana
The Old Havana district of the country’s capital is a UNESCO World Heritage site that sits at the heart of the city. It has striking architecture that varies from Andalusian-style arcades a baroque-townhouses. The two main squares in this district are Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza de Armas, and these are lined with neo-classical palaces and historic churches. There are also urban canals and fortifications to see. Furthermore, Old Havana is a great place to sample some traditional Cuban cuisine as there are many eateries in this area.
12. See the Art at Museuo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Art lovers should visit the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Many would argue that this is the finest art gallery in the Caribbean, says The Lonely Planet. It has the most comprehensive collection of Cuban art anywhere in the world. You will take a journey through time as the artworks chronicle the various artistic periods and represent the lives of the people living in Cuba at these times. In addition to the paintings, there are also sculpture works by famous artists. There is a second branch of this artistic institution nearby that you should also visit, and this has art from around the world.
11. Stroll Around Valle de Vinales
The two most famous agricultural exports from Cuba are coffee and tobacco. You can learn more about both at the Valle de Vinales, which is a large, working tobacco plantation where they also grow coffee. It is a popular stop on many tours, and many would argue that you have a better experience than visiting the cigar or coffee factories. You get to stroll around the plantation and to try fresh Cuban coffee and cigars if you wish.
10. See the Architecture of Trinidad
Close to the Escambray Mountains is the city of Trinidad. This colonial city is known for being one of the best places to see Spanish colonial architecture. You will see many pretty buildings as you stroll along the cobbled streets, many of which are brightly colored. Although it is a city, it has the feel of a collection of mountain villages. Other than Havana, the capital of the island, this is one of the most popular places to visit in Cuba, and also one of the most photographed.
9. Watch a Cabaret Performance
In the daytime, many of the activities revolve around outdoor activities to admire the natural beauty or architecture of Cuba. However, there are also plenty of fun activities to enjoy at night. One activity you could choose is watching a performance at a cabaret bar. There are plenty of cabaret venues in Cuba, and these usually reflect the old-time variety shows of the 1950s with various types of performance. One thing they all have in common is the elaborate carnival costumes and lively dance numbers. The most famous cabaret show in Cuba is the Tropicana Club. Another great venue is the Cabaret Le Parisien at the Hotel Nacional, which emulates the performances at the world-famous Moulin Rouge.
8. Have Fun at Disco Alaya
If you are looking for a fun activity to enjoy in the evenings, then a good option is Disco Alaya. This is a dance club with bars, dance floors, and huge video screens. It is different from any other club you are likely to visit on your travels as it is set inside a cave on the side of a hill. It is a very strange experience to climb a hill in beautiful surroundings and then enter a loud, neon-lit dance club. This is an adults-only venue.
7. Drink Mojitos
The history and origins of the Mojito cocktail are widely debated, but the Cubans proudly claim that this cocktail was created on their island. Therefore, it is a drink that you will see on every cocktail menu in any bar you visit during your time in Cuba. Even if you are not a regular cocktail drinker, you should try at least one cocktail while you are in Cuba as part of the Cuban experience.
6. Watch the El Morro Cannon-Firing Ceremony
The El Morro cannon-firing ceremony is something that takes place every night. It is part of an 18th-century historical re-enactment that takes place on top of the castle walls. The soldiers put on a military garb parade before the cannon is fired into the Caribbean. The original intention of the cannon-firing was to ward off pirates. Although it takes place at 9 pm every night, you should go a little earlier. This will allow you to appreciate the stunning views from this elevated position and to enjoy the sunset.
5. Dine at Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso
There has been an increased interest in Cuban cuisine in culinary circles in recent years, and people are beginning to recognize the beauty of the unique flavors in the cuisine from this part of the world. One of the best restaurants to sample the delights of Cuban cuisine is at the Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso. It is a small restaurant set on the top of a hill with views of a large agricultural valley. The restaurant has a farm-to-table ethos, and there is both indoor and outdoor seating. Many tours of the island include a stop-off for lunch at this restaurant.
4. Spend Time at Playa Las Tumbas
Cuba is a fantastic place to go for a beach holiday as there are many stunning beaches where you can spend your time. Each of these offers something different. While some are great places for families to spend time, others are ideal for those who enjoy watersports. In terms of beauty, one of the best beaches in Cuba is Playa Las Tumbas. This is on the western point of Cuba, and it boasts white sands, palm trees, and clear waters. It is part of the Peninsula de Guanahacabibes National Park. As this is one of the quieter beaches, it is a wonderful place to relax in beautiful surroundings.
3. Explore Topes de Collantes National Park
Approximately 25 minutes away from Trinidad, you will find the Topes de Collantes National Park. This national park sits at the foot of the Escambray Mountains. There are lots of short hiking trails to enjoy and some pretty swimming holes. You will also see interesting geographical features, such as waterfalls and underground caves.
2. Take a Tour of Havana in a Classic Car
Cars are probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Cuba, but one of the most popular tourist attractions in Havana is to take a tour of the city in a classic car. There are also classic car tours in several other locations in Cuba. This is a fantastic activity for car enthusiasts visiting this part of the world, and it is a great way of seeing the sights.
1. Visit Hemingway Museum
According to Time Out, the best thing to do in Cuba for first-timers is to visit the Hemingway Museum. This museum is in Ernest Hemingway’s former home, which is an estate on a hill with a swimming pool. It is one of the best-preserved homes in Cuba. When you visit, you will see a Cuban band playing at the entrance near a rum bar. The tour of the estate includes interesting stories about Hemingway’s life.