Cuba is one of the most exotic Caribbean islands. The country has a rich cultural heritage and history preserved to this day. The first thing that comes to mind of every tourist is Cuban music and the ancient buildings and cars moving on the streets of Havana.
The island is extremely rich in natural attractions. Over 5,000 kilometers of beach and amazing coral reefs attract every lover of beach fun. It is no coincidence that Cuban beauty has inspired writers such as Ernest Hemingway.
It is hardly possible to make an exact list of places that you should see here because every corner is special, but here are some of the must-see stops when you visit Cuba.
1. Old Havana (Habana Vieja)
Havana is Cuba’s business card. As a city of exceptional cultural and historical heritage, Havana is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the old buildings have been renovated, but this does not kill the specific appearance of the city.
Some of the most visited sights are the Plaza de la Catedral and the Catedral de San Cristobal, where you can enjoy the typical Cuban Baroque architectural style; the Bodeguita del Medio restaurant, one of the places Hemingway loved to visit; Plaza Vieja, housing buildings of more than 2 centuries. Many more places are worth your time in Havana. Take at least a few days for this impressive city.
Varadero is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. With its white sand and crystal clear waters, ideal for diving, snorkeling, and other water sports, the place has become a major tourist destination. There are over 50 hotels around the beach, offering different types and budgets of accommodation.
If you love nature and long hikes – visit the Cueva de Ambrosio and the Cueva de Musulmanes, both located in the Varadero Ecological Park. If you like more relaxed walks – Parque Josone with its flower gardens, calm lake, and several restaurants is the place for you.
Trinidad has a rich history, in the past posed as a commercial center. Today in the city you can see a number of buildings preserved from the 17th century. It is no coincidence that the city is among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Here you can visit the Plaza Mayor, which is located in the city center, or the Church of the Holy Trinity, built in neoclassical style. Lovers of cultural events will enjoy the Museum of Colonial Architecture and the Casa de Aldeman Ortiz Gallery.
Not far from Trinidad is the Valle de Los Ingenios, where many historical monuments from the time when Trinidad was rich in sugar plantations are preserved.
Guardalavaca is a great place for people who want to enjoy a beach holiday away from the crowds and hectic everyday life. Here you can enjoy water sports such as diving and snorkeling, and relax under one of the shadows of the nearby trees. Many tourist agencies in Guardalavaca organize day trips in nature and sailing trips.
Nearby are Chorro de Maita, where you will meet the local Indian population, and Santiago de Cuba for when you want to get acquainted with the typical Cuban culture.
5. Playa Paraíso, Cayo Largo del Sur
Another of the best beaches in Cuba. Here tranquility will overwhelm you, surrounded by the endless blue sea and fine white sand. Playa Paraíso is the perfect place for a tropical beach holiday.
6. Cayo Coco
The island on which Cayo Coco is located has repeatedly inspired Hemingway’s novels. This is one of the most secluded beaches in Cuba, ideal for a romantic getaway. The island is connected by a bridge to the mainland, which provides easy access for visitors.
The most famous beach here is Playa Los Flamencos, but if you prefer maximum privacy, visit Playa Prohibida. If you want something different every day, Cayo Guillermo and Playa Pilar are nearby, with their long beaches and luxury resorts nearby.
7. Parque Nacional Viñales (Valle de Viñales)
Like many other sites in Cuba, this park is also among the UNESCO protected sites. The place is ideal for long hikes and horseback riding. The landscape is extremely impressive, dotted with rock formations among the hills.
Fruits, vegetables, and tobacco are grown at the foot of the hills. Day trips from Havana and other cities are often organized to Parque Nacional Viñales.
Baracoa is the oldest city in Cuba, dating back to the early 16th century. Relatively separated from other bustling cities in the past, today it is a major tourist destination because of its rich cultural and historical heritage and preserved ancient atmosphere and architecture.
Here you can find beautiful natural landscapes – from waterfalls and beaches to the remote jungle. The top of Mount El Yunque contrasts with the beach atmosphere and invites tourists to mountain sports. During your mountain walk, you can see rare birds and impressive flora.
For those who prefer museums and galleries – Museo Municipal will introduce you to the history of the Baroque. For fans of beach holidays and sea sports – nearby is Playa Maguana, one of the most beautiful in Cuba. There are frequent flights to the city, especially those departing from Havana.
9. The Malecon, Havana
This tourist attraction of Havana was built in 1902 and fully reveals the history of the city. During your walk along the entire seven-kilometer promenade, you will encounter ancient buildings presenting the changes in architectural styles over the years. Take some time to look at the people around you – here you will meet local fishermen, families with children, and young lovers.
10. Che Guevara Mausoleum, Santa Clara
Santa Clara is a historical place known for the last battle of Che Guevara in 1958. This place will take you back in time and enrich your historical knowledge. Che Guevara’s mausoleum and his body are located in the Memorial Comandante Ernesto “Che” Guevara. A huge bronze monument has also been built. His personal belongings are on display at the Museo Historico de la Revolucion. If you want to learn a lot about Cuban history, this is the place.
11. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
The museum exhibits works of Cuban and international art dating back centuries ago. The museum consists of two buildings where you can find works of art from ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, and Europe. The Palacio de Bellas Artes will intrigue you with sculptures and paintings by Cuban artists from antiquity to the present day.
12. Castillo de San Pedro del Morro, Santiago de Cuba
Castillo del Morro is one of the most famous Spanish-style fortresses in Cuba. Dating back to the 17th century, the massive structure towers over the coast of Santiago. Over the years, it served as a defense against pirate attacks, and later as a prison. Today you can see the halls turned into museums, where you will learn a lot about pirates and the history of the fortress.
It is one of the must-see stops on your trip to Santiago de Cuba. The Diego Velazquez Museum and Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia and the Parque Baconao with its beautiful botanical gardens and coffee plantations are also nearby.
13. Peninsula de Zapata – Cienaga De Zapata (Ciénaga de Zapata)
If you want to observe rare species of birds and wildlife, this is your place. The peninsula is part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Sites. Here you can easily see and photograph some of the most attractive parrots, waterhens, and herons. Crocodiles are also not a rare sight. Much of the area has been declared a reserve – Gran Parque Natural de Montemar. Nearby is Playa Giron, famous for its battlefields during The Bay of Pigs Invasion. There is also a museum where you can learn more about this invasion. Playa Larga is a great place for divers and beach lovers. One of the main attractions of the peninsula is the crocodile farm Criadero de Cocodrilos.
14. El Nicho Waterfalls
These impressive waterfalls, promising a beautiful landscape, are located a few kilometers from Trinidad. Parque El Nicho has routes that take you through the dense shadows of the trees in the jungle to enjoy the coolness of the hot day and feel the tranquility that nature offers. Once you reach the waterfalls, you can indulge in diving and swimming in their waters or relaxing on the shore.
Throughout your trip here you will enjoy beautiful views (opportunity for amazing photos), and if you are lucky you will come across the typical Cuban bird tocororo.
15. Parque Historico Militar, Havana
As one of the most historic places in Cuba, Havana also has a military history park. It covers the buildings of two ancient fortresses – Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (El Morro) and Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana. El Morro was built as a defense against pirate attacks in the 16th century. If you reach the top of the fortress you will see an incredible view.
Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana is located near El Morro and is one of the most expensive and massive fortresses built by the Spanish.
The biggest attraction here is at night when actors dress up as soldiers from the past and perform ancient ceremonies.
16. Plaza de la Revolucion (Jose Marti Memorial), Havana
Last on our list, but not least (especially historical) is the Plaza de la Revolucion. Here, Fidel Castro gathered over a million people to listen to his speeches. A memorial to Cuba’s hero Jose Marti has also been built at the site. You have the opportunity to see the memorial from the inside and to climb to its highest part and see Havana from a bird’s eye view.