Since diplomatic relations with the US were re-established in 2015, Cuba has fast grown in popularity as a travel destination. And as the largest Island in the Caribbean, it certainly isn’t short on attractions. Whilst there are plenty of reasons to visit Cuba, we’ve narrowed it down to 10 of the best.
1. It’s still unspoilt
Due to decades of political isolation, Cuba has remained largely undiscovered. It’s colonial cities and white sand beaches are yet to be overrun with tourists. And the island is still untainted by chain corporations such as Macdonalds and Starbucks.
This all adds to Cuba’s charm, with locals genuinely happy to see the tourists that do reach this colourful isle. So if you’re looking for an authentic travel experience, this is by far your best destination.
2. The colourful architecture
With influences ranging from French neoclassical and Art Deco to Spanish Moorish and colonial baroque, Cuba’s architecture never fails to enchant its visitors. Whether it’s in UNESCO-listed Old Havana or along the cobbled streets of Trinidad, you’re going to be snapping more than a few photos of these brightly-coloured facades.
Although buildings such as the Capitol Building and the Catedral de la Habana undoubtedly take the centre stage in Havana, don’t miss the city’s less obvious architectural gems. Havana’s crumbling colonial buildings have their own kind of beauty and all add to its enchanting appeal.
3. It’s a living museum
Take a walk through the streets of Havana and it’s like stepping back in time. Back in 1960, former political leader Fidel Castro put an embargo in place to ban all American imports. As a result, Cuba is an eclectic mix of goods that have survived the past six decades.
The most obvious example of this is the American-style classic cars you’ll find on Cuba’s streets. Dating back to the ’50s, these vehicles are a source of pride for their owners and have been lovingly maintained without access to the original spare parts. You’ll see all kinds of models, ranging from colourful Chevrolets to Fords, creating a living car museum.
4. You can stay with the locals
Whilst there are plenty of hotels in Cuba, nothing beats staying in a Casa Particular. Translating to mean ‘private home’, Casas Particulars are essentially Cuban homestays as you pay to rent a room in a local’s house or apartment.
This form of accommodation is widespread across Cuba and gives you a unique insight into local life. Eating Cuban food and learning about the island’s history from your host is undoubtedly the best way to immerse yourself in Cuba’s culture.
5. The beautiful beaches
As you might expect of a Caribbean Island, Cuba is home to plenty of beaches. A total of 300 to be exact. Each offering picture-perfect stretches of powdery, white sand lapped by turquoise blue waters.
Some of the best beaches include Playa Los Flamencos on the island of Cayo Coco, Player Pilar in Cayo Guillermo and Playa Ancón on Cuba’s south coast. But wherever you choose, you’re going to feel a million miles away from home.
6. The great weather
Cuba enjoys a warm, subtropical climate, making for a great holiday destination at almost any time of year. There’s plenty of sunshine, with the island on average observing eight hours of sunlight a day and around 300 sunny days per year.
Cuba does experience two distinct seasons, with the dry season lasting from November to April and the wet season from May to October. But despite being named the west season, these months tend to see rains fall in bursts of showers, often drying up quickly to reveal clear skies once again.
7. You can get off grid
Although WiFi can be found in Cuba, it likely isn’t free and certainly isn’t up to the download speed you’re used to back home. But whilst the lack of internet might seem a problem to some, a digital detox can actually make your trip.
Without the distractions of social media or emails from work, you can truly switch off and immerse yourself in your Cuban experience. You’ll most likely surprise yourself by how little you miss Facebook or Twitter.
8. Cuban music and salsa
Life in Cuba moves to the beat. Whether it’s in Havana’s lively bars, a car blasting Regaetton or people playing guitar in the street, music seems to come from every corner of this vibrant isle.
And with great music, comes great dance. Cuban salsa is a pastime loved by the locals, so it’s impossible to leave without picking up a few moves. Either sign up for classes or head to the clubs, the Caribbean and Latin blend of music will have you on the dance floor in no time.
9. It’s full of natural beauty
Although Cuba’s cities and beaches often steal the spotlight, the island is also packed with natural attractions. To the southeast, the Sierra Maestra mountain range is home to waterfalls, hidden caves and a variety of flora and fauna. And those that enjoy a hike can take on Pico Turquino, Cuba’s highest peak.
Further west lies the UNESCO World Heritage-Listed Vinales Valley. Encircled by karst hill formations, this verdant valley is adored for its unhurried pace of life and stunning landscape. Explore the surrounding countryside and working farms on horseback, by bike or on foot. There’s also rock climbing and bird watching on offer.
10. The unique history
Cuba has a tumultuous recent history, with the Cuban revolution and socialist regime of Fidel Castro defining the 20th century. Many museums offer an insight into the island’s past, with must-visits including the Museum of the Revolution in Old Havana and the Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara.
There’s also plenty of other historical sites, such as the Bay of Pigs in the south and the two fortresses of Old Havana. But above all, a visit to Cuba allows you to see the realities of socialism for yourself, not just what you hear on the news.
Keen to explore Cuba? We visit Havana, the Vinales Valley and more top destinations on our group tours.