The beautiful city of Havana is the capital of the island of Cuba has a lot to offer, so let’s find out here what to do in Havana Cuba! This island has long been inaccessible to most American travelers, but fortunately, things change.
In recent years, Cuba has made some major changes, as the United States has finally facilitated travel restrictions. More Americans are visiting Cuba than ever, and tourism is-for good reason!
Just an hour from Miami by plane, Havana is a fascinating mix of old and new vintage cars and a colorful, (often crumbling) infrastructure; Energy vibrates with a mixture of Spanish colonial architecture, thriving nightlife, and theatrical art galleries.
For a small town, Havana seems to have an endless list of things to do for any type of traveler. Maybe you’re a cigar lover or just looking for R&R, Havana has something for everyone.
Best things to do in Havana
After spending some time in the capital during my Cuba trip, I wanted to build a complete Havana guide to help you plan your own trip.
It is part of what makes Havana unique, and what fascinated me especially: the feeling that there is always something more to discover in each shift.
Of course, the US trade embargo and the Cuban Government itself have not been particularly friendly with the Cuban people, but they still seem to take advantage of the situation and invite tourists with open arms.
Whether it’s a sensual salsa show or a dive bar hidden behind the narrow streets of a pastel-colored neighborhood, you’ll never get tired of finding things!
Visit El Morro Castle
El Morro Castle, also known as “Castillo del Morro”, is a good starting point when you arrive in Havana. It is located on a cliff head at the entrance to Havana Bay-it should not be overlooked! It is a great fortress with an equally impressive history.
The castle was built from 1590 to protect Havana from military attacks, and also served as a guard post to keep an eye on enemies (like Pirates!). It consists of 3 bastions associated with curtain walls, barracks and also cisterns, a chapel, headquarters, a cellar, stables, and dungeons.
Today, El Morro Castle is used as a museum and can be visited by a small charge. The breathtaking view makes it a great first stop, a short taxi ride from the city center.
Explore Old Havana walking
Old Havana is both the city center and the community with the second highest population density in Havana and it is probably the most beautiful area of the city and a must-see. Many buildings have fallen into ruins, but some have also begun to be restored.
The area is a colorful labyrinth of narrow streets, bustling neighborhoods, patios, forts, monuments and churches that make up the pulsating heart of Havana. Although you should definitely enjoy walking around the old town, beware of riders, local scammers are trying to make a mess of themselves.
Tropicana Nightclub Show
Known as one of the most popular cabaret shows in the world, The Tropicana nightclub show is a world-famous game in a lush and tropical outdoor place with colorful lights, glitter, and glamour. Loaded and sensual sauce, it is essential in any trip to Havana Cuba.
Performers’ striking costumes are spectacular, making the show as a whole to leave you with your mouth open. The tickets are a little more expensive-about $85 per person-but they include a welcome drink and a cigar. We had a great night there!
Tour Havana with Vintage car
When you think about things to do in Havana, the odds of rolling in a colorful, convertible vintage with games up and down the street, is a superior contender. In Havana, there are plenty of options for vintage car trips, and most of it rides like a regular taxi.
For pre-planned tours, there is usually a flat rate (about 40-50 CUC/hour), as the driver says in front. But if you feel spontaneous, you can easily drive a vintage car anywhere in the city. Make sure to stop at some photogenic places to get these photos on Instagram!
Go for a walk along the Malecon “El Malecon”
If you want an intimate view of life in Havana, go to the Malecon. Translated as the “Pier “, the Malecon is a restored walkway along the northern coast of the city and offers beautiful views of the iconic architecture of Havana and the coast.
It is also the unofficial symbol of the city, often seen in postcards and in films. The Malecon is a destination in itself, so the food and music are plentiful all the way along the pier. Sunset is a particularly good time to sit along the sea wall with a box of Rome .
And if you visit at the end of July or early August, the Malecon comes to life with one of the biggest festivals of the Cuban-Havana carnival.
Enjoy Cuban cigars at the National Hotel
Cuba has bred smoking cigars in an artistic way. For this reason, you can find a good cigar everywhere in Havana-but if you are looking for the best place to light up and take in the classic, glamorous atmosphere that this city wakes up, look no further than the National Hotel.
Hotel Nacional is not only the most famous hotel in Havana-it is also home to one of the best cigar stores in the city called the House of Habano. Or you can enjoy your cigar in the hotel courtyard bar as we did, relax amid beautiful sea views, palm trees, and even real peacock live walking!
Visit Hemingway’s Pits
Ernest Hemingway lived outside Havana for twenty years, and of course, got a lot of inspiration for his city novels ? more specifically his bars. The Floridita, two brothers and the Bodeguita of the middle were Hemingway’s favorite bars when he lived there, and today they can be visited like any other bar.
Beware, however, as some of them have become tourist traps. The Bodeguita was my favorite Hemingway-approved watering hole and still retains much of the dim, authentic atmosphere you would expect Hemingway probably loved. They have live salsa music, and they also make a medium mojito, which never hurts.
Try a Cuban pizza!
Sure, everybody knows they should eat a Cuban sandwich in Cuba. But did you know that these famous sandwiches were created in Florida? Instead, why not book a classic Cuban pizza while you visit Havana!
What makes the Cuban pizza special is “sautéed”-mainly a sacred mixture of onions, garlic and peppers sauteed in olive oil with tomato and spices. In Havana, the crappy pizza is everywhere, and the good stuff is a little harder to find.
For starters, I recommend on the way to 5 corners Trattoria in barracks Avenue. Your pizza is baked in a wooden oven, and the place is a prime location to watch people. Another tasty place is Bella Ciao, who has a reputation for the freshest pizza (and pasta!) in Havana.
Hit the nearby beaches
Cuba’s proximity to Ecuador means that it is always the bathing station in Havana. The entire coast of the island is more or less white sand, a dream of turquoise water, so it is difficult to make mistakes with the collection of a beach.
If you are looking for a festive atmosphere, head to Santa María del Mar, Havana’s largest and most famous beach. The disadvantage of this, however, is the crowd. But if you are visiting in the fall or winter you should be fine.
If you are looking for a quieter beach day that is not so popular with tourists, you can try Playa Boca Blind. Or better yet, Playa Jibacoa (my favorite beach in Cuba).
What about some rooms in a box?
Stroll through the streets of Havana for a night in the city and soon you will learn all about “Rome in a box “. Known as the boxed juice for older children, this Rotgut ROM is sold in individual packages. You will see the party of the locals with their box of burial or ironing.
It’s cheap as hell, pretty nasty, and will leave you with a painful headache the next morning if you drink too much of it. But if you want to make new friends, open a new box with your teeth and pass me the turn!
Visit the Capitol Building
The Capitol, or Cuba Capitol Building, was built in 1929 and is headquartered in the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC. It has been closed to the public in the last 8 years by a large restoration project – but recently re-opened.
Formerly used as a Ministry of Science and Technology, the newly renovated structure is now the headquarters of the National Assembly of Cuba, where they elected a new president in April. Visitors can Tour Capitol in groups from 15 Tuesday to Sunday each week.
Dancing with Cuban music
Salsa is everywhere in Havana-in bars, restaurants, even improvised dances along sidewalks is a regular event. We hit bars and nightclubs a couple of different times to watch live music, one of my favorites was a bar called Kilometro Zero.
But if you want to take your admiration salsa one step further, sign up for a lesson. Casa del Son is the largest and best dance school in Havana, offering local and visitor classes in almost all kinds of traditional Cuban dances.
Look at the Cannons!
Since the 18th. A cannon has been fired in Havana every night at 9 pm in Fortaleza San Carlos de la Cabaña (Fort of St Charles). At that time, Havana was divided into two, and the Cuban Spanish rulers would fire the cannon to inform Habaneros of refuge against the pirate attacks.
Today, the nightly event is still a good performance, equipped with a drum roller and artillery cadets covering the fort dressed in colonial uniforms. The event is free, always on time, and the spectators are encouraged! It’s one of the less known things to do in the Havana.
Keep hydrated with Guarapo
What is Guarapo, question? It is raw sugar cane juice that has been extracted from palm juices, and also the most delicious drink that can be found in Cuba. The cheapest, too. It is usually mixed with lime and ice and can be found practically in every bar, restaurant or Bodega Street.
It can also be tasted like an alcoholic beverage (usually mixed with Rum). Guarapo is in the best drinks to try in Havana and a consistently excellent place to get your sugar cane drink on Arsenal Street, right in front of the train station.
Viñales Tobacco Fields Road trip
After a few days in Havana, no one will blame you for wanting to escape the city for a day to find something else to do, and the city of Viñales should be made. It is a small village hidden in the midst of green fields, tobacco plantations, and rock formations.
At about 2-3 hours drive from Havana, Viñales makes a great day trip, although I recommend spending at least one night there to enjoy the full feeling of the city.
There are buses that depart daily from Havana to Viñales, or you can rent a classic car as we did. Viñales is best known for its tobacco and Stone hills. Riding is a popular way to enjoy the lush scenery and environment of the country.
Visit Camera obscura
You can get a brilliant panoramic view of 360 degrees from Old Havana from the top floor of the Gómez Vila building in Plaza Vieja, the tallest building in Old Havana. It has the only dark camera “Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
The camera projects real-time images of the city to an extension of 30x through a peephole on a dark screen. Havanas Camera obscura costs only 2 CUC to visit, and even the view from the ceiling is quite well worth it.
Travel in Fusterlandia
Cuba’s rich artistic tradition is alive and well in part thanks to the artist José Fuster, who has built a mosaic of the wonders of the tile called Fusterlandia in the fishing village of Jaimanitas, just 20 minutes from Havana.
Fusterlandia is unique in that it is not its own site-specific illustrations, but rather handmade in the neighborhood. Residents have actually allowed Fuster to decorate their homes and turn it into colorful, gaudy beads.
There is a gallery that can be visited between 9:30 am and 4:00 pm, from Wednesday to Sunday. If you don’t get to the gallery, you can always drive through the neighborhood to get a sense of things.
Eat at a Local Paladar
If you only adhere to the public management restaurants frequented by tourists, you will miss the real taste of Cuba. So make sure you stop at a palate (local management restaurant) for an authentic Cuban culinary experience.
Good Cuban food is a delicious fusion of African and Spanish food, and very similar to a lot of food that can be found throughout the Caribbean-rich, dense, and heavy in spices.
A great paladar that I recommend is called San Cristóbal, located on the ground floor of a mansion from the early twentieth century. Don’t forget to try the traditional old clothes. Minced meat, stewed with vegetables!
Explore the green forest of Havana
The Havana Forest (Havana’s lungs) is a swamp forest that houses the Almendares River and is a popular place for locals to walk away from the city center and breathe fresh air. It is a recreational area for the habaneros with playgrounds and a concert amphitheater.
Many of Havana’s classic car rides pass through the park. The 300-year-old Banyan trees are covered with green vines and are a very cool place to visit. You can see the local practice of Santeria in the river, a Caribbean religion where members sacrifice animals.
Plaza De La Revolución
The largest public square in Cuba and one of the largest in the world is the Plaza de la Revolucion, where the main offices of the Government of Cuba are located. The Ministry of the Interior has a massive mural of Cuban revolutionary hero Che Guevara.
The square is a little out of the way from the heart of the capital, so most tourists come there through one of the classic car taxis that can be rented from Old Havana. Driving with this famous mural was one of my favorite things to do in the city.
Pop de Hemingway’s Old House
On the outskirts of Havana lies the Finca Vigia, former colonial house of Ernesto Hemingway. This is where he wrote some of his most famous novels like: For Whom Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. You can’t go in the house but look through the windows.
There is a museum that opens from 10 to 4 PM from Monday to Saturday and from 9:00 to 13:00 on Sundays. It’s a bit of a move to get out of Havana, so just do this if you have little extra time. Visit early in the morning to avoid the bus crowds Tour.
Kempinski Hotel Rooftop Pool
This beautiful panoramic pool terrace and Bar at Havana’s Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski offers stunning views of the old Havana area, including the newly renovated Capitol building.
This new Infinity roof pool (and luxury hotel) is an example of things to come as Cuba prepares for increased tourism. Unfortunately, Americans are not technically authorized to book this hotel as it is owned by the Cuban government.
Fabrica de Arte Cubano
The Cuban Art Factory was founded by the famous Afro-Cuban musician X-Alfonso and is one of the most fashionable places in Havana to suck in the modern Cuban culture. It is a mix of a nightclub, a gallery and an action center that promotes Cuban local artists, writers, photographers, and filmmakers.
Open from Thursday to Sunday, this giant factory building is often packed by 11 pm and is the perfect place to start your wild night in Havana city. Each room has different art expression as live bands, others full of art. You get a wonderful experience, no matter what you’re in.
Museum of the Revolution
The former presidential palace, Revolution Museum of Havanna represents the period before, during and just after the Cuban revolution. Bullet holes can still be found on the central staircase of a failed assassination attempt by President Fulgencio Batista.
Back are some old military vehicles, tanks used during the operation of the Bay of Pigs, airplanes, and yacht used to transship Castro from Mexico to Cuba to start the revolution in the first place.
Climb the Guarida’s Staircase
Probably Havana’s most famous palate, La Lair restaurant, is located on the top floor of an old dilapidated-looking building, complete with a beautiful large staircase. Traveling celebrities usually stop to eat here.
It’s usually hard to book a table, and food prices are not cheap either. But you’re really paying for the interesting atmosphere and history. It feels like you’re starring in your own 50 international spy movie! Very cool.
Getting to Havana (and its surroundings)
Despite the recent easing of Cuba’s travel laws, some restrictions remain in place for Americans. Technically you can only visit if you fall into one of the 12 special categories.
But there are some ways around the rules and it is very possible to visit as a tourist if you follow some completely legal “loopholes”.
Airline services to Cuba directly from the United States now include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Jet Blue, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.
When you’re on the ground, local taxis are everywhere. There are classic car versions that are a bit expensive (bargain first), or local shared taxis, which only cost 0.50 CUC per person (but you need to know your established route or speak Spanish).
The best time to visit Havana
Havana is sunny all year round so you can’t really go wrong in terms of choosing a time of year to visit. But watch out for the power of the Cuban sun! For those with clear skin, like me, take extra precautions for sunburn.
Autumn may be lovely, but visiting can be risky because of the hurricane season. A happy half way is to visit sometime in winter (November-March) as it is warm enough to enjoy the beaches, but not hot enough to make you wish you were back in your hotel with air conditioning.
During the winter, the crowds have declined and you can experience a more authentic Havana. Also, I’ve heard New Year’s Eve in the capital is an unforgettable spectacle!
Where to stay in Havana
The most authentic places to stay in Havana are called Casas particulares, which are rooms of Cuban family houses that you can find simply asking around.
Usually, these rooms run from 25 to 40 CUC per night, but be sure to add a little at this price if you want cooked breakfast at home included.
Best places to stay
Useful travel tips for Havana
- If you want to save some money and don’t have to go far, try to rent a bicycle taxi or a “Coco taxi ” Scooter for a fun trip.
- Don’t spend all your time in Havana! Cuba is much more than the capital. Take a look at Vinales, Trinidad, and Varadero if you have time.
- Bring a filtered water Bottle, as bottled water can sometimes be hard to find outside of major cities.
- Even if you normally prefer hotels, I recommend spending at least one night in houses especially with locals to see how it is.
- Learn some basic words in Spanish! While some English is common in Havana, trying to speak Spanish will give you more opportunities to interact with people.
Do you like this Post? Share it!
Please Help this Post reaches as many people as possible. Just Click below to share it in your favorite social networks. Thank you so much for your help!