Cuba is a country definitely worth visiting, it is so unique and unlike anywhere else in the world. Out of all of the amazing things to do in Cuba, if you want to experience the most culture then you must head to the capital city, Havana!
This is a guest post by fellow traveler Bailey.
When I was in Cuba, Havana was my favorite place simply because there is so much to do. From drinking rum on the beach to trying the best hot chocolate I have ever had to learning about the day to day lives of the locals, Havana has it all!
I spent 10 days exploring the beautiful city of Havana. Based on my experience, these are my choices for 10 fun things to do in Havana, Cuba.
10 fun things to do in Havana, Cuba
1. Ride in a Vintage Car
The first thing you will notice when walking in Old Havana is all of the vintage cars. These gorgeous vintage cars everywhere make you feel like you stepped back in time and make for the best pictures.
But don’t just admire the cars from afar, go for a ride.
In Old Havana, the drivers of the fancy vintage cars are everywhere trying to sell tours of the city in their car. So, pick the one you think is prettiest and start negotiating a price. The prices depend mostly on the amount of time you want to ride in the car for. Normally, people go for one to two hours. You will also pay more for a proper tour with an English speaking tour guide.
We just wanted to ride in the car for an hour and take some pictures and we paid $25 USD. This price is also higher on busy days such as when a cruise ship is in town.
2. Day-trip from Havana to Vinales
Only a short three hours away from Havana is the tiny town of Vinales. While many people stay in Vinales for a couple of days, it is possible to go to Vinales on a day-trip from Havana as well? Just get up early and either book a bus, hire a cab driver or go on an organized tour.
Vinales is a cute town that is fun to check out. Stroll through the colorful streets and take in the relaxed ambiance of the Cuban countryside.
There are many different things to do in Vinales, the most popular being going on a horseback riding tour and visiting a cigar farm. These tours are usually only a couple of hours long and involve riding through the countryside and making a couple of stops at viewpoints, a lake, a honey farm as well as a cigar farm. They will teach you how cigars are made and you can even roll one yourself.
If you want to buy an organic cigar, Vinales is the place to do so!
3. Dance Salsa to Live Music
In Havana, the bars and restaurants are always full of music and dancing. Live bands are almost always playing and people take advantage by dancing. All you need to do is wander through the streets of Old Havana in the evening and the sounds of live music will lead you to a great place to dance.
Often times members of the band will even dance with the crowd so it is the perfect opportunity to practice those salsa skills.
The musicians typically don’t get paid for playing and rely solely on tips or CD purchases as their main source of income, So, if you like the music and are having a good time dancing don’t forget to show some love and tip the talented musicians!
4. Drink Rum and Smoke a Cigar
While you are out enjoying the music and dancing, you might as well as get right into the culture and drink some rum while smoking a cigar.
Make sure to buy the cigar from a trusted source as the guys who approach you on the street are selling “fake” or bad quality cigars not worth more than a few cents. You must buy the cigar from a proper cigar store or from your own hotel.
If you love rum then there is the Rum Museum in town where you can try a few different types of rum and buy a couple of bottles too.
5. Go On a Free Walking Tour
This would be my favorite of all the things to do in Havana. Free walking tours are offered frequently in Old Havana. They all start from the main plaza in Old Havana and there are a variety of different companies to choose from. Most of the tours are run independently by small groups of university students who are just trying to make a living.
I loved the free walking tour, mostly because it gave me the chance to speak to a local (the tour guide) openly and ask all of the questions I had about what life was like in Havana. I learned about the internet restrictions (no YouTube or Skype allowed and no cell phone data) as well as the low wages and government housing.
But besides having all my questions answered, the walking tour showed me some great spots around the city and we even caught the bus over to Che Guevara’s house and the Christ statue that offers an amazing viewpoint of Havana.
All of the free walking tours start from the main plaza. Every company carries a bright colored umbrella with “free walking tour” printed across it. I know there are tours that start at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m., but there are likely even more throughout the day. Just look out for the umbrellas.
If you’d rather book a specific tour beforehand, check out GetYourGuide. They have a wide range of activities and tours in Havana on offer.
6. Check out the view from the Havana Hotel Parque Central
The Havana Hotel Parque Central is located right in the main plaza and it is a gorgeous hotel. The downside is that if you are like me and on a budget, then the Hotel Parque Central will be way outside of your price range. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still go there and enjoy the views!
If you go to the hotel and take the elevator to the top floor there is a rooftop area with a few tables and waiters to serve food and drinks. I went there and just had a couple of drinks while we enjoyed the birds-eye-view.
7. Ride the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus
I think that in terms of things to do in Havana, this is the most popular. Tourists can easily tour the entire city with only $10 USD and access to the Havana city tour bus.
They are large double-deck buses much like you would see in most other touristy cities. The bus pass can just be bought from the driver with cash. Some of the main spots the bus goes to are the Revolution Monument as well as New Havana.
There are two different routes for the hop-on/hop-off buses. Route A is the most common and costs $10 USD, it is the one which takes you to many different sights around the city. Route B just goes to the beach and couple other stops nearby and costs $5 USD. Both buses are clearly marked and the drivers always speak English so just ask if you aren’t sure what bus you should be on.
I really enjoyed riding around on the bus and just taking in the views from the top deck. You can easily spend a day exploring the city with the hop on hop off bus.
8. Go to the Beach
While Havana isn’t nearly as famous for beaches as Varadero or other spots in Cuba, that doesn’t mean the beaches aren’t worth going to. The beaches are really gorgeous and typically not too busy.
The main beach near Havana is called Santa María del Mar and it is about 20 minutes away from the city center. You can get there with the hop on hop off bus on Route B or by hiring a taxi driver.
9. Drink a Hot Chocolate at the Museo del Chocolate
Out of all of the different things to do in Havana, this one is definitely the tastiest!
I had the best hot chocolate I have EVER had in my life at the Museo del Chocolate right in Old Havana and it only cost $1.30 USD!
The Museo del Chocolate is not actually a museum, but rather a chocolate store and cafe with some chocolate making equipment on display. It is usually very busy so you must wait to enter but it is worth the wait, believe me!
10. People Watch in Central Havana
Many tourists don’t explore central Havana during their trip to Havana, this is a shame because it is where you will be able to observe the most authentic version of daily life for the Cuban people.
Central Havana isn’t the nicest area of town with run-down buildings and some piles of garbage but it is still worth checking out. The people who live there are full of character, and although most of them don’t speak a word of English you can tell they are friendly when they wave and smile at you.
Central Havana seems much less safe than Old Havana, which is probably true. However, this is the area I stayed in and I never had a problem. I didn’t show valuables when I walked around and I only went out at night in a group.
Havana, and Cuba in general, was a fantastic place to visit. It was unique and while there are lots of important things to know before you go on a trip to Cuba if you are prepared then you are guaranteed to have an amazing time!
Bailey is a traveler with a real sense of adventure. Along with her boyfriend Daniel, Bailey has been to more than 40 countries and has a bucket list that continues to grow every day. Right now, she is in New Zealand. You can follow Bailey and Daniel’s crazy travel lives on their blog, Destinationless Travel, as well as on Facebook or Instagram.
Want to know more about Havana?
Real Havana: Explore Cuba Like A Local And Save Money
Real Havana teaches you everything you need to know to fully experience Havana in an authentic way. It lists restaurants, markets and hidden sights, but also tells you what scams you need to look out for, how to use the communal taxi system and which suburbs to explore. It also holds a list of 30 casas particulares including reviews. If you want to experience Havana like a local and on the cheap, this is the book you need.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Cuba
If you prefer a more traditional guide, the DK Eyewitness Cuba Guide offers itineraries and tips for restaurants, clubs and hotels. It also highlights the top things to do around the country, including in Havana, contains detailed maps and gives background information on customs as well as a bit of history.
Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy
Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy, a national book award winner, tells the true story of how the young Carlos Eire experiences the Cuban Revolution. He witnesses how his home country changes and his friends are sent to the United States, where he too will end up.
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