Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit in Cuba
| by Assia A. |
| Last Updated March 5, 2023 |
Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, is home to some of the most iconic sights in the region, including the colonial city of Havana and the majestic Sierra del Cristal mountains. The island is known for its captivating history, culture, and captivating mystique.
Cuba’s vast coastline and fertile countryside have been the setting for presidents, revolutionaries, writers, and tourists alike. The beaches are among the most beautiful in the Caribbean, and the coral reefs are among the richest in the world.
It is a captivating country with the depth and diversity few Caribbean islands can rival. From the beach towns and breathtaking mountains to the vibrant cities and diverse culture, this country offers something for everyone.
We have compiled this handy list of the top attractions and places to visit in Cuba which includes holiday tips and many of the top spots for diving, fishing, and wildlife.
Habana Vieja (Old Havana)
This is one of Cuba’s most beautiful areas and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its cobbled streets and grand Baroque and neoclassical buildings are a picture of Cuba’s history.
The old Havana, Cuba, is now bustling with new restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. Check out the famous Havana Club, Bodeguita del Medio, and Plaza de la Catedral, where you can take a stroll and enjoy a meal or a drink.
The Old Town, or Plaza Vieja, is a fun place to visit in Havana. The best place to start your exploration is the Casa del Conde Jaruco, a building with beautiful stained-glass windows on the first floor. The camera obscura offers great views from its 35-meter tower. If you have time, you can explore the Old Town more.
Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Havana
Varadero is a beach destination in Cuba. It is located on the northern coast of the country and stretches along the Peninsula de Hicacos. The island of the same name connects it to the mainland.
In the wake of billions of dollars tourism boom, Varadero is now Cuba’s largest and most popular tourist destination, with more than 50 hotels lining this popular palm-fringed strip. Varadero’s beaches are home to a huge variety of water activities and are a favorite destination for visitors from around the world.
Here in Varadero, You can visit the Parque Josone, including its flower gardens, restaurant, relax in the swimming pool, and a small lake where you can take a rowboat to paddle.
You can also do other activities besides diving and snorkeling. Deep-sea fishing, golf, skydiving, and day trips to cultural attractions are just a few of the things to do.
A visit to Trinidad, Cuba, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will leave you with a deep appreciation for its history and a desire to return to this beautiful town in the future. Most of the architecture dates from the 17th to the 19th centuries, when Trinidad was the major port for both the sugar and slave trades. You can soak up the lively ambiance of Trinidad, Cuba’s third-largest city, in the cobblestone Plaza Mayor. The neoclassical Church of the Holy Trinity (Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad) is located right on the square.
Other Trinidad highlights include the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, the Museum of Colonial Architecture, the art gallery at Casa de Aldeman Ortiz, and the Palacio Brunet, which was built in 1812 and still features original frescoes and marble floors.
The sugar cane plantations and mills of the 19th century can be found in the lush World Heritage-listed Valle de Los Ingenios. One of the best things to do in Trinidad is drive or ride a horse through the green sugar cane fields, palm trees, and mountains of Cuba.
Guardalavaca is quieter and more remote than Varadero. It is fringed by lush foliage, providing plenty of shady patches for those seeking respite from the tropical sun. The atmosphere is friendly and the nightlife is vibrant. The area is well suited to the sport of windsurfing. Divers and snorkelers can explore much of the sea life along the coral reefs.
A day trip from Guardalavaca includes tours exploring the jungle, sailing trips, and sightseeing tours of Santiago de Cuba.
Bahia de Naranjo is west of Guardalavaca, a small city on the coast that includes other three islands. It’s known for the Dolphinarium, which is located on Cayo Naranjo, a small island with a popular tourist attraction where it is possible to have a direct encounter with these amazing creatures. In addition, visitors can take a side trip to Chorro de Maita. The village has a recreated Taino Indian village and a native Indian burial area.
Playa Paraíso, Cayo Largo del Sur
Cayo Largo del Sur, on the western tip of Cuba, is one of the country’s most beautiful beaches. It’s located on the island of Cayo Largo del Sur and is a short distance from Playa Sirena.
It is a perfect destination for those who want to get away from the crowds and enjoy the beach. It is a dry sunny climate, and there are few tourist attractions besides beautiful beaches and many hotels and resorts.
Cayo Coco is a beautiful and isolated beach destination in Cuba. It was the setting for Hemingway’s novels Islands in the Stream and The Old Man and the Sea, as well as Cayo Guillermo.
As it is part of the Jardines del Rey, which combines with the Archipelago of Sabana-Camaguey, Cayo Coco is connected to the mainland by a bridge, but Most of its visitors arrive by air.
Playa Los Flamencos is a beach on the Atlantic side of the island with five kilometers of pristine sand. You can also consider Playa Prohibida which is a quiet beach on the island’s west coast with a beautiful nature trail.
Cayo Coco is connected to Cayo Guillermo by a causeway, and it is home to several beautiful beaches, including Playa Pilar.
Parque Nacional Viñales (Valle de Viñales)
The Parque Nacional Viñales is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the Sierra de los Organos, north of Pinar del Rio. The park is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in Cuba, and it is filled with lush forests, steep, rocky cliffs, and grassy meadows.
The Parque Nacional Viñales has many outdoor activities for those who want to get out and enjoy nature. You can hike in the hills, horseback ride so you can enjoy the scenery where tobacco, vegetables, and fruit are grown.
Viñales is a charming town in the area and is a great base for exploring the surrounding area. Local travel agencies organize day trips to this town from Havana.
Baracoa is one of the highlights of eastern Cuba. It was founded in 1511, and the first church here was built around that time. Until the La Farola highway was built in the 1960s, it was totally cut off from much of the outside world, even though it still beholds the remote feel.
Visitors come to the Caribbean for the warm climate, stunning beaches, and relaxing vibe. One of Cuba’s top attractions is The flat-topped peak of El Yunque, a Caribbean volcano that is part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. You can hike up its 589-meter summit to the top for breathtaking views.
The winding La Farola Highway is also a beautiful drive with amazing scenery that takes you through mountains and over the mountains from Baracoa to Cajobabo.
The Museo Municipal de Baracoa is a great place to see and learn about the history of Baracoa. It is also located in a military fortress that offers great views over the bay.
The beautiful beach of Maguana, which is 20 kilometers northwest of Baracoa, is a popular spot for those looking for a unique experience in Cuba. Visitors can rent a bicycle and cycle out here. There is also a boat for hire for those who want to cover more distance. When arriving in the bay of Maguana a small marine park can be seen. Around the park, there are many restaurants, huts, and a shop.
The Malecon, Havana
The Malecon is a major Havana attraction. The first section was built in 1901, and the second section was added in 1902. It is a wonderful place to walk or take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.
The walkway is about 7 kilometers long and takes you through the Old Havana quarter. Along the way, you will see buildings from the 20th century that represent a mix of architectural styles, including Art Deco and Neo Moorish. The buildings are painted in pastel pinks and yellows, and the setting sun brings out the best in the buildings which makes it a true photographer’s treat.
When you visit, you will enjoy people-watching. You can catch a glimpse of young lovers sauntering hand-in-hand, local fishermen casting their lines, and children clambering along the sea wall.
Che Guevara Mausoleum, Santa Clara
When you’re in Cuba, don’t miss Santa Clara, the site of the last guerrilla battle led by Che Guevara in 1958. You’ll be impressed by the town’s historic sites and unique attractions.
The final resting place of Che Guevara lies here, and the mausoleum (Mausoleo del Che Guevara) and the monument, the Memorial Comandante Ernesto “Che” Guevara, are the town’s major attractions. His final letter to Fidel Castro is engraved on the bronze statue of Che Guevara in Plaza de la Revolucion, while the mausoleum lies beneath.
The museum adjacent to the monument features Che’s personal items and also has the Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado, a small boxcar museum where the final battle between Che Guevara and the Batista troops took place.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
If you are an art lover, you won’t want to miss the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) in Havana, Cuba. It is the largest and most important art museum in the country with an impressive collection of both Cuban and international works.
The collection includes art from ancient times to the present day, and is housed in two buildings: The restored Spanish Renaissance-style Palacio del Centro Asturiano was designed in the 1920s by Manuel Bustos. The gallery is filled with the art of the world, including works by European Masters; ancient art from Greece, Rome, and Egypt; and works from Asia, the United States, and Latin America. The Spanish collection is a true highlight.
This museum houses a thought-provoking collection that focuses on Cuban Art from the 17th century to the present day, including sculptures, prints, and paintings. The stunning marble sculpture, Form, Space, and Light, greets visitors at the entrance.
Castillo de San Pedro del Morro, Santiago de Cuba
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a fascinating example of a 17th-century Spanish fortress. It is located in the Bay of Santiago, about 10 kilometers southwest of Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second-largest city.
This ancient fortress, which took decades to build, was originally intended to protect against pirate attacks, but also served as a prison in the late 1700s before being converted into a fortress again in the 1800s. Today, you can visit the fort, which has a small museum, learn about the fort’s history, and enjoy impressive views over the bay.
Other attractions include the Diego Velazquez Museum and Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia, which are home to the remains of some of Cuba’s top military figures.
Located about an hour from the city by car, Parque Baconao is a World Heritage Biosphere Reserve that offers you beautiful botanical gardens, coffee plantations, and a summit with breathtaking views of the mountains and the sea.
Peninsula de Zapata (Ciénaga de Zapata)
Zapata Peninsula is a haven for birds and nature lovers; it is one of the largest wetlands in the Caribbean and home to diverse landscapes.
Cienaga de Zapata, commonly known as Zapata Swamp, is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, home to over 150 different species of birds, including waterhens, parrots, and herons. There are also Crocodiles in the swamp. The natural habitats of these animals can be seen in the Gran Parque Natural de Montemar, a nature reserve on the peninsula.
Playa Giron is the site of the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, a historically important site. It is located on the east bank of Bahia de Cochinos ( Bay of Pigs) and the location where the 1961 invasion took place, You can Visit the Museo Giron to learn more about the site and the invasion.
At the northern end of the Bay of Pigs, you can visit Playa Larga, which is a long beach backed by lush vegetation and home to an abundance of marine wildlife, including a variety of coral reefs. Divers can explore the underwater wildlife at numerous dive sites along the reef.
The tourist center of the peninsula is Boca de Guama, and the main tourist attraction is the crocodile farm Criadero de Cocodrilos.
El Nicho Waterfalls
Located in Parque El Nicho just 90-minute away from Trinidad or Cienfuego, this is a beautiful and quiet waterfall that flows into several pools. You can swim here for refreshing cool water.
If you like to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life and look for adventure inspiration, you can’t beat this place. It’s an adventure to drive here, and the scenery is gorgeous. Once you arrive and pay the entrance fee, take the 1.5-mile palm-lined course to the park’s most picturesque spots. It meanders along a cool river and goes up through a thick, tropical forest to the falls, where you can swim and sunbathe. Along the way, you can spot “Tocororo”, Cuba’s national bird, and the gorgeous royal palms.
Take the short hike to the other side of the falls, and you’ll end up at a picturesque lookout with spectacular views across beautiful valleys.
Looking for a back-to-nature family vacation that’s still close to the big city? This is a great choice. The waterfalls gush year-round – no matter what the season is.
Parque Historico Militar, Havana
The Parque Historico Militar (Military Historical Park) includes two of Havana’s famous forts: the Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro, AKA El Morro, and Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana.
Standing on the coast of the Bay of Havana, El Morro was built in the late 16th century and early 17th century to hold off pirates. The lighthouse was replaced in the middle of the 19th century, but its original lamp is still there shining out to the sea. You can go up to the top of the fort for an amazing view of the ocean and the city
Just a few minutes away from El Morro, you will find Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana, This fort was built in the 18th century and is considered to be the biggest fort ever built by the Spanish, it was used as a military prison during the Batista regime and later became the command post for Che Guevara after the Revolution.
There are several museums here, but the most popular time to visit is at night when actors dressed in 19th-century costumes perform Ceremonia del Cañonazo, a cannon-firing ceremony, at 9 pm.
Plaza de la Revolucion (Jose Marti Memorial), Havana
As the largest square in Havana, the Plaza de la Revolucion deserves a brief stop. It is the site of many historical events, including Fidel Castro’s speeches and the Pope’s mass. It is also the location of a memorial to Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero, and it also houses a museum that contains his statue and many exhibits about his life. The entrance to the Jose Marti Memorial is located at the base of the tower.
In front of the memorial, a giant portrait of Che Guevara is illustrated on the Ministry of Interior building.
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