20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Cuba

Jul 22, 2021

Although often referred to as the "Heart of the Caribbean," Cuba is not quite that. True, it's one of the most pleasant places in the Caribbean; with sparkling beaches, cool blue water, and plenty of activities for the adventurous, the island is a popular vacation spot for those looking to escape the winter weather.

But Cuba also has a fascinating history and culture all of its own, which has resulted in an ever-expanding tourism industry and the widespread restoration and rejuvenation of Cuba's many historic monuments and buildings.

Like its history, the cultural offerings of Cuba offer a fascinating window into the island's past, from salsa dancing to capoeira, from classical music to the world-renowned baseball team. More modern things to do in Cuba include touring the colonial city of Havana or finding unique experiences like diving in the bays off the northern coast.

But Cuba's always been more than a vacation destination, and a history lesson alone doesn't make it a great place to visit. Cuba offers something for everyone, including cultural experiences, exciting activities, delicious dining, and much more. So if you like to travel in search of a new and exciting adventure, we hope you'll find our guide to the top attractions in Cuba to be a helpful resource.

Santa Clara

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Santa Clara, Cuba: en.wikipedia.org

The village of Santa Clara sits in the mountains some 75 kilometers northeast of Havana. For the visitor, it provides the opportunity to see Cuba as the country really is, not the state-run tourist paradise often depicted in U.S. media. Here, ordinary Cubans can be seen sharing their simple lives in their splendid hacienda, many of them living in poverty. And at the edge of a pasture of alfalfa and banana crops stands the cemetery where Fidel Castro lies buried. The small town of Santa Clara is a sleepy backwater in rural Cuba, but its beauty is most apparent when viewed from a mountain lake that appears like a mirror in the distance. If you are driving to Santa Clara, go through Holguín and pick up the Ruta del Valle de las Coloradas to Mompox on the Camajuaní River. Be careful here as the road is narrow and winding, and there are dangerous curves. The Palma Real Hotel is a simple place to stay with just 25 rooms. After two days in Santa Clara, head to Santiago de Cuba.

Baracoa

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Baracoa: en.wikipedia.org

Standing high on the island of Cuba, Baracoa (pronounced "Bwaracow-a" in Spanish) was once the capital of the first independent Spanish-speaking country, and home to a large Creole population. The city remains a beautiful white colonial town with many 16th century churches, many of which still have a pealing bell or two. During the Cuban revolution, the town became the provisional headquarters for the insurgents. The old colonial houses around the town square are full of antiques, and Baracoa makes an ideal excursion on a touring bus or train from Havana, with the terminus in nearby Nuevo Vedado.

Havana

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Havana: en.wikipedia.org

Havana's rich colonial history and culture is best seen in its ornate Spanish and French Baroque, and Cuban Art Nouveau architecture. For visitors, the ambience is as entertaining as it is fascinating, as the people play an important part in the Cuba experience. Havana is one of the world's great living museums, filled with music, dance, and fiestas in lively Barrios (neighborhoods). For the visitor, no two days of sightseeing will be alike. The museum of anthropology is small but has one of the best collections in the world on Cuban culture and history. You can spend the day climbing the stairs of the Almendares Castle, with its ornate stairway and towers, or go for an excellent look at Cuban culture in the Bodegas Lacroze, which produces Havana's signature lager beer. Because it is a beautiful city, Havana is among the most popular tourist destinations in Cuba.

Camaguey

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Camagüey: en.wikipedia.org

The remote island of Cuba has a rich and varied history of human settlement, starting with the earliest known human habitation as the first settlers arrived around 7000 BC. The city of Camaguey is located on the northern coast of the island. Founded in the 13th century, this is one of the oldest cities in Cuba. With Spanish colonial buildings throughout, including its church, its reputation as an excellent historic site today is due to the great wealth in the emerald and gold fields in the region. The region has an excellent beach resort, the magnificent white sand beaches of Cojímar, and is home to the best diving in Cuba. The warm waters of this part of the coast provide a very close-up view of what to expect from the Cuban marine life. Diving is excellent at this part of the island, with special areas set aside for scuba diving and snorkeling. However, there is good snorkeling in the region's protected areas and on the nearby coral reefs, where one can observe turtles, dolphins and marine birds. Camaguey's scenery is filled with mountains, jungle and clear tropical waters. On the southern coast, Granma is a popular diving destination with seven excellent diving sites in its protected area.

Cienfuegos

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Cienfuegos: en.wikipedia.org

Tiny Cienfuegos is an attractive historic city of Caribbean cities. Located on the northeastern coast of Cuba at the end of a peninsula and with an enviable location, in a semi-tropical humid climate with subtropical temperatures, Cienfuegos offers travelers all of the typical advantages of an excellent tropical climate. The city has a pleasant central area that includes parks and gardens. The Hotel Alfonso XIII, dating from 1885, and the Royal St Louis Hotel, a spectacular neoclassical gem dating from the 1920s, are luxury hotels housed in the most beautiful neoclassical mansions. Cienfuegos is also a good base from which to visit the central provinces of Holguin and Las Tunas, where visitors can admire the beautiful landscapes and do some diving. The Orinoco Delta is also located at the end of the Bahia de la Espumadera. The place is best visited in February or March, with an average annual temperature of 29°C and a very humid climate.

Old Havana

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Old Havana: en.wikipedia.org

There's so much to see in Old Havana, including the beautiful Plaza de Armas with its beautiful courtyard featuring the Cathedral of Havana and the impressive Castillo de San Felipe. Then visit the quintessential street, El Malecón, lined with shops and cafes that are the best place to shop for Cuban music and memorabilia. The Malecón is also lined with numerous murals, depicting Fidel Castro as a Chieftain, Che Guevara, Dr. King, Marilyn Monroe, and others. Be sure to visit the many museums in Old Havana, including the fine Museo de la Ciudad de Havana, or for a trip down memory lane visit one of Havana's many museums of underground Havana or the Museo de Arte Moderno.

Holguin

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Holguín: en.wikipedia.org

The Galician town of Holguin is an important port and capital of the province of Holguin. It was named after a Spanish general, Benito de Holguin, who was appointed governor of the province in 1668. The most popular thing to do in Holguin is take a boat trip out to the mangrove swamps surrounding the Cabo Largo lighthouse, the former emblem of the Cuban coast, which houses a bird sanctuary. There is also a unique annual seashell festival, along with smaller street festivals and a water-borne crafts fair. The beach at Cabo Largo, and other points along the shores, have brightly colored houses and cafes.

Viñales Valley

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Viñales Valley: en.wikipedia.org

The Viñales Valley is a long expanse of rich Cuban countryside tucked into the foothills of the Sierra del Cristal mountains just 35 miles from the pretty colonial town of Camaguey. Located north of the city of Havana, Viñales is made up of an intriguing mixture of old Spanish haciendas, rustic villages and winding, narrow streets that wind through small shops selling a wealth of handmade goods, including vivid ceramics and pottery, original colonial-era Spanish furniture, handcrafted leather shoes and Cuban cigars. Mornings are the best time to explore the valley, as most villagers rise early and work in the fields, allowing those wishing to do so a chance to stroll through its various small villages and explore the interior, where many of the town's original buildings remain. All buses travel between Havana and Camaguey pass through the Viñales Valley.

Cayo Coco

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Cayo Coco: en.wikipedia.org

Cubans refer to their island home, called Cayo Coco (Little Island), as the "pristine tropical island." With a land mass the size of Manhattan, Cuba is just under 18 kilometers long from north to south, and covers an area of nearly 4,600 square kilometers. With an ancient capital at Havana, the island is home to an incredibly diverse range of flora and fauna, including many tropical species not found anywhere else. Highlights of a trip include hikes in the Sierra Maestra, the mountains that encircle the island, which was the revolutionary heartland and the base for Che Guevara. While in the countryside you can watch cattle graze in the fields, canopied by oaks and magnolias, and visit the Cuna de Mambo or "Knife Dance," a folk dance of the indigenous Ciboney. The town of San Antonio de las Vegas is famous for the neoclassical architecture in its streets. Havana is a lively city with historical neighborhoods like Vedado and Habana Vieja, the colonial heart of the old city, which is where you will find the sea of blue-colored domes of the Basilica and Cathedral of the Assumption. Some Cuba packages include diving and snorkeling expeditions to the isles of Cayo Levis and Cayo Piedra. These small coastal islands feature white sands and turquoise water. You can also take a short boat ride to the Isletas de Chiriqui, where you can experience a traditional Cuban fishing camp.

Pinar del Rio

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Pinar del Río: en.wikipedia.org

Pinar del Rio is one of the prettiest areas of Cuba, a lush, lush mountainous island that lies between the central highlands and the tropical rainforest. The most famous sights of Pinar del Rio include the natural spa center of Siboney, a 90-square-kilometer protected nature preserve created in 1932 in one of the most stunning parts of Cuba. The Palma Soriano Wildlife Refuge was created in 1974 and protects the nesting grounds for the Puerto Rican boobie bird (Rena blanca). Of these, Siboney is arguably the most spectacular, with its 300-meter-long concrete pools created by a waterfall that's 20 meters high and 300 meters wide. It's at its peak in May, and when it's full of the hundreds of thousands of migratory birds that pass through during the winter. The best way to see all this is on a tour of Siboney, the capital of Siboney National Park. Some 90 of these tours depart every day for the 5 km from Siboney and it only costs $4 (US).

Santiago de Cuba

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Santiago de Cuba: en.wikipedia.org

The city of Santiago de Cuba, located on the northern coast of Cuba, was founded in 1511. One of the last cities founded by the Spanish, it is today known for its national assembly, the Capitolio Nacional. The Catedral de Santiago de Cuba, erected in 1522, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its colonial streets are crowded with charming historic buildings, and the busy area around La Isabelica is popular with tourists. Today, there are plenty of galleries and workshops to visit as well as traditional craft markets.

Bayamo

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Bayamo: en.wikipedia.org

The capital of eastern Cuba, Bayamo is a colonial city of cobbled streets and architectural treasures. Much of its colonial architecture was destroyed following the Spanish-American War in 1898, when it was bombarded by the USS Maine, an American battleship that subsequently sank, possibly from a mine. The former U.S. consulate is still home to the consulate general, which has American flags and vintage American cars on display. Bayamo boasts a historic Spanish cathedral and church of San Francisco, a town park with a Statue of Liberty-style fountain, and a museum. Tours of Bayamo include city walks and boat trips along the Río Tabora. On the old road to Guantánamo, a museum and theater preserve the island's wartime history.

Matanzas

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Matanzas: en.wikipedia.org

An often overlooked part of Cuba, Matanzas boasts two of the most fascinating museums of Cuban art. Highlights include the Museo de Arte Abstracto (MAA), a gallery dedicated to the expositions of more than 3,000 works by more than 1,500 artists. Another highlight is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA), a museum that features the works of Antony Gormley and other noted artists. Other things to do include a trip to the beach at Bay of Pigs and exploring the old town. Matanzas has an international airport and is connected to other destinations throughout Cuba by regular flights.

Isla de la Juventud

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Isla de la Juventud: en.wikipedia.org

Looking like a giant overgrown sand castle, tiny Isla de la Juventud can only be reached by boat from Havana. This out-of-the-way island, whose population of just 35 people live exclusively on the main town of Santa Clara, is Cuba's last tropical island, with a tropical climate and wild jungle and a string of beaches, including Jibaritos, Cauto, and Jicatuyo, which are made up of powdery white sand. On Isla de la Juventud, you'll see how locals live in this far-flung place and visit San Agustín de la Isla, the largest and only monastery of the four-island Archipelago, where almost all of its 22 friars hail from the island of Isla de la Juventud. Guests to Isla de la Juventud are allowed only overnight stays. No hostelries, hotels, or restaurants are permitted here. To reach the island, take a five-hour boat trip from Havana.

Sancti Spíritus

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Sancti Spíritus: en.wikipedia.org

The best known tourist attractions in Sancti Spíritus are the UNESCO World Heritage Site beaches of Mahogany Hammock and Sosúa. In fact, the only thing in town that's not related to the beaches is the only major religion in the country: Catholicism. With its wide and beautiful white sand beaches, a number of fishing villages and charming little towns, Cuba's fourth-largest city lies less than 200km from Havana and is a perfect destination for beach lovers. Also, its serene and lovely scenery make it a perfect base for hiking, bird watching and diving. Sancti Spíritus is well served by public transportation. There's a taxi stand in front of the Marítimo on the main square, and for bus information call (33) 51 3334270. There are many places to stay in Sancti Spíritus. If you prefer more privacy and peace and quiet, try the youth hostel.

Nueva Gerona

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Nueva Gerona: en.wikipedia.org

Nueva Gerona, the "new Gerona," lies between Havana and Trinidad. It is Cuba's third-largest city, and its main economic center. It was built in the 1950s as a center for the Cuban sugar and sugar cane industry. Nueva Gerona is Cuba's leading producer of rum and once the largest rum distillery in the world. Nueva Gerona is an important industrial center, and the third largest city in Cuba. The city's most famous attraction is the Granma Fortress, where the Revolution began, and where Che Guevara died in 1967. There are also a number of museums, including the Museo de la Revolución, the Museo Municipal, and the Museo Criollo. The city's wide boulevards, marketplaces, and sandy beaches can all be enjoyed, and the shopping is especially good, with stalls selling clothing, jewelry, antiques, shoes, and some Cuban food. The city's main drag is called Calle 63, but there are numerous smaller streets that lead off from the main boulevard. The city's largest market, Mercado 20 de Abril, is open only on weekends. It is named after the date on which the First National Revolutionary War ended, April 20, 1959, and the Revolution started. Nueva Gerona is served by a small airport. There are international flights from Havana, the United States, and other Caribbean islands.

Granma

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Granma (yacht): en.wikipedia.org

Some of the world's most iconic travel destinations are found on the Caribbean island of Cuba. Granma, its largest and only island, has both dry tropical forests and long, sandy beaches, and is particularly well known for its azure waters, turquoise waters, fine sands, and pristine white-sand beaches. Granma offers a variety of attractions, including Mayabeque Island, where visitors can stroll along the powdery sand beach and enjoy a coconut drink. The best beaches are on the southern end of the island, with beaches and rocks that resemble those on the nearby island of Holguin. Granma's tropical environment provides visitors with a wealth of beauty, history, and culture. The city was once a colonial hub for Cuba and is home to museums that feature collections of the island's natural history, pre-Castro independence, and major cultural figures such as José Martí.

Vinales

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Viñales: en.wikipedia.org

Vinales is located in the very north of Cuba on the east side of the province of Matanzas. One of the main attractions of this town is the Vinales Horse Farm, a long established tourist attraction and the only place where horses are bred in the country. The original source of the horses is the Cuban Garrano breed, but the farm also breeds horses from other horse breeds in order to diversify its stock. You can see the horses being cared for and raised as well as appreciate the beauty of the countryside from the perspective of these friendly creatures, some of which have been working on the farm for a lifetime. Vinales also offers the chance to visit the Don Che-Byamba Archaeological Site, an important pre-Columbian city. A number of impressive structures can be seen at the site, one of which is a wonderful polygonal structure covered with stucco. In addition, the well preserved architecture at this site provides a unique opportunity to visit what may be the oldest city in Cuba. An archaeological museum at the site is also worth a visit. Vinales has a small domestic airport that is accessible only by land. A tourist bus runs between the airport and the main town and takes about 25 minutes to arrive at a stop near the center of Vinales. There is no public transport to Vinales from other towns.

Bay of Pigs

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Bay of Pigs Invasion: en.wikipedia.org

The Bay of Pigs is one of the most pleasant and well-managed tourist destinations in Cuba. The town is home to a number of hotels and inns and there are many activities to keep guests entertained. Ecotourism is a major theme in Cuba and the Bay of Pigs is no exception. Visitors can take part in a number of educational and naturalistic tours that involve immersion into the local ecosystem. These include kayaking, swimming, hiking and plantation visits, while some of the major sights include the barracks, the old colonial houses and the lively bazareque market. The island is well-known for its fine scuba diving and snorkeling, especially at its popular reef-fringed western side. The best place to dive is the marine reserve around the stunning Buena Vista Lighthouse, with its underwater cave and reefs, and the Hotel López, a wonderful Spanish colonial-era mansion turned into a hotel, with a restaurant and bar. Nearby are the beautiful white sandy beaches of the east coast and the old sugar town of Trinidad, with its open-air market, fine colonial buildings and colonial church. There are a few shopping centres in the town, but most hotels have in-house stores, and the state-run cigar factory gives free tours of its facilities.

Nuevitas

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Nuevitas: en.wikipedia.org

Nuevitas is Cuba's most southerly town and gateway to a pristine slice of unspoiled paradise, the Turquoise Coast of Pinar del Rio. It's an almost tropical paradise with picturesque views of palm trees, swaying coconut palms and the turquoise Caribbean Sea. Nuevitas is one of the most beautiful cities in Cuba. The buildings are old Spanish colonial style that make Nuevitas more like a little European town rather than a typical Cuban city. A few bars and restaurants and the popular Estación Machado Castro with its Friday market and the in a traditional Cuban town is one of the more popular destinations in the entire country.