Top 15 Best places to visit in Cuba


Discover the Top 15 Best Places to Visit in Cuba

Cuba is a vibrant and colorful country known for its rich history, captivating culture, stunning architecture, and gorgeous natural landscapes. As the largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba offers an incredibly diverse array of sights and activities for travelers. From exploring the cobblestone streets of Old Havana to sunbathing on picturesque beaches, Cuba has something for everyone.

To help make planning your trip easier, here is a list of the top 15 best places to visit in Cuba:

1. Havana

Havana, Cuba’s capital, should be at the top of any traveler’s list when visiting the country. The city is like an open-air museum, with a UNESCO World Heritage historic center showcasing well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture dating back to the 16th century.

Highlights in Havana include:

  • Strolling along the Malecón, the famous seaside promenade.
  • Admiring the baroque facade of the Catedral de San Cristóbal.
  • Exploring Plaza de la Revolución, surrounded by government offices and housing the Jose Martí Memorial.
  • Visiting Old Havana (La Habana Vieja) to see cobblestone plazas and colonial buildings.
  • Partying at Fabrica de Arte Cubano, an arts venue with bars, music and exhibits.
  • Enjoying a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio, one of Hemingway’s favorite bars.

You’ll want at least 2-3 days to take in the magic of Havana. With its timeworn allure and lively nightlife, Cuba’s capital is an unforgettable experience.

2. Viñales

The dramatic landscape of Viñales is one of Cuba’s most stunning natural attractions. This small town is situated in a lush valley surrounded by unusual bulbous limestone hills called “mogotes.” The valley’s fertile soil makes it prime land for growing some of Cuba’s best tobacco.

Top things to do in Viñales include:

  • Hiking through Parque Nacional Viñales, a national park with caves and mogote trails.
  • Touring local tobacco farms to see how Cuba’s world-famous cigars are made.
  • Riding in a classic American car through the gorgeous countryside.
  • Enjoying the viewpoint from Hotel Los Jazmines overlooking the valley.
  • Taking a boat ride inside Cueva del Indio, a beautiful cavern with underground river and rock formations.

With its breathtaking scenery and laidback ambience, Viñales shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Cuba. Plan to stay at least 2 days to fully experience this stunning destination.

3. Varadero

Varadero is Cuba’s most famous beach resort area, renowned for its stunning stretches of white sand and azure waters. Located on the Hicacos Peninsula on the northern coast, the 20km-long Varadero Beach is widely considered one of the Caribbean’s best beaches.

Top attractions in Varadero include:

  • Sunbathing and swimming at Playa Varadero, with calm, shallow water perfect for families.
  • Snorkeling or scuba diving to view colorful marine life including corals, fish and sea turtles.
  • Playing a round of golf at Varadero Golf Club, an 18-hole golf course adjacent to the beach.
  • Going deep sea fishing aboard boats departing from Marina Gaviota Varadero.
  • Visiting Parque Josone offering lush gardens, a lake and restaurants.
  • Strolling along the Punta Hicacos Peninsula at sunset for a romantic walk.

With its endless pristine beach and abundant all-inclusive resorts, Varadero offers the classic Caribbean vacation experience. Give yourself at least 3 days to explore this popular coastal playground.

4. Cienfuegos

Founded by French immigrants in the early 19th century, the colonial city of Cienfuegos has a unique European flair unlike anywhere else in Cuba. Situated on the country’s southern coast, Cienfuegos boasts elegant architecture and a gorgeous natural setting.

Top attractions in Cienfuegos are:

  • Admiring the 19th-century structures in Parque José Martí, the main city square.
  • Taking in the impressive dome of the Catedral de la Purísima Concepción.
  • Strolling down the stately Paseo del Prado, lined with colonnades and mansions.
  • Enjoying a performance at the historic Teatro Tomás Terry.
  • Exploring the hilltop Jardín Botánico showcasing over 1,000 exotic plant species.
  • Experiencing Cuban nightlife at Club Cienfuegos, a popular live music venue.

With a full day or two in Cienfuegos, you’ll gain insight into this city’s unique cultural heritage that sets it apart from other Cuban destinations.

5. Jardines del Rey

Off the northern coast of Cuba lies Jardines del Rey, or the Gardens of the King, a group of islands with stunning beaches and coral reefs that make a perfect spot for diving, fishing, or total relaxation.

The islands offer the following highlights:

  • Snorkeling or diving the pristine coral reefs, ranked among the Caribbean’s best.
  • Spotting marine life like barracuda, parrotfish and sea turtles.
  • Catching tuna, marlin and other game fish on a deep sea fishing excursion.
  • Sunbathing on the unspoiled beaches on Cayo CocoCayo Guillermo and other islands.
  • Staying in an overwater bungalow at resorts like Iberostar or Warwick Cayo Santa María.
  • Windsurfing, kayaking or sailing on the calm azure waters.

With a string of all-inclusive resorts, Jardines del Rey gives visitors a luxurious Cuban island getaway in total paradise. Spend at least 2-3 days enjoying this tropical nirvana.

6. Baracoa

Surrounded by rainforest-shrouded mountains and winding rivers, Baracoa feels like a remote tropical paradise. This small historic town on Cuba’s eastern tip was actually the first Spanish settlement on the island dating back to 1511.

Top sights in Baracoa include:

  • Hiking through Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt to see lush jungle flora and fauna.
  • Visiting La Cruz de Parra, a hilltop cross memorializing Magellan’s arrival.
  • Trying Baracoa’s famous cucuruchos, sweet coconut cookies shaped like cones.
  • Walking along El Malecón seaside promenade to see the picturesque bay.
  • Exploring remains of the colonial Fuerte Matachín, built in 1802.
  • Sampling regional dishes like tetí, unique river fish found only near Baracoa.

Isolated yet historic and beautiful, Baracoa rewards visitors with an authentic look into traditional Cuban culture. Allow 2-3 days to uncover the treasures of this unique destination.

7. Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba is the island’s second largest city, known for its pivotal role in the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro. The city’s vibrant culture and history make it a can’t-miss stop on any trip to Cuba.

When visiting Santiago, make sure to see:

  • Parque Céspedes, the lively main square surrounded by colonial architecture.
  • The ornate **Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Asunción dating back to 1514.
  • Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca**, a 17th century seaside fortress that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Santo Tomás Cemetery, holding the tomb of Compay Segundo of Buena Vista Social Club fame.
  • Cuartel Moncada, site of the famous 1953 rebel attack that sparked the revolution.
  • Carnaval de Santiago de Cuba in July, the island’s biggest street party with conga and salsa.

With its festive culture and pivotal history, 2-3 days in Santiago provides captivating insight into the Cuban spirit.

8. Cayo Largo

If you’re dreaming of having a stretch of white sand beach all to yourself, head to Cayo Largo. This small tropical isle located off Cuba’s southern coast has pristine undeveloped beaches without massive resorts or crowds.

Top experiences include:

  • Relaxing on the untouched powdery sand beach of Playa Sirena, often nearly empty.
  • Snorkeling through colorful coral reefs easily accessible from shore.
  • Spotting sea turtles swimming in the crystal clear waters.
  • Viewing exotic birds like pelicans, herons and pink flamingos in the mangroves.
  • Staying in a peaceful beachfront villa perfect for total relaxation.
  • Enjoying an eco-boat tour to uninhabited islets nearby.

With no towns or roads, Cayo Largo del Sur feels wonderfully isolated from the outside world. Give yourself 2-3 days to unwind in this island paradise.

9. Trinidad

On Cuba’s southern shore facing the Caribbean Sea, Trinidad provides a glimpse into Spanish colonial history, with incredibly preserved architecture from past centuries. This jewel of a colonial city is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In Trinidad, top attractions include:

  • Admiring the 18th and 19th century mansions around the central Plaza Mayor.
  • Visiting grand palaces like Palacio Cantero and Palacio Brunet now converted into museums.
  • Browsing local art at Taller Alfarero Pottery Studio and other artisan workshops.
  • Dancing to live salsa music at Casa de la Música, an outdoor music venue.
  • Trying a “Canchanchara,” the town’s signature cocktail made from rum, honey and lime.
  • Taking a day trip to Valle de los Ingenios to see old sugar cane plantations.

With its cobblestone streets, terracotta roofs and lively music scene, Trinidad is a joy to explore for 2-3 days.

10. Topes de Collantes

Just a short ride from Trinidad brings you to the scenic natural oasis of Topes de Collantes. This protected mountainous reserve offers hiking trails through tropical forests, along with opportunities to swim in refreshing natural pools and waterfalls.

Top highlights include:

  • Hiking through pine forests to reach Salto de Caburní, Cuba’s tallest waterfall dropping 200m (650 ft).
  • Relaxing and swimming in El Rocio natural pool with crystal clear waters flowing from a river.
  • Spotting over 200 species of butterflies and hummingbirds along the trails.
  • Camping at Villa El Saltón in an “eco-village” surrounded by nature.
  • Enjoying a therapeutic soak in the mineral-rich waters at San Juan Spa.

Topes de Collantes provides the perfect blend of outdoor adventure and restorative relaxation. Allow 1-2 days to soak in the majestic beauty of this mountain escape.

11. Santa Lucía Beach

Cuba’s northern coastline boasts endless options for sun, sand and surf. About 25 miles (40 km) east of Varadero lies Playa Santa Lucía, another standout white sand beach stretching 20 miles (32 km) along the shore. While more popular with European travelers than Americans, the beach remains less crowded and developed than nearby Varadero.

Top sites and activities around Santa Lucía include:

  • Relaxing on the pristine beach and swimming in the calm blue waters perfect for families.
  • Trying the variety of watersports like windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkeling.
  • Playing a round of golf at Playa Santa Lucía Golf Club, an 18-hole course near the beach.
  • Taking a day trip to hiking trails and waterfalls in nearby tropical forests.
  • Visiting colonial towns of Camarioca and Remedios nearby.
  • Checking out the eco-attractions at Buenavista like zip lining and horseback riding.

For a laidback beach getaway without big crowds, Playa Santa Lucía is an ideal choice to unwind for 2-3 days.

12. Isle of Youth

Off Cuba’s southernmost point lies the country’s second largest island after the mainland itself, the mysteriously named Island of Youth (Isla de la Juventud). This pristine isle has an intriguing history as a former pirate haven. Today it offers fishing, diving, sailing and cycling through lush countryside.

Don’t miss these top sites:

  • Snorkeling or diving in the Punta Frances National Marine Park to swim alongside tropical fish and coral reefs.
  • Cycling along the Valle de la Prehistoria, a route with life-size concrete dinosaurs.
  • Touring the abandoned Presidio Modelo former panopticon prison, now a ghostly ruined compound.
  • Spotting over 138 bird species including parrots, hawks and hummingbirds.
  • Deep sea fishing for marlin, shark, tuna, barracuda and tarpon.
  • Relaxing on palm-fringed beaches like Playa Bibijagua.

With its untamed natural areas and intriguing history, the Island of Youth provides a unique 2-3 day escape.

13. Cayo Coco

If you dream of an all-inclusive resort getaway on a picturesque private island, Cayo Coco fits the bill perfectly. Connected to the mainland by a causeway, this islet off Cuba’s northern shore attracts travelers with its powdery white sand beaches and calm turquoise waters.

Top experiences on Cayo Coco include:

  • Staying in a beachfront resort like IberostarWarwick or Meliá offering all-inclusive amenities.
  • Swimming, paddle-boarding and snorkeling through the second largest coral reef in the world.
  • Sunbathing on exquisite beaches like Playa Flamenco and Playa Prohibida.
  • Visiting Lago del Flamingo, where pink flamingos congregate amid mangroves.
  • Exploring Acuario de Cayo Coco, an aquarium housing sea lions, sharks and stingrays.
  • Enjoying perfect sunset views while dining at Vista Mare and Luna restaurants.

For the quintessential Caribbean island experience without ever leaving your resort, Cayo Coco is ideal for total relaxation. Plan on 2-4 days to soak up the sun and sand.

14. Gibara

Most travelers bypass the small port town of Gibara, but its history and laidback ambience make it worth a visit. This colonial village was a wealthy sugar trading hub in the 19th century. Today it offers a low-key glimpse into authentic Cuban life.

Top attractions include:

  • Admiring the pastel-hued Spanish colonial architecture lining the quiet streets.
  • Learning about the town’s heritage at the Museo de Artes Decorativas.
  • Taking a boat ride through the mangroves of Reserva de Río Máximo.
  • Swimming and sunbathing on the town’s malecón or the nearby Playa Caletones.
  • Experiencing the vibrant art scene at Fábrica de Arte Ella, set in a former peanut factory.
  • Enjoying big band performances during the annual Festival de Cine Pobre in April.

For a relaxing side trip off the beaten tourist track, Gibara’s low-key vibe can’t be beat. Spend 1-2 days to soak in this town’s faded colonial splendor.


On Cuba’s northeastern shore, the seaside town of Guardalavaca attracts visitors to its picturesque white sand beaches and sparkling turquoise waters. Surrounded by forested hills, the coastline here remains uncrowded and pristine.

Top attractions in Guardalavaca are:

  • Sunbathing and swimming at Playa Esmeralda, a stunning half-moon bay beach perfect for kids.
  • Snorkeling or diving through coral reefs easily accessible right from shore.
  • Visiting Boca de Yumuri beach near Matanzas, with palm trees and calm shallow waters.
  • Hiking through the coastal Parque Natural Monumento Baitiquirí to spot unique plant species.
  • Experiencing Cuban nightlife and live music at Palmares Extraclub.
  • Horseriding through the lush countryside inland from the beaches.

For laidback beachfront relaxation without massive crowds or resorts, Guardalavaca is an ideal rustic Cuban getaway. Allow 2-3 days to unwind by the sea.

Start Planning Your Trip to Cuba!

With its incredible history, culture, natural beauty and budget-friendly travel, Cuba offers an unforgettable Caribbean escape. The island nation remains relatively untouched by mass tourism, making now an ideal time to visit before it becomes more commercialized.

Whether you want to dive pristine coral reefs, hike through lush rainforests, party with salsa music or simply relax on stunning beaches, Cuba has it all. With countless sights and activities across 15+ excellent destinations, you’ll want at least a week to soak in the magic of this island paradise.

Visiting Cuba is easy with direct flights to Havana and Varadero from many major American cities. US travelers must visit for approved purposes like family visits, cultural exchange and humanitarian projects. Start planning an unforgettable Cuban adventure with help from these top resources:

  • Visit Cuba – Official Cuba travel website covering required visas, approved travel reasons and tour providers.
  • Cuba Travel Network – US company offering legal trips to Cuba including airfare, hotels, tours and more.
  • Insight Cuba – Leading provider of Cuba tours including people-to-people and cultural experiences.
  • Intrepid Travel – Reputable adventure tourism company offering small group Cuba trips.
  • GACA Travel – Full-service Cuban tour operator and travel agency based in Havana.
  • Viator – Trip booking site with a wide range of Cuba tour packages and activities.
  • With its rich culture, natural splendor and iconic history, Cuba offers endless sights to discover on your trip. Follow this guide to the top 15 destinations to help you plan an unforgettable experience. Let the rhythms of salsa, waves lapping on white sand beaches and friendly Cuban hospitality draw you into this vibrant island nation before the secret gets out!
Share This Article
Leave a comment