• The Ultimate Honeymoons

The ultimate guide to 1 - 2 weeks in Cuba

Updated: Nov 3, 2019



Ever wandered what it feels like to step back in time? Well entering Cuba is just that. With vintage cars and historic buildings, communist Cuba is not only a beautiful country to visit but a very interesting one.


We spent 3 weeks in this incredible country, and we wanted to give you a run down on the best places to visit. So many people think that Cuba is all about Havana, and while Havana is a cool city, there is so much more to see. In our 3 weeks we didn’t have time to travel around this whole island, so there is definitely much more you can see. We did however cover a lot of it in that time.


If you don’t have 3 weeks, don’t worry we will give you a perfect itinerary for 1 week, 10 days and 2 weeks (see the bottom).


Important things to know


Tourist Cards & Visas

Every country has their own visa regulations which you can find more information on here. For Australians, you can buy your tourist card (for stays of up to 2 months) from your airline when checking in at the airport. Different airlines charge different amounts. Lucky for us, as we flew from Mexico we only had to pay $20 each. When flying in from the US, the airlines charge from $40 - $110. Make sure you check how much your airline is charging so you have the right cash on hand.


Currency

Cuba has two currencies, CUC* and CUP. CUC* is generally the tourist currency and 1 CUC* is equal to US $1. CUP is a local currency which is 24 times into 1 CUC*. You will see the prices mostly in CUC*, however you will also see prices in CUP occasionally, which is generally much cheaper. In saying that, CUP is much harder to get your hands on and the equivalent CUP price in CUC* will still be charged out to tourists anyway. We read a lot of blogs about needing to take all your cash with you (in either Euros or Canadian dollars), however this is not the case. We would definitely recommend bringing some cash, not US dollars as you get charged an extra 10% fee for conversion, but Euros or Canadian dollars is fine for when those ATMs are down. We did mostly use ATMs though as the line for the Cadeca’s (money exchange) is usually quite long, and if you go about it like this, you need to bring your passport with you (which we always forgot when heading out).


Casa Particulares

These are the best places to stay, to get the real feel of these beautiful colonial homes. Live like a king and queen, whilst spending time talking to the locals to get the inside information about their way of life. Also make use of the cheap (usually) 5 CUC* per person breakfasts. Many casa's will also cook you up a homemade Cuban feast for around 10 CUC*.


Internet

Wifi in Cuba is scarce. You will rarely see it in an airbnb/hotel, and if you do, you normally need a wifi card to use it and it often won’t work, or be extremely slow. Wifi in Cuba is controlled by the government and cards can be bought at the ETECSA shops (usually located in the main squares). This is where you will also find the wifi zones (aka. zombie zones). The cards cost 1 CUC* for 1 hour, but you can also buy these off locals in the street for an inflated rate if you didn’t want to queue up. We decided to wait in the long unorganised line and buy 10 x 1 hour cards at once (remember to bring some ID). You also have to be careful when logging out. If you don’t do this properly, the internet will keep running even when you turn the wifi off.


Language

Spanish is the official language spoken in Cuba, but many people can speak English in the more popular tourist places. However, it is handy to know some basic Spanish to really get the most out of your experience.


Getting around

The best way to travel around Cuba is by using taxi collectivos. These are basically shared taxis that you can book through your casa. They generally cost around 15-35 CUC* per person to get around between cities and are much cheaper than taxis, where you generally have to pay for the whole car. They are also a great way to meet other travellers going in the same direction. You can take the bus if you wanted to save money. We found taxi collectivos to be much more convenient though with the door to door service. Not knowing what vintage car was going to pick you up, kept it exciting and is the cheapest way to enjoy the beauty of these old beasts.


Water

This is a weird one, but water is actually super expensive in Cuba and you shouldn’t drink the tap water. It is usually 1 CUC* for a 500ml bottle from a convenience store, or more if you are in a restaurant. A little hack we worked out is to find a supermarket (which is not always so easy), and buy a big 5L bottle for only 3 CUC*. Keep the small ones and do refills. We often also travelled with the big 5L bottles as you never know when you will find one again. To drink the 3 litres each that we normally drink was costing us US $12 a day to start with, crazy! The supermarkets are also really interesting to walk through and check out.


Beware

Be careful when walking the streets (mostly in Centro Havana) as many people will talk to you and try and take you to get a drink or somewhere to eat, chat with you for about half an hour, then ask for money. We had heard of this happening, and it happened to us on our first day. We decided to go with it for the experience, and like we thought, he was friendly to start with, and then asked us for 20 CUC*. We paid for his cocktail, gave him 3 CUC* and left. It’s up to you if you want go ahead with this like we did, but you have been warned! Everyone also goes around asking “first time in Cuba?” you should say no, and they will probably leave you alone.


Havana

We really wanted to get a good feel for Havana, so we broke our trip up and stayed in 3 different neighbourhoods of Havana over 8 nights. There is so much to see here, with the beautiful old buildings in Old Town (Habana Vieja), the convertible cars driving down the Malecon and watching the locals go about their everyday life.


Where to stay

Depending on how much time you have in Havana, we would recommend staying in two different areas. Since most people fly in and out of here, we would recommend you break it up and stay for 3 nights at the beginning of your trip in Old Havana, and 3 nights at the end of your trip in Vedado. If you only have a few nights for Havana, we would recommend staying in Centro, where you can easily walk to both Old Havana and Vedado within 15-20 minutes. Centro is more rundown then both Old Havana and Vedado, but still a cool place to visit.


Elegant house in Vedado

  • Old Havana – We didn’t stay here but anywhere to the east of Parque Central would be perfect as everywhere is easy to walk around. Keep in mind Old Havana is more pricey than other areas so you won’t get as much for your money.

  • Centro – We stayed at Casa Densil, a beautiful old colonial house. The rooftop was lovely for brekkie every morning, a mojito in the afternoon or to practise your salsa moves. You can actually get a teacher to come to the rooftop and give you a private salsa lesson for only 10 CUC* per person, a must try in Cuba. They also had free wifi (for a couple of hours in the morning and night), completely unheard of in Cuba and we didn’t find this anywhere else (airbnb around US $65* per night).

  • Vedado – We stayed in the most beautiful elegant casa here right on the main road. The hosts were the loveliest we have ever met and we would go back just to stay here. We 100% recommend this place, with the big beautiful rooms and sweetest hosts ever, you will not regret coming here. They can even speak great English and are so helpful with recommendations for things to do and places to eat (around US $45* per night).

  • Outskirts of Havana – We stayed in big beautiful mansion about 20 minutes drive from Havana, called La Rosa de Ortega. This airbnb has gorgeous rooms with beautiful views of Havana, and it was a great place to stay and get of the city. We would only recommend staying here if you have the time though and have already spent time in the Central Areas (around US $80* per night).


Where to eat

Before we left for Cuba, we read so many blogs about how terrible the food was, and I don’t know if it’s because we had low expectations, but we loved the food everywhere we ate!


  • La Guarida (Centro) – In a beautiful old building, with a great roof top, this restaurant is perfect to sit up and look over Havana whilst sipping on a cocktail. It is a bit on the expensive side compared to other restaurants, but the lovely ambience makes this a perfect date night spot. Make sure you make a reservation so you don't miss out!

  • Van Van (Old Havana) – This place was recommended to us by a friend and we sure know why. Being full of atmosphere with live music, delicious food and great cocktails, all for a reasonable price – this restaurant is not to be missed!

  • Paladar de Roma (Old Havana) – Cool outdoor restaurant near the Plaza del la Catedral. Delicious lobster and wine, and free wifi!

  • Venami (Old Havana) – Cute little Italian/Cuban restaurant with cheap prices.

  • El Idillio (Vedado) – Delicious grilled Cuban food

  • La Calle (Vedado) – Nice Italian restaurant

  • El Gringo Viejo (Vedado) – Cool “speak easy” styled restaurant


Where to drink

Havana has a bustling nightlife with live music around every corner. When you have the best mojitos and Cuba libres in the world, for only a few dollars each, it feels rude not to get amongst it.



  • The Gran Manzana (Old Havana) – best view over Parque Central and El Capitolio. Come here for the best sunset in Havana. Cocktails are more expensive here at around 6 CUC* each, but to be on the luxury rooftop and taking in the beautiful views, it is definitely worth the splurge.

  • Van Van (Old Havana) – Best pina coladas ever

  • La Bodeguita Del Medio (Old Havana) – Small famous bar where Hemingways use to hang out. Cool live music and great mojitos

  • La Guarida (Centro) – Beautiful rooftop bar

  • Casa de la Musica (Miramar) – We had the best night watching the live salsa show and dancing the night away. Plus, you can buy a 700ml bottle of 7 year Havana Club rum for just 18 CUC*!!! That is cheaper than the supermarkets in Cuba. With that, grab some colas and an ice bucket and you are good to go.

  • El Zorro y el Cuervo (Vedado) – Cool underground jazz bar (look out for the English phone both to get in). Get there early to get a seat and avoid the line.

  • EFE Bar (Vedado) – It’s a great place to come and let loose. They have decent dj’s if you are looking to burn off those cocktails.


What to do

There are endless things to do and places to explore in Havana. With 8 days we felt we were able to cover a lot, yet there are still many more things to do. Here is a list of things that we feel shouldn’t be missed on a trip here.


Havana Viejo (Old Havana)
  • Walk around the streets of Old Havana – There are so many cool narrow streets everywhere, you won’t want to miss any of them.

  • Malecon - Go for a stroll down the Malecon and check out the views across the water.

  • El Cristo del La Habana – This is one of the cheapest outings you can do. Walk down to the ferry terminal and catch the Casablanca boat for 1 CUP (that’s local currency so it’s like 5 cents per person). Hop off at Casablanca and head up the stairs to the Christ statue. Get there for sunset and you’ll be in awe from the stunning view of Old Havana.

  • Drive around in an old car – Instead of paying the 50 CUC* to hire a car for an hour, flag down an old taxi and pay just 1 CUC* to get between Vedado and Old Havana (agree on price beforehand). We call it “Vintage Car Bingo” (you never know what old beast you will get to cruise in).

  • Fabrica de Arte – We unfortunately didn’t make it here due to its closure for the jazz festival. Saying that, it is a top thing to do in Havana.

  • Copelia – We never made it to this ice-cream shop as there is always a large line. It’s meant to be weird but really cool.

  • El Capitolio – Cool landmark where young locals hang out on the weekend

  • Museo de Revolucion – Interesting to understand the history of communist Cuba, 8 CUC* (per person)

  • Hotel National Vedado – Check out the beautiful gardens and great view of the Malecon

  • Plaza de La Revolucion – This is interesting to see but you will mostly likely drive past it a few times when coming in and out of Havana. We walked around it and didn’t get any more out of it then seeing it out the car window.

  • Salsa – Try a salsa lesson, they are super cheap over here and you can use your moves on the dance floor later.


How to get here

With direct flights from the US, Canada and many other countries in Central and South America, Cuba is very easy to access for an affordable price. A taxi from the airport to the city should be around 25 CUC* and you can either pre-order one through your casa or get one when you land.


Vinales



The drive from Havana to Vinales is a very picturesque trip. It’s amazing going from a bustling city and then taking it easy and visiting a small country town. The valley of Vinales is known for the vast tobacco plantations and is the perfect place to explore on horseback.


Horse riding with Juan

Where to stay

We stayed in a cosy farmhouse with Juan and his family. The house is located about a 10 minute walk from the centre of town and is surrounded by rolling hills and loads of greenery. On the farm the family grows a whole variety of food from sugar cane to Yuca. The accommodation is very laid back. It’s great to live with the family and see what life is truly like out in the Cuban countryside. The family dinner they will offer you for 10 CUC* per head is a bargain! Even though we weren’t on the coast anymore, we still managed to eat lobster each night we were there. Juan doesn’t speak English and we think that this is a great time to practice your Spanish (he takes the time to speak Spanish slowly until he knows you get the idea of what he is saying haha).



Where to eat

There are many restaurants in town and we did try one for lunch, but for the dinners you can’t go past the local family meals inside the casa. Lobster with a bunch of sides for 10 CUC*, yummo!


What to do

We recommend staying in Vinales for 2 nights. In that time, you can spend your first afternoon horse riding and checking out the tobacco plantations, then the next day you can either get a driver or cycle around to see all the other sites Vinales has to offer. We opted for the driver so we could come back and chill in the afternoon.


When in Cuba
  • Horse riding tour – There are many horse riding tours offered in Vinales. We decided to do the one with our airbnb host straight from the farm. You climb onto Juans beautiful horses in the backyard and from there you take off down the windy dirt road. The tour ventures through the valley and the first stop is a tobacco farm. Now let us make this clear (we aren’t promoting smoking by any means, but this is Cuba and they are world renowned for their cigars), we don’t smoke but when in CUBA. This tour is a must do. The tobacco farms are beautiful and there are stunning mountains all around. Its quiet interesting to find out how the farmers plant the seeds up to harvesting and drying the leaves for the cigar making process. Once you leave the farms you hop back onto the horses and head for the lake for time to go for a dip. Next stop was a coffee and rum farm. You get a chance to try some local produce and if you are happy with the samples, you can purchase bottles of rum or coffee to take home.

  • Walk through the tiny town - This cute little town has restaurants and markets around

  • Cueva del Indio – Here you can walk through the cool caves with a guide then take a boat through.

  • Palenque de los Limarrones – Walk through a cave which was once used as a refuge by the slaves. On the other side there is a beautiful oasis, and then you can get a horse and carriage ride back for 1 CUC*.


How to get here

Vinales is an easy 2.5 hour drive from Havana. The easiest way is to get a taxi collective straight from your airbnb which will cost you around 20 – 25 CUC*. If you are short on time you can also do a day trip to Vinales but it would be a very big day.


Playa Larga



Time to relax on the beach and get stuck into that book you have been carrying the whole trip. Playa Larga is a very chilled beach town in the Bay of Pigs. Great for diving, snorkelling or just hanging on the beach, we loved this cool little spot.


Where to stay

We stayed in a little airbnb right on the beach. We couldn’t believe how cheap this town was compared to the more popular beach spots around Cuba and it is so quiet and peaceful. This room wasn’t ideal for a honeymoon with 2 beds in the room, but hey, we got some good night’s sleep here. As it’s only a small town, we think staying anywhere along the beach here would be perfect!



What to eat

There are plenty of places to eat in Playa Larga. You’re on the coast, make use of all the fresh local seafood. Many restaurants have daily specials and mixed grilled seafood. Also in the airbnb, they cook a mean lobster for 12 CUC*.



What to do

There isn’t a whole lot to do here besides make the most of the stunning reefs and getting into deep chill mode. Here are some must do’s though.



  • Scuba diving - Even if you haven’t done it before, here is a great and extremely affordable place to get introduced to the deep blue. For only 25 CUC* if you have your open water divers licence or 35 CUC* for beginners, scuba diving in these calm clear waters should not be missed.

  • Snorkelling – if you are not into diving make sure you still snorkel out and experience the beautiful water. This will cost you 15 CUC* to join the scuba bus that takes you to 2 locations, as well as snorkel rental. There is also an impressive cenote giving Mexico a run for its money at the second spot.

  • Beach time – Best place to relax and read a book.

  • Sunrise – Get up early and get outside to watch the sun crawl its way up above the horizon.

  • Sunset – Walk through the down then down the coast a little and you will find some great private spots to watch the sun go down.


How to get here

Playa Larga is a 2.5 hours drive from Havana 25 CUC* (per person)


Cienfuegos


If you have time on your side, Cienfuegos is worth a quick stop. If you are pushed for time, this is one town you could skip. There isn’t a whole lot to do in town. It’s a sleepy French inspired colonial city with little night life and activities. Luckily we found some good places to eat and a beautiful beach not too far away.


Where to stay

We stayed in a cute little airbnb that had a very sweet host. Gaviota d Jagua is in a great location on the Malecon and has a stunning rooftop to watch the sunset and have a drink.



Where to eat

We were lucky to get some great restaurant recommendations from our airbnb host. There are a few restaurants in the city centre but we used this time to chill and stay close to the airbnb.


  • Bahia restaurant - This restaurant is famous in Cuba for its delicious food and great ambience. The menu has a mix of dishes from around the world. It’s amazing how with the lack of ingredients Cubans have access to, that they can create such variety. Get the fried rice – it was huge and so good to try some new flavours after travelling for a while!

  • Ache – Delicious Cuban food in a nice restaurant

  • Airbnb – There is nothing better than a cheap private home cooked meal in your casa. Grab yourself a bottle of wine and let your host serve you up an authentic Cuban storm (for only 8 CUC*).


What to do

As we mentioned earlier, there is not a lot to do in the small city. After walking around for a couple of hours we felt as though we had seen everything, so we were lucky to discover the small beach close by for our second day.


Coconuts on Playa Rancho Luna
  • Walk around and explore the city – We loved walking in all the shops and seeing the random things they had on offer.

  • Jose Marti Park – Sit in the main square and take in the surroundings.

  • Palacio Ferrer – This is probably the only touristy thing we would suggest doing in town. The rooms are cool to see and the view from the tower is a great way to see all of Cienfuegos.

  • Punta Gorda – Walk down the Malecon to Punta Gorda. Check out all the French colonial mansions and enjoy the sunset over the water.

  • Playa Rancho Luna - The beach is around a 25 minute drive from town and was the highlight of our time in Cienfuegos. The best feature of the beach is there is sun shacks all up the length of the beach and they’re free! Take your time and spend the day soaking up the relaxing atmosphere. Plus people will walk up the beach asking if you want coconuts or something to eat. You don’t even have to move. This will cost you around 20 CUC* with a taxi and let them know what time to pick you up.


How to get here

Cienfuegos is only 1 hour from Playa Larga and 1 hour to Trinidad costing around 10 - 15 CUC* in a taxi collectivo. It is also about 3 hours from Havana if you are coming direct from there.


Trinidad



Trinidad is unlike any other town you have seen before. Filled with colourful casas, cobble stone streets, blaring salsa music, roaming cowboys with their horses, beaches and mountains everywhere you look, this is one unique and beautiful town.


Where to stay

We stayed in a fantastic airbnb that was right in the centre of Trinidad. The rooms were gorgeous, with the highlight being the rooftop. We didn’t have to pay to go up the towns towers as we had the same view from our roof, and they sure have a killer sunset from up here with all the mountains, clock towers and roofs you can see beyond.



Where to eat

Trinidad was full of amazing restaurants and places to grab a drink. Every street you turn down is always so lively with people buzzing about and music coming from everywhere. There are many cute roof top bars and restaurants in the main squares. If you walk a few minutes out of the squares you will find some fancy restaurants at affordable prices.


  • Adita – Has impeccable food for a decent price. Make sure you treat yourself and dive into the dessert menu (order the Coconut Flan).

  • San Jose – We never had the chance to eat here. The line was always bigger than our stomaches patience haha. Get in early!


What to do

Being such a diverse town, there is so much to do in Trinidad. Just walking around the city alone and taking in the mountain views are breathtaking. Make sure you ride off into the mountains on horseback and drive along the coast in a classic convertible car to visit the many small beaches.


  • Horse riding tour – The best way to check out the countryside is on horseback with a local cowboy. You can organise a tour in town which will cost you around 30 CUC*, or you can go like we did on a private tour with one of the cowboys roaming around town for just 10 CUC* (keep in mind you need to pay entry fees but still cheaper). The trip involves trotting through the mountains, a visit to a sugar cane farm to sample some juice, a stop at the beautiful waterfall for a swim, as well as a visit to a coffee farm, where you pay 2 CUC* and get a free cigar with your coffee.

  • Walk around – The buzzing town squares and cute streets are nice to explore.

  • Beaches – Take a drive town the Coast road, starting in La Boca and finishing at Playa Ancon. There are some beautiful private beaches along the way you can stop and for a snorkel or just if you feel like having the beach to yourself. A drive in a vintage taxi should cost no more than 10 CUC* going via La Boca, or 5 – 8 CUC* when going direct to Playa Ancon.

  • Casa de la Musica – There are live music shows everynight that cost just 1 CUC* to attend. Sit on one of the steps or many tables outdoors with a cocktail and embrace the musical atmosphere.

  • Cave club – Ever wanted to rave in a cave? Now’s your chance! 5 CUC* entry will include a free cocktail.


How to get here

Trinidad is about 1 hour from Cienfuegos costing around 10 CUC* in a taxi collectivo. It is around 4 hours from Havana direct and costs around 35 CUC* in a taxi collectivo.


Varadero



Varadero has a beautiful beach, however we would recommend staying in an all-inclusive resort if you come to this town. We stayed in an airbnb which nice and in a great location in town, except we didn’t really like the town at all, and for the amount of money you pay to stay a few streets back from the beach, we would much rather spend half the money and be on the beach in Playa Larga. We think the experience would be different in one of the many all-inclusive resorts along the beach, we prefer small coastal towns though and generally are not resort people.


Where to stay

There are many all-inclusive resorts to stay in Varadero, but if you wanted to stay in an airbnb, we would recommend the one we stayed in as it had a great location and is a decent room. In saying that, we wouldn't go back here and stay in an airbnb.


  • One of the many all-inclusive resorts along the beach

  • Varadero Beach B&B Beny’s casa (around US $55* per night)


Where to eat

We didn’t think there were too many nice restaurants around Varadero town, and this is probably because most people here are staying in an all-inclusive resort. We also tried to explore the night life, but found all of the cover bands quite tacky and not our thing. We tried to find some authentic Cuban music and could only find rock/pop cover bands of typical American music.


  • Waco’s – We were lucky enough to be recommended this amazing restaurant however. The service was impeccable and the food delicious. We got the paella to share and it was so big, we struggled to even eat half then we took the leftovers home to have for lunch the next day.


What to do

There is not a whole lot to do in Varadero other than laze along the beautiful beach. Saying that, this was the first beach we found with waves. Time for a body surf!


  • Beach time – Make the most of chilling on the beautiful white sand and swimming in the clear water.

  • Factoria Varadero 43 Cerveceria – There is a cool brewery near the beach where you can buy a 2L tower for just 5 CUC*. This is a good way to kill some time when escaping the sun.


How to get here

3.5 hours from Trinidad 30 CUC* per person or 1.5 hours from Havana 25 CUC*.


Essential to pack (other than the obvious)

  • Toiletries – make sure you have enough. The necessities can be very hard to find.

  • Cash – Bring Euros or Canadian dollars in case the ATMs aren’t working.

  • Sunscreen – Can be expensive and hard to find.

  • Waterproof bag – Handy when out on a day trip and it starts raining. Or to just turn into your own washing machine when the washing is too expensive.

  • Portable charger – Just in case there is a power outage.

Sample Itineraries


We understand that not everyone has 3 weeks to spend in Cuba, so we have written a few samples of where we would go if we had any of the below time frames. The 2 week one is obviously ideal. It would have also been amazing to travel further East of the country, but we think you would need at least 4 weeks to go around the whole country and not have to travel everyday.


1 week itinerary sample

  • Havana – 3 nights

  • Trinidad – 3 nights


10 day itinerary sample

  • Havana – 3 nights

  • Vinales – 1 night

  • Playa Larga – 2 nights

  • Trinidad – 3 nights


2 weeks itinerary sample

  • Havana – 3 nights

  • Vinales – 2 nights

  • Playa Larga – 3 nights

  • Trinidad – 3 nights

  • Havana – 2 nights


* Price subject to change based on season and how much we got ripped haha

OUR STORY

We found each other on the other side of the world in a little party town called Lagos in Portugal. After travelling together for years, then marrying in Bali in June 2018, we thought why settle now. So here we are, on our ultimate honeymoons around the world. We hope our blogs can inspire you to travel with some useful tips and tricks so you to can have some amazing adventures.

 
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If you have any questions about anywhere we have visited or any must do’s, get in touch with us!

Manly, NSW, Australia

 
 
 

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