Rousing rhythms, luscious landscapes and loquacious locals make charismatic Cuba a top travel destination for lovers of music, food, culture and life! Offering so much more than antiquated cars and coveted cigars, Cuba has a bounty of beaches, villages, farms and forests for travellers to explore. Viva Cuba!
Cuba Tours & Travel
Top deals in Cuba
|13 Dec 2014 Cuba Sailing Adventure||9||$1302||View trip|
|25 Jan 2015 Best of Cuba||15||$1795||View trip|
|8 Feb 2015 Classic Cuba||8||$925||View trip|
|1 Mar 2015 Classic Cuba||8||$925||View trip|
All our Cuba trips
Cuba trip reviews
Our Cuba trips score an average of 4.77 out of 5 based on 82 reviews in the last year.
Best of Cuba, May 2014
Very pleasant and diverse trip
Review submitted 27 Jun 2014
Classic Cuba, June 2014
I give the tour itself a '5' but it took me 3 attempts to book it initially as the first two people I made contact with weren't all that helpful! Glad I persevered though but it will make me consider other tour operators in the future as I've had better asisstance in the past.
Review submitted 26 Jun 2014
Articles on Cuba
A 5 step guide to sailing the high seas
Posted on Mon, 27 Oct 2014
There are a lot of myths about sailing the high seas, but with Intrepid's handy 5-step guide you'll be ship shape in no time.Read more
Counting the beat in Cuba
Posted on Sun, 2 Feb 2014
When there are two things in life that you love, why not find a way to do both? Laura Rinderknecht did just that on her tour of Cuba… “I love [...]Read more
Taking the family to Cuba
Posted on Sat, 23 Feb 2013
This trip would be a family holiday, but we didn't want to stay in a resort. We wanted to explore the interior and experience the vibrant culture of Cuba.Read more
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in Cuba, you may find yourself travelling by:
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in Cuba you may find yourself staying in a:
At a glance
|Capital city:||Havana (population 2.2 million)|
|Time zone:||(GMT-05:00) Bogota, Lima, Quito, Rio Branco|
|Electricity:||Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) Type B (American 3-pin)|
Best time to visit Cuba
Cuba's subtropical climate is ideal for travelling, with most places catching the cool trade winds that blow from the coast, giving Cuba pleasant temperatures year round. June, July and August are usually the hottest months, the dry season runs from November to April and the wet season from May to October. Even in the rainy season, downpours are short and heavy and shouldn't hinder travel plans. Tropical storms and hurricanes are more prevalent in September and October but rarely cause problems for travellers.
Culture and customs
It’s well known that Cubans loves music and dance – with everything from Afro-Cuban rhythms to classic melodies permeating the atmosphere of clubs, bars, restaurants and street corners. The modern arts are also embraced here, with ballet, modern dance and film also rising in popularity, so much so that Havana is now home to many internationally recognised film, literary and music festivals.
Living in a Communist country means Cubans sometimes go without the luxury items that many Westerners take for granted, with certain foods and products not available to the Cuban public. Despite this, special events like birthdays, holidays and marriages are celebrated with gusto, with special foods, music and dance featuring. This love of life is also evident in the street parties, festivals and fiestas that are celebrated throughout the year. Coffee, cigars and rum are consumed freely and people dance with confident grace as the sound of trumpets and guitars fill the air. Visitors to Cuba will soon be enamored with this uniquely infectious way of life and culture, not seen anywhere else in the world.
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
Cuba typically doesn’t have access to a wide range of ingredients, so your dining experience may not be as varied as you like. Regardless, there are still lots of great treats to savour.
Things to try in Cuba
1. Coppelia Ice Cream
Line up with locals to savour a sweet scoop of Coppelia ice cream. This Cuban institution serves tried and true favourites like chocolate and vanilla as well as exotic favourites mango and coconut.
These small pastries can be either sweet or savoury depending on the filling. Cream cheese, guava and beef are the most popular fillings and make for a cheap, tasty meal on the run.
3. Fritura de Maiz
These deep-fried cheese and cornmeal fritters are a popular street food snack in Cuba and a great choice for vegetarians looking for a meat-free option.
The tipple of choice in Cuba is rum. Savour some Havana Club Rum straight-up, have it mixed up in a minty Mojito or sip on a Cuba Libre.
Cuban coffee is of legendary quality, so be sure to get your caffeine-hit with a small yet rich cup of black gold.
Geography and environment
Large cities like Havana evoke a time gone by. Grand buildings dating back to the 1950s exude a decaying grace not found elsewhere, which makes for great photographs but also makes daily life quite difficult at times. Due to a lack of building materials, new housing and infrastructure is rare, making living conditions quite cramped for Cuban city-dwellers. Rural life offers more space and a quieter pace, but less access to services. Regardless of where you travel in Cuba, the people are generally kind, humble and hospitable in both the big cities and small towns.
History and government
Originally inhabited by indigenous people, Christopher Columbus first sighted Cuba in 1492, and later claimed it as a Spanish territory. The Spanish went on to create many settlements around Cuba, which created conflict and warfare between the Spanish settlers and indigenous people. With the establishment of tobacco plantations and other cash crops like sugar cane, Cuba came to rely upon African slaves for labour during the 17th and 18th centuries. Bringing unique customs, music, language and food with them, the African slaves added to the melting pot of cultures already forming in Cuba. Due to Cuba’s rich natural environment and relative prosperity, the island became a prime target for pirates and other foreign invaders. When visiting Cuba today there are a number of fortresses and other historical remnants that act as a reminder of Cuba’s pirate past. After the Spanish-American War, Cuba was handed over to the United States, which assumed control until 1902, when power was then granted to a Cuban government.
Two iconic figures play the largest roles in Cuba’s more recent history. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are embedded in the national psyche of Cuba, their power and influence pivotal to the Cuban Revolution of 1959. After taking control, Castro soon set out to remove political opponents from the administration and gain control of newspapers, radio and television stations. Relations between the United States and Cuba became strained almost immediately with the US resenting Castro’s takeover and Communist rule. Trade embargoes were put in place after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 added further tension to relations between the US and Cuba, which continues into the present day. Standing alongside Fidel Castro as an equally important political figure, Che Guevara (although Argentinean) holds a very important place in Cuban history. A revolutionary, author, doctor and military leader, Guevara played pivotal roles in the guerrilla campaign leading up to the Cuban Revolution and the defence of the Bay of Pigs, as well as diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union, up until his death in 1967. It’s impossible not to notice the reverence and honour held for Guevara when visiting Cuba. Street art, monuments, statues and museums dedicated to the man Cubans simply call ‘El Che’ can be found all over the country.
Top 10 Essential Experiences of Cuba
1. Get into the Groove
Cubans love to dance, so find your rhythm and try some Salsa, Rumba, or Afro-Cuban Conga moves. From open-air street parties to jazz clubs, be sure to revel in the infectious beats and lively atmosphere of Cuba’s legendary nightlife.
2. Meet Cigar-Rolling Superstars
Don’t leave Cuba without seeing the meticulous art of cigar rolling in action. Master rollers prepare cigars delicately by hand, with different shapes, sizes and flavours being created in front of your eyes. Their specialist knowledge and skills are envied by the world.
3. Get to Know a Caribbean Queen
Named after a woman, the warm sun and azure waters of Maria la Gorda beach are made for swimming, diving and snorkelling. With reefs of black coral, hidden grottoes and miles of white sand, this beach is fit for royalty.
4. Meander Along the Malecon
Soak up fresh sea breezes and watch the waves crash against the seawall on a walk along Havana’s Malecon. Wait for sunset when the sun’s golden rays illuminate the faded charm of the buildings that line the boulevard.
5. Catch Up Over a Coffee
Home to many coffee plantations, Cuba knows how to deliver a good brew. Served short, hot, sweet and without milk, cupping a coffee in a Havana café or coffee bar is a great way to get to know the city… and get kudos from the locals.
6. Capture Colourful Streetscapes
Photographers will love snapping the vibrant street art and gritty graffiti found in Cuba’s neighbourhoods. From faded revolution-era murals to modern stencils, there’s plenty of Cuba to capture through a lense.
7. Meet the Music-Makers
Listen to the moving ballads and poetic love songs of guitar-playing Trovadores on the streets of Havana. The roots of modern Cuban music lie in the Trova, so don’t miss catching a performance.
8. Get Your Game On
Chess and dominoes are popular national past-times in Cuba. Watch locals play chess in the park or try to get in on a dominoes match in a coffee house or bar. Sports fanatics should head to a baseball game to see passionate fans get behind their favourite team. The baseball season runs from October to April and games are a low-cost, fun way to absorb Cuban culture and meet locals.
9. Pig Out at a Paladar
Cuba’s small, family-run restaurants, known as paladares, are a great way to experience local hospitality and Cuban home cooking. Some have a fun, 1950s retro vibe, others a more rustic feel, either way paladares offer a chance to experience a slice of homegrown Cuba.
10. Get to Know Che Guavara
From the iconic image of Che located in Revolution Square to the memorial and museum in Santa Clara there are plenty of ways to spend quality time with 'El Che' while in Cuba.
Cuba may not be known for it’s shopping, but look closely and you’ll find lots of unique souvenirs to take home as a reminder of your stay.
Before heading home, check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to import some items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand for example have strict quarantine laws. The United States also has restrictions on the amount of tobacco and alcohol that can be brought back from Cuba.
Things to buy in Cuba
Cuba has a keen appreciation of the fine arts, so it’s not hard to find unique artworks by up-and-coming Cuban artists being sold at galleries and markets.
The cliché is true - cigars are everywhere in Cuba. Be sure to buy authentic cigars from authorised sellers, as fakes are common. Purchasing straight from the factory is usually best.
Cuban coffee is top quality, so stock up before you leave to enjoy a taste of Cuba from the comfort of your own home.
With such a rich, musical heritage, Cuba is a great place to pick up a hand-crafted musical instrument or, if travelling light perhaps a CD.
Festivals and Events in Cuba
Havana International Jazz Festival
Local and international artists head to Havana every year to become a part of the cool jazz scene. From the impressive Teatro Nacional de Cuba to the city streets, the sweet sounds of jazz infuse the air of Havana during this festival.
Habanos Cigar Festival
Cigar connoisseurs gather each year to celebrate their love of the best cigar in the world - the Habano. With tastings, visits to plantations and factories, master classes and cigar-rolling contests on offer, this festival will intrigue the curious and delight cigar enthusiasts.
Santiago de Cuba Carnival
Watch this historic city come alive with street parades full of vibrant costumes, hot drum rhythms and lively dancers.
FAQs on Cuba
Tourists of most nationalities require a 'Tourist Card' which is similar to a tourist visa. These can be obtained through travel agents in your home country, or directly from Cuban embassies and consulates. Depending on the airline you are travelling with to Cuba, you may also be able to purchase the tourist card at the airport from the airline on the day of your departure - please check with your airline.
If you are an American citizen, American permanent resident, or hold any type of American Visa, and are considering travelling to Cuba, please refer to the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website - travel.state.gov - for the latest advice.
Cup of coffee = 1 CUC
Cocktail = 3-4 CUC
Meal in a nice restaurant = 9-12 CUC
For more information on insurance, please go to: [site:intrepid_insurance_link]
Jan 2 Victory of Armed Forces
May 1 Labour Day
May 20 Independence Day
July 25 Day of Rebelliousness
Oct 10 Anniversary of the beginning of the War of Independence in 1868
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/Cuba/public-holidays
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Cuba Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for Cuba
1. Be considerate of Cuba’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.
3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
4. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.
5. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
6. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
7. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
8. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.
|Our Man in Havana||Graham Greene|
|Before Night Falls||Reinaldo Arenas|
|Broken Paradise||Cecilia Samartin|
|Take Me with You||Carlos Frias|
|Adios Havana||Andrew J. Rodriguez|
|Blessed by Thunder||Flor Fernandez Barrios|
|Conversations with Cuba||C. Peter Ripley|