As the largest Caribbean island, tourism is one of the main sources of revenue for Cuba, it’s favourable climate, beaches, architecture and cultural history makes the island an attractive destination for tourists. Cuba has no less than 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 7 Natural Biosphere Reserves and 253 protected areas.
The capital city is Havana and the country has a population of 11,238, 317 (2014). The island is 1,250 km long and 191 km across its widest points and 31 km across its narrowest points. The south coast is Caribbean sea and north coast Atlantic. The island produces their famous rum and Cuban cigars from the many tobacco and sugar plantations.
The peak tourist season in Cuba is from mid December to mid March, plus July and August. If you’re looking for a busy destination outside these months, Havana and Santiago have a great vibe and offer good value holidays all year round. It can get really expensive during the summer peak July – August as it’s the Cuban holiday season and many festivals / carnivals are held. The six weeks from mid March to the end of April, is the optimum time to travel economically, within the dry season.
The dry season is from December to May and the wet season from June to November. August, September and October are the months most at risk from hurricanes.
Cuba has a hot and sunny tropical climate with an average of 24°C. June to August are the hottest months with the temperature reaching highs of 32°C. June is the wettest month with an average of 80mm of rain. Typically July has the most hours of sunshine, up to 11 hours a day. The coldest month is January at 21°C.
The south coast has the best weather on the island, the best time to visit is from October to April, when it’s dry, warm and sunny with little risk of rainfall. March and April are popular with an average of 7 hours daily sunshine, temperatures reaching up to 29°C, without being too hot or humid. If you are planning a visit in the wet season, expect rain on a couple of days during your holiday, it’s generally a quick hard downpour followed by sunshine.
Baracoa: Authentic Cuba that is largely undiscovered by tourists as yet. Christopher Columbus was the first European to land here in 1492, originally the capital and targeted by pirates.
Cayo Coco: All inclusive tourist resort, with 30 km of stunning white sand beaches. Offshore reefs are popular with scuba divers. Together with Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco was the setting for Ernest Hemmingway’s novels Islands in the Stream and The Old Man and the Sea.
Cayo Guillermo: Fabulous bird watching, visitors flock to this area to watch the 10,000 pink flamingos and pelicans. A much smaller scale than Cayo Coco, this resort has a handful of all inclusive resorts, make Cayo Guillermo the choice for visitors wanting serenity and 4km of stunning white beaches.
Cayo Largo: Home to Playa Paraiso, named as one of the top 25 beaches in the world, and designated areas to sunbathe au natural, Cayo Largo has been developed specifically as a tourist resort. Also famous for sea turtles return to nest each summer.
Cayo Levisa: Only accessible by boat from Palma Rubia, Cayo Levisa offers quaint low key bungalows, untouched white sand beaches and 23 dive sites including a reef of black coral.
Cayo Santa Maria: A new tourist resort built since the millenium, now second to Varadero in popularity. Connected to the mainland by a 48 km causeway, this resort offers something for everyone with activities as well as beaches.
Cienfuegos: A stunning urban town founded by French and Spanish immigrants, second to Havana in popularity with tourists.
Guardalavaca: Great value holiday destination in the north east, combining the best of Cuba and the Caribbean.
Havana: A fantastic place to visit for a short break or as a twin centre destination. Many hotels are located in old colonial buildings with rooftop terraces, cafes and restaurants within the hotels. During the 1950s, this one of the places to be seen and offered the opportunity to indulge in a hedonistic lifestyle. The ‘Rat Pack’, including Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin alongside many other rich and famous people, were frequently found enjoying the nightlife in the Riviera and Hilton.
Isla de la Juventud: This second largest island in Cuba is a melting pot of communities and home to the Presidio Modelo maximum-security prison where Fidel Castro was incarcerated. Accessible by ferry from Havana.
Pinar del Rio: A lush green and mountainous landscape with tobacco plantations, the place to be to experience the famous Cuban cigars.
Santa Lucia: On the Atlantic north coast with one of the world’s biggest unbroken coral reefs that stretches for over 14 miles.
Santiago de Cuba: Another city rich in colonial history, first settled by Europeans in the 16th century. Home to an incredibly diverse population and much of the music that expresses the soul of Cuba.
Trinidad: A colonial city, recognised by UNESCO. Located in Sancti Spiritus, a region offering stunning mountain, river and beach landscapes, the town is well-preserved, remaining unchanged in around 500 years.
Varadero: A beach resort aimed solely at tourists, with a full range of hotels to suit all budgets.
Vinales: The destination for caving, on the tourist map due to the Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas, Cuba’s largest known cave system stretching some 45 km.
Cuba has 10 international airports, and approximately 25 regional ones. The main flight connections from the UK are via these three: Jose Marti Airport in Havana (HAV), Juan Gualberto Gomez in Varadero (VRA) and Frank Pais airport in Holguin (HOG).
The Cuban Pesos (CUP) is the official currency of Cuba.
The official language spoken in Cuba is Spanish it’s the first language of about 90 percent of the entire population. Other languages spoken in the country include Haitian Creole, Lucimi, Galician, and Corsican.
Cuba is in the Eastern Time Zone. UTC-5:00
After the embargo with the US, their main tourist market was from Canada. According to the ONE statistic centre of Cuba, the country received 3,002,745 tourists in 2014, of those 1,175,077 were from Canada, 139,138 Germany, 123,910 UK, 123,910 Italy, 112,076 France and 91,254 from US.
A Cuban Tourist Card, commonly known as a Cuban Visa or Cuba Holiday Visa; is a simple but crucial document that you need to have before boarding your flight to Cuba. Once issued this document is valid for a stay of up to 30 days and can be used once, within 180 days of issue. The Cuban Visa Office is situated at the Cuban Embassy on 167 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6PA. Alternatively a number of online companies can process a tourist card / visa for you, priced from £16 (plus postage) to £36 for an express next day delivery. Check with your tour operator / travel agent if a tourist card has been included with your holiday package.
There’s a mandatory airport tax of 25 Cuban convertible pesos (CUCs). This fee should be included in the cost of your airline ticket.
Many medicines are unavailable in Cuba, you should take your prescription drugs with you, together with a letter from your doctor explaining your condition, in case you are questioned at customs. Take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, cases of the Chikungunya virus and Dengue fever have been confirmed in Cuba, travellers could be at risk to the Zika virus according to the UK health authorities. Cases of cholera were also reported in parts of the country in 2015.