Cuba cultural holidays travel guide

Handpainted slogans around Cuba cry 'Viva la revolución!' and 'Homeland or death!' But Hemingway’s quote could be a more fitting motto for the country in which his last major book was set; the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Cuban people is astounding. Cut off from the outside world for almost six decades, daily essentials are in short supply, yet Cubans live to cherish what they do have: music, dance, literature, landscapes – and one of the most inspiring histories in the world.
Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is
– Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Watching dancers in the plaza, rolling a fresh cigar and riding a classic car along the Malecón are classic experiences, but our cultural holidays in Cuba really get under the skin of the country – staying in a family home, taking an Afro-Cuban drumming lesson, meeting a Santería priest and exploring forgotten pueblos where ox carts are wistfully, lovingly, described as 'Cuban tractors.' This unique Caribbean-Communist state is on the brink of major change, for better or worse. Read our Cuba cultural holidays travel guide to find out how you can experience it now.

Best time to go on a Cuba cultural holiday

If you’re determined to see the Cuba of your imagination, then the best time to go is now.
With the easing of trade and travel restrictions, Cuban culture is set to change dramatically. While that may be no bad thing for many Cubans (who earn $15-25 per month and live off rations) – travellers are understandably keen to witness the island before capitalist abandon roars ashore. Weather-wise, May-late Oct are wet with a risk of hurricanes – particularly in the east. Dec-Jan are cooler, while the weather warms up by March-April – ideal if you want to hit the beach. Festivals and events take place year round; whenever you go, you’ll catch a cultural show.

Havana Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
17
26
68
FEB
17
26
54
MAR
19
28
50
APR
20
29
63
MAY
22
30
130
JUN
23
31
194
JUL
23
32
149
AUG
23
32
157
SEP
23
31
174
OCT
22
30
164
NOV
20
28
75
DEC
18
27
55

Our top Cuba culture Holiday

Cuban casa holiday

Cuban casa holiday

Go local in Cuba staying in friendly family B&Bs throughout.

From £1298 15 days ex flights
Tailor made:
Everything is tweak-able, giving you the freedom to build a unique and personal trip for your chosen date. Upgrade your accommodation for all - or just part - of your trip, slow down the pace with few extra nights here and there or add a few more active adventures along the way
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Cuba culture or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

Things to do on a cultural holiday in Cuba

Things to do on a cultural holiday in Cuba...

The surest way to get up close to real Cuban culture is to book a homestay - or 'casa particular'. A rare example of entrepreneurship on this state-run island, since 1997 ordinary Cubans have been able to rent rooms in their homes to tourists - it's the original Airbnb. As well as spending time in a local house with a family, you'll be able to share their meals, ask for insider tips and find out more about daily life in Cuba. Many travellers' greatest regret is not being able to join Cubans on the dancefloor. Salsa lessons (and percussion classes, for the less bold) are available around Cuba; book a class on arrival so that you can put your new moves to good use during the rest of your holiday. Feeling nervioso? Mojitos always help... Cuba may be poor, but its commitment to the arts and culture is unwavering. Theatres, poetry readings, literary gatherings, music festivals, impromptu dance performances, ballet shows and art openings are pretty much a daily event in the cities – with Havana’s timetable of cultural indulgences particularly overwhelming. Even if you struggle with Spanish, the atmosphere is fantastic, and you’ll be supporting local artists. The musical treats here extend far beyond the lilting son of Buena Vista Social Club (though you’ll hear plenty of that, too). Jazz is hugely popular, while towards the Afro-Cuban dominated east, the streets throb to African-inspired timba and rumba.

Things not to do on a cultural holiday in Cuba...

If you’re not the kind of person who would go to Spain and spend a week in Benidorm, or Mexico for a week in Cancún – you’ll want to avoid Varadero. Granted, the hotels are comfortable, the beaches are beautiful and the lack of Spanish won’t be an issue – but you’ll experience nothing of Cuba’s real culture. Many people who spend more than a few days here are itching to get back out to the crazy Cuban streets.
Don’t have high expectations of the food in government-run hotels and restaurants. Cuban cuisine has suffered following decades of trade embargoes, enforced self-sufficiency and strict rationing. The casas particulares, however, and locally run paladar restaurants offer homecooked food and a friendly atmosphere. The seafood is sublime (try the abundant lobster) and the fresh fruit brings a taste of the tropics to your breakfast table.
We often recommend buying things locally to support traders, but in Cuba, bring everything you think you might need – and more. Toiletries, sun screen and medications are near impossible to obtain due to trade restrictions. If possible, leave any extras behind for your casa hosts or other Cubans you meet – toothpaste, pens, umbrellas and sanitary products, among other things, will be welcomed.
Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: Nick Kenrick] [Temp intro: Vicki Brown] [To do: Bud Ellison]
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