So, “Bottom line up front”: embarking on a solo journey through Cuba is simply a great idea!
After traveling in and around Cuba for five years and being based in Havana for two years as a solo traveling chica, I feel reasonably competent to share with you the best things to do in Cuba solo.
Arriving in Havana (or anywhere else in Cuba) is still like stepping into a different world; this captivating island nation is like nowhere else you have visited. I’m here to guide you through the best things to do in Cuba solo, the vibrant tapestry woven with history, culture, and the rhythmic beats of salsa music.
And yes, Cuba is a safe destination for solo female travelers. More about that later!
Quick Summary: 5 Best Destinations In Cuba
Here is a quick introduction to what you can expect in the different destinations in Cuba.
Urban Havana, as a destination, is a busy metropolis with buzzing city life, historical sights, beauty and decay, museums, great restaurants, and bars, and it is not far from the beach.
I love Havana, but I also need to get away regularly to relax a bit.
Cultural Vinales Valley is where you learn how Cuban cigars are made, plus rum and sugar, and there are incredible nature experiences.
Vinales is a small village in the countryside; agriculture is done the old way, around 2 plus hours from Havana, reachable by a (very busy) day trip.
Luxury in Varadero is where you go to enjoy all-inclusive resorts, Caribbean beaches, poolside bars, and pampering.
You find all this in Varadero, but you dont find “Cuba” in Varadero. (You can take trips to “Cuba” from Varadero, too.)
Historical Trinidad is unintentionally the best-kept colonial town in Cuba. A small town on the southern Cuban shores, visit Trinidad to walk the cobblestoned streets.
Explore arts, crafts, and architecture, and learn the history of the sugar trade. And eat and drink well!
📍 TheWorldByHege Tip: As Cuba is still subject to sanctions, many tour operators can not work in Cuba even now. My favorite tour operator, which generally has great reviews for Cuba tours, is Civitatis.
I have had several amazing tours with Civitatis, and I recommend you research their tours to create your best Cuba experience (as transport in Cuba is still not a straightforward thing to organize).
1. Havana – The Heartbeat of Cuba
Havana, the infamous beating heart of Cuba, still pulses with energy, offering a kaleidoscope of experiences for solo travelers. I lived here for over two years, close to the Parque Cristo, a couple of blocks from the Capitolio.
In Havana, there are several city districts.
The old city is called La Habana Vieja in Spanish. Then there is Central Havana, the Vedado, Miramar, and Playa to the east, and La Habana del Este (Western Havana), slightly outside the city.
Central Havana is a lot like Old Havana, although a lot more run-down, with fewer tourists, fewer grandiose buildings (but the architecture is still colonial buildings), small markets, shops, bars, and some of the best restaurants in Havana.
The Vedado is the modern part of the city, where you find the Yara cinema, many embassies, wide avenues, and elegant mansions with gardens.
Miramar and Playa is the westernest west end, with large mansions, hotels with business facilities, more embassies, and a large Marina.
Also read: What To Wear In Cuba & Packing Tips (2024)
My Best Tips For Things To Do In Havana Solo
Here is what I think you should do in Havana traveling solo.
- Even if you are not really a city person, I still recommend you stay in Havana for a couple of days. If you are a city person, I recommend you stay for at least 3-4 days or more. Lots to do!
- Do a Classic American Car Tour on day one! This is a bit touristy, but it really gives you the absolute best tour of the city, so you become familiar with greater Havana and the city districts. I always recommend this tour.
- Go on a guided walking tour of Old Havana to have the best experience with the historic city instead of heading out on your own and missing out on a lot. If you want to explore on foot on your own, I recommend you do this in Central Havana.
- Stroll around Central Havana. This area is less touristy, and you will attract less attention as a foreigner. You will also find small shops and cafes where there are only Cubans, who will probably look at you funny for being on your own outside the tourist tracks. That is a lot cooler!
- Take a walk along the Malecon boardwalk and enjoy the ocean view and the Morro and Cabana fortress across the bay.
- In the evening, head out for the cannon ceremony on the Havana Fortress La Cabana, which starts at 9 pm (get there around 8)
- If you like to dance salsa and bachata, go to Bar Salsa Habana in the old city or any Casa de la Musica!
Have dinner at one of these three super amazing paladares in Central Havana, privately run restaurants offering the best food possible (do get a bici taxi here to not get lost!). Book a table on either of these in advance; they are popular.
- The rooftop at La Guarida
- Paladar Mischifu
- San Cristobal (where President Obama had dinner when he visited).
Old Havana is one of the 9 Cuban UNESCO World Heritage sites. The old city is a place you walk; the streets are super narrow and not really cut out for cars at all. Full of fascinating streets and architecture, art pieces, plazas, the cathedral, sculptures, and murals.
One of my top recommendations is to book a guided tour of Old Havana, to have less hassle and a lot more fun with a skilled guide taking you to the most important places and telling you the most interesting stores about the city (it took me a few weeks not to get lost here by myself).
From Parque Central, stroll down the wide Prado Avenue and along the iconic Malecón. When exploring solo to Havana, make sure you sip a cortadito at a ventanita or dance the night away in one of the city’s many salsa clubs.
2. Viñales – A Solo Adventure in Nature
Nestled in the heart of the Pinar del Río province, Viñales is a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts and a haven for those seeking peace.
As the lush tobacco fields stretch before you like a patchwork quilt, Viñales offers a unique and tranquil solo experience. Explore the verdant landscapes on horseback or take a hike through the mogotes, the distinctive limestone hills that define the region.
You will meet with local tobacco farmers, learn the art of cigar rolling, and gain insights into the agricultural traditions that shape Viñales’ character.
My Best Advice For Things To Do In Vinales Valley Solo
Here is what I think you should do in Vinales.
- Travel from Havana either on an organized tour, with the Viazul bus, or with a taxi collectivo. Your host or hotel can help you find the information you need and make bookings.
- Go horseback riding in the fields and visit tobacco and cigar farms, sample honey, rum, and a hot cigar puff!
- Go see the impressive Mural de la Prehistoria (created in the 50s, so not pre-historic). It is still impressive.
- Go hiking, climbing, or even caving in the famous mogotes in Vinales Valley.
- You can explore the countryside by horse, bike, or on foot
- Join a sunrise or sunset hike, where you get to hike up into the hills around Vinales right before sunrise (my favorite). Arrive at a farm as the light is just visible, and get a hot, strong Cuban coffee while the world wakes up and the sun rises over the stunning silvery, moist Vinales valley. It’s worth getting up in the middle of the night!
- Explore Cueva del Indio cave, where you can take a boat trip on the subterranean river with beautiful lighting under the earth!
Solo travelers will find the pace of Viñales conducive to self-reflection. Enjoy the tranquility of the Viñales Valley, where time slows down a bit.
The local homestays, known as casas particulares, provide an authentic and personalized experience, allowing you to connect with the warm-hearted locals.
3. Trinidad – Timeless Charm For Solo Explorers
Trinidad is a town practically frozen in time with its cobblestone streets, pastel-hued colonial buildings, and the lively Plaza Mayor at its heart.
Not by choice, mind you. Trinidad was kind of lost in time as Cuba was priced out of the sugar trade by fierce competition a long time ago. The town went from being the trade capital of Cuba to a forgotten backwater, and modernization simply continued without Trinidad.
This is why it is such a unique destination today; the whole city is called “the museum of Cuba”!
My Best Advice On What To Do In Trinidad Solo
Here is what I think you should do in Trinidad.
- Visit the actual museums that dot the city, such as the Museo Romántico and the Palacio Cantero, to delve into Trinidad’s rich history.
- Walk the cobblestoned streets of the Old Historic city of Trinidad, check out the art venues, and look for local craft items.
- The local music scene is vibrant in Trinidad, and you should spend at least one night at the outdoor indoor Casa de la Musica. Also, attend spontaneous street performances or join in on a salsa class in one of the city’s lively dance studios (I forgot, you should do that in Havana too).
- Spend at least half a day out on Playa Ancon. It takes you ten minutes to get there with a taxi from the center of Trinidad or half an hour, give or take, on a bike (depending on the direction and strength of the winds!).
- Go clubbing at La Cueva, a nightclub a few minutes outside the city center that is located deep down in a natural cave! The floor here is rugged, so dont wear your most wobbly heels.
- Visit the Valle de los Ingenios, the valley of the Sugar Mills, a few miles from Trinidad. This is where you will get the best overview of the sugar empire’s history and all its consequences, like the enslavement of Africans, domestic economic issues, evolving culture and architecture, and more.
I recommend you stay at least two nights in Trinidad if you really want to explore not just the historical city but also the history, art, and adjacent important places of nature or history.
4. Cienfuegos – French Serenity By The Sea
Cienfuegos is a small town rather short distance from Trinidad along the south of Cuba (also very close to the Bay of Pigs, which you can visit from here).
It is also the only town in Cuba that was founded by the French, not the Spanish. Explore the city’s French influence, evident in the elegant Palacio de Valle and the enchanting Parque José Martí.
My Best Advice For Things To Do In Cienfuegos Solo
Here is what I think you should do in Cienfuegos.
Explore the architectural wonders of Punta Gorda, where neoclassical mansions line the Malecón boardwalk, creating a picturesque backdrop for your solitary wanderings.
Go swimming at Punta Gorda and visit one of the charming restaurants out here afterward. You should also visit the pristine beaches of Rancho Luna, where the azure waters of the Caribbean are super inviting.
Take a guided tour of the city (I always recommend that any destination becomes so much more alive when you have someone telling you stories about it).
Cienfuegos offers a balance of cultural exploration and seaside tranquility, making it an ideal stop on your solo Cuban odyssey.
Cienfuegos is not a very big city, and I would recommend you stay here for one night and one to two days more or less.
5. Santiago de Cuba – Solo Journey To The East
If you venture far east, Santiago de Cuba welcomes you with its vibrant life and perhaps a bit more prominent Afro-Cuban rhythms.
Unless you arrive directly in Santiago de Cuba, you can find domestic flights from Havana to Santiago, or do as I did: take the Viasul Bus!
That took a while (20ish hours), but it was actually not that bad. In fact, I quite enjoyed the journey, with a lot of stops underway and people coming and going.
What is special about Santiago de Cuba is that at one point, it used to be the capital of Cuba, and it is heavily influenced by its neighbor islands to the east, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, too.
You will see and feel a more Caribbean vibe in Santiago than in Havana.
My Best Tips For Things To Do In Santiago de Cuba solo
What I think you should do in Santiago de Cuba.
First and foremost, stay at a casa particular, as always, to support the Cuban people.
Visit Castillo del Morro Fortress and spend some time exploring out here at the entrance of the bay into Santiago. As the city is situated a bit secluded inside a narrow bay, it makes sense that it was a good choice as a capital.
Walk around the city and stop by some of the shops, like the MLC shops, which are a weird concept of government-run stores all over the country where you can not spend Cuban money.
Visit Ifigenia Cemetary, where not just Fidel Castro but several of the most important historical personas in Cuba are buried. It is a place with almost a regal atmosphere, stunning sculptures, and gravestones, and they have an elaborate guard changing ceremony regularly during the daytime.
Santiago is the Cuban capital of the Carnival and the home of the most vibrant annual carnival on the island. Attend local festivals if they happen to take place during your visit, where the streets come alive with music, dance, and colorful celebrations.
Solo travelers will discover the city’s soul in its music venues, where the sounds of son cubano and trova create an unforgettable soundtrack for your solo journey. Every destination in Cuba has a Casa de la Musica, or Casa de la Trova (trubadeurs).
6. Varadero For Solo Travelers
Varadero is a Cuban destination that really has “nothing to do with Cuba” as such.
The Varadero peninsula is the largest resort area in the whole of the Caribbean region and is scattered with high-end all-inclusive resorts along the paradisiacal beaches.
From my house in Havana, I used to travel to Varadero every now and then to get a break from the noise of Havana. It is a city where it is impossible to shut the city noise out of the house!
So, escaping to a tropical luxury paradise is actually completely zen. Also, in the center of Varadero Town, it is possible to book stays at Casa Particulares if you are only staying in Varadero and want a more authentic (and cheaper!) experience.
My Best Tips For Things To Do In Varadero solo
What I think you should do in Varadero:
Visit the Dolphinario in Varadero. This dolphinarium is located in a natural mangrove and is a really good environment for the dolphins to live in, if you wonder about that (I checked). The show is super cool, and afterward, you can get both kisses and swim with the dolphins if you want to.
Join a catamaran trip to Cayo Blanco. This is probably my favorite tour in Varadero, as I love catamarans (so quiet!), apart from the scuba diving that you can also do from the peninsula.
If you are staying at a resort and don’t plan to go anywhere else in Cuba, I would definitely take advantage of the activities most resorts have available. Take a dance class! Learn to scuba dive!
7. Solo Travel Tips for Cuba
As you navigate the streets of Havana, traverse the valleys of Viñales, and immerse yourself in the charm of Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and Santiago de Cuba, here are some essential solo travel tips that are going to ease your Cuban adventure.
Embrace the Local Pace
Cuba operates on its own time, and embracing the unhurried pace will enhance your solo experience. So yes, Cuban time is actually “a thing.”
So, instead of getting worked up by delays and things that don’t always go according to plan, try the “letting go” technique and relax! This is a chance to allow spontaneity to guide your days, whether it’s joining a salsa class or striking up a conversation with locals.
Connect With Locals & Fellow Travelers
Cuba’s warmth extends beyond its climate; the people are genuinely friendly and open.
Take the opportunity to connect with locals and fellow solo travelers, sharing stories and recommendations over a cup of strong Cuban coffee.
As Always: Safety First
While Cuba is generally safe for solo travelers, it’s advisable to exercise the usual precautions. Keep your belongings secure, be aware of your surroundings, and trust your instincts.
Explore Beyond Tourist Hotspots
Venture off the beaten path to discover hidden gems and authentic Cuban experiences.
Engage with locals, try street food, and embrace the unexpected detours that often lead to the most memorable moments.
Learn Some Basic Spanish Before You Arrive
While many Cubans in tourist areas speak English, knowing some basic Spanish phrases will enhance your interactions and endear you to the locals. Or learn Spanish in Cuba?
Before you travel, you definitely should download an app, and while you are at it, download a dictionary that you can use offline. It is quite likely that you will be offline most of the time while in Cuba, so this may come in handy.
Book Casa Particulares Instead Of Hotels
Opt for casa particulares instead of hotels for a more immersive experience.
These private homestays not only offer comfort but also provide insights into Cuban family life, and you also travel to “support the Cuban people” living in private rentals.
Cuba Transportation Tips
You will probably navigate the island with a mix of public transport, shared taxis (collectivos), and, of course, iconic vintage cars.
In Classic American Cars, getting from one destination to another can be part of the adventure if you set your mind to it!
These are the best ways to travel through Cuba:
- The Viazul bus
- Taxi colectivos
- Taxi privados
- Private transfer (you can book online)
- Domestic flights (to Santiago de Cuba and Isla de la Juventud)
- You can also take a ferry to Isla de la Juventud, but you have to buy the ticket in Havana!
As you traverse the Cuban landscapes, try to absorb the cultural richness, really pay attention to the scenery and your surroundings, and your solo adventure in Cuba will be filled with unforgettable moments and authentic connections.
Safety and Nice To Know Stuff
As a solo traveler, regardless of gender, you will get a lot of attention from the locals trying to connect with you.
Practical Survival Tips in Cuba:
- Always have toilet paper or wet wipes in your bag
- Always have cash in both Cuban pesos and dollars or euro
- Bring a water bottle with a filter to always have access to drinking water
- Download an offline dictionary – many Cubans do not speak English.
FAQs Solo Travel To Cuba
Is Cuba Good For Solo Travelers?
After traveling to Cuba for five years and living in Havana for two years, I can confidently say that Cuba is good for solo travelers.
Where Is The Best Place To Solo Travel In Cuba?
I would say you can travel anywhere in Cuba solo, so it will depend on what you want to experience on your journey. If you like city life, go to Havana, Trinidad, or Santiago de Cuba.
If you like resort life and pampering, go to Varadero or the Cuban Keys.
If you like nature experiences, go to Vinales, Trinidad, and Sierra Maestra in the east.
Can You Walk Around Cuba On Your Own?
Yes, you can walk around Cuba on your own, in the sense that Cuba is a very safe destination for foreign solo travelers.
Wrap-Up Best Things To Do In Cuba Solo
Go to Cuba solo!
Cuba is a safe destination, a weird and interesting destination, and there are plenty of fun things to do.
As transport, money, wifi and phones, ATMs, and a lot of factors are more complicated in Cuba than most other destinations of the world, I recommend you do your research beforehand.
Explore my blog to a tee, or find it somewhere else!
Learn some Spanish, pre-book some activities and tours, chat with the casa particular hosts in advance, bring euros and dollars in cash, and come with an open mind and an open heart!
Embarking on a solo journey through Cuba is not just any holiday experience; it’s an immersion into the soul of a nation still somewhat secluded that unfolds its secrets to those who wander with an open heart and an adventurous spirit.
If you are able to log off from your normal fast pace and embrace the weird stuff, I am confident you will enjoy traveling solo in Cuba.