Discover Cuba In 2023! | Planning A Trip To Cuba!

DISCOVER CUBA

journey beyond the map


Planning a trip to Cuba, to really discover Cuba, the best destinations may not be the steaming Havana nights or the chillaxing Varadero all-inclusive beach resorts (although that is awesome)

Glittering waves and sand between your toes are fabulous of course – just don`t miss out on all the other places to visit in Cuba while you are there. 

Below is an introduction to all the gorgeous destinations in Cuba you absolutely should not miss when you visit,  what is special about them, and what they can give you. 

You will also find links to more information on each one, so you can easily find out everything you need to plan the dream vaycay to your dream destination! 

This article contains affiliate links! If you like this free content and use my links to do your booking, it may provide a small commission for me, at no extra cost to you! Thank you so much!

Interesting Facts About Cuba

Discover Cuba: Classic Old American cars are everywhere in Cuba!
Classic Old American cars are everywhere in Cuba!

To put you in the right place on the map, first and foremost, Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea south and east of the US and Miami, only 106 miles away from Key West.

Other close neighbors in the region are Mexico, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Bahamas as well as the Cayman Islands and the Dominican Republic.

The island of Cuba is actually an archipelago consisting of more than 4000 islands in total, which may be a surprise to some.

It consists of the big main island, the Isla de la Juventud island (Isle of Youth), and many smaller islands referred to as the Keys (Los Cayos).

The whole population is around eleven million, and the island has a warm and humid Caribbean climate all year, typical for the region.

Which probably is one of the reasons you want to go! 

Discover Cuba  the best Cuban destinations have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!

Read more in-depth about Cuba, or keep going here to learn about all the best Cuba destinations you want to visit.

You probably have to prioritize, which is why I have made these handy quick destination profiles so you can find the ones you will love the most! 

In June 2022, I published my first travel guide e-book about Cuba after living in Havana for one and a half years.

This travel guide is now available on Amazon!

My goal is to provide you with as much helpful information as possible. You will find all about the different destinations and sights, but also a lot of information no one tells you about – that you really need to know before visiting Cuba!

As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying sales.

Facts About The Magic Havana

Plaza Vieja in Old Havana, the historic city center
Plaza Vieja in Old Havana, the historic city center

Havana, or La Habana in Spanish, is the mythical capital of Cuba, the largest city in the country. It is known worldwide as beautiful, colorful, vibrant, and for about six decades, very closed.

You can read more about Havana in this comprehensive article about the city.

The city of Havana is situated on the North-Western part of the Cuban main island, just on the coastline where you can almost see the USA and Florida. 

About 2.2 million people live in Havana, which also makes it the largest city in the Caribbean! 

Discover Cuba - strolling along the malecon at night, you have a stunning view over to the Vedado skyline, as well as the tide coming in!
Malecon at night!

The city was founded by the Spanish about 500 years ago, in the 16th century, when Christopher Columbus discovered the island.

Because of its strategic location, it became an important port for the Spanish Empire all those years ago for trade and business. 

The colonial-style architecture and particular buildings give the city an impressive and beautiful ambiance. 

Contemporary Havana is divided into city districts, the most important to know for you as a visitor are Old Havana, Central Havana, Vedado, Miramar, and Habana del Este. 

Discover Cuba - in havana you do not have the classic caribbean resorts, but there are a number of really beautiful high end hotels in Havana, like the Iberostar where you have a perfect view over to El Morro from the pool and bar area!

The original part of the city, Old Havana, is a small semi-circled area to the east of the city close to Havana bay.

It consists of old colonial buildings, for the most part, divided by narrow cobblestone streets and little parks and places. 

Also read: All Articles About Havana Travel

Facts About Varadero Cuba

Discover Cuba - an arial biew of the Hicacos peninsula in Cuba where you find Varadero town as well as infinite beaches, hotels and resorts!

Varadero, also referred to as Playa Azul, is one of the most popular holiday locations in Cuba, especially for those who like sand, surf, sea, and stunning all-inclusive resorts.

On a long and super slim peninsula of white sand stretching out into the Caribbean Sea, Varadero is situated along the Northern coast of Cuba, about a two hours drive east of Havana.

All along with the narrow piece of land, there are crystal clear waters, white beaches, palms, snorkeling, diving, and even a golf course where you can test your handicap (if you are into golf).

A piece of the brilliant Varadero beach in Cuba
A piece of the brilliant Varadero beach in Cuba

Varadero is a resort town, or area, in the province of Matanzas and is one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean.

One interesting fact about Varadero is that Al Capone himself built a holiday house here at one point, on the narrow tung of the land of a peninsula.

Also read: All Articles About Varadero Travel

Facts about Trinidad

Dinner on a balcony beside Plaza Mayor and Casa de la Musica in Trinidad!
Dinner on a balcony beside Plaza Mayor and Casa de la Musica in Trinidad!

Trinidad is situated on the southern coast of Cuba, a little East of Havana. The city is super famous for its colonial old town, low rows of houses like jewelry, and wobbly cobblestone streets.

Its main square in the so-called neo-baroque style (an architectural style of the late 19th century), Plaza Mayor, is surrounded by grand colonial buildings.

Being a gem of a city that is on the UNESCO World Heritage list of places that needs to be protected, Trinidad has remained almost unchanged for centuries.

Plaza Mayor park in Trinidad Cuba 2023!
Plaza Mayor park in Trinidad Cuba 2023!

The city lost its importance when Cuba was priced out of the booming sugar industry in the region and was forgotten!

According to Lonely Planet, “Trinidad is one of a kind, a perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement where the clocks stopped in 1850 and – apart from a zombie invasion of tourists – have yet to restart”. 

Huge sugar fortunes amassed in the nearby Valle de Los Ingenios during the early 19th century created the illustrious colonial-style mansions bedecked with Italian frescoes, Wedgwood china, and French chandeliers. 

Climbing the bell tower in Trinidad Cuba!
Climbing the bell tower in Trinidad Cuba!

Not to mention the beautiful Ancon Beach only a short drive away from Trinidad City. 

And to sugar the cake, if you like a little clubbing, Trinidad has a nightclub called La Cueva (Disco Ayala) that is built into a huge natural cave deep into the mountain just outside of the city center!

Discover Cuba
Overview of Trinidad with the lush green hills in the background

It opens at 11 pm, CC is $5 including a drink, and the ambiance is absolutely unique. 

Also read: All Articles About Trinidad Travel

Facts About Vinales Valley In Cuba

The stunning overview of the lush green Vinales Valley in Cuba
The stunning overview of the lush green Vinales Valley in Cuba

Having had the pleasure of visiting Vinales valley in Cuba, I can safely recommend you take a weekend here if you can.

The unique features and beauty of this agricultural landscape are amazing! All the fields and valleys are so green, the animals brimming with color and energy.

Plantations of tobacco and sugar (and rum distillation) are providing quite well for the communities here, and some private trade has been allowed the recent years.

Go horseback riding in Vinales Valley!
Go horseback riding in Vinales Valley!

I recommend taking the time to visit the Vinales Valley in Cuba when you travel here, and take a horseback riding day if you dare (the horses are very gentle)!

Go visit the tobacco farms, and taste the locally brewed rum – and of course, buy handmade cigars to bring home with you.

Or take a trip inside the Cueva del Indio, the Cave of the Indian, a stunning tour!

Cuban cigars of Vinales before they become Cuban cigars! Drying of tobacco leaves in Vinales Valley in Cuba.
Cuban cigars of Vinales before they become Cuban cigars!

Below is what Unesco has to say about why Vinales is on their list! 

Views of Vinales Valley

“The Viñales valley is encircled by mountains and its landscape is interspersed with dramatic rocky outcrops. Traditional techniques are still in use for agricultural production, particularly of tobacco.
The quality of this cultural landscape is enhanced by the vernacular architecture of its farms and villages, where a rich multi-ethnic society survives, illustrating the cultural development of the islands of the Caribbean, and of Cuba”.

UNESCO World Heritage Foundation

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Facts About Cienfuegos Cuba

Cienfuegos botanical garden in Cuba
Cienfuegos botanical garden!

One fun fact about Cienfuegos is that its name literally translates to “one hundred fires” (cien means one hundred, and fuegos means fires).

The city has its name from a guy called José Cienfuegos, who was the Captain-General of Cuba from 1816 to 19.

The Boulevard main shopping street in Cienfuegos Cuba
The Boulevard main shopping street in Cienfuegos

Cienfuegos is also known to be called the “Pearl of the South of Cuba”, its architecture and style are a mix of the Caribbean culture and 19th Century France. 

The architecture of Cienfuegos is inspired by the nationality of its founder, a French immigrant named Luous D`Clouet.

Cienfuegos is situated on the shores of a large sea pool on the southern coast, right on Cuba’s largest natural bay. It is full of classical facade houses, preserving one of the most homogeneous urban centers in the country. 

Discover Cuba Cienfuegos
Enjoy the evening from the terrace with a spectacular sea view

Visitors are coming here to experience the mixture of French spirit and the Caribbean-style ambiance. 

The whole city enjoys an enviable coastal environment, along with the tranquility that can be found in its renovated streets, free from crowds of tourists. 

Some keys of Cienfuegos have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2005.

Facts About Santiago de Cuba City

View of the Santiago de Cuba cathedral from our Casa Particular rooftop!
View of the Santiago de Cuba cathedral from our Casa Particular rooftop!

Santiago de Cuba is a city on the island’s Eastern Coast of Haiti (close to Guantanamo, a place most people have heard about), and is a city of approximately 500.000 inhabitants. 

Although a small city, Santiago de Cuba is the second biggest city in Cuba.

Situated on the eastern tip of the island, it offers a lot of adventures and interesting experiences, including museums, parks, plazas, music, art, and of course, the famous carnival!

Bodeguita del Media in Santiago de Cuba
Bodeguita del Media in Santiago de Cuba

One interesting fact about Santiago de Cuba is that this city is actually where Fidel Castro and his comrades launched their revolutionary movement in 1953 with the attack on a garrison named “Cuartel Moncada”.

And we all know how that all went a few years later! 

The province has about 1.2 million inhabitants, and Santiago de Cuba has for a long time been a Cuban commercial and industrial center. 

It is also the birthplace of the world-famous Bacardi liquor brand, which was started here by a guy named Facundo Bacardi Masso in 1862!

Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba where Fidel Castro is resting!
Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago, where Fidel Castro is resting!

Facts About The Cuban Keys

The Cuban keys are all about beaches
The Cuban Keys are all about beaches

The small Caribbean islands outside the main island of Cuba are commonly referred to as the Cuban Keys.

There are a few bigger ones, but did you know there are around 4000 little islands in total around Cuba? Some of the Cuban Keys are super popular tourist destinations. 

Several of these simply paradisic islands are home to holiday resorts with beautiful beaches and activities for visitors to enjoy.

Go scuba diving outside the Cuban keys!
Go scuba diving outside the Cuban keys!

A few have long bridges connecting them to the mainland, like Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria.

Of course, the historic traces of the colonial era is not readily apparent out on the keys, if that is some of your inspiration to travel to Cuba.

Amazing underwater life outside the Cuban keys
Amazing underwater life outside the Cuban keys

What you get a lot of here is some time to relax, beautiful surroundings, and of course, the Caribbean vibe (although strictly speaking fronting the Atlantic) that offers a lot of salty water adventures above or below water.   

Below are some of the most popular and well-known Keys apart from the main island of Cuba! 

Cayo Santa Maria And Cayo Coco

You find amazing all-inclusive resorts on the Cuban keys
You find amazing all-inclusive resorts on the Cuban keys

Cayo Coco is a tropical island north of the main island of Cuba, one of the largest keys of Cuba, and also only a couple of hours east of a smaller island group called Cayo Santa Maria.

All these small islands are a part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago stretching east-west off the northern Cuban coast.

They are famous for their paradisiacal ambiance with white sandy beaches and coral reefs, and the keys are full of luxurious all-inclusive resorts.

Remember to spend one evening watching the sunset on the beach on the Cuban keys
Remember to spend one evening watching the sunset on the beach!

Cayo Coco is named after a bird that is called White Ibis, or coconut bird, by the locals. 

Natural features on these small islands include lagoons and marshes that are home to loads of birds, such as the white ibis as well as a native colony of pink flamingos that are ranked among the largest in the Americas.

Explore Cuba - visit the stunning Cayo Coco beaches that is part of the Cuban keys for your Cuba holiday in 2023!
The beaches on the Cuban Keys are stunning!

Most tourists travel to the Keys to enjoy the large, all-inclusive resorts, hang by the pool, or the beaches enjoying the summer water activities in the amazing Caribbean waters! 

Also read: All Articles About The Cuban Keys

How To Get To The Cuban Keys

The pedraplen, causeway, over to Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba
The pedraplen, causeway, over to Cayo Santa Maria

If Cayo Coco is your main destination, you can fly directly to Jardines del Rey Airport.

You can also drive out as there is a long Bridgeway connecting Cayo Coco (and Cayo Guillermo) to the main island.

The driving time from Havana to Cayo Coco is approximately 6-7 hours if you drive directly, a distance of about 526 km. 

It is possible to rent a car and drive it yourself, or you can book a taxi. There are different options for taxis; privados or collectivos

The chefs at the all-inclusive resorts in the Cuban keys are at work!
The chefs at the all-inclusive resorts in the Cuban keys are at work!

Privados is exactly what it sounds like, a taxi just for you.

This is a very quick and convenient option but on the expensive end of transport in Cuba. A collectivo is a scheduled taxi that you share with other people and cost less. 

You can also take the Viazul bus from Havana to Cayo Coco, which would be the cheaper option but takes 11-12 hours. Visit the home page of Viazul to get information about fares and timetables.  

The last option is to fly from Jose Marti Airport in Havana to Cayo Coco, which is one of the most expensive options but which ALSO takes quite a long time.

The estimated total travel time is up to 11 hours flying from Havana to Cayo Coco. 

Facts About Isla De La Juventud

Isla de la juventud is also famous for invinite beaches, and brilliant diving sites!

Isla de la Juventud, the Island of Youth, is the second-largest island in the Cuban archipelago.

The diving opportunities are perfect for traveling scuba divers out there, with its beautiful coral reefs, diverse marine life, and shoals of fish.

Isla de la Juventud also has pristine beaches for those who prefer sand between their toes, a sunbed, and maybe a snorkel mask. 

The former prison where Fidel Castro spent years after the failed attack in 1953
The former prison where Fidel Castro spent years after the failed attack in 1953

The island does not receive a lot of tourists and is still a sleepy and charming local community.

The capital of the island is Nueva Gerona, with around 60.000 inhabitants, founded in 1830 by Americans as a colony named Queen Amalia.

There is one large resort on the island, as well as cultural attractions like the Natural History Museum, El Pinero Central Park, the Clandestine Fight Museum, and El Abra State Museum.

Wrap-Up Explore Cuba – Cuban Destinations!

Old Havana fortress structures in Cuba
Old Havana Fortress structures

This was a quick overview of the most famous and popular Cuban destinations you should visit in 2023!

If you want to know more about any of them, feel free to navigate around the Cuba menu, where you probably will find almost all the information you need about any place in Cuba!

Happy Travel Planning!

The World By Hege is your one-stop-shop for the Caribbean and the Americas travel, with all you need to find your perfect destination, hotel, tours, and activities, and of course the beaches of your dreams!