With a tapestry of culture, history, and striking natural beauty, Cuba is the perfect destination for those who want to see more than just great beaches.
To us, it seems like a shame to visit this wonderfully unique country and spend the whole time relaxing on the beach without trying at least a night or two in one of its incredible vibrant cities such as Havana, Trinidad or Cienfuegos; so why not include a stay in one (or even a couple) of them in addition to lounging on the isle's sun-drenched sands in destinations like Varadero, Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Coco, or Jibacoa?
Let's embark on a journey exploring the charming cities and pristine beaches of Cuba, each providing a fusion of what this diverse destination has to offer.
Havana, Cuba’s capital city, is a blend of past and present with its beautifully preserved Spanish colonial architecture and thriving arts scene. Walking through the streets of Old Havana - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - is like stepping back in time, with a line-up of vintage American cars, pastel-coloured buildings, and historic landmarks scattering the cobbles, such as the El Capitolio and Plaza de la Catedral. It’s undoubtedly a hotspot for history buffs. Yet, amid its nostalgic allure, the city buzzes with contemporary energy featuring avant-garde art galleries, vibrant music scenes (you’ll find your fair share of salsa dancing here), plus eclectic food and cocktail offerings - El Floridita, the birthplace of the Daiquiri, once a popular haunt for Ernest Hemingway.
Venturing outside of the city, Varadero is one of the Caribbean’s most popular beach holiday destinations. Boasting a 20km stretch of pearly-white sands set against a backdrop of turquoise waters, this resort is a paradise for sunbathers, swimmers, and watersports enthusiasts alike - with a string of fabulous family-friendly and adults only resorts lining the sands. A few firm-favourites include Iberostar Bella Costa, Melia Marina Varadero, Sirenis Tropical and Roc Barlovento. Easily reachable and taking approximately two hours, combining a city and beach escape to Havana and Varadero is a popular pairing.
In the south, Trinidad charms visitors with its cobblestone streets and well-preserved architecture. Known as the “museum city of Cuba”, it provides an enchanting window into the country’s colonial past - particularly within its neo-baroque main square, Plaza Mayor - making it another tick-list destination for those interested in learning of the destination’s history. Whilst you’re here, be sure to frequent the Museo Romántico in the wonderfully restored Palacio Brunet Mansion, plus the Museo de Arquitectura Colonial for its display of relics from the town’s sugar-producing era. When you fancy a break from busy city life, nearby Playa Ancon serves up a gorgeous beach escape, featuring calm, crystal-clear waters perfect for snorkelling and diving.
Venture off Cuba’s northern coast and you’ll stumble upon Cayo Santa Maria, a spectacular spot that forms part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago. This pocket-sized island entices with untouched natural beauty and is best loved for its beaches and watersports, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse wildlife. During your visit, explore Playa Las Gaviotas beach fringed by the lush vegetation of Cayo Santa Maria Wildlife Refuge, which shelters birds such as the Cuban trogon. This area as a whole is a total haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. Similarly, the off-the-beaten-track destination of Jibacoa (Playa Jibacoa), to the west, is nestled between rolling green hills and a beautiful beach with a reef close to the shore - another fantastic and secluded spot for visitors to lap up the natural beauty and enjoy a spot of snorkelling! Don’t forget your boots, because hiking is also a popular pastime here, with the nearby mountains offering awe-inspiring views over the coastline below. Better still, its proximity to Havana makes it a popular location for people searching for easy access to the capital.
Cienfuegos - nicknamed the “Pearl of the South” - greets visitors with its French-influenced architecture and laid-back atmosphere. This city on the beautiful bay of Bahía de Cienfuegos is renowned for its historic central square, called Parque José Martí, where you’ll find sensational buildings such as the majestic theatre of Teatro Tomás Terry, complete with gold-leaf mosaics and ornate ceiling frescoes. Other points of interest include The Provincial Museum, for a taste of the city’s history, and The Arco de Triunfo, recalling the Cuban Independence. You can catch a ferry across the bay to the impressive 18th-century fortress of Castillo de Jagua, or pair this with a short 20-minute boat ride to Playa Rancho Luna, which offers a small and tranquil beach area.
In the verdant valleys of western Cuba, Vinales is the place to visit if you want an insight into the country’s true natural beauty. Its diversified landscape is dotted with towering limestone cliffs (known as mogotes) from Viñales Valley, tobacco fields, and traditional farms, offering a rural charm distinct from Cuba’s beach resorts and cities. Wander the streets and you’ll pass colonial-era wooden houses and the sprawling Casa de Caridad Botanical Gardens, peppered with orchids and palms, plus an array of tropical fauna including the bee hummingbird, Cuban trogon, Cuban tody, and Cuban solitaire - so keep your eyes peeled. Backed by the enchanting Sierra de los Organos mountains, visitors can explore the scenic valley on foot, by bike, or even on horseback for an immersive experience.
Whether you’re engrossing yourself in Havana’s rich culture, unwinding on the stunning beaches of Varadero and Cayo Santa Maria, diving into the historic charm of Trinidad and Cienfuegos or exploring the beauty of Jibacoa and Vinales, Cuba serves up a captivating blend of experiences that, we believe, should be explored by everybody - at least once! With such a remarkable blend of city and beach destinations to hand, a trip to Cuba promises a journey of discovery, relaxation, and unforgettable memories in the Caribbean.
Interested? Choose from one of the many Cuba holidays below or contact one of our expert and friendly Cuba holiday specialists on 0207 071 3636, who can help tailor the perfect Cuba twin-centre or Multi Centre Cuba Holidays for you.