From its arcs of white sand and turquoise-blue waters to colourful colonial buildings, rugged inland mountains, and offshore coral reefs, it’s easy to see why holidays in Cuba are so popular. A Cuba holiday not only promises live music, salsa dancing, rum tasting and cocktail drinking, but a chance to explore all the rich history and culture the Caribbean island has on offer too. Whether you choose Varadero’s tourist hub, Guardalavaca’s natural beauty or the captivating city of Havana, Cuba holidays cater for all tastes.
Bask in Cuba’s warm weather and enjoy the island’s year-round sunshine
There may be ten airports on the island, but you’ll only need to know about the main ones: José Martí International Airport, Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport, Frank Pais International Airport and Cayo Coco (Jardines del Rey) International Airport.
Colourful, vibrant and effortlessly cool, Cuba is a Caribbean island like no other. If you’re looking for a holiday that has it all, you’ll simply love spending time in this enchantingly beautiful country.
From lazy mornings on picture-perfect beaches to afternoons browsing Havana’s charming streets, there’s no place quite like Cuba. In the evenings, you’ll feast on traditional chicken, rice and beans before dancing the night away at one of the island’s lively salsa clubs, or sipping on rum cocktails at friendly local bars.
Cuba’s main attraction is the beach. As you step onto the palm-lined white sands, you’ll be transported to a true Caribbean paradise. Sit back by the water and relax with a good book as you soak up some sun. Paddle in the sparkling blue sea, snorkel with exotic marine life in a colourful underwater world, or take a boat ride out to the coral reef to really make the most of the warm water with an unforgettable scuba diving trip.
The island’s appeal goes way beyond its gorgeous coastlines though. In the charming towns and cities, you’ll be transported to times gone by as pristine 1950s convertibles drive past. Queue with the locals for sweet treats at the iconic Coppelia ice cream parlours. Chaotic flea markets and enchanting museums all add to the magic of this unique tropical island as you walk along cobbled streets discovering cultural sights, traditional fiestas and local hidden gems.
For the ultimate in relaxation, Cuba is dotted with great spas where you can enjoy massages and beauty treatments, leaving the stresses of everyday life far behind you. With a little help from the strong Cuban coffee, you’ll feel more and more rejuvenated with every passing day. So find a spot on the beach, grab yourself a cocktail and embrace the unique vibes of this beautiful Caribbean island.
This historic, tropical island is a destination that you’ll never forget so why not head out to Cuba and experience a whole new culture? From jungles and mountains to coral reefs and white sand beaches, you’re never far from something really magical here. Cuba has fantastic tourist hotspots as well as old cities, markets and natural marvels off the beaten track. Basing yourself in a beautiful beach resort allows you to really make the most of your holiday, and enjoy the many things to do in Cuba.
White sand beaches on the edge of the Caribbean
Your first port of call should definitely be a beach, and luckily, Cuba has hundreds of them! Lined with palm trees and beach bars serving rum cocktails and fresh fruit juices, shake off the plane journey by lying back in the Caribbean sunshine. With the Caribbean Sea on the south of the island and the warm gulf stream on the north, the seawater in Cuba is always warm.
With vast coral reefs and a thriving marine population, it’s easy to grab a mask and snorkel and see extraordinary sights. Whether you’re a total beginner or an experienced diver, you can enjoy world-class diving in Cuba. Children will love the sea here too, from paddling in the clear shallows to seeing their first tropical fish.
Shop for souvenirs at old markets and stroll historic city streets
Cuba isn’t just beaches, it has fascinating cities where history is everywhere. Trawl the beautiful old markets in Guardalavaca and pick up a bargain, or take a day trip to Havana and see this famous capital in the flesh. For those who really adore historic buildings, there’s lots of things to do in Cuba’s historic city of Holguin. Admire colonial buildings and take a tour of a real Cuban cigar factory, that’s not an experience you could get anywhere else!
Get back to nature and see it all
This Caribbean island is also home to an array of natural wonders. From deep jungles to the Cueva de Saturno, where the blue water and stalactite covered ceilings will amaze the whole family. Go horse-riding to sugar plantations, see flamingos in the swamps of Cayo Coco and sample local delicacies at Cuba’s endless food stalls and restaurants.
There’s so many places to visit in Cuba that one holiday won’t be enough! We’ve got plenty of Cuba deals here at Thomas Cook, though, so you can always come back.
Inside Saturno Cave
Immerse yourself in Cuba’s natural beauty with a refreshing dip at Saturno Cave. Known by the locals as ‘La Cueva de Saturno’, it’s just a short journey from Coral Beach and close to Vía Blanca, making it the perfect place to round off a relaxing
One of the beaches on Playa Pilar
While in Cuba, make sure you spend a day or two on one of the best beaches on the island, Playa Pilar. To get there, take the bus which runs regularly from Cayo Coco
La Cueva Del Jabali
Dance the night away in one of Cuba’s most unique entertainment venues, La Cueva Del Jabali. Just 15 minutes away from Cayo Coco by bus, this is a must-visit place for an evening of lively fun.
Guardalavaca Flea Market
Buy locally-made souvenirs or simply enjoy the vibrant atmosphere as you browse the stalls at Guardalavaca Flea Market.
Eagle Ray Scuba Diving Centre
Experience an incredible underwater world off the shores of Guardalavaca with a guided diving trip from the local beach. Visit some of the most beautiful diving spots in Cuban waters alongside the experienced PADI-qualified instructors
Day trip to Havana
Havana is the capital of Cuba and one of the most culturally impressive cities in the world. It’s only just under two hours away from Varadero.
Cueva de Saturno
Cueva de Saturno’s direct translation to English is ‘Cave of Saturn’. It’s situated one kilometre south of the Via Blanca and is one of Varadero’s top tourist attractions.
Explore the resort
Guardalavaca is home to a variety of different markets for you to browse and hunt out the best bargain. The most popular is the flea market, which many hotels will run buses to and from so that you can easily check it out for yourself.
Day trip to Holguin
The provincial capital city of Holguin is just 60km from Guardalavaca, or 55km from Playa Pesquero, and is the perfect place to head for a slice of the real Cuba.
Explore the beaches in the area
Cayo Coco itself boasts a staggering 22km of pure white, sandy beaches. But why stay in just one place when there is so much more incredible coastline to explore?
Day trip to Morón
Cayo Coco is linked to the main island of Cuba via a 27km stone causeway. When you travel along this causeway from Cayo Coco, the first big city you come to is Morón.
Scuba diving or snorkelling
Cayo Coco is home to one of the largest coral reefs in the world, so you’d be mad not to take the chance to explore it whilst on holiday there.
Speedboat through the mangroves
Mangroves are trees or shrubs that flourish and grow in water. But not just any water. They tend to grow in tropical tidal climates or in swampy areas.
Thanks to its subtropical climate, Cuba has warm weather and plenty of sunshine at any time of the year. The average temperature across the whole year is 26ºC, but there are two distinct seasons. The dry season runs from December to April and is less humid with cooler evenings. The wet season runs from June to October and is warmer with a mix of sunshine and tropical downpours.
The standard Cuba currency is the Peso, and unlike other currencies it’s exclusive to Cuba. There are two versions, the Cuban Peso (CUP) for locals, and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) for visitors. You can only get Convertible Pesos inside Cuba. To stop confusion between the two, currency in Cuba can only be changed at banks and cadecas (currency exchanges) at the airport or in hotels. It’s best to take Pounds to exchange, but watch out as Scottish notes aren’t accepted.
Avoid fake money
Currency in Cuba isn’t traded internationally, so you won’t be able to buy it in advance. Like a lot of countries, forged currency is common in Cuba, so to make sure you don’t end up with some dodgy Pesos, don’t exchange money in anywhere other than at Cadeca currency exchanges, large hotels (often the worst rate) or banks.
Ignore locals who offer better exchange rates or say they have a faster exchange service, as you’ll probably end up with fake notes. Make sure that you get a printed receipt when changing your Cuba currency, and where possible ask for small denomination notes too, as they are easier to use when you’re out. Just remember to bring your passport, as you’ll need it for all currency exchanges.
Credit and debit cards
Cash is king in Cuba and you shouldn’t count on paying for goods or meals with a credit card anywhere in Cuba except for in major hotels. Before you travel, check with your bank that your debit, credit and ATM cards will work in Cuba. If your bank is unable to confirm this, then make sure you bring sterling or euros in cash to change up.
You’ll find it very difficult to find cash machines that accept Cirrus and Switch cards and credit card transactions have local commission charges of approximately 3% added on, as well as your bank transaction charges. Travellers cheques aren’t widely accepted either, and it’s worth remembering that American Express travellers cheques aren’t accepted anywhere in Cuba. Try and avoid exchanging US dollars, as you’ll be subject to a 10% special additional tax/commission.
Tipping in Cuba is important and if you leave a tip, make sure you leave it in CUC. Many restaurants (state and private) now add 10% service to the bill, but if service is not already added to the bill then between 5-10% is reasonable. You can tip bellboys, room maids and restaurant staff for good service in resorts and hotels. Change up CUC 20 at the start of a week to spend in tips. Musicians will often serenade you as you dine in restaurants, and a dollar when the basket comes around is appreciated.
Getting rid of your Cuban Convertible Pesos
If you’ve got any left-over Cuban currency, then you can exchange it in the airport when you leave. As you’ll lose money in the exchange, it’s worth using it up in the last few days of your trip so you don’t arrive at the airport loaded with useless CUC that you’re unable to take out of the country.
What can I expect to pay in Cuba?
|A bottle of water:1 CUC (80p)||A beer in a bar:1-2 CUC (80p-£1.60)|
|Mojito cocktail:2.50–3 CUC (£2-£2.40)||Bottle of Cuban rum:8-11 CUC (£6.30-£8.70)|
|Three-course meal with drinks:20 CUC (£16)||Breakfast in a state-run restaurant:5 CUC (£4)|
|Car hire (per day):50-160 CUC (£40-£127)||Taxi (per km):0.6 CUC (48p)|
|Internet access (per hour):4.50 CUC (£3)||Museum entrance:5 CUC (£4)|
|Handcrafted souvenir:2-5 CUC (£1.60-£4)||Cuban cigar:2-5 CUC (£1.60-£4)|
RESORTS IN CUBA
HOLIDAYS IN CUBA
Safety and Security
For up to date advice on travelling to Cuba, please visit Safety and security - Cuba travel advice
Cuba is best for
Beach lovers: Its crystal-clear turquoise water and white-sand beaches are a slice of paradise.
Explorers: With coral reefs, mountain peaks and hiking trails, leave no stone unturned.
Culture vultures: Experience authentic Cuba with events, carnivals and architecture
Language:The people in Cuba speak Spanish
Population: 11 million people
Currency: The currency is the Peso. There are two versions, the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). You’ll only need to worry about the Cuban Convertible Peso, which you can change from sterling once you arrive on holiday.
Local time:Cuba is 5 hours behind GMT/UK time.
Fly to: José Martí International Airport. It's less than 1 hour to the centre of Havana from here.
Flight time from the UK: The flight time to Cuba is 10 hours.
Visas & health:Before you book your holiday, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/cuba for health advice and all the information you need on visas
By taxi: Jump in a taxi and every journey is metered. It costs CUC$1 to start and then CUC$1 per kilometre in cities. You might find some taxi drivers offer you a flat, off-meter rate that’s close to what you’d pay if the meter was on. This is because off-meter, the fare goes straight into the driver’s pocket rather than being divided up by the state.
Colectivo taxis: Running on fixed, long-distance routes, these colectivo taxis leave when the car’s full and normally work out cheaper than the bus. Think of it as carpooling, and a great way to meet new people on your holidays in Cuba!
Cuba’s social calendar is packed all year long.
Carnival time:No holiday here would be complete without embracing carnival spirit. Visit when the Santiago de Cuba carnival’s on in July, or the Havana Carnival in August and expect an explosion of bold colour, spectacular costumes, street parades and music everywhere.
Religious pilgrimage:Experience a taste of the island’s culture and traditions with an event like Romerias de Mayo. Held every May in Holguin, this annual Christian festival is known locally as ‘the May pilgrimages’ and has dancing, music and traditional religious services.