The best time to visit Havana and Cuba is from December to May, meaning it is time to either do a last minute trip or to plan that amazing spring break. Whichever you decide, you should not postpone your Cuban holiday for too long as this island is changing every day and you might miss the beautiful mess that is Havana!
As nowadays you will find plenty of great guides on the important cultural and historical sights not to miss in Havana, I am here to share some of the special things to do in Havana in order to make that holiday an unforgettable one!
1.Make sure to stay at casa particular
Casa particular means private homestay in Cuba (and other Spanish speaking countries) and it’s the best value for money accommodation type to stay at. It’s usually very cheap yet has a nice colonial setting, owned by very welcoming families who will often cook local food for you and help you with any questions you might have. Throughout my two weeks on Cuba I’ve only stayed in casas particulares and I only have the best recommendations. You’d be surprised but these are best booked on airbnb or searched for on the spot as locals will always know where to send you (expect prices around 20-30$ depending on the city). In Havana, my warmest recommendation goes to La Casita run by Gustavo and his lovely family.
2.Enjoy the best view over the city from the pool
The ultimate best thing about Havana were the afternoons spent sipping cocktails on the rooftop of Iberostar Parque Central hotel! Make sure to bring a bathing suit because the rooftop has the pool and the fantastic view on the Capitolio as well as the less beautiful yet realistic view on what this city really is on the other side. We would spend out mornings exploring the city to then cool down during the hot afternoon hours here. You don’t need to be the guest of the hotel to come to the rooftop and if you’re charming enough they’ll give you free towels to enjoy your day to the fullest.
3.Step away from city centre
Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is the city center is the place where you will find most of the culturally and historically important sights but be sure to wander off the beaten track to explore less known streets such as calle Teniente Ray for these Instagram worthy pictures. And if you get hungry, grab a bite at El Chanchullero! Also, be sure not to miss Habana Centro to see the real crumbling streets of Havana. Eat at Castas y Tal for a good value meal.
4.Enjoy coffee with a view
I am all about my morning coffee ritual and when it’s served with a view then a day can’t go bad! Head over to Cafe El Escorial and enjoy a good cup of coffee while observing the nearby rustle of Plaza Vieja.
5.Sip rum while watching sunset over Habana Vieja
Yes, I am all about views and I have another secret spot to share with you guys! This time it’s the rooftop of Ambos Mundos Hotel. The rooftop is open at any time of the day therefore you can enjoy any of the meals here or simply sip a glass of rum and watch the sunset fall over the old Havana…
6.Drive like the locals do
Next to every major sightseeing point you will see these offers to take a ride in these perfectly kept shiny old-timer cars and if you’re lucky your driver might know a thing or two to share about Havana. Keeping a car in such a perfect shape for more than 50 years is a thing to be proud of and I suppose it is all right for those people to charge insane amounts of money for a small ride. On the other hand, I personally did not take a ride in those cars not so much for the money as for the experience. A drive in an car that is twice older than me, without air conditioning and no seat belts but with a perfectly loud radio (playing Despacito on repeat!) is a must!
7.Walk Malecon at sunset
If you had enough of Havana’s rooftops the second best place to see sunset is by having a stroll down Malecon and enjoy the atmosphere made by lovers, philosophers, poets, traveling minstrels, fishers and wistful Florida-gazers sitting on the sidewalk. Make sure to not walk next to the sea side as you might get an unwanted shower ;-)
8.Enjoy Cuban music & salsa dance
There are many ways to enjoy Cuba’s latin scene without having to have to dance salsa and you don’t have to pay for any of these. The simples way is to simply stop and enjoy the beats made by street performers. I’ve been dancing salsa for almost 10 years now and during my time in Havana I’ve enjoyed the street music so much! In case you don’t know the steps but would like to learn and you’ve taken my advice on where to stay in Havana, your landlord can either show you or find you someone to give you some quick classes, all you need to do is ask. I would highly recommend to learn a bit of salsa as this dance is a major part of cuban daily life and basic steps can be learned very quick! The best indoor music you will find at La Bodeguita Del Medio, where people like Pablo Neruda enjoyed salsa beats served with one or two mojitos…
9. Learn how to make a daiquiry
This is probably one of the most touristy advices I have for you, but it’s worth it: have a daiquiri at La Floridita and get inspired to learn how to make your own. This bar was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, who some say was an inspiration for the invention of daiquiri, which is a drink I have to admit I didn’t know of until my visit to Havana. Ever since day one on Cuba, I became a big fan and one of my favourite souvenirs I brought back with me was a perfect daiquiri recipe! And as this is the last thing on my list of unique things to do in Havana I’ll share it with you so here it goes: blended rum, limejuice, sugar, a couple of shakes of maraschino liquor and crushed ice. Enjoy!
Hope you will enjoy your stay in Havana as much as I did!
Stay tuned for the ultimate guide to Cuba coming soon!