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10 Must-Do’s in Cuba

By: | March 11th, 2017 | 2 Comments

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Cuba is one of our new favorite places because it is unlike anywhere else in the world. When you are in Cuba you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the 1950’s as old American classic cars cruise down the streets amid colorful crumbling buildings that have not been kept up for decades. We knew we wanted to visit Cuba before the influx of American tourism causes it to modernize and lose its unique charm. We enjoyed 6 days in Cuba with our 2 year old son and 4 year old daughter and my mom on an unforgettable family vacation that will certainly be remembered as one of our favorites.

We spent 3 nights in Havana and 2 nights in Varadero, which was enough to get a taste of Cuba. We are already trying to figure out when we can return since there’s so much more we would like to experience. With cheap flights on Southwest Airlines (with whom we have tons of points for nearly free flights) we know it won’t be too long before we are back. Based on our week in Cuba, we have our recommendations for must-do experiences in Cuba, including families traveling with children. When we travel as a couple we tend to go go go and experience as much as possible in our time there, but when traveling with our kids we slow things down and enjoy the time as a family creating memories that will last a lifetime. Here’s our top 10 things to do in Cuba.

1. Take a driving tour of Old Havana in a convertible 1950’s American Classic car. It is really cheap (we paid 30 CUC for a one hour tour for 5 people). If want to ride around in the same hot pink 1953 Ford, then call Pedro at +53 53448348. Otherwise you can find these classic car tours all over Havana. Like most things in Cuba, the price is negotiable. Pedro wanted 40 CUC but agreed on 30, and I’ve heard some people paid only 20 CUC, so try your bargaining skills to make it fit your budget. I don’t know of anywhere else you can pay just $6 per person for a one hour driving tour. This was hands down our favorite thing to do in Cuba. Our kids were SO EXCITED to be riding in the back seat of a car without their car seats! Please don’t judge, but car seats don’t work in classic cars since there are no rear seat belts, and we never drove very fast. Besides, our baby boomer parents somehow survived childhood in those cars without being in car seats. Anyway, we drove around and got to see all of Havana’s highlights without having to walk all over the city, which would have been impossible to do with our 2 preschoolers. We stopped at the Revolution Square to snap photos in front of the memorials for Che Guevara and Jose Marti, the most famous national heroes of Cuba.

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Taxi City Tour in a 1953 Ford classic was our favorite activity in Havana

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The kids were so excited to cruise around Havana in the hot pink convertible!

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Che Guevara memorial at Revolution Plaza in Havana

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Jose Marti memorial at Revolution Square

2. Listen to live salsa music and get up and dance! It’s rare to walk down the streets of Havana and not hear salsa music playing. Most of the restaurants have live music at some point during the day or evening. If you’re not hungry, stop in for a Cuba libra or mojito while enjoying the music. Our kids were so adorable on our first night in Cuba when they got up and danced to the live music. The band even let our son play the drums, which brought smiles to everyone’s faces.

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Our kids dancing together at a restaurant with live music in Havana, Cuba

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Our son playing the drums at a Cuban restaurant in Havana

3. Search for the best mojito, pina colada, and/or daiquiri in Cuba. We drank more on this vacation than any other vacation we’ve taken because the drinks are so good and so cheap! We tried mojitos from many bars and restaurants and our favorite was at O’Reilly 304- a watermelon mojito. Our favorite classic mojito was at El Bambu paladar for just 2.50 CUC. Havana is such a great city for a Cuban version of a pub crawl- but instead of pubs its a restaurant/bar crawl sampling delicious rum cocktails all over town. If this doesn’t exist as a formal guided tour yet, it should!

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Delicious and cheap mojitos from El Bambu Paladar in Old Havana

4. Smoke a Cuban cigar and bring some home- they are the most famous souvenir of Cuba. We enjoyed seeing cigars hand-rolled at the Hotel Nacional but didn’t have time to visit one of the cigar factories, which is on our list for our next visit. Don’t buy them off the street though because those are usually counterfeits.

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You can’t visit Cuba without trying a Cuban cigar

5. Walk along the Malecon. This 8km esplanade, road and seawall stretches along the coast from Old Havana to the Vedado neighborhood. Waves crash along the seawall, locals fish and drink rum while chatting, and tourists come to watch the sunset.

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View of the Malecon from our apartment in Havana

6. Visit the Fabrica de Arte Cubano for a fantastic night of live music, art, dancing, and drinks. You may even run into a famous movie star like we did. This art factory turned nightclub is a hotspot for both tourists and locals, and astonishingly only costs 2 CUC for entry. The FAC seems to go on and on, with multiple different rooms and venues for music and art of different genres, including classical music, American music videos playing on a giant screen, and tango dancing. We couldn’t stop raving about how much we loved this place! Beware, the drinks are strong and we had a few too many that night, so go easy on the rum.

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Classical music- a stringed quartet at Fabrica de Arte Cubano in Havana

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Taking in the art while sipping a daiquiri at Fabrica de Arte Cubano in Havana

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We spotted movie star Rodrigo Santoro at the FAC and he graciously took a photo with us

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Live concert at Fabrica de Arte Cubano in Havana

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Selfies with the art at Fabrica de Arte Cubano in Havana

7. Explore the streets of Old Havana. We enjoyed wandering around during the day with our kids and mom with no particular agenda, just enjoying the moment and feeling like we had been transported back in time. Our kids chased dogs down the streets and we soaked in the one-of-a-kind atmosphere. At night, after our kids went to bed with their grandma, the streets came to life in a new way and we chatted with locals playing dominoes and walked hand in hand savoring the romance of Old Havana.

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Exploring the streets of Old Havana with our children

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Meander the colorful streets of Old Havana and feel like you stepped back in time

8. Capture iconic images of Cuba – the colorful crumbling buildings and classic cars. We both love taking photos and had so much fun capturing the beauty of Havana to share with our readers. We took hundreds of photos because the vibrant colors of the classic cars and architecture are just so photogenic, we couldn’t stop ourselves. If you love photography, then you will love Cuba. Check out our 25 photos that will put Cuba on your bucket list.

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Colorful buildings and classic cars make for iconic photos of Cuba

9. Visit the famous Hotel Nacional and its beautiful garden overlooking the malecon, where live music plays at times and a peacock wanders the grounds. There may not be a more relaxing and scenic spot in Havana to enjoy a mojito. Follow the signs and walk far enough out to stand above the infamous Cuban Missile Crisis tunnels. There is a museum exhibit, although it was closed while we were there. However, my research discovered that these tunnels never did house any nuclear weapons but held periscopes for espionage.

Hotel Nacional Cuba Peacock

There are peacocks roaming around the hotel grounds.

Cuban Missile Crisis Exhibit Malecon Hotel Nacional

Missile Crisis Exhibit

Cuban Missile Crisis Havana Malecon

Missile Crisis Exhibit

10. Last but not least, relax on the beautiful beaches of Varadero. The beach towns really cater to tourists with all-inclusive options for those wanting to fully indulge. Our whole family loved our time at the beach making sand castles, discovering dead lobsters, collecting shells, taking a salsa lesson in the sand, and just savoring the precious moments together as a family. It was the perfect end to a wonderful vacation.

Enjoying the beach in Varadero, Cuba

Sibling bonding during our time in Cuba. This photo melts our hearts!

Selfies at the beach in Varadero, Cuba!

That’s all folks! We hope we have inspired you to visit Cuba, since visiting this time capsuled island is the closest thing to time travel you may ever experience. Cuba is a great destination for families, couples, or solo travelers and will quench your thirst for history, culture, art, music and dance. So if you are one of those people that was thinking “Why did you visit Cuba?”- have we answered your question yet? If not, check out our 25 photos that will put Cuba on your bucket list and 12 things to know when visting Cuba. If you have more than a week to explore Cuba, here are 50 things to do in Cuba to keep you busy for awhile. Also, check out this guide to Havana’s best restaurants, nightlife, and art. If you liked this post, please sign up for our email newsletter for more travel tips and inspiration. Love this post? Pin it and share it on social media and tag friends who you think would also love Cuba.

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About Bertaut & Alexis

10 Must-Do’s in Cuba
Travel addicts and proud parents of two young kids who make exploring the world a priority while working full time. Bertaut & Alexis enjoy traveling like millionaires without spending a fortune and share their tips on how to get luxury for less.

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  • Victoria

    Dancing to Cuban music and the beach? We are so sold! Thanks for all the tips!

  • I am so into that pink convertible!! And this is just a great list in general. Cuba looks like an incredible destination. I really hope we can make it there before it changes too much….we just have so many other places we want to get to, too!

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