Cuba, the Caribbean's largest island, welcomes most of its tourists from Canada and Europe, the rest from South America. Drawn by its stunning beaches, rich heritage and culture, excellent diving and ecological wonders, more and more travellers seek cheap flights to Cuba with every passing year.
Havana is capital, an exotic city that has been the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico for hundreds of years. Its historic centre - Old Havana - was listed by Unesco in 1982 for its Baroque and neoclassical buildings. Its museums, theatres, galleries and concert halls stand side by side with the bars and night clubs that serve the world-famous mojitos.
The second city, Santiago de Cuba, is much more “Caribbean” than Havana, a place of stirring history, beautiful squares and rich musical tradition, known for its carnival in particular.
Cuba's beaches are spectacular. Varadero beach is the pride of Cuba, wide and sandy and stretching out into Atlantic waters. On the Caribbean side are the Isle of Youth and Cayo Largo de Sur, both with soft-white beaches and wonderful dive sites.
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Cuba is usually hot, but summer can be the wettest season. Visitors arriving between May and October will encounter a lot of rain and 80 percent humidity. Late October and early November can have hurricanes and other coastal storms. The drier season starts at the end of November and lasts until April. In winter months, from December to March, the weather is more comfortable, with sunny days, little rain and cooler evenings.
When to fly to Cuba
Most travellers book cheap flights to Cuba between December and April. July and August are also popular with vacationers as are Christmas and New Year, Easter and July 26 (the anniversary of the revolution). In general Havana and Santiago de Cuba have peak seasons that extend all year long.
August to October is when hurricanes are most likely. Intrepid travellers can save money by visiting at this time.
Getting around Cuba
AeroCaribbean offer domestic Cuba flights, linking cities such as Havana with Holguin, Santiago and Cayo Coco.
Astro and Viazul offer bus services throughout the country. Viazul caters for tourists, linking the major attractions of the island.
Ferrocuba operates rail services, although the infrastructure is creaky. Havana to Santiago de Cuba is a popular link for tourists.
Cuba has an extensive road network and renting a car is an easy option.
Cuba insider information
- When travelling around Cuba, never, ever, run out of wet wipes and always carry a pocketful of change. Even the grungiest toilets have attendants and dropping a coin in the attendant's hand en route to the stalls is expected. If not, you may find that the toilets don't flush and that the faucets are turned off.
- The Museum of Playa Giron exhibits artifacts and information about the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. There are Cuban mortars, Soviet-made tanks and a Sea Fury fighter plane, and biographies and photographs of all 156 Cuban Government side soldiers, police, and militiamen that were killed in the country.
- In most Cuban towns entertainment is focused on the house of song (casa de la trova). These provide live entertainment and showcase up-and-coming bands. Fuelled by rum and wild dancing, a night in a casa de la trova can be an experience to remember.
- Forever associated with Ernest Hemingway, the author spent most of the latter half of his life in Cuba. His house, Finca La Vigia, overlooking the village of San Francisco de Paula (about 10 miles southeast of Havana) is now a museum. Room 511 of the Ambos Mundos Hotel was where Hemingway wrote the first chapter of For Whom the Bell Tolls. The room has been preserved as it was then, with a typewriter and copies of notes. The lobby too is full of Hemingway memorabilia.
- Many travellers on cheap flights to Cuba will make for Old Havana. The district is certainly very popular with tourists, but to step outside of the tourist-friendly zone, visit the barrio of Jaimanitas where renowned Cuban artist José Fuster lives. He has turned the streets into a fabulous, psychedelic sculpture park with colourful murals, benches, and houses decorated with ceramics and mosaics.