Cuba is a stunning island in the Caribbean, which is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. With its colonial architecture, lush green valleys, waterfalls and white sandy beaches it attracts tourists from all over the world. In November I went on a 10-day trip to Cuba and I loved it, by sharing my own 10-day Cuba itinerary I want to show you what to do and see in 10 days in Cuba. This travel guide will allow you to see all the main points of interest, have the most fun and make the most out of your time in Cuba.
- 1 Things to know about Cuba
- 2 What to see in Cuba 10 days
- 2.1 Day 1: Fly into Havana
- 2.2 Day 2: Learn about the Cuban revolution in Havana
- 2.3 Day 3: Explore Habana Vieja
- 2.4 Day 4: Havana to Viñales
- 2.5 Day 5: Visit the tobacco plantations in Viñales
- 2.6 Day 6: Visit the valley of Viñales
- 2.7 Day 7: Viñales to Trinidad
- 2.8 Day 8: Go to the beach in Trinidad
- 2.9 Day 9: Go horse riding in Trinidad & the Topes de Collantes National Park
- 2.10 Day 10: Trinidad to Havana
Things to know about Cuba
Before we jump straight into the 10-day itinerary I thought I’d give you an introduction about Cuba and answer some of the popular questions about the currency, Internet connection and more.
Cuban currency explained
The Cuban currency can be confusing since they have two; the Cuban Peso for locals (CUP) and the Cuban Peso Convertible (CUC) for tourists. You cannot get CUP outside of Cuba. As a tourist with a foreign credit card when you go to take out cash from an ATM it will automatically be in CUC. At the time we were visiting the exchange rate was 1 EUR to 1.17 CUC or 31 CUP. As you can imagine everything becomes considerably cheaper when you pay in CUP, however it is very hard to get a hold of the local currency. In ten days we were unable to but I have heard of other travellers being able to get some. A lot of tourist restaurants, bars or museums however are ready for this and display a double price list; so if something costs 10 CUC, there will also be a second column saying 260 CUP. If you want to exchange cash while there you should bring some GBP or EUR with you, rumour has it that since they don’t like Americans they will give you a terrible exchange rate with USD. If you want to know more about how much a trip to Cuba will cost you check out this Cuba budget.
Is there Internet in Cuba?
When I told people I was going to Cuba the vast majority of people asked how I was going to get online and post on Instagram (very troubling blogger problems I know). There is a common misconception that there is no Internet in Cuba. This isn’t true, as there are Wi-Fi spots in Cuba, they are just quite sparse. Most public Wi-Fi spots however aren’t free, to be able to access them you need Internet scratch cards that you can only purchase in the designated shops for 1.5 CUC. These public Wi-Fi spots are usually in places like the main square of a town or close to big hotels, so it’s not uncommon to find people hovering around there trying to sell you Internet scratch cards at a slightly higher price, usually 2 or 3 CUC. You might occasionally be lucky and find a hotel or restaurant that has free Wi-Fi you can connect to without paying or using a scratch card. Each scratch card lasts 1 hour. How many you will need depends on how much internet you plan on using, for a 10-day trip we bought 10 scratch cards on the first day (for two people) and they lasted us till the day we left. You can find out more about getting online in Cuba here.
Where to stay in Cuba: Casa Particulares vs hotels
A few years ago the Cuban government allowed locals who had a spare room to rent these out to tourists. These are known as “casa particulares” or local’s houses. In my opinion staying in “casa particulares” is the best way to travel in Cuba. Staying with locals will give you the opportunity to really experience Cuba, as the hosts are usually extremely friendly and will offer to make you breakfast and any other meal you want so that you can taste the homemade local cuisine. Hotels on the other hand are over priced and don’t provide as good a value for money. A lot of tourists prefer staying in hotels as they feel it’s safer or more comfortable, however they forget that the criminality rate in Cuba is extremely low and in order to rent out their spare rooms to tourists “casa particulares” hosts have to go through loads of checks from the government. Locals are also extremely helpful and will help you book any tours or onwards taxi travel you need, without ridiculously overcharging you as a hotel might. You can recognise “casa particulares” by the anchor shaped sign outside the door, which will usually also display a sign saying whether it’s available or not. If you’re a YOLO traveller you could go to Cuba without having anything booked and just find the place to stay that appeals to you the most. We preferred to book all our accommodation online beforehand however and found some amazing places on AirBnb (get 35 EUR off AirBnb here if you haven’t already)!
- Our AirBnb in Havana: We splurged a little on our first few nights, as we wanted something private instead of in someone’s house. Since it’s a flat that can sleep up to four people it was a bit pricey for two but it was still good value for money. We found the location right in between Habana Vieja and the main square of the Capitolio was perfect for us.
- Our AirBnb in Viñales: This was by far our favourite AirBnb. The hosts were absolutely lovely and their breakfast was our favourite of the whole trip. The house is also very centrally located so that you can easily walk to the main streets and square of Viñales
- Our AirBnb in Trinidad: We absolutely loved how this one was set up. They had a lovely roof terrace where they brought us breakfast in the morning and where we could enjoy the sunset in evenings. The hosts were also super helpful arranging our tours, taxi transfers and giving us hotel suggestions.
How to travel around Cuba
The easiest way to travel around Cuba is by collective taxi. These are like normal taxis with the only difference that you will probably be sharing one with strangers. If you ask your AirBnb host they will be more than happy to book one for you, which usually also gives you the guarantee that it will be a nice car. You can also book yourself a taxi out and about, since if you obviously look like a tourist you will definitely have people offer you taxi services in the streets. However these can be a bit less reliable and more expensive. Cuba also has a public bus system that is slightly cheaper than taxis. The price difference is so small (Havana to Trinidad was 30 CUC by taxi or 28 CUC by bus) that we always chose to move by taxi as it was more comfortable and we weren’t time limited.
Where to eat in Cuba
Cuban food is pretty awesome. Starting with that premise, let’s go into a bit more detail on prices and cuisine. We found Cuban food to be a mixture of Caribbean, Spanish and Mexican cuisines, which was perfect for us as it suited all our moods. Sit down meals for two people at nice restaurants ranged from 15 to 50 CUC, depending on the location. There are street food stalls where you can get a meal for considerably less but we never felt like risking it. There are some restaurants that will have the word “Paladar” in their name; this means they are privately owned and according to our AirBnb host, will usually be a bit more expensive than the average but also nicer. Some of our personal favourite places we ate at during the trip were:
- El Dandy in Havana: This was one of our favourite restaurants of the whole trip. The food is incredible and the restaurant has a really fun vibe, as it acts also as art gallery.
- Mogote Cafe in Viñales: This is a lovely restaurant just off the main road where they serve amazing food and have a an outdoors area with views over the valley of Viñales.
- Monte y Mar in Trinidad: This amazing restaurant is really close to the centre of Trinidad and has a beautiful terrace with views over the rooftops of Trinidad. The food is great and the service even better, with the staff bringing a complimentary cigar at the end of the meal.
What to see in Cuba 10 days
This is the itinerary I have followed myself on my recent 10-day trip to Cuba. It is meant to be used as an indication of a route that will allow you to maximise the days you have and see all of the main highlights and best things to see in Cuba in one trip. I have also included travel times between destinations and costs of travel and activities, to give you an idea of how much time and money this trip will require. Please adapt this to fit your personal travel interests and times, it’s intended as guidance, not a strict guide to follow at all cost!
Day 1: Fly into Havana
The airport in Havana is the biggest international airport in Cuba, it will be cheaper and easier for you to fly here. Since Havana is also the capital and one of the most beautiful cities in Cuba, it works out well as a good starting point for your trip. Flight prices to Cuba can vary, we paid 600 EUR for return direct flights from Milan, Italy, to Havana at the end of October. Depending on the time at which you land you can use your first day in Havana to explore Havana Vieja and the city centre.
Day 2: Learn about the Cuban revolution in Havana
Havana is a beautiful city and no amount of time ever seems enough to see it. However if you’re visiting Cuba on a 10-day trip spending 2 / 3 days in Havana will allow you to see the main highlights. One of the best ways in our opinion to kick-start your time in Havana is to do a vintage car tour of the city. While being very touristy these will give you the opportunity to see all the points of interest of the city in just over an hour, and give you a better idea of what you want to go back to and see in more detail. Plus, how can you resist those beautiful vintage cars? Prices vary depending on how well you can bargain. We got a pink Chevrolet for 25 CUC and asked him to drop us off at a restaurant we wanted to go to but which is a little outside the centre, effectively saving on one taxi fare. The vintage car tours usually also take you to Plaza de la Revolucion, which is otherwise a bit far and complicated to reach.
While we’re talking about revolution, while in Havana you can’t not pay a visit to the famous Museo de la Revolucion; the museum all dedicated to Cuba’s Revolution. A word of advice on this from me is to make sure you read up on the Cuban Revolution a bit before visiting Cuba and this museum. While it is very interesting it’s more focused on showing photographs and relics of the time, rather than explaining all the events of it. If you visit it like us with very little background knowledge you won’t make the most of it. You can find a brief summary about the Cuban Revolution here.
Day 3: Explore Habana Vieja
Having visited the main relics of the Revolution and done a vintage car tour all that’s left is to explore Habana Vieja. The architecture in this part of Havana is simply stunning and just walking around the small side streets it is a great experience. You can also go inside the cathedral of Havana if you want. Habana Vieja is quite close to the sea, if you’re not tired of walking yet I recommend going for a walk along the Malecòn, Havana’s seaside walk.
Day 4: Havana to Viñales
There is no point trying to pre-book a taxi from Havana to Viñales, as all the taxi drivers that stop you in the streets of Havana will massively overcharge you. Instead what you should do is a book a taxi to take you to the Havana bus station first thing in the morning, this is 15-minutes out of the centre of Havana and should cost around 10 CUC. Here it will be much easier and cheaper to arrange your transport, either by bus or collective taxi. For a collective taxi you usually show up to the station and then wait for other tourists headed in your same direction. The journey is about two hour and a half and will cost you 20 CUC each for a collective taxi or 30 to 40 CUC for a private one. Depending on what time you arrive you can spend the rest of the day exploring the streets and town centre of Viñales.
Day 5: Visit the tobacco plantations in Viñales
Viñales is most famous for its tobacco fields in the valley of Viñales, which is also a National Park. Here the farmers work all year round to produce the tobacco that then gets used in the famous Cuban cigars. You can visit the valley of Viñales either on a horse riding or walking tour. I highly recommend the horse riding one, as you will be able to see more of the valley (if it’s been raining some of the roads will be entirely covered in mud and inaccessible on foot), plus it’s more fun and it will make you feel like a local! We just asked our AirBnb host and he booked the tour for us. The price of the tour varies depending on how long it is, we paid 5 CUC per hour and were around for 5 hours.
During the tour they will take you to explore the tobacco plantations, where the local farmers will explain the process for growing tobacco and rolling cigars. This is a very interesting experience and depending on the agreement with your tour guide it can also include a free cigar for you to try. After visiting the tobacco plantations they will take you to see some of the other plantations they grow in the valley, including coffee.
Day 6: Visit the valley of Viñales
For your second day in Viñales you have multiple options. We had originally planned to go to the beach, since they say the beaches on this coast of Cuba are beautiful and relatively less touristy when compared to the resort heavy Varadero. However the weather didn’t agree with us and when a small cyclone hit the coast and they advised it wasn’t safe to go there we decided to explore more of the valley of Viñales. We did a hop-on hop-off bus tour that took us to the Indios Cave, the Murales de la Prehistoria and the Jazmines Hotel viewpoint. If you happen to be in Viñales on a Saturday make sure to visit the main square. They put speakers in the square and loads of people of all ages, both tourists and local, gather to dance in the main square. Easily the most fun evening we had in Cuba.
Day 7: Viñales to Trinidad
Buckle up, you have a long day of driving ahead. The car journey from Viñales to Trinidad will take at least 6 hours. We asked our AirBnb host to arrange it for us and he booked us a collective taxi for 30 CUC each. The drive will usually take you through Havana and you might be asked to change cars, depending on the ultimate destination of the other people in your car. The collective taxis usually set off first thing in the morning, between 8am and 9am, so you will actually reach Trinidad with some time to explore the town centre. Trinidad is a beautiful colonial town with cute cobbled roads, colourful houses and lively street markets. On your first day there you can also climb to the top of the bell tower, which has beautiful views over Trinidad and the surrounding countryside.
Day 8: Go to the beach in Trinidad
Trinidad is a short 15-minute drive away from Playa Ancon, one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The beach stretches for kilometres of white sand and turquoise water. We got a taxi there for 10 CUC or could have taken a bus for 5 CUC. Along the beach there are only two main resorts, where the taxi dropped us off. Even if we were visiting in low season there were still quite a lot of people in that stretch of beach, so we walked a bit further down till we found a quiet corner. Locals will come up to you asking if you want to do a snorkelling tour just off the coast, we politely declined as we had heard there aren’t really that many corals or fish to see. After having been snorkelling with turtles in Bali and scuba diving with moray eels in Kenya, I didn’t want to spend 30 CUC to not see anything.
Day 9: Go horse riding in Trinidad & the Topes de Collantes National Park
Trinidad is also famous for its location close to the beautiful Topes de Collantes National Park. Here you can find beautiful green landscapes and waterfalls. We did a horse riding tour also here, which took us to a beautiful secluded waterfall where you could go swimming. We chose to the tour on horseback as we figured it would be more fun, however this obviously limits how much of the park you can see in one day. If you want to see more of the park you can rent a car or do a car tour and get them to take you further inland. We paid 25 CUC each for the horse riding tour.
Day 10: Trinidad to Havana
Your time in Cuba is sadly coming to a close and it’s time to head back to Havana and the international airport. The drive from Trinidad to Havana will take 4 to 5 hours, you can expect to pay 30 CUC each for a collective taxi. You can arrange you transfer back to Havana depending on the time of your flight. We flew late at night so we set off from Trinidad early morning so that we could have a last afternoon in Havana before flying, and to be sure to arrive in time without risking traffic jams or road blocks.
Cuba is a beautiful destination which I highly recommend visiting. We particularly enjoyed that while tourism is a big focus of the local economy, the island hasn’t been completely been run over by mass tourism yet. If I were you, I’d try to get there before that happens! We found that 10 days were enough for us to do everything we wanted to do in Cuba and I hope you will find this 10-day itinerary useful in planning your own trip! Have you been to Cuba before? How did you spend your time there? Let me know in the comments below!
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