People who visit Cuba will encounter an island that is still untouched by much of the technology that defines the modern world. Cubans do not have much access to the Internet or TV, and still rely on music, dance, games, and sports for their entertainment. Many of Cuba’s natural resources have remained intact because of the country’s lack of industrialization.
You can still see traces of Havana’s wild past as a Mafia-run destination for rum, music, and boisterous night clubs. In the cities you’ll see grand colonial buildings and billboards proclaiming socialism, now fading under the bright Caribbean sun. Looking out at the blue Caribbean Sea, you will understand why so many ex-pats (including Ernest Hemingway) opt to live out their days on the island.
77 percent of Cuba’s population lives in cities. Spanish colonial architecture and classic cars characterize urban Cuba. Visitors come to these destinations to experience world-famous dance halls and nightclubs.
Cuba captivates the popular imagination with its beaches. White sand and clear, turquoise water make Cuban beaches some of the top destinations for visitors who want to spend their vacation at a resort. You can find beaches near shipwrecks and natural coral reefs. Gentle surf makes it easy to swim or snorkel.
To see more of Cuban wilderness, visit the mountains and valleys of Sierra Maestra on the easternmost tip of Cuba. This is home to Pico Turquino National Park, which is named for Pico Turquino Mountain. At 6,476 feet (1,974 m), Pico Turquino is the tallest mountain in Cuba. Guanahacabibes Peninsula National Park is on the west coast, and boasts the beaches of María La Gorda and underwater caves that attract scuba divers. Also in the west you can visit Viñales National Park, which is famous for its magotes – these twisted limestone formations make the landscape as surreal as it is breathtaking.
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, with an area of 42,401 square miles (109,820 sq km) – just slightly smaller than the state of Pennsylvania. It is comprised of a mainland as well as many thousands of islands clustered around the coast, the largest of which is Isla de la Juventud.
22 percent of Cuba’s territory is covered by national parks and wildlife preserves. You can also visit preserves on Cuba’s extensive coastline, which serve to protect the intact coral reefs near the shore.
The dry season lasts from December to April, and is the high season for visitors. Cuba’s rainy season lasts from May to October, but plenty of visitors still come during the summer months of July and August. Rain usually comes in bursts and doesn’t typically last all day. The eastern coast is prone to hurricanes from August to November. No matter the season, the temperature is almost always comfortable in Cuba, and is usually between 77 °F (25.2°C) and 81°F (27.2°C).
The story of Cuba continues to be written, and the next chapter is leaving the entire world optimistic. Following the death of longtime leader and revolutionary Fidel Castro, former President Raúl Castro worked with the United States (under the Obama administration) to begin re-establishing diplomatic relations and reuniting families. Raúl has since stepped down, and the close of the Castro Family dynasty has given rise to President Miguel Díaz-Canel. Slowly but surely, the nation continues to make strides to shape its future, and share its beauty and unbreakable spirit with the rest of the world.
Cuba has a population of a little over 11 million. The national socialist wage of around 17 USD per month makes it difficult for many Cubans to afford basic necessities. Many Cubans rely on the black market to supply the things they need and make extra cash.
Many of the social hierarchies imposed on Cuba by the Spanish still exist today. There is a large population of people of any descent called criollos, the result of the Spanish colonizers taking indigenous Cuban brides in the 16th and 17th century. The slave trade brought Africans from Nigeria and Benin, which created a strong Afro-Cuban culture that has shaped modern Cuba. Santería, son music, and modern art have all drawn from the cultures brought to Cuba from Africa. Today you can see thriving Afro-Cuban culture in the city of Santiago de Cuba.
The economy in Cuba relies heavily on tourism. For decades Cuba dedicated all of its agricultural resources to growing sugar, and served as the main supplier of sugar to countries in the Soviet Bloc. When Soviet Union crumbled in the 1990s, Cuba scrambled to make ends of meet. Tourism has helped the country recover somewhat, but Cubans still deal with shortages of supplies and rations on a regular basis.
With the influx of more visitors from the U.S., there is hope that the economy will continue to improve. Anyone who has ever wished for a white sand beach and clear blue water should find a reason to visit Cuba. Here you’ll encounter untrammeled beaches, and a culture that has developed in relative isolation.
There are two defined seasons in Cuba: the dry season and the wet season. The dry season, November to April, is the most popular window for tourists, although plenty still visit Cuba for summer vacations. During the wet season you are more likely to encounter a hurricane, although the slightly warmer weather during the rainy season makes the Caribbean water warmer.
Cuba is on Eastern Standard Time (EST), and is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (UTC – 4) time zone. This is the same time zone as the east coast of the United States. Cuba also observes Daylight Savings Time.
Cuba has lots of destinations your family will remember for years to come. Like most cities, Cuban cities have late-night elements to avoid while traveling with your family. Mafia-run nightclubs filled with cigar smoke may not conjure up your idea of a family-friendly destination, but Cuba has a lot more to it than what you’ve seen in movies. Family members of every age can appreciate Cuba’s flawless beaches and the live music scene.If your older children have taken any Spanish in school, they should feel free to speak to friendly locals for practice. Take them to educational sites like the Moncada Barracks and El Morro Historical Park, both important spots in Cuba’s history. You can even visit the infamous Bay of Pigs, which has a museum as well as opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving just off shore.
Take guided hikes in national parks to see caves, mountains, wetlands, and mangrove forests. If you want to survey wildlife at a slower pace, check out the Soroa Orchid Garden or the Soledad Botanical Garden. Your family can also go on short hikes on trails through Topes de Callantes National Park for the chance to do some quality bird watching.
Every traveler needs to have a valid passport and a travel visa.Cuba customs also requires all visitors to provide proof of an insurance policy (one that is accepted by the Cuban government, e.g. not an American policy), or purchase a Cuban health insurance policy at the airport.
Americans still need a few more permissions than people from other countries. As a citizen of the United States you must arrive with an OFAC license from the United States Treasury Department. The license will stipulate which of the 12 categories of permitted travel you have selected for your trip to Cuba.
You may be asked to present proof of your return ticket when you enter Cuba. Also be prepared to produce proof of the funds you will be using during your stay in Cuba.
Once you arrive in Cuba, you are required to have your passport and tourist visa on you at all times.
Canadians can stay in Cuba up to 90 days on a tourist visa. All others (including U.S. citizens) can stay for up to 30 days. It is possible to contact the Cuba consulate if you wish to extend your stay for another 30 days (or another 90 if you are Canadian), but there are no guarantees. It’s important not to overstay your visa, as heavy fines may ensue.
Cuba has a warm, tropical climate. Temperature does not vary too much in Cuba. The coldest temperatures in Cuba are in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra in eastern Cuba and the Sierra de los Órganos in western Cuba.Except for a few short windows during the year, Cuba typically has sunny, pleasant weather. May to October is the rainy season. During the rainy season the rain usually comes in short, steamy bursts, usually earlier in the day.
The average temperature in Cuba is 77.4°F (25.2°C). During July, the hottest part of the year, the average temperature is 81°F (27.2°C). In January it gets as low as 71.6°F (22°C). Throughout the mountains, temperatures can get as low as 40°F to 50°F (5°C – 10°C).
Cuba is 42,401 square miles (109,820 sq km). It’s just slightly smaller than the state of Pennsylvania.
There technically is a departure tax of 25 USD when you leave Cuba, but as of May 2015 that fee is now collected as part of your airfare. You do not have to pay a separate departure tax when you leave Cuba.
June to October is hurricane season in Cuba, and October is generally the month when hurricanes are most likely to occur.Although hurricanes are not a regular occurrence, islands in the Caribbean can be hit by sudden tropical storms at any time of the year.
Cuba sits on top of some fault systems, and earthquakes do occur, although not very often. The most recent earthquake occurred in 2010, and before that there was one in 1992. There were no injuries or property destructions reported in the most recent earthquake, although Cuba has had strong earthquakes that registered a 7.0 on the Richter scale.
Cuba is in the Caribbean Sea, around 90 miles (150 km) south of Florida. It is to the west of the Gulf of Mexico. The closest countries to Cuba are the Bahamas to the north, and Jamaica to the south.
Cuba is a subtropical Caribbean country.Cuba is a tropical island with a stunning Caribbean coast. Off the coast of some beaches you can visit healthy coral reefs. Rolling hills, tobacco farms, and pine forests characterize inland Cuba. The mountains of Sierra de los Órganos are to the west, and the mountains of Sierra Maestra rise in the southwest. Small islands surround Cuba, the largest of which is Isla de La Juventud. You’ll find mangrove forests along much of the coast, including along the southern islands.