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Okay, fine, technically we were in Cuba for 8 days, but you can use this guide to create an itinerary for one week in Cuba or use it as building blocks for a shorter or longer trip. If you’re a visual person like me, you can also take a photographic journey of this Cuba trip first before digging into the details.
Length: 8 full days in Cuba (9-10 days inclusive of flights, depending on where you’re coming from)
Budget*: ~USD$900, plus flights
Lodging type: Airbnb
Travelers: 3, friends, all females
*We’d booked our Airbnbs in advance but had to bring cash for everything else. Estimated daily budgets include everything except for lodging. Notes on money and other Cuba planning tips here (especially important for Americans!).
Day 1 in Cuba
(~155CUC, includes bus tickets for the entire trip!)
- Land at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport in the early a.m.
- Exchange your money upon arrival, as the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) is only exchangeable in Cuba
- Then we headed over to our Airbnb in Central Havana. The host had pre-arranged a taxi driver to pick us up at the airport for 30CUC.
- Unfortunately due to a snafu at the airport, we didn’t get to go, but on Sundays from 12-3 p.m. there’s Santeria music and dance at Callejon de Hammel.
- We also didn’t get to buy our bus tickets at the airport due to the aforementioned snafu, so we ended up going to Viazul’s office near the zoo. A copy of your passport is required, and they do sell out so buying ahead of time is suggested!
- All logistics settled, we headed back to our Airbnb and were picked up by Old Cars Havana, a classic car tour we’d booked online. We did the 3-hour city tour with an English-speaking tour guide. This is absolutely something you can book or spontaneously pick up while there; we just wanted an easier day 1 so we booked ahead of time.
Day 2 in Cuba
- For our second day we ventured out of Havana and drove about 2.5 hours to Vinales in western Cuba. We used Discover Vinales, which also sent a driver to pick us up at our Airbnb. Our roughly 11-hour tour included horseback riding and hiking through the prehistoric Vinales Valley, a historical tour of Vinales town, a delicious lunch at an organic farm, and smoking cigars and drinking rum with local farmer Jose Antonio. It was well-paced and relaxing, perfect after a hectic and exhausting first day.
- After returning to Central Havana for dinner, we grabbed a beer and hung out on the Malecon, but as it turns out, we’re not all that great at just hanging out on the waterfront strip at night. Oh well.
Day 3 in Cuba
- The rainy weather we had on day 3 made it a perfect time to check out the National Museum of Fine Arts, which housed both more traditional artistic styles as well as modern art. A particularly interesting one as an American was the exhibit on the Cuban Five.
- We then explored Old Havana, checking out Plaza de Armas and the Havana Cathedral, having coffee in Plaza Vieja, and even ducking into an exhibit put on by the Mexican embassy.
- Our afternoon was dedicated to Fusterlandia, the whimsical home and Jaimanitas neighborhood of artist Jose Fuster.
- After a brief nap and some food, we headed out for a night of salsa, which in Havana equates to ridiculous fun and energy and probably more calories burned than running for the same amount of time. The city is also full of amazing leads, so ladies are all taken care of even if you’ve never danced a step in your life. (It’s a little tougher for dudes, but a lot of folks are willing to teach you if you’re willing to learn!)
Day 4 in Cuba
- Halfway through our one week in Cuba, we bid Havana good-bye and took a morning bus to Santa Clara, famous for all its Che Guevara landmarks.
- After dropping off our stuff at our Airbnb and grabbing some street pizza, we hit up the Che Guevara monument and mausoleum, the city’s key attractions. They’re just outside of city center and accessible by foot (or by car, bicitaxi, carriage).
- We spent some chill books-and-beers time on the patio of our Airbnb before heading out to dinner at SaborArte. Bursting with deliciousness, we wrapped up the night strolling around and listening to live bands playing around town.
- And yes, that estimated budget up there says 15CUC. All of the Che landmarks are free and costs are generally lower in Santa Clara, making this place very easy on the wallet.
Day 5 in Cuba
- The next day we walked around Santa Clara and saw some other Che landmarks (the trains he stopped during the revolution plus another statue of him) and did some shopping before leaving for our Trinidad bus.
- Unfortunately we’d apparently purchased a wrong ticket earlier in our trip (hint: our Spanish isn’t great) so we ended up having to haggle and get a taxi to Trinidad. In the end this was a very unwelcome 50CUC per person mistake, but thankfully it didn’t really negatively impact our trip. It also highlighted the necessity of bringing a little extra cash for unexpected happenings.
- We kept it simple upon arriving at our Airbnb in Trinidad. We explored town a bit and headed up to the rooftop of the municipal museum, where we had the whole place to ourselves to catch the sunset and drink some beers before we went off in search of dinner.
Day 6 in Cuba
- As much as we’d pre-booked things for Havana for a smoother start to our trip, we did the opposite for Trinidad and didn’t really book or plan much. Much of our first full day in Trinidad was spent exploring the city and its surrounding beauty while soaking in the beaming Caribbean sun.
- At night we hit up Disco Ayala, the town’s cave disco and #1 nightlife spot.
Day 7 in Cuba
- As with Havana, we wanted to make sure to get further out from Trinidad and into nature, so we went to a local tourism agency suggested by our Airbnb host and booked ourselves a tour to Parque Guanayara in Topes de Collantes. The hike was relatively simple and very fun and informative. Did you know mango leaves are a herbal remedy for diabetes? Or that you can clean and whiten your teeth by using guava and coffee leaves together?
Day 8 in Cuba
- The bulk of our last full day in Cuba was spent traveling back to Havana. We took the earliest bus out of Trinidad at 7:45 a.m., but even that only arrived at 2:05 p.m.
- In case you’re wondering, on these longer Viazul trips they do make meal stops. In our case it was a government-owned buffet and sandwich shop, but it was still really good!
- And honestly we just smoked cigars and drank rum that afternoon, trying to savor the last remnants of our one week in Cuba.
- Last but not least, we hit up Fabrica de Arte Cubano, the city’s warehouse-turned-art-gallery-and-club hotspot. The place is totally hipster but a cool experience and a nice way to round out our trip.
- We flew out early the next day having spent as much of the ~30CUC left in our pockets at the airport — hello duty free rum!
Make sure to check out these Cuba planning tips and recommendations for more details, and have an amazing time in Cuba!
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