Those who travel to Cuba for the first time usually ask themselves this question: what is the minimum number of days to spend in Cuba?
Cuba is a very large island, the largest of the Antilles, where distances are huge and internal travel is long, complicated, and quite expensive.
Cuba is also very rich in attractions of different types: the sea, tropical nature, modern and contemporary history, colonial architecture, tangible and intangible art and culture, popular customs, and social organization.
With such a wealth of options, how not to get lost? How many days must one devote to a trip to Cuba to have the feeling of having tasted at least some features of its essence?
As is always the case when it comes to Cuba, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The correct answer is ” it depends… “, and there are many variables to consider. Let’s have a look at some of them: 1) Your view of Cuba as a travel destination; 2) Your profile as a traveler; 3) Your motivation for traveling to Cuba; 4) Some specific needs that may affect how you organize your trip to Cuba.
1. YOUR VIEW OF CUBA AS A TRAVEL DESTINATION Will the trip you are planning be a one-time trip, or do you think you might return to the island in the future? Obviously, this is a variable that weighs heavily.
- ONE-TIME TRIP If your trip to Cuba is a “one-shot” type, you will naturally try to see as much as possible and experience at least some essential aspects of the island’s nature and culture. This is generally true, unless one of the other variables takes over. These will be discussed in more detail below.If your profile is that of a traveler (whether you are an adventurer or a leisure traveler is of little importance), the minimum period you should devote to a one-time trip to Cuba is 14 nights. Bear in mind that given the current internal transportation situation, unless you have between 3 and 4 weeks, you will not get a comprehensive overview of the island but will have to focus on either the west or the east. Since La Habana is in the western quadrant of the island, our recommendation is the west.
- FIRST VISIT: If you are open to the idea of a return visit, you have the option of a progressive acquaintance with the island and its attractions. In this case, a minimum stay of 4 full days in La Habana can be a good starting point, especially for those who live west of the Atlantic Ocean. For those who must take a transoceanic flight, we obviously recommend a minimum stay of 7 days.
2. YOUR PROFILE AS A TRAVELER: Do you consider yourself a traveler or a tourist? Do you like to be comfortable or like to adapt? Are you a gourmet or does food have no impact on your experience? Are you looking for serenity or are you driven by a spirit of adventure?
- ADVENTURE TRAVELER Normally the adventurer is driven by a strong sense of curiosity, which leads him to try to use his time to see and experience as much as possible. He is aware that he will have to make choices about his destinations, but he does so reluctantly. He has a strong sense of adaptability and tends to be very conscious of his budget. For many years and until the relatively recent past (2015-2016), most visitors to Cuba, that is, travelers who are not strictly resort vacationers, have been forced to identify themselves, willingly or unwillingly, in this category. This is due to the characteristics of Cuba’s tourism offer, which until less than 10 years ago was polarized between all-inclusive beach resorts and casas particulares, lacking standards of comfort comparable to competing destinations. By the way, this is a situation that still exists in some areas of the island.
In Cuba, a minimum stay of 7 days, walking like crazy and facing long and tiring commutes, is required for those who want to begin to grasp some of the essence of the island.
- HOLIDAYMAKER Relaxation should be the main component of the stay, which should therefore take place in an all-inclusive facility organized to provide lodging, food, beach, possibly some sports equipment and evening entertainment.
Considering the length of the flight to reach the island, we recommend that all-inclusive travelers spend 7 nights in Cuba. This will allow 1 or 2 days for excursions to neighboring areas.
- LEISURE TRAVELERS: Unfortunately, in some groups devoted to travel that populate social media, this term is used with less than positive connotations. We would like to clarify that this segment is particularly dear to us, because we are convinced that traveling, discovering, visiting, learning, and living exciting experiences does not necessarily mean renouncing certain levels of quality, safety, comfort, and pleasure to which we are fortunate to be accustomed. For leisure travelers, as long as they can find “good value for money”, limiting their budget is not a priority. In Cuba, the possibility of widespread leisure travel experiences is quite recent and began to spread from the years 2015-2016. This is the period of openings, from Obama’s visit to major international events such as Karl Lagerfeld’s fashion show on the Paseo del Prado and the Rolling Stones concert. The hope for change generated a wave of international investment. Most of it was concentrated in La Habana. New establishments such as boutique hotels, villas and B&Bs, renovated and furnished with taste and fine materials, enrich the accommodation offer. The gastronomy is enriched with new addresses where you can enjoy the traditional Cuban cuisine and international dishes. With this philosophy in mind, we created Hip Havana, a platform designed to provide leisure travelers with quality services that meet their expectations.
If you want to get to know Cuba and at the same time enjoy a few moments of pleasure and relaxation, you should extend your trip to 12 days so that you can complete your itinerary with a short stay on a tropical beach.
3. YOUR MOTIVATION FOR TRAVELING TO CUBA What are your dreams for your stay in Cuba? A journey always has its origin in a dream, from a mental projection of the destination that the traveler has created in himself and that he will seek in every way during his journey. What is the dream that Cuba evokes in you? What do you expect to find in Cuba, or rather, what would you like to find in the Isla Grande?
- HISTORICAL SUGGESTIONS If you are looking for historical suggestions, you will need time, at least 3 weeks, to visit the symbolic places between West and East and to entertain Cubans, especially older people.
- UNSPOILED NATURE If Cuba for you is unspoiled nature, tropical landscapes and rural scenery, a week may be all you need.
- MUSIC AND DANCE If Cuba for you is traditional music and dance, you will need at least 2 weeks to settle in. You will have the opportunity to meet Cuban artists and cultivate your passion.
- BEACH If your image of Cuba is white sand, turquoise waters and ice-cold drinks, a week may be enough to rejuvenate. But when you leave, you’ll want to return to Cuba to experience the other aspects of the island you haven’t had a chance to enjoy.
4. YOUR SPECIAL NEEDS Are you planning a family trip to Cuba with young children or elderly relatives? Is there anyone in your group who is pregnant or has a special health condition?
- TRAVELING WITH CHILDREN Traveling to Cuba with young children can be tiring, especially because of the travel between locations. Out of an abundance of caution, it is advisable not to spend too much time in one place – 10-12 days maximum – and to plan an itinerary that is balanced between days of sightseeing and days of relaxation on the beach.
- TRAVELLING WITH THE ELDERLY AND PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL HEALTH CONDITIONS The same applies as mentioned above regarding children. In addition, it is a good idea not to be too far from the health care facilities for foreigners in the capital city. When traveling outside of La Habana and Varadero, special attention should be paid to mosquito prophylaxis.
How do you plan your trip to Cuba to make the most of your vacation and try to limit unpleasant surprises?
✓ Do it yourself: you can look for information on the Web, where you can find, for free, opinions , stories, advice of all kinds, sometimes interested and sometimes not, sometimes encouraging and sometimes not. Keep in mind, however, that even when in good faith, those who share a travel experience do so based on partial knowledge and a subjective point of view. If you have a passion for planning trips and have no difficulty in designing your own itinerary in Cuba, then we suggest you supplement the information you have gathered on the web with our mini HH LIST guide in which you will find a selection of our favorite places in Havana.
✓ Coaching session: If you have any doubts, book a session of our coaching service, where you will have all your questions answered.
✓ Bespoke Travel design: If you want help estimating your daily budget in Cuba, ask for a quote for our bespoke travel design service. Take a look here.