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Cuba is one of our top travel recommendations. It’s off-the-beaten-path, unamericanized, and rich in history and culture. Plus, the food is to die for. While the entire country of Cuba has a ton to offer, the capital of Havana is the beating heart of the country and is where most people go when they travel to Cuba.
Here we’re exploring where to stay, what to do, and where to eat in Havana to help you make the most out of your time in Havana!
Make sure to check out our other Cuba posts too:
Where to Stay in Havana:
You can stay in a few different neighborhoods in Havana that will each give you a little different taste of life in the Cuban capital. Chances are you’ll be flying in and out of Havana, so a good chunk of your time will be spent there.
If you are following our One Week Itinerary for Cuba, Havana will be your first and last stop, so why not check out two different neighborhoods while you’re there?
First off, check out the Neptuno neighborhood, which is closer to the university. While it’s further from Old Havana, it’s way cheaper and will give you a different experience of Cuban life than most travelers get visiting Cuba.
There are so many places to stay in Neptuno, including casa particulares, Airbnbs, hostels, and hotels. We opted for Hostel Caissa, which was essentially a mix between a hostel and casa particular. It was a small place, but the family that ran it was incredibly welcoming and helpful.
The other neighborhood to stay near in Havana is, of course, Old Havana. Old Havana is the center of everything in Havana. However, it’s going to be a bit pricier than the surrounding neighborhoods.
Here, we stayed at this Airbnb just outside of Old Havana, on the other side of El Capitolio and saved some money doing so which helped out our Cuba budget.
What to Do in Havana:
Food and Culture Tour – Who doesn’t love food and culture? Our top choice of what to do in Havana is to go on a food and culture tour. There are probably a few different ones out there, but we highly recommend this one. It’s done by a Cuban couple via Airbnb Experiences. We don’t receive a commission for sharing their link here. We simply had a wonderful time and cannot recommend it enough.
Classic Car Tour – Classic cars and Havana go hand-in-hand. It’s something Cuba, and the city of Havana, are well-known for. Our guess is that most travelers in Cuba want to ride in a classic car, so why not get a quick city tour in one? It’s a great way to see the city and ride in a classic car in Havana. Your host can probably arrange a tour for you.
Salsa Lesson – You are in Havana! Why not take a salsa lesson?! Our Airbnb host arranged a salsa lesson for us, and it was outstanding, even if Mike still can’t dance salsa.
Walk Around Old Havana – Old Havana, or Habana Vieja, is the vibrant center of the city where you can find something going on at all times of the day and night. Take a walk around and see some of the major sights in Havana while getting lost in the old part of the city.
Walk the Malecón – Outside of Old Havana, the Malecón is where the action is at. The Malecón is a long seawall that borders the city of Havana and the sea. There are always performers, cars, and lots of people walking, fishing, or just hanging out on the Malecón. As part of your visit to Havana, walking the Malecón is a must.
Havana World Music Festival – We just so happened to be in Havana during the Havana World Music Festival and only knew about it because someone at our hostel mentioned it. It was an awesome time with great music!
If you’re in Havana and there’s a festival, we’d recommend checking it out!
Internet at Park – Are you a social media obsessed millenial, or just going crazy without your phone? Stop in at a park in Havana and you’ll be able to buy an internet card with your passport. With purchase of the internet card, you can use internet on your phone and check-in with people back home letting them know you’re safe and having a blast in Havana or make them jealous by posting some of your incredible photos.
Looking for more information on How to Go to Cuba as an American? You’re in luck! Check out our full post on How to Go to Cuba as an American for all the information, including internet access, you need to travel to Cuba.
Varadero Beach Day – If you are dying to get to the beach, Havana is not the place for you as there is not a beach right in the city. However, there are a few beach options close to the Cuban capital. The best beach near Havana, and perhaps all of Cuba, is Varadero. We recommend taking a day to go relax on the beautiful, sandy beaches of Varadero. Here’s an all-day all-inclusive day trip to Varadero from Havana.
Santa Maria Beach – If you don’t have a full day to commit to going to Varadero but are still wanting to go to the beach, try Santa Maria Beach, which is just a short taxi ride outside of Havana. It’s not as nice as Varadero, but it’s a Caribbean beach so you can’t complain too much.
Rooftop Yoga – While doing rooftop yoga in Havana is not a “must-do” by any means, it was a totally relaxing experience that we are glad we had. This was a wonderful way to end our trip to Cuba and interact with other locals. Plus, it helped satisfy the Support for the Cuban People visa requirement.
Where to Eat and Drink in Havana:
Locos por Cuba – Locos por Cuba is located in the Neptuno neighborhood of Havana near the university. This restaurant is up on the second floor of a building and has a great open-air atmosphere. It was recommended to us by our first hostel owners, and it didn’t disappoint. The food was fresh and delicious!
Fonda Paladar La Paila – This restaurant was one we went to on our aforementioned food and culture tour of Havana. It’s owned and operated by Cuban actors and actresses, which is pretty neat even though we didn’t recognize any of them. Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t have much of a Cuban series selection…The food and service were outstanding though!
Although Fonda Paladar La Paila is tucked away from most tourist spots in Neptuno, it’s worth finding it because the food was some of the best we had in Cuba! And apparently Guy Fieri went there on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives too…who knew?!
Los Reyes del Potaje – This small, hole-in-the-wall place we stumbled into was family run, cheap, and had some great food. It’s located in Neptuno near Locos por Cuba and Fonda Paladar La Paila. If you’re traveling in Havana on a budget, Los Reyes del Potaje is a a great place to fill your tummy and help your wallet.
D’Lirios – D’Lirios is actually right underneath Los Nardos. It is more upscale than Los Nardos, but the food is still outstanding. So if you’re looking for a nicer restaurant with great food in Havana, D’Lirios is your place.
Los Nardos – Los Nardos is right across from the Capitol in Havana. Although you might miss it because it’s not very visible. They serve Spanish-Austurian food. While it’s not exclusively Cuban food, it’s still delicious and centrally located.
Hopefully, this guide to visiting Havana will help make your trip to Cuba and time in Havana one you will never forget. Cuba is one of our favorite countries, which is why we want to share everything that made it so great for us with you!