By Mayté Solano Gómez
Children in Cuba are usually given priority in terms of health, education, and safety. It is common to find them, outside of school hours, playing in the streets, on sports grounds, or in the many parks on the island. Only a few of them (although increasingly not so few) spend most of their time immersed in computer games or on the Internet. On the contrary, traditional games such as “pon”, play catch, skipping, and baseball (even with a plastic bat and ball and super worn gloves), are common among children in any corner of the country. Besides, I would dare to say that Cuba is one of the safest places in the world.
Children generally love to run, have fun, see new and amazing things. They also like open and cheerful people; as well as being in safe places. But children also need moments to increase their general knowledge.
Cuba has all this and more. Discover here the options and some tips to enjoy a fantastic vacation in Cuba with kids so the little ones in the family feel not only included but as if life revolves around them.
Before travelling to Cuba with kids, what you should know
First of all, you must bear in mind that Cuba is an underdeveloped country with a non-capitalist economic and social system. Hence, you won’t find on the island what you are used to or what happens in other countries.
No baby changer, ramps for baby cars, or other basic security measures. Also, taking into account the economic difficulties and shortages, the availability of diapers, snacks, and even medicines is very limited and, sometimes, non-existent.
But don’t panic. This only means that, if you travel to Cuba with kids, your luggage should include all these things, which guarantee not so much safety as the comfort of the little ones: diapers, wet wipes, and even antibacterial gel.
In the case of medications, in addition to any that your children may require regularly, don’t forget the anti-catarrhal, antipyretic, cough drops, against nausea, and stomach upset.
Repellent against mosquitoes and other insects is essential, since on the island they are very common and, although they do not always cause diseases, the itching caused by their bites can be quite annoying.
Sunscreen is also lacking, and the higher the protection factor, the better. In Cuba, solar radiation is very intense, especially between the months of May and September.
If you include clothes, school supplies, sweets and toys that your children can use and then you leave the rest for the children of Cuba, you will be able to see joy reflected in the kids’ faces, both yours and the Cubans.
In the case of clothing, most of it should be light and fresh, including sandals and caps or hats. It is also advisable to include a piece with long sleeves. During hot weather, especially on the beach, it can serve as protection against the sun, while, in winter, although temperatures do not usually drop below 15 degrees (and that is still rare) during the day, at night it could cool a little more.
As for baby seats for cars, these are not used in Cuba, nor are high chairs in restaurants or cribs in accommodation, especially private.
In most of the island’s resorts, you will be able to find all these comforts, but it would be a shame if your children don’t experience the richness of life in Cuba. Moreover, if you stay in private homes, your hosts will always help you to overcome any difficulties that may arise with your kids. Cubans are, in addition to being very supportive, truly inventive.
Finally, prepare the whole family for the effusiveness and warmth of Cubans. Although they have been learning to respect the differences and the space of the tourists who visit the island, they cannot avoid touching, hugging, caressing, and kissing everyone, even more so if they are children.
Is your luggage already packed? Well, let’s see the best options, if you travel to Cuba with kids, for the enjoyment of children and the whole family.
Travelling to Cuba with kids… the best things to do in the main tourist destinations.
Havana offers endless options for the family’s enjoyment.
The historic centre of the city and its system of fortifications, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, offers visitors a group of squares, castles, museums, and convents of great historical, architectural and cultural interest.
In Obispo Street, the main artery of Old Havana, you will find cafes, shops that range from toy stores to the sale of clothes, tobacco, or musical instruments. There is also the Ambos Mundos Hotel, where Ernest Hemingway stayed during part of his time in Cuba. In the end, you will find the Plaza de Armas, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, as well as the Museum of Natural Sciences.
Also, in this area is the Plaza de la Catedral and, very close, the Maestranza park, with inflatable castles and other fairground attractions, in front of the Malecón. Walking to the other side, at the end of the bay, is the Plaza del Convento de San Francisco de Asís, also known as the Plaza de las Palomas, due to the large number of these birds that gather there, which you can feed and take photographs with.
Nearby is also the Old Square, the oldest of the 4, but with many interesting places. The Dark Camera and the Planetarium are 2 of them. In the first one, you can see, from a totally closed chamber at the top of the building, what happens below, in the surrounding streets, through a system of mirrors. The Planetarium, for its part, covers several floors and has an interactive area and an astronomical observatory. You can also admire a reconstruction of the solar system with planets to scale and their movements.
To finish in this area, you can cross the bay and visit the fortifications on the other side: the Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro and its lighthouse and the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress. In this last one, if you visit it in the late evening, you can enjoy the spectacular ceremony of the 9 o’clock cannon shot, very popular among locals and tourists.
In the Morro-Cabañas complex the family has the opportunity to eat in local restaurants; run, walk or just sit and enjoy in the many open spaces; tour the museums, buy souvenirs or take great photos with the sea or the city as backgrounds.
Another park in Havana where children can run freely and enjoy the outdoors, amusement equipment, and even go horseback riding, boating, or taking a mini-train ride is Lenin Park, about 30 minutes from downtown. Nearby is also the Botanical Garden of Cuba, which offers tours of the various areas and collections, outdoors or indoors, that exhibit the different species of plants belonging to the Cuban flora and the tropical world. It has an Eco-Restaurant located in the beautiful setting of the Japanese Garden.
Since 2020 it is also possible to do canopy (or zip line) in the National Botanical Garden, conceived for a guided tour of more than 700 meters, with a 15 to 20-meter high suspension bridge.
For its part, the National Aquarium of Cuba exhibits a scaled-down model of a tropical island, a marine cave, a mangrove trail, and other marine landscapes, with specimens such as turtles, sharks, crustaceans, and other live fish and small invertebrates. The little ones, along with the whole family, will enjoy the show with the sea lions, the water ballet, and the show with the dolphins, with the chance to be photographed with them after the show.
As for beaches, the bests in Havana are to the east of the city. Some of them are Mégano, Santa María, Marazul, Boca Ciega, and Guanabo. To get there, you can use the tourist buses that leave from Central Park. With the hop on-hop off system, for only 5CUC per person between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm, you can enjoy your day at the beach with your family.
If you come to Cuba with kids, and your arrival is through Havana, it is recommended, before visiting other places in the east of the island, to visit Viñales. Declared a National Park and World Heritage Site, in the category of Natural Landscape, is one of the main nature destinations in the country.
Among its main tourist attractions are the Cueva del Indio, where you can also tour an underground river by boat; the Mogotes, hills typical of the island, not very high and with a rather rounded shape; the Mural of Prehistory, consisting of a pictorial work on a vertical rock wall, open to the sky, 120 meters high and another 160 wide and the Botanical Garden, which offers visitors a guided tour, with detailed explanations by experts, of the specimens that the place treasures.
Likewise, everyone who visits the place cannot miss one of the farms in the area and its plantations of both tobacco and coffee. According to experts, this is where the best tobacco leaf on the island is grown.
Varadero is the main sun and beach destination in Cuba, thank to its fine sand and calm transparent waters. However, it offers many other options for the family, including children.
The possibility of snorkelling is of great interest since there are several suitable sites for the little ones. Everyone will be amazed at the beauty of the marine life of the reefs that surround these shores.
The dolphinarium, with the possibility of swimming with the dolphins, is a luxurious activity, which can be complemented with a visit to the nearby amusement park.
Various excursions can be organized to natural places of interest, such as the Bellamar Caves and the Saturn Cave, where you can also swim. Josone Park is another natural option, which includes a swimming pool, an amusement park, and a boat ride, as well as a number of food outlets.
Much smaller than other Cuban provinces, Cienfuegos or the Pearl of the South, as this World Heritage city is also known, is a place not to be overlooked, if you are travelling to Cuba with kids. Less crowded, it is a very good option to relax and enjoy quiet walks.
The Malecón, a wall that borders the coast in the centre of the city, is a meeting place for Cubans, with the music and joy that characterizes them. The Botanical Garden, with more than 1500 species of plants and holder of the Monument Conservation Award and the category of National Monument of the Republic of Cuba, offers tourists guided tours of the collections of living plants.
Taking a boat trip through the calm waters of the Bay of Jagua will not only allow you to relax as a family but also to contemplate the beautiful city from another perspective. The visit to the Castillo de Jagua Fortress, located at the entrance to the bay since the 1740s, to protect the city from the pirates and corsairs that roamed the Caribbean coasts and used to take refuge there, in search of water and food supplies and other provisions, is another of the luxury options in this province.
Trinidad, also known as the Museum-City, has beaches, mountains to climb and waterfalls, as well as historical sites. In the centre of the town, the cobbled streets, the various museums, presenting the city’s architectural and cultural legacy, and the large houses with their immense and cool interior courtyards, are some of the main attractions.
At the craft fair you can find souvenirs to give to friends and family and in the various restaurants of the place, also known as “paladares”, the whole family can enjoy tasty Cuban food.
In Trinidad, the best-known beach is Playa Ancón, recognized as being among the best beaches in Cuba. In it you can see all those characteristics of the Caribbean waters: crystalline and transparent waters, with colours that range from emerald green to turquoise or very clear blue; white and very fine sands; warm water, mainly in Summer and a roasting sun, to enjoy, but be careful initially.
Another attractive place, if you travel to Cuba with kids, is the Valle de Los Ingenios, which is located halfway between the historic centre of the city and Ancón beach. Here you can visit the House of Red Ceramics, where you can see the process of making molasses; the Mirador del Valle, from where you can enjoy the natural beauty of the San Luis Valley; the ruins of the old Manaca Izaga sugar mill, with its original kettles and bells. The Manaca Tower is the main attraction of the place. The Hacienda Guáimaro has archaeological relics, and a chapel with the original bible written in Latin, covered in gold threads and plated in emeralds. The walls of the house are covered with wall painting from floor to ceiling, showing the romantic and neoclassical themes of the time.
It is also possible to travel through the Valle de Los Ingenios in one of the 100 steam trains that remain in Cuba, travelling the route from the sugar cane to the mill; and canopy or zip-line, a unique and safe experience for adventure lovers, to add to the emotion experienced contemplating the beautiful landscape.
On the other hand, 800 meters above sea level is a true paradise in Trinidad: the Topes de Collantes Protected Natural Landscape. With a microclimate due to the high mountains, it also has dense and varied vegetation, similar to that of tropical forests. Among its flora, you can see from tree ferns and wild orchids to coniferous forests. All this can be seen on walks through the many parks that exist in this place. Among them is the El Cubano Natural Park, where one of the first sugar mills built in Trinidad is located: El Ingenito. By visiting it you can get an idea of what life was like for slaves here.
The Salto de Javira, in this same Natural Park, is another of the places where you can go hiking, and birdwatching, or take photos and bathe in the refreshing waters of a natural pool.
The Caburní Natural Park is located in the heart of Topes de Collantes and has among its main attractions the Caburní waterfall. And although the access involves a short trek, some slopes are quite steep, so it might not be convenient to go with small children.
On the way to the Vegas Grandes Trail, you can visit a coffee plantation, the home of peasants in the area and, at the same time, listen to and photograph native birds of Cuba. All this, before reaching the falls, after a descent of about 500mts. With a beautiful view and freshwaters where you can dive, it also has a small cave, protected by falling waters, like a curtain.
As a plus, in several points of the Great Natural Park, you can find restaurants and cafeterias, as well as craftsmen, who sell crafts made with natural resources such as ferns and quartz (a type of stone that is abundant in the area are said to have healing qualities). On one of the access roads to Topes de Collantes it is possible to stop at the viewpoint, from where you can see the Ancón peninsula and its beaches, as well as the surrounding mountains.
Visiting Cuba with kids. Less-known destinations.
It is a fact that most of the tourists who travel to the island arrive through the western region, that is, Havana or Varadero. Due to the difficulties with transportation, the elongated shape of the country, and limited time, the eastern region, as well as some central provinces, are often not included in the tours. However, these also have sites of natural and historical interest, that you can visit if you come to Cuba with kids.
It is also true that temperatures in this region of the country are usually higher than in the west, so this is a recommended route for the months of November to March, especially if you come to Cuba with kids, for whom the heat can be much more annoying and exhausting.
You must also take into account that the resources necessary for the comfort of the family, but mainly for the smallest ones, are fewer in the eastern part of the island, so more preparation is needed.
Located in the easternmost province of the country, Guantánamo, Baracoa is a place of great natural beauty, considered one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots on the planet, according to the World Forum for Nature.
Among its main attractions are the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, a World Heritage Site and one of the most important sites for the conservation of native flora in the entire Western Hemisphere. In the vicinity of this Park, is the Caridad de Los Indios community, the last population directly descended from the Cuban aborigines (Taino culture), Caribbean agro-potters, wiped out by European colonization.
The Stone Zoo has a sample of animals, aborigines and “palenques” of black slaves carved in stone, with more than 426 sculptures. For its creation, each figure was placed in an environment, similar to the areas they inhabit in their countries or regions. To climb to the highest point there are 324 steps and 245 on the way back down. Visiting the whole zoo is tiring, but visitors do so with pleasure due to the beauty of their sculptural work, the climate and the vegetation of the place. For all this, the Stone Zoo was declared “National Cultural Heritage” in 1985.
The Farola Viaduct is the most recent of the seven wonders of civil engineering in Cuba. The road crosses the entire Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa mountain range, with heights that sometimes reach 450 meters above sea level. Along the way, if you go from Guantánamo to Baracoa, you go from a desert-coastal landscape to one dominated by tropical jungle. Natural springs along the route offer, apart from the spectacular view, a refreshing pause for travellers.
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is probably the best-known destination in this region, as it was once the capital of the island. Today it is considered the second largest province in the country, or second capital.
Also considered the hot land, not only because of the high temperatures but also because of the vitality and human warmth of its inhabitants, Santiago has among its main attractions the popular celebrations that are held annually: the carnivals of Santiago, in July. Although it is a time of intense heat, for those who travel as a family and are not afraid of high temperatures or large festivities and crowds, this is an opportunity not to be missed, to learn about the most deeply-rooted Cuban culture and traditions.
Also, on these dates the Fiesta del Fuego or Caribbean Festival takes place, overflowing with music, colours and joy. The inauguration of the festival, with the participation of the public, is the Parade of the Serpent, where national and foreign groups participate. The “Sun, Sea and Caribbean Folklore” Concert also takes place, a travelling show of different expressions of traditional popular culture. It includes Haitian-Cuban and Jamaican folklore, and groups of Congolese origin participate, as well as the “son”, the “rumba” and the oriental “conga”. The Fire Parade begins with a Congo ritual, where a drum hurricane takes place to say goodbye to the groups and participants in the festival. By the sea, a great devil is set on fire, a symbol of evil. By burning it, the way is prepared for the next meeting.
Other places of interest in Santiago, if you travel to Cuba with kids, are the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Cobre, Patroness of Cuba and El Castillo del Morro San Pedro de la Roca, declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, built in 1638 to protect the city against naval attacks.
This city is known as the City of Parks since there are so many of them. In this sense, as an interesting detail, all the parks of the city have a raised area reached by steps.
The Romerías de Mayo is one of the main events that take place each year in this province, where tradition and modernity are combined. It has its origin in the 1790s, linked to the belief that placing a cross in the highest places near the towns prevented pandemics, curses or natural catastrophes. From that moment the inhabitants of the city began to climb the hill, in procession from the San Isidoro Church. At the top, a mass was celebrated, followed by a party that lasted until the next day. The whole city parties until May 8 at night.
The Gibara International Film Festival, formerly known as the International Poor Film Festival, is one of the most important events that take place every year in April, in Gibara, city of Holguín. Although focused mainly on the seventh art, it also integrates other artistic manifestations that may be of interest to the young, such as music, theatre and dance.
In Guardalavaca, another region of Holguín, you will find one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba, Playa Esmeralda. Located in a nature reserve, it is impressive not only because of the light green colour of its waters, similar to that of emeralds and for which it receives its name, but also because it is surrounded by cliffs, steep slopes and a large number of plant species. It is also an ideal place, if you visit Cuba with kids, to enjoy sailing, diving and snorkelling.
The Keys – A Special Mention
Some of the keys of Cuba are included in the lists of best beaches in the Caribbean and in the world. And it is because of the beauty of its beaches, which distinguishes them from other places on the island, that we particularly recommend them as one of the places that you should not miss, especially if you come to Cuba with kids.
Some such as Cayo Largo del Sur, near the Isla de la Juventud, Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, on the coasts of the province of Ciego de Ávila and the Cayos Santa María, Las Brujas and Ensenachos, on the north coast of Villa Clara ( Isla de la Juventud, Ciego de Ávila and Villa Clara are among the least known and visited destinations in Cuba). They offer the family of tourists not only the beauty and peace of the waters but also the landscapes, with abundant flora and fauna, which includes starfish, multi-coloured fish, corals, turtles, iguanas, pelicans and flamingos, among many other species.
Hence, activities as varied as hiking, snorkelling, diving, yachting and fishing can be done with the family in this paradise. In the hotel facilities in the keys (there are no private houses for the accommodation of visitors) tourists, both children and adults can enjoy swimming pools, jacuzzi, amusement parks, gyms and tennis courts, among others.
You can find more information about the keys and beaches of Cuba in this link: https://www.cubacasa.co.uk/best-beaches-in-cuba/
To Sum Up…
Cuba is a destination to be visited with the family, including the little ones. This will be an experience that they will surely remember for the rest of their lives and that they will surely want to repeat. If you decide to come to Cuba with kids, do not hesitate to book your accommodation in the different destinations through Cuba Casa. We will also help you with advice, recommendations and services such as transportation, reservation of excursions, among others.
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