With beautiful beaches, shallow turquoise seas, a vibrant music culture, and opportunities to explore old cities, fortresses and caves, Cuba is the perfect destination for family holidays. When you factor in its vibrant outdoor living, year-round sunshine, and ultra-safe environment, choosing Cuba for a family holiday is definitely a great choice.
Cuba's capital city of Havana is mesmerising for children with lively and colourful streets, old 50s chrome-finned American cars rumbling by, and music filtering out of doorways and halls.
Just three hours east of Havana you will find Cuba's largest beach resort, Varadero. Limitless opportunities for families to have a good old time are in abundance here with fun watersports and activities, dedicated hotel entertainment, and swimming with dolphins being among a few of the options available to families. The powdery-soft sand and the shallow seas are perfect for both toddlers and teens.
Active families who love nature and are in search of more adventurous pursuits can head southwest of Havana to the mountains and valleys of Pinar del Rio and Artemisa, where zip-lining, mountain climbing, river swimming and horseback riding can be enjoyed amid the tall palm trees, forests and tobacco fields of this lush and beautiful limestone karst region.
Those families looking to combine city and culture plus some downtime on the beach, should look no further than the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trinidad, on Cuba's southern coast. History, music and dance can be explored in this beautifully preserved Spanish colonial city before a few days of sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling on the nearby golden sands of Ancon beach. Of course, if you don't want to stay in the same place and would like to experience both a Cuban city and a tropical beach you could always choose one of our twin-centre Cuba holidays combining stays in Havana and Varadero.
Families wanting to get further off the beaten track and witness the true soul of Cuba should head east for the stunning coves and aquamarine seas of the northeast coast of Guardalavaca, the music scene and fascinating history of Santiago de Cuba, the island's second city, and - for an adventure high - the rivers, bays, wildlife, birds and food of the tiny, quirky city of Baracoa, Cuba's former 16th-century capital.
What to do and sights to see
If you can afford a long stay and have plenty of time for your getaway, it's possible for families on holiday in Cuba to combine a few days of relaxation on the beach with a couple of active days of adventure in the mountains and forests, or soaking up the culture and music of the island's vibrant and charming colonial cities.
Fly-drive holidays allow families to combine as many options as they want on the island with the easy comfort of car hire. The best alternative, however, is to go for one of our organised multi-centre holidays to Cuba which take the hassle out of planning and the stress out of thinking about location and transport, as everything is included in our packages. And, for those who want to plan specifically and want ultimate flexibility, there's always the option of hiring a car independently and making your own accommodation choices.
Havana is thrilling for children. Hard-to-please teenagers and energetic toddlers will just love to wander and watch as habaneros go about their daily lives. Tour the old city in a horse carriage before climbing aboard an old American car to see the more modern districts. Youngsters will love the costumed street performers in the Old Town, the shadow puppet shows, and the aquarium.
Older kids will enjoy the high-tech planetarium experience, and tales of piracy and shipwrecks at Havana's three large fortresses out on the city bay. Havana's musical timetable kicks off in the morning, and with matinee performances too, kids won't miss out on dancing to the exciting percussive rhythms that underpin Cuba's melodic music.
Southwest of Havana is the ecotourism complex of Las Terrazas surrounded by bird-filled mountains, clear rivers, and former coffee plantations. Families can stay in cabins on stilts next to the San Juan River where river bathing in the cool pools is a favourite pastime of the locals, and where teenagers can enjoy a rush of adrenaline as they zip-line across the forest.
At Cayo Levisa, a small coral island cast off the western coast, bungalow living on the sands combined with snorkelling in the stunning aquamarine seas, will appeal for easy family relaxation. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Vinales Valley, studded with round-topped hills known as mogotes, and riddled with caves, will excite curious children who can explore the valley floor, go horseback riding, and take a boat through underground caves.
A family holiday to Varadero will guarantee barefoot relaxation for adults and plenty of activities for the children. Some 21 kilometres of this sun-kissed sandy peninsula, three hours east of Havana, is lined with all-inclusive hotels that take the worry out of everything. Many hotels provide kids' clubs, children's playgrounds, and children entertainers.
Watersports - included in the price of most hotels - such as sailing, kayaking and snorkelling, will keep teenagers busy and happy. Out of the sun, table tennis, pool, dance classes and Spanish lessons will leave teenagers with no time to be bored. Should the kids tire of hotel activities, step outside of the resorts for cave snorkelling, jet skiing in the bay of the nearby town of Cardenas, visiting the dolphinarium, or going on a jeep safari to the glorious, palm-studded River Yumuri valley.
Tiny Trinidad is a perfect family-sized destination. Kids will love the cobblestone streets, craft stalls, old American cars, and cowboys passing on horseback. Music bands and Afro-Cuban dance performances start in the afternoon and continue into the night allowing families not to worry about missing cultural entertainment.
Teenagers will love trekking along the tropical Escambray Mountains behind Trinidad where waterfall bathing after a long hike is a welcome relief. Youngsters and adults alike will race for the golden strip of sand on nearby Ancon beach. Should the local steam train be working, head out to the Valley of the Sugar Mills for an antique transport experience that takes you into the rolling fertile hills of a former sugar plantation.
The gorgeous white sands of Guardalavaca, coupled with the white sand coves dotted along its northeastern coastline, appeal to adults and children alike in this small and quiet resort located north of the city of Holguin. Much quieter and significantly less busy than tourist-filled Varadero, Guardalavaca is a haven for families seeking tranquil relaxation.
Close to the resorts are the safari island of Cayo Saetia with its beautiful beaches and roaming zebra and ostrich; waterfalls in the pine forests of Mayari; and steam train rides close to the resorts. After relaxed beach time, head south with adventurous kids to historic sizzling Santiago de Cuba for castles, carnival, music and dance, before motoring all the way to Baracoa near Cuba's far eastern tip for crystal clear rivers, mountain walks, archaeological finds, and coconut and chocolate-infused local dishes.
Other tips and practical info
Travelling with children in Cuba is easier than you might think. Cubans are very family orientated and are quick to solve worries and concerns. Cuba is also an extremely safe island meaning that this is one thing that won't jeopardise your family holiday enjoyment. Cubans have a very relaxed and laid-back attitude to everything, which means that things in Cuba don't always go to plan so it's best to not necessarily book your day up with activities. It can also be very hot meaning that trying to fit a lot into one day may not be a good idea either. Both hotels and Cuban BandBs (casas particulares) offer advantages for a family holiday in Cuba.
Combining a beach resort with extra activities on your family holiday to Cuba means thinking about transport. Transfers can be arranged, or car hire organised. Car hire means greater flexibility and a chance to get off the beaten track in the countryside. If holidaying in the high season (Nov-Apr, July and August) hire a car well in advance and bring your own car seat if your baby needs one; these are not available in Cuba.
Cuba is a tropical country with balmy days and nights. Cuba is extremely hot and humid in the summer months. It is wise not to pack too much into one day due to the heat of the summer season. Cafe stops are essential to rehydrate. Adults, and especially children, must drink plenty of water. Bring all prescribed and common essential medicines with you as well as plenty of sun cream and insect repellent.
Planning your family holiday in Cuba
Outside of Cuba's beach resorts, there's no need to plan and book up activities all the time. Part of the appeal of Havana, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba, among other towns and cities on the island, is just wandering around and soaking up daily life while listening to the musical tunes as bands strike up on street corners. If you have babies, bring a sturdy pram with you for the cracked pavements, chasms and potholes found all over the island.
Family holidays at Cuba's B&Bs
Cuba's B&B (casa particulares) owners are often mums and dads themselves. They know what kids need and go out of their way to help. Through friends and neighbours they will also find what you need in case a problem arises. Staying in casas particulares is an insightful way to learn about Cubans and their culture and the only way to see how real Cubans live with their large, extended families.
Family holidays at Cuba's beach resorts
Staying at an all-inclusive beach resort in Cuba does offer parents considerable downtime. Most all-inclusives offer - as part of the price - kids' activities, playgrounds, pools and supervised playtime. Some hotels also offer daytime and nightime childcare for an additional fee. It goes without saying that the more expensive the hotel, the better the facilities for adults and for kids. Some hotels are more geared towards entertaining children than others so choose wisely. Buffet times are often not child-friendly with dinner usually beginning at 7pm. Bring extra baby food and snacks for your children. Nappies are usually available in resorts but it's always wise to bring everything you need to Cuba.