Cuba: When to Visit
Best time for Good Weather: December – May
Best time for Sightseeing: late November to mid-April
Best time for Honeymoon: March – April & November
Best time for Saving Money: May – June, September – October
Best time for Families: December – March
Best time for Partying: July – August
Best time for Scuba Diving: December to April
Best time for Fishing: April – September
Best Time to Visit Cuba
Best Time to Visit Cuba:
Sunny beaches, snorkeling, world class diving sites, colourful history, time-warped colonial towns, salsa dancing, and beautiful mountain landscapes can all be enjoyed without the crush of tourists if you visit during the shoulder season. Most travelers visit Cuba in the winter (December to March), which is the country’s high season. Peak tourist season also means services are all up and running, beaches are packed, and prices are high. The best time to visit Cuba to avoid the throngs of tourists and jacked up prices but still reap the benefits of all services running and the weather being great is the month of April or November. Both months bring great weather, fewer tourists, and cheaper prices. The weather is beautiful as the rainy season has not started or is tapering off, the average daily temperature is warm at 26°C, hurricane season is over and hotel and flight deals are easier to find.
Best Time to Book Hotels in the Cuba:
You can get some great deals if you book way in advance but the rule of thumb if visiting in the winter is to take advantage of early booking bonuses offered in the summer and early fall. Often good deals can be found if reservations are made months in advance. At certain hotels & resorts, think about booking a year ahead for New Years Eve and Liberation Day or Carnival and National Rebellion Day in July. Hotels fill up quickly during peak season. A room can run anywhere from $200 to $800 USD a night for luxury resorts. During the shoulder season a hotel room ranges between $150-450 USD a night. While vacancies are more common during the low season, prices still run between $150 and $350 USD a night and many hotels reduce services, amenities and conduct maintenance repairs during the low season.
Best Time to Save Money:
As a rule of thumb, the rainy season (May to October) is typically the cheapest time to travel to Cuba – with the exception of July & August. If you want the best prices on accommodation avoid the school holidays. December to February and Easter are peak seasons for tourists while July and August is peak holiday season for Cubans. So the cheapest time to visit Cuba is outside of these times. Casas particulares are the most affordable accommodations in Cuba. They are like local guesthouses. Residents rent the spare rooms in their homes for extra income. There are over 14,000 on the island to choose from! An important thing to note when sorting out your finances for a trip to Cuba is that the island has two official currencies: the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). The CUP is most often used by locals, while tourists typically use the CUC. You can’t exchange Cuban currency in advance and can only exchange your money once you land.
Best Time to Visit Cuba for Good Weather:
Cuba has a warm tropical climate with two distinct seasons – the dry season and the wet season. The best time to visit for good weather is the dry season from December to April, when you can expect dry, sunny days, blue skies. Sunny, consistently warm temperatures but not too hot, and low humidity make traveling during the dry season fun and easy with a lack of thunderstorms and swarms of mosquitoes. The dry season is the most popular time to visit Cuba.
Best Time to Visit Cuba to Party:
There are always festivals and events taking place in Cuba but July is the most festive time of the year with Carnival being held in many cities, and Santiago hosting the biggest one in the Caribbean. July also brings the National Day of Rebellion holiday which lasts 3 day and overlaps with the Santiago de Cuba Carnival. The beginning of July brings the Fiesta del Caribe as well as the Cuban film festival. July is peak holiday season for Cubans so if partying with locals and experiencing Cuban culture and festivities is what you’re after, July is the best month to visit.
Best Time for Scuba Diving:
Cuba is a scuba-diving paradise and the best time for it is between December and to mid April. Due to its history, Cuba is less developed as other islands in the Caribbean and the fishing industry is not as intense, so there are many pristine scuba diving spots to explore and you’ll encounter many more native species of fish in their natural habitats. Diving in Cuba during the hurricane season (June to November) and particularly in September and October, means a higher chance that the weather will interfere and affect visibility. From late April to late May there is an increased chance of swimming into what Cubans call el caribé, invisible jellyfish with a severe sting, found predominantly off the southern coast of the island. Most of the major beach resorts, including Varadero, Cayo Coco, Santa Lucía and Guardalavaca, have at least one dive centre, with numerous others all over the island, including several in Havana.
Best time to Fish:
Cuba is now firmly established as one of the best fishing destinations in the Caribbean, if not the world. There is no bad time for fishing in Cuban waters, but for a chance at catching the biggest blue marlin, July, August and September are the most rewarding months, while April, May and June attract greater numbers of white marlin and sail fish. The best bass catches usually occur during the winter months, when the average water temperature drops to 22°C.
Cuba Travel Seasons:
High Season (December to March, July and August):
Cuba has two high seasons. The peak tourist season runs from mid-December to March, with prices particularly high towards the end of December for New Years and Liberation Day on January 1st. December to February and Easter are peak seasons for tourists with hotels, flights, and tours booking out well in advance. While July and August bring the second high season as it is the peak holiday season for Cubans – crowds are thicker and prices are high as is the temperature. Summer can also be a tourist high season because it coincides with the holiday season in Europe.
Shoulder Season (April, November):
The months of April and November mark the first and last month of Cuba’s dry season. Both months experience sunny days, an average daily temperature of 26°C, less rain and cooler evenings. Easter can cause a spike at the beginning of April but the rest of the month brings lower prices, and less tourists. By November hotels are wrapping up renovations, services are in full swing and the beaches and resorts are less crowded as peak winter holiday season hasn’t started yet.
Low Season (May – June, September-October):
Not surprisingly, the cheapest time to visit Cuba is during the wet season, May to June and the tail end of the hurricane season, September and October. The wet season is when 70% of the island’s rainfall occurs, which means lots of heat and humidity. During these months expect some closures, fewer facilities, but less tourists. September and October have the highest probability of cyclone activity. There are fewer visitors to Cuba during these months than at any other time of year. Cuba’s safety record concerning hurricanes is excellent but extensive damage has occurred in recent years so purchasing travel insurance and monitoring weather reports if planning a trip during either month is highly recommended.
Weather of Cuba:
Year round Cuba is generally hot with regular rainfall and high humidity, but also with plenty of sunshine. The island country has a warm tropical climate with two distinct seasons. From late November to mid-April the climate is tropical, with a dry and relatively cool season while late April to early November is rainy and muggy. It is important to note that the weather in Cuba can vary depending on where you are but not by too much. Havana in the northwestern region of Cuba experiences a warm winter that tends to be a couple degrees cooler than the south east region of the island. From December to February the north-west is more exposed to short and sudden outbreaks of cool air which can bring some cool and windy days and twice as much rain then Santiago de Cuba in the south-east. The south-east experiences a warmer winter than the north, getting a few days with summer-like temperatures and only half as many days with rain as the north west. However, the southern parts are more prone to tropical storms and more likely to be affected by hurricanes in September and October with cyclones hitting the eastern coast more frequently than the rest of the island. The sea in Cuba is warm enough for swimming all year round with the water being a degree or two warmer on the southern coast from October to May.
Cuba Weather in January:
January is one of the coolest months of the year in Cuba – making it one of the most popular times to visit as the average daily temperature is a mild 25°C with a nighttime low of 19°C. Temperatures can drop as low as 15°C at night so warm layers are necessary to stay comfortable. January is one of the drier months in Cuba with Santiago in the south-east getting an average of 3 days with rain while Havana in the north west receives double that with 6 rainy days. An average of 7 hours of daily sunshine leaves plenty of time for excursions and activities but if you intend to go to the mountains or spend time on a boat, make sure to pack a light sweater as it can feel quite cool. The sea is warm for swimming all year round, averaging 25°C during the winter months. If visiting in January pack a light jacket or shawl along with a few light sweaters and long pants for cooler evenings as well as your swimsuit, t-shirts, dresses, shorts, sunglasses, and sunscreen. (Average Max Temperature: 27°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 30mm, North West – 70mm)
Cuba Weather in February:
There is very little change in weather in February from January – in fact, temperatures remain the same with an average high temperature of 25ºC and the average minimum temperature remains around 19ºC. The low can dip down as far as 17°C at night so having a few warm layers with you is advisable. February does see a small dip in precipitation with the south east receiving an average of 2 days with rain while the north west sees double that with 4 rainy days. The sunshine remains at an average of 7 hours per day and the sea temperature remains a comfortable 25°C. February is an ideal month for snorkeling and diving as water visibility is best in the winter months. Pack as you would for January, remembering those warm layers for the cool evenings, and pack extra bathing suits to take advantage of water activities. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 17mm, North West – 45mm)
Cuba Weather in March:
The weather in March is some of the best in Cuba with slightly warmer temperatures and minimal rainfall. The average daily temperature is a warm 26ºC and the average low sits around 18ºC. The number of hours with sunshine increases to 9 providing more time to spend on outdoor excursions and activities. Both the south east region and the north west get an average of 4 rainy days in March. With the very warm weather, minimal rain and longer days, March is an ideal month to enjoy Cuba’s beaches or for the more adventurous, Cuba’s world class scuba diving spots. Bring light clothes, a sun hat and also a sweatshirt for the evening. If trekking to the mountains, bring a jacket and hiking boots. The UV index is high so pack as you would for February and ensure you bring and use lots of sunscreen when you’re out in the sun. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 40mm, North West – 45mm)
Cuba Weather in April:
The weather in April is very pleasant with warm and sunny weather without the humidity or storms that the summer months bring. By mid-month Easter tourism slows down, the crowds lessen and the beaches are more relaxed with fewer tourists. The average daily temperature is 26ºC and the average low increases to 21ºC. The sun shines for 9 hours bringing more time to enjoy outdoor and water activities especially as the sea remains very comfortable at 26ºC. April is right before the beginning of the wet season so expect a little more rain. Santiago in the south east gets an average of 6 days with rain while Havana in the north west sees an average of 4 rainy days. Pack light summer clothes, a sun hat, sunscreen, a few light layers for cooler evenings and swimsuits. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 70mm, North West – 60mm)
Cuba Weather in May:
May marks the very beginning of the low season as well as the beginning of Cuba’s rainy season. There is an increase in precipitation in both the north west and the south west. Santiago gets an average of 10 days with rain while Havana experiences less rain with only an average of 7 rainy days. It is important to note that Cuba rarely sees a full day of rain. Rain often falls in one part of the day – which means sunshine the other part of the day. Average daily sunshine decreases to 8 hours but that still leaves plenty of time to enjoy the beach or head out for a hiking trek. Make sure to pack sunscreen and sun gear to avoid UV damage. The average daily temperature in May increases to 27°C and the average low is 21°C. Light summer clothing, swimwear, and light rain gear and a waterproof bag will ensure you are prepared for a sudden tropical thunderstorm. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 150mm, North West – 120mm)
Cuba Weather in June:
June marks the start of the hurricane season but chances of a serious storm so early in the year are low. The south and the north west both experience an average of 10 rainy days in June. The average daily temperature in June increases to 28°C with a daily low of 23°C. Temperatures can reach as high as 32°C so finding a hotel or a casa particulares with A/C or at the very least a fan will be a must. Average daily sunshine remains at 8 hours and the sea temperature increases to 29°C so swimming is a great way to cool down. Pack as you would for May with a mixture of light summer clothing and rain gear along with lots of good sun protection. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 130mm, North West – 165mm)
Cuba Weather in July:
July brings muggy heat across the island, which is sometimes hard to bear, even though it is tempered by the breeze. July is one of the hottest months, with an average daily temperature of 31°C and average low of 23°C. The daytime temperature rarely exceeds 34 °C but moisture makes the heat sweltering. The rains are often intense, but they occur mostly in the form of showers or thunderstorms in late afternoon and are a welcome relief from the overwhelming heat and humidity. The south gets an average of 6 days with rain while the north west experiences more rain with an average of 9 rainy days. The average daily sunshine increases to 9 hours and sea temperature remains 29°C so swimming is a great way to cool down. Bring lightweight, tropics-friendly clothing, a light raincoat and waterproof bag for thunderstorms. (Average Max Temperature: 34°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 55mm, North West – 125mm)
Cuba Weather in August:
August is one of the other hottest months of the year so temperatures don’t change very much with an average daily temperature of 32°C and lows of 23°C but chances of rain do increase as the height of hurricane season approaches. The south gets an average of 9 days with rain while the north west experiences 40mm more rain with an average of 10 rainy days. The number of daily sunshine hours decreases to 8 but UV levels are high so packing good sun protection and carrying a water bottle during the day to stay hydrated and protected from sun damage is important. The sea is very warm at 30°C – ideal for beach days. Pack as you would for July and try to book accommodation with air conditioning to remain cool and comfortable. (Average Max Temperature: 34°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 95mm, North West – 135mm)
Cuba Weather in September:
September is the height of hurricane season but levels of precipitation don’t increase drastically from August. The south and the north west both experience an average of 11 rainy days in September with Santiago seeing an average of 55mm more rain than in August. In recent years hurricanes have caused extensive damage in Cuba in September, the most recent being Hurricane Irma in 2017. If travelling to Cuba in September purchasing trip insurance and monitoring weather reports is highly recommended. The average daily temperature remains hot at 31°C with lows remaining warm at 23°C. The sea remains warm as a bath at 30°C but with heavy rain expected in September beach days may not be as consistent as other months. September sees an average of 8 hours of sunshine so warm sunny days are possible but packing an umbrella, light rain jacket and a waterproof bag is recommended. Also bring light summer clothing, a few light warm layers, swimsuits, waterproof shoes, bug repellant and plenty of sun protection and aloe vera for burns as UV rays remain high. Sunburn, dehydration, and heat stroke are all serious risks if you aren’t prepared. (Average Max Temperature: 33°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 150mm, North West – 150mm)
Cuba Weather in October:
October is the wettest month of the year across the island but is also one of the cheapest months of the year to visit Cuba. The south east gets an average of 14 days with rain while the north west experiences a little less rain with an average of 11 rainy days. The rain can be a downpour that lasts a few minutes or continuous rainfall that lasts a few hours. October is one of the months that cyclones are most likely to hit Cuba and Hurricane Sandy did cause extensive damage in October of 2012. If travelling to Cuba in October purchasing trip insurance and monitoring weather reports is highly recommended. The average daytime temperature in October is 29°C with an average low of 22°C. The hours of daily sunshine decreases to 6 so while outdoor activities and beach days are still possible in October they are not guaranteed and most likely won’t be possible in consecutive days. If visiting in October, be prepared for anything. Pack as you would in September and plan for indoor activities. Make sure to bring books, games and other entertainment for the extra rainy days. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 215mm, North West – 170mm)
Cuba Weather in November:
November marks the beginning of one of Cuba’s shoulder seasons and marks the end of the hurricane season. The rain tends to taper off in the second half of the month. The south and the north west both experience an average of 7 rainy days in November with the south getting 20mm more precipitation on average. The number of hours of daily sunshine increases by an hour from October to 7 and the average daily temperature comes down to a comfortable 26°C making for beautiful days to enjoy the island, outdoor activities and beach days. Pack light summer clothing, swimsuits, sun and rain protection as well as some light layers for the evening as the average night-time low is 21°C. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 100mm, North West – 80mm)
Cuba Weather in December:
December brings some of the nicest temperatures and conditions of the year with a marked decrease in rain. The average daily temperature hovers around 26°C and the average low is a comfortable 22°C. With 6 hours of daily sunshine and an average of 3 days with rain in the south while the north west gets an average of 6 rainy days, December is an ideal month for sightseeing, beach days, and underwater activities like scuba diving and snorkeling. Pack a variety of summer clothing, swimsuits and sun protection. Trade winds keep the north west coast cool especially in the evening and at night so bringing a few warm layers is also recommended. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Precipitation: South East – 30mm, North West – 60mm)
Cuba Events and Festivals:
Cuba in January:
New Year’s Day & Día de la Liberación (Jan 1) – January 1st is more than New Year’s Day in Cuba. It is the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959. For many Cubans on the island, it’s a day to celebrate being Cuban, Cuba’s sovereignty and Liberty. There are street parties and free concerts throughout the country. You may also spot locals roasting pigs on outdoor spits and others throwing water off their balconies and out of their windows – both New Year’s traditions.It is a public holiday and the general population will have the day off. Schools, banks and most businesses will be closed.
Festival de la Trova Longina (Jan 8 – 12) – This is a music festival held in Santa Clara dedicated to trova – a style of music that is very popular in Cuba. The festival is named after a well known trova song composed by popular Cuban musician Manuel Corona. One of the events of the festival is a walk from Santa Clara to the town of Caibarién to honor the composer’s birthplace. In 2021 the music festival will be held from January 13 to 17.
Havana International Jazz Festival ( Jan 19 – 25) – The largest and most famous Jazz Festival in Latin America happens in Havana, Cuba at the end of January. It is a celebration of 500 years of Afrocuban jazz influence. Performances take place in the Casa de la Cultura Plaza, Teatro Nacional de Cuba and other venues across the city. In 2021 the festival will take place between January 19 and 25.
Cuba in February:
Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana (Feb 5 – 21) – First held in 1930, The Havana International Book Fair takes place in early February at the Fortaleza San Carlos de la Cabaña in Habana del Este (as well as at several bookshops across the capital). It is a very popular event attracting people from countries all over the world, especially Spanish speaking countries. Events include discussions, poetry readings, children’s events and concerts. Havana’s Casa de las Américas also presents its literary prize during the festival period. In 2021 the Book Fair will run from February 5 to 12.
Festival del Habano (late Feb) – The Cuban Cigar Festival in Havana promotes the Cuban cigar industry, and is a great event for any cigar enthusiast with visits to cigar factories and tobacco plantations, a trade fair and plenty of tastings. Includes cigar factory tours, cigar rolling workshops, seminars on cigar production and tastings.
Cuba in March:
Fiestas Pineras, Isla de la Juventud’s Carnaval (March 1-12) – This carnival is the most important cultural celebration in the Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) – which is considered a special municipality of Cuba. The event commemorates an anniversary of the proclamation of the area as a territory of Cuba. Festivities include concerts by important national and local musicians, congas, fireworks, art exhibitions, and contests. The Children’s Carnival is also held during this time with almost every local school participating. For the children there is a parade with dancers and performers wearing giant puppet-like heads as well as aa children’s rodeo.
Santiago Álvarez Memorial International Documentary Festival (March 6-12) – Held in Cuba’s second largest city, Santiago de Cuba this festival is a documentary competition and gives a voice to independent journalists, artists and individuals to showcase contemporary realities and important world issues. The festival is in honour of Santiago Alvarez who was a Cuban filmmaker. Dates for the 2021 festival are to be announced.
International Electroacoustic Music Festival (March 10-15) – Previously known as the Varadero Spring Festival, this music festival is now held at different venues in Old Havana. It is an international event that attracts prominent composers and personalities of electronica music from around the world. Dates for 2021 have not yet been released.
Baracoa Culture Week (late March to April 1st) – A week-long event celebrates the diverse culture of the city of Baracoa in the province of Guantánamo. The week of events includes traditional dance and music including a mix of African percussion and guitar known as ‘son’ music. The event ends with a pilgrimage on April 1st. During the writing of this article, dates and details for 2020 were not found due to the Global Covid 19 pandemic.
Festival Internacional de la Trova “Pepe Sánchez” ( 3rd week of March) – This festival takes place in Santiago de Cuba to pay tribute to one of the most prominent Cuban troubadours – Jose (‘Pepe’) Sanchez who died in 1918. The festival includes a parade that ends up at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery where distinguished troubadours like Pepe Sánchez are buried. Over four days, there are concerts in the town’s streets, squares, parks and most important music venues with generations of ‘trova’ musicians arriving from all over the island to play music. For 2020 the event is postponed due to the global Covid 19 Pandemic.
Havana World Music Festival (March 19-21) – A popular new music festival held in Havana each March, organized by a new Cuban rum label. The festival is a mixture of traditional and more modern music. In 2020 the festival was scheduled to take place March 19-21 but has been postponed until further notice due to COVID-19.
Cuba in April:
Bienal de La Habana / The Havana Biennial (mid April to mid May) – The Havana Biennial is one of Cuba’s, and in fact Latin America’s, most important and inspirational art festivals. This month-long bi-annual exhibition focuses on Cuban, Latin American, Caribbean, African and Middle Eastern artists. It takes place in dozens of galleries, museums and cultural centres all over the city, such as Pabellón Cuba and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. There are exhibitions, documentary screenings, workshops and master classes, with art from over 40 countries – utilising the urban spaces, not just galleries. The 2019 Edition involved as many as 166 artists from 49 different countries. Dates for 2021 are to be announced.
Good Friday (April 10) – Easter is not widely celebrated in Cuba however Good Friday was declared an official holiday in 2012 after a visit from Pope Benedict. Good Friday is a public holiday in Cuba and is a day off for the general population with schools, banks and some businesses closing but little impact for tourists.
The Trinidad Cross Procession (April 10) – A religious tradition that passes through the old colonial city of Trinidad, on Cuba’s south coast every year on Good Friday. The Cross procession starts from the Church of the Holy Trinity (Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad) at 7 pm. Hundreds of people with candles join in, many of them chanting prayers. The priest and the participants of the procession carry the cross and the statue of Virgin Mary. Local legend says that the procession was originally designed to prevent pirates from looting.
City in Movement (April 15-19): Known locally as “El Callejero,” this annual event features national and international dancers and dance companies performing in squares, parks and museums of Old Havana. Dancers perform both traditional and contemporary dances and workshops, exhibitions and conferences run alongside the dance performances. In 2020 the event was scheduled to take place from April 15-19 but due to COVID-19, the event is postponed until further notice.
International Cuban Dance Festival (April 20-26) – One of Cuba’s most talked-about festivals. It celebrates many styles of dance, most of which originated in Cuba or the Caribbean. This festival is organized by the Retazos Dance Company and uses sites around Habana Vieja to show off contemporary dance choreography, with accompanying master classes, lectures, workshops and night-time jazz jams. In 2020 the festival was scheduled to take place April 20-26 but has been postponed until further notice due to COVID-19.
Cuba in May:
International Workers’ Day / Labour Day (May 1) – Known in Cuba simply by its date, Primero de Mayo, it is a very important holiday in this socialist country. A crowd of around twenty thousand Cubans gather at the Plaza de la Revolución to hear patriotic speeches, watch cultural and musical performances. People gather in their work groups or study groups and march to the square carrying banners and symbols supporting the Revolution. Throughout the country you can see military parades and other demonstrations of Cuban patriotism and workers’ solidarity. It is a public holiday and the general population will have the day off. Schools, banks and most businesses will be closed.
Romerías de Mayo (May 3) – A yearly pilgrimage and celebration of performing arts in the eastern city of Holguín. It begins with a procession from Catedral de San Isidoro up La Loma de la Cruz for a special mass. Participants are predominantly artists, dancers, actors, and intellectuals rather than religious devotees. The celebration is centered around art and Cuba’s mixed cultural heritage. The first recorded occurrence of the week-long festival was in 1790, and many traditions from that first celebration of cultural diversity are maintained. If you’re in Cuba in May, it’s one of the best things to do in Holguín to get a taste of the local culture.
Feria Internacional Cubadisco Havana (May 16-23) – A celebration of the local recording industry, in which Cuban musicians who have released albums in the preceding year compete for the title of best album. The finale is held at Salón Rosado de la Tropical Benny Moré. In 2020 the Festival is set to take place between May 16-23 however dates may change due to COVID 19.
Festival Internacional de Poesía (May) – The week long International Poetry Festival in Havana draws over 200 poets from over 40 countries and celebrates artistic expression and poetry. Events include a number of activities, such as seminars, readings and exhibitions. The World Meeting of Poets in Defence of Humanity is also celebrated during the festival. The festival has been postponed for 2020 due to COVID 19.
Cuba in June:
International Ernest Hemingway Needlefish Tournament (June 13) – Established in 1950 by author Ernest Hemingway, the annual fishing tournament takes place off the coast of Havana. It is one of the oldest big-game fishing tournaments in the world. Fishing enthusiasts from many different countries participate, fishing for big needlefish species such as wahoo, marlin and tuna. The dates for the 2020 Tournament have not been announced – it will be the 70th occurence of this tournament.
Festival Internacional “Boleros de Oro” (June 22-26) – Bolero, a musical genre born in Cuba, brings singers from all over Latin America to Havana for this week-long festival. The festival is considered the oldest of its kind in Latin America. The main festival is held in Havana but due to the popularity of Bolero, the celebration has spread across the country. In 2020 the festival is scheduled to take place from June 22nd to June 26th but dates may change due to COVID 19.
Fiestas San Juaneras (June 24-27) – Also known as the Trinidad Carnival, this fiesta runs for 4 days every year between June 24-27 in the colonial city of Trinidad on Cuba’s south coast. Events include street parades, elaborate costumes, floats, games, and competitions. There are also displays of horsemanship from the local “guajiros” – farmers, and a local carnival queen is chosen and ceremoniously crowned.
Camagüey Carnival (June 24-29) – This traditional and long standing festival is one of Cuba’s oldest Carnivals with events dating back to the 1700s. With over thirty outdoor stages and party areas set up throughout the city, and big stars like Adalberto Álvarez and his Orchestra perform. Events include parades, elaborate costumes, floats, games, and competitions and the entire carnival culminates in the burning of a statue of St Peter.
Havana International Corhabana Choral Festival (June 23-27) – This is another event in Cuba held every second year. The festival attracts choirs from around the world and Cuba to perform throughout Havana at major venues such as the Basilica de la Habana as well as in local neighborhood venues and in schools. There are also choral workshops to attend about choir music, interpretation and workshops with the best Cuban directors. In 2020 the Choral Festival is scheduled to take place from June 23-27.
Cuba in July:
Festival Internacional del Cine Pobre Gibara (July 5 -11) – The largest Cuban film festival, takes place in the small coastal town of Gibara. This festival showcases the very best of Cuba’s low-budget movies in outdoor public screenings and in the local cinema, there’s a competition for fiction and documentary films as well as exhibitions, recitals, seminars and concerts.
Fiesta del Caribe (July 3-9) – Santiago de Cuba hosts a week-long celebration of Caribbean music and dance culture in July. The festival features free outdoor concerts, indoor shows, processions of decorated vehicles, parades of costumed dances, and dance performances in Parque Céspedes and throughout the city. The event also features food stalls, beer stands and goat powered cart rides for children. The 2020 is scheduled to take place July 3 – 9 and is dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the Revolution.
Carnaval de Santiago de Cuba (July 21 – 27) – The Santiago de Cuba carnival is widely regarded as Cuba’s best, biggest, and most traditional Carnival. It takes place during the last two weeks of July, with costumed parades and congas, salsa bands and late-night parties. The carnival pauses on July 26th to honour the Cuban national holiday that commemorates the Rebellion.
Day of National Rebellion (July 26) – July 26 is the most important date on Cuba’s revolutionary calendar and is celebrated with a 3 day holiday. The streets are covered in vanners, posters and official graffiti. July 26th is the anniversary of when the movement started that eventually became the Cuban Revolution. In Santiago, at the Moncada barracks, the names of the martyrs of revolution are read out, guns are fired and speeches are made by Cuba’s leaders. July 25 to July 27 are all national holidays. The general population receives all 3 days off of work, public transit is limited, schools, banks and most businesses are closed.
Cuba in August:
Carnaval de La Habana Havana (mid Aug) – Havana’s Carnival is full of music, dancing, conga lines, colourful costumes, fireworks, beer, and rum for the thousands of people who attend. Parades run the length of the Malécon and feature traditional and contemporary music. Something to look out for during the parades are the Muñecones – which are huge masks worn by dancers. They are accompanied by the faroleros – dancers who carry a multi-coloured accessory resembling a streetlight, which they rotate constantly. Dates for 2020 have not yet been announced.
Urban Potaje Festival (mid Aug) – Superseding the former Festival de Rap, this five-day event in Colón, Matanzas highlights the values of hip hop culture in the Cuban music scene. It is attended by 160 national and international artists and includes live music performances at venues around the city. The festival welcomes international performers as well as local Cuban artists, the festival has also begun to incorporate other related forms of expression such as breakdancing, graffiti, short films, as well as discussions and workshops about hip hop and rap music. The festival ends with the National Master Battle Title. In 2019 the festival took place from August 13-18. Dates for 2020 have not yet been announced.
Cuba in September:
Virgen de Cobre Feast Day (September 8) – Virgen de Cobre is the patron saint of Cuba. Although Cuba is not very Catholic compared to the rest of Latin America, Virgen de Cobre has a special place in the hearts of many Cubans. Her shrine is located at the foothills of the Sierra Maestra. Cubans show their devotion to by dressing in yellow, and placing gifts at her shrine. Customary gifts include sunflowers, special treats like honey and pumpkins, lit candles and, if possible, holding a tambor or violín in the Virgen de Cobre’s honour while visiting her shrine.
CDR Anniversary (September 28) – Every Cuban resident is part of a Comite de la Defensa de la Revolution which are neighbourhood level socialist organization of the Cuban population. These groups meet regularly to communicate news and government changes. The CDR Anniversary is the most festive CDR meeting of the year and is celebrated as a streetparty with a caldosastew cooked in a large pot over a wood-fire and games are organized for children. If visiting Cuba during this time and staying in a local guesthouse it is a great opportunity to meet and interact with locals
Cuba in October:
Festival Internacional de Ballet de la Habana Havana (October 27-November 3) – Another Cuban festival held every second year, only on even-numbered years, is Cuba’s premier, international ballet event. Ballet is a very important art form in Cuba and famous ballet companies from around the world come to perform along. The Cuban National Ballet also perform at main venues in Havana, the Gran Teatro and Teatro Mella. The festival also includes art exhibitions, film screenings, conferences and as spread to other cities in Cuba. In 2020 the Ballet Festival is scheduled to take place from October 27 to November 3.
Festival de Matamoros Son Santiago (October 8-13) – Every year, Santiago de Cuba hosts Cuban and music stars from around the world for concerts, dance competitions, workshops and seminars. This festival is a tribute to the Santiago nineteenth-century musician Miguel Matamoros – a prominent voice of the son genre of music. While the focus is on son, many other traditional styles of music, including salsa are performed in venues as well as in squares, parks and streets. The festival also includes dance performances, documentary screenings, and stalls selling books and albums. In 2020, the Matamaros Son Festival is scheduled to take place from October 8 to 13.
Havana International Theatre Festival (mid-October) – This ten-day theatre festival showcases classic and contemporary Cuban works as well as productions by theatre groups from Latin America, Europe and the US. Performances take place as free street theatre in the city’s open spaces as well as in Havana’s 16 theaters. The vast majority of the productions are in Spanish. Dates for the 2020 edition are to be announced.
Cuba in November:
Festival de la Habana de Música Contemporánea (mid November) – Formerly known as the Esteban Salas Early Music Festival, this annual classical musical event, celebrates the life and works of 18th Century Cuban composer Esteban Salas. It started in 2003 with performances taking place in venues around the city, including some of Havana’s most impressive churches, chapels, theatres, and cultural centers. Dates for the 2020 edition of the festival are to be announced.
Havana Jo Jazz (November 11 – 18) – This annual festival features outstanding young jazz musicians and composers between 16 and 30 years old. The festival is held in the Amadeo Roldán Theatre in Havana.
Baila en Cuba (November 15 -20) – A week dedicated to salsa and other cuban dance styles that brings together over 5000 participants to Havana from over 45 different countries. Events include concerts, 19 hours of dance lesson workshops and 5 outdoor concerts. In 2020 the festival is scheduled to take place from November 15-20.
Cuba in December:
Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano (December 3-13) – The International Festival of New Latin American Cinema is one of Cuba’s top events. The ten-day film festival screens the newest Cuban, Latin American and Western films and established classics in cinemas throughout Havana. The event also provides a networking opportunity for leading independent directors and anyone else interested in film. The festival has been running since 1979. In 2020, the festival is scheduled to take place from December 3 to 13.
Parrandas de Remedios Remedios, Villa Clara (Dec 16-26) – The small historic town of Remedios, a four hours drive south-east from Havana, is famous for its Christmas festival, called “Las Parrandas de Remedios”. The celebrations are considered the oldest in Cuba, and by some, described as the wildest. Events include street parades with rumba percussion ensembles, a float display and a dramatic fireworks competition. The festival takes from from December 16 to 26.
Charangas de Bejucal (December 24 – Jan 1) – On the outskirts of Havana, 50 mins from the city center is the small town of Bejucal where the oldest traditional Havana festival is hosted. Festivities include performances from a percussion band and rival congo groups who compete to play the loudest drums and construct the most impressive float.
Christmas Day (December 25) – From 1969 to 1998, Christmas was not an official holiday in Cuba. Castro declared his government atheist in the 1960s, and abolished all religious holidays. Castro reinstated Christmas during a 1998 papal visit from Pope John Paul II, although it is still not celebrated in public with any particular fervor. Cubans put up decorations more for tourists than they do for their own enjoyment. Of course, churches will hold small celebrations, but these celebrations are quite muted. It is a public holiday and the general population will have the day off. Schools, banks and most businesses will be closed.
New Years Eve (December 31) – New Year’s Eve is the most boisterous holiday in Cuba and Cuban families come out in force to mark the end of the year. There are street parties and free concerts throughout the country. You will spot locals roasting pigs on outdoor spits, folks dancing reggaeton in the streets and others throwing water off their balconies and out of their windows – all New Year’s traditions. Cuba’s top restaurants get overbooked and plazas in Old Havana, jazz clubs and cultural centers throw special parties that require reservations in advance. One such party is a large dinner and show put on at the Cathedral Plaza in Old Havana. The square is filled with tables for a massive outdoor dinner for 300 attendees and the evening includes a cabaret show, live music and an open bar. An important note is that transportation is an issue on New Year’s Eve. There are limited taxis working and the few that are operating run bidding wars for fares – so making plans that don’t require transportation or hiring a driver in advance is highly recommended.