Home > Cuba When to Go
Updated: July 18, 2020
When is the Best Time to Visit Cuba?
The best time to visit Cuba is either in April or November. The weather is excellent, with just the beginning or end of the rainy season, and avoids the hurricane season completely. These months also give the peak tourist season a miss, so crowds are less, facilities are open, and good deals on airfare and accommodations are available.
- 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-April.
- Best Time for Fishing: April-September.
- Best Time to Visit Cuba: Sunny beaches, snorkeling, world-class diving sites, colorful history, time-warped colonial towns, salsa dancing, and beautiful mountain landscapes can all be enjoyed in Cuba 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 great weather and all services running is either 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 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 and resorts, think about booking a year ahead for New Year’s 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 US$200-800 a night for luxury resorts. During the shoulder season, a hotel room ranges between US$150-450 a night. While vacancies are more common during the low season, prices still run between US$150-350 a night. Many hotels reduce services and 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 and August. If you want the best prices on accommodations, avoid the school holidays. December to February and Easter are peak seasons for tourists while July-August is the peak holiday season for Cubans. So, the cheapest time to visit Cuba is outside of these times. Casas particulares are like local guesthouses and are the most affordable accommodations in Cuba. Residents rent the spare rooms in their homes for extra income and 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 2 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 in Cuba.
- Best Time to Visit Cuba for Good Weather: Cuba has a warm tropical climate with 2 distinct seasons – dry and wet. The best time to visit for good weather is the dry season from December to April when you can expect dry, sunny days and blue skies. 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: Festivals and events are always taking place in Cuba, but July is the most festive time of the year with Carnival being held in many cities. Santiago hosts the biggest one in the Caribbean. July also brings the National Day of Rebellion holiday which lasts 3 days 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 the peak holiday season for Cubans, so if partying with locals and experiencing Cuban culture and festivities is what you’re after, it 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 mid-April. Due to its history, Cuba is less developed than 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 center, 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-September are the most rewarding months, while April-June attract greater numbers of white marlin and sailfish. 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-March, July-August): Cuba has 2 high seasons. The peak tourist season runs from mid-December to March, with prices particularly high towards the end of December for New Year’s and Liberation Day on January 1. December to February and Easter are peak seasons for tourists with hotels, flights, and tours booking out well in advance. July-August brings in the second high season as it is the peak holiday season for Cubans, crowds are bigger, 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 months 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 fewer 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-June, and the tail end of the hurricane season, September-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 and fewer facilities. 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.
Cuba Weather by Month
Year-round, Cuba is generally hot with plenty of sunshine, regular rainfall, and high humidity. The island country has a warm tropical climate with 2 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, it 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 of degrees cooler than the southeast region of the island. From December to February, the northwest 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 southeast. The southeast 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 northwest. 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 is 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 night-time low of 19°C. Temperatures can drop to as low as 15°C at night, so warm layers are necessary to stay comfortable. January is also one of the drier months in Cuba, with Santiago in the southeast getting an average of 3 days with rain while Havana in the northwest receives double that with 6 rainy days. Around 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: Southeast – 30mm, Northwest – 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 of 25ºC and an average low of 19ºC. The low can dip to even 17°C at night, so having a few warm layers with you is advisable. February does see a small dip in precipitation, with the southeast receiving around 2 days with rain while the northwest 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 get extra bathing suits to take advantage of water activities. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Precipitation: Southeast – 17mm, Northwest – 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, offering more time to spend on outdoor excursions and activities. Both the southeast and the northwest get around 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 in 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: Southeast – 40mm, Northwest – 45mm.)
- Cuba Weather in April: The weather in April is very pleasant – warm and sunny – 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 26°C and the average low increases to 21°C. The sun shines for 9 hours, bringing more time to enjoy outdoor and water activities, especially as the sea remains very comfortable at 26°C. April is right before the beginning of the wet season, so expect a little more rain. Santiago in the southeast gets around 6 days with rain while Havana in the northwest sees around 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: Southeast – 70mm, Northwest – 60mm.)
- Cuba Weather in May: May marks the very beginning of Cuba’s low season as well as rainy season. There is an increase in precipitation in both the northwest and the southeast. Santiago gets around 10 days with rain, while Havana experiences less rain with only around 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 through 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 and swimwear are recommended 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: Southeast – 150mm, Northwest – 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 southeast and the northwest both experience around 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 AC or at the very least, a fan, is 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: Southeast – 130mm, Northwest – 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. It is one of the hottest months, with an average daily temperature of 31°C and an 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 the late afternoon and are a welcome relief from the overwhelming heat and humidity. The southeast gets around 6 days with rain while the northwest experiences more rain with around 9 rainy days. The average daily sunshine increases to 9 hours while the sea temperature remains at 29°C, so swimming is a great way to cool down. Bring lightweight, tropics-friendly clothing, a light raincoat, and a waterproof bag for thunderstorms. (Average Max Temperature: 34°C. Average Precipitation: Southeast – 55mm, Northwest – 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 southeast gets around 9 days with rain while the northwest experiences 40mm more rain with around 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 and ideal for beach days. Pack as you would for July and try to book accommodations with air conditioning to remain cool and comfortable. (Average Max Temperature: 34°C. Average Precipitation: Southeast – 95mm, Northwest – 135mm.)
- Cuba Weather in September: September is the height of hurricane season but levels of precipitation don’t increase drastically from August. The southeast and the northwest both experience around 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 traveling 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 about 8 hours of daily sunshine, so warm and 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: Southeast – 150mm, Northwest – 150mm.)
- Cuba Weather in October: October is the wettest month of the year across the island, but it is also one of the cheapest months of the year to visit Cuba. The southeast gets around 14 days with rain while the northwest experiences a little less with around 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 2012. If traveling 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 decrease 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 on 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: Southeast – 215mm, Northwest – 170mm.)
- Cuba Weather in November: November marks the beginning of one of Cuba’s shoulder seasons and also the end of the hurricane season. The rain tends to taper off in the second half of the month. The southeast and the northwest both experience around 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: Southeast – 100mm, Northwest – 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, around 3 days with rain in the southeast, and around 6 days with rain in the northwest, 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 northwest 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: Southeast – 30mm, Northwest – 60mm.)
Cuba Holidays, Events, and Festivals
Cuba in January
- New Year’s Day & Día de la Liberación (January 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 on the island, it’s a day to celebrate being Cuban along with 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 has the day off. Schools, banks, and most businesses are closed.
- Festival de la Trova Longina (early January) – 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.
- Havana International Jazz Festival (late January) – The largest and most famous jazz festival in Latin America happens in Havana towards the end of January. It is a celebration of 500 years of Afro-Cuban jazz influence. Performances take place in the Casa de la Cultura Plaza, Teatro Nacional de Cuba, and other venues across the city.
Cuba in February
- Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana (early February) – 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 ones. 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.
- Festival del Habano (late February) – The Cuban Cigar Festival in Havana promotes the Cuban cigar industry and is a great event for all cigar enthusiasts. Includes cigar factory and tobacco plantation tours, cigar rolling workshops, trade fair, 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 the 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. A 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 a children’s rodeo.
- Santiago Álvarez Memorial International Documentary Festival (early March) – Held in Cuba’s second-largest city, Santiago de Cuba, this week-long 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 honor of Santiago Alvarez who was a Cuban filmmaker.
- International Electroacoustic Music Festival (mid-March) – Previously known as the Varadero Spring Festival, this 5-day 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.
- Baracoa Culture Week (late March to April 1st) – A week-long event to celebrate the diverse culture of the city of Baracoa in the province of Guantánamo. There are 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.
- 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 at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery where distinguished troubadours like Pepe Sánchez are buried. Over 4 days, there are concerts in the town’s streets, squares, parks, and important music venues, with generations of trova musicians arriving from all over the island to play music.
- Havana World Music Festival (mid-March) – A new and popular 3-day 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.
Cuba in April
- Bienal de La Habana/The Havana Biennial (mid-April to mid-May) – The Havana Biennial is one of Cuba’s, and 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 centers all over the city, such as Pabellón Cuba and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. There are exhibitions, documentary screenings, workshops, and masterclasses, with art from over 40 countries utilizing urban spaces and not just galleries.
- Good Friday (variable dates) – Easter is not widely celebrated in Cuba, however, Good Friday was declared an official holiday in 2012 after a visit from Pope Benedict. It is a public holiday and a day off for the general population with schools, banks, and some businesses closing, though there’s little impact for tourists.
- The Trinidad Cross Procession (variable dates) – 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 the 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 performances.
- International Cuban Dance Festival (mid-April) – One of Cuba’s most talked-about festivals. This week-long event 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.
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 20,000 Cubans gather at the Plaza de la Revolución to hear patriotic speeches and watch cultural and musical performances. People gather in their work 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) – An annual pilgrimage and celebration of performing arts in the eastern city of Holguín. It begins with a procession from Catedral de San Isidoro and 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 still maintained. If you’re in Cuba in May, it’s one of the best things to do in Holguín and get a taste of the local culture.
- Feria Internacional Cubadisco Havana (mid-May) – A week-long celebration of the local recording industry where 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.
- 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.
Cuba in June
- International Ernest Hemingway Needlefish Tournament (mid-June) – 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. Enthusiasts from many different countries participate, fishing for big needlefish species such as wahoo, marlin, and tuna.
- Festival Internacional “Boleros de Oro” (mid-June) – 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 to be 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.
- 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. It has over 30 outdoor stages and party areas set up throughout the city and performances by big stars like Adalberto Álvarez and his Orchestra. 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 event is held in Cuba every 2 years. 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 schools. There are choral workshops on choir music and interpretation as well as workshops with the best Cuban directors.
Cuba in July
- Festival Internacional de Cine Pobre Gibara (early July) – The largest Cuban film festival takes place in the small coastal town of Gibara. This week-long festival showcases the very best of Cuba’s low-budget movies in outdoor public screenings and in the local cinema. There’s also a competition for fiction and documentary films as well as exhibitions, recitals, seminars, and concerts.
- Fiesta del Caribe (early July) – 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 dancers, 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.
- 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 2 weeks of July, with costumed parades and congas, salsa bands, and late-night parties. The carnival pauses on July 26th to honor 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 banners, posters, and official graffiti. July 26th is the anniversary of the start of the movement that eventually became the Cuban Revolution. At the Moncada barracks in Santiago, the names of the martyrs of revolution are read out, guns are fired, and speeches are made by Cuba’s leaders. July 25-27 are all national holidays. The general population receives 3 days off, public transit is limited, and schools, banks, and most businesses are closed.
Cuba in August
- Carnaval de La Habana (mid-August) – Havana’s Carnival is full of music, dancing, conga lines, colorful 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 is the huge masks called Muñecones worn by dancers. They are accompanied by the faroleros – dancers who carry multi-colored accessories resembling streetlights which they rotate constantly.
- Urban Potaje Festival (mid-August) – Superseding the former Festival de Rap, this 5-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 along with local Cuban artists and 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.
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 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 violin in the Virgen de Cobre’s honor while visiting her shrine.
- CDR Anniversary (September 28) – Every Cuban resident is part of a Comite de la Defensa de la Revolution which are neighborhood-level socialist organizations 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 street party with a caldosastew cooked in a large pot over a wood-fire and games 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 (late October/early November) – Cuba’s premier international ballet event is a week-long festival held only on even-numbered years. 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 performs at main venues in Havana: the Gran Teatro and Teatro Mella. The festival also includes art exhibitions, film screenings, and conferences, and has spread to other cities in Cuba.
- Festival de Matamoros Son Santiago (October 8-13) – Every year, Santiago de Cuba hosts Cuban and global music stars for concerts, dance competitions, workshops, and seminars. This festival is a tribute to Santiago’s 19th-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.
- Havana International Theatre Festival (mid-October) – This 10-day theater festival showcases classic and contemporary Cuban works as well as productions by theater groups from Latin America, Europe, and the US. Performances take place as free street theater in the city’s open spaces as well as in Havana’s 16 theaters. The vast majority of the productions are in Spanish.
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 the 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, theaters, and cultural centers.
- Havana Jo Jazz (November 11-18) – This annual festival features outstanding young jazz musicians and composers between 16 and 30 years of age. The festival is held in the Amadeo Roldán Theatre in Havana.
- Baila en Cuba (late November) – A week dedicated to salsa and other Cuban dance styles that brings together over 5,000 participants to Havana from over 45 different countries. Events include concerts, 19 hours of dance workshops, and 5 outdoor concerts.
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 10-day film festival screens the newest Cuban, Latin American, and Western films along with 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.
- Parrandas de Remedios Remedios, Villa Clara (December 16-26) – The small historic town of Remedios, a 4-hour drive southeast from Havana, is famous for its Christmas festival called “Las Parrandas de Remedios”. The celebrations are considered the oldest in Cuba and described as the wildest by some. Events include street parades with rumba percussion ensembles, a float display, and a dramatic fireworks competition.
- Charangas de Bejucal (December 24-January 1) – On the outskirts of Havana, 50 minutes 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. He 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 has the day off. Schools, banks, and most businesses are closed.
- New Year’s 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 in 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.
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