The Republic of Cuba has only been on the family holiday map for the past 20 years. So it hasn’t had time to become overdeveloped, throw up theme parks and lose its unique character in a landscape of high-rise hotels and luxury resorts.
That doesn’t mean you have to book now or miss the best. It’s unlikely mass tourism will ever invade the largest of the Caribbean islands. For a start, most of the cities have World Heritage status and, even without that protection, they’re fiercely independent, proud of a remarkable culture and heritage and not about to let outsiders influence their way of life.
Havana alone is a miracle of unchanged loveliness where people dance in bars, drive classic Buicks and chat to strangers as if they were family – more so if you’re travelling with kids. Even the holiday towns are just a little bit less Cuban on the surface but passionately so, right underneath.
Is Cuba for everyone? life moves at its own pace and nothing gets done in a hurry. Cities seem hectic, until you get into the way of them – that doesn’t take long. And the entire country is bigger than Iceland, so touring can be a challenge. But if you want a holiday your kids will remember always, for the best reasons, Cuba’s perfect.
Virgin Atlantic fly direct from London Gatwick to Havana all year round, with up to three flights a week during winter.
Cuba has 330 days of sunshine a year with average temperatures of 25.5˚C.
Sub-tropical climate with dry weather from November to April and some rain between May and October.
Water temperatures range from 26˚C and 31˚C year round
The Cuban coastline is over 5000km long and has some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches.
The Bee Hummingbird is the world’s smallest bird at just 5cm. It’s indigenous to Cuba, along with several other rare species, which thrive in what UNESCO describes as, ‘one of the most bio-diverse tropical island sites on earth’.
There are international brand hotels in Cuba but they can be expensive and are booked up quickly in high season (UK winter).
Many of the country’s holiday hotels are state-owned and excellent value. Try CubanaCan first to get an idea of range, quality and prices.
Casa Particulares guesthouses and bed & breakfasts are unique to Cuba, often good quality, always inexpensive and usually in a family home with meals included.
One of the most famous cities in the world, Havana leaves few visitors less than completely spellbound. From the grand colonial buildings to the music, theatre, food, classic cars and big city beaches, older kids will be amazed by the sheer spectacle. And the Cuban capital loves families almost as much as dancing, so children are welcome everywhere.
The island’s main holiday resort is a good family base for big beaches and international hotels. Far from touristy by global standards, Varadero is mainly about sand and sea (both amazing), taking it easy and the water sports.
Trinidad de Cuba is a World Heritage site and one of the world’s most beautifully preserved examples of a 16th century colonial settlements. It’s a lively and colourful town beyond the history and an interesting place to stay with older children.
To the far east of the island, the stunning city of Santiago de Cuba is second only to Havana for art, culture, music and graceful, historic architecture.
Self-drive is the best ways to get about with kids. Car rental is state-run and you will need your own child-seats. An extensive public transport network includes buses and trains, but journeys can be slow and uncomfortable. Taxis are widely used in major cities.