During our 5- week summer trip in 2016, we stayed an entire week in Havana. Unfortunately we had to cancel our plans to go to Viñales because there was not a single rental car available in Cuba and the Casas particulares in the Viñales region were fully booked. Before we tell you the best things to do Havana with Kids, a small introduction on how to navigate Havana airport.
1. Havana with Kids – Arriving in Cuba
You’ll probably arrive in Cuba via José Marti airport in Havana. Prior to boarding your flight you need to buy a tourist Visa to enter Cuba. You can buy it directly from the airline you’re flying with or from the tour operator. The Visa, together with the customs declaration form needs to be filled out before landing in Cuba. The airport in Havana gives you a taste of what awaits on your Cuban journey. We waited for our bags for more than 1 hour in a tiny sweltering arrival hall without any seats. Once you collected your bags and passed immigration, we recommend withdrawing CUCs at the ATM. The lines to exchange money at the counter are very long! If you don’t have a pre-booked transport, there are taxis waiting in front of the arrival hall. But always agree on the fare first!
2. Havana with Kids – Driving around Havana in an classic American car
Although it is a touristy thing, riding in a vintage American car is a must when in Cuba. Besides being an attraction in itself, it is a great introduction to Havana an its surroundings. We booked a 2- hour tour and the driver took us to Revolution square, Miramar, Central Habana, the Malecon, the Fort and its panoramic view on Havana. See the picture of us 4 in the red car? Little anecdote – Madonna who was in Cuba to celebrate her birthday rode in it just before. If you would like the details of the driver, just drop us a line.
3. Revolution Square – Plaza de la Revolucion
The most famous Cuban landmarks can be found on Revolution Square: home to the 109 meters obelisk, statue of José Marti and the sculptures of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos on the Ministry buildings. It goes without saying that no trip to Cuba is complete if you haven`t seen these with your own eyes.
4. Gran Parque Morro- Cabana & Casablanca
Every night at 9pm you have the opportunity to witness the cannon firing ceremony. It is an old tradition warning the inhabitants about the closing of the city gates.
5. Havana with Kids – Fuster House in Jaimanitas
José Fuster is the most reknown Cuban artist. He decorated his entire house, located in the outskirts of Havana, with tiles. The neighboring houses do also have his signature. Visiting the house is free. Although his big paintings sell for 10k and more, you’ll be able to buy a souvenir tile for 30CUC or a bigger one for 150CUC.
6. Havana with Kids – Hemingway`s Finca La Vigia
Located ten miles east of Havana, Hemingways` Cuban Villa is absolutely stunning. Finca Vigia is located in a lush oasis in the middle of a rather modest neighborhood called San Francisco de Paula. Although you cannot enter the villa, you can take a look at the different rooms through the windows.
5CUC per person / kids are free
7. Havana with Kids – Walking around Old Havana
Even when it is boiling hot outside, walking around Parque Central and Habana Vieja is a must do. We started at Hotel Sevilla and walked on the Prado to the Capitolio. The most famous Habana hotels are located on the Prado, like Hotel Saratoga or Telegrafo.
Next, take Muralla street until you reach Plaza Vieja, a pretty square with Cafés and boutiques. Locals shop for meat, vegetables and fruits in Muralla street. You can stop at the family art gallery and have a little chat with Eduardo the artist. (Muralla betwenn Habana and Aguiar)
Picturesque Plaza Vieja
From Plaza Vieja, take Mercaderes street until you reach the Cathedral. We stopped at Casa del Habana to cool off and buy some cigars to take home as souvenir and gift.
Havana Cathedral is a worth a stop while exploring old Havana. The interior is simple yet beautiful. On Plaza de la Catedral you’ll see typical buildings and shaded cafés. Literally 2 steps from the Cathedral is the famous Bodeguita del Medio. (scroll down for more)
8. Havana with Kids – Museo de la Revolucion
This museum is great if you’re a history buff. We feel not knowledgable enough in Cuban history to enjoy the museum as it deserves. It is also terribly hot inside making the visit a pain. Nevertheless children will most certainly enjoy the outside pavilion where old planes, cars etc are on display.
Adults pay 8 CUC which we find quite expensive by cuban standards. Kids are free.
9. Where to eat in Havana with Kids:
This is our absolute favorite Paladar in Havana. We ate here three times during our stay and at each visit the food and service was great. Reservations are highly recommended. Special mention for the lobster, outstandingly fresh and delicious! Don’t miss it!
Calle 5, between Paseo y Calle 2, Vedado
+ 53 7836 2025
304 O’ Reilly (Habana Vieja)
This two storey restaurant is quite small and cramped but serves delicious tapas and cocktails. You get half a liter of Mojito for 4CUC. Reservations are necessary.
O’Reilly 304 between Habana & Aguiar
+ 53 5 2644725
Bodeguita del Medio (Habana Vieja)
Besides El Floridita, Bodeguita del Medio was Hemingway’s go-to bar in Havana. On order: 4 Mojitos! The kids enjoyed their Mojito (virgin of course) as much as we did, add some Ropa Vieja and live Cuban Salsa music and you’re in for an unforgettable Havana experience.
Empedrado between Cuba y San Ignacio
Habana 61 (Habana Vieja)
This Paladar was suggested by the concierge. It is a small stylish restaurant serving traditional and modern Cuban food. Reservations are recommended as the venue is quite small.
Calle Habana No.61, between Cuarteles & Pena Pobre
+ 53 7 8016433
10. What you need to know before visiting Havana with Kids:
• You need a tourist Visa
• Bring sunscreen and a hat
• Hotels are expensive and the value for money is mostly bad
• Air BnB is very popular if you want to stay at a casa particular
• Internet is terrible. If you’re lucky it will work for a short period (4.50 CUC/ hour)
• Renting a car is impossible (unless you book several months prior to your arrival)
• Classic American car rides run around 25/30 CUC per hour
• No matter what, everything takes more time in Cuba
• In stores/museums you need to leave your bag at the entrance
• If you manage to find a store, be prepared that it is poorly stocked
• Paladares serve cheap but excellent food
• Lobster is a bargain: fresh and delicious
• In old Havana (where we stayed) locals start talking to you (like: “nice family”) and try to drag you in a restaurant, which is a tourist trap serving bad food. Beware!
• One will also constantly try to sell you the Habana Tour by vintage car, horse carriage or by bike. After some time it really gets annoying, so don’t look at them, continue walking and say “No gracias” or you’re good for explaining for the 100 time where you’re from.
If you have any questions about visiting Havana with Kids, please leave a comment below or contact us. For travel inspiration with Kids follow us on Facebook and subscribe to new posts.
To conclude, some random Havana pictures…