Cuba Family Holidays
Embark on a family adventure in this welcoming tropical island that has child-friendly hotels and beaches, fun attractions and one-off activities.
Family holidays in Cuba
Cuba is a wonderful destination for a family holiday; offering everything from fun to educational attractions and child-friendly resorts to unique sights and sheltered beaches perfect for new swimmers. Children are warmly received in Cuba and are welcome practically anywhere. It’s also reassuring for parents to know that Cuba is one of the safest countries in the Americas and has a world-class healthcare service should anyone need medical attention whilst on holiday.
Families looking for an easy Caribbean beach break with everything close at hand can choose from a huge range of all-inclusive resorts hugging the fine white sands of Varadero and Guardalavaca. The little coral islets of Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Coco have a more tropical desert island feel but nevertheless both have great family facilities with easy access to the mainland. Life centres around the beach in many of Cuba’s resorts with plenty of aquatic activities taking advantage of the island’s warm, clear waters. Families can take their pick of fun things to do – snorkelling or catamaran trips, banana boat rides or swimming with dolphins – and non-motorised water sports are often included as part of resorts’ all-inclusive packages.
Away from the beach, there are other places in Cuba that whilst not strictly designed for children can surely spark their imagination and help them learn about a completely different culture and history. In terms of recreational entertainment there are indeed a few options away from the beaches, such as amusement parks in the capital, baseball games and rides aboard vintage trains. Cities such as Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Trinidad are must-see for their UNESCO-listed architecture, historic castles and legendary Cuban cabaret shows. But no matter where you are based on the island, you can find fantastic water attractions and one-off experiences.
The best beach destinations and hotels to get the best of Cuba
Cuba is blessed with the powder-soft sand shores and crystalline turquoise seas that beach holiday dreams are made of. Whilst some of them are more secluded and remote (like those in Cayo Largo which is not connected to the mainland), thus offering a more intimate experience, there are several resorts running along Cuba’s northern coast including Varadero, Guardalavaca, Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria that are either on mainland or within easy reach of it via a causeway. All these beautiful coastal resorts have one thing in common – they all offer an amazing backdrop for fun aquatic activities.
With its wide range of top-notch all-inclusive hotels and varied entertainment offering, Cuba’s premier beach resort of Varadero is one of the best destinations in Cuba for families. Unfurling alongside a seemingly-boundless beach, stretching along the narrow Peninsula de Zapata, it has countless kid-friendly hotels including the Breezes Bella Costa and Melia Peninsula. Some, such as the beachside Iberostar Laguna Azul and Iberostar Varadero, offer a myriad of water sports – wind surfing, paddle boats and sailing – that the whole family can enjoy together. While others, like the Blau Marina Varadero, have fantastic kids clubs that will delight young children with face painting, picture-making and supervised games throughout the day, with childcare available in the evenings so parents can enjoy some relaxation time.
Getting around the resort is made fun and easy with the red double-decker bus service that links many of the hotels to the downtown area with its local handicrafts market as well as crowd-pleasing attractions such as the dolphinarium and Todo en Uno (All in one) - Varadero´s amusement park. In fact, the area around Varadero has some of the best aquatic attractions in Cuba – you can take a voyage aboard a catamaran and snorkel in the cerulean waters of nearby Cayo Blanco, explore the mangroves on a James Bond-style motorboat or swim with dolphins in the natural Los Tainos Lagoon. Varadero’s relatively close proximity to Havana also makes it ideal for families who want to experience the delights of the iconic capital.
Fortunately for family travellers, the castaway beaches of the string-of-pearls cays that make up Cuba’s Jardines del Rey archipelago have been made easily accessible by causeways linking them to the mainland. In the family-orientated resorts of Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria it’s possible to luxuriate in desert island bliss with all the amenities you need close to hand. Hotel Oasis Playa Coco is a particularly good choice for families, fronted by a shallow stretch of sea that’s ideal for new swimmers, and with a dedicated kids’ pool. Sol Club Cayo Coco is also geared towards families with a lively programme of entertainment, a top-notch kids club and free non-motorised water sports.
Linked to Cayo Santa Maria via a highway, the little private cay of Ensenachos is home to one of the best all-inclusive family hotels in Cuba. Iberostar Ensenachos overlooks two paradisiacal beaches with facilities for just about any aqua-based activity you could wish for including windsurfing, kayaking and water polo. For kids, the resort’s biggest boon is the on-site waterpark featuring slides, flumes and a pirate-themed playground. Skimmed by one of the largest offshore reefs in the world, these coral cays are the perfect place for the whole family to try snorkelling, or even diving. For an adventure on land, you can also hop aboard one of the tourist trains that trundle across Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, taking in a farm, caves, local wildlife and unspoilt beaches.
To strike a balance between sprawling Varadero and the quiet cays of the Jardines del Rey, Guardalavaca is the ideal option. In the north-east of the country, the town’s dazzling white sands are a stunning backdrop for a family holiday. The resort has a more Cuban feel than the purpose-built resort areas because, unlike some beaches in the country, locals as well as tourists are welcomed here. The main beach is a hub for all kinds of watersports and you can hire equipment from vendors beneath the tall palms. There are coral reefs lying just offshore that are well worth exploring with a mask and snorkel.
Brisas Guardalavaca is one of the best midrange family hotel options in the area with children’s facilities and huge pool backing onto the beach, plus watersports, diving and horse riding all organised by the resort. To the west, the stunning crescent moon bay of Playa Pesquero is a private enclave with a family resort that has all the luxury bells and whistles. Nearby, the fun Parque Natural Bahía de Naranjo is an aquatic attraction not-to-be-missed. Set around a tiny offshore island, the park includes an aquarium, swimming with dolphins, a sealion show, boat excursions to deserted Robinson Crusoe-style islets and even an underwater “seafari”.
Another fantastic option for families in Guardalavaca is the Blau Costa Verde Beach Resort, a fantastic all-inclusive retreat that’s also perfectly positioned on the white sands of Playa Pesquero. Surrounded by 36,000 square metres of manicured gardens and natural vegetation, this place is absolutely paradisiacal and children are well looked after at the Mini Club. Children under four have their own dedicated daily activity programme under the care of attentive childminders whilst older kids up to the age of ten can enjoy the activities offered at the Mini Club and join in fancy dressing games, excursions and competitions. Babysitting are also available so parents can enjoy a night out and party at the onsite nightclub, have a romantic meal or take a romantic sunset stroll on the beach.
Exciting attractions and thrilling activities you can do with kids
Cuba’s beautiful countryside has fantastic surprises for families visiting Cuba, and excursions to its best sights can be easily organised from your hotel. Take a trip to a crocodile farm in Boca de Guamá near Varadero or a cowboy ranch on Isla Turiguano near Cayo Coco, ride a vintage train through the rugged mountains of Grupo Maniabón near Guardalavaca or the Valley of the Sugar Mills near Trinidad. Wherever you stay in Cuba, there are some really special experiences suited to family travellers nearby.
Cuba has an abundance of museums that pique kids’ interest, particularly in Havana, which also has the highest concentrations of museums in the country. Children will love the museums in Old Havana as their medieval heritage and architectural structure can capture their imaginations. The Museo de los Capitanes Generales has a collection of medieval clothing, weapons and artefacts that will sure prove popular among little ones. The Castillo de la Real Fuerza, also in Old Havana, is Cuba’s premier naval museum, housed in a medieval castle fort and exhibiting an abundance of colonial maritime paraphernalia, including a four-metre model of the Santísima de Trinidad ship with a large interactive screen in English, French and Spanish describing life aboard what was the 18th century’s largest ship in the world. Lastly, in Old Havana you’ll also find the Museo del Automovil, a classic car lover’s dream come true! Little ones will be fascinated by the display of old automobiles, all found in an excellent, well-preserved condition. Some of the vehicles here tell the story of its famous owner or stand out for being one of the oldest models still in existence today.
Beyond Havana, Cuba’s effort to preserve national heritage are evident in many other cities and places. Trinidad is a fine example of immaculate heritage preservation as the entire town has hardly changed throughout the centuries, preserving its original colonial houses and quaint layout. It provides kids with a real time-travelling adventure as they experience stepping back in time. In Trinidad you also find the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) together with the Manaca-Iznaga tower, which gives little minds a good learning opportunity as they get a good insight into how sugar production blossomed in the island at the hands of hardworking slaves. A tour of this place also gives visitors the chance to immerse in the area’s breathtaking natural beauty, with the opportunity of bathing in a stunning waterfall amidst the beautiful Cuban countryside scenery.
Alongside the sheer natural beauty of the Viñales Valley, with its hump-shaped mogote hills, the region’s most thrilling experience can actually be found inside a mogote. A boat ride along the river that runs deep inside the Cueva del Indio – Cuba’s largest cave – takes you through an eerie subterranean world dripping with stalactites and stalagmites and inhabited by clouds of bats.
In the island’s countryside, a brilliant day out for families is to visit one of the recreated Taino Indian villages that have popped up around the island to showcase something of the island’s forgotten native Amerindian heritage. Chorro de Maita near Guadalavaca offers an opportunity to see the remains of an excavated pre-Columbine village and burial site, while the neighbouring thatched huts are the setting for native dance rituals and other high-energy shows. There’s also a replica pre-Columbine village near Varadero on Guama island surrounded by Treasure Lagoon that makes for an adventurous family excursion.
For children interested in nature or for nature-loving parents, a visit to the Museo de Historia Natural Carlos de la Torre y Huerta in Holguin is a must, as is the Museo Oscar de Rojas in Cardenas, very close to Varadero, and the Museo de Ciencias Naturales Sandalio de Noda in Pinar del Rio.
Havana, a city for all ages
Just as its skyline is a mix of antique and modern, Havana is a city for all ages with plenty of exciting activities to enjoy as a family and wondrous places to delight children.
Take your family on a time-travelling trip through the streets of Old Havana. Explore the wondrous squares and streets of Spanish colonial Old Havana and its fortification. For traditional dramatisations, consider visiting the Morro castle at sunset to see the ceremonial firing of the cannons by guards in vintage colonial uniforms (called Cañonazo de las 9). Be transported to the 1950s with a ride along Havana’s famous Malecón sea wall in an open-top classic car. At the area beside the Capitolio building, which functions as an unofficial taxi rank, you can let the kids pick their preferred chariot – hot pink Cadillac, winged Oldsmobile or sunshine yellow Studebaker.
For overnight stays in Havana, the luxury Melia Cohiba hotel is handily attached to the Habana Café (ideal for a romantic parents’ night out when you leave your kids with a babysitter) and located near the seafront in the city’s cultural and entertainment district of Vedado.
For resort-style accommodation in Miramar, the all-inclusive Memories Miramar and Melia Habana features kids’ pools and supervised children’s activities, as well as a babysitting service and is close to classic family attractions such as Havana’s Dolphinarium and the National Aquarium of Cuba.
If staying in Old Havana we recommend the Hotel Santa Isabel. Not only is it an atmospheric luxury retreat that will cater to your every need but it can also enhance the experience of immersing into the old part of the city with its colonial architecture, antique furniture and traditional layout. The whole family can feel as though they’ve stepped a few centuries back in time. Epitomising the colonial grandeur of the times, this regal former palace converted into a hotel perfectly blends history, elegance, heritage and tradition with a perfect location overlooking Plaza de Armas and La Catedral de la Habana (Cathedral of Havana). A real treat for all the family!
Tips for travelling with children
As an affordable, safe and clean destination, Cuba has all the basic requirements for a family holiday. But beyond that, children are welcomed with open arms. There are plenty of family-friendly resorts throughout the island and medical care is reliably one of the best in the world.
• Food: For families with young children, choosing an all-inclusive family hotel will make dining simpler. The lack of well-stocked supermarkets in Cuba means that staying on a self-catering basis is virtually unheard of, although larger places such as Varadero and Havana have a good choice of eateries. If you are eating outside of your hotel, you will usually find that restaurants generally don’t cater for small children. Food is tasty but never spicy so little taste buds are safe from strong or hot flavours. We would recommend for parents to bring toys or colouring books during a meal out, as in most places in Cuba the service offered at some restaurants might not be very speedy. Cuban food might not be the most varied or exciting but it is definitely satisfying and rich in flavour. In more recent times Cuba’s gastronomy has been expanding its horizons and after the boom of new private restaurants popping up everywhere, the amount of choice has been considerably widened.
• Water: Refrain from drinking tap water at all times to avoid viruses and stomach upsets. Drink only from sealed water bottles.
• Accommodation: If you book a hotel with children’s facilities, they will usually provide you with high chairs, booster seats, cribs and playpens, though it’s best to give advance notice. On the other hand, if you choose to stay in a private casa particular, you’ll be glad to know that these are often well-equipped with different bed configurations to accommodate families. Asking in advance will also help your Cuban hosts better prepare for your visit taking into account your family’s particular needs.
• Baby needs: Though items for babies and young toddlers can be found in Havana and some stores in the rest of the island, it is better to bring your own supplies such as nappies, formula milk and baby food with you. These items are not always available and when they are it’s more than likely you won’t be able to find the particular brand you use.
• Healthcare: Cuba has a world-class healthcare service that will take good care of you if you get sick, and most hotels have medical staff either onsite or on call. But it’s always a good idea to bring basic kids medicines and vitamins as well as any specific prescription medicines.
• Vaccinations: Travellers aren’t required to have any inoculations before visiting the country and there is no risk of malaria in Cuba, but bringing protection from mosquito bites and other insects is recommended.
• Weather: Even when you travel outside the summer months, sunscreen is always a must when visiting Cuba, especially when it comes to babies and children’s vulnerable skins and those with fairer complexions not used to the merciless Caribbean sunshine. From May to October the sun in Cuba is pretty intense, so a high SPF sunscreen is Essentials. Forget about gloves, scarves or thick coats when you visit Cuba in winter, as the temperature drop is minimal and rarely goes below 16 degrees Celsius.
• Public toilets: In hotels and restaurants you’ll always have toilets available but they don’t always include nappy-changing facilities. Street toilets are virtually inexistent so if you’re strolling the streets with your offspring and one of them needs to go, there are no prejudices in Cuba against children hiding behind a bush or peeing against a tree. It’s seen as a natural thing for little ones and you’ll probably come across many other local families with children in the same situation.
• Baby-changing facilities: Whilst baby-changing tables might be available at some hotels and even in some street restaurants (although this is rare) most places in Cuba lack nappy-changing facilities. With this in mind you can plan ahead and try and change your baby before leaving your hotel, or before getting out of your rented car. On the go you can always try to find a quiet bench in a park or a discreet corner. Don’t worry no one will look down on you for changing your baby in public, whilst a restaurant might not be the most appropriate of places in the world, on the streets you’re quite safe to do so, so find a quiet spot and go for it, you might even see some locals doing the same.
• Breast-feeding: This is seen as one of the most natural things a mother does for her baby. Cuban mothers don’t shy away from breastfeeding on-the-go and breastfeed on demand; it’s not rare to see babies being breastfed in public places such as restaurants, parks and buses. Of course you can be discreet and cover up a little if the thought of over-exposure makes you feel uneasy.
• Children and physical contact: in Cuba physical contact is part of daily social life and more common than most countries in Europe. There’s a general culture that’s fond of children and as such adults have what you may think is a too-friendly approach with kids. They softly pat children’s heads, greet them and talk to them on the street even when they are complete strangers. None of this is ill-intended and is their way to show affection and appreciation to childhood. So, don’t take offense if someone approaches you to tell you how cute your son or daughter is, tries to shake their hands or blows them kisses, it’s their way of complimenting you and your little one.
• Rent a car: If renting a car during your visit to Cuba is something you plan on doing then our best advice would be to bring your own child or baby seat, as these are completely non-existent in Cuba and car rental companies don’t provide them. With many older car models (without seatbelts) still roaming the streets in Cuba, children ride on their parent’s arms or seated next to them. Newer cars available for tourist rental come equipped with seatbelts so strapping a child/baby seat is possible on these – don’t forget to bring it though!
In short, Cuba is a fantastic place for a family to enjoy and create unique memories together to cherish forever. While it is a developing country with certain limitations in some respects, none of these should put a damper on your holiday experience and in most cases shortcomings can work as educational and valuable lessons to your little ones in the challenges that other countries face. Ever thought your youngsters took everything for granted? Well, in Cuba you can enlighten them about how people make-do with much less and yet they are still well-known for being one of the liveliest, happiest people in the world!
The all-inclusive resorts in beach destinations cater well for even the youngest of tots and offer excellent facilities for children of all ages as well as teenagers, without forgetting about the parents either! In cities there are fascinating museums, theme parks, colonial attractions, medieval castles and countless educational opportunities to keep their minds busy and broaden their horizons. Overall Cuba is not only a great destination for a family to get to know together, but one that will prove immensely enriching in more ways than you thought possible, especially if you go to see it with an open heart and open mind.
Get InspirationAll about where to go and what you can do
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Explore cuba your wayTailor made cuba holidays
For those who prefer to travel at their own pace or to explore places not included in the brochure itineraries, we have years of experience at organising tailor-made holidays.
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Our expert tour consultants will be pleased to suggest ideas to complement your own and to organise the most appropiate programme to suit your interests, time and budget.