Havana, Cuba is a picturesque city with color-splashed walls and classic cars, but it’s not the only place on this island nation that has plenty to offer a traveler. Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos offer their own unique adventures like numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Instagram-worthy seaside attractions (one of which made our Top Five Beaches list).
And with two Royal Caribbean ships visiting all three of these destinations, you can visit each of them on just one vacation:
Here’s the inside scoop on each of these culturally rich destinations. And don’t worry; we have the answers to your burning travel questions about Cuba—from passports and currency, to the customary cigar purchase.
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s Cultural Capital
Immerse yourself in the history of Santiago de Cuba with a tour of breathtaking sites like the Moncada Museum, which was named after General Guillermo Moncada, a hero in Cuba’s war for independence from Spain. There’s also Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, the resting place of many notable Cubans like Jose Marti, a literary icon nicknamed “the apostle of Cuban independence.” Then, admire the triple-domed cathedral of El Cobre, home to the famed shrine of the Virgin of Charity—a national symbol of unity and hope for Cuban expats and nationals alike—and explore local music and ancient legends of holy encounters.
Interested in discovering the island’s natural beauty on a scenic walk? Look no further than the Jardin de los Helechos, one of the largest and most celebrated urban botanical gardens, if learning about Cuban cigars and rum is more your thing, then head over to La Casa del Habano for a seat in the VIP lounge to pass the time like a local.
Along the way, follow mouthwatering scents to try out quintessential Cuban cuisine, like the national dish of ropa vieja and tostones, to stay energized on your journey.
Cienfuegos, the Pearl of the South
Known as the Pearl of the South, Cienfuegos is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and sure to satisfy admirers of history and architecture. Founded by Spaniards in the 19th century and settled by French immigrants, the city’s beautifully preserved Urban Historic Centre showcases a variety of cultural and aesthetic influences. With the grand Tomas Terry Theatre and the impressive El Nicho waterfall, caverns and natural pools of the Topes de Collantes nature reserve, it’s clear why Cienfuegos has earned its place on the esteemed list.
If you want to dive deeper into the nation’s culture and history, you can take a 90-minute ride to the colonial town of Trinidad, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site that features stunning rainbow side streets and color-blocked archways. This experience includes a trip to the municipal museum, where you can view archeological artifacts dating back to the area’s indigenous people, and a stop at the local bar, Canchanchara, to sample famous rum cocktails.
Havana, the Heart and Soul of Cuba
An adventure to Cuba isn’t complete without a visit to Havana, where you can stay an extra day with Royal Caribbean’s overnight itineraries. This will give you more time to further explore Old Havana, originally a Spanish establishment destroyed by a 16th-century French pirate and then splendidly rebuilt; visit architectural wonders, and soak up the abundance of artistic and literary history, including a trip to Ernest Hemingway’s former home of Finca Vigia.
Of course, food is a great way to explore new cultures, and Havana’s cuisine is worth savoring. You can sample authentic cooking and even learn to craft your own flavorful Cuban dishes on one of our city excursions.
With so much to hear, taste and see, whether it’s the vibrant local music scene—at either the world-famous Café Taberna or legendary Tropicana Cabaret, or fabulous art deco hotels graced by the likes of Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra—there’s plenty of reasons to discover as much of Cuba as possible.
Ready to experience Cuba for yourself? Plan your vacation to these incredible cities, and head here to let Royal Caribbean take care of the rest, so all that’s left to do is explore this island’s many gems!