Now that traveling to the island is in vogue, some people are wondering what is the best time to visit Cuba. (Just in case you are looking for the best to do in Cuba, meet Tour Republic, the one-stop shop of Cuban private tours).
Well, it all depends on the places you want to go and the drives you crave to fulfill. I mean, it is not the same to backpack to the Baracoa Mountains as to go to a Varadero Beach hotel. By the way, even after the new regulations, there are legal boundaries for a U.S. citizen visiting Cuba.
Cuba is a tropical island, two features which contribute to erasing the limits between traditional seasons. The year is basically reduced to a couple of seasons in Cuba: the rainy and the drought ones. Let’s compare some basic facts between these periods, just to make it easier for you to outline what is the best time to visit Cuba.
Dry Season (November to April)
Europeans and Canadians travelers usually found deliciously warm the Cuban Winter, traditionally making beach-tourism. Peak-temperatures drop below 82 o F, and the average minimum gets around 62 o F, the lowest throughout the year. Humidity also goes down, since dry continental winds are more common. It all means that felt-temperature will stay out the dangerous zone defined by the NOAA Heat Index table.
Yet, do not ever underestimate the Cuban sun. Curiously, insolation is higher in this period because of the scarce cloud formation. So the sun will be outside most of the time and you better be as protected as if you were in the middle of July. Deep sunburns are frequently seen over tourist’s backs and face throughout the Cuban Winter. Do not be the next victim and by the way, take your own sunscreen lotion since they are usually in short supply on Cuban retails stores, even at beaches.
(TIP: Besides sunscreen lotion, don’t leave at home the most important things to pack for a Cuba vacation)
Even when masses of tourists book in beach hotels, Dry Season is not the best time of the year on the northern shores. Cold fronts and continental winds will be frequently chopping the ocean, generating waves, sea swell, and occasional flooding. Jellyfish, algae, weeds and other unwanted guests consider this season also the best time to “visit” Cuba.
But, do not wary much, beaches are still sunny, ventilated and crowd-free during these months, terrific spots for lovers and nudists… tough complete nudism is not allowed on the seashore.
Rain and Storms
During the six months span of the Dry Season, only 30% of yearly rain occurs. Tropical storms and hurricanes are not expected to happen.
That is one of the reasons why most international tourists consider this season the best time to visit Cuba. And obviously, if you are to leave a chilly, dark-winter country toward Cuba during these days, you will feel like in the Paradise on Earth.
Mosquitoes, sand flies and other flying plagues, like houseflies, are less frequently now than during the Wet Season. But, be always careful, take some repellents and ask for a mosquito-net, especially if you go to the countryside, stay near a swampland or a beach.
Be prepared just in case a cloud of any of those bugs visits you after sundown, a time when they usually show.
Lodging and Food
Lodging prices during the Dry Season are higher compared to the Wet Season. As Christmas time approaches, both state hotels and casas particulares get more expensive. Booking in advance is a must, especially across December and January. Generally speaking, transportation, food, and certain services get costly throughout the island by the end of the year.
(TIP: If you are looking for ways to cheapen your Cuba vacation, read our guide to plan a cheap trip to Cuba)
If you love fresh vegetables, the Dry Season will be the best time to visit Cuba. This is the high run for harvesting. Lots of local greens become inexpensive delicacies… at least for the visitor´s pockets. If you are a guest in a casa particular, you can surely ask for red tomatoes, sweet peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, onions, and carrots. Salads, juices and natural covers for the face and red skins will make your delight.
(TIP: Eating in Cuba may be a delicious experience or stomach nightmare. Follow the proven tips to stay healthy on your Cuba vacation)
Many people in Cuba go on vacations in December. Streets, squares and certain entertainment places become really crowded. Life accelerates explicitly and consumption of alcoholic beverage increases. Then, after New Year´s Eve, everything goes back to normal in a few days.
New Year celebrations are not massive in Cuba. You must not expect fireworks over thousands of people gathering in public sites like it is in many metropolitan areas around the world. People mostly welcome the New Year in family reunions or open-air restaurants, but rarely in the streets.
During the Dry Season, some cultural events make this period the best time to visit Cuba for many. Two of them are the Havana International Ballet Festival, in November, and the Havana Latin-American New Cinema Film Festival, in December. But that is only a little advance for what happens during this season throughout the island.
For example, there is a National Sculpture Exhibition in Las Tunas every February, an International Fishing Tournament in November at Jardines Del Rey, in Ciego de Ávila, and Las Parrandas de Remedios, in Villa Clara, December 16 to 26. This is an extravagant traditional carnival considered by of many the most attractive festivity in the whole country.
Wet Season (May to October)
Humidity and temperature get their highest ceilings, especially in July and August. The felt-temperature is beyond all bearing to the foreigner, when insufficiently protected under the sun. This is a key reason why many travelers do not consider the Wet Season the best time to visit Cuba.
As NOAA Heat Index table indicates for felt-temperatures over 103 o F -which is the case for Cuban summer under the sun- visitors should take extreme caution. If they do not, they could experience symptoms like fatigue, dehydration, cramps and exhaustion. Summer midday hours are known in the Cuban countryside as “the time when dogs don’t come after the master”.
Anyhow, there are many ways to avoid danger. First of all, staying inside at least from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Perspiration is abundant on any unconditioned space. To get enough liquid is a must, as well as taking fruits and vegetables to restore losing of salts.
Simply do not rely on sunscreens or any other palliative and stay far from sunlight. Instead, early mornings, late afternoons, evenings and nights are very adequate moments to spend outside. Temperatures rarely drop below 75 o F though.
Good news! Wet Season is the optimum moment for beach-tourism and fishing throughout the vast Cuban littoral, especially from June to August.
No jellyfish, algae or weeds would ever perturb the cleanliness of the seashores. Gentle trade winds will refresh northern coasts. Waters are warmer than ever, especially at evening and night. Mornings at the beach seem like a peaceful snapshot. Afternoon’s waters are moderately chopped. Sometimes gets rainy after midday. By the way, get off the sea as soon as you perceive dark clouds around, since streaks of lightning on waters are very dangerous.
Rain and Storms
Heavier downpours occur during the Wet Season, June and September taking the lead for most of the country. Afternoon´s thunderstorms are pretty usual throughout the whole summer. Hurricanes are more frequent during Autumn months, especially from June 1st to November 30th, when the Hurricane season starts.
Backpacking, cycling too far, or traveling between cities may be not appropriate in the Wet Season. Even more, not the best time to visit Cuba at all, many would say.
(TIP: Thinking of backpacking Cuba? You better know the answers to these 7 questions about solo traveling to Cuba)
Summer is a special moment for the proliferation of all kind of flying bugs. There are mosquitoes, sandy flies and houseflies very present, especially after the sun falls down.
If you go to the countryside be sure to take all precautions, from repellents to nets. Also, the cities have mosquitoes around, especially after rainy days. Do not let any housefly hang around your food or water and be very careful about the hygiene on the places you eat.
Lodging and Food
Wet Season is in general the most affordable time to visit Cuba. However, this is not at all an absolute rule. Everything depends on the circumstances and the place you are in. For example, if you are planning to go to the Santiago de Cuba Carnival in July, better be ready to pay a higher rent for rooming.
In the Wet Season, most fresh vegetables become scarce or frozen at buffets, but fruits are on the vogue. Mango, pineapple, avocado, mamey, banana, watermelon, papaya and even some greens like kimbombó, faba beans, pumpkin and sweet potato get to be easy to find.
July and August are vacation time for all children in the country and most of their parents. Cuban main streets turn into human rivers under the sun. Many entertainment centers get crowded including cheaper restaurants and cafeterias. It is time for social contact.
Many cultural events occur in the Summer. Among the more important are the International Blue Marlin Tournament, in Havana (May); the Fiesta del Fuego in Santiago de Cuba (July), and the two more featured carnivals in Cuba: the one in Havana, celebrated in August, and the one Santiago, in July. There is also the Havana Hip-Hop Symposium for the fans of the genre in the capital city, in August.
Then, What Is the Best Time to Visit Cuba?
Most tourists go to the island in the Dry Season, more than 60% to be exact. Following the same logic, March would be the best month to visit Cuba, followed by January and February.
September, October, and June, on the contrary, are less attractive. So the latter would be enough for many people to complement their decision about the best time to visit Cuba.
But, let’s recall something, despite the important temporal differences mentioned:
The number of international travelers to Cuba is growing more than 15% each year since 2012. Two years later, the island surpassed the 3 million visitors for the first time ever. Even the Cuban Government did not know what would happen when the U.S. put an end to tourism’s restrictions to the island. Another 3 million potential tourists would be to arrive annually… and that could happen soon.
So, i will say it: go to Cuba whenever you can, no matter exactly what time of the year. Tourism to the island is getting really hot worldwide, and you should not miss it.
(TIP: Check out our planning guide for Cuba if you still have questions about how to travel to Cuba)