Havana tours range from walking tours of historic neighborhoods to classic car rides and electric bicycle rides
Visiting Cuba can be a magical experience, but it can also be a challenging one. Everything about Cuba is old-fashioned. In some ways that’s awesome, because it means beautiful classic cars and a relaxing way of life.
Unfortunately, the old-fashioned atmosphere means that finding tourist activities can be a challenge for folks who aren’t used to traveling outside their comfort zone. Most things in the capital city of Havana are negotiable, so you’ll need to be willing and able to haggle. Internet access in Cuba is limited. Many companies don’t have websites, and most do not accept credit cards.
Even getting from the airport to your hotel will be a hassle, because you’ll have to negotiate a taxi fare – in Spanish, because not many drivers here speak English.
If you love haggling, this article isn’t for you! Go down there and do your thing. But for those who prefer to have things booked and paid for in advance, this article will recommend some of the best guided tours and excursions in Havana and the surrounding area. Booking Havana city tours ahead of time removes the stress of having to find and negotiate activities after you arrive.
This article covers some of the best Havana tours you can book ahead of time. These include include walking tours of Old Havana, riding around the city in a classic car, cooking meals with local residents, riding electric bikes through the streets, and day trip excursions to nearby towns like Vinales and Cienfuegos.
All links go to our partners at Get Your Guide. If you’re not familiar with GYG, they’re legit: a reputable company that aggregates tour listings all over the world. You can use your credit card to book tours through GYG, which is great because credit cards are not accepted by most retailers once you’re on the ground in Cuba. And many of these tours offer free cancellation in case you change your mind later!
Here’s a look at some of the best Cuba excursions, day trips from Havana, and cheap Cuba tours.
Havana City Tours
This section is a collection of some of the best guided tours within the city of Havana itself. You have a bunch of options so find something that suits your interests!
Discover Old Havana Small Group Walking Tour With Lunch
Old Havana is a can’t-miss neighborhood. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its history and architecture. You can wander around on your own, or you could book this highly-reviewed tour to get an English-speaking guide who will guide you through the area. The 3.5-hour tour includes lunch and has stellar reviews. It’s especially ideal for folks coming on cruise ships, or those who want to maximize their time in Old Havana and see as much as possible in one afternoon.
Havana 2-Hour Classic Car Tour
You can’t visit Cuba without riding in a classic American car! These old-time vehicles are some of the most iconic sights of the city. It’s possible to secure a classic car ride on your own, as I did when I rode in a ’56 Chevy convertible. But if you do that, you’ll have to negotiate a price, you may only get 1 hour, and you probably won’t get an English-speaking driver.
To avoid the haggling, just book this tour in advance. You’ll get 2 hours with an English-speaking driver in a 1950s American convertible, taking you around the city to see all the sights. The tour concludes with a drink at Hotel Nacional at sunset. A classic car ride is a fantastic way to get to know the city – it’s my #1 recommendation for anyone visiting Havana!
Cuba: On the Trail of Ernest Hemingway Tour
Everyone knows the author Ernest Hemingway. The man was a giant in every way possible. While Hemingway spent a lot of time at the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, he also lived for many years in Cuba. This 6-hour tour takes visitors from Havana to Hemingway’s old home, known as the Finca Vigia. That’s where he wrote The Old Man and the Sea. The tour continues with visits to the town of Cojimar to see his statue and some of Hemingway’s favorite hangouts.
Havana Private Cuban Cooking Experience
If you want to connect with locals and get a real sense of the non-touristy side of Havana, here’s a great way to do it! Meet up with up a couple of local residents, go to a local market for supplies, and then cook a homemade meal. Get to know Cuba from the perspective of local folks while enjoying dishes like rice and beans, plantains, and potato soup.
Welcome to Havana Private Tour With a Local
If you’re looking for budget-friendly, cheap Cuba tours, this one might be your best bet. For $30, you’ll get a walking tour from a knowledgeable local guide. It’s a no-frills tour – it’s literally just one resident showing you her city for a few hours. And no meals or transportation are included. But the personal touch and insightful information and stories on the tour has made it one of the highest-rated Cuba tours in existence, with a 4.7 rating from more than 160 reviews.
Havana By E-Bike
If you’re like me and want to do something more active than just walking or sitting in a vehicle, try this electric bike tour. The price is reasonable enough for a 5-hour tour that allows you to bicycle along the Malecon and visit areas like Revolution Square, Vedado, Miramar, and the Almendares River. The bike ride runs from 8 am to 1 pm, which is ideal since it avoids the worst of the afternoon heat.
Cuba Excursions: Day Trips from Havana
Havana rocks, but if you’re going all the way to Cuba, you have to see more of the country. Here are a couple options for checking out some of the gorgeous cities and valleys outside Havana.
Sunny Vinales Day Tour from Havana
Vinales is a gorgeous valley 2.5 hours west of Havana. There are so many cool things to do in Vinales, and you can do all of them in one day on this Vinales tour from Havana. Ride on horseback through coffee or tobacco plantations, watch how Cuban cigars are made, and visit the Mural de Prehistoria. This tour is more expensive since it’s an all-day excursion starting at 7:30 am. It includes lunch, roundtrip transportation, and visits to these spots and more.
Trinidad and Cienfuegos Private Tour
The Cuban cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos are very popular and definitely worth seeing. It’s very difficult to see them in a single-day tour from Havana, since they’re 3-4 hours away. But this tour, starting at 6:30 am, gives you a chance to sneak in a visit to both towns. You’ll see the colonial buildings, churches, museums, and tourist attractions. The tour is expensive, but the more people you have in your group, the less you’ll pay per person.
Airport Transfers from Havana & Varadero Airports
I’m including an entire section on airport transfers, because as noted earlier, they can be stressful and expensive. When I arrived at Havana’s Jose Marti Airport, I was being quoted a price of $25-30 for a one-way ride into the city. There aren’t many taxi companies here, and no public buses or Uber, so you really don’t have a lot of options for shopping around.
Eventually, one of the drivers gave in and I was able to secure a ride for $20, but that’s still quite expensive. I also ended up having to pay $20 to book my ride back to the airport a week later. That’s way more than I could have paid if I’d booked one of these transfers in advance.
Havana Airport Shared 1-Way or Roundtrip Transfers
For just $10, you can secure a spot in a large van transfer from Marti Airport to your hotel in the city. Pay $20 to book the whole round-trip. You won’t find a more affordable way to get to and from Havana.
Varadero Airport Shared 1-Way or Roundtrip Transfers
If you’re flying into Varadero instead of Havana, this will be your cheapest airport transfer option. Prices vary, but as of this writing, it’s only $10 for a ride into the center of Varadero, and $24 for a ride into Havana. Both are very good deals.
Bonus: Where to Stay in Havana
You won’t find American hotel chains in Havana, which is both a blessing and a curse, since it makes booking more difficult. In Cuba, you basically have two options. The first is to book actual hotel rooms. The second is to use Airbnb or find a casa particular, which is the local version of Airbnb.
I’ve put together a guide for finding a casa particular. It involves wandering around the neighborhood of your choice, looking for the signs on the door, and then negotiating a price.
If that’s too adventurous for your taste, you’d be wise to book a hotel before your Havana vacation. Again, you’ll either want to book directly through the property’s website, or via a respected provider such as booking.com. Check out the booking.com map below to find available properties for the dates of your travel.
Would you take any of these Havana, Cuba guided tours?