A beautiful island nation set in the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea, Cuba offers white-sand beaches, warm waters, and a rich culture accompanied by a tropical climate. With tourism on the rise, many ask, “When is the best time to visit Cuba?” Below, we will answer that question in depth — ranging from the months that offer the best weather to Cuba's many exciting holidays and festivals throughout the year. We’ll even tackle the daunting “But when is the most affordable?” question.
For dry, sunny days and bright blue skies, you'll find that the best time to visit Cuba is between December and May. However, out of all the months, March and April are the prime two months to visit. This time brings little rain and lots of warm and sunny days (about seven hours of sunshine).
Once the end of May hits, you should prepare for a rapid increase in average temperatures, particularly in Santiago and Havana. But on the plus side, it’s also the start of delicious mango season! If you're looking for pure sunshine, it is known that Cuba’s south coast beaches get the best weather on the island. However, if you intend to go into Cuba’s mountains during this time, it’s a good idea to pack something warmer than just a T-shirt, even though it’s presumably the hottest time of the year.
In June, you might want to avoid visiting Cuba, as that is when the wet season begins. However, the heaviest rains do not arrive until late July and August. August and October present humid temperatures and the risk of hurricanes and tropical storms, so if possible, try not to visit during those two months. That said, Cuba has held up well through some of the fiercest of hurricane seasons.
If you are an avid surfer, you can head to the eastern coast of the island between June and October for some gnarly waves.
If you can only visit during the wet season, the good news is that it is still unusual for it to consecutively heavy rain multiple days in a row. Typically, the clouds will quickly break up after a storm to allow sunshine in to dry everything back up.
Cost of Travel: Peak versus Off-Season
While some travel costs remain constant year-round, others (such as plane tickets and accommodation) can vary greatly depending on the time of year.
Early planning is always essential if you have your eyes on Cuba, but it’s even more important during the dry season. You should begin planning your visit a minimum of nine months in advance for the dry season and at least 12 months in advance more specifically for visits between December-February or during the Easter holiday. The old colonial city of Trinidad on Cuba's south coast gets especially busy around Easter as they hold the Way of the Cross Procession each Good Friday. It is one of the most important annual events that occur in this small city.
Peak Season: December-March, July-August
When planning ahead for Cuba’s peak season, plane tickets from the USA’s East Coast start around $400 USD (around $500 USD when traveling from the West Coast). If you plan early enough, you can find room rates starting around $25 USD per night. If you are having difficulty finding accommodation at an established property, check out Airbnb for other housing options.
Shoulder Season: April-June, November
During Cuba’s shoulder season, plane tickets range from $300 USD from the East Coast and $350 USD from the West Coast. You’ll notice that accommodations still start at around $25 USD per night but will be a bit easier to come across than they are during the peak season.
From a budget traveler’s perspective, the off-season is the best time to visit Cuba, as this is when you will find the most affordable plane tickets and accommodations of the year. From the East Coast, you can find plane tickets from a low $250 USD ($300 USD from the West Coast). Room rates will start at around $20 USD per night; it will be easier to find last minute availability, even in the popular city of Havana.
Holidays and Festivals
As many already know, Cuba is famous for its cigars, and February brings five days of a cigar festival called Festival del Habano. This event is complete with trade fairs, tastings, cigar factory tours, and seminars on the history of cigar production and distribution. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn how to roll your very own Habano cigar!
The Santiago de Cuba Carnaval is another vibrant time of the year to visit Cuba. Occurring every July, this festival stems from a historic combination of many Saint holidays in the summer that are linked together for a period of rest and celebration after the sugar cane harvest is complete. Carnaval is filled with traditional Cuban music and alcohol, alongside massive parades with horse-drawn carriages. The lively parades offer congas and often turn into huge Cuban dance parties through the streets. Get in on the action and participate in the special dress and costumes. If you can’t make it to Cuba during Carnaval, you can visit the Carnaval Museum in Santiago de Cuba to get a taste of what you are missing out on.
Every August, the annual Timbalaye Rumba Festival brings Cuban rhythms and dance moves to the forefront. Very recently, Cuban rumba was declared a National Cultural Heritage. During this festival, you should expect huge rumba parties in the streets, featuring the styles of “guaganco,” “columbia,” and “yambu,” along with dance classes, panel discussions, and spiritual tributes to the Yemaya goddess of the Yoruba religion.
There’s never real a dull moment in this vibrant Caribbean country — so, if you’re wondering about the best time to visit Cuba, the real answer is, it’s up to you!
To start planning your own trip, check out Acanela's Cuba adventure, and book your spot today!
Post written by: Kirsten Cusack, @kirqsak