I feel like most travelers don’t give nearly enough thought to how many days in Havana they should spend. They know they’ll have to spend some time in Cuba’s capital on their way in (and out) of the country and figure they’ll just wing it.
In some sense, this approach is fine. There’s no sense, after all, in stressing yourself out with unnecessary deadlines and schedules, particularly in a country where everything seems to happen when it wants to happen, not when you think it should.
On the other hand, if you really want to make sure you see everything Havana has to offer before you head off to greener pastures, you might be to be a bit more mindful about your sightseeing. No matter which approach you take, I think you’ll want to read what I have to say.
Where to Stay in Havana
Cuba’s accommodation industry is rapidly changing, both in the form of hotel construction as well as with the opening of Airbnb on the island. The most special aspect of my experience in Cuba, however, was using the country’s network of casa particular home stays, and the one I slept at in Havana was definitely the most special of all.
Casa Habana Lourdes not only boasts a location in the heart of Habana Vieja, but Lourdes, a spectacular hostess who not only makes you feel at home, but is priceless is coordinating transport and accommodation all over the island.
How to Organize Your Trip to Havana
Get lost in Habana Vieja
When I say Lourdes’ house is in the heart of Old Havana, or Habana Vieja, I mean it: Just a few minutes’ walk west of the front door sits the city’s stunning Capitolio building, while walking eastward takes you into a dense, delightful district of amazing architectures, colorful characters and music that will make you want to dance—even if, like, me, you completely lack rhythm.
Indeed, exploring Habana Vieja is something of a dance, an all-day (and, potentially, all-night affair) that’s less about a specific route and more about evoking a specific feeling. On the other hand, some standout places you’ll want to be on the lookout for including Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the La Floridita bar made (in)famous by Hemingway, the colorful buildings along Paseo de Martí and the immaculate Hotel Inglaterra.
Cruise along the Malecon
Speaking of Hotel Inglaterra, it’s in front of this heritage building that you’ll find what is in my opinion the most extensive and impressive collection of classic cars in Havana. These are cool not only to look at and photograph, but also to hire for the day—or night—and have a drive along the Malecon, Havana’s beautiful waterfront boulevard.
Of course, your Malecon ride is only the beginning of your adventure on your second of 3 days in Havana, whether you choose to walk along it before or after (the Malecon is home to a variety of public art installations and delectable eateries including the Chilean Cafe Neruda), or allow your drive to take you to one of the live music clubs on its far end.
Take a day trip to Cigar Country
You might find yourself struggling with questions, namely “is 3 days in Havana enough?” I get this, but I’m still going to recommend you take a day trip on day three, if only because of how surprisingly easy it is to travel around Cuba by bus.
For example, Cuba’s picturesque cigar country of Viñales is just four hours away by bus, so if you wake up at the crack of dawn (the first bus leaves around 7!) you can manage to visit on a day trip.
Viñales is a paradise, even if you don’t smoke cigars. Although you can easily engage in local activities like horseback riding, hiking and coffee/cigar making with anyone you meet walking through the town center, I recommend you try to find a man named Domingo (pictured above)—contact me personally for advice on his whereabouts!
PRO TIP: If you get back to Havana early enough (to be honest, that will probably be the next morning—I can’t imagine you not wanting to spend a night in Viñales!), Colon Cemetery is huge, picturesque and right near the bus station. It’s also near the historical Revolution Plaza and many other destinations you might not be able to squeeze into 3 days in Havana otherwise.
How Many Days Should You Spend in Havana, Cuba?
For some travelers (namely, those taking a weekend trip from Cancun or, as long as it’s possible, somewhere on the US mainland), three days in Havana is the only option. And rest assured: While you can easily spend longer in Havana (and Cuba) than a long weekend, this is a perfectly good length of time in which to get to know the most underrated capital city of the Americans.
On the other hand, much of what to do in Havana for 3 days can be condensed into 2 days or even less, assuming you’re good not taking any day trips. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I suppose you could spend more than 3 days in Havana, though in my opinion travelers with this much time on their hands should devote it to explore Cuba destinations farther afield.
Other FAQ About Visiting Havana
What is there to do in Havana in 3 days?
With three days in Havana, you can explore Habana Vieja (the city’s old quarter), plus the coastal Malecon and potentially even take a day trip outside the city. This is if you’re coming in for a long weekend. If you’re kicking off a longer trip to Cuba, on the other hand, you might simply spend day three in town exploring at a slower pace.
Is Havana safe for tourist?
Havana is safe, as long as you don’t work at the US Embassy. Wait, that was a bad joke, right? Anyway, ordinary people don’t have much risk of crime befalling them in Havana, although you should be mindful of your surroundings to make sure you stay safe.
Is Havana walkable?
Havana is a very walkable city, although you might enjoy your trip more if you mix walking with other modes of transport. For example, while Habana Vieja necessitates walking (at least if you want to really be able to notice the details of its old architecture), hiring a vintage car to drive you along the Malecon might be a better bet.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of how many days in Havana you end up spending, Cuba’s capital is one of the most enjoyable cities in the Caribbean. From the cobbled streets of Habana Vieja, to the seaside vibe of the Malecon, to the hospitality you’re sure to enjoy inside your casa particular, Havana is a place you will never forget, even if you only stay there a couple of nights. Want to make sure your trip to Cuba is one for the record books? Hire me as your Travel Coach, and let me sweat the details.