If you’re searching for a transformational family trip, one that encourages your children to immerse themselves into a new world, get creative and make memories, then Havana is your dreamed wonderland. While travelling with children to a country with no Disneyland, no SeaWorld, and no Cirque du Soleil may seem daunting, Cuba more than compensates for its lack of theme parks with immersive cultural, historical, and natural experiences. Cuba’s youngest visitors can admire fleets of vintage cars rolling the streets like a living museum, play on unspoilt beaches, and explore pirate-era forts. Read on for a list of unmissable experiences for travelling to Havana with children.
1. Walk back in time in Old Havana’s colonial squares
Kids love these plazas. While travellers of all ages are impressed by the grand architecture of the adjacent palaces and colonial churches, the wide-open spaces filled with children playing and chasing pigeons mean there’s opportunities for your little-ones to make new friends on every corner. Cuban kids are very sociable and spend a lot of time in the outdoors, having such limited access to internet and videogames. Pastel-coloured buildings and cobbled streets provide the perfect backdrop for a photo with your loved ones as you discover Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San Francisco de Asis or Plaza Vieja.
Read more about Cuba with Kids: How to Make the Most of Your Trip
2. Ride in a classic convertible
Photograph them in all colours! Choose yours in pink, purple, red or blue, or even flower-patterned! Riding in classic Chevys and Cadillacs is a quintessential Havana experience, and your kids will enjoy the rush of riding in an open-top car. Soak up the atmosphere of the malecon seaside promenade while the kids savour riding in a museum-worthy automobile.
3. Tour the city in a horse-drawn carriage
If you're looking to get even more vintage than a 1950s Chevy, then take your children for a spin in Havana's original mode of transportation: horse-drawn carriage. For just 10 CUC, you can take a guided tour through the narrow, cobbled streets of Old Havana. Departing from different points in the old quarter, these horse-drawn tours offer a unique experience that will keep your kids far more entertained than on a normal walking tour!
4. Visit Havana’s family-friendly museums
Havana is host to a plethora of fascinating museums. If you’re a fan of bucket lists like me, then follow my lead to the sights and museums I’ve tried with my family in Havana’s oldest quarter.
Palacio del Segundo Cabo
Aside from having the world’s longest name for a tourist attraction(!), the Centro para la Interpretación de las Relaciones Culturales Cuba-Europa (a centre exploring the cultural relationships between Cuba and Europe) is a fantastic interactive museum, the most modern in Havana. Kids will enjoy playing interactive screens, listening to different Cuban musical genres, and learning the first steps of Cuba’s iconic dances. Plus, the Centro is housed within the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, an architectural gem and fantastic attraction in its own right.
Castillo de la Real Fuerza
Discover the real Pirates of the Caribbean! This 16th-century military fortress serves as Cuba’s most important maritime museum. It features the treasures of the galleons sunk in Havana’s harbour back when the likes of Jacques de Sores and Francis Drake threatened the island’s capital city.
Museo del Chocolate
Who doesn’t love freshly-made chocolate? Walk inside this museum-cum-chocolaterie for a mix of historic artefacts and mouth-watering snacks all made of pure natural cocoa. It’s the perfect pick-me-up after a morning of sightseeing in the neighbouring plazas.
Museo de Historia Natural
If your children are interested in nature and evolution and are wowed by fossilised animals, take them to the Museum of Natural History, set in Plaza de Armas on the southwest side. Do not expect fancy well-lit collections – come here for the best collection of Cuba's endemic species and a brief overview of the island’s fauna.
Come to Havana’s version of Leonardo DaVinci’s camera obscura (dark chamber), where a mirror system uses only the light of the sun to reflect the neighbouring landscape into a convex plate. It’s a quick tour but the youngsters will enjoy understanding the trickery of the contraption as they watch the city live 360o. The tour is given in English too!
5. Hit the beach
Eastern Havana Beaches are a popular spot among ‘habaneros’ in the summer season (from May to October) but considering Cuba’s winter is non-existent, you can take a dip just about any given month. Santa María del Mar is the prettiest with soft sand and clear waters along with well-located cafeterias but Bocaciega, Guanabo or Mégano are also recommended.
6. Update your standards for amusement parks
Forget glossy Florida-style theme parks, what Havana lacks in modern facilities it makes up for with local kids’ warmth and open-minded friendliness. Cubans’ extroverted behaviour and strong family culture extends to visitors (especially kids) as well, so expect to be welcomed wherever you go. Here’s a shortlist of the top 5 places to visit with children if you have the time (and adventurous spirit!).
Placed in Miramar, Playa district, the aquarium wows visitors with its one-hour dolphin and sealion shows (twice daily). Get your camera ready for the jumps!
Located in the outskirts of Havana’s (about 25-minutes away from the centre), this large green area hosts a modest amusement arcade and lots of picture-perfect picnic spots.
In the peripheries of Havana, the zoo offers a Safari Bus Tour covering the African Prairie and the Lions Pit. There’s a smaller Zoo in Vedado downtown, in front of Viazul bus station.
Parque La Maestranza
Located right in Avenida del Puerto, in the heart of Old Havana, this playground includes inflatable castles, slides, and swings. Don’t get discouraged from the long line, it’s worth the wait. There are pony rides and little carts for rent in the adjacent areas.
Isla del Coco & National Circus
Known among locals as Coney Island, this is Cuba’s largest amusement park though often overlooked by tourists. The National Circus big top tent is conveniently placed right beside it. Families usually spend a couple of hours at Isla del Coco and then move to a one-hour show at the Circus (open from Thursdays to Sundays, shows at 7pm). The park sports rides for the entire family, such as the roller coaster, a twister, a swinging ship, a carousel and bumper cars.
Check our selection of tailor-made Cuba holidays for Families with Teens
Include any of these suggestions into your dream family holiday. Can’t make up your mind about where to start? Let us do it for you. Simply call 0207 148 3042 or use our Contact Us form and let us help you design a family holiday handcrafted for you and your loved ones.
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