Havana has been on the hot list ever since tourism opened for Americans. As someone who blogs about travel to Cuba and has gone five times in the past year, I get the question all the time: is it safe for kids?
Short answer: YES! Long answer: Some cities are just better than others.
The Most Kid-Friendly City In Cuba
The city of Havana is just like every other major city. The underbellies of society put out on front street: trash, crumbling buildings, and massive amounts of pollution. Don’t get me wrong, there are great things about Havana. But when I think of children, my number one suggestion would be the city of Viñales.
Why Is Viñales Safe?
Viñales is a town 2 hours west of Havana and can be accessed by taxi for $60 from the airport. While Cubans in general are very family and community-oriented people who incorporate children in every aspect of life, the city of Viñales itself is especially community-oriented.
With only one main road, and houses of every color lining the street, you immediately feel safe and secure. It’s a town where children can walk the streets alone, run in and out of each others houses, and play together in the town square. You better believe you can’t get lost or in trouble without a neighbor or two knowing about it.
Salsa Lessons for Kids
Speaking of the town square, there is always live music. Whether it be at a restaurant or the Casa del Cultura, music is sure to follow. Children and adults alike can take salsa lessons for $10/hour at the casa del cultura or booked through their casa particular. And at night at the Casa de la Musica, there is a nightly cultural dance show that starts at 9PM.
Stay With A Cuban Family
Accommodations in Cuba are fairly inexpensive at around $25-$30/night. But it is best to stay in a casa particular. These are either separate apartments or guest bedrooms where a Cuban family will rent out their extra space. To be in community with the locals is the best way to travel and the best way to have your children’s accommodations met. But please also be respectful! This is someone’s home, not a concierge service.
My personal favorite is Casa El Cactus. They will arrange everything from your salsa lesson, to your taxi transfer, to your tobacco tour, and will even cook you breakfast, lunch, or dinner in house.
Go On A Horse Ride Through The Tobacco Farms
There are two options for touring through the tobacco farm: the walking option or the horse option. The guides have trained their horses to handle people of all ages from birth to the elderly. There’s no greater feeling than going on a slow walk through the tobacco farms by horse with your little one sitting in front of you. These tours only cost $25/person for touring with a personal guide through caves, lakes, coffee plantations, and tobacco farms.
The tobacco farmers walk you through the entire process of growing, preserving, and rolling the cigars, and even give adults a complimentary cigar to enjoy. These are the authentic Cuban cigars that John F. Kennedy loved so much. Viñales Valley is the only place where you can purchase cigars and the profits will go directly to the farmer as opposed to the Cuban government.
Snorkel and Swim at Cayo Jutias
A trip to the Caribbean just isn’t complete without a beach day. Daily trips to the nearest beach of Cayo Jutias are made from 9AM and return at 5PM. Upon arriving on the beach, you’re greeted with the most crystal clear blues and greens that you’ve ever seen.
It’s hard to grasp how perfect the water glitters and how calm the sea is. Palm trees offer shade on the white sand, coconuts filled with rum are served at the bar, and fresh lobster is sold on the sea. In addition, if you walk far enough, you can find starfish hidden in the shallow waters. You just can’t get a better beach day than this.
Bike Rides To The Mogotes
If your kids are old enough, I highly recommend doing a bike ride through the Mogotes to see the huge limestone cliffs that are signature of the Viñales Valley. If that is not an option, you can take a taxi to Hotel Jazmines and see the incredible view poolside. The landscape is so beautiful it doesn’t even look real.
Other Tips for Kid-Friendly Travel in Cuba:
- The water is not safe to drink.
- Bottled water is available at every store for mixing formula.
- Pack lots of sunscreen.
- Bring a mosquito net.
- Be flexible because Cuba is about laughs and going with the flow and not for the uptight.