Ready for 14 days in Cuba? This is a trip that’s sure to delight mom, dad and the kids. 2 Weeks in Cuba: A kid-friendly itinerary parents will love too.
2 Weeks in Cuba kid-friendly itinerary parents will love too
The siren song of Cuba long entranced us. The complicated history of the place is what intrigued me most. A country that defies the world’s only superpower can’t possibly be boring. Neither can the beaches, a 500-year old capital city, Cuban rum, or a multitude of classic cars.
I had visions of sipping a mojito on Havana’s cobbled streets while listening to live rumba music. As you can imagine, travelling to Cuba with our three kids didn’t afford that vision in its entirety, but we did have a marvellous holiday nonetheless.
Our original plan was to include Trinidad in our itinerary. But after a couple of days navigating local transport options and realizing just how long it would take to add those extra 600 kilometres (return), we changed plans. We’ve learned travelling with our kids that managing our expectations is the most important thing we can do to preserve our sanity. We can’t possibly travel the exact same way we did pre-kids, or even with one kid! We’ve learned (the hard way) to adapt.
Our itinerary took all this into consideration. Cuba may be a relatively small island, but travel time can be long, the buses infrequent, and kids’ schedules (as we all know) demanding.
14 days in Cuba that are sure to delight the kids and parents
Days 1-2 – Varadero
With kids, you cannot go wrong with a beautiful beach. Endless sand and surf, countless fascinating rocks, shells and sea creatures, and the thrill of the waves have a way of absorbing kids’ imaginations. And we all know that when our kids are happy, mom and dad are more likely to be happy too.
The first stop for us was Varadero’s 20km stretch of soft, white sand and crystal clear waters. The Varadero peninsula has long been a package tour destination, and for good reason: the beaches are incredible. We played for hours in the sand, made sand castles, splashed in the water, caught the waves and practiced snorkelling.
Because it’s been catering to European and Canadian visitors for so long, Varadero is completely set up for tourists. There are dozens of casas particulares and other hotel options to choose from and plenty of restaurants. Plus, you can pick up snacks, diapers and other simple self-catering options from the little mini markets scattered here and there.
If you tire of the beach, the local mini golf course will entertain kids for a while, as will the multitude of ice cream treats on offer. We also explored a bit further afield. Varadero boasts some excellent snorkelling spots. Day 3 – Travel to Havana
Day 3 – Travel to Havana
‘Hey, why not try local transport,” we thought. We were travelling independently, after all, so, we caught the local bus to Matanzas in hopes of connecting with the Hershey Train. We found out too late (after walking from the bus stop to the train station) that the train wasn’t operating that day. After a brief pity party in a small park, we flagged a taxi for the bus station. We were intercepted by another taxi driver who offered to take us to Havana. Within minutes we were on our way and vowed to take taxis as often as possible.
Day 4-5 – Havana
Havana’s charm is hard to express in words. With 500-year-old buildings, cobbled streets, an endless parade of classic cars, and live musicians roving the old town, it just oozes allure and magic.
The plazas – Vieja, de Armas and de la Catedral – offer the perfect combination of free open space for the kids to run around and people watching opportunities for parents. When you’re from North America and you’re suddenly surrounded by buildings that are older than your own country, that in itself is enough to capture the imagination.
We soaked up the history and the magnificent story that is Havana, while our kids enjoyed the pirate feel of the place. Old Havana uses cannonballs and old cannons to block off roads for pedestrian walkways. Our kids loved clambering up to the top of centuries-old munitions.
The city parks are bustling and the San Carlos fort and the castle (Castillo de la Real Fuerza) were big hits. A stroll (or cruising in a classic car) down the Malecon and a visit to one of Old Havana’s chocolate factories round out the Havana experience.
Day 6 – Travel to Vinales
The bus ride from Havana to Vinales takes a good half day and includes a pit stop for bathrooms and snacks at a roadside restaurant. There is no onboard entertainment, so be prepared to entertain the kids for the duration of the drive.
Day 7-10 – Vinales and the Pinar Del Rio Valley
Vinales is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Nestled among karst formations and rolling hills, it is picturesque and lovely. It’s also protected by UNESCO for its “outstanding karst landscape” and “traditional methods of agriculture”. This is where Cuba grows much of its tobacco in the same way it has been done for centuries.
There are dozens of hiking opportunities with trailheads close to town, and horseback riding and cycling tours. There are a growing number of other activities, like the zip line course as well.
Vinales also is home to some of Cuba’s bigger cave systems. Our kids felt like mini explorers as we walked down into the belly of a cave, then took a motorized boat through the caverns.
Because it’s a smaller town, it’s easy to navigate and we walked around a lot. There is also a convenient hop-on-hop-off bus which makes it very simple to get to the area’s bigger sights (and also kids are free!).
Several swimming pools in town boast gorgeous views AND have day rates for families. You can bet your bottom dollar we spent a couple of afternoons in the pool.
Day 11-12 Travel to Varadero with a layover in Havana
This trek could be done in a long day, but since transit across the northern half of the island requires a stop in Havana, we opted to break up the trip and spend the night. We took in the last things in Havana we wanted to see that we hadn’t had a chance for earlier.
Day 13-14 – Varadero
Since our flight out of Cuba was from Varadero, we were very happy to bookend our trip with beach time. The kids blew off steam at the beach, and we fully enjoyed sipping mojitos over delicious Italian food for the last couple of days. No hardship there.
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