10 Best Havana Tours: Cars, Food + Day Trips With Locals

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Classic cars, busy streets, boardwalk for miles, enticing rum cocktails, thriving arts scene, Hemingway, eventful past and promising future! Where do you start when you first arrive in Havana? If you want to hear the stories behind the streets, try Cuban cooking, ride in a vintage car or find out about life in Cuba, Havana tours should be a part of your itinerary. Let’s take a look at the best tours in Havana and day trips not to be missed from the city.


» You may also like: our first timer’s guide to Cuba


Best Havana Tours By Type

1. Havana Private Tours With a Local

If, like me, you end up dominating a tour guide’s attention with questions about life, politics, Havana attractions and food you might benefit from this affordable private tour of Havana. 

This tour is the most versatile option because you can build your own itinerary. Just let your guide know the places to see in Havana which interest you. Do remember that WiFi and 4G are not readily available to Havana. You have to buy a WiFi card and log on at a WiFi point. You can read more about access in our guide here

You can also decide if you want to do a short 2-hour tour, 3, 4, 5 hours or a full day 6-hour meet up with a local. Your guide can collect you at your accommodation (hotel or casa) or a designated point. 

→ Note: The price does not include entrance fees or transport for you or your guide. If you would like transport, let the guide know and they can arrange it beforehand. 

Havana’s Three Main Areas

  • Centro Habana
  • La Habana Vieja (Old Havana)
  • Vedado’s Central Business District and urban residencies 

Havana’s Points of Interest 

  • Malecón waterfront  
  • Capitolio government building
  • Museo de la Revolución
  • Sculptures such as Roberto Fabelo’s girl at Plaza Vieja/Old Square
  • Camera Obscura
  • Hotel Ambos Mundos, a Hemmingway haunt 
  • Plaza de la Revolución where Che Guevara beams down on you from up high
  • Hotel Nacional for a mojito 
  • Almendares Park, the lungs of the city 

Naturally, the best person to help you build your tour is the local guide themselves. Book your tour here

Revolution Square Che

2. Cuba Classic Cars Tours

Probably one of the main reasons you are visiting Havana is to take a Hollywood ride in, or at least get a photograph of, a 1950s vintage car also known as an almendron. 

Mustard yellow, baby blue, hot pink, these old American classic cars come in all shades and styles. Chevy or Cadillac? Top-down or with a roof? So many options!

Old car tours in Havana are ten a penny, you just have to walk around the main drag of the city to be pounced on by a PR selling a tour. 

You can pre-book your Havana car tour here to avoid the bartering process. This two-hour tour also includes a cocktail at the impressive Hotel Nacional. This is where the Mafia used to meet. 

Things to Know Before Doing Havana Car Tours

  • You don’t get to drive the classic car, great for afternoon cocktails
  • Your driver may not speak English but your tour guide will 
  • The tour is more than just a drive, guides will talk about Hanava’s important spots and life in Cuba 
  • Nonetheless, the wind in your hair is exhilarating. Leave the headscarf at home Bridget Jones
  • Cubans genuinely drive these classic cars so be considerate that this isn’t a romantic notion for them, it’s life 
  • You will see vintage cars all over Havana. Some are public taxis (not tours), others are regular cars, some are photo opportunities 

Revolution Square Vintage Car Havana

3. Havana Walking Tour with Lunch 

This award-winning Havana tour kicks off at 12pm and takes you on a 3.5-hour walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage site, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana).

Your English-speaking tour guide will be a local who knows the streets, its hidden gems and landmark locations such as Calle Obispo, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Catedral, and Hotel Ambos Mundos – where Hemmingway used to stay. 

Stops also include a cocktail break, it is Havana after all, and lunch at a local restaurant. 

Ambos Mundos Havana

4. Havana Food Tour 

One of the most interesting aspects of life in Cuba is the two-tiered economic system which uses CUP and CUC.

During this 3-hour cooking class tour, you will see it in action as the tour starts with a visit to a local market in Vedado. 

At the market, you will check out Cuban ingredients for meals and snacks such as tostones. During this time, your guide will discuss the ration system and other historical Havana facts.   

Next, it’s is to the casa to create a two-course Cuban meal and a cocktail. The tour ends with a feast. 

This is a five-star tour on GetYourGuide. Reserve your spot here. 

Alternatively, check out the Old Havana street food tour if you prefer to let someone else do the stirring! 

5. One Day Tour of Havana 

Visiting Havana on a layover or hopping off a cruise to see the city?

Then this popular one-day Havana trip gives you a whistle-stop tour of the city.

Three different tours are packed into your one-day Havana itinerary including a historical tour of central Havana, a ride in a classic car and time to wander Old Havana with stories told by your local English-speaking guide. 

Lunch is provided at a paladar which is a privately-owned restaurant. Many of the dining spots in Cuba are government-owned and because of this paladares have had a rough ride with strict laws over the past decades resulting in many losing their licence or having to temporarily close down when checks came into force.  

The day ends with a cocktail at Cuba’s famous National Hotel. 

This is a nine-hour tour so wear comfortable shoes, bring layers, bottled water and pack sunscreen. Reserve your spot here

Vintage Car Havana Cuba

6. Ernest Hemingway Tour in Havana 

While many of the Havana day tours focus on food and history, only this one in the footsteps of the legendary author, Ernest Hemingway. 

The Noble Prize winner, Hemmingway, lived, breathed and drank Cuba. Renowned for his commitment to literature and cocktails, this dedicated tour takes fans and the intrigued around the locations where he slept, ate and drank. 

Not only can you visit where stories were penned but also locations which feature in his books. It is truly unique to have so many areas touched by a celebrity still open to the public and that’s the beauty of Havana! 

This 6-hour tour leaves Havana for Hemingway’s home at Finca Vigía, the town of Cojímar for lunch at Las Terrazas then back to Old Havana to visit room 511 in Hotel Ambos Mundos. 

La Bodeguita Del Medio Havana

7. Free Tours in Havana 

While it is advised to pre-book day tours in Havana to avoid disappointment (remember you can’t connect to WiFi or 4G as easily as you can at home), there is an option if you prefer not to.

There are two ‘free’ walking tours, Old Havana and Central Havana which take places twice per day. Once in the morning and again in the afternoon. 

→Important Note: Free tours are never free. You should pay a tip at the end of the tour to show gratitude to the tour guide. This a common tour marketing strategy used all over the world! 

Street Art in Havana

8. Havana Bus Tour

Habana bus tour is the typical double-decker hop on/off buses that you see in most popular cities. 

For 10 CUC you can ride all day around some of Havana’s top attractions such as Revolution Square.

However, the buses do not go into Old Havana so bear that in mind if planning your itinerary to include this mode of transport. 

Great views from up high on the top decker, remember sunscreen and a hat. Afternoon stops get very busy according to users. Some tourists being left a bus stops, some stops being skipped to make up time. 

Although there are scheduled timings, this is Cuba time so be prepared to wait and leave your impatience back at your casa or hotel! 

Hotel National Mojito Havana_


Day Trips from Havana 

Havana day trips are very easy to organise and a nice escape from the city. The most popular trips are to Viñales.

9. Havana to Viñales Day Trip

The Viñales tour from Havana starts early at 07:30 to allow for the jam-packed itinerary which ensures that you don’t miss the Viñales highlights. 

Your friendly Cuban driver will meet you at a local Havana spot. From here you drive to Viñales spending the morning at a Cuban plantation learning about the local produce, tobacco and coffee. Pack extra CUC if you want to purchase something. A guide will meet with you at the plantation before this section of the tour.

A finca farm lunch includes locally grown food and you will have the chance to interact with locals throughout the morning.

Next, take a boat ride at Cueva del Indio, an indigenous cave popular with tourists and spend time at the botanical gardens. 

A long day, leaving Viñales at 18:00 giving you time to do all the top things to do in Viñales. Reserve your spot here.

Cuba Car Mogote Vinales

10. Havana Tours from Varadero

If you are looking to get away from your resort for a while then a day trip to Havana from Varadero should be on the cards. 

This full-day tour collects you from your Varadero hotel early in the morning so you can get on the road and enjoy the two-hour drive along the coast to Havana.

In Havana, your English speaking tour guide will show you the highlights of the city, the plazas, the bars and architecturally important buildings that make up the UNESCO Heritage Site!  

There will be time for shopping, lunch and other Havana adventures before you return to Varadero at 18:00. 


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Final Worlds

So whether you are looking to hear more about the history of Havana, cook up a Cuban food storm or see the city through Hemingway’s eyes there is some kind of Havana tour for everyone. Let me know which tour you do in the comments below. 


 

Gemma and Craig are full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

Comments 30

  1. Looks inexpensive…worth it with the feeling of going back in time, through those cars and the unique history!

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      It was Carol but if it was your sole trip then you maybe wouldn’t mind paying out. It just wasn’t feasible with us being on the road for 18 months, need to prioritise (as she goes off to buy an ice cream in Canada…)

  2. What great pictures and I’m sure an intimate tour must be a good way to find out stuff. Sorry to hear about the currency problem though – definitely worth knowing about in advance, so thank you for the tip!

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      We learned quickly! I’ll post an article on it soon. It should be changing to one currency pretty soon anyway.

  3. I know so many people from Canada that have been to Cuba, but they stay in all-inclusive resorts and rarely venture out into the towns. That kind of vacation has never appealed to me, so I have yet to visit Cuba. But, it looks like you had such a wonderful time exploring and it makes me want to go there! I love the old cars, too!

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      We did end up in one of those resorts as we couldn’t afford to keep travelling (more on that later!) It’s disgusting how much food people can costume in resorts, I was actually ashamed to be human watching people shovelling food like it was going out of fashion as the the waiting staff live off rations!

  4. We’re going to Cuba in December and I had already planned to do this tour you went on. It looks like it was fun and worthwhile. I’m really glad you checked it out for us in advance! Thanks 😉 We’re staying for 4 days and I was a little worried there wouldn’t be enough to do, but now I’m not.

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      Laura, we had six and I still didn’t get to the tunnels at The National so you will find plenty to do. And the tour was outstanding, get your questions ready! Food wise was a little trickier, my advice is copy and paste the addresses of the Trip Advisor top six so you are equipped.

      1. That’s a great tip. We’ll do that! I’m looking forward to the Malecon. I think we’re going to stay at a casa particular in that area for at least one of the nights. I look forward to reading all your coverage from your trip!

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          Yeah definitely do a casa! I recommend Rachel and Ramon or do a search online. I don’t think you need to pay more than 10 CUC each even if someone is trying to charge you more they are probably just pushing it!

  5. I really want to go to Havana. It looks amazing. I really want to go the Hemmingway house and the original Bacardi rum factory. The island looks amazing.

    This make me want to figure out how to get one of the visa American’s can get.

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    2. As of right now, you have to fall into one of the approved 12 categories, but there’s no process to apply for it, you just tell the travel agent. Or you can go on a people-to-people tour. Better yet, just wait for a bit because it won’t be long before all US travelers are allowed to go.

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  6. Did u get outside Havana. I’ve done the city and am interested in countryside travel recommendations. Thx.

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      Yes we did, I’m writing the Viñales article just now which should be posted by tonight. I think you’d like it there if you are looking for countryside. We also spent time in Playa Larga (diving) and Trinidad. Articles will be up next week (ish).

  7. I would love love love to go to Cuba, and as an American it’s slowly but surely getting a bit easier for us. That’s always been on the top of my list of places to go, perhaps because it seemed so close yet so far lol…. oh, and those cars!

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  8. Never thought about going to Cuba, but lately I have been reading lots of great posts, including yours, about trips there. I may need to add it to my ”must see” list! The tour sounds like a great intro to the city and something good to do on the first day!

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      We didn’t love it Michele! You’ll see why in the next couple of articles. It’s an oxymoron of a country!

  9. Cuba is a really popular destination for Canadians (who dream of escaping our winters) but most people head to the resorts and not the cities. I think they’re missing out!

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      We ended up going to a resort for the final week because of affordability and there were lots of Canadians there! We are actually in Canada now (in B.C). Great place!

  10. Great post guys. SO impressed that you find the time to write so much useful information whilst constantly moving on the road. An inspiration! Havana sounds amazing and I am totally in love with that car. The wrong currency issue is so something I would do… look forward to reading your guide once it’s up – I need it ;).

    Gabby

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      I used iPhone notes for articles and we’re now piecing them altogether since we are back in the world of WiFi (missed it!)

  11. Havana looks amazing! We’ve both been to Cuba more than once and every time we debate about taking a tour to Havana. We were always torn about whether we should or not (hearing mixed reviews) and then, for various reasons, ended up choosing to explore somewhere else (or getting too sick to go anywhere). After reading this, we’ll definitely be looking to hit up Havana when we next make our way to Cuba!!

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      Sick whilst travelling is no fun! Yaniel was the perfect guide, the team come highly recommended! Thanks for commenting.

  12. Hey love your reviews. Your articles are really helping me to plan my first trip to Havana!!

    I want to ask you about the stay options in Havana – I am particularly looking for local experiences and therefore casas seems like the way to go. You have suggested Ramon and Rachel on Picota – could you tell me more about how to reach out to them and also, casas in general.

    Thanks much!!

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      Thank you for the kind words! We actually found Ramon and Rachel through a tuk-tuk taxi driver! He just drove us to their casa and knocked on the door. I know that sounds a strange thing to do but everyone has their own connections that they use [they make some commission on the referal]. You could use Airbnb to book your first casa if you wanted to ensure that night one or two was secured? Have you seen our guide to casas here?

  13. Cuba is so high on my list, we supposed to go there this winter. My dream is to drive one of this old beautiful cars. Cool photos

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