If you’re planning on traveling to Cuba from the United States, you likely know that you’ll need to make sure your trip is in “Support of the Cuban People.” Okay – but what does this look like for travelers?
While regulations are loose – and enforcement even looser – Support for the Cuban People Travel means spending money with private businesses, rather than government-run businesses.
Looking for ideas of things you can do to support the Cuban people while traveling? These are just a few ideas to get you started planning your trip – these activities and excursions support private businesses and small business owners in Cuba, and are “Support for the Cuban People” compliant.
Even if you’re not from the States, these are some of my favorite activities to do in Cuba, so keep reading for more recommendations.
Read More: 43 BEST Things to Do in Havana, Cuba
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Booking Support for the Cuban People Activities
While not all Support for the Cuban People itinerary activities have to be scheduled tours or booked excursions, these type of activities can be an easy add to your itinerary. They’re a great way to have an unforgettable experience, and get up close and personal with Cuba and the island’s best attractions. Plus, they’re a great way to support small business owners like tour guides, taxi drivers, and more.
You can find plenty of fun excursions and activities in Cuba on Civitatis. Due to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, Civitatis (a Spanish company) is the only booking platform that currently has bookings for excursions in Cuba.
Civitatis is a fantastic and well-respected company, and among a million other activities, they have award-winning FREE walking tours in nearly any city you can think of. They’re a great travel resource, whether you’re traveling to Cuba or anywhere else.
Now, let’s dive in to some of the best “Support for the Cuban People” friendly activities for your trip to Cuba!
Ride in a Classic American Car
You’ll probably want to ride in an old, classic American car when you’re in Cuba, right? Of course! Riding around Havana in a vintage American car is a fantastic way to appreciate these beautiful vehicles while also seeing a lot of the city.
I recommend crossing it off your list early on in the time you’re in Cuba – the tour itself will take you to some places you might have planned to visit, so you’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone.
I also recommend booking this experience in advance, as I recommend with all of these experiences, especially if you’re from the United States and won’t have access to debit / credit cards while you’re on the island – it’s less money you’ll have to bring in cash when you arrive. You’ll also avoid the haggling that comes with settling on a price with a driver, which can be unpleasant.
Cooking Classes in Cuba
Cooking classes, market tours, and other food-related experiences are some of the best ways to get to know a culture from the inside out while traveling. With local guides you’ll get to know about important flavors, cooking traditions, history, and so much more, while tasting your way through it all.
You’ll find countless cooking classes and market tours in Cuba. One of the best in Havana that I’m aware of is the cooking class at Ajiaco in Cojimar – this is an authentic experience with chefs who love showing visitors their craft and creations.
Food Tours in Cuba
Food tours are like a normal walking tour but better, of course! They’re a fun and informative way to experience some of the best foods in Cuba at once – and once you’re armed with the knowledge of the best of the best Cuban food, ordering at restaurants will be easy for the rest of your trip.
Over the past few years I’ve really grown to love food tours, especially in places I know little to nothing about – they are often the best way to get to know a place and experience a culture. In Cuba these include some of my favorite treats, the ones that tourists often pass by.
Check out this favorite street food tour in Havana – you’ll get to try delicious street food you probably wouldn’t try otherwise, with the guidance of a local guide. It’s a great way to see the city in a whole new way.
Stay in an Airbnb or Private Rental
The number one easiest way to make sure your trip is in line with U.S. travel regulations in Cuba is to stay in a home or apartment rental like an Airbnb. Even if you aren’t under these limitations because you’re not from the United States, I highly recommend this option (rather than a hotel).
You’ll likely get a much better deal than you would if staying in a hotel, and you’ll have a much more genuine, cultural experience while staying in Cuba.
Eat at Private Restaurants (Paladares)
Eating at privately-owned restaurants is another extremely easy way to make sure your trip aligned with the Support for the Cuban People category! There are so many incredible private restaurants, cafes, and bars cropping up across Cuba these days as the government loosens restrictions on private business.
Privately-owned restaurants in Cuba are called “paladares” and while restaurants don’t usually identify themselves as privately-owned paladares, most of the best restaurants in Cuba are privately owned.
Check out the AlaMesa app and website – Cuba’s very own Yelp! – to get up-to-date reviews and recommendations for the best restaurants across the island.
Art Tour in Cuba
Cuba has always valued and invested in the arts, so you’ll find there is a lot to see here! While you’ll find art tours in cities around Cuba, I’d recommend planning on scheduling an art tour in Havana if your itinerary allows for it.
The popular Havana art tour includes an interesting collection of stops to see how art spills over in to communities. You’ll get off the well-worn tourist path as well to see a totally different side of Cuba you wouldn’t be able to otherwise see.
Beyond a dedicated walking tour, I also recommend Fábrica de Arte Cubano – a mixed-use art space complete with several different bars, a restaurant, and rotating concerts and exhibits – I always have an amazing time.
I also recommend checking out the art galleries in in Havana – you’ll find several on Calle Obispo that will really inspire you (not just the touristy paintings of Che Guevara!) if you’re walking through Old Havana.
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Visit the Countryside
Some of the coolest new activities in Havana that I love see cropping up are these visits outside of the city to the countryside! Cuba is so much more than its cities, and has so much natural beauty in the countryside, plus, it’s an entirely different window in to how many in Cuba live.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with my mother-in-law on the very outskirts of Havana and my husband’s family in the province of Holguín, and there is a lot to fall in love with.
These visits include a homemade meal lunch – prepare to be wowed with some of the best cooking you’ll probably experience on the island, and quite a spread. It’s also a time to learn more about the way of life in Cuba, the experiences of your hosts, and everything in between.
Shopping in Havana
Shopping at privately-owned stored stores in Cuba absolutely counts as an activity for a Support for the Cuban People itinerary. Cuba is by no means a shopping capital – but there are some typical Cuban souvenirs that will really wow you.
Check out Almacenes San Jose near the port for everything you could possibly want and more – an entire shipping dock transformed into an artisanal market.
Another favorite is Memorias, a tiny antique store near el Paseo del Prado that specializes in small objects like pins and paper products including old posters, magazines, photos, postcards, and more. It’s like a Cuban history museum in miniature – I couldn’t recommend it enough even if you don’t plan on buying anything.
I’ll also throw in a recommendation for a place I always pop in to when I’m in Old Havana – Clandestina, which is a Cuban clothing and design brand that has been around for several years. They make such beautiful and cheeky Cuba-related designs that you’ll want one of everything – we have a closet full of Clandestina t-shirt to prove it.
Dance Classes in Cuba
Cuba is known for its salsa, but it’s also known for being the birthplace of plenty more popular dances, rhythms, and music. Taking a dance class in Cuba is a fantastic way to enjoy your time here, and learn a skill you can take home with you!
You’ll find options for group or private dance lessons in most larger cities in Cuba, particularly in Havana, which has countless options. This dance class in Old Havana is a favorite, or check out Salsabor Dance School.
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Remember, you don’t have to do all of these activities – or any of them! – to be able to travel to Cuba. There are plenty of ways to support the Cuban people and spend money with private businesses rather than the government during your trip to Cuba.
Feel free to reach out with any of your travel to Cuba questions – we can’t wait for you to experience the very best of Cuba!