Known as the no-winter island, Cuba cycles through mild to warm to hot-as-hell weather with the changing seasons. With its gorgeous beaches and tropical climate, sunbathing is possible in Cuba year-round.
Summer sees the warmest weather, but check the weather forecasts before booking your trip, particularly during the June to November hurricane season. Schools in Cuba shut down in July and August, making this a busy time for local tourism. Cultural festivals and live music fill the calendar all year.
Here’s the lowdown on the best time to visit Cuba, the Caribbean’s biggest island.
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The November to March high season brings crowds and costly accommodations
Between November and March, Cuba is invaded by holidaymakers from the north as families escape the cold North American winter. An incredible variety of migratory birds – more than 260 species – use the island as a temporary staging post at this time of year. Prices are at their highest for hotels and homestays, rising even higher around Christmas and New Year. It’s generally warm, but weather fronts moving in from the north can bring brief cold snaps between December and February.
July and August are the hottest times to visit Cuba
The summer months of July and August are the liveliest time of the year to visit Cuba but also the hottest, and there’s a fair amount of rain. Local schools are closed, so expect jam-packed beaches and busy hotels in popular tourist destinations such as Varadero and on fringing islands such as Cayo Coco. Be sure to book accommodations and activities in advance.
April and October are best for fewer crowds
By April, the weather in Cuba is already warm and it’s less rainy than in the upcoming months of early summer. Beaches are also less crowded than they are during summer’s peak season, except during Semana de la Victoria (Victory Week) when Cubans vacation to celebrate the island’s victory over anti-Castro forces at Playa Girón in 1961. This event sometimes overlaps with Easter week, which sees a surge in foreign visitors on vacation.
October is still hot but not as muggy as the summer, and this month is the best time to catch a good deal before peak season hits. Be aware that there’s a risk of severe tropical storms before the hurricane season ends in November.
The low season months of May, June and September are best for budget travelers
It’s rainy and hot at the start and end of the Cuban summer, but the low season is the best time to take advantage of hotels and casas particulares (private homestays) offering the lowest prices. Avoid lying in the sun between 11am and 4pm to reduce the risk of sunburn.
Always check the weather forecast before you come: June to November is hurricane season, and there’s always the chance of a strong storm. In May, Romerías de Mayo brings music fans to Holguín, and Mayo Teatral in Havana is great for lovers of theater and drama.
Look out for performances in January as Cuba celebrates the jazz festival © Julio-FotoVideo / Shutterstock
January draws music fans to the cities
Cold fronts bring cooler evenings in January. A start-of-the-year jazz festival sees jam sessions in cities such as Havana and Santiago de Cuba, drawing musicians and fans from all over the world. Peak season means prices are high for hotels, transfers and tours.
Key events: Festival Internacional de Jazz.
Diving conditions are ideal in February
Clear waters and sunny days – providing a cold front hasn’t drifted in – make February the best time for diving and snorkeling on Cuba’s south coast. Peak tourist season is still in full swing, making reservations essential for accommodations and car rental.
Key events: Festival de la Salsa, Feria Internacional del Libro, Habanos Festival.
Birds migrate through Cuba in March
Migratory birds mingle with resident species as they fly through Cuba in March, making this the best month for birdwatching, especially in the wetlands of Ciénaga de Zapata and Peninsula de Guanahacabibes in Pinar del Río. The dry season is also ideal for other outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling.
Key events: Havana World Music Festival, Festival de la Trova “Pepe Sánchez”.
April is usually a dry month
Except during the busy Easter holiday, April offers low-season prices and nearly empty beaches. This is one of the driest months of the year, ideal for outdoor activities, and there are some big events.
Key events: Semana de la Cultura Baracoesa, Bienal Internacional del Humor.
Join the Pride celebrations in May © PhotosByByron / Getty Images
The LGBTIQ+ community is celebrated in May
The best month for budget travelers coincides with a three-week celebration of the LGBTIQ+ community, the Conga Cubana contra la Homofobia y la Transfobia, a music parade that showcases colorful dances throughout Havana’s La Rampa (Calle 23). Expect performances of conga – a style of Cuban rumba that is danced while walking – alongside educational workshops, concerts and conferences. Resort hotels and casas particulares offer significantly lower prices.
Key events: Primero de Mayo, Mayo Teatral, Romerías de Mayo, Cubadisco, Día Internacional Contra la Homofobia, Transfobia y Bifobia.
June marks the start of hurricane season
The lowest month of the low season, June is the start of hurricane season, but you can still soak up warm days on the beach with few other visitors. This month is a good time to avoid the crowds and enjoy provincial festivals.
Key events: Festival Nacional de Changüí, Jornada Cucalambeana, Festival Internacional “Boleros de Oro”, Fiestas Sanjuaneras.
July is school break and when Cuban families take their vacations
The hottest days of summer are coming as Cuban families head to the coast on school breaks – expect masses of people sunbathing wherever there’s water. Santiago de Cuba hosts Carnaval, one of the nation’s liveliest festivals.
Key events: Festival del Caribe, Fiesta del Fuego, Carnaval de Santiago de Cuba, Festival Internacional de Cine de Gibara.
August is filled with music and festivals
Still peak summer, August fills the island with music as Havana organizes its carnival and Varadero hosts a fantastic music festival that combines the best of both worlds: jazz and son cubano – a Cuban music genre considered to be the foundation of modern salsa. Hotel rates go down after August 25 and stay low until the end of October.
Key events: Festival Varadero Josone Jazz and Son, Festival Internacional “Habana Hip-Hop”, Carnaval de la Habana.
With warm year-round weather, there’s no bad time to hit the beach in Cuba © AleksandarGeorgiev / Getty Images
The weather is usually stormy in September
A rather quiet month for tourism in Cuba, September sees hurricane season hit hard, with a chance of storms even if there’s nothing at hurricane level. Prices plunge and budget travelers can take advantage of less crowded beaches.
Key events: Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre.
It’s starting to cool down in October
The uncomfortably hot days are slowly fading, but the threat of tropical storms keeps visitors away. October ends with ballet buffs and students packing Havana’s theaters.
Key events: Festival Internacional de Ballet de la Habana, Festival Internacional Timbalaye, Fiesta de la Cultura Iberoamericana.
Visitor numbers increase again in November
The end of the year brings relatively cooler days and a surge in accommodation rates. Rental cars get harder to book as visitor numbers rise. Around the time of Havana’s anniversary celebrations, the Marabana Marathon draws more than 2000 competitors from around the world.
Key events: Benny Moré International Music Festival, Fiesta de los Bandos Rojo y Azul, Marabana-Maracuba, Baila en Cuba, Ciudad Metal.
December is the most expensive time to stay in Cuba
The busiest and most beautiful month of the year, December comes with the most expensive rates at resorts and homestays. A film festival takes over Havana while provincial events see locals go firework-crazy in Parrandas and Charangas. The weather is mild but usually dry and sunny.
Key events: Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, Las Parrandas de Remedios, Las Charangas de Bejucal, Procesión de San Lázaro.