August is guaranteed to be a bit of a scorcher. Extreme humidity adds to the high temperatures—the average maximum reaches 90°F (32°C) in Havana and Western Cuba, and a few degrees more in Santiago de Cuba and Oriente—so that Cuba can feel like a sauna. Along the northern coast, trade winds take the edge off the heat, but when the air stills… phew!
July’s dip in rainfall extends into August, when rains are mostly associated with heavy afternoon thunderstorms. Tropical storms can also pass through, drenching Cuba with persistent rains; only every three years, on average, does a storm gain hurricane strength and it is usually a highly localized event. Pack light raingear alongside your swimwear. And don’t forget a shade hat and sunscreen.
Crowds & Costs
School is out. Hence, families from Europe and Canada take their family vacations at the beach, alongside the Cubans themselves. August is therefore considered a high-season month, and the beach resorts are at their fullest.
Hotel rates aren’t as high as the winter peak, however, but are higher than the shoulder months of May-June and September-October (meanwhile, Cuban families take advantage of specially discounted package rates, which help fill the hotels in summer). Havana and other popular non-coastal destinations don’t feel the same pressure, and you’ll have plenty of room to sightsee without the crowds of peak season.
Where to Go
Given the extreme heat of August, you’ll be glad for the ocean breezes and air-conditioning. In Havana and other cities, do your outdoor sightseeing in the cooler early morning and late afternoon hours, and use mid-day and early afternoons for siestas and museum visits (the Museo de Bellas Artes is a great place to wile away the mid-day hours).
Touring Havana in a breeze-swept convertible classic American car is a joyful way of beating the heat. Laze away the afternoon under the fans of a shaded patio bar (the Hotel Nacional is unbeatable), enjoying cigars and rum while the rains fall. Use the same model for exploring other major cities, from Cienfuegos to Santiago de Cuba.
This is a great month for a beach vacation (although U.S. residents should note the restrictions on “recreation and tourism”—considered to mean a beach vacation—and on hotels operated by Cuba’s Gaviota tourism agency). You can also make the most of the Atlantic trade winds by taking a road trip along the Costanera Norte—the North Coast Road—that runs along much of the Atlantic seaboard.
With two weeks or more, you can follow it all the way from Havana to Baracoa. Fascinating stops should include Santa Clara and Remedios, Morón, Puerto Padre, and Banes. And be sure to journey across the pedraplenes (causeways) to Cayos de Villa Clara and Cayo Coco to marvel at the breeze-kissed snow-white beaches.
What to Do
Baseball fans can add a visit to one or more ballparks as part of their summertime visit, as the beísbol season begins in August. Consider joining a group tour that caters specifically to baseball aficionados. Otherwise, you can attend any game held in the provincial capital cities at a fraction of the cost of a major league game in North America.
How to beat the heat? Easy, slip into the ocean. Cuba’s scuba diving facilities are well developed. Plus, its ocean waters abound with sea-life, including some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs. Cayo Largo, María La Gorda, Playa Girón, the Jardines de la Reina, and especially the waters off the south coast of Isla de la Juventud, offer the most sensational experiences.
Festival Internacional de Rap. Havana’s outlying Alamar district is the traditional venue for this festival of Cuba’s homegrown hip-hop and rap. Once frowned upon by authorities, today it has their imprimatur under the watchful eye of UNEAC (Union of Cuban Writers and Artists).
Havana Carnival. Although a poor cousin to that of Santiago de Cuba, Havana's Carnival along the Malecón still manages to entertain with sensational costumes (including muñecones—huge masks worn by dancers) and music and dance.
Traveling to Cuba in August? Check out these great itineraries
Havana in a Heartbeat – 4 Days. Just a few days to spare? Then this quick take on the capital city provides an immersion that connects you to Cuba’s creative culture and lifestyle.
Adventurous Cuba – 8 Days. The perfect combination of nature and culture, this trip will take you to Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad, plus the wildlife-rich Zapata Peninsula.