Cuba’s dry season is now firmly here and although rain is possible, including the possibility of a cold front sweeping in from the north, expect mostly bright sunny days and delightful temperatures. Havana averages 72°F (22°C), with an average maximum of 81°F (27°C).
The eastern provinces will be slightly warmer, while Baracoa will prove the exception to the rule of this being one of the driest months of the year. Uniquely, Baracoa receives some of its highest rainfall of the year in December. Pack sunscreen and a shade hat, but be sure to bring raingear also.
Crowds & Costs
Christmas may well be a low-key affair in Cuba, but for Canadians and Northern Europeans, the island looks like Nirvana at this time of year. The influx begins in earnest in mid-December, with Christmas and New Year weeks being the busiest period of the year.
Most visitors stay at the all-inclusive beach resorts, which can be packed. But Havana and other top destinations are also flooded. Remedios is particularly busy during Christmas week for the annual parrandas—you’ll need to reserve accommodations many months ahead. Of course, hotels hike their December high-season rates even higher during the Christmas-New Year peak-season. If you don’t want to pay top dollar, come in early December.
Where to Go
The tobacco plants are now bursting upwards in Viñales and neighboring areas of Pinar del Río province, so November is a good time to visit to witness and learn about tobacco production. Combine your visits to tobacco farms with Cuevas de los Portales, Las Terrazas, and even Cayo Levisa or María la Gorda for scuba diving and some R&R on the sands.
For anyone contemplating a visit to Remedios, there’s no better time. Early in the month, preparations for the Christmas Week parranda are building to a frenzy, which literally explodes with massive fireworks battles. The parranda also features parade floats and extravagant (and massive) neon-lit artistic creations. Remedios gets packed shoulder-to-shoulder for this event, which is not risk-free. Smaller parrandas are held at several other communities in Villa Clara province. Combine it with visits to Santa Clara and the Cayos de Villa Clara.
What to Do
December is a great month for birding, as seasonal migrants from the north are flocking to Cuba’s wetlands and forests. Join a guided birding tour or hire a local specialist guide. Top birding spots include Parque Nacional Zapata (in southern Matanzas province), Parque Nacional Guanahacabibes (at the far west end of the island), and mountainous Pinares de Mayarí (in Holguín province).
With relatively little rain this month, lace up your boots and take to the hills for hiking. Most of the mountain zones have trails. Popular hiking destinations are Viñales, the Sierra Escambray, and Pinares de Mayarí, but for the ultimate challenge head to the Sierra Maestra for the overnight hike to the summit of Pico Turquino, Cuba’s highest peak. Although the mountains surrounding Baracoa have fantastic hiking, this is the rainiest period of the year in Cuba’s northeastern corner.
Habanos Festival. VIPs and cigar aficionados flock to Havana for Cuba’s premier cigar festival, which culminates with an invitation-only gala night at the Tropicana cabaret.
Procesión de los Milagros. Held each December 17 in San Antonio de las Vegas (southwest of Havana), this is Cuba’s largest religious procession, when thousands of pilgrims walk or crawl (often dragging rocks tied to their ankles) to the Sanctuario de San Lázaro to beseech the saint for miracles they imagine his effigy can fulfill.
Las Parrandas. This late-night celebration during Christmas Week in Remedios, Villa Clara, features carnival floats plus a crazed firework competition that is not for the faint of heart—in fact, it can be considered darn dangerous! Other towns and villages in Villa Clara province also hold parrandas.
Traveling to Cuba in December? 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.