With annual maximum temperatures reaching 90°F (32°C) in Havana and Western Cuba, and somewhat more in Santiago de Cuba and Oriente, this is one of the hottest and most humid months of the year.
Mid-summer is also the heart of rainy season, but July is considerably less rainy than June or September. Most rain falls as heavy afternoon thunderstorms following hot, sunny mornings, but lingering tropical storms are possible. And while still minimal, the chance of hurricanes increases: just remember that on average a hurricane strikes Cuba once every three years, and they are almost always highly localized. Bring sunscreen, a shade hat, plus light clothing and a light rainproof jacket.
Crowds & Costs
Despite the hot humid weather, this is one of the busiest months of the year. However, the vast bulk of mid-summer visitors stay at the all-inclusive beach resorts, where they’re joined by Cuban families enjoying discount package rates for locals. Prices for non-Cubans, however, leap upwards at the resort hotels.
Fortunately, Havana and other cities and non-beach venues feel relatively limited impact from the surge in summer tourists, and while hotel and car rental rates may rise, they remain lower than those of winter peak season. Still, if you’re seeking a beach vacation, expect the resorts to be mobbed and noisy. Make air and hotel reservations well in advance.
Where to Go
If you want to see Santiago de Cuba at its most colorful, visit in late July during Carnival. This is Cuba’s largest and most flamboyant carnival. While not quite on a par with Rio de Janeiro, it’s still an unmissable week-long experience highlighted by numerous parades featuring dramatically costumed dance and musical troupes called comparsas. Plus, you’ll be in the hotbed of revolutionary activity at the same time that commemorations of the 1953 attack on the Moncada barracks occur.
Fidel’s 1953 attack on the Moncada barracks that launched the Revolution is celebrated every July 26 with huge rallies, as revolutionary fervor grips the nation. A different city is chosen each year to host the main event: in 2019 Bayamo played host. Since Cuba considers the Revolution to be an ongoing process of building a better society, a visit timed to coincide with July 26 provides a sense for the nation’s still-alive revolutionary fervor and festivities. The best cities to join the celebrations are Havana, Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba.
What to Do
There’s no more appropriate month to follow the revolutionary trail on a themed road trip, tracing a route that begins in Havana with sites associated with the urban struggle.
The trail would then lead west from Santiago de Cuba (Moncada barracks, Granjita Siboney, and Cementerio Santa Ifigenia are key sites), to include Parque Nacional Desembarcado del Granma, La Comandancia de la Plata, Finca Manacas (Fidel’s birthplace), Santa Clara (not least to visit Che Guevara’s final resting place) and, of course, Playa Girón and Playa Larga (“Bay of Pigs”).
Time permitting, add a visit to the Presidio Modelo, on Isla de la Juventud, where Fidel and Raúl Castro and fellow revolutionaries were imprisoned after the abortive Moncada attack; and the Mausoleo y Monumento del Segundo Frente (Mausoleum and Monument to the Second Front) at Mayarí Arriba.
July is a peak month for sportfishing as the off-shore action heats up with blue and white marlin striking the bait. Head out from Havana, Varadero and other marinas to take advantage of the billfish runs in the Gulf Stream off northern Cuba.
Festival del Fuego (Fiesta del Caribe). Santiago de Cuba hosts this week-long festival in early July as a celebration of pan-Caribbean music and dance. It features comparsas (carnival troupes), music concerts, and plenty of general street festivities.
Gibara Low Budget Film Festival. The usually quiet, windswept coastal town of Gibara, in Holguín province, plays unlikely host to this world-class festival featuring low-budget films from around the world.
Santiago de Cuba Carnival. Cuba’s largest and most flamboyant carnival spans the week of the 26 July celebrations, culminating in a cacophonous climax as the main parade winds down Avenida Jesús Menéndez.
26 of July Celebrations (Dia de la Rebeldía Nacional). No other date on Cuba's revolutionary calendar is as important as the Day of National Rebellion. Every city celebrates, with the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba as the epicenter of activity. However, the main televised celebration rotates between cities every year. This being Cuba, you also get music concerts and plenty of street festivities wed to political speechifying.
Traveling to Cuba in July? Check out these great itineraries
Western Cuba Journey – 6 Days. Pair up the colorful culture of Havana and the outdoor adventure of the Viñales Valley for an epic tour of western Cuba.
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.