May is a transitional month that witnesses hot, sultry days and the beginning of rainy season. In Havana and Western Cuba, this typically means many days when sunny mornings are followed by brief-lived late afternoon downpours associated with an increase in humidity. But more prolonged rain descends on Santiago de Cuba and much of Oriente, where May is the second rainiest month of the year.
The average maximum temperature in Havana reaches 86°F (30°C). But not all days are so hot, and many days see no rain—the heavy rains don’t arrive until July or August. Pack an umbrella or light rainproof with your swimwear and lightweight clothing, and don’t forget the sunhat and sunscreen.
Crowds & Costs
Mid-way between the winter peak season and the summer vacation, when Cuban families flock to the beaches, May welcomes relatively few visitors and is therefore usually the cheapest month of the year. It’s easy to find bargain deals on airfares, and at hotels—particularly at beach resorts—and casas particulares.
Where to Go
This is one of the best months of the year to explore Havana, Trinidad, and Viñales—the triumvirate of “most popular” places—without the crowds and before the suffocating heat of summer sets in. A road trip combining all three destinations provides a fabulous contrast: the cosmopolitanism of Havana, the quintessential rural landscapes and lifestyle of tobacco country, plus the charm of Cuba’s top colonial-era UNESCO World Heritage City.
If you love cultural events and festivals, head to Holguín. In early May, Cuba’s fourth-largest city hosts a week-long cross-spectrum of cultural events and festivities, beginning with the namesake Romerías de Mayo—a religious procession to the top of Loma de la Cruz. And no matter where you are in Cuba, the provincial capital is sure to host a major celebration of workers marching in the traditional May Day parade.
What to Do
The International Day of Workers (AKA May Day) is celebrated with gusto each May 1. Whatever your political beliefs, this is one spectacle not to miss as up to one million workers, children, military, and citizens parade through Havana’s Revolution Square while passionately waving their banners, posters, and flags. So, grab your camera and a Cuban flag and join the crowd to va a la plaza!
Cuba is greening up again as the dry season ends and foliage sprouts with the first heavy rains. Once you’ve tapped out on rum, cigars, and salsa-dancing, head into the countryside for a taste of the rural lifestyle. Viñales is a great base for hikes and horseback rides, and has lots of farms that offer meals and educational tours.
Options abound in Trinidad for hikes at nearby Topes de Collantes, and horseback rides into the Valle de los Ingenios. And Camagüey province is cowboy country, with several cattle ranches where you can mount up and play the Marlboro’ Man for a day.
Día de los Trabajadores (Labor Day). Ever May 1—a national holiday—Cuba sees its largest political rally, marked by massive processions in every provincial capital city. The biggest event, by far, is in Havana, when up to a million people parade through the Plaza de la Revolución.
Romerías de Mayo. Holguín is a feast of cultural activity for a week in early May. Originating as a Catholic pilgrimage (romería) to the Loma de la Cruz, the event is today a celebration of the arts and Cuban cultural heritage... and for the locals, a great excuse to party!
Dia Internacional Contra Homophobia y Transfobia. Now more than a decade old, Cuba's biggest Pride parade, held along Havana’s La Rampa (Calle 23) on the International Day Against Homophobia & Transgenderphobia, includes lots of music and dance. There are also discussion groups and workshops.
Traveling to Cuba in May? 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.