Top Events

Festival Internacional de Cine Pobre, April

Carnaval de Santiago de Cuba, July

Festival Internacional de Ballet de la Habana, October

Las Parrandas, December

Festival Internacional de Jazz, December

January

The tourist season hits full swing, and the whole country has added buoyancy. Cold fronts bring occasionally chilly evenings.

Día de la Liberación

As well as seeing in the New Year with roast pork and a bottle of rum, Cubans celebrate January 1 as the triumph of the Revolution, the anniversary of Fidel Castro's 1959 victory.

Incendio de Bayamo

Bayamo residents remember the 1869 burning of their city with music and theatrical performances in an espectáculo (show) culminating in particularly explosive fireworks.

February

The peak tourist season continues and high demand can lead to overbooking, particularly in the rental-car market. Calm seas and less fickle weather promote better water clarity, making this an ideal time to enjoy diving and snorkeling.

Feria Internacional del Libro

First held in 1930, the International Book Fair is headquartered in Havana's Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, but it later goes on the road to other cities. Highlights include book presentations, special readings and the prestigious Casa de las Américas prize.

Diving with Clarity

Calm conditions promote clear water for diving, particularly on Cuba's south coast. The country's prime diving nexuses, La Isla de la Juventud, and Playa Girón, have ideal conditions for underwater photography.

Habanos Festival

Trade fairs, seminars, tastings and visits to tobacco plantations draw cigar aficionados to Havana for this annual cigar festival with prizes, rolling competitions and a gala dinner.

March

Spring offers Cuba's best wildlife-watching opportunities, particularly for migrant birds. With dryer conditions, it is also an ideal time to indulge in hiking, cycling or numerous other outdoor activities.

Carnaval – Isla de la Juventud

This is the big annual party on the otherwise soporific Isla de la Juventud, a knees-up involving parades characterized by giant puppet-like heads, rodeo, sports competitions and perhaps just a little drinking.

Festival Internacional de Trova

Held since 1962 in honor of trova (international poetic singing) pioneer Pepe Sánchez, this festival invades the parks, streets and music houses of Santiago de Cuba in a showcase of the popular verse/song genre.

Bird-Watching

March is a crossover period when migrant birds from both North and South America join Cuba's resident endemics en route for warmer or colder climes. There's no better time to polish off your binoculars.

April

Economy-seeking visitors should avoid the Easter holiday, which sees another spike in tourist numbers and prices. Otherwise April is a pleasant month with good fly-fishing potential off the south coast.

Semana de la Cultura

During the first week of April, Baracoa commemorates the landing of Antonio Maceo at Duaba on April 1, 1895, with a raucous carnival along the Malecón, expos of its indigenous music nengon and kiribá, and various culinary offerings.

Bienal Internacional del Humor

You can't be serious! Cuba's unique humor festival takes place in San Antonio de los Baños in out-of-the-way Artemisa Province. Headquartered at the celebrated Museo del Humor, talented scribblers try to outdo each other by drawing ridiculous caricatures. Hilarious!

Festival Internacional de Cine Pobre

Gibara's celebration of low- and no-budget cinema has been an annual event since 2003, when it was inaugurated by late Cuban film director Humberto Sales. Highlights include film-showing workshops and discussions on movie-making with limited resources.

May

Possibly the cheapest month of all, May is the low point between the foreign crowds of winter and the domestic barrage of summer. Look out for special deals offered by resort hotels and significantly cheaper prices all round.

Romerías de Mayo

This religious festival takes place in the city of Holguín during the first week of May and culminates with a procession to the top of the city's emblematic Loma de la Cruz, a small shrine atop a 275m hill.

Cubadisco

An annual get-together of foreign and Cuban record producers and companies, Cubadisco hosts music concerts, a trade fair and a Grammy-style awards ceremony that encompasses every musical genre from chamber music to pop.

Dia Internacional Contra Homophobia y Transfobia

Cuba's biggest pride parade has been held in on May 17 since 2008. Congas (musical groups) wielding drums, trumpets and rainbow flags fan out along Havana's Calle 23, the climax of a three week LGBTIQ campaign that includes workshops, discussion groups and art expos.

June

The Caribbean hurricane season begins inauspiciously. A smattering of esoteric provincial festivals keeps June interesting. Prices are still low and, with the heat and humidity rising, travelers from Europe and Canada tend to stay away.

Festival Nacional de Changüí

Since 2003, Guantánamo has celebrated its indigenous music in this rootsy music festival held in May or June. Look out for Elio Revé Jr and his orchestra.

Jornada Cucalambeana

Cuba's celebration of country music, and the witty 10-line décimas (stanzas) that go with it, takes place about 3km outside unassuming Las Tunas at Motel el Cornito, the former home of erstwhile country-music king, Juan Fajardo 'El Cucalambé.'

Festival Internacional 'Boleros de Oro'

Organized by Uneac, Cuba's artists and writers union, the Boleros de Oro was created by Cuban composer and musicologist José Loyola Fernández in 1986 as a global celebration of this distinctive Cuban musical genre. Most events take place in Havana's Teatro Mella.

Fiestas Sanjuaneras

This feisty carnival in Trinidad on the last weekend in June is a showcase for the local vaqueros (cowboys), who gallop their horses through the narrow cobbled streets.

July

High summer is when Cubans vacation; expect the beaches, campismos (cheap, rustic accommodation) and cheaper hotels to be mobbed. The July heat also inspires two of the nation's hottest events: Santiago's Carnaval and the annual polemics of July 26.

Festival del Caribe, Fiesta del Fuego

The so-called Festival of Caribbean Culture, Fire Celebration in early July kicks off an action-packed month for Santiago with exhibitions, song, dance, poetry and religious-tinged rituals from all around the Caribbean.

Día de la Rebeldía Nacional

On July 26 Cubans 'celebrate' Fidel Castro's failed 1953 attack on Santiago's Moncada Barracks. The event is a national holiday and a chance for party leaders to deliver bombastic speeches. Expect un poco politics and mucho eating, drinking and being merry.

Carnaval de Santiago de Cuba

Arguably the biggest and most colorful carnival in the Caribbean, the famous Santiago shindig at the end of July is a riot of floats, dancers, rum, rumba and more. Come and join in the very caliente (hot) action.

August

While Santiago retires to sleep off its hangover, Havana gears up for its own annual celebration. Beaches and campismos still heave with holidaying Cubans while tourist hotels creak under a fresh influx of visitors from Mediterranean Europe.

Festival Internacional 'Habana Hip-Hop'

Organized by the Asociación Hermanos Saíz – a youth arm of Uneac – the annual Havana Hip-Hop Festival is a chance for the island's young musical creators to improvise and swap ideas.

Carnaval de la Habana

Parades, dancing, music, colorful costumes and striking effigies – Havana's annual summer shindig might not be as famous as its more rootsy Santiago de Cuba counterpart, but the celebrations and processions along the Malecón leave plenty of other city carnivals in the shade.

September

It's peak hurricane season. The outside threat of a 'big one' sends most Cuba-philes running for cover and tourist numbers hit a second trough. The storm-resistant take advantage of cheaper prices and near-empty beaches. But, beware – some facilities close down completely.

Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad

Every September 8, religious devotees from around Cuba partake in a pilgrimage to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Cobre, near Santiago, to honor Cuba's venerated patron saint (and her alter ego, the Santería orisha, Ochún).

October

Continuing storm threats and persistent rain keep all but the most stalwart travelers away until the end of the month. While the solitude can be refreshing in Havana, life in the peripheral resorts can be deathly quiet and lacking in atmosphere.

Festival Internacional de Ballet de la Habana

Hosted by the Cuban National Ballet, this annual festival brings together dance companies, ballerinas and a mixed audience of foreigners and Cubans for a week of expositions, galas, and classical and contemporary ballet. It has been held in even-numbered years since its inception in 1960.

Festival del Bailador Rumbero

During the 10 days following October 10, Matanzas rediscovers its rumba roots in this festival with talented local musicians performing in the city's Teatro Sauto.

November

Get ready for the big invasion from the north – and an accompanying hike in hotel rates! Over a quarter of Cuba's tourists come from Canada; they start arriving in early November, as soon as the weather turns frigid in Vancouver and Toronto.

Benny Moré International Music Festival

The Barbarian of Rhythm is remembered in this biannual celebration (odd-numbered years) of his suave music, headquartered in the singer's small birth town of Santa Isabel de las Lajas in Cienfuegos Province.

Fiesta de los Bandas Rojo y Azul

Considered one of the most important manifestations of Cuban campesino (farmer) culture, this esoteric fiesta in the settlement of Majagua, in Ciego de Ávila Province, splits the town into two teams (red and blue) that compete against each other in boisterous dancing and music contests.

Marabana

The popular Havana marathon draws between 2000 and 3000 competitors from around the globe. It's a two-lap course, though there is also a half-marathon and 5km and 10km races.

Ciudad Metal

Decidedly edgy when it was first established in Santa Clara in 1990, this celebration of hardcore punk and metal sees Cuban bands setting up in the local baseball stadium and quite literally rocking the rafters.

December

Christmas and the New Year see Cuba's busiest and most expensive tourist spike. Resorts nearly double their prices and rooms sell out fast. The nation goes firework-crazy in a handful of riotous festivals. Book ahead!

Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano

Widely lauded celebration of Cuba's massive film culture with plenty of nods to other Latin American countries. Held at various cinemas and theaters across the city.

Festival Internacional de Jazz

The cream of Cuban music festivals arrives every December like a Christmas present. In the past it has attracted the greats, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach among them, along with a perfect storm of Cuban talent.

Las Parrandas

A firework frenzy that takes place every Christmas Eve in Remedios in Villa Clara Province, Las Parrandas sees the town divide into two teams that compete against each other to see who can come up with the most colorful floats and the loudest bangs!

Las Charangas de Bejucal

Didn't like Las Parrandas? Then try Bejucal's Las Charangas, Mayabeque Province's cacophonous alternative to the firework fever further east. The town splits into the exotically named Espino de Oro (Golden Thorn) and Ceiba de Plata (Silver Silk-Cotton Tree).

Procesión de San Lázaro

Every year on December 17, Cubans descend en masse on the venerated Santuario de San Lázaro in Santiago de las Vegas, on the outskirts of Havana. Some come on bloodied knees, others walk barefoot for kilometers to exorcize evil spirits and pay off debts for miracles granted.