Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Havana Carnival
Shhh, don't tell anyone, but the carnival scene in Cuba is absolutely wild! Although
definitely not as famous as the ones in Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans or throughout
Europe, the carnivals in Cuba are among some of the most entertaining events in
the country. There are two main carnivals in Cuba. One is hosted in Havana and
the other in Santiago de Cuba. If you get a chance, you should definitely check out
both. While the carnival in Santiago is usually slightly larger, there has been a
great effort in the last few years to expand the size and entertainment quality at the
Havana carnival. At this rate, in a few more years, it could grow into one of the
largest and most popular in the world.
And the best thing about the Havana carnival is that very few tourists go to it. The
carnival is usually hosted in mid-August (dates change yearly), which is the low
period in the tourist season and a time when many Cubans take their summer va-
cations. This creates the perfect environment for a massive, city-wide party, atten-
ded almost exclusively by locals. During carnival week there are hundreds of
parties, parades and festivals on streets and in parks around the city. But the main
stage is set along the Malecon, particularly near the intersection of 23. This area is
completely closed to vehicle traffic and, at night, tens of thousands of locals crowd
into the street. Hundreds of food stands pop up, selling low-priced meals and there
are dozens of state-operated beer and alcohol stands. Beers usually cost only a
few pesos (MN). The atmosphere can get chaotic at times, but once the music
starts and the scantily clad dancers get on stage, the tone is set for one of the
most energetic shows you will ever see. Best of all, the entertainment is all com-
pletely free.
As mentioned before, dates for the Havana Carnival change yearly, so if you are
planning to go, make sure to check the schedule online before reserving your trip.
And be warned, it gets really hot in Havana in August, even at night, and especially
on a street packed with a hundred thousand revelers. But don't let that dissuade
you, carnival is great fun and, at least for now, it seems to be one of Havana's little-
known entertainment secrets.
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