Now that spring has sprung in most parts of the U.S., I am beginning to receive many inquiries about traveling to Cuba during the warmer parts of the year. Personally—I think summer is a fine time to visit. Of course it is hotter there than in January. This is part of a normal, historical Global Warming event that affects the northern hemisphere every year about this time.
I have friends in San Francisco who couldn’t imagine going to Cuba or any other place with a high of over 85 degrees in the summer. But in reality, the weather in Havana in July is better on the same dates than that of many American cities such as Miami and Atlanta. Visitors from Las Vegas or Phoenix, where it may be 115 degrees F (but it’s a “dry” heat—ha!) would find Havana’s typical low-to-mid-90’s and higher humidity to be a wonderful change.
Cuba’s climate is similar to that of Hawaii. Both Honolulu and Havana lie just below the Tropic of Cancer at 21.3 degrees and 23.1 degrees north, respectfully. Their lands slope from the northwest to the southeast (where it is the hottest at sea level), and both are affected by trade winds from the northeast. Thus—the north and east sides of both areas are the wettest and have the largest rivers. The south and west sides are the driest, with much less river runoff. (Because of this, these areas are generally better for snorkeling and SCUBA diving.)
Visiting Cuba in summer requires the same planning as when visiting other countries and areas with similar climates. Travelers can focus on seeing the sights in the morning and in the evening. In the afternoon, they can stay in air-conditioned rooms reading or snoozing, visit air-conditioned museums, art galleries, & movies, relax in a restaurant or bar, shop locally, hang out at the pool or at the beach, or travel around in an air-conditioned bus. By the way, this is also what local residents in hot summer areas do.
Cuba’s colorful nightlife often continues past midnight, even in small towns, so there is always plenty to do. In warm climates everywhere, you just have to use common sense—use sun lotion, wear a hat, stay hydrated, wear comfortable cool clothing, and monitor your health. It also may help to carry a spray bottle. I also personally find it refreshing to wear wet underwear and re-moisten as necessary. Although cotton “aloha” shirts are cooler, damp oversized t-shirts are very effective in keeping travelers cool. They can also wear a hat with a sweatband that can be kept moist.
There are also more rain showers in the summer, so it might be simply a matter of getting rained on—then you will be ready to go when the sun comes out! Otherwise, be sure to bring a small, collapsible umbrella.
Cuba is popular with Europeans during the summer. This is especially true since many of their favorite destinations in past years are no longer attractive, such as beach areas on the Mediterranean in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Many Cubans also like to vacation in August, although they tend to stay at the less-expensive resorts.
Different geographical locations also make a difference. The eastern part is notorious for hot summers, but also well known for some of the most outrageous Carnival dancing extravanzas in Cuba. Go figure! As in Hawaii, the weather is cooler up in the mountains. Cuban beach areas are generally very tolerable—the ocean temperatures are wonderful year round, and there are usually palm trees or thatched mini-huts to protect from the sun. There also should be plenty of air-conditioned buildings and facilities to spend afternoons in.
One other factor to consider is the so-called “Hurricane Season.” It is a full six months long—from June 1 to November 30. However, the peak months are August and September. This sometimes scares away potential travelers who aren’t familiar with hurricanes. If you randomly selected a one-week period in Cuba at the peak of the season in August or September, the odds of significantly being affected by a hurricane on your trip are about 100:1. Travelers who may have been scared away from visiting Caribbean Islands will often visit other hurricane-prone areas without worry—cities such as Charleston, Miami, Biloxi, New Orleans, and Galveston.
Cubans have a lot of experience dealing with hurricanes. They routinely conduct disaster drills, and every beachfront hotel has posted emergency evacuation plans. Cubans take special care to protect their number one source of income: foreign visitors.
The Cuban government routinely sends emergency medical teams to other Caribbean countries hit hard by natural disasters. And unlike earthquakes or tornados, which strike without warning, hurricanes make themselves known several days in advance. If the eye of one looks like it will inevitably strike your location, you will have a couple days to prepare for it, or change your plans.
So——Yes!—you can visit Cuba successfully in the summer and early fall. Just prepare for the hotter weather, like you would for a trip to Hawaii. As in the other seasons, summer in Cuba is quickly becoming more popular.