Day trip to Cuba from Miami: classic American car driving along the Malecon boardwalk in Havana in sunny weather before sunset

YES, A Day Trip To Cuba From Miami Is Possible! Here Is How To By An Expert (2024)

Is it possible to take a day trip to Cuba from Miami? Yes, it is possible, and it is legal, but I would not recommend it!

I have traveled regularly to Cuba for five years, and I can tell you that going to Cuba for one day only, you will miss out on many wonderful adventures.

That said, it is entirely up to you. If you still want to go for just a day, I am going to tell you everything about Cuba day trips and “how to” visit the biggest and most enigmatic of the Caribbean Islands bordering the Gulf of Mexico to the west.

Here is everything you need to know about rules, regulations, timings, and all.

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend tours, services and purchases I know and love on this website.

Day Trip To Cuba From Miami

Colorful classic American cars in the narrow streets of Old Havana in Cuba

If you have decided to take a day trip from the Magic City Miami to the capital Havana, I am here to tell you how to do it the easiest way and the best things to do with your time there.

If you do this, you will be blown away by the contrast between Miami with glamorous Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and the modern city vibe, and Havana, Cuba, only just over 100 miles away.

Also, if you are unsure whether Americans can travel to Cuba, the answer is; YES, they can!

So when we have got that out of the way, read on for my best advice on ” doing Havana” in one day.

What Do You Need For A Day Trip To Cuba From Miami?

Callejon de Hamel in Havana

First, here is the short version of what you need to do and what you need to do to take a one-day trip from Miami to Cuba and have a day of live music and beautiful beaches (if you want to).

These are the things you need to have in order to travel to Cuba from Miami (or the United States):

  • Passport valid for at least six months
  • All the money you need in Cuba in cash (for Americans)
  • A tourist visa, also called a tourist card, for Cuba
  • Fill out the online entry registration form
  • Have valid travel insurance, including health coverage

American citizens also need to ensure they follow the regulations the US government sets to travel to Cuba legally.

This is not very complicated, but to make sure you stay within the rules and regulations, here they are.

  • US Citizens need a pink tourist card for Cuba (not a green one).
  • Travel under one of the pre-approved reasons to visit Cuba from the US.
  • US citizens can not shop in Cuban governmental stores, only in privately owned shops (called particulares) under the Cuba Restricted List.
  • (And American citizens can not stay in Cuban governmentally-owned hotels, only in private ones. But there are a lot of private ones!).

Note that the Cuban tourist visa, also called a tourist card, is not something you need to apply for. You simply buy one, and you are ready to go.


You can buy a Cuban tourist card from the Cuban Embassy (it will take some time), from selected airlines, tour operators, or from an online visa provider.

If you want to check out the details of the US regulations for travel to Cuba, you can find them in the Cuba Restricted List.

Pre-Approved Reasons For Cuba Travel

The El Morro Lighthouse across the Havana bay seen from the end of the Prado Avenue on a bright sunny day with blue skies

Here is the extensive list of pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba, and note that due to the travel restrictions, Americans can not travel as “tourists.”

Most Americans travel under the “support for the Cuban people” clause.

  • Support for the Cuban People
  • Educational Activities (including studies abroad for students, teachers, and educational staff) and “People-to-People travel” for regular Americans.
  • Participating in Humanitarian Projects
  • Professional Research
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic and other competitions, and Exhibitions
  • Journalistic Activity (for electronic and print media reporters, including bloggers)
  • Religious Activities
  • Family Visits (connecting with close relatives in Cuba)
  • Certain authorized export transactions (for businesses and NGOs)
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
  • Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

Read about the easing of Cuba measures implemented by the Biden Administration in 2022.

The Best Way To Do A Day Trip To Cuba From Miami

The beautiful Parque Central in Havana, Cuba, with lots of trees giving shades. Around the park you see the white elegant Capitolio building, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Grand Theater.

If you have decided to take a day trip to Cuba from Miami, you should need to start really early.

Book the first flight out of Miami; American Airlines has several departures every day.

The first American Airlines direct flight leaves at 7:05 a.m., which is the best option for leaving early from Miami. As the flight is just around one hour, you should be on the ground in a taxi heading for Havana before 9 a.m.

Delta Airlines also has direct flights from Miami Airport to Havana, but in June 2023, the first flight is at 9 a.m., giving you less time.

Before your flight, you need to register your entry in Cuba electronically on the D’Viajeros home page, and after January 2023, you are formally required to fill that out 48 hours prior to departure according to the Cuban government.

You can buy the pink Cuban tourist card just beside the American Airlines check-in counter at Miami International Airport, so you don’t really need to get one ahead of time.

The pink tourist card costs around $100 (more expensive than the green one).

If you still want to have everything ready beforehand, I recommend Easy Tourist Card, which will send you the visa/tourist card for Cuba to your mailbox within around three days.

As the staff at American Airlines in Miami is used to people traveling to Cuba, you probably will not encounter any issues checking in as an American.

(In other airports, where Cuba travel is not that common, the staff is sometimes unsure of the rules and regulations, so be prepared for that).

Also read: Best Tours in Havana Cuba

What To Expect In The Cuban Passport Control

The departure hall at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, with white tiled floors, a high ceiling, and red seating, with lots of people.

And so you arrive in Cuba to the Jose Marti International Airport, which you see above.

Once you arrive, the standard of the facilities is not what you probably are used to.

There is supposed to be Wi-Fi at the airport that you should be able to connect to without a Wi-Fi card (which you need to go online in Cuba), but I have never experienced it working yet.

So you should probably be prepared to be offline for at least the first few hours.

There are always a lot of taxis outside the arrival gate. The price should be around $25 to go to the center of Havana, and the journey is around half an hour, depending on traffic.

And there you are!

What To Do For One Day In Havana

Plaza Vieja, the old square, in Old Havana a sunny evening right around sunset. The square is filled with people, surrounded by classic buildings, restaruants, bars, and museums.

There are so many things to explore in Havana, but I will set up a slightly ambitious itinerary for you so you have a few things to choose from!

If you ask the airport taxi to take you to Parque Central, that is a good starting point as it is on the verge of where Old Havana meets Central Havana, two different city districts.

If you need breakfast before you start exploring, I have a couple of suggestions.

Close to Parque Central, you find a super nice place called El Cafe, where you can get fresh juices, scrambled eggs, or a great sandwich.

The incredibly green Havana forest

You also have a really cool and chill bar & restaurant on the corner of Parque Cristo called El Dandy, which serves a great breakfast but also killer tacos, strong coffee, and even a Cuba Libre if you feel so inclined.

When you are ready for your first adventure, from Parque Central, you can take one of Havana’s famous Classic Car Tours, which is “touristy” but gives you a great overview of the larger city.

You will drive through Central Havana, down the Malecon boardwalk (a popular spot to hang at night for Cubans), through Vedado (the most modern city district), the Havana forest (above), Plaza de la Revolucion, and touch into Miramar, the uppest uptown district of Havana.

In the Havana Forest, you will probably also stop at a small bar by the river, where you can have your (possibly) second Cuba Libre or Mojito for the day!

This tour takes one hour (1,5 if you choose the longer version that also stops at Fusterlandia Art Center) and will drop you off at Parque Central again.

When you arrive back at the Parque Central, you will be within walking distance of the Capitolio and the Museum de la Revolucion.

Explore Havana Old City

Cuba travel hacks. How to travel from Canada to Cuba. Bicycle taxi in the streets of central havana narrow streets surrounded by colonial architecture buildings.

You are also right on the edge of the Old City and can stroll down Obispo Street, which is the main street in Old Havana.

From there, you can easily see the Plaza Vieja (the old square), where lots of life, restaurants, bars, and museums exist.

Stop by the Plaza de la Catedral, too, and take the time to visit the oldest cathedral in Havana.

In this area, you are also super close to the bay and can follow the bayside back to the start of the Malecon boardwalk and Avenida El Prado, a historic avenue that once was the home for the wealthiest people in Havana in incredible mansions.

Along the Prado, which has a decorated pedestrian zone in the middle covered by a green canopy of ancient trees, the mansions still have an aura of ancient grandeur.

They are hidden behind facades of fading paint and decay, but the ornate elements are still there if you pay attention.

If you want to get insight into Havana’s history, choose to take part in an organized walking tour of Old Havana that will show you new and old popular sights.

You will stop by the famous Bodequita del Medio bar, Plaza de Armas, walk the little streets, and get the history of several of the most important buildings and people in Havana’s past.

For an authentic Cuban food experience for a late lunch, you can head for Cafe Cristo on the corner of Parque Cristo, where you can sit down or get a takeaway.

You will get a comida (meal) the Cuban way, with chicken, arroz morro (blackened rice), and a bit of veggie or salad for 280 pesos (around 3-4 dollars dependent on currency rate).

Have A Late Lunch In Central Havana

One of the terraces at paladar La Guarida in Central Havana, Cuba
One of the rooftop terraces at Paladar La Guarida

Central Havana district is a lot like the Old City, but not with the important landmarks and also not with quite the same grandeur as the buildings in La Habana Vieja.

It is easy to get lost here, so going into the narrow, noisy streets, it is best to hail a bicycle taxi to take you exactly where to go. Make sure the “driver” understands where you want to go, the place, and the address.

I have three suggestions for you for amazing high-end restaurants or paladares in Old Havana with excellent food, service, and ambiance.

The first is Paladar San Cristobal, with a unique blend of eclectic, colorful, and elegant interiors and also great food and service! Obama had dinner here during his visit to Havana!

The second one is Paladar Mischifu, a little more relaxed, with a super bar for aperitifs right inside the door and a wonderful dining area.

Lastly is the incredible Paladar La Guarida, whose architecture and interior are stunning.

You can choose a table on one of the rooftop terraces here with an unsurpassed view of Havana and enjoy the exquisite atmosphere, service, and, not least, food.

As these places are “paladares,”; privately owned local restaurants, US citizens can enjoy them without breaking any rules. They are also by far the best places to eat! Pay in cash in all places; they all accept Cuban pesos, euros, and dollars.

Activity Suggestions For Havana

Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana, with the imprint of Che Guevara in a huge art piece on an adjacent building.

Here is a bullet point version of the organized activities that are short enough to fit into your one day in Havana (although not all of them in one day).

These tours are organized through the UK-based Civiatis tour company, using local resources and people, and are approved for US citizens to use.

A shop with colorful art pieces in Old Havana Cuba

And that is about it; this is probably more than what you have time for (with a few extra options, you have the freedom to choose), but within the time frame of one day, this is stretching your Havana experience to the limit.

Have you suddenly de, decided to take a longer trip?

Find out everything you need to know about traveling to and in Cuba from the US, as well as where to stay in Havana and everything about casa particulares in Cuba!

The Return Flight From Havana To Miami

The Vedado, the modern district of Havana at night seen from above towards the sea. Streets and buildings are lit, and the sky is pale pink in the distance from the sun that has just set.

In 2024, the latest American Airlines flight from Havana leaves at 6:30 p.m. (Delta departs earlier), so you should probably be at the airport a couple of hours before your return flight to be on the safe side.

Taking into account that the taxi ride from Havana is about half an hour, it is a good idea to get a taxi at 4:30 p.m. at the latest if you only have carry-on luggage.

After check-in in Havana, which normally goes smoothly (but expect some queues), you also need to enter the outbound passport control.

They will ask you to return your tourist visa (tourist card), so ensure you have that.

There are not many shops and restaurants inside the security check, and the few that are there only accept card payments.

That is important for US citizens to know, as US credit cards are not accepted in Cuba. Hence, you cannot buy anything inside the security check until you are on your flight.

So it is a good idea to bring some snacks that are allowed through the security check (or find a non-US person who can buy something for you and pay them back with dollars in cash!).

This is going to be a full-day trip, and you will be back in the “new world” and Downtown Miami before you know it!

Smart Havana Travel Tips

  • Bring all the cash (dollars or euros) you plan to spend for your day in Havana.
  • Download an offline translator if you do not speak Spanish
  • Bring a water bottle with a filter
  • Consider booking tours beforehand to make sure you don’t waste time waiting in line or negotiating prices.
  • If you feel generous, bring painkillers to give away (Cuban pharmacies are empty)

Getting Online In Cuba

Wifi scratch cards from Etecsa

You can easily get online in Cuba, but for one day, it might not be necessary.

You will need to go to the Etecsa store (the one official phone company) and buy a Wi-Fi card. This is a scratch card with a username and password you can use to log onto the Etecsa server from one of the Wi-Fi hotspots in Havana.

There are often lines outside the Etecsa store in Old Havana, which will cost you valuable time.

If you still want to do it, you need to bring your passport for the purchase and pay in cash (Cuban pesos).

Once you have your card, you head to a wifi park/hotspot, open the wifi on your phone, connect to Etecsa, insert the username and password code, and you are ready to surf.

Read everything you need to know about wifi and phones in Cuba here.

Changing Money To Cuban Peso

You can change your foreign currency in official changing offices at the airport, where they give you the official changing rate, which fluctuates.

There are also ATMs here.

US citizens need to know that US credit cards are not accepted in Cuba due to ongoing sanctions, which is why you must bring the money you plan to spend in cash!

For only one day, it is not strictly necessary to change into Cuban pesos, as you will be able to pay with dollars or euros in most places, but it can be handy to change a small amount for holiday shopping and propina; tips.

You can check what the currency value currently is here. On this page, you also find the current exchange value for the informal money market in Cuba.

Quickly About Money In Cuba

Because in Cuba, there is an official and an unofficial currency rate, and the unofficial one is the “street value” of dollars and euros, which is higher than the official one.

People are going to approach you on the streets and offer to exchange money from your foreign currency for the Cuban peso.

They do this because foreign currency in Cuba is “impossible” to get, yet, several shops require foreign currency for any purchase. Yep, weird.

Although doing this would help the Cuban people (and the rate is higher, so you get more pesos for your dollar), there is a risk as counterfeit money exists in Cuba.

So, unless you know the person who wants to change your money, I would be very careful changing on the street.

The monetary system in Cuba, formally, and how it works in real life is a bit complicated, and you don’t really need to know it all. You just need to know that you must bring cash, in euros or dollars, and you can use dollars and euros almost everywhere.

If you do want to know more, you can read extensively about the what and how of money in Cuba here.

FAQs Cuba Travel

Can you take a day trip from Miami to Cuba?

Yes, you can take a day trip from Miami to Cuba.

Get yourself a tourist card for Cuba, decide to travel to help the Cuban people, and book yourself a seat on the first flight out of MIA in the morning.

How long is the ferry from Miami to Cuba?

Unfortunately, there is no commercial ferry (or other ferry) from Miami to Cuba.

You can book a flight from Miami to Cuba, from Key West to Cuba, or you can join a chartered multi-day tour from somewhere in Florida to Cuba.

How do you get from Miami to Cuba?

The easiest, fastest, and overall best way to get from Miami to Cuba is to book a flight!

American Airlines and Delta Airlines have daily departures from MIA to Havana, Cuba.

Can you take a day trip to Havana from Key West?

Yes, you can take a day trip to Havana from Key West, but not on a commercial flight.

You can join a chartered flight (or charter a whole plane for yourself) and choose between just the flight ticket or a ticket and an organized itinerary. Or get yourself up to Miami and jump on a commercial plane from MIA to Havana a lot cheaper.

Why are US citizens not allowed to travel to Cuba?

This is NOT correct. US citizens ARE ALLOWED to travel to Cuba.

Americans can choose a reason for Cuba travel among 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba, determined by the US Government.

Can US citizens travel to Cuba as a tourist?

Technically, US citizens are NOT allowed to travel to Cuba as a tourist. Americans choose between 12 pre-approved reasons for Cuba travel, among which the most common one is “to help the Cuban people”.

American citizens still need to buy a tourist card, also called a tourist visa, to enter Cuba.

What are the 12 requirements to travel to Cuba?

You can read about the 12 pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba for US citizens here.

The easiest and most common reason for Cuba travel is “to help the Cuban people”.

There is no paperwork or application process connected to this, you just choose your reason and state that reason if anyone asks.

What happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba?

Nothing happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba apart from, hopefully, the US citizen will have a fabulous holiday and encounter with Cuban culture.

US citizens need to choose one of the pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba and need to buy the PINK Cuban tourist card, also called a tourist visa.

Selected airlines sell this visa/tourist card, or you can buy one online.

What documents do I need to travel to Cuba?

You need the following documents to travel to Cuba:

Do Americans need to be vaccinated to enter Cuba?

No, there is no requirement for specific vaccines prior to entering Cuba.

Your country’s health department probably has recommendations for what vaccines you should consider before entering Cuba.

How Do I get a tourist card for Cuba?

You can buy a tourist card online from Easy Tourist Card, or from the Cuban embassy in your country.

You might also be able to buy a Cuban tourist card from your airline or at the airport prior to departure.

It is possible to buy a Cuban tourist card at Miami International Airport at the check-in counter with American Airlines and Delta Airlines.

How Do I Get A Tourist Visa For Cuba?

You can buy a tourist visa is the same as a tourist card for Cuba. You can buy it from the following places:

  • Buy one online from Easy Tourist Card
  • Buy one from your airline if they offer this
  • Buy one at the airport of departure if they offer this
  • Buy one from the Cuban Embassy in your country

Is Travel To Cuba Allowed Right Now?

Yes, Cuba travel is allowed right now.

American citizens need to, in addition, choose one of the 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba (Americans can not travel as “tourists”) and follow some simple guidelines for traveling in Cuba.

Is There A Miami To Havana Ferry?

No, unfortunately, there is currently no Miami to Havana ferry with commercial transport options. Around 2015, the start of a Miami-Havana ferry was in the planning stage, but it never came into operation.

The only way to travel commercially from Miami to Havana is by air.

Wrap-Up

So that was a whirlwind day with excess suggestions for things to do in Havana in a day. It is possible, but hopefully, you have already seen that it would be a lot better to go for at least a weekend.

Or maybe even a week, to have time to explore the city and make some day trips from Havana to surrounding areas and sights that will also fascinate you.

Read my best travel tips for Cuba if you want to find out more.

Either way, it is your choice – happy travel planning!

Related blog posts:

Easy Havana Tour Guide: 8 Best Havana Tours By A Local

Salsa Class Havana | Salsa Lessons In Old Havana Cuba?

11 Awesome Day Trips From Havana Cuba By A Local

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