Havana kids’ attractions can be hard to find, here’s my guide to the best.

An ice cream parlour in every town, pirates, castles and a treasure filled past, music and dance on every street corner and warm Caribbean sand lapped by a sparkling sea: Cuba plus kids is a long-haul in heaven. Cuban offspring are loud, proud and encouraged to party alongside the rest of the family until the early hours. Honouring children is practically on the statue books: the state even provides each child with a birthday cake until they are fourteen. One of my favourite Cuban sights is a procession of cakes leaving the bakers en route to a party.

That said, specific Cuban attractions aimed at younger visitors are often hard to seek out. Below is a list of my top Havana children’s things to do, most of which are tried and tested on a family trip with my (then) three-year old son. There are no Havana museums in this list because you can get the info for that from the excellent Rough Guide to Cuba, (disclaimer: I co-authored it), and because kids rarely like museums as much as their parents want them to.

El Guiñol puppet theatre

The costumes and sets is this unassuming puppet theatre, tucked in the basement depths of Vedado’s FOCSA building are filled with colour and invention, enough so, that even if you and your kids don’t speak Spanish the story comes over loud and clear. Many of the productions draw on Cuba’s rich folkloric Afro Cuban traditions and puppeteers are often the children themselves. At around $5CUC a ticket ($3CUC for kids), the price is a winner too. Regular performances take place on Sat and Sun 11am and 3pm.
Calle M e/17 y 19, Vedado t 7 832 6262

Club Habana

It’s worth the cab ride west past Havana’s Miramar district to swim and splash at the Club Habana. With three pools, tennis and squash courts, various eateries and a swathe of artificial beach it’s far and away the most kid-friendly place to swim in Havana itself. It’s open between 9am-7pm and a day pass is $10-15CUC. Prior to the revolution, it was the exclusive Havana Biltmore Yacht and Country Club and its past has dovetailed with its present as it’s still one Havana’s most exclusionary leisure spaces – if only by virtue of the price.
Flores, Havana t 7275 0100

Parque Almendares

While Havana doesn’t have a park in its centre, head south beyond Miramar to the Kohly suburb and you’ll find the wide expanse of Parque Almendares lining the banks of the river from which it takes its name. Little visited by tourists, though popular with Habaneros, kid-friendly attractions include pony rides, rowing boats, and crazy golf. The main draw for older kids may be exploring the incredible landscaped woodland fringing the Bosque de la Habana forest where towering weeping figs curtained in vines are like a fairy tale wildwood sprung to life. Given how magical it looks, it’s perhaps natural that it’s a draw for Santería rituals and ceremonies – the evidence of which you may see as you wander through.

Isla de Coco

There’s a pleasure beach charm to the Isla de Coco amusement park in Miramar, that’s fittingly also known as Coney Island. It takes its name from a Cuban cartoon, and large fibre glass cartoon characters are dotted throughout the site, include the most famous of all, Elpidio Valdés, an independence fighter created in 1970 by Cuban filmmaker Juan Padrón. The modern and safe climbing frame is probably the best equipped in Havana while a selection of gentler attractions like the floating bumper boats and sand pit make it ideal for little ones. The fairground rides, including a dapper troupe of flying elephants, are all fairly tame though with a couple of stomach dropping exceptions. Star attraction though is the pillow fight cage – padded and filled with cushion, they can whack each other endlessly. The general admission is $1CUP with rides once inside each costing a few pesos more. It’s open Friday-Sunday 12noon-8pm.
Ava 5ta y Calle 112, Havana

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