Cuba has a mainly tropical wet and dry type of climate (Köppen climate classification Aw) with hot, wet summers and warm, dry winters. A few areas in the northwest and southeast exhibit tropical monsoon (Köppen Am) and tropical rainforest (Köppen Af) climates. Cuba is an island nation that lies in the northern Caribbean region, entirely within the Tropic of Cancer. Cuba lies at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, in the northern Caribbean region. Mexico is 130 miles to the west, the United States 93 miles to the northwest and north, and the Bahamas 13 miles to the north. Haiti, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands lie in the south of Cuba. The tropical latitudes and the engulfment by large water bodies chiefly influence the climate.
The main island of Cuba, along with four principal surrounding island groups, form an archipelago of islands in the Caribbean Sea. The main island is 780 miles long and 119 miles wide at its greatest breadth, with a vast coastline over 3570 miles. The surrounding sea consists of over 4000 islands and cays. Cuba is mostly flat with rolling plains that culminate into steep mountains in the southeastern corner. Mangroves and marshes occupy large portions of coastal areas, some as large as the Zapata Swamp, with 1750 square miles. The mountain ranges of Sierra del Rosario lie in the northwest, Escambray in the central region, and Sierra Crystal in the southeast part of the island. Pico Real del Turquino is the highest point at 1974 meters in the Sierra Maestra Mountains in the southeast.
Cuba has two distinct seasons, a wet one from late April to early November and a dry one from late November to early April. Summers are hot and humid, with substantial rainfall. The average high temperatures touch 32.2°C (90°F) at the peak of August in Havana, the capital, and are similarly hot in much of the country. Extreme temperatures are rare, and only a few days touch the 37.8°C (100°F) mark. Winters are warm and relatively dry, with the average low temperatures between 18.9°C (66°F) to 21.1°C (70°F) in January. Sunny days are plenty, even with periods of heavy rainfall and thunderstorms. The hurricane season lasts from July to November, with the peak of storm activity during September and October. The northeasterly trade winds keep the heat within bearable limits over the year. Cold northern winds from the United States during the winter can see the nights drop as low as 10°C (50°F).
The annual rainfall ranges between 1016mm (40") to 1524mm (60") in most of the lowland areas of Cuba. Guantanamo Bay, on the southern side of the mountains in the south, receives 685.8mm (27") of rainfall annually. The northern slopes of the mountains are the wettest areas in the country and receive at least 1778mm (70") of annual precipitation. Havana receives an average of 1219.2mm (48") of rainfall within 80 wet days annually. At least 80% of the precipitation occurs during the wet season from April to November. The rainfall is usually in the form of intense showers that do not last for prolonged periods. The island receives at least 3000 hours of bright sunshine annually, with a minimum of 11 hours of daylight. The seawater temperatures are in the mild to warm range of 23.9°C (75°F) to 29.4°C (84.9°F), which is suitable for swimming except for brief periods during the winter. The average relative humidity ranges from 70 to 80% in the year.
The highest temperature on record in Cuba is 38.8°C (101.8°F), set on April 17, 1999, in Jucarito, Granma. The lowest temperature on record is 0.6°C (33.1°F), set on February 18, 1996, in Bainoa, Mayabeque.
The best time to visit Cuba
The best time to visit Cuba is from December to March in the winter season. The temperatures drop to comfortable levels below 21.1°C (70°F) during the night, and the atmosphere is pleasant. The relatively dry season sees monthly rainfall less than 50.8mm (2"), with sunny days and mostly clear skies. Tourists enjoy the calm waters of the sea without the fear of hurricanes or storms that patrol the coast during the wet season. The period from December to February is especially favorable for excursions on the sea, with refreshing air and calm waters. The northwestern beaches are better in March and April, while winter is a great time to be in the southeastern part of the country.
The worst time to visit Cuba
The worst time to visit Cuba is during the hot summer season from June to August. The sun rays are at their highest intensity of the year and cause discomfort due to the shortage of broad-leaf trees. The humidity levels often reach 80%, which creates muggy conditions and induces much sweat. Even though high temperatures do not remain above 37.8°C (100°F) for extended periods, the cloud cover makes the conditions uncomfortable. The heavy rainfall can derail vacation plans. Check the weather forecast before undertaking long sea voyages or boat tours for more than a couple of hours.
Cuba is prone to hurricanes, tropical storms, non-tropical depressions, thunderstorms, rainstorms, floods, droughts, and earthquakes. July to November brings frequent hurricanes to the coast due to the island's location across the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Irma caused the evacuation of more than a million people from the northern coast and property damage worth millions of dollars in 2017. Heavy rainfall during hurricanes and tropical storms results in flash floods and landslides. Droughts are common in the dry season as the country does not have many substantial inland water sources. Cuba has 12 active faults, but seventy% of the seismic activity originates from the Oriente fault that runs along the southeastern coast. An average of 2000 low-magnitude seismic events goes unnoticed every year. However, earthquakes above a magnitude of 7.0 have occurred in the past. Weighty rainfall poses a danger for reef tourism.
Weather in January
January is the coldest month of the year in Cuba, with warm and sunny conditions even in the winter. The weather forecast is mostly dry, with at least 7 hours of bright sunshine. The average temperatures in Havana are in the lovely range of 18.9°C (66°F) to 26.1°C (79°F), with less than six wet days that bring 71.1mm (2.8") of rainfall in the month. The seawater temperatures are at a welcome 26.1°C (79°F) in the Gulf of Mexico, which is perfect for swimming and other water activities. Expect crowds at the beach, as the country becomes a hotspot during the New Year week. The daylight lasts for at least 11 hours during the short days of January. Early risers may catch a few extra winks of sleep as the sun rises past 7 a.m. Wind speeds up to 19.3km/h (12mph) offer a pleasant atmosphere while dining in the restaurants on the waterfront. The warm weather of Cuba in January mainly attracts people who face the prospect of icy winters in the Northern Hemisphere.
Weather in February
February is warm in the mild winter season in Cuba, with average temperatures in the range of 18.9°C (66°F) to 27.2°C (81°F). The southern parts, especially the southeastern ones, such as Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo Bay, are warmer than the north. February is the driest month, with negligible precipitation in the south. Clouds linger periodically, but mostly give way to blue skies with 7 hours of bright daily sunlight. The daylight increases gradually to register 11.5 hours by the end of the month. Light summer clothing is best during the day as the humidity levels reach up to 64% by late February. A light jacket is useful as a cover for the breezes during leisurely beach-walks in the evenings. Sailing and boating find many takers as the waters are calm, and wind speeds rarely scale past 19.3km/h (12mph). Cuba is a tropical getaway during the winter in February, with sunny days minus the overbearing heat of summer.
Weather in March
March is warm and dry in Cuba amid bright sunshine and long days. Much of the country receives little precipitation between 25.4mm (1") to 50.8mm (2"). The lovely beaches of Cayo Largo and Isla de la Juventud are slightly warmer than the northwest, with average temperatures in the zone of 20.6°C (69.1°F) to 27.8°C (82°F). The first week of March has the clearest skies during the month, which makes it an excellent time for a vacation. The early spring season of North America brings cold air masses as far as northwest Cuba, which occasionally experiences cool nights as a result. The daylight registers 12 hours by the second half of March, which also sees a significant rise in humidity level above 75%. Mornings are humid, and it is not a surprise to witness an afternoon shower. Hats are useful during mid-day when sun rays are at their peak. The sunset past 7.40 p.m. gives plenty of time in the evenings to indulge in fun activities at the beach in March in Cuba.
Weather in April
April is a great time to visit northwest Cuba with sunny days and cool nights. The average temperatures in Havana are in the comfortable 21.1°C (70°F) to 28.9°C (84°F), and the seawaters are mild below 26.1°C (79°F). Cold air masses from North America reach up to the northwest part of the country. Evenings to early mornings offer pleasant conditions that soothe the population. The warm Gulf of Mexico waters and wind speeds of less than 18.5km/h (11.5mph) makes the Cuban coast desirable in April. The humidity levels rise up to 78%, but people involved in water sports on the beaches hardly take notice. The afternoons up to 4 p.m. are particularly hot in the south as the ultraviolet index of the sun reaches a dangerous level of 12. Visitors can expect 50.8mm (2") to 76.2mm (3") of rainfall as the dry season gradually transitions into the wet one by the end of April. It is a good idea to take advantage of the last month of dry weather in April in Cuba.
Weather in May
May is the beginning of the wet season in Cuba, with at least 101.6mm (4") to 127mm (5") of rainfall in most of the country. The temperatures scale by a few degrees to register in the range of 21.1°C (70°F) to 31.1°C (88°F), with more than 9 hours of daily sunshine. The quick transition from dry to wet weather may catch visitors foreign to tropical weather patterns in a fix. The seawater temperatures at 27.2°C (81°F) offer respite when the sandy beaches heat up significantly. However, it is best to spend the hot afternoons in the shade or comfort of indoor pools. The easterly winds provide relief in the evenings with speeds between 16.1km/h (10mph) to 19.3km/h (12mph). Coastal towns see cloudy skies between 40 to 60% of the day. The relative humidity levels reach significant proportions above 80% and keep visitors tied to light summer clothing. The tourist numbers decrease in May, which is the shoulder season and is affordable for budget travelers to Cuba.
Weather in June
June brings oppressive heat to Cuba, as the humidity levels consistently remain above 80 to 90. June is the wettest month in Havana and much of the northwest, with rainfall typically between 152.4mm (6") to 177.8mm (7") amid 10 to 12 wet days. Santiago receives 127mm (5") to 152.4mm (6") of precipitation, while the southern mountains receive at least 203.2mm (8") to 254mm (10"). Rain is usually in the form of heavy downpours that do not last for prolonged periods. The atmosphere is muggy in the wet season, which makes it better to wear sweatshirts and rain jackets. The sunshine averages 8 hours daily, even under mostly cloudy skies in June. The longest days of the year, between June 20 and June 30, register the highest daylight of 13.5 hours. Temperatures are usually in the 22.8°C (73°F) to 88°range but feel much more due to the heat index. Visitors should check the weather forecast before booking a trip to Cuba in June.
Weather in July
July is the beginning of the hurricane season in Cuba, with hot and humid weather. Tourists should check the weather forecast before planning trips and prepare to face hot temperatures along with heavy rainfall. The average temperatures are in the 23.9°C (75°F) to 31.1°C (88°F) range in Havana and cross the 32.2°C (90°F) mark in the south of the country. July sunshine ranges from 9 to 11 hours going from north to south of Cuba. The precipitation is usually between 76.2mm (3") to 127mm (5"), with 8 to 10 wet days in the month. The standard form of rainfall is heavy showers that last for short periods. It is a common sight to witness bright sunshine after a torrential downpour. The clearest skies are generally between July 15 and July 25, which is a relatively dry period during the month. Carefully planned trips face little obstruction from rain. Tourists should take advantage of fewer crowds and dry periods for a Cuba vacation in July.
Weather in August
August is usually the hottest month of the year in Cuba, with average high temperatures above 32.2°C (90°F). August 7 is typically the hottest day of the year, with daily high temperatures exceeding 32.8°C (91°F) in Havana. The heat is oppressive due to the high level of humidity and cloud cover. The country is in the middle of the wet season, with 101.6mm (4") to 127mm (5") of rainfall in August. Wind speeds fall to a low of 14.5km/h (9mph), and evenings are the only time for light breezes. The only savior is the water, either the seawater at 30°C (86°F) or indoor pools with shade. Avoid outdoor activities between 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the hot sun. Nights are often sultry, with average temperatures above 23.9°C (75°F). Tropical storms often visit the coastal towns of Cuba during the wet season and leave a mess behind. Expect fewer crowds at the beaches, especially during the day. August is not an ideal time to visit Cuba, with a high probability of hurricanes.
Weather in September
September is a wet month in Cuba, with 127mm (5") to 177.8mm (7") of rainfall and overcast conditions for 70% of the time. The average temperatures in the range of 23.9°C (75°F) to 32.2°C (90°F) and high humidity levels make the conditions stifling and uncomfortable. September has a high incidence of hurricanes that bring heavy rainfall along with them. The daylight reverts to 12 hours from a peak of 13.5 hours in summer, by the end of September. Rainfall is mostly in the form of showers and thunderstorms during the late afternoons. Varadero, on the northern coast, receives 180.3mm (7.1") of precipitation, its highest rainfall of the year. Swimming is possible with 7 hours of daily sunshine and seawaters at 28.9°C (84°F) to 30°C (86°F). A cold beer, rum, or coke provides relaxation on the beach along with light breezes in the evening. September is the perfect time to beat the usual crowds in Cuba, which disappear due to the sweltering heat.
Weather in October
October is the wettest month of the year in Cuba, with 152.4mm (6") to 203.2mm (8") of precipitation in most places. Coastal towns receive ample rain, and are the target of the highest number of hurricanes in the season, especially from the Atlantic side. Day temperatures fall slightly to register in the 28.9°C (84°F) to 30°C (86°F), but the cloud cover and moisture keep the conditions muggy. An extra pair of sweatshirts is useful in the humid atmosphere that induces much sweat. Swimming is feasible in the warm waters, but it is advisable to undertake sea excursions only after checking the weather forecast. Evenings often see light breezes, with wind speeds in the range of 16.1km/h (10mph) to 20.9km/h (13mph). Nights drop below 23.3°C (73.9°F) and tend to be less oppressive than the days. The sunshine decreases rapidly with each passing day until it registers 6 hours at the end of the month. Rainfall and cloud cover also decrease rapidly by the end of October in Cuba.
Weather in November
November is the last month of the wet season in Cuba and is relatively dry in the second half. The cloud cover decreases rapidly with each passing day as November registers 76.2mm (3") to 101.6mm (4") of rainfall. The third to fourth week of November is ideal for budget travelers to visit Cuba when the prices are still low, and the weather is fair. Daily high temperatures are between 26.7°C (80.1°F) to 28.9°C (84°F), with a welcome drop in relative humidity. A daily low-temperature drop below more pleasant 21.1°C (70°F) during the nights. Evenings see wind speeds of 15.3km/h (9.5mph) to 20.1km/h (12.5mph), and plenty of activities on the beach. Seawater temperatures begin to cool and are in the lovely range of 26.1°C (79°F) to 27.2°C (81°F). Expect an odd hurricane or storm to graze the coast still. The increase in daily sunshine to 7 hours, blue skies, and winter in the Northern Hemisphere draws visitors to Cuba in November.
Weather in December
December sees the dry season in Cuba, with the rainfall in the moderate zone of 50.8mm (2") to 76.2mm (3"). Tourists wishing to escape the frigid winters in cold countries land in the lovely tropical paradise of Cuba. The average temperatures are in the comfortable range of 20°C (68°F) to 27.2°C (81°F), with at least 6 hours of sunshine. Cayo Coco, a tourist hotspot in the south, registers temperatures in the 17.8°C (64°F) to 27.8°C (82°F) zone. The less than 70% humidity makes the conditions pleasant, and the seawater temperatures above 26.1°C (79°F) remain enjoyable for swimming. The ultraviolet index of 6 means visitors can enjoy long sea excursions even in the afternoons. December 22 is the shortest day of the year, yet sees 11 hours of sunlight that culminates in the sunset after 5.45 p.m. A light jacket is useful in the breezy evenings and cold nights. Many tourists land in Cuba, with the promise of pleasant weather and festivities during Christmas in December.