Havana ZOO in 2018 (family trip)

It is common for a family trip to also include a visit to the destination’s ZOO. Havana has a large ZOO on its outskirts with many interesting animals. Lions, zebras, elephants, hippos, wild birds and reptiles can be found in Cuba’s largest zoological garden. Havana ZOO offers an included guided tour and many activities for children of all ages. Of course, the Cuban way. But the kids will love it!

The National Zoo of Cuba

In the last few years, our family has visited many European ZOOs like Prague, Ljubljana, Berlin, and Vienna. But Havana ZOO was totally different from our family definition of a ZOO.

havana zoo
The ride from Havana center to the ZOO will take about 30 minutes. The ZOO area is actually a big park surrounded by the populated area of Calabazar.

The location of the ZOO is the first mystery that has to be solved. Even our knowledgeable Cuban friend, who drove us from Havana with his car, had to ask three random people on the streets of Calabazar district to find the ZOO. There are no signs that would direct you to it, so better to check it on the map in advance.

havana zoo cuba
The National ZOO of Cuba is located in Calabazar district, on the southern outskirts of Havana.

Another mystery is that there are actually two ZOOs in Havana! So do not be mistaken, we visited the newer and bigger one, in better condition, more diverse in animal species. The other (smaller) ZOO is called “Zoológico de La Habana”, located on Avenida 26, but was not recommended to see by our Cuban friend. That ZOO is closer to Havana center so if you’ll ask people or a taxi driver for the ZOO you might be directed to the wrong ZOO like this adventurous American lady.

The entrance of Havana ZOO

On our arrival, the ZOO was just in the opening There were a few hundred people, all local families, waiting for the security guards to let them in through the main gate. So we joined the waiting crowd at the end of the queue.

havana zoo open times
The cheerful crowd waiting for the ZOO gate to open. The ZOO opens at 8.00 AM.

There was no option to book the tickets for the ZOO in advance. But you can ask your casa particular host to call the ZOO to their telephone number about any information you need. Very soon, after 10 minutes, the guards let us in and went straight to the cash desk.

price havana zoo
10 CUC (around 10 USD) ticket price. No discount for foreign children. The local peso (MN) prices are 23-times lower than CUC. When buying a ticket you get two free coupons for activities like pony riding, photographing with a crocodile in your hands or sitting a camel.

The ticket prices are much higher if you are a foreigner. We paid 40 CUC (around 35 euros or about 40 US dollars) for 2 adult and 2 child tickets, while the ZOO would get the same revenue from around 80 local visitors. There are also activities available for children with prices ranging from 1 CUC to 5 CUC.

Safari bus ride

The first stage of the ZOO tour was a safari bus ride that goes around the open-space area where animals roam freely. It is also the only way to get to the middle of the ZOO where the cages, the bar, and children activities are located.

safari tour bus
The ZOO ticket includes the safari bus ride through the open-space area of the ZOO. These internal buses are scheduled on every 10 minutes.
havana zoo bus safari
A view from the bus. Elephants, rhinos, zebras, hippos, ostriches, and gazelles seem pretty happy and free. Their living area is huge and the bus takes around 10 minutes to circle it.
havana zoo hippo
One happy hippo.
safari guide
Each bus has a guide that leads the way and explains the details to the visitors.
lions zoo havana
The guide will instruct passengers to close the bus windows when before entering a separated big area where only lions live. There are about 20 lions living in their kingdom.

Walk around the ZOO

After the interesting safari, the bus will stop in the middle of the ZOO. Across the street are the cafeteria “El Leoncito” (also serves beer and snacks) and the many children activities. We decided to see the rest of the animals first and then come back to the bus station’s surroundings.

zoo havana
The central crossroad from where you can start exploring the ZOO by foot.

We walked a bit uphill to reach the cages with many animals. There were animals like in any other big ZOO in the world.

birds havana
Birdcage with many exotic birds.
crocodile havana cuba
lion cuba
Some lions are placed in a cage until they are let into the lion open area
Lion zoo havana
Lioness in a cage
leopard zoo
Leopard in his cage
cuban iguana
Iguana Cubana
zoo havana information
Every cage has an informational board about the animal
havana monkey zoo
Monkey eating
monkeys zoo havana cuba
More monkeys. They are smart and can even throw something into people who come laughing at this monkey business
plants cuba
On your stroll through the ZOO, you will not miss some of the fantastic flora

In the walking area, there are many cages with interesting animals. But in order to see the animals, the children will have to wait for a little to finally take a look at other ZOO activities.

Activities for children

Kids know that ZOOs are also great playgrounds. Or at least they have one or many areas reserved for children. It is the same with the ZOO in Havana. There are many activities for children that can be paid by a coupon obtained with the ticket or with cash (CUC).

cars zoo
Electric cars for children
Children can hold a baby crocodile in their hands. Its jaws are for safety reasons temporarily tied together.
carousel zoo dolphin
Kids can choose from a variety of carousels, many of them are built by ZOO’s staff.
camel photo
Or take a photo with a camel.
pony one eye
And the winner is one-eyed-pony riding. It is interesting how kids notice a missing eye on a pony.
mickey mouse zoo
Havana’s ZOO is fun for children and adults.

Havana ZOO shop and merchandise

Besides to see the animals, our kids love to go to a ZOO shop at the end of a ZOO visit. Normally it would take them around one hour to decide on a toy. On our visit, the main ZOO shop was (luckily) closed.

shop zoo havana
The main ZOO’s shop was closed on the day of our visit.

But there were many stands that sell different types of toys that amaze kids with plastic bling. We had to explain that our airline’s baggage policy doesn’t allow heavy bags. Luckily they understood and we purchased no toys here.

toys stands
Toys being offered on stands
Chinese toys
More toys. Cuba and China have a special agreement on international trade.

Many of the locals visit the ZOO because they can buy cheap candies there and sell them on the streets of Havana. While they are tasteful also to our kids, the sweets prices in the ZOO are almost unreal.

candy shop havana
The final highlight of our ZOO visit was the candy shop.

The ZOO of Havana is a fun place for children. It is not easy to find, but once you’re in, there are many opportunities for a real adventure. Sure it is different from the ZOO in Berlin or Vienna, but the children will love it anyway. It’s just another friendly face of Cuba.