What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Before traveling to Cuba, I did a bit of research on what to wear since we each were limited to 50 pounds of checked-in luggage, one carry-on, and we were bringing dive gear. Our group of four are all Florida residents, and so we thought we were ready for the June Cuba heat. It turned out to be hotter, muggier, more humid, and sunnier than we had imagined.

Normally, my standard packing method works fine for trips all over the world, however, with limited space and weight, I had to fine-tune my plan. Here’s what I took that worked great, and a look at some items that never got worn.

For the guys, packing was so easy – a couple shirts, a couple shorts, water shoes, swim trunks, and a pair of khaki pants and boat shoes for “dressy” occasions, and they were set. Packing for women, however, you know it’s a tad more difficult to reduce the number of footwear involved, dress appropriately for the activities, stay cool and look great. Here are my tips!

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Light Colors

Although we saw everything from white to black shirts worn in Cuba, we planned to wear “cooler” colors, hoping to absorb less solar heat.

My long sleeved white shirt, above, was great in the chilly airport and plane, but I never wore it again. I took it with me the first couple evenings thinking it would cool down, but temperatures did not drop until after midnight – way past my bedtime!

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Sticking to pale colors served us well. We found we wore anything white more than once, hand washing as needed.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Midi Skirts – Cool and Airy

Although you might not be a fan of skirts, don’t discount their versatility. More stylish than shorts, cooler than shorts, and more presentable than shorts – their charms are many.

For this trip, I wanted to look a bit more polished than shorts could, I wanted to cover a bit more skin due to the intense sun, and I wanted to be able to move easily between more upscale destinations.

The ability to blend in when you are a bit more dressed is a huge benefit. While someone in shorts might look out of place in a four-star hotel lobby, wearing shorts, I easily transitioned from the street to museums and art galleries without attracting attention.

Not attracting attention when you are in a new location is a good thing – you don’t want to look lost, vulnerable, like a tourist, or easily targeted for mischief.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Actually, I wasn’t all that chuffed with this skirt when I tossed it in my bag, but once in Cuba, I was glad I had it. With the pleats, it always looked crisp and presentable. It finished nicely above the knees, much cooler than shorts but far more acceptable at the yacht club.

In all, I took three midi skirts, and wore each one a couple times or more.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Here at the Hemingway International Yacht Club, I was delighted to find our hostess also wearing a midi skirt. I would have looked underdressed in shorts, but was able to get away with casual sandals due to dressing “up” slightly.

Even better than their fashionable looks, the functionality of skirts is supreme. Much cooler than shorts or capris, any movement keeps air circulating around your legs and midsection. I wore all I took, a couple times each.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Lightweight Fabrics

While a cotton shirt with a collar might not look like it’s as cool as a t-shirt, it actually scores points for being slightly cooler. Since the fabric is a bit stiffer, it does not adhere to the body, creating space for air to circulate. Also, the thinner fabric does not hold in as much heat, and dries faster.

For every clothing choice for our days of touring, walking, being out in the sun, we chose the lightest possible items to wear.

Consider closely the fabrics you choose. If you have a piece you especially wish to wear, check to see if you have something similar in the lightest fabric possible.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

This lightweight skirt served as a fantastic substitute for my usual white shorts I tend to wear at home. It coordinated with every shirt in my bag, and it covered enough skin that I didn’t stick to the seat in the taxi.

Best of all, many lightweight fabrics don’t need ironing to look cool and presentable if you fold them carefully and then roll them. This skirt is a gauzy fabric, so it could be wadded up and still look good.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Straw Hat

Not a baseball cap – they don’t protect your ears or neck, but a proper straw hat is mandatory.

Packing a straw hat is not nearly as difficult as you think. First, fill the crown with rolled-up clothing. Then place it flat in your luggage with the brim flat. Fill in around the hat with more clothes. This one travelled in my backpack – yes, in my backpack – with no damage at all.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

If you know hats are sold where you are going, that’s another option. Pick one up when you arrive, and either take it home with you or pay it forward. Present it at the airport to someone arriving as you are departing; a welcome gift!

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

A couple people have told me this is one of their favorite photos of our trip to Cuba. It’s either the hat, the alley, the planted palms, or maybe the awnings ahead and the light.

What I do know is even when I wasn’t feeling too cool, at least I looked like I was!

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Sleeveless Shirts for Women

Paying close attention to local standards is important. My advance research for our trip to Cuba included looking at what was acceptable for women to wear, and sleeveless shirts were not frowned upon in the country. If they were, I would have substituted sleeved versions of the same shirts I packed.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

We ladies did pay attention to the necklines of our sleeveless shirts, the fabric content, and the colors. Also, when wearing sleeveless, don’t forget your sunscreen. I’ll leave a link below to a travel-sized reef safe version that even comes tinted so it can double as your foundation, saving space.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Long Skirts

When I packed this long skirt, I really underestimated its appropriateness and attributes. The color was light, so I thought it would be cool. It turned out to be so much more!

Quickly, I learned a lot about these skirts. They are cooler than shorts, they protect your legs from the sun, mosquitoes, and taxi seats, they are flattering, and they are presentable in everything from casual to dressier locations.

On the plane, they are great for keeping the air off you and protecting your modesty. No difficult zippers or buttons to navigate in the jet’s loo. Most skirts can be hand washed, are dry in an hour or so, and do not need ironing.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Our tour guide, Milena, looking stylish and cool in a long blue skirt. When the locals dress like that; you know it’s for a reason!

As soon as we returned, I scoured our local consignment shops and thrift stores, and I found two more long skirts in easy fabrics that will be perfect for future travel.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Favorite Standbys: Shorts and T-Shirts

When traveling, there will be times you need a few casual choices. We had some long rides in air conditioned vehicles, and some transitions between diving and cultural activities that required dressing “down” a bit.

There’s nothing like tried-and-true shorts and T-shirts for comfort. I have found that a ladies v-neck is the least unflattering of T-shirts on women, and often the cut is more curved specifically for the feminine shape.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Quite purposely, I gravitate toward the colors of the ocean in my casual shirts. That way, I can wear light colors that are cooler without actually wearing white.

Another benefit is they never look faded like red of blue T-shirts do. Water-colored shirts usually photograph well, especially around water. Plus, they are not as immodest as white T-shirts when they get wet from swimming or diving.

Also, bringing several of the same color family means I can bring fewer sandals and shorts!

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

My influence is wearing off on my travel partner! These shirts were from a charity race with the St. Augustine Sailing Sisters, benefitting Betty Griffin House and REthreaded. We like to advertise a bit for them wherever we go.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Cotton fabrics in our T-shirts served us well. T-shirts are easy to hand wash, usually don’t require ironing. Their main drawback is if they are a heavier fabric, they are not as cool as other fabrics, and may take longer to dry.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Sun Protection Wear

We did take with us UPF wear for water activities. Although wetsuits were not necessary with water temperatures in the mid 80’s, we did experience a few teeny jelly fish and were glad to have that protection. Also, when snorkeling, the reflection of the sun off the sandy bottom was very intense.

Sunscreen is crucial – we wore it all day, every day. Necks, arms, knees, ears – we kept them covered with very lightweight mineral sunscreen from Stream2Sea.

I brought two pairs of sunglasses in case one was lost or broken. That’s not a tourist in the background – that’s one of our guides, Xander, who we kidded that he dressed like a tourist. Note the straw hat – we saw very few people without either a hat or umbrella for sun protection.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

UPF protection long-sleeved shirts did double duty as daytime protection from the sun when we were not diving. Also, they could have been used at night for chilly weather. We did not experience any chilly weather!

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Half As Many Clothes; Twice the Money

That’s my biggest tip – set out everything you think you need, then take away half of it. Seriously! My original pile was a lot larger. For two weeks, I actually could have reduced even further from the above assemblage.

Above I have two long-sleeved white shirts. I only wore the one on the plane and in the airport. Although I took two pairs white shorts; one would have sufficed. I wore them nearly daily, but was very careful.

With me I had one skort, and two coordinating sleeveless shirts. That was perfect for bridging the gap between shorts and skirt. However, due to the combination of shorts and skirt, it took up the room of two items. Truly, I could have foregone all three pieces.

Also, I took four v-neck T-shirts. I probably could have gotten away with two. Looking things over, I really had two or three different color schemes going on here, and could have reduced it to one or two. Since it was summer, white sandals went with everything, so I could not have gained there.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Unexpected Wins

A wildly-colored sleeveless T-shirt material dress ended up being the best thing for evening walks and restaurants. It was still very hot until midnight, so something snazzy but thin and short was appropriate. I wore it once alone, and once with another sleeveless shirt over it.

The maxi skirt; it coordinated with three shirts, and was easy to hand wash.

The two midi skirts; I seldom wear that length skirt at home. Usually I wear either longer or shorter, so their versatility and cool feeling was a delight.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Unexpected Fails

While I usually take two swimsuits so one can be drying, I didn’t use my spare at all. Had this been more of a resort trip, the second one would have been worn due to not wanting to wear the same suit day after day.

Too many T-shirts. One didn’t get worn at all; two and some hand washing would have been just fine.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

What the Locals Wore

Everything, just absolutely everything, including a surprising amount of dark-colored clothing. We noticed women did not tend to wear shorts, but rather, skirts. Above, a midi jeans skirt.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

We noticed a lot of colorful clothing colors for everyday wear, jewel tones and even black.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

We saw many women wearing sleeveless tops, especially around the house.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Reef Safe Sunscreen – Because Toxic Sunscreens Are Banned in Several Travel Destinations Around the World (Don’t Get In Trouble!)

Don’t forget that where you travel, you might be in one of those vacation destinations that has banned all those toxic ingredients found in some sunscreens. To be safe yourself, preserve the reef, stay legal, and comply with liquid volume allowances, treat yourself to some Stream2Sea products.

Already packaged in TSA-approved volumes, their travel kits have perfect sizes of sunscreen, shampoo, leave-in conditioner, and more. Stream2Sea has generously given me a discount code “KimW” for you to use at the checkout at checkout to save 10%. Regular or Tinted versions available, too!

What sets them apart from other “reef-safe” sunscreens? Theirs actually is tested safe for coral larvae, and, come in biodegradable containers.

, What to Wear in Cuba // Packing Light for Warm Weather

Some Links

What to Wear in Cuba

13 Things NOT to Do in Cuba

What to Wear in Cuba: Packing List + Suggested Outfits

What to Wear on Vacation – What to Wear in Cuba

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