The Havana Jazz Festival – An Incomparable Celebration

Havana Jazz

Jazz and Cuba are as interwoven as any genre of music and country can possibly be. The centuries-old form of creative expression is forever linked to the soul of this nation. For jazz fans and aficionados, no better time exists to experience this intoxicating art form than the Havana Jazz Festival, happening January of 2020. This month will mark a weighty milestone in the history of the festival as it celebrates its 35th year.

If prior occasions are any indication, the festivities are sure to be filled with the same energy and excitement that jazz regularly releases on Cuban airwaves. Allow us to take you inside the happenings of this incomparable celebration to discover what makes the event such a sublime experience and why you simply must be there:

Havana Jazz Festival Details:

First, let’s cut right to the chase with important event details:

  • Location:  Havana, Cuba
  • Dates:  January 15th-19th, 2020
  • Visitors:  It’s difficult to give an exact estimate on the number of attendees for the festival, but a few things are certain: the crowd is a large international mix, there are many different jazz options for all tastes, and families are warmly welcomed by the Cuban people.
  • Performers:  The 2020 lineup has yet to be announced, but past performers include popular artists Chucho Valdés, Daymé, Joe Lovano, Snarky Puppy, Charlie Haden, Roy Hargrove, and Telmary. Check back with us for the full lineup!
  • How to Buy Tickets:  Not yet announced – check back for updates!
  • Where to stay:  No matter where you stay, we recommend booking in advance as there will be a high demand. Hotels are always an option, but if you desire a more authentic experience casa particulares (local homes) is your best bet. Discover Corps is an expert on this type of accommodation.


The humble beginnings of the Havana Jazz Festival date back to 1979 when the event was first formed. But for the star of the show, the music itself, its roots can be traced back much further. Jazz is an unscripted blend of African and Spanish influence, with dashes of inspiration from Latin America, Europe and more recently, the United States. The unencumbered music has gained worldwide recognition for its creative flow and romanticized allure. It’s popularity boomed in the late 19th century when US-Cuban relations sparked a sharing of the unique outlet – with New Orleans benefiting greatly from the exchange. Today, jazz transcends the boundaries of young and old, and elicits a revering smile and a timeless tap of the foot. This creates a magnetic pull with global reach – on musical artists and fans alike – to converge on this small Caribbean island to honor the music.

Havana Jazz
From the Teatro Nacional to the streets of Havana, jazz is a way of life


It goes without saying, some of jazz’s top musicians will make appearances during Havana’s festival. Half the fun of the experience, however, is seeing the young up-and-coming talent take the stage. Their songs will surely be lesser known compared to the hits from established jazz veterans, but you may be witnessing the next Dizzy Gillespie, before he was Dizzy Gillespie. For those truly interested in seeing the next wave of great jazz musicians, the Joven Jazz (Young Jazz) Festival, a competition between young artists takes place just days before the better-known event. Either way, you will be directly supporting the continuation of a classic form of music. One that, with events like this, is sure to be passed on to the next generation.  


Venue-wise jazz can certainly be enjoyed in large concert halls or amphitheatres, but many would argue it is best appreciated in intimate haunts accompanied by a cold drink. The same thinking applies to where, location-wise, the music can be best admired. However the question is posed, Havana, Cuba is always the answer. Just as opera is best in Italy or a hotdog is most thoroughly enjoyed at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Cuba is synonymous with jazz. This is never more evident than during the Jazz Festival as the music dominates Havana from Teatro Nacional to the smoky bar just down the alley. The beauty of the five-day event lies in the fact that the music is everywhere – creating the sense of one continuous song – as the notes blend together near seamlessly while you meander through the city.

An Unforgettable Way to Enjoy the Festival

As any quick internet search will show, many tour operators exist as options for the Havana Jazz Festival. Discover Corps, however, would like to humbly present you with a different option. Our team has created two special itineraries that are sure to make the festival an unforgettable experience. Some of the highlights include: exploring the city with the founder of Discover Corps and visiting his favorite art and music scenes, private rooftop jazz performances, experiencing a barrio transformed by Cuba’s most famous artist, soaking in the beauty of the Vinales Valley, and touring a local cigar factory – all while enjoying great jazz with all-access passes. Ultimately, your Discover Corps vacation during the festival will be completely organized, so at the end of every adventurous day, you can sit back and savor the smooth tunes. Here’s a breakdown for both of the itineraries:

Have you ever been to this festival? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below!

Any questions? Just give us a call at +1.619.758.3030 or email us at for more information.

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