Viñales is a tranquilo haven less than three hours from Cuba’s capital, Havana. Don’t get me wrong, Havana is a mecca for cocktail lovers and salsa dancing queens but after three nights thumping the mean streets of La Habana Vieja by day and joining in the fiesta at night, it was time for some R&R amongst the lush green countryside of Cuba’s tobacco fields and mogotes. There isn’t an abundance of things to do in Viñales but that’s the beauty if it and here’s what not to miss.
Mogotes and tobacco farms, day trips from Havana
Things to do in Viñales
A Hotel on the Hill
Hotel Jasmine is a short hike / quick taxi ride away from the centre of Viñales and has a swimming pool, cafe, and bar which overlook the UNESCO World Heritage Site Viñales valley. Sunbathe surrounded by mogotes and breath in that fresh air.
- Entry (non guests): 3 CUC \ $3
Hotel Jasmie – venture to Viñales
Cycling the Viñales
One of my favourite things to do in Viñales is cycle. Hire a bike from the local tout and stretch the legs while biking through the tobacco fields, mogotes, and past those typical Cuban vintage cars. Don’t be surprised when you see cow pulled cart, you are in the countryside after all!
The mogotes are large imposing hills made from limestone, smothered in vegetation and reminded us of a scene from Jurassic Park (or Jurassic World for our younger readers!) I kept expecting to see a pterodactyl soaring through the sky. The turkey vultures were big, but not that big! The Valley is not dissimilar to Halong Bay in Vietnam, just without the water and garbage.
- Bike hire in Viñales: 6 CUC / $6 for 5 hours (no locks)
If you are interested in the caves you can take a guided tour of Cuevas de Santo Tomas, which comes highly recommended by Trip Advisor Cuba.
Thumbs up who wants to tour Cuba!
Bars and Clubs in Viñales
There is a strip of restaurants and bars on the main street in Viñales which cater for the modest budgets and serve above average quality of meal options. We dined at Dulce Vida and El Olivo during our stay. If you are in Viñales over a weekend and you are looking for a fiesta why not join the Cubans and the local talent at Palenque de los Cimarrones – a (not so wild) rave in a cave! One of the mogotes just outside of the main stretch doubles up as a cabaret style show displaying Cuba’s talent of dancing, singing, and comedy. At the end of the acts the dance floor opens up to the public.
- Entry: 2 CUC / $2
- Taxi collectivo: 1 CUC each (6 adults + the driver’s girlfriend who was also going)
- Bottle of rum: 6 CUC / $6
Accommodation in Viñales
I am assuming that you’ve come to Cuba to experience an authentic stay with locals? If so, you will be looking to book into a casa particulare. If you are still unsure, please read our guide to casas which outlines are personal experience of three weeks travel in Cuba.
This casa in Viñales was actually our first stay with a local and we took the advice of our hostel in Havana who recommended staying with Sara and Jorge. This Viñales casa would be ideal for solo travellers as the bedroom was set out like a dorm room with four beds, which was not like our other casa experiences (which were all private rooms). Sara and Jorge’s house has a lovely porch with rocking chairs and a neighbouring pig that comes to visit! Sara’s breakfast is outstanding, a true banquet which will make you forget that you are staying in rationed country.
- Casa price: 10 CUC (this was the only rate we accepted during negotiations in Cuba)
- Breakfast: 4 CUC (expensive but lots of it)
It is not necessary to pre-book casas in Cuba, when you step off the bus you will be inundated with locals selling you their space! It is your role to barter for your bed. If you are uncomfortable with this, you can check out reviews and book casas through Airbnb, Cuba was pretty much doing Airbnb before Airbnb was born!
Not with Airbnb? We’ve used it all over the world! You can sign up here for money off, we’ll also get some credit. Thank you for helping to keep us on the road!
Casa particular Viñales
Hotels in Viñales
If our guide can’t convince you to stay with locals, no stress! There are a handful hotels in Viñales which start at $56.
Length of stay + Viñales itinerary
We stayed in Viñales for three nights. We chilled out on the arrival day / night, cycled the next day then partied at Palenque de los Cimarrones which then required a day by the pool at the pink Hotel Jasmine in the hills. This ridiculously postcard perfect beach, Cayo Jutias is less than two hours away we never had the chance but after seeing pictures I am kicking myself. Here’s your Cuba cheat sheet of unmissable stops and essential information.
It’s a jungle out there: Valle de Viñales
How to get to Viñales
Like all journeys in Cuba you have two choices. One, use the Cuban tourist bus system Viazul bus. Or two, club together with other travellers and pay for a taxi collectivo.
We took the bus from Havana to Viñales (12 CUC / $12), which is a comfortable 3.5 hour journey with a twenty minute snack stop at an overpriced tourist cafe along the way. The buses leave from Havana at 9, 11, and 2 – warning, bus times are unreliable in Cuba. It is a real turn off and made backpacking in Cuba very difficult and frustrating at times.
My advice is to take a note of all potential bus journeys from the website before you enter Cuba. You will not have access to WiFi like you do at home. Want to know more about WiFi and Internet in Cuba? Here is our most popular post!
Viñales to Playa Larga
Our next stop was Playa Larga to dive in the Caribbean sea! We chipped in with four other travellers and paid 25 CUC each (travel is expensive in Cuba) for the 4.5-hour taxi journey. The first driver drove us half way and then we swapped cars once we had a toilet swap. Do not be alarmed, this is normal! There is a bus but it left very early in the morning. Fancy diving? Check out how we got on.