Vinales Cuba

Escape Havana: Visit Viñales

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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.

Vinales Valley Cuba | Things to do in Vinales

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 Jasmine Vinales Cuba | Things to do in VinalesHotel Jasmine Cuba Accommodation | Things to do in VinalesHotel 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.

Cuba Vinales | Things to do in Vinales

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!

Casas Particulares in Vinales Cuba | Things to do in VinalesCasa 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.

Vinales National Park Cuba | Things to do in Vinales

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.

Visiting Viñales?
Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Gemma and Craig full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

Comments 27

  1. We opted to skip Viñales during our whirlwind 2 week Cuba adventure.

    That gargantuan pink hotel looks a little too tacky (and a little too government) for my tastes!

    Casa Particulars can be pricy, but they mean a hell of a lot to the local people, even more so the meals as the aren’t required to give any % of that income to the government.

    Interested to read your perspectives on other bits of Cuba…

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      Just to clarify, we didn’t stay at the Hotel Jasmine! We just used the facilities but the views were outstanding and the place is more about the tobacco plantations and mogotes. It’s strange because hardly anyone offered us dinner, only breakfast!

  2. Hey there Gemma and Craig,

    I loved that shot of you guys cycling on the road and even if you hadn’t mentioned it, I definitely would’ve likened that green to Jurassic World. That must’ve been some great scenery to accompany your ride. I feel ya on escaping your own country and not really bothering to repeat things found back home. That’s an easy thing to fall into here in Korea so I get what you’re saying there. Haha.

    To answer your question at the end, we don’t really live in a big city but are surrounded by tons of “escapes” here in the South of South Korea. I prefer going to any given beach along the south coast and trying to find a place that isn’t totally crowded by tour groups. Hiking is a big thing here so that can also get kind of crowded, though Saturdays are better than Sundays.

    So yeah, my escape would have to be the beaches or mountains here in Korea, as long as they’re not overcrowded by everyone else who’s got the same idea as me that day.

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m happy to have found your blog!

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      Thanks for the kind words Duke! Man, your town sounds amazing. We have just arrived in Robert’s Creek, BC which is on The Sunshine Coast of Canada and it sounds similar. We have a beach at the end of the road (I don’t really like sand though) and forest all around us, feel very lucky. And a hammock on the porch! South Korea has never really crossed my path before until now, score!

  3. Great post! It’s SO true that one of the often unspoken benefits of travel is not having to watch that rubbish on a Saturday night – your cabaret cave sounds like a much more enriching experience (especially with the cheap rum involved!) Definitely see what you mean about the Valle de Viñales looking like a scene out of Jurassic Park… very pleased to hear you didn’t get eaten by a giant Turkey vulture though.

    Looking forward to reading your post on casas when you write it. Will keep my eyes pealed :). Hope your fuzzy head has eased now. Safe travels!

    Gabby

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  4. Did you get to visit a tobacco plantation? I’d like to see one and learn about the process. Do you think that something we should do or not? Don’t want to waste any of our precious little time in Viñales.

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      We bought cigars are gifts at the shop (!) but didn’t take a tour. I honestly think you would get the vibes of the place by hiring a bike. It’s very outdoorsy as it’s so beautiful! We only had three nights there (two days really) and the bike ride was the best part of it.

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  5. Hey, I’m leaving for Cuba on Monday (so excited). My boyfriend and I also wanted to bike around Vinales, without a tour guide, but I’m having a hard time finding any maps or routes to take. Do you have any advise!
    Thanks,
    Amy

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      There’s a guy that rents them on the main high street. He’ll point you in the right direction, you can’t really mess up! Everything is pretty relaxed in Cuba. Do you need any other advice? Be sure to check out everything we have here.

  6. That’s such a brilliant post, I wish I knew about the Hotel on the Hill was available to non-guests for a price of a pina-colada in a cocktail bar. We went in January 2017 and it was packed with tourists, all bicycles were rented out so we went hiking instead. It was still pretty incredible, but I really want to go back and sit by that pool though

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      1. January is definitely super busy, we had a brief tour around the most popular destinations, just to have a taste of the country- so we’ve also visited Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Havana. Having a better understanding/impression of the country I’d love to go back again at some point, but I need to work on my Spanish first, haha

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  7. Love this site… very helpful in planning my trip. I do have a question (or two):

    I’m going with 3 other folks and we are going to be in Cuba for 10 days. Is this a reasonable and achievable itinerary?

    2.5 days in Havana
    1 day in Varadero (overnight)
    3 days in Trinidad
    1 day in Vinales (overnight)
    2.5 days in Havana

    Also, just curious, do you have any idea what we should plan to spend on transportation if we choose to go with this itinerary?

    Thanks for documenting your journey so well. Love love love your site!

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      Thank you Greg!

      That sounds like a great itinerary. If you want a day to relax I’d add it to Viñales. Definitely check out Playa Ancon near Trinidad, postcard perfect beach!

      It always seemed to be $25 USD each to move about using the taxi collectivos or the bus [the taxi matched the bus price Trinidad to Varadero].

      We have lots more information on Cuba [like our budget] at our Cuba guide here just in case you middedt it.

      Let me know how you get on!

  8. Hello Gemma and Craig! Great advice, I’m planning to spend some time in Vinales myself soon. When it comes to biking, were you able to go around on your own or a guide was needed? Do you recommend any maps? Are the trails marked?

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      Lovely! Great way to get around. No guide required, guy rents them from the main street. Everyone kind of goes in the same directions towards the fields and caves so you can’t go wrong.

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