13 Things to do in Viñales, Cuba
Viñales is a great travel destination in Cuba as it showcases a unique side to this island nation – the luscious green countryside. The National Park of Viñales will take your breath away, as will the colorful village. From culture to caves to tobacco farms, there is a ton of fun things to do in Viñales for tourists to check out!
Besides the fact that Viñales is conveniently located only 3 hours from Havana, Viñales is also great as it really caters to tourists, offering many beautiful (and affordable) Casas and restaurants. If you’re ready to unplug from the hustle and bustle of Havana, then Viñales is your perfect escape.
But there is more to Viñales than many think. It isn’t just about enjoying the scenery and relaxing. In fact, there are lots of fun things to do and see in Viñales, and in this blog, I’ll tell you about them all!
The Valley of Viñales was once the home of the Cuban native population, the Taínos. But things changed when people from the Canary Islands settled there around 1800 and started growing tobacco.
Today, Viñales is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also a popular tourist destination that’s famous for cigar plantations, caves, and stunning views. Between the inviting village and the unique natural landscapes, Viñales is the perfect retreat for holidaymakers.
How to Get to Viñales, Cuba
Getting to Viñales is best done directly from Havana as there is no airport in Viñales or a major bus station. From Havana, there are 3 different options when it comes to getting to Viñales:
A Day Excursion
Although spending a night or two in Viñales is ideal, if you’re short on time, then just a day trip from Havana will do. This way, you’ll get to see the main attractions in Viñales and be back in Havana by the evening. In fact, visiting Viñales for the day is easily one of the best things to do in Havana!
Going with a private taxi-guide will cost you around 120-150 CUC. Your hotel or host in your casa (a bed and breakfast type of accommodation which is most common in Cuba) can arrange this for you.
The advantage of this option is that you can personalize the excursion by negotiating times and stops with the driver. For example, you might want to check out Las Terrazas or Soroa (these are cute small towns) on the way from Havana to Viñales, or you might want to leave early to stay late.
With your own private driver, you can negotiate all of this!
Taking the Viazul bus is your cheapest option for getting to Viñales, but it’s not the most convenient. Trust me, this is how Dan and I got there from Havana and it’s pretty much a half-day ordeal.
While you’ll only pay 12 CUC for the trip, the bus’ schedule is fixed to particular times each day. It’ll also take longer than going by taxi even though it does not stop on the way. By car you’ll get from Havana to Viñales in roughly two and a half hours, by bus, it will take you three to four.
With that said, for those traveling on a budget and planning on spending a few nights in Viñales, this is likely the best option.
Taking a collective (shared) taxi is my recommendation for most travelers. Many taxi companies or private drivers offer a door-to-door trip to Viñales for 20-25 CUC per person in a shared car. If you’re lucky enough, you may even get one with air-conditioning!
These collective taxis pick you up right at your casa or hotel at a pre-arranged time (usually 8 am or noon.) Your casa host or hotel can surely help you to set it up.
On the way back to Havana, it’s possible to arrange the same service. Even if you’re going to Trinidad or Varadero, there are “taxis colectivos” that leave from Viñales.
The only thing to keep in mind for these shared taxis is storage space for luggage. If you have large bags or a lot of luggage, it might be best to book a private car. Otherwise, just mention your luggage when booking the ride to ensure there is space on the taxi’s roof for bags!
Now that you’ve gotten to Viñales, what is there to do?
15 Things to do in Viñales, Cuba
1. Go on a horseback riding tour
This is one of the most common things to do in Viñales, Cuba. The countryside outside of town offers views of beautiful valleys and staggering cliff-faces. By horseback, you’ll be able to cover more ground than you would by foot. These trails are not accessible by vehicles so horseback riding is really the best option.
We went horseback riding and paid 5 CUC each per hour which is upper cheap! We organized our trip through the owner of our casa.
The horses are very used to people, they do this every day. Our guide didn’t speak much English but knew basic words which came in handy. I could easily steer or stop my horse with the reins. The guide also helped me off and on the horse each time. There were no cliffs or dangerous paths, just lots of mud! I felt very safe during the tour.
Most horseback riding tours in Viñales include stops at a cigar farm, coffee farm, honey, and rum plantation, and a lake with a viewpoint and for swimming. The itinerary can be completely tailored to what you want.
We spent the morning on our horses stopping at viewpoints and attractions. It’s the perfect half-day activity in Viñales and a must-do in my opinion!
Hot tip: Keep in mind, stops along the horseback riding tour are included in the amount of time you are paying for, so tell the guide directly where you want to stop and where you don’t. We didn’t have any interest in stopping at the coffee farm as we have done a few coffee tours recently, and therefore saved ourselves about 45 minutes.
2. Tour a local cigar farm
This was actually the first stop on our horseback riding tour but can easily be accessed by foot from town as its own activity.
Once at the farm, we were given a tour of the facilities. Our tour guide spoke English and was quite entertaining. He told us how the tobacco leaves grew, showed us the sizes of them, and how different leaves make different types of cigars. He also sat us down and rolled a cigar right in front of us before offering for us to try and roll our own cigar – for free!
The demonstration and tour are free but they will try and sell you cigars at the end or ask for a tip. The cigars are pretty reasonable at about 4 CUC each and you know they are organic and of good quality. These cigars also have much less nicotine than ones made in factories.
The whole tour took probably about 20 minutes total, but it was interesting and well worth the visit.
Getting there: Walk 5-10 minutes on the main street in town to the right when facing the plaza. Go straight until you reach the farm “Tobacco Macondo Organic Cigars” (there is a sign.) The location is also marked on the App “MAPS.ME”.
Hot tip: Keep in mind that the cigars sold at the farm could be a hard souvenir to bring home as they have no proper packaging or ingredients list. I would recommend buying these cigars for your own use in Cuba only, and for souvenirs, buy cigars from registered cigar shops.
3. Get lost in the caves
The Viñales Valley is famous for its caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Some of the most famous caves in the area are “Cueva del Indio” (or Indian Cave), “El Palenque de Los Cimarrones” and “Santo Tomas”.
I personally loved the Indian Cave. This one has an underground 300-meter river where you can explore in a boat for a small fee. The rock formations depict figures that the guide explains during the ride.
El Palenque de Los Cimarrones used to be where rebellious slaves would hide when escaping from their Spanish oppressors. It’s a small cavern compared to Cueva del Indio. There is a restaurant that offers delicious creole food accompanied by folkloric spectacles recreating African traditions.
If you enjoy a bit of hiking combined with cave exploration, join a Santo Tomas caving excursion. Santo Tomas is the largest cavern system in Latin and Central America. The impressive rock formations served as shelters for runaway Cuban rebels in the revolution period. For 15 CUC, you get around one and a half hour tour with a very knowledgeable guide hiking through the cave.
4. Head out on the town in the evening
Surprisingly this small town offers quite the entertaining nightlife. No nightclubs or anything along those lines, but lots of lively restaurants and bars with a good mix of locals and tourists.
A venue called “100% Cuba” is actually a restaurant and has a decent BBQ food menu, but its Pina Coladas are what really sets this place apart. For 3 CUC they will bring you a huge Pina Colada without any rum in it…yet. They will also bring you a bottle of Havana Club Rum which is where you add your own rum, and as much as you want! This was my kind of Pina Colada! It was a really great drink and there is a rooftop area to relax and enjoy.
The “Centro Cultural Polo Montanez” is not necessarily a nightclub per se, but more of a social dance club that serves drinks. When we went there dancers were performing and locals were dancing their hearts out on the dance floor. It was really a unique and fun scene, different than anything we had seen before and well worth having a look.
Centro Cultural Polo Montanez is located in the back right-hand corner of the main plaza. It’s the perfect place to go at night any day of the week in Viñales.
On Saturdays though, all the atmosphere moves out to the main square. Here, locals and visitors gather with the sole aim of having genuine fun. The live music is perfect for bringing strangers together on the outdoor dancefloor.
5. Visit the “Mural de la Prehistoria”
The Mural de la Prehistoria is a piece of exquisite artwork that is painted on a 160-meter tall “mogote” (top-rounded limestone mountain.) The mural depicts life’s evolution across the different eras, from mollusks, dinosaurs, mammals to indigenous tribes. It took around four years for a team of 18 artists to complete the mural.
You´ll have to pay a small fee (3 CUC) to get inside the area, which is, in fact, not necessary since you can see the mural from outside. However, the mouth-melting creamy Piña Colada they offer there is a payoff in itself. You won’t regret it!
6. Stop by Hotel “Los Jazmines”
This venue boasts the best views of the whole valley. The fusion of multiple shades of green, red soil, and mega blue sky, turns the sunset into a spectacle.
Los Jazmines is a hotel located about three kilometers uphill from Viñales. Chances are that most of the pictures you have seen of the valley have been taken there. So, if you’re not afraid of working out your legs a bit, grab a bike and go by the dusk. Otherwise, by taxiing on a day trip, the driver will most likely stop there before entering Viñales.
Bonus tip: The hotel offers an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast until 10:00 AM for just 5 CUC. Who says no to this?!
7. Explore on a bicycle
When you think of exploring Viñales, the first thing that might come to your mind is horse-riding, and it indeed is the best way to hit the roads. However, you’ll need a guide since renting a horse on your own isn’t possible.
But you can rent a bike.
Cycling will give you the freedom to travel long distances without having to pay for a taxi. You can go to the caves, Los Jazmines, the cigars farms, the sugarcane fields, and much more to discover at your own pace. Not to mention it’s more sustainable and gives the poor horses a break.
8. Find peace in the “Valle del Silencio”
After some noisy days in the city, the Silence Valley (Valle del Silencio) will be a peaceful escape. It’s in the solitude that you get connected with your inner self. Stay in the silence and listen to nature’s sounds – the rosters, the birds, the wind. This hidden paradise is one of the least beaten spots by tourists in the area, but also one of it’s most beautiful valleys.
You can reach the Silence Valley either on a horse or by walking from town. Its location is not on any map, so ask a local or your host for directions.
If you come across a farmhouse, expect the family to invite you for delicious coffee. And they will do so with the most welcoming and humble attitude. In the Cuban countryside, they greet you with a coffee and a hug. That’s the kind of experience that puts a smile on your face.
9. Wander a Coffee Plantation
Speaking of coffee, have you ever wondered how coffee is cultivated in the old fashion way? Well, there are a couple of different coffee plantations in Viñales where you can see how coffee beans grow and are turned into a delicious drink.
As I mentioned above, you can visit a coffee plantation if you go on a horseback riding tour. Alternatively, you can also just visit one of the plantations on your own. there are a couple of different ones to choose from on the way to Santos Tomas.
You’ll see how coffee is made and even try a fresh cup or two. You can also purchase beans to bring home as a souvenir!
10. Dare to Zip-Lining at “Loma del Fortin”
If you’re looking for a bit of a rush of adrenaline, the zip-lining canopy tour in Viñales is for you. From up on the line, you’ll have a bird’s view of the valley while you fly amongst the royal palms and shaggy hills.
Loma del Fortin zipline is located about 5 kilometers outside of the town of Viñales and you can easily grab a quick taxi to get there. The cost is 8 CUC per person and the course consists of four ziplines.
This activity is one of the more unique things to do in Viñales, but well worth it if you want a bit of a thrill!
11. Catch the Sunrise with Yoga at “Los Acuáticos”
Step in the Valley is a tour guided by local guide Yosvany, which is a hike and yoga at sunrise experience all in one. Undoubtedly, this was the highlight of my stay in Viñales.
Equipped with our yoga mats, hiking shoes, and water, we headed uphill towards a farmhouse in Los Acuáticos at 5 am. Yoga with that view, watching that sunrise, is nothing short of perfection.
Los Acuáticos is a community located on a platform surrounded by the mogotes. There are no signs on the roads to get there, so you’ll need a guide and your legs. Prepare yourself to walk!
12. Visit Cayo Jutias
Who says there are no beaches near Vineales? There are actually a couple of nice beaches you can check out nearby. One of them is Cayo Jutías, which is my favorite with unspoiled secret spots.
From the entrance of the Viazul station, you’ll be able to find a shared taxi at 15 CUC for the round-trip. Make sure you negotiate the price though so you don’t get surprised at the end.
13. Stop at Soroa and Las Terrazas
In Soroa, there is a colossal Orchid garden. The flower grows like wild plants in the town-houses, painting the landscape with beautiful tropical colors. However, the area’s highlight is the waterfall, where locals and tourists can get a fresh dip to re-energize with spring water.
Las Terrazas offers no less. The San Juan River hosts a lot of local families who spend the day there. It’s another excellent opportunity to interact with Cubans and be adopted probably by one of the affectionate families.
In the summer, rivers are much more refreshing than beaches. Be aware that the entrance to the river’s area costs 15 CUC per person. Yes, I know that’s pricey for a natural attraction, but I wouldn’t think twice just because certain things are priceless.
Where to Eat in Viñales
Overall, both in town and outside, you’ll find trustfully organic meals. Most of the restaurants around Viñales offer locally-grown ingredients, good for the environment and your memories.
The restaurants are pretty cheap in comparison to Havana and offer good quality food for the price. We tried a couple of different places and honestly, all were pretty good. My favorite would be a place called “La Plaza” where lobster is only $7 USD and is huge!
Make sure you also visit Finca Agroecológica el Paraíso. Here you’ll get a delicious, substantial nine-course menu for about 15 CUC while enjoying a panoramic view of the valley.
Balcon del Valle is another must-visit for delicious creole food accompanied by the best mojito. The restaurant has a balcony where you can sit and delight yourself with the landscape. Again, the sunset is the perfect time for those magical views. So, grab a taxi or a bike, and head three kilometers Los Jazmines.
Tres Jotas is also among my top delightful eatery experiences. It’s a tapas restaurant regarded as one of the most popular ones outside Havana. The tapas are indeed exquisite, but the stew of lamb in red wine is just mind-blowing. You don’t want to miss that delicatessen!
Before you go…
With so many unique and fun things to do in Viñales, it’s no wonder it has become a top tourist destination in Cuba! I’m sure if you visit too, you’ll enjoy Viñales as much as I did!
If you’re planning a trip to Cuba, be sure to check out the rest of our Cuba blogs including my personal favorites:
Enjoy yout trip!
November 25, 2020