The Valle de Vinales is a small portion of Cuba's beautiful countryside. The town is located in the middle of three valleys in Pinar del Rio region. We took a day trip to the region and although it was perfect for us I can totally see why you would want to spend more time there.
- It is a 3 hour trip from Havana to Vinales.
- It is a very tourist-centric town and very safe.
- A private taxi will cost you around $70 one way.
- A taxi collectivo will cost you $15 per person each way.
- Horse riding in Vinales is $5 per hour.
- Most farms have a 4-hour tour that consists of horse riding, learning about tobacco growing, a stop at a coffee farm, entrance to the cave, and a lookout bar/cafe with a swimming hole. $20 total.
- Other cave entrance fees are between $5-10 per person.
- Vinales has many hotels.
- It also has many casa particulars. You can arrive without accommodations set up ahead of time.
- You do not, and I repeat, you do not need to book a tour in Vinales before you get to Cuba.
Our Experience Visiting Vinales From Havana
We were picked up from our apartment at 7 am in a private car to make the 3 hour trek from Havana to the valley. It cost us $70 total and was arranged the car through our casa owner. (One of the perks of staying in a Casa Particular) You could alternatively take a Taxi Collectivo for $15 a person. Just go to any Infotur office in Havana old town to ask where the pick up spot is.
The ride there was great for a couple of short naps. As we got closer to Vinales we started to see the low mountain ranges of the Cordillera de Guaniguanico. The valley is listed as a UNESCO World Herigage Site and for good reason. The beautiful mountains are also called mogotes (which translates to haystacks). They are made of limestone and reminded us of Thailand.
Once in Vinales, we were dropped off in the main square and started to wander to find some horses. After walking a bit luck struck and a man - eating a pint of ice cream - approached us asking if we were looking for horses. As usual we both said "No" quickly since we are trained as frequent travelers to be wary of random people on the street offering help. He quickly opened his wallet to show us an official license that stated he worked on a farm and just happened to be on his lunch break getting ice cream from a gas station.
Side note: I know this sounds like you shouldn't leave it to chance. But seriously do not book a tour ahead of time. Head to the Infotur in the main square (we arrived when they were on their lunch break) and I they will direct you where to go.
We followed the man about half a km down the road to a beautiful organic farm.
Tours available in Vinales
Their price for horseriding was $5 an hour.
The other option was a combined $20 4-hour tour which included a tour of the tobacco crops, a lesson in how to roll a Cuban cigar, horseriding the countryside, a guided tour to the local cave, lunch at an overlook restaurant, and a swimming hole.
Needless to say... We ended up doing a 4 hour tour ($20 total per person) and it was magnificent. We started learning about tobacco and the ways they make it organically in the farm. Instead of glue to hold the cigar together (which they use in the Partagas Factory) they use honey. He also taught us which leaves are used for which popular brands of Cuban cigars.
After buying quite a few cigars we headed out on horseback. Our first stop was a coffee farm and some refreshing sugar cane drinks. Then we took a brief stop at the cave, followed by lunch at a pricey but worth-it-for-the-view restaurant.
If you aren’t a big horse rider don’t be afraid to try it. The horses are semi-automatic and know the way quite well. I recommend riding over hiking since you don’t have to worry about puddles and you get a nice breeze as well!
You can also tour the natural limestone caves that have been developed for tourism in the region. Cueva del Indio, Cueva de José Miguel, Cueva de Santo Tomás are the most popular in the region.
How to get back to Havana from Vinales
To get back to Havana we took a taxi colectivo from the main square. It was comfortable and cheap ($15 per person) although we did have the most “normal” seats in the car. We sat in the typical back seat. The other seats were room for 2 in the front next to the driver. And room for 4 in the back on two benches facing each other.
Can you stay for the night in Vinales?
Yup! If you wanted to stay the night in Vinales it is very possible. The town has multiple hotels with amazing views over the valley. Almost every house on the main road is a Casa Particular and you should not be worried about waiting to book a room until you arrive. Most Casa Particulars are 20-30 CUC and there are many cheap food options in town.
I am not kidding that the most popular question I get about travel to Cuba is if you should book your tour to Vinales before you get there. No. No. And No again. Because internet is not a thing in Cuba it is much easier - and cheaper - to book everything once you arrive.
Also, even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
Also, a super common question I get asked constantly is what camera do I use for my travels. The body is a Nikon D3300 and I mostly use this wide angle lens made by Sigma. It's awesome for travel photography - I am seriously obsessed with it.