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.
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) You could alternatively take a Taxi Collectivo for $15 a person. Just go to any Infotur office to ask where the pick up spot is.
The ride there was used for a couple of short naps but 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 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 travelers to be wary of random people on the street offering help. He quickly opened his wallet to show official licensing that he works on a farm and just happened to be on his lunch break getting ice cream from a gas station.
Side note: You could alternatively head to the Infotur in the main square (we arrived when they were on their lunch break) and I am sure they would direct you where to go.
We followed the man about half a km down the road to a beautiful organic farm. Their price for horse riding was $5 an hour which included a tour of the tobacco crops and a lesson in how to roll a Cuban cigar. It also included our guide taking us to a Cueva (cave) and a nice overlook restaurant and swimming hole.
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 pricy 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.
To get back to Havana we took a taxi collectivo 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.
If you wanted to stay the night in Vinales it is very possible the town has multiple hotels (with amazing views over the valley). Also, 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 casas are 20-30 CUC and there are many cheap food options in town.
We absolutely loved our day trip to Vinales and recommend it to anyone visiting Havana. If you have more questions on exactly how to book one don’t be afraid to leave a comment or shoot me an email! (email@example.com)