10 Best Day Trips From Havana

There are many excellent day trips from Havana you can take.

Havana is a great city, with a lot to see and do, and it will take you days to explore it. The good news is that it is also easy to get out of town, and you can explore other parts of Cuba relatively easily. In other words, you can use Havana as your base for most of the trips (because let’s face it, that’s where the best casas particulares, restaurants and nightlife are!) and take day trips from Havana to enjoy at least some of the other things Cuba has to offer.

Whether you want to spend a day at the beach, visit another city, enjoy an easy hike of get deep in the nature of Cuba, you won’t have a hard time organizing a day trip. Continue reading for a selection of the best ones.

day trips from Havana

10 Great Day Trips From Havana 

Playas del Este

Playas del Este is the obvious choice for day trips from Havana if you want to spend a day at the beach. Known as the Havana Riviera, Playas del Este are located at just 30 minutes drive from Cuba. You will find a whopping 50 km (31 miles) of white sand beaches lined with palm trees, which fortunately haven’t seen the level of development and construction that changed the face of Varadero. The best beach is Santa Maria. 

If you happen to be in Cuba in the winter months, between January and April, you will likely have the beaches to yourself – Cubans believe it is too cold to go to the beach then. 

HOW TO GET THERE: You can easily get to these beaches by public transportation, as there are buses leaving from Havana. Trains leave from Havana’s Estación Central. Alternatively, you can opt for a taxi ride (but make sure to negotiate the fare) or the hop-on hop-off Havana bus tour, which departs roughly every 30 minutes.

Finca Vigia
Finca Vigia, one of the most interesting places to visit near Havana

Cojimar and Finca Vigia

Lovers of Hemingway will certainly want to follow his footsteps and explore the places he loved. 

Cojimar is a small town located east of Havana. It’s a place where Hemingway spent a lot of time, where he’d find inspiration for his books – it is rumored that it is where he got inspired to write The Old Man And The Sea, which got him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 (which he dedicated to Cuba, thus officially becoming a national hero).

Finca Vigia is located south of Havana. It’s where Hemingway used to live and now houses a museum entirely dedicated to him.

HOW TO GET THERE: Both Cojimar and Finca Vigia are close to Havana and easy to get to. The bus to Cojimar takes about 40 minutes, whereas a taxi will take you there in 10. If you want to visit on the same day I recommend joining a guided tour as they are not in the same direction and having a tour with transportation makes it much easier and way more pleasant. For a guided day trip to Hemingway’s places click here.

day trips from havana
Biking in Vinales Valley

Viñales Valley

Of all the day trips from Havana, this is the one I most recommend. It honestly is a gorgeous place and you’d be better off spending a few days to take in all its beauty, but if a day is all you have, definitely go and make the most of it. 

Viñales Valley UNESCO World Heritageis located in the province of Pinar del Rio, at little over 2 hours drive from Havana. It’s such a unique place that it’s been included in the list of sites. 

Once there, you can admire the mogotes – isolated hills that have a rounded shape; explore the tobacco plantations and traditional tobacco factories; visit the many caves. You can opt to bike, hike or ride a horse to go around. Whichever way you pick, you are bound to have a blast. 

HOW TO GET THERE: Though local buses – locally called guagua and operated by Viazul – connect Havana to Vinales for just $12 USD, they take around 4 hours so they aren’t a good option for a day trip. The best way to get to Vinales from Havana is by car – it takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes. You should ask the owner of your casa particular to arrange a ride for you, it should cost around $30 USD each way. You can also opt for a guided day trip that includes transportation. You can book it here.

cuba classic car
A classic car is a perfect way to enjoy a day trip

Las Terrazas and Soroa

Las Terrazas and Soroa are among the best places to visit on day trips from Havana and since they are quite close to each other, they can be visited on the same day.

Las Terrazas is located in the in the Sierra del Rosario. It is an eco-village that was founded in 1968. The idea back then was to plant more trees in the region. The experiment succeeded and the area is now a great place for birdwatching and nature lovers. You will be able to enjoy some easy hikes (but you probably need a guide as the trails aren’t well marked). Make sure to get to the river, where you will find a series of lovely natural pools perfect for swimming.

Soroa is located an hour west of Havana and it’s the perfect place for a day trip for nature lovers. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a much lesser visited place compared to Las Terrazas, which is only at 10 minutes ride. The best thing to do there is admiring the incredible landscape. Make sure to visit Soroa Waterfall and the Los Manantiales Waterfall.

HOW TO GET THERE: There’s one daily bus from Havana to Las Terrazas, but to visit both on the same day you are better off going by car. While you will have no troubles finding a taxi to take you to Las Terrazas or Soroa from Havana (it should cost around $15 to $20 USD per person), the same can’t be said to make your way back. All in all, you are probably better off arranging to hire a taxi for the whole day to take you to both places. If your haggling skills are good, you should pay no more than $100 for the entire day.

Jibacoa

Located between Varadero and Havana, Jibacoa is at about 60 km (37 miles) from Havana and it will take you about one hour by car to get there. It is a truly beautiful beach where you can enjoy a day in the sun, snorkel in the clear water or even go diving to the two shipwrecks. 

HOW TO GET THERE: The best way to get to Jibacoa is either by rental car or by private or shared taxi from Havana. It takes around 2 hours to get there.

beaches of Varadero
Varadero has some incredible beaches

Varadero

Varadero is a popular holiday destination for travelers that enjoy staying in all-inclusive resorts. If that is not your style, you may still opt to go there on a day trip, as the beaches are honestly fabulous. Picture fine, white sand and incredibly clear waters. Until 2008 Cubans could only work there, but not visit. The restrictions have been lifted since then so it doesn’t have that much of a touristy feel anymore. 

The best thing to do in Varadero is spending the day soaking in the sun. You may also want to visit Varahicacos Ecological Reserve.

HOW TO GET THERE: Unless you have your own car, the best way to get to Varadero from Havana is on an organized round trip transfer, which you can book here. It’s not a cheap option, but if there is a few of you traveling, you can share the costs. The journey takes 2 hours. Viazul buses also go regularly for just $4 but the ride lasts around 3 hours each way so it’s not a viable option for a day trip.

Matanzas
Matanzas and the surroundings are perfect for a day trip from Havana

Matanzas 

About 90 km (56 miles) from Havana, Matanzas is a lovely place to visit. It is famous for its 17 bridges – there are a whopping 3 rivers running through the city.

The city itself is a pleasant place to visit, with plenty of architectural delights dating back to the colonial era. Make sure to go to Teatro Sauto, which was built in 1863. In the 19th century it was a hub for artists and musicians that gave life to two distinct musical styles – danzón and rumba.

Yet, it is the surrounding that are worth visiting. Make sure to go to Bellamar Caves, famous for the stalactites and stalagmites. You should also explore the area of the Yumuri River (more in a bit).

HOW TO GET THERE: Matanzas is about 1.5 hours drive from Havana by car. Viazul runs buses about 3 times per day. The ride takes 2 hours and costs $3 USD. You can also get there on the Hershey Train (more about it below), or hire a taxi for the day.

The Hershey Train

It’s worth mentioning this train separately, as not only it is a fun, cheap way to get from Havana to Matanzas, but in and of itself a trip! The train line was established by US chocolate magnate Hershey at the beginning of the 20th century to connect Havana to Matanzas. After the Cuban Revolution, the factory was nationalized and given the name Central Camilo Cienfuegos, to honor the memory of one of the heroes of the revolution. 

The only things that have remained the same are the train with the locomotive and the carriages, the ancient railways and the signs.

The ride lasts about 4 hours and goes from the Casablanca station, which is east of Havana harbor, to Matanzas passing through Yumuri Valley. It is an incredibly scenic ride. The train ride is very cheap – only $3 USD each way.

Yumuri
Yumuri Valley in Matanzas

Yumuri Valley

Close to Matanzas – you can visit them on the same day, actually – is the Yumuri Valley, a gorgeous rural valley surrounded by mountains and dotted with palm trees that makes for a perfect nature escape. You can explore it on a 4×4 vehicle or, for a better adventure, on horseback. Make sure to reach Puente de Bacunayagua for breathtaking views.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Yumuri Valley from Havana is by car – you can hire a private driver for the day. Once there, you can hire horses and a guide for the day. If you can get all the way to Varadero, you can join a 4×4 tour.

Cienfuegos

Cienfuegos is one of the most charming cities to visit in Cuba, where you will be able to admire many colonial style buildings. The city is at little over 2 hours drive from the capital (so it can be visited on day trips from Havana), and its centre is so pretty that it’s been enlisted among UNESCO World Heritage sites.

It is laid back yet full of life and incredibly colorful. The main places you should visit are Parque Jose Marti, which is the main square where you will find the Tomas Terry Theater, the Arco de Triunfo and the Provincial Museum. Make sure to also take a walk along the Malecon.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get from Havana to Cienfuegos is by car. A one way taxi ride costs around $30 USD and takes about 3 hours. There are 3 daily Viazul buses costing around $20 each way, but you need to reserve it in advance and the long ride doesn’t make it suitable for a day trip.

Trinidad Cuba

Trinidad

I am always a bit reluctant to recommend Trinidad for day trips from Havana. The city honestly deserves a few days as there is lots to see and do, both in town and in the surroundings. The historic center has been completely closed to traffic, so it is pleasant to explore. There, you will find a few gorgeous mansions that date back to the colonial period, that used to belong to sugar magnates who had their plantations in the nearby Valle de los Ingenios. 

If you go on a day trip you probably won’t have time to explore the Escambray Mountains nearby – Topes de Collantes is a wonderful area for hiking, 

HOW TO GET THERE: Though there are public buses connecting Havana to Trinidad, if you really want to visit on a day trip the only way to do it is by private car or on a guided tour. It takes 4 hours by car to get there.

Further Readings

Planning a trip to Cuba? Make sure to read my other posts:

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Read about the best day trips from Havana - via @clautavani

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