Not many people know, but hiking in Cuba is actually excellent. Most people who travel to this vibrant and lively Caribbean country enjoy the beautiful colonial cities, the fantastic beaches, the delicious food, the fun music, the contact with a completely different culture.
Talk about hiking in Cuba, though, and most people simply ignore that it’s actually a thing. The country is packed with good trails that allow you to get closer to nature, breathe in the clean air, enjoy an incredible view and just get away from it all. Hiking is definitely one of the best things to do in Cuba.
This post highlights some of the best hikes in Cuba and shares some tips to make the most of them.
Hiking In Cuba – 7 Unmissable Places
Valle de Viñales
The nicest place to go hiking in Cuba is by far Viñales National Park, in the province of Pinar del Rio. This is the most Western province of Cuba, a place that most travelers go to to explore the tobacco plantations and the appreciate the countryside vibe. While most limit themselves to a one day visit that involves a car tour around the valley, the best way to fully appreciate the area is on a hike or bike tour.
The valley has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and it became a National Park in 2001.
Viñales has a unique environment of carsic mountains, known as “mogotes” (these are beautiful, isolated steep-sided hills that have a rounded, tower-like shape, and are surrounded by flat alluvial plains). The tobacco plantations, the many caves that are scattered around the valley, and the rich cultural heritage make this the perfect place to go hiking in Cuba.
There are many trails in the area, and you can mix and match to make them longer and adjust them to your taste and interests. I recommend one that goes by the mogotes, through the tobacco plantations, by the caves and that reaches places the small community of Los Aquaticos.
It’s not a difficult hike, but there’s hardly any shade along the way, and with the strong sun and heat it can be exhausting.
TIP: Make sure to carry sunblock, lots of water and enough food for the hike. There really aren’t places to et water and food along the way. Also take your swimsuit and a quick dry, lightweight towel with you as there may be a chance to swim in the Cueva del Indio.
Not many people who travel to Cuba make to Las Terrazas, in the Sierra del Rosario. I did, and let me tell you: it’s worth going. This eco-village was founded in 1968 in the attempt to re-forestate the region, and is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The area is fantastic for birdwatching, and it’s an overall great place to get away from the chaos of Havana for a day or two.
The Sierra del Rosario is one of the best regions to go hiking in Cuba, and there are plenty of good trails. The bad news is that none of the trail is well marked, and that you’ll need a local guide to enjoy them. The good news is that guides are easy to scout in Las Terrazas, and you’ll be able to pick from a great variety of trails.
Among the best trails there are that to San Claudio, the most challenging one with a 13 km walk that gets all the way to San Claudio waterfalls; the El Contento trail, a nice, easy 8 km walk through the Campismo El Taburete (a Cubans-only camping site) and the Baños de San Juan, that also goes to some coffee plantations; and Sendero la Serafina, which starts at Rancho Curujey and is the best one for people who are into bird watching.
TIP: While the few tourists that venture to Las Terrazas only go on a day trip (after all, it’s only one hour drive from the capital), I recommend staying a bit longer to appreciate all that Las Terrazas has to offer, especially if you are into hiking.
Salto de Caburní
One of the best places to go hiking in Cuba is Topes de Collantes, a natural park in the province of Sancti Spiritus that can be easily reached from Trinidad.
One of the best trails in Topes de Collantes is that to Salto de Caburní, where the Rio Caburní ends in a 62 meters high waterfall that drops right into a gorgeous natural – yet freezing – pool. The trail is 5 km long (10 km there and back). You will be walking downhill on the way to the waterfall, and uphill on the way back. It’s a fairly easy trail to follow, but a guide is recommended.
TIP: Make sure to carry a swimsuit and a lightweight towel. Though cold, the natural pool is pleasant and swimming there is a great way to cool down before walking back. Make sure to carry enough water for the duration of the hike.
One of the nicest places to go trekking in Cuba is the area of El Nicho. To be fair, these are more like walks than proper trails, but still worth going as the area is stunning. It is where the Rio Habanilla has a beautiful system of waterfalls and natural pools. A short hiking trail allows you to admire the caves, get close to all the natural pools and do some bird watching.
TIP: The water is the natural pools quite cold, but incredibly transparent and inviting, so make sure you bring a swimsuit to make the most of your day.
If you are looking for the ultimate, most challenging place to go hiking in Cuba, head to Pico Turquino, which is where the revolution forces established one of their basis during the civil war. With its 1972 meters, this mountain is the highest peak in Cuba and dominates the Caribbean Sea. It’s covered in a gorgeous cloud forest and protected by a national park of roughly 140 square km.
The usual starting point to hike Pico Turquino is Santiago. The hike is a challenging one that takes two to three days and starts in Alto de Naranjo, near La Plata, and finishes at Las Cuevas, on the Caribbean coast. You need to hire a guide for the duration of the hike.
You spend the first two days walking on the trail that goes to Pico Turquino, sleeping in the huts of Pico Joachín and Pico Cuba. From there, you’ll get another guide that will take you to Las Cuevas.
The main challenge of this hike is the fact that you’ll go from 2000 meters above sea level to virtually sea level in just one day, and in less than 10 km. Yet, the views are rewarding.
TIP: You’ll need to carry virtually everything you may possibly need for the duration of the hike, including warm clothes, a sleeping bag, a rain coat, sufficient food for the duration of the hike plus a bit extra to offer to the guards on duty at Pico Cuba. You can buy drinks at Pico Cuba, where the trail starts.
Check out my post on what to pack for long distance hikes.
TIP: Spanish speaking guide are easily found, but if you’d rather have an English speaking one make sure to book well in advance. Ecotur is a good company to ask for a guide.
La Gran Piedra
Among the places to go trekking in Cuba there is La Gran Piedra, which is not far from Santiago de Cuba, in the south of the country. This is a massive boulder weighting 63000 tons located at the top of a mountain range whose highest peak reaches 1234 meters above sea level. Given how hot Santiago can be, this is nice and cool in comparison.
In order to hike La Gran Piedra, you have to get all the way to the information center which is at the top of a 12 km road that is very steep. You can get there by car or taxi – buses can’t really make it up there, as it really is too steep.
The trail starts at the information center, and it’s very easy to follow. Some 500 steps take you all the way to the Gran Piedra, from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view. From there, you can also reach the nearby coffee plantations – some of the oldest in Cuba – where you can have a tour and even taste coffee.
TIP: You can combine your hike to la Gran Piedra with a visit to one of the beaches in the area such as Playa Siboney.
Check out my post about the best beaches in Cuba.
One of the most famous places to go hiking in Cuba is El Yunque, near the lovely city of Baracoa, in the Guantanamo province. Locals and tourists alike enjoy this trail, which is some kind of rite of passage. The mountain, which can be seen from a distance in Baracoa, is cone shaped and flat at the top, and though it only gets to roughly 500 meters above sea level, this is a challenging hike.
The region is very tropical, with incredibly thick vegetation and trails that are though marked can be difficult to follow, as they are so muddy. In order to get to the starting point of the trail, you have to walk through the countryside and then cross the river – either on foot, getting in the water, or on a cayuca boat is this is available once you get there.
It takes around 2 hours to get to the top, and more or less the same amount of time to walk back down to the beginning of the trail. The overall walk from the visitors center – including stops at the waterfall – takes around 6 hours.
The views from the peak are incredible: you can see the many beautiful beaches near Baracoa. It’s one of the most challenging hikes in Cuba, despite being a short one, because the region is very humid and it rains every day, which means that you don’t only have to battle the heat, but you also have to walk along a very muddy, slippery path.
TIP: Make sure to wear a good pair of hiking boots that properly hold your ankle, as the terrain is muddy and very slippery. Wear a swimsuit, as there will be plenty of chances to swim in the beautiful rivers of the region. Also take plenty of water for the hike, and enough food, as there are no shops or kiosks along the way.
TIP: You will need to hire a guide for this hike. You can get one at the visitors center, once you get to the park.
Baracoa is Cuba’s best kept secret, and one of the top gourmet destinations in Cuba.
If you are planning a trip to Cuba, make sure to read my other posts:
- The best Cuban dishes you should not miss
- The Most Fantastic Things To In Do Cuba: The Ultimate Guide
- How To Get The Visa For Cuba In 8 Easy Steps (Also For Americans)
- Trinidad, Cuba: The Most Complete Guide
- A Great Guide To The Things To Do In Havana
- 10 Fabulous Day Trips From Havana
- The Worst Scams In Cuba
- The 32 Best Beaches In Cuba
- A Great Guide To Viñales Cuba
- A Great Guide To Baracoa Cuba
- A Great Guide To Cienfuegos Cuba
- The Best Tips For Visiting Cuba
Have you been hiking in Cuba? What are your favorite trails?