Time has stopped in Trinidad, Cuba. A fantastic mix of colonial architecture and vintage cars, this city is an absolute must see.
One of the nicest cities in the Caribbean region is Trinidad, Cuba. This is one of the first Cuban cities founded by the Spanish (around 1514), which grew to become the richest in the country thanks to the production of sugar cane, cattle and tobacco by the slaves that were imported from Africa.
Plantation owners made it a point to show their wealth, so Trinidad, Cuba, is an extravaganza of beautiful palaces, airy squares, colonial homes. No trip to the country can be considered complete without visiting this beautiful town, so well preserved that it also is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the historical center is completely closed to cars.
Sure, this is the most touristic place in the country, second only to Havana. It also is significantly more expensive than other cities in Cuba. But there are many good reasons why travelers flock to this lovely city and are happy to blow their budget there.
To read more about Havana, check my post “27 Absolutely Unmissable, Fun And Quirky Things To Do In Havana“ and for a more complete guide to Cuba, read my post “The Most Fantastic Things To In Do Cuba: The Ultimate Guide.”
Nowadays, Trinidad is a maze of cobbled alleys, colonial museums and fabulous restaurants. Here, live music is a constant: people meet in the squares to dance, sip refreshing drinks, and have a good time. Adding to this there are a handful of gorgeous beaches nearby, and a few hiking trails within easy reach. In other words, Trinidad, Cuba, is the perfect destination for lovers of history, culture, beaches and nature alike and, according to National Geographic, visiting is one of the top experiences in Cuba.
This post highlights everything you need to know to make the most of Trinidad, Cuba, with the top sights and activities in and out of the city, as well as the best places to stay and eat.
Trinidad, Cuba – What To See And Do In And Out Of The City
Trinidad, Cuba: the city
Visiting the Centro Historico
The historic center of Trinidad, Cuba, is closed to traffic. This makes it particularly pleasant to walk around and take in the views of beautifully kept colonial buildings. The best ones are all in Plaza Mayor, but if you push yourself beyond that, on the side streets, you’ll discover a glimpse of local life, with people sitting on doorsteps, trying to protect themselves from the sun, playing dominos or just chatting with friends.
Among the sights you’ll be able to see in Trinidad, Cuba, when exploring the historic center, there are:
The heart of Trinidad, Cuba is its Plaza Mayor. This beautiful square was built at the time of the maximum wealth of the city, when it was rich thanks to the sugarcane plantations. The square is surrounded by colorful historic buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
TIP: As one of the main attractions in town, Plaza Mayor is crowded with tourists. Along with tourists there are many touts. Be prepared to be called by them, and asked for just about anything. One even asked me to give her the shirt I was wearing. A firm no helps pushing them away.
The Convento de San Francisco is one of the most visible buildings in Trinidad, Cuba. Its bright yellow tower can be seen from various parts of town. It’s a famous landmark, where people love taking a postcard photo. The convent is now a museum with an exhibits about the Cuban revolution. Its main attraction, however, it the tower from where there is a splendid view of the city below.
Museo Histórico Municipal, aka Palacio Cantero
The Museo Histórico Municipal is the most interesting one in Trinidad. It’s housed in a mansion off Plaza Mayor that used to belong to the Borrell family and was then bought by Kanter (or Cantero), a German planter. Its exhibit includes lots of objects that date back to the slave trade times. Yet, it’s the views from the tower that make it worth the price.
Museo de Arquitectura
Located in a 18th century mansion that once belonged to the Sanchez Iznaga family, this museum is the best place to visit in Trinidad, Cuba, to get a good idea of what colonial mansions looked like. There even is a 19th century style bathroom.
Housed in Palacio Brunet, once the home of rich sugar baron Conde de Brunet, this museum showcases items that belonged to the family.
Shopping in Trinidad, Cuba
One of the things I immediately noticed about Trinidad, Cuba, is that as opposed to other places in the country this is a great place for shopping. Here you will be able to buy any sort of souvenirs – from clothing to t-shirts, from art to jewelry, from ceramics to cigars and even musical instruments. Places like Taller Alfarero, Tienda Amelian Pelaez and the Art and Crafts Market are all great to get some souvenirs such as pottery or crochet works. Casa del Habano is a good place to buy quality cigars (avoid buying the cheap ones sold in the streets).
TIP: Make sure to do a bit of haggling when shopping in Trinidad, Cuba, but don’t get too carried away when buying hand made items.
Eating and drinking in Trinidad, Cuba
Food in Cuba has a reputation for being rather bland. I actually liked it (possibly because I am not a fan of food that has the overpowering taste of garlic, or that is too spicy), and during my trip I managed to try several good dishes.
Read more about food in Cuba in my post “The Most Delicious Cuban Food: 35 Mouthwatering Cuban Dishes.”
Basic meals in Trinidad, Cuba, cost anything between $5 and $10 USD. But if you are in for a unique experience, make sure to visit one of the paladares located in former colonial homes. They are costly compared to the rest (you pay up to $30 for a full meal), but you get to dine in an incredible setting of a gorgeous patio and garden, with antique furniture on display for customers waiting to be seated. The nicest paladar is Sol y Son.
If you want to try the local cocktail make sure to go to La Canchanchara, a mansion famous for its cocktail (which actually has the same name) made of rum, honey, lemon and aguardiente and served in ceramic cups.
Enjoying Trinidad’s nightlife
Nightlife in Trinidad, Cuba, evolves around drinking cocktails and dancing. Music is really everywhere in Cuba, and at every corner you turn in Trinidad you’ll find a band playing. Every night, from 7:00 pm, locals and tourists head to the Casa de la Musica, order a drink and sit on the stone staircase to enjoy the sunset and the atmosphere. Once the live music starts, people will start dancing to salsa tunes.
TIP: The staircase to Casa de la Musica is one of the few places in Trinidad where you can get decent wifi.
Another place to enjoy a bit of nightlife in Trinidad, Cuba, is Disco Ayala. This is located inside a natural cave.
Trinidad, Cuba: the surroundings
The great thing about Trinidad, Cuba, is that it’s incredibly easy to get out of the city and that there is plenty to see and to outside. The following is a selection of attractions and activities.
Valle de los Ingenios
Not far from Trinidad, Cuba, there is Valle de los Ingenios, where most sugar cane plantations that contributed to the city wealth are located. At its highest point more than 30000 slaves working in the mills: this was thought to be the sugar capital of the world.
One of the unmissable places to visit is the Manaca Iznaga. Here you can see the remains of the main house and walk up the 44 meters tower that was used to keep an eye on the slaves working in the fields. You can even ride a steam train all the way there from Trinidad.
This is the best tour that includes a visit of Manaca Iznaga:
Some tours also go to lesser known (and therefore significantly less crowded) sugar mills.
Topes de Collantes
Not far from Trinidad, Cuba, there’s the country’s second largest mountain range, called Sierra del Escambray. This is where the Topes de Collantes National Park, a beautiful nature reserve, is located. Topes de Collantes is packed with hiking trails, and there also are some beautiful waterfalls. One of the nicest hikes is the one to Salto de Caburni, which goes through a coffee plantation and leads to the 62 meters tall waterfall of Caburni river, below which there is a fantastic swimming hole with freezing but clean waters.
Radio Tower Hill
One of the nicest views of the countryside around Trinidad is that from the radio tower. On a clear day you can see all the way to Valle de los Ingenios.
TIP: The hike to the Radio tower is relatively easy and takes around 30 minutes each way. It’s better to go there early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and get a better light for pictures. Make sure to carry water!
Of the various places that can be accessed from Trinidad, Cuba, El Nicho is the hardest one to reach (you need a 4×4 vehicle) and the furthest away (it takes around one hour and a half to get there). Having said so, it’s worth the effort of going. It’s a series of small waterfalls and natural pools with water so clear that calls for a swim!
Playa Ancon is thought to be one of the nicest beaches in Cuba. It’s located at around 12 km from Trinidad and you can go there by bus, taxi (it takes between $5 and $10 USD each way, depending on your haggling skills) and even bike. It takes around one hour to bike all the way there, but keep in mind that the back trip is uphill. Renting a bike costs around $5 USD for the day.
TIP: Playa Ancon is infested with sand flies so make sure to apply insect repellent!
A boat trip to Cayo Blanco is one of the most popular day trips from Trinidad, Cuba. It usually leaves at around 9:00 am from the city, and the boat ride takes around one hour. The trip returns by 4:00 or 5:00 pm. The Cayo is nice, surrounded by the coral reef and with a small but clean beach. Day trips usually include transportation, lunch and snorkeling gear.
TIP: Keep in mind that this trip varies greatly depending on the weather and sea conditions, so if the day is not clear or if it is windy, postpone it as it won’t stop on the barrier reef.
For other amazing beaches in Cuba, check out my post “The 31 Best Beaches In Cuba.”
Where to stay in Trinidad, Cuba
Trinidad has some of the best accommodation options in the country, with excellent casas particulares. Below is a selection of the best casas in town:
- Casa Smith Siglo XVIII is located in a gorgeous colonial house.
- Hostal Bianca is one of the nicest and most comfortable places in Trinidad historic center.
- Rogelio Inchauspi Bastida is in what used to be the first pharmacy in the city.
- Real 54 is right by the Plaza Mayor and there also is an adjoint cafè.
- Hostal Gutierrez is a quirky looking house in the historic center.
What You Need To Know To Plan Your Trip To Trinidad, Cuba
Traveling around Cuba can be stressful, especially when you have limited time in the country; and planning the trip can be easier said than done. Various companies organize guided trips to Cuba.
These are the best tours that also go to Trinidad, Cuba:
Make sure to also get a good guide book. I recommend this one.
If you prefer to travel to Trinidad, Cuba, independently, the following information may be handy.
When to visit Trinidad, Cuba
The weather in Trinidad, Cuba, can be separated into three main seasons: dry, from November to April (keep in mind it can still rain in the dry season!), wet, from August to October (this is the rainiest season, with proper tropical storms) and hot, from May to July. Locals may complain it is cold in the winter months, but unless you grew up in a tropical country yourself, you will find the temperatures pleasant. Each season has its own perks, so your decision on when to visit should be based on the kind of experience you want to have.
How to get to Trinidad, Cuba
Trinidad is in the center of Cuba and can be easily reached by other tourist destinations. You can get there by car – either renting your own vehicle, or paying for a taxi; or by bus.
It takes around 4 hours to drive to Trinidad from either Havana, Varadero or Camaguey, and one hour and a half from Cienfuegos.
TIP: If you like the idea of traveling independently, and can share the costs with other people, the best thing to do in Cuba is renting a car. However, this is easier said than done. A car costs around $85 per day with insurance, and you absolutely have to book it in advance (possibly months ahead of your trip). Booking a car locally is virtually impossible.
If you are not keen to drive, you may hire a car with a driver to take you all the way to Trinidad. It probably is the priciest option, but the taxi will pick you up at your suggested time and will be at your service.
Viazul buses go to Trinidad from various places in Cuba, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a seat or make a reservation, so you may be better off renting a car or getting a taxi. Having said so, if you can get a seat your trip will be significantly cheaper. You can try to make a reservation here.
Getting to Trinidad, Cuba by bus takes inevitably longer. Traveling time is 7 hours from Havana, 9 hours from Vinales, 6 and a half hours from Varadero and 1 and a half hours from Cienfuegos.
Getting online in Trinidad, Cuba
There are several wifi hotspots in Trinidad, Cuba. The main one is in Plaza Mayor, and the wifi signal even reaches a few restaurants so you can surf the web while you eat. You can also buy wifi cards at the ETECSA center, or at the tourist information center. It costs $2 USD per hour. Hotels also sell internet cards, but they are significantly more expensive.
Scams and safety in Trinidad, Cuba
Much like in the rest of Cuba, scams are common in Trinidad. Though jineteros (hustlers) aren’t nearly as aggressive as in Havana or Santiago, they surely are there. They will try to sell you stuff; tell you the saddest story, and convince you to surrender your shirt; rent a casa particular their recommend; eat at their friend’s restaurant which they’ll swear is the best in Trinidad; let you borrow their bike for a convenient rate (sic.!); suggest a convenient (so they say) taxi to get around, and what not. Smarten up, learn how to haggle, say a polite but firm “no thanks” and never lose your cool.
Read more about my experience in Cuba in this post.
Petty crime in Trinidad, Cuba, is not common but it’s on the rise. Make sure to lock your important belongings in your suitcase when you go out; and make sure to count your money before you lock it away. I haven’t had an issue, but I have heard of several travelers who had their stuff raided by the staff at their casa particular. If this happens to you, make sure to call the police. Sometimes, even just threatening to do so will prompt the thief to return your staff.
TIP: Remember that travel and health insurance is required to travel to Cuba. You can get yours here.
Have you ever visited Trinidad, Cuba? What did you enjoy the most there?