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 for which slaves coming from Africa were used.
Plantation owners made it a point to show their wealth, so Trinidad is an extravaganza of beautiful palaces, airy squares, colonial homes, so much so that it’s been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the historical center is completely closed to cars.
This beautiful maze of cobbled alleys, colonial museums and fabulous restaurants where live music is a constant and people meet in the squares to dance, sip refreshing drinks, and have a good time is obviously one of the most popular tourist destinations in Cuba. If you are planning to visit, this post if for you: I will tell you everything there is to see and do, and share some tips to plan your trip.
What To See And Do In Trinidad, Cuba
The Centro Historico
The historic center of Trinidad Cuba, is closed to traffic. This makes it particularly pleasant to wander around and admire the colorful 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.
The best way to enjoy Trinidad is on a guided walking tour and the great news is that there are some excellent free ones available online. You can book yours here.
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.
As one of the main attractions in town, Plaza Mayor is crowded with tourists. Along with tourists there are many touts. Be prepared for some cat calling, ladies!
The Bell Tower
The Convento de San Francisco is one of the most visible buildings in Trinidad. 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 exhibit 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 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 once again 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.
As opposed to other places in Cuba, Trinidad is shopping heaven! 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).
Make sure to do a bit of haggling when shopping, but don’t get too carried away when buying hand made items.
Eat in a Colonial House
Food in Cuba has a reputation for being rather bland, but I dissent – it’s actually really earthy, and tasty.
Basic meals in Trinidad 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 the 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.
Have a drink at La Canchanchara
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.
Enjoy local nightlife
Nightlife in Trinidad evolves around drinking cocktails and dancing. 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.
The staircase to Casa de la Musica is also 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.
Valle de los Ingenios
Not far from Trinidad, Valle de los Ingenios is where most sugar cane plantations that contributed to the city wealth are located. At its highest point more than 30,000 slaves were 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.
Some tours also go to lesser known (and therefore significantly less crowded) sugar mills.
Topes de Collantes
Not far from Trinidad there’s the country’s second largest mountain range, called Sierra del Escambray – it’s one of the best places to go hiking in Cuba. 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.
You will need a guide to hike in Topes de Collantes. You can join a guided hike departing from Trinidad. Just enquire at a local Cuba Tours or Havana Tours shop.
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.
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, and a great place to spend a few hours relaxing in the sun and swimming in the clear waters.
Playa Ancon is about 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.
The beach 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. 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.
Bout tours depart at around 9:00 am from harbor near the city, and the ride takes around one hour. The trip returns by 4:00 or 5:00 pm. 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 by the coral reef.
What You Need To Know To Plan Your Trip
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 when you constantly have to dodge scam attempts, touts, buses that depart on a random schedule and aren’t easy to book and what not.
Various companies organize guided trips to Cuba. The best tours are run by G Adventures – you can consider one of the following.
If you prefer to travel to Trinidad independently, continue reading.
Getting a visa for Cuba
Remember that you need a Cuba Tourist Card for your trip. Ask Easy Tourist Card to arrange your visa for 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 Amistad is a magnificent room located in a gorgeous colonial house.
- Casa Colonial de 1920 – Mustard Room is located in a gorgeous historical building in the heart of Trinidad.
- Casa d’ La Popa is a modern, comfortable room in a colonial house in the center of town.
When to visit Trinidad, Cuba
The weather in Trinidad, Cuba, can be separated into three main seasons:
DRY SEASON – from November to April (keep in mind it can still rain in the dry season!)
RAINY SEASON – from August to October (this is the rainiest season, with proper tropical storms)
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.
If you like the idea of traveling independently, and can share the costs with other people, the best thing to do 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.
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
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
Much like in the rest of Cuba, scams and touts 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.
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?
Make sure to read my other posts:
- The Best Day Trips From Havana
- The Best Things To Do In Cuba
- A Great Guide To Baracoa
- A Great Guide To Viñales
- The Best Cuba Travel Tips