For as tiny as it is, Viñales, Cuba has a lot to offer to visitors.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and a National Park in 2001, Viñales Valley, in the Province of Pinar del Rio, and the small town that takes the same name, are great to explore. Packed with hiking trails perfect for nature lovers; close to the beach for a relaxing day, Viñales is one of the most popular places to visit in Cuba, and for good reasons.
A popular place to visit on day trips from Havana, I recommend to spend 4 nights and 3 full days there to make the most of everything it has to offer.
Curious to discover the things to see and do in Viñales? Continue reading.
11 Unmissable Things To Do In Viñales, Cuba
Bike around Viñales Valley
There is little doubt that the best way to explore Viñales, Cuba is either walking, biking or riding a horse. This way, you get to fully appreciate the incredible landscape, in particular the mogotes, isolated residual hills made of limestone, marble or dolomite characterized by very steep sides, and typically surrounded by planes.
When I visited, I opted for a bike tour as this way I could go a bit faster and visit more places in one day. Bike tours last for up to 10 hours and hit the tobacco plantations, the Valley of Silence and – if you are fit enough – go to Los Acquaticos.
The main issue with biking in Viñales is that the roads you will bike on tend to get very muddy in places, and as such slippery. You will go up and down hills a lot, so a minimum level of fitness is recommended.
Hike to Los Aquaticos
Viñales Valley is among the best places to go hiking in Cuba. There are several trails in the area, and you can mix and match them as you like to follow your taste and interests. Whichever you do, make sure to go by the mogotes and visit some of the many caves.
One of the best trails is the one that goes to Los Aquaticos, a tiny community that lives up on the hills and believes in the healing power of water. It is not a hard hike, but keep in mind that it is entirely uphill on the way there, and since there is no shade it can get exhausting depending on the time of day you do it.
I recommend hiring a guide for your hike. The trails are not really marked and it is easy to get lost. You will also need to carry sunblock, lots of water and enough food for the hike as there really aren’t places to get a bite along the way.
Hike to Valle de Palmarito
Another good hike is the one that goes through Palmarito Valley, where you can admire the best tobacco plantations in the country.
Go horse riding
Horse riding is one of the best ways to explore Viñales Valley. You can do it even if you are not a pro at riding – in fact, horses are quite docile and the pace is nice and slow so even the most inexperienced riders are bound to enjoy it. It’s a rather inexpensive thing to do too.
Visit the tobacco plantations
Viñales is famous for the production of tobacco and cigars and it goes without saying that you should tour the plantations. A visit usually consists in a short walk among the plantation – depending on the time if year you go, these actually look quite lush.
You will then visit the cigar factory, which is actually quite rudimental. It’s no more than a hut where tobacco leaves are placed to dry and then cigars are rolled manually, and closed with a touch of honey.
You will also learn about the politics behind the tobacco business in Cuba: apparently the government buys 90% of the tobacco for a minimal fee from local producers, who get to keep the rest to sell to tourists.
If you are into cigars or if you want to bring some home as a souvenir, this is where you will find the best quality ones (though they won’t have any shiny label). The only thing is that you need to be very careful about how you keep them. Cigars are very delicate and they need humidity and a cool place to keep good.
Go to Cueva del Indio
The Indios Cave, or Cueva del Indio as it is known locally, is one of the coolest places to visit in Viñales. Used by the indigenous people living in the area, the cave was apparently “discovered” in 1920. Once inside, you will have to walk downstairs and then jump on a boat that will take you to admire the beautiful rock formations and then leave you on the other side.
The cave is about 6 km from Viñales, so you will need a car to get there. It costs $2 USD to get in.
Admire the Mural de la Prehistoria
I have mixed feelings about this Mural. First of all, it was painted in recent times and not in prehistorical times. Honestly, it is also a bit of a slap in the face when you consider that nature in Viñales Valley is so beautiful, lush and green and this is all artificial. Some say it nevertheless is a must see.
I saw it from a distance as I was passing by, and the photo you see was taken from the parking lot that leads to the site. Getting inside costs $3 USD. I know, it’s not much. But since you can see it very well from the outside, you may as well skip it.
Take in the views from Hotel Los Jazmines
Most guided tours of Viñales include a stop at Hotel Los Jazmines. Located a bit outside of town, on top of a hill, it has a public terrace from where you can enjoy the most beautiful views of Vinales valley. Right on the terrace there also is a small kiosk where you can get a drink – just in case you happen to be there at sunset.
Spend a day in Cayo Jutias
Cayo Jutias is about 65 km from Viñales and a gorgeous place to spend a day relaxing at the beach. Just imagine 3 km of the whitest sand, with mangroves and a coral reef where you can enjoy snorkeling – it’s really one of the best beaches in Cuba. You can even walk all the way to the lighthouse that dates back to 1902.
Organized tours to Cayo Jutias depart daily from Viñales. They include transportation, lunch (nothing special, really) and the use of the loungers. If you would like to do a one hour boat tour to the coral reef, you will have to pay an extra $15 USD which includes gear rental.
If you’d rather go there on your own so that you can decide when to go back (tours drive back at 3:30 pm, when the sun is still high and bright, so you feel like you are wasting half of the day) you will have to arrange your private transportation.
Or in Cayo Levisa
A bit further way from Viñales, Cayo Levisa is another great place to spend a day at the beach. Much like Cayo Jutias, you will find perfectly clear waters and fine white sand. There even is a diving center where you can rent equipment.
Enjoy a night out
Viñales certainly isn’t Havana, Santiago or Trinidad, but who says that you need a big city for a fun night out? Viñales counts with a couple of bars located on the main square and along the main street. There you can have a drink and enjoy some salsa dancing. If you are lucky, you may also enjoy the festa del campesino (peasant’s party) in the Centro Cultural Polo Montañez, right by the church. It usually involves singing and improvisation shows – it can be a lot of fun.
Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Vinales Cuba
Getting a visa for Cuba
Don’t forget you need a visa for your trip to Cuba.
Where to stay in Viñales Cuba
You will find no shortage of good casas particulares in Viñales.
These really are the best places to stay and eat (there are a couple of restaurants in town, but the food at casas is usually much better and cheaper). This is a selection:
- Casa Dovales – located in Adela Azcuy, it has a nice and clean room. The owner is a real star (she saved me from being ripped off on a few occasions) and an amazing cook.
- Villa Natali Lixandra and Jorge has comfortable rooms and a fantastic terrace with incredible views of the valley.
- Casa Deborah y Juan Carlos has modern rooms around a beautiful patio.
How to get to Viñales
Viñales is well connected to the rest of the country by Viazul and Transtur buses, but you will have to book well in advance to get a seat. Keep in mind that Viazul website is less than reliable so I strongly encourage you to go to a local agency to book your bus ride. There are direct buses from Havana (it takes around 4 hours). I traveled there from Cienfuegos and the trip took 7 hours.
When to visit Viñales
The best time to visit Viñales is in the dry season, which runs roughly from November to April. That’s also peak season, so the valley tends to be busier than in other months. I visited in February and never found it overwhelming so I would just recommend to go in the dry season anyways – but do make sure to book your accommodation in advance.
Other useful information
You may want to get a guidebook for your trip to Cuba. Considering that wifi is not really reliable there, this may save you on a few occasions. You can get one here.
Remember you’ll also need a good travel insurance!
If you are planning a trip to Cuba, you will want to read my other posts:
- The Best Cuba Travel Tips
- 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)
- The Most Delicious Cuban Food: 35 Mouthwatering Cuban Dishes
- A Great Guide To Baracoa Cuba
- A Short Guide To Camaguey Cuba
- A Great Guide To Cienfuegos Cuba