Located 2 hours drive from Havana in the province of Pinar del Rio, Viñales is the “countryside of Cuba”. Very popular among tourists because it offers a beautiful landscape combined with traditional Cuban culture.
If you are looking for a vibrant city where you can have mojitos and salsa music? I would suggest to skip Viñales and visit Havana or Trinidad. However, if you are looking for a quiet place to relax meanwhile enjoying the rural natural beauty of Cuba surrounded by mountain ranges and tobacco farms, I think Viñales is a good spot for you as it was for us.
You can visit Viñales from Havana on a day tour but I recommend that if you have the time, you should stay overnight and see what this place has to offer. Viñales is very special not only for its landscape but also because it still uses traditional methods in agriculture and transport.
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What to do in Viñales
The valley of Viñales is 132 km², it has a viewpoint where you can see the valley at it’s best as well as its iconic rounded mountains in the background that are called by the locals “mogotes“. Declared a UNESCO world site, here is where the best tobacco crops are cultivated along with other vegetables, coffee and fruit.
If you can, I would suggest to do a horse riding trip, you can see people working on their land and the forest is beautiful, it seems like if the time has stood still in this town.
Cueva del Indio
Many years ago, before the Spanish arrived in Viñales, indigenous people known as “Taino people” inhabited this area. They lived in natural caves, the ones that visitors can see today. It is very pleasant to walk through the caves, the path is illuminated so you can see clearly the stalactites inside.
Also, the visit to the caves includes a small ride on the boat where you can see the San Vicente river that emerges from the caves. Something important to mention is that although the cave is large, only a small section of the cave is open to the public.
In some parts of the cave we had narrow sections or we had to bend as the roof was low. The walk through the caves and ride in the boat takes less than an hour. We had to make a small queue for 15 minutes given that there are only two boats that can hold up to 12 people. The best time to visit this attraction is in the morning or at lunch time.(12 noon or 1pm). Entrance cost: $5 CUC per person.
Cayo Jutias y Cayo Levisa are two Cayos near Viñales, however we choose Cayo Jutias because it was the closet to Vinales. Cayo Jutias is a beautiful beach to spend the morning or afternoon lying down on its white sand and swimming in its turquoise water. It does not have all-inclusive resorts unlike other cayes in Cuba therefore you enjoy the Caribbean water in a relaxed environment.
The beach is long but tourists usually get crowded at one side of the beach near the main entrance. We walked along the beach and on the other side there was nobody, the water was perhaps less turquoise but it was still stunning, the mangroves were my favourite! It is possible to stay in Cayo Jutias in casas particulares. Also, you can hire tours to go scuba diving or snorkeling in the reefs near by.
I recommend the following:
- Bring your own snack and beverage, there is a restaurant on site but the food is ok and the prices are a little bit high.
- Get away from tourists by walking a little bit further along the beach.
Mural de la Prehistoria
This mural has a very misleading name; there is nothing prehistoric about this mural. It was made by some Cuban artists and through this painting they tell the story of our world from the first microorganism on earth to the Homo Sapiens. The colorful painting on the rock makes a real contrast with the green valley below, making it a perfect spot to have a picnic or to just lay down on the grass and chill.
There is a tourist bus that comes here. If you like hiking, walking from Viñales town to here will take you 1 hour approximately.
Finca Agroecológica El Paraiso (Organic Farm)
This organic farm that is also a restaurant cultivates its own vegetables and fruits on site. You can visit their farm for free and see the trees and plants that growth here.
Try the anti-stress drink pineapple with fresh mint(and plenty of rum!). It is very well kept and it is the perfect place to have drink, have lunch or dinner and watch the sunset.
Jardin Botanico de Viñales
The Jardín botánico is small but nice, run by a family, it has a variety of plants, flowers and several tropical fruits.
It is right in the town which made it very easy to walk there from our casa particular. There is a guide that for small donation can explain the different uses of some plants including for medicine purposes. There is also a small cafe so you can have a drink or snack and enjoy the atmosphere of the plants and animals
How to get to Viñales
- By bus: The best form of transport in Cuba is by bus, we recommend Via Azul. The drive takes 3 and half hours approximately and costs $12 CUC per person.
- By train: There is a train from Havana to Pinar del Rio every second day.
- By Taxi colectivos: it will cost $90 CUC approximately for 4 people, it is only for two or less you will have to pay for the empty seats.
Get around Viñales: The green bus
The easiest way of getting around Viñales is on the hop-on, hop-off bus. The bus runs daily from 9 or 10am till ~7pm and begins at the bus stop just outside the main square on Salvador Cisnero. The cost of the bus is 5 CUC.
Where to stay
We prefer the home stay (casa particulares) in Cuba. The one that we recommend is Villa la Niña.
Addres: Calle Adela Azcuy Norte, # 11 Viñales.
Have you visited Viñales? How was your experience? Leave us a message in the comment section below.