After spending a few days touring around Havana, Cuba’s largest city, we were ready to see some of the beautiful countryside we’d heard so much about. From Havana to Vinales Valley is a perfect day trip, and it enabled us to see what life was like outside the city in Cuba.
The Valle de Vinales is one of the most picturesque places to visit in Cuba, and that’s saying a lot. Plus, it’s really easy to take a Havana to Vinales day trip. Continue reading to see what you’re in for.
Planning a trip to Cuba? Check out our comprehensive guide on traveling to Cuba for Americans. We also have lots of tips for traveling to Cuba, along with a great guide to eating and drinking in Havana.
Book a Tour for a Havana to Vinales day trip
There are a number of great Cuba tour companies who can set up a private tour for you, so you can personalize every part of your day and make sure you’re getting the most of your time. That’s the method I recommend for a Havana to Vinales day trip.
We highly recommend Havana Journeys. We booked two tours – a Havana city tour and the day trip to Vinales. We had the same tour guide and driver both days and they were very professional and knowledgeable.
For our Havana to Vinales day trip, we were picked at at 8am at our apartment in Havana. If you’re a fan of the old classic American cars, you will be in for a treat, because you will have the pleasure of riding in one for the duration of the tour. This was our car – a true beauty!
How Do You Get From Havana to Vinales?
Getting from Havana to Vinales can be arranged through many tour companies, even the ones that use the old American cars. It’s a fun way to drive to the countryside in style. We booked our trip directly through Havana Journeys. The cost was $100 USD per person for 2 people (prices vary depending on the number of people you have.
They pick you up directly at your hotel or Airbnb and drop you back off there at the end of the tour, so you really can’t get any easier than that.
You can also take a bus or taxi to Vinales. The company “Viazul” offers two buses a day to travel to Viñales from the main station. The first one is in the morning and the second is in the afternoon. The trip is 3 hours and 40 minutes long if the bus makes a halfway stop in Las Terrazas. You really need to stay overnight if you’re taking the bus.
How Long is the Drive to Vinales?
The trip to Vinales takes about 3 hours. You can catch a little nap on the way, or keep your eyes trained on the road to see varying forms of transportation pass you by.
All along the way you pass through beautiful countryside and farmland. It’s a great introduction to the non-city way of life in Havana, which actually makes up the majority of the country.
How Long to Stay in Vinales
While a day trip suited our plans well, you might want to stay in Vinales for longer and truly get to explore the countryside and its many splendors. If you do plan to stay overnight, the best place to stay is in a private home. Learn how to find a good Casa Particulares.
There are a lot more things you can do in the area than you could possibly cover in one day.
Top Sights in Valle de Vinales and the Town of Vinales
A day trip to Vinales will show you what life in the countryside is like in Cuba so you can see the contrast from Havana. You will see the mountains, the farmland, the tobacco farms, and some caves.
You might also plan to go on a horseback ride and eat a traditional lunch at one of the amazing local restaurants. Just on the outskirts of the city is a tourist hotel with a pool where you can relax for a bit if you’re staying over night.
Cordillera de Guaniguanico
As you get closer to Vinales, you’ll start to see the low mountain ranges of the Cordillera de Guaniguanico. The Viñales Valley has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you quickly see why as you approach. The mountains are called mogotes, which means “haystacks.” You can see why they’re called that…
Not only are they exceptionally rugged and towering, they are one of the main attractions of the area for tourists because as the original limestone has eroded away, caves have formed in the mountainsides, many of which have been developed for tourism.
These caves (Cueva del Indio, Cueva de José Miguel, Cueva de Santo Tomás) allow tourist to walk and boat through them to see the stalagmite and stalactite formations that have formed within, or to do some real caving with a professional guide.
We went inside Cueva del Indio and enjoyed the short walk and boat ride, since the Rio San Vicente runs through the cave. Inside you’ll see cave paintings and archaeological remains from pre-Columbian Cuban civilizations. Tickets are 5 CUC.
The tobacco farms in this area are one of the top sights. You will see where and how they harvest tobacco, dry it and roll it into cigars. I’m not a cigar smoker, but Nick is, and he enjoyed the presentation and smoking one of the cigars from the farm.
Another popular activity to do in while visiting the tobacco farms is to go on a horseback ride through the fields. Vinales is so beautiful that we didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to ride through the countryside.
Our trusty horses walked us through newly sprouting tobacco and black bean fields and through the tobacco farm property to another cave, where we were led through with flashlights. The cave was really narrow, so we had to squeeze our way through.
Ifter the cave, our horses took us to a little rum and coffee production area of the farm. We watched them grind some coffee beans and then sat down for a tropical rum drink. Watch out! They let us pour our own rum!!
Lunch at a Paladar
The best part about a private tour is the guide chooses the lunch spot based on your preferences and their own connections, so there’s no research to be done, which is a huge win for me, because I’ve been known to spend days choosing one lunch spot for our trips.
We’d already had a fantastic introduction to Cuban food in Havana and were really looking forward to what we would taste in the countryside. We were taken to El Campesino, which is a restaurant built in the backyard of a private house, like all paladares in Cuba. Paladars are the way to go when eating in Cuba.
They are privately-owned restaurants, not run by the government, which generally ensures a higher quality experience.
Our lunch at El Campesino was one of the best we had in Cuba. Most meals you order in Cuba come with a huge bowl of black beans and rice and probably also a plate of fresh fruits or vegetables.
Our lunch here included a giant bowl of soup to start, the rice and beans, another large plate of special pineapple rice, a salad plate and a fruit plate, in addition to our entrees.
We ordered the grilled lobster and the fried chicken. The total price with drinks was $35. Best value lunch ever. Plus it was incredibly good.
Following lunch, we were completely tuckered out and ready to start the 3-hour journey back home. As we drove up the hillside to get back to the main highway, we stopped off at Hotel Cubanacán Los Jazmines for a panoramic view of the valley.
This hotel has the best view in the valley, along with a stunning pool that overlooks the valley. We would have stayed there if we were staying the night. You can also just pay for a day at their pool if you don’t want to stay. Read more about it, plus other things to do if you’re staying over.
Vinales Cuba Hotels
As we mentioned, a day trip from Havana to Vinales is very easy to make, but it does involved a lot of driving to get to and from. If you don’t want to do it all in one day, you can stay overnight at one of these Vinales hotels.
Keep in mind that most of the hotels in Vinales are basic 2-star guestrooms with no frills. Set your expectations properly if you plan to stay there. (Note: Americans are not allowed to stay in hotels in Cuba. Get a Casa Particulares, instead. Read more here.)
Hotel Los Jazmines
4-star hotel in the middle of the countryside with a gorgeous view and a lovely outdoor pool.
Villa El Habano
2-star guesthouse in Vinales with two guestrooms and an outdoor terrace.
We loved our Havana to Vinales day trip and would recommend this side trip to anyone who’s visiting Cuba. It’s good to see what the rest of the Cuba countryside is like if you’re just staying in Havana or the beach areas of Cuba.
Have you been to the Valley de Vinales? What activities did you do there that you really enjoyed? Share it with us in the comments.
Be Prepared For Travel
Planning is the most important part of any successful trip. Do it the easy way:
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- Find and book the best hotel (our favorite booking site is Expedia)
- Research flight options (our favorite tool is Skyscanner)
- Book a tour (we always use Viator to find the best tours)
- Rent a car through Discover Cars (they search the best deals for you!)
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.
26 thoughts on “Havana to Vinales day trip: Visiting the Cuban Countryside”
I traveled to Cuba in December/January and unfortunately didn’t get a chance to visit Viñales in my short time there, but I heard such great things about it! Really makes me want to go back to explore Cuba more!
We were there around then too! I think we only scraped the surface and definitely need to go back! Now that American has made a deal with Cuba, it might be easier to get there even.
Yes there are plenty of nice classic places there to see and enjoy. Especially my tour to the Xanadu, the Du Pont mansion in Cuba, that costs $33,0000.00 in 1933, the Hotel Inglaterra is excellent out the many throughout Cuba. I had a nice vacation there…
Thank you for your observations, Ruben. I’m glad to hear you had a nice time.
Can’t wait to go to Cuba and see these great places!
I loved reading this. Cuba has been on the top of my travel list for a long time and being an American I’m very excited to have more and more opportunities to visit. Looks like it’s time for me to finally plan that trip. Thanks for another place to explore.
Megan, make sure you check out my guide for Americans that is linked in this article. Everything you need to know is in there.
I loved Cuba, the country and the people are beautiful. That sucks that you’re allergic to horse dander but I’m glad you got to experience riding again!
It does suck, but at least I know better now how to handle it. I do love horses.
I’ve always wondered what one can see beyond Havana. Great guide, Laura! Do you know if Cuba is open to Asians?
Oh yes, absolutely!
Wow, Vinales looks amazing Laura. I’ve never seen photos of Cuba like this, it’s always been of Havana or of classic cars, but never these kind of landscapes. You’ve just completely changed my view, and not I can’t wait to go!!
And the truth of it is that MOST of Cuba looks like this. It’s beautiful year-round. And we didn’t even get to go to the beaches (Americans are still restricted from tourism in Cuba).
That sounds like an amazing experience Laura! I’ve been wanting to visit Cuba so I’ll definitely take note of this destination too. Thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome, Aileen. I hope you’re able to check it out.
Never been to Cuba but its definitely one of those places that I would love to go to. Grilled lobster and fried chicken sounds like a great combo! Odd pairing but it works. Love that they let you pour your own rum too! 🙂
We often end up with odd pairings, because we each order what we want and then share, but it’s good because we get to try more things!
Laura, this post is so helpful! I’m going to look into the tour company for our trip. I’ve also been deciding between day trips from Havana or staying somewhere else for a bit. Glad to see this option. The caves and the landscape would be great to see and my husband will just die to be in one of those classic cars! Bookmarking this post!
Definitely go with Havana Journeys! They’re fantastic. We waffled between those options too, but decided we didn’t have enough time to split up between different locations, so the day trip (or even an overnight in Vinales) was as good as we could do. Let me know if you need any info or help!
I wish fellow Americans would stop posting about Cuba. It makes me look at flights and how to get a visa before the border reopens. This looks amazing and I can’t wait to pull the trigger and fly to Cuba.
Don’t fret about the visa, Jennifer. You literally just pay for the visa at the ticket counter. Easy Peasy!
Really enjoyed reading this…my husband and I will be traveling to Cuba in may…which tour company would you recommend for us…the much xxx
Hi LaShauna. That’s great. I’m sure you will love it. Get in touch with Havana Journeys. They’re great and easy to work with!
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Hi Laura. Thank you for your great post and provided information. While I will travel solo when in Vinales, was wondering if there are public tours to join? Or I have to hire a private tour, in which case I can imagine it being quite expensive.
Thank you for any tips.
Hi Dov, you can definitely take public tours to Vinales. If you don’t plan anything in advance you’ll find tour operators in the center of Havana who are selling this trip. Just get on one of the prearranged trips. You can also arrange your own private tour with Havana Journyes. It’s not nearly as expensive as you might think.