When most think of Cuba, the images of old American cars, cigars, and mojitos come to mind.
Although I have enjoyed riding in many pristine classic cars in Cuba as well as smoking a Cohiba while imbibing a rum libation or three, I have to tell you Cuba is so much more than cars, cigars, and rum. Likewise, Havana gets all the press, celebrities, and filmmakers, however, it’s just the tip of the Cuban iceberg. You can view my Top Five Things to Do in Havana here, but if you want a complete Cuban experience, explore some of these destinations, my favorite untapped adventure spots on the once forbidden island of Cuba.
The Four Best Adventure Travel Spots in Cuba
Cienfuegos – South Central
Nicknamed the Pearl of the South, Cienfuegos is a beautiful, tranquil town with a natural harbor on the South Central coast of Cuba. After a day of exploring the historical center, José Marti Park, and paying homage to Cienfuegos’ most famous musician, Benny Moré, take a load off and hire a bici-taxi to the La Punta (point). Enjoy the sunset and a mojito at the top of the Palacio del Valle (pictured above) or dinner at Villa Lagarto.
In just a little under an hour drive outside of Cienfuegos is Nicho Park (pictured above). After a short walk, you will arrive at fresh water swimming pools and waterfalls. The cost to enjoy the park is 10 CUC. Come with you bathing suit on prepared for a refreshing dip. I suggest wearing water shoes to protect your feet.
Trinidad – Central Cuba
The Sleeping Beauty of Cuba, Trinidad, is certainly not untapped. After Havana, Trinidad is the second most visited city in Cuba. With its beautiful cobblestoned streets, vibrant colors, and sugar plantation past, it is no wonder why it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. However, once you have explored its streets and tried its traditional cocktail the canchànchara, you will be ready for a dose of serenity.
Tope de Collantes
Within a quick cab ride and an hour moderate hike, you can enjoy Tope de Collantes. The fee to hike and swim in the natural pool is 10 CUC. The hike takes about an hour and forty-five minutes to two hours, but you need to factor in how long you will swim. To beat other hikers and swimmers, go early. You will also beat the heat this way as Trinidad is one of the hottest cities in all of Cuba.
Remedios – Central North
Many Europeans, Canadians, and South Americans have been traveling to the Cayos (Keys) of Cuba for decades. With their eyes set on the prize, Cayo Santa Maria, they pass right by the small town of Remedios. If you are looking to get the authentic feel for Cuba, Remedios is a hidden gem: tranquil main square, bici-taxis, casas particulares (private BnBs), and paladares (private restaurants) Although rich with history, being the eighth oldest city in Cuba, Remedios is probably most famous for its annual event on December 24th called Las Parrandas (a carnival like party with floats, fireworks, and neighborhood competitions).
Cayo de Las Brujas
Regardless of when you travel to Remedios, I suggest complimenting your stay with a taste of the Cayos. However, don’t go to the very touristy Santa Maria. Instead explore the closest key, which is Cayo de Las Brujas (Witches Key). It is just a thirty-minute drive from Remedios.
Viñales – Northwest
Pinar del Rio, the Cuban province famous for tobacco, is home to Viñales, a beautiful town and majestic valley. Nicknamed the mini-Yosemite of Cuba, this valley has beautiful mogotes (limestone outcrops) that form a unique and unforgettable landscape worthy of its UNESCO award as a World Heritage Site. You can find various senderos (paths) and caves in Viñales. A quick 2 km walk along Adela Azcuy street to Finca Raúl Reyes (a working tobacco plantation) and then beyond to the Cueva de la Vaca (Cow’s Cave) provides a spectacular view of the valley. (Cost free).
Cueva del Indio
For longer hikes or boat rides, you will need a guide costing 5-10 CUC per person. For example, there is a 3km hike up to the village of Los Aquáticos. This is the ideal place to watch the sun rise. Get your cameras ready. It is worth getting up early. You can sleep mañana. Also, you can take a short boat ride to Cueva del Indio (Indian’s Cave), which was discovered in 1920. Originally the aboriginals of the region, cut into the limestone mogotes for shelter from the elements and then fled to them when the Spaniards came.
Wanna know more?