A two-and-a-half-hour bus or taxi trip from Havana towards the west lies the amazing Vinales Valley in Cuba, or Valle de Vinales, which is a green, fertile, and incredibly beautiful part of Cuba!
Apart from being appointed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, in Vinales there are cultural treasures to see, coffee to taste, caves to explore, and Cuban cigars to sample.
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A Quick Intro To Stunning Vinales Valley!
In Vinales Valley, farm animals run around freely with shiny fur or feathers, the colors are incredibly green and lush, and the town of Vinales is super charming with mostly one-story wooden houses with cute little porches in front.
In other words, very different from the busy and eclectic Havana, and so worth a visit if you have the time!
A lot of the farming here is done in an old-fashioned way. The farmers often use farm animals as labor instead of machinery, and the whole pace of the valley life is tranquilo, slow and relaxed.
What To Do In Viñales Cuba?
The main reason you want to travel to Viñales is of course experience firsthand the rich and traditional farming of famous Cuban cigars (with local honey).
Not to mention sampling the steaming strong local coffee or trying a taste of sweet warming rum!
The reason Viñales was appointed to the UNESCO World Heritage list, is mainly due to the particular scenery. The green sugar-top’ish rock formations called mogotes that lie scattered around the fields.
14 Best Things To Do In Vinales!
Although a sleepy rural town, there are a lot of adventures to explore in Vinales, some of which are very unique, like rock climbing on the inside of a mogote!
Here are the 14 best things to do in Vinales Cuba!
1. The Impressive Mural De La Prehistoria Viñales
The Mural of prehistory, or Mural de la prehistoria, may sound like something of a relic from ancient times but is actually a painting on a mountain wall on one of the mogote hills of Viñales, that was done in the 1960s!
This mural is painted on the wall of the Pita Mogote, in Sierra de Los Organos a few kilometers outside Viñales town.
It is 120 meters long and was made with a paintbrush, picturing dinosaurs, snails, and giant marine reptiles as well as humans.
The artist’s intention was that this large piece of art on nature represents the evolutionary process of life!
2. Amazing Horseback Riding Tours Viñales
Horseback riding in Viñales is a super-slow country-life experience, and a great way to explore the naturaleza up close giving you the opportunity to experience everything a little more intensely.
You have plenty of time to look around and take in the stunning greens of hills and fields around you.
Book a tour that will take you to different interesting sights in the Valley. Often a day round-trip will include visiting local tobacco farms to see how the famous Cuban cigars are produced, get a whiff of one, and maybe buy a few to bring home.
A day on horseback may also take you to one of the caves in the area, or take you to higher grounds to enjoy the view of the unique layout of the Viñales valley.
3. Day Trip To Cayo Levisa Island
Just touching on the Mexican Gold, a short boat trip from the shores of Cuba you find the stunning Cayo Levisa island with paradisiacal beaches.
You will stay on the island for five hours free to enjoy the intense crystalline waters, white sand, and a large row of mangroves.
Cayo Levisa is famous for its rich underwater diversity. One of the most popular activities on the island is also to head out on a diving trip on the coral reef barrier, a unique experience!
You can also get your lunch (and some shade) at the Cayo Levisa Hotel when you need a break from the sand and the sea.
4. The Mogote Hills In Vinales Valley In Cuba
The Mogote Hills, or the Mogotes de Viñales, is the name for the green rock formations looking like vegetated sugar tops scattered around the valley floor of Viñales Valley.
According to Wikipedia, a mogote is a “generally isolated steep-sided residual hill in the tropics”. It is composed of either limestone, marble, or dolomite, and is normally surrounded by nearly flat plains, so now you know!
The green tops are all over the valley floor like different size mushrooms popping up, and the most interesting ones have names.
Like the Dos Hermanas (two sisters), or Mogote del Valle (the Mogote of the Valley). In the latter one, there is also a cave with a natural pool inside under a ceiling of stalactites!
There are horseback tours to the mogotes if you want to take a closer look at this natural phenomenon when you visit.
Or you can watch the whole valley floor with its green mushroom hats from a distance, which is a spectacular sight.
Also read: 19 Best Things To Do In Varadero Cuba 2022!
5. Vinales Sunrise (And Morning Coffee) Tour
If you don’t mind getting up before dawn and all the roosters start singing, at least for one morning, taking a sunrise Viñales tour to the hills around the valley will be a moment to remember.
On this tour, you will be picked up by a horseman with a carriage in the pitch black of night, and drive into the hills before the sun even has thought of rising.
From a drop-off point, you need to put on a headlight (or use your cell) for a short uphill hike of around half an hour before you get to a hillside farm with a spectacular view of the valley.
The lady of the house has been awake for a while already and is all set to welcome you to a front-row seating where the silvery rays will appear in minutes while offering a steaming and strong Cuban coffee to go with the experience.
As you are seated on the porch on kitchen chairs in different shades of blue with your coffee, the first rays of sun peek over the horizon line pouring the light silvery beams across the moist green valley floor. Pure magic.
As the warm rays scare away the morning fog, all the roosters of the valley seem to wake up at once judging from the uncoordinated choir that sings from all cardinal directions.
In the lucid light, the animals of the farm wake up as well, coming to curiously sniff you before they go about their day, which starts to get warmer.
This is the kind of morning that, although you may be tired, will awaken your spiritual side even if you are not the slightest religious. I’ll say it again, a moment to remember!
6. Mogote Rock Climbing In Vinales Valley!
There are no sky-high peaks to conquer in Vinales, but the landscape is full of small and larger rocks and hills, the mogotes. Because of this, rock climbing in Viñales Cuba is attractive to climbers from all over the world.
One of the places mentioned as a great rock climbing experience in Viñales is the Mogote del Valle, which is the same location you find the cave with the pool inside that I mentioned earlier.
The Mogote del Valle is very close to Viñales town, and with steep “mountain” sides that contain many exposed limestone and undercut caves, it is a popular climbing destination.
The Mogote del Valle has many different routes, that range from 4-5 up to 8b+, for the connoisseurs.
There is even a cave in the Mogote del Valle where you can climb the rock from the inside! A lot of visiting rock climbers find this place interesting.
7. Amazing Hiking Or Biking In Vinales Valley In Cuba
If you are not into climbing on a horse to do your exploring, you can choose to go hiking in Viñales instead.
Wherever you can ride, you can walk, and there are several hikes going to interesting destinations. The terrain in the valley is mostly very easy hiking terrain, the only thing you need to prepare for is the heat.
You are not requested to use a tour guide for hiking in Viñales, but you probably need to know what you are doing with a map and a compass, or a GPS.
Bring water, comfortable hiking shoes and clothes, and lunch if that is not included in the organized tour.
8. Vinales Zipline Tour!
You can even go on a zipline adventure tour in Vinales, in the zipline park in El Fortin!
This adventure park has up to four zip lines in its circuit, and one of them is 400 meters (1300 ft) long!
Enjoy your aerial view of the stunning landscape of Vinales while flying through the tree tops, and the lush vegetation and breathtaking natural beauty of the El Fortín area.
9. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Along the main street in the center of Viñales, close to the Parque de Vinales, there is a bus stop where you can get on the hop-on-hop-off bus to take a tour of the area!
Although a Cuban version of a hop-on-and-off-bus, it will take you to some of the main tourist spots around the valley.
The whole round trip takes around 90 minutes ($5) and makes around 18 stops. However, it is a return tour, so the actual number is more like nine.
The bus departs the town every 90 minutes, so you can hop off the bus at any stop to go exploring, and then just catch the next one when it passes by.
If you are short on time and want a quick look at everything, this could be a good spent few hours.
In any case, it will give you an impression of the valley, and maybe inspiration for what activities or areas you want to prioritize more time during your stay.
Hop-on hop-off bus stops:
Casa del Veguero
Centro de Visitantes
Centro de Visitantes
Casa del Veguero
Poblando de Viñales
Mural de la Prehistoria
Estanco del Tabaco (tobacco store)
Palenque de los Cimarrones
Cueva del Indio
Hotel Rancho San Vincente
Cueva del Indio
Palenque de los Cimerrones
Estanco del Tabaco
10. Experience The Vinales Valley In Cuba Cuisine
With a lot of short-traveled food supply, Viñales is famous for its cuisine and high-quality fruit, vegetables, meats, and also fish!
Despite being an inland destination, it is not many hours from the sea, and as to meat, poultry, and veggies, they certainly have the best access in Cuba.
In Viñales town, which is not a lot more than the main street and a few side streets, there is an impressive number of restaurants to choose from.
Among the restaurants with the best overall reviews in Viñales, you find Sunset Viñales which has outdoor seating, and an impressive number of good reviews for both food and service.
Viñales is not a very big town, however, so if you are feeling adventurous, you can also just take a walk along the main street and see what ambiance appeals to you.
Also read: 33+ Legendary Things To Do In Havana 2022!
11. Exploring Caves In Viñales
Around Viñales there are several impressive caves that you can visit if you like to explore the ancient and dark interior of the planet.
Among the Viñales caves, is The Great Santo Tomas cave in Cuba, the largest cave system on the island, and the second-largest on the American continent!
In Spanish, it is called the Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas, and it is not far from Viñales town. The Santo Tomas cave is situated around 20 kilometers away from the town, and it is over 46 kilometers long.
Inside there are indigenous Indian murals, and the cave was one of the most important refuges that runaway enslaved Africans used to go in hiding during the colonial era.
You need a certified guide to access the Santo Tomas cave, and with a guide, you can explore around one kilometer of the cave structure on a tour that takes around 90 minutes.
If you want to take this tour, you will be provided with the equipment you need, so don’t worry. This is mainly a helmet and a flashlight, nothing fancy.
12. Vibrant Saturday Night Street Fiesta In Viñales Town
On Saturday nights, the main street of Viñales closes off for car traffic on both ends and turns into a huge outdoor street party area!
There must have been thousands of people attending, tourists and locals alike. Along the street, there are vendors selling snacks and drinks, there is live music and a large part of the street has turned into a dance floor.
When we were visiting I was invited to dance by a Cuban man who must have been late in his 70s, but that did not stop him from rocking the dance floor!
The street fiesta in Viñales is a super fun happening, and if you are going for a weekend you really have something to look forward to.
13. Visit The Cayo Jutia Beach
Even though Vinales is in the countryside, it is still not very far from the beach!
After days of hiking, caving, or riding you might enjoy a leisurely day on the Caribbean shores. The Cayo Jutias peninsula offers fine sand a little northwest of Vinales town, a drive of about one and a half to two hours.
A bit of a drive, but the transport time here might be worth it, though, when you can stretch out on the sand of Cayo Jutia beach and bury your toes in the crystal waters!
The beach normally is not very crowded, there is a beach restaurant and bar and you can book yourself on a boat trip to go snorkeling on some of the close-to-shore coral reefs off the coast.
A little closer to Viñales is a tiny village called Puerto Esperanza, Harbour of Hope, around 25 kilometers straight north. This is a coastal village with an extremely relaxed vibe.
It is super small and does not actually have a beach but you can take a dip in the ocean straight from the village harbor without anyone lifting an eyelid!
Puerto Esperanza is not all that touristy, but you will find casa particulares, bars, and restaurants here as well if you would like to spend a calm and quiet night.
14. The Picturesque Rural Viñales Town
Vinales is a town and municipality in the Pinar del Rio province of Cuba. The population is just around 27.000, and the Vinales town has a small-town vibe.
Viñales town in Cuba consists mostly of one-story wooden houses with porches, all in different pastel colors. It is like entering a wild west American city in miniature, only more colorful!
The main street is wide and quiet, with no high-rises around. Horses and carriages frequently pass on the streets just like that, almost as normal as the large American cars.
In the center of the city is the town square, which of course is also a wifi-park. You can take a break here on a bench, in the shade under the trees to connect, or just relax.
Along the main street, you will find shops, restaurants, and bars, many of which open in the mornings and stay open till late at night.
The reason Viñales was appointed to the UNESCO World Heritage list, is mainly due to the particular scenery. The fertile flat valley floor with the green sugar-top’ish mogotes that lie scattered around the fields are quite unique.
Tourism is a growing industry in Viñales because of several things. The farmers here are allowed to host private tourist groups, show them the ropes on how to make rum and roll cigars, and sell a portion of their products directly to tourists for private income.
Where To Stay In Vinales Valley In Cuba!
There are plenty of places to stay in Vinales, so finding a place to sleep will not be a problem.
When you arrive in Viñales, a lot of buses or taxis stop at a viewpoint outside and above the city, close to hotel Los Jazmines.
This is probably the only large hotel or resort, I have seen in the Viñales valley. So if you prefer the resort life, here there is a restaurant, bar, pool and not least a stunning view over the valley.
There are plenty of casa particulares available in Viñales so finding a place to stay will not be a challenge!
What Is A Casa Particular?
A casa particular is a privately owned home rented out by a Cuban family, where you can live like a Cuban, closer to the real Cuba!
You can easily book beforehand online. However, if you like to keep your options open or just are the adventurous kind, finding a place upon arrival will not be a problem.
How To Get From Havana To Viñales
If you want to travel from Havana to Viñales, you have several options. The distance between Havana and Viñales is around 180 kilometers, but the travel time varies a bit depending on how you choose to get there.
Book A Tour From Havana To Vinales
There are several options to book a tour from Havana to Vinales if you don’t want to embark on the journey on your own.
You can book a day trip, that will take you there and back, and show you the highlights of the Vinales valley in a short amount of time.
How To Find Bus Or Taxi From Havana To Vinales
The budget option would be taking the Viazul bus ($12). Although the cheapest option, this is also the slowest option with around three and a half hours as they have scheduled stops.
If you don’t mind the time, the bus is a great budget option and also a nice way to see the countryside on the way. You can book the Viazul bus easily and securely online.
If you are a small group, it is also very easy, and faster, to book a taxi collectivo. It is a bit pricier than the bus, but as all passengers split the bill it is still a good option.
The taxi collectivo will pick you up at your hotel or casa, drive straight to your destination, and only stop when you need it to underway.
You can book a seat in a taxi collectivo even if you are traveling solo. Then you will share it with other travelers, and the driver will pick you all up, and drop you all off, at your respective hotels or casas.
The “luxury” option is also the most expensive, a taxi privado. A car only for you that will pick you up at home, drive directly and drop you off outside the door of your destination.
Super-convenient if you don’t mind paying for the speed and the convenience.
Someone Will Help You With Your Booking!
Your hosts or hotel will gladly assist you in do a booking on either option and help you with tickets and departures.
Also, all Cubans always have contacts and will know someone they trust who is driving either category of the taxi.
If you are staying at a casa particular, ask the host if they have a trustworthy driver to recommend, and they will probably have a dozen on their phone list already.
All you have to do now is enjoy your adventure!
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Wrap-Up Vinales Valley In Cuba!
Such a small place with such a big heart!
You can experience the best of Vinales Valley in Cuba on a one-day trip from Havana if you are short on time, but you will also find fun things to do in Vinales for several days if you can stay for a while.
Vinales Valley in Cuba has great restaurants, a beautiful landscape, fun adventures, hiking, climbing, even beaches close by, and lots of history to teach you!