Viñales, Cuba

  • Visited December 2018

Located in the Pinar del Río Province of Western Cuba, Viñales is a small town blessed by natural beauty that should not be missed. We intended to stay two nights here but loved it so much we extended our stay to four nights and I could have easily stayed here longer. In complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the capital city, Viñales is rural Cuba at its finest and is the perfect place to unwind after busy days exploring Havana. Famed for its magotes (steep limestone hills) and tobacco fields, the town consists of colourful one-storey wooden houses with porches that the locals sit out on to watch the world go by and chat to passersby. You may not find as much English spoken here as Havana but if you make the effort to speak some Spanish, you will find the people to be welcoming, engaging and keen to help you make the most of your time in the area.

The town has one main street running through it with multiple restaurants and bars primarily catering to tourists. Many places offer WiFi (which you can access with a pre-paid WiFi card) and Mojitos ranging from 1 to 3 CUCs. There is not a late night drinking culture here but after a day of activities, you can eat well, imbibe cocktails and watch amazing Cuban dancing at Patio del Decimista Centro Cultural. Cave raves do happen in Viñales (not something I did) and if you ask local bar staff they will be able to let you know details of the location if interested.

There are plenty of places to eat in town but our favourite place to have a meal was a restaurant away from the main street – conveniently opposite our casa – called Restaurant Agroecologico Sunset. The food for the restaurant comes from the garden beside it and it’s all organic. With every main meal order, multiple side dishes are provided – yucca, pumpkin, a salad, rice and beans and saffron rice – and they were all delicious. The view from the restaurant is stunning, the service excellent and we absolutely loved their coffee daiquiris. Can’t recommend this place enough.

Suggested activities:

  • Horse-riding in the valley – we paid 20 CUC for four hours. Before the tour we were shown the tobacco plantation and taught how to roll a Cuban cigar. We were given a cigar to smoke before going riding. We had one guide for the two of us, which was great and he was good fun. He took us to a coffee plantation (to sample coffee and rum), a viewpoint (we drank Coco Loco cocktails in coconuts whilst enjoying a magnificent view) and a lake (where we could go swimming if we wanted to). Unlike in some tourist places I’ve been to, the horses here are obviously well taken care of and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
  • Trip to the beach – we went to Cayo Jutius (about an hour and 30 mins from Viñales town). We paid 15 CUC for the shared taxi (picked up at our casa and dropped off in town). Nice clean beach. Only do this trip if the weather is good though as there is not much to do at the Cayo except sunbathing and swimming.
  • Visit to Cave Santo Tomas – we paid 25 CUC for the private taxi and 10 CUC entrance to the cave (included is a safety hat and a guide takes you though the cave). Many tourists visit Indian Cave (which I think involves a boat trip through the cave) but Santo Tomas is the largest and arguably most interesting cave in Cuba so that’s why we chose to do this one instead.
  • Chill out and enjoy living life at a slower pace…

Selection of pictures from my stay: