Saving the Best for Last: Viñales

If we’re honest, everything that came after Trinidad just felt like a little bit of a let down. Not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable, but it just wasn’t Trinidad. There was something so special about our time in Trinidad that the final few days of our trip just lack that kind of feeling (minus our print making experience in Havana). That all changed when we made our way to Viñales. Our day spent in Viñales felt like the most authentic Cuban experience we had during our 10 days in Cuba. 

We chose to do the Airbnb experience with Arteaga. At 90 CUC per person, it was the most expensive experience we had during our trip. With that being said, once we broke down all the costs for transportation to and from Viñales (about 6 hours round trip), the admission costs for the cave, Prehistoric Rock, and Las Terrazas, along with the food and drink included, we felt like the cost was more than reasonable. 

Our first stop was the Las Terrazas, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. We learned about the development of this site and the way of life for the 1,000 people who live in the community. We stopped off at a beautiful lake, where we were given an informative introduction to the community and surrounding nature preserve. We also received our first of many beverages here. From the lake, we were driven up the mountain to see long range views.

Mountain top views from Las Terrazas

Our first stop in Viñales was at the Mirador of The Jazmines hotel. The views from here are some of the most beautiful views we had on our trip. The landscape is so distinct and unique that we’re certain we’ll never see anything like it anywhere else in the world. There were also these “statues” that spooked us a bit when they moved. We were taking pictures of these bronze statues when they moved and we realized they were in fact men painted as statues. 

As we drove through town, the charm here made us instantly wish we had more time to explore this area. Up next we stopped at a tobacco farm where we learned about cultivation and production of tobacco. Here we were also taught how to roll a cigar while we smoked cigars and enjoyed a drink. We also purchased more cigars and more coffee beans (I’m telling you the coffee in Cuba is amazing and I wish we could have brought back an endless supply). 

Our next stop on this tour- again so much we got to see on this experience- was the Indian Cave. It was a much shorter tour than I had originally expected. You walk a brief distance in the cave before you board a small little boat to tour the rest of the cave via water. It was beautiful and cool- a much need break from the August heat. When we were finished, Arteaga gave us time to do a little shopping and pick up a couple more souvenirs. 

Now the highlight of our trip was the authentic Cuban meal. Arteaga took us to his favorite country restaurant in the valley, Casa Barbaro. While we were given the option to choose from pork, steak, chicken, beef, etc., once we were given a taste of the fried pork on the grill there really wasn’t an option. We all ordered the pork, which came with a smorgasbord of additional Cuban sides including, a version of green bean salad, yucca, the best dang potatoes we’ve ever had, black beans, black beans and rice mixture, another side of rice, cucumbers, fruit, and god knows what else. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. It’s the kind of meal you hope to have on vacation and it was the kind of meal you salivate about long after your vacation is over. Lunch also included unlimited drinks, including a coconut water and rum concoction that did not skimp on the rum (and they even offered to add more).  Dessert was also included in lunch, but we had to opt out. That’s right…we couldn’t possibly eat anymore at that point and had to opt out of dessert!

Our lunch at Casa Barbaro!

Our Vinales visit concluded at the Prehistoric Mural. This beautiful mural, painted in bold, bright colors directly onto the side of a mountain was a perfect end cap to our trip. From the mural, there’s also more beautiful mountain views and yet another free drink. The pina colada here is seriously one of the best drinks we had. 

Prehistoric Mural

This day was truly a special way to end our time in Cuba. Viñales is a must stop and we definitely plan to return here on our next trip to Cuba.

Cienfuegos and Mantanzas

Cienfuegos

I chose to combine Cienfuegos and Mantanzas since we spent the least amount of time in these locations and we didn’t schedule any airbnb experiences for these days.

We arrived in Cienfuegos by a collectivo (shared taxi), after having been in Havana. It was nice to be next to the water and to explore. The city square was so cute and the city was very easy to navigate. It seems there was probably more that we missed but we really enjoyed the sculpture garden that we happened upon while walking around.

The breeze while sitting next to the water and enjoying some pina coladas was amazing. We also loved the glasses sculpture right at the point! We also happened upon a pottery store that had lots of nice things for minimal money!

We scheduled our collectivo to Trinidad through our airbnb host and we decided to stop at El Nicho ( an area with waterfalls and natural pools), on our way there. The driver will wait for you for the 2 hours that you can be in the park. Mandi and I truly enjoyed it and we would definitely say it’s worth it!

Mantanzas

We went from Trinidad to Mantanzas. We honestly didn’t get to see much of the city because of arriving later than we had anticipated, but we heard so many good things that we want to go back!

Our airbnb hosts were absolutely amazing! They recommended several places to eat and to visit. Unfortunately for me, I got food poisoning that evening and wasn’t able to explore at all. When our hosts found out, they gave me tea and they offered to let us stay longer for me to rest. Mandi enjoyed the patio at the airbnb and walked down to the beach the morning before we headed back to Havana.

Check back soon for our favorite spots and what we did in Trinidad!