Havana, Cuba is considered the New York City of America. You’re likely to find everyone and everything in Havana or at least you’re much likelier to find it in Havana than in other parts of Cuba. But don’t let that discourage you from visiting other parts of Cuba. As Cuba is an island with so much to see and experience. Each region has a different accent, tradition, and culture. I’ve created a list of top places to visit in Cuba if you’re coming from Havana. I make certain suggestions on each location on where to stay and how to get there.
TIP: The most popular bus company in Cuba is Viazul. I recommend purchasing tickets when you get to Cuba. Chances are the ticket will be cheaper. The Viazul bus terminal in Havana is located at the corner of Avenida 26 and Avenida Zoologico, in the Vedado neighborhood.
1. Vinales, Pinar del Rio, Cuba
This is the countryside of Cuba. If you like horseback riding, adventure hikes, and waterfall finds this is a MUST visit. It is about a 2-3-hour drive from Havana. You can take a Viazul bus or pay a private driver. I recommend taking a bus if you’re staying for more than one day (you’re just going for the day then take a private driver). I recommend going for two days and one night. This is more than enough time to explore. If you’re interested in getting the ‘Real Cuba’ experience I would recommend renting an Airbnb (use my $40 discount code here). You’ll probably have the opportunity to stay with a Cuban family and they will most than likely give you some awesome suggestion on where to go and what to do.
2. Varadero, Cuba
This is a great destination for honeymooners! (alongside families) Mostly people who just want to chill at the beach and do nothing. There are a lot of resorts located in this area with all-inclusive packages. When I think of Varadero I think of a very upscale South Beach with clearer water and more Caribbean. – Haha (Seriously, though) It’s a beautiful location. It is only a 2-hour drive from Havana so a day trip is fine. If you can manage to spend an extra day/night, I would certainly recommend it. You can get there by bus, but I recommend paying a private driver. And/or if you want the cheapest way possible to consider my pro tip below.
PRO TIP: (Warning if you don’t speak Spanish this might be harder and I would only recommend doing this if you have a bunch of friends traveling with you too) At the Viazul Bus Terminal Station (right outside) you’ll notice there a bunch of taxi drivers hanging out. They are taxi drivers that go to Varadero and Vinales daily. They are called ‘collectivos’, you jump in their cars with a bunch of other random people (or your friends) for anywhere from $15-$20 (each way). If they try to charge you more, they are ripping you off. Its’ faster than a bus. This is what I did, I negotiated the guy down to $15.00. – I did this alone, as a solo female traveler it can be a little scary because I jumped in the vehicle with 5 other Mexicans and thank God nothing happened. But like I said, I WOULD NOT recommend this, if you don’t speak Spanish.
3. Trinidad, Cuba (stop at Cienfuegos for lunch)
If you drive from Havana to Trinidad you’ll be driving straight through the countryside. Which is BEAUTIFUL. Cuba has valleys and big mountains. It was all shocking to me. Especially because for some reason when I think of Cuba I just think beaches. Haha But no, there is a lot more. The countryside of Cuba reminds me of Costa Rica, but 1000 times prettier. (I mean it, people, not being biased!)
This is a long drive as it’s 5-hours. I recommend stopping in Cienfuegos for lunch and exploring the city for an hour or so. You should stay two days and one night in Trinidad. Again, I recommend Airbnb 1000%.
4. Playa Larga, Matanzas, Cuba
Playa Larga is about 2-3 hours from Havana. I recommend just a day trip. It’s a great location for snorkeling and diving! Remember a lot of Cuba’s waters haven’t been touched so the wildlife down under is worth exploring. You can take a bus and/or a private driver. If you take a private driver he will most likely take you to a local place for dinner (cheap) and/or the best place for sunset.
5. Sol Cayo Coco
I was told that when I returned to Cuba I needed to visit, Cayo Coco. This is about 5+hours from Havana. If you have the opportunity to go and visit I would absolutely do it. (Take some pictures and tag me. – lol kidding, but not kidding.) I would recommend finding a hotel, not to sure how many Airbnb there are out there. My family and friends said it’s where locals go and tourist or only recently starting to visit. It’s basically a hidden gem!- for now.
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