What to do in Viñales? Excursions >>
If one day you make it to my town Viñales, I would recommend you to do one or more of the following excursions.
1. Cayo Levisa
If you like the beach, then the most beautiful and famous spot close to Viñales is Cayo Levisa. This island is about 70 kilometers from Viñales and you have to take a boat to reach it. The waters of Cayo Levisa are unbelievably blue and you can find many different species of fish and corals, so it’s a perfect place to go diving or snorkeling.
> You can book this excursion to Cayo Levisa in the Havanatur or Infotur office close to the central plaza in Viñales. A tour will last a full day and costs 35 cuc per person, including lunch.
2. Cayo Jutías
At only one hour from Viñales, you can find Cayo Jutías, a beach that is more tranquil than Cayo Levisa. If you walk towards the end of the beach, you can find more privacy and a relaxed atmosphere. Here you can go snorkeling and rent a boat or kayak for one or two hours. If ordering a lobster is very expensive in your country, then you will enjoy Cayo Jutías; here you can find Cubans who sell and prepare delicious lobster for very low prices.
> You can book this excursion to Cayo Jutías in the Havanatur or Infotur office close to the central plaza in Viñales. A tour will last a full day and costs 20 cuc per person, including lunch.
3. Horseback riding
Horseback riding in Viñales is very popular, as the province of Pinar del Río is the most famous landscape in Cuba. And not only for its spectacularly formed karst mountains named ‘mogotes’, but also for its unique tobacco plantations. During a tour you can also learn more about the life of the farmers and the typical drying houses called ‘secaderos’. Not every person in Viñales can be a horseback riding guide and take tourists on a tour; you need a legal permit of the state and good and healthy horses.
> If you would like to go horseback riding with an official guide, take a look at this page. I have a cousin who is a licensed horseback riding guide since 7 years, and he has shown many international tourists around on the tobacco fields and mogotes of Viñales.
4. The view from Hotel los Jazmines
From this hotel you can get the best views over my town, without a doubt. From here you can appreciate the great variety in natural beauty and take the best photos. You can use the swimming pool of the hotel for a day fee of 12 cuc, which includes 9 cuc of consumption once you’re inside.
> Hotel Los Jazmines is located three kilometers outside the village of Viñales, on the road to Pinar del Río.
5. La Cueva del Indio
La Cueva del Indio is a naturally formed cave in which you can take a boat ride. You can see many stalactites and weird shapes that have been crafted by the forces of nature.
> The cave is located a couple of kilometers outside the village; when you pass by the only gas station you have to turn left, in the direction of Puerto Esperanza. You can also have lunch at the cave if you want at the Rancho San Vicente, or buy some local souvenirs. The entrance to the cave costs 5 cuc per person.
Where to eat? Restaurants >>
El Olivo > A restaurante with Italian food, like pastas and lasañas. It always has a pleasant atmosphere with many tourists. As the chef worked in Spain for several years, he can really cook some great dishes that aren’t Cuban and that you can’t find anywhere else. If you want to eat at El Olivo, make sure you come early and be prepared to wait a bit, as there is almost always a line outside the door to get a table.
Address: Salvador Cisneros #89. Price of meal: 4-8 cuc
3J Bar & Tapas > This is the first modern and privately owned bar in Viñales. It has different delicious tapas in big portions. The bar is open 24/7 and it’s the perfect spot to grab a cocktail and get acquainted with the locals who hang around at 3J every night.
Address: Salvador Cisneros #45. Price of meal: 3-6 cuc
El Balcón del Valle > The food here is more traditional, like pork, fish, lobster and rice. The best deal is their lunch meal, as you can enjoy the magnificent views over the Valley of Viñales from their terrace on tilts. Make it a late lunch, so you can see the sun set over de mogotes of the valley. Don’t forget your camera.
Address: very close to Hotel Los Jazmines, just off the highway to Pinar del Río, 3 kilometers outside of the town of Viñales. Price of meal: 6-8 cuc
Bonus tip: if you get thirsty and want a refresher, go to the ‘guarapera’ on Calle Cisneros, just a bit down the road from 3J Bar & Tapas. Guarapo is a sweet drink made from sugar cane juice and a glass will only cost you 2 pesos cubanos. This guarapera is located right in front of the casa of one of my aunts, Magalis.
And for entertainment? Bars >>
Polo Montañez >If you want to go out after your diner and take some mojitos, then head over to the bar Polo Montañez in the main plaza. Here you can also enjoy a show of local dancers that perform every night, as well as watch the locals dance salsa. Be warned: you will very likely be asked to dance, as the Cuban culture is very open and social! Things start to get going in the bar by 9.30pm and it closes at 1am. But don’t worry; after that the party continues in 3J Tapas & Bar.
Patio del Decimista > This a more tranquil and relaxt place, located on the main street Calle Salvador Cisneros. Every night there is a different group performing with music that is more traditional. It is a great spot if you would still like to be able to have a conversation with your travel partner over a drink or two.
How to get there? Viazul bus or rental car >>
The cheapest way to travel around Cuba is by Viazul bus; this is a form of transport arranged by the Cuban government especially for tourists. The buses are clean and with airconditioning, which you’ll need in this hot and tropical country. The bus trip between Havana and Viñales takes about 3 hours and costs 12 cuc per person.
If you decide to rent a car, then this is a more comfortable way of traveling around. You can take Highway 4 from Havana to Pinar del Río, and a couple of kilometers before reaching Pinar del Río, you take a right turn to Viñales. From the turn off if is about 30 kilometers more to the Viñales Valley. The town of Viñales has one gas station at the end of the main street.