Viñales is a cute village filled with wooden houses in all kind of colors. When entering the village by taxi we were so excited! Smiling people, all these colorful streets surrounded by mountains, horses and oxes walking in the streets.. We couldn’t wait to explore this village! In this blog we share our love for Viñales with you and give you all the information you need for the perfect stay!
Viñales is a small village and municipality of approximately 30.000 inhabitants and can be found in the north-central Pinar del Río Province of Cuba. The characteristic of this village are the one-story wooden houses with small porches.
In the Valley of Viñales you will find one of the most remarkable landscapes of Cuba. Between the upright limestone pillars (Mogotes), the best tobacco in the world is grown in the dark red, very fertile soil. The plantations in Viñales grow, ferment and dry the tobacco leaves into quality cigars such as Cohiba and Montecristo.
After we enjoyed our first weekend in Havana we moved to Viñales. This is only a two hours’ drive and can be done by the Viazul bus, a collective taxi or a private taxi. Since we had no experience with the local transportation at that moment we decided to go by a collective taxi. We paid 35 cuc per person and the ride was okay. The nice thing of using the collective taxi is that you have the possibility to meet new people. We were lucky that we met a nice couple where we could share our experiences with.
For Viñales we reserved four days; one and a half for traveling and two and a half for exploring Viñales. These two and a half days were sufficient; Viñales isn’t a big village and there are only a few main things which are fun to do.
Things to do in Viñales
Viñales is famous for its horse riding and tobacco farm tours. Even though you could book these tours in several places, we recommend you to book them at your casa particulares. It is very convenient and you have another opportunity to support your hosts (if they get a small percentage per sold tours of course).
The best way to explore the city center and its little streets is by walking around. Chat to the friendly locals, visit local souvenir shops, enter the supermarket since it is an interesting experience and visit the daily market.
By wandering around you will also bump into Central Plaza. You can enter the church and visit an art gallery. On Saturday mornings you could visit the weekly market and when there is an event, it will be held here.
Horse riding tour, including tobacco farm and coffee plantation visit
We booked our horse riding tour at our casa particulares. The tour we decided to do included a tobacco farm and coffee plantation visit. Two extra things we also want to experience.
The owner of the horses picked us up at our casa particulares. Not by taxi, not by horses, just walking. It was such a funny experience! We walked with him to his place and jumped on the horses.
Before we jumped on the horses we did check if they are taken care of. In Cuba we have seen many horses that were so skinny that we had our doubts that the owner took care of them. We would never jump on a horse and do a horse riding tour if the horses don’t look good! Please check the same if you’re planning to do a horse riding tour!
We expected that the horse riding tour would take max. four hours. Unfortunately for us, our tour took more than five hours! Our day was wasted and Denise got painful blisters.
The horse riding tour itself was quite okay, even though we expected a little bit more. We expected to see the valley and more of the beautiful nature of Viñales. We did see a big part of the valley and some local villages, but it wasn’t so excited as expected.. Besides that, the horses knew exactly where to go and where to walk. As traveler you could just sit down and the rest will be done automatically..
The tour took us to a tobacco farm where we learned how the tobacco leaves are produced and how cigars are made. The tour guide of the tobacco farm speaks English very well and if you want to learn more about cigars, this is your moment to ask!
It was very interesting to hear that they only produce 10% for themself (approximately 3000 cigars). These cigars are sold during tours like this. The best thing of buying your cigars here is that they don’t contain chemicals or additives and they don’t have a name. The last one is important if you want to export the cigars. Without a name you don’t need export documents.
Another interesting fact is that flavours like rum, mango, sugar cane, vanilla, lemon and pinapple are used for the cigars.
After showing us the production plant, the tour guide showed us how to roll cigars and we got a few to try. When he finished his story, he offered us to buy some cigars.
It is said that they let you try one of good quality and when you decide to buy, they offer you cigars of less quality. We don’t know if this is true, since we don’t have much knowledge of cigars..
After the tobacco farm we had our final stop at the coffee plantation. This coffee plantation produces fruit, coffee, rum and honey and everything is farmed ecologically. We got a tour in the garden and the tour guide here shared the production proces with us.
It was interesting to learn more about coffee and the production proces and afterwards you could buy the products as well. Their local rum costs 20 cuc per bottle, a little bottle of coffee and the honey are ten cuc. We thought it was quite expensive and when we said that we didn’t want to buy anything, the tour guide wasn’t our friend anymore.
We did enjoy the tour but we didn’t like the way they tried to sell their products, it was quite rude and pushy.
We were so happy with this beach, it is such a paradise! The only challenge is to arrive safely. Our hosts arranged a taxi and when the taxi arrived we were a bit worried. The car made so much noise that we doubted for a second that we would have a beach day. This oldtimer was really old and with every bump in the road, it seemed that parts just left the car. After an uncomfortable ride of approximately two hours, we arrived safely at Playa Jutias. What an amazing place to spend the day!
When we arrived at Playa Jutias we were told that we have to go right because there would be a barbeque, cocktails and a bathroom. Silly tourists as we were, we went right to look for the food and bathroom. We could walk like forever to find the place the taxi drivers were talking about; nothing there.
We only found a guy in the bush; he had some fresh coconuts and rum and he sold them from this “bush shop”. The coconuts are fresh and it’s safe to buy a drink here. One coconut costs two to three cuc, depends if you want to add some rum.
We also didn’t find the barbeque. What we did find is a guy and some fishermans trying to catch some fresh fish. They prepare the fish themself and sell it at the beach with some rice. That was supposed the famous barbeque.
If you’re planning to go to Playa Jutias, make sure you go left (facing the sea) when you arrive at the beach. You will find an amazing paradise beach, including restaurants and bathrooms!
We also recommend you to bring something to drink and eat, since the quality of the food isn’t very good at the beach.
Hotel La Ermita
We are not a big fan of Cuban hotels but this hotel deserves a visit. Not for the rooms or food but for the amazing landscape / city view. We recommend you to visit Hotel La Ermita to watch the sunset. You won’t find a better place to watch the sunset than this one!
Mural de la Prehistoria
Mural de la Prehistoria is a 120 meter long painting on the side of Mogote Pita. It was designed under the lead of Leovigildo Gonzalez Morillo in 1961. The painting represents the theory of evolution and it took 18 people four years to complete.
It is said that this is a must visit when you are in Viñales. We honestly believe that this is a typical tourist trap; you have to pay around five cuc to look at the mural while it is actually not necessary to watch the mural from closeby. Another thing is that the paint is not from years back; the locals keep the mural alive and more than once you can find someone working on this piece of art. Instead of going to this mural, we decided to explore more of the city center.
Where to stay
We highly recommend to stay in casa particulares booked through Airbnb or Mycasaparticular.
Hotels are state-owned and the money you spend here, goes directly to the state and not to the local people. Another good reason to stay in a casa particulares is the quality; this is much better than any state-owned hotel! Every casa particulares we stayed in was so clean, the hosts were amazing and the food (diner and breakfast) was freshly made for us.
In our opinion is Viñales just a little travelers paradise in the middle of a beautiful part of nature. Almost all of the wooden houses had the Casa particulares sign and everything is fully focused on tourists in a good way. Therefore it isn’t hard to find a good place to stay.
The casa particulares we stayed is called Casa Norma Y Carlos. When we just arrived we didn’t know what to expect, but afterwards we can say that we couldn’t wish for a better stay in Viñales! Even though we don’t speak Spanish and our Norma and Carlos don’t speak English, we felt so welcome and these amazing hosts helped us with everything.
The first morning we were so surprised; we opened our door and saw this table with breakfast. Everything was freshly prepared for us, so heart-warming!
We highly recommend you to stay in this casa particulares; the rooms are renovated and very clean, the hosts are amazing and it’s only a five minute walk to the city center. The only thing that is not available here is WiFi, but in the city center you can find many places were you could use your WiFi cards.
Where to eat
Viñales has many restaurants, but there were only a few we returned to during our stay. The food and drinks are good, the prices reasonable and there is WiFi available. We highly recommend the following places:
The Three J’s
This restaurant is our all times’ favorite! The staff is super friendly, the tapas they serve is really good, the cocktails are amazing (they even give you the whole bottle so that you can add as much rum as you which) and the WiFi connection is stable and fast. We loved to sit outside at the porch.
El Bily is a restaurant we bumped into while wandering around. It isn’t hard to find though; it is located across the Etecsa building, the place where you could buy WiFi cards. A nice thing of this restaurant is the terrace. You could have your dinner outside and watch other travelers passing by or locals living their life. The food that is served here is good, the cocktails as well and you have a good WiFi connection (if it is not to busy!).
Be prepared that you will get a lot of food here. We got two big plates which we couldn’t finish. We wanted to take something to feed the dogs in the streets, but wasn’t allowed by the owner of the restaurant. First of all he didn’t have any doggy bags and if he gave us a plate, he would get into trouble with the police. Secondly, he told us that he already pays 1000 cup per month for these dogs and he feeds them every night when he closes the restaurant. We couldn’t do anything for the dogs that night, but at least the restaurant owner looks after them!
Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso
We passed this restaurant during our horse riding tour; it is located in an amazing area. Unfortunately we didn’t have time left to go back and enjoy the food and view at this restaurant.
We did want to mention this restaurant here, since we heard (and we have seen videos) that this restaurant is a must visit. The sunset must be awesome here and the food is produced by owners, which means you only get fresh and organic food. If you visited this place, we would love to hear from you. We’re still curious!
Let’s give something back!
We decided to give something back every time we travel to a new country. As a tourist or traveler it is easy to “take” and it’s often forgotten to give something back to the country, nature, animals or locals. We would like to change this and decided to check what we could give back to Cuba!
In Cuba it’s not hard to give something back:
- Stay in casa particulares (hotels are state-owned) and support the locals.
- Bring old clothes and give them to the local people.
- Feed the street dogs (discuss this first with your host or restaurant owners, because sometimes there is already someone whom take care of the street dogs).
- Eat in local restaurants or at your casa particulares.
- Only buy products or souvenirs in local shops.
- Bring beauty care products like soap and shampoo to leave behind.
- Bring souvenirs from your country as a gift for the hosts you stay with.
- Share your pens with the locals. Some locals would love to receive a pen since this is something they could sell and make some money with.
- Follow salsa classes, cocktail workshops, join a horse riding tour, visit local tobacco- and coffee farms etc.
- Meet the locals on the street, in restaurants, bars etc. They will be more than happy to share information about their lives, culture and Cuba. Invite them for drinks and you will both have a great time!
We loved our stay in Viñales and we would recommend this place to every one! We shared the love for this place with you and we hope you got inspired to visit Viñales as well.
In you’re planning to visit more places in Cuba, don’t forget to read our blogs about Cuba, Havana and Trinidad! If you have any other questions, you can always contact us.