Viñales is a must see if you are visiting the wonderful country of Cuba. It is about a four to five hour drive from Havana and shouldn't cost you more than 20 CUC per person in a taxi collectivo. The bus is 12 CUC, but takes six to seven hours because of all the stops along the way.
Viñales is located on the border of the National Park. The tall green mountains surround the small town with amazing wildlife and nature. The houses are stacked on top of one another all painted a different color. I found a lovely Airbnb online just outside of town down the dirt road, Calle A, located on a farm with sweeping views of the mountains and eight horses on the property for 14 CUC per night. We were given a warm welcome with mango juice and lots of laughs in between the copious amounts of Spanglish we spoke to each other. Frank and Yudeky made us feel right at home with a grand tour of the farm & our air conditioned room and beautiful shower! Their three sons, between the ages of 9 to 20, constantly worked the entire time I was in Vinales. Whether it be with the horses, harvesting beans, or fixing the 57 Chevy, all children contributed to the household on a daily basis.
The first day we arrived we took a horse tour (5 CUC/hour) through the National Park visiting the tobacco, sugarcane and coffee plantations. We hid from the rain and learned how to make Cuban cigars while enjoying a very strong mojito and the impressive view of the mountains. Soon after we headed to the the coffee and sugarcane plantations where we got to taste freshly ground coffee beans and very potent rum that had just finished fermenting. The horse thankfully knew the way to the cave and the way back home past the beautiful fresh lakes and forests that ran on for miles.
I visited Polo Montanez in the center almost everyday/night in Vinales. It is a great outdoor bar and only 1 CUC entry in the evenings. You get a variety of dance performances, singers & of course, locals asking you to dance! I made a local friend, Luis, my second night in Vinales and he invited me to tag along with him and his friends for the weekend. We all shared bottles of rum and danced salsa, casino and meringue at Polo Montanez every night. A few of Luis's friends took it upon themselves to show me a few moves and one of his friends was swinging me around like I was professional! I've never giggled so much in my life! It was just as fun watching all of them dance in a synchronized fashion, all laughing and enjoying every second. It was surprising how trusting him and his friends were. I never felt unsafe leaving my purse on the table and nothing was ever stolen!
The third night in Viñales we headed to La Palenque, a club in a cave. This was my first club in a cave experience and I have to say it was one of the best nights of my life. We enjoyed a comedy show and dance performances before the dance party started and lasted until 4AM. The taxi collectivo was pulled over by the police, giving me quite a scare but nothing ended up happening.
On my last day we ventured to a pool past the Palenque in the mountains at Rancho Saint Vincente. A nice elderly man picked us up on the corner while driving through town and dropped us where we needed to go at no charge. Everything is community in Cuba... Luis was constantly giving money to any friend who asked the night before and every time you go out someone is offering their bottle rum to you. It is humbling to experience a culture where even if they don't have much they still want to share the little they have. Their love for music, dance, love and life is a beautiful characteristic of Cuba.
Things to do:
- Centro Cultural Polo Montanez - Amazing salsa bar with many locals asking you to dance. Instead of buying drinks for 3 CUC, buy a bottle of rum for 10 CUC and some mixers. Save yourself some money and get more liquid courage! 1 CUC entry
- Hotel Ermita pool - 3 CUC to swim at the pool all day! Beautiful view of the mountains and a perfect relaxed day in Vinales.
- Balcon del Valle - Mirador de Los Jazmines - Restaurant and bar. Beautiful view! 8 CUC for a full meal.
- La Palanque - Discoteca in a cave. Should only be 1 CUC to get there & 2 CUC entry. They have comedians, singers and dance performances before the party takes off and the Reggaeton (Latin American hip hop/rap) gets loud! YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS PLACE!
- Patio Del Decimista - Live music and salsa! No cover, but much smaller than Polo Montanaz
- Cayo Jutias - Day trip 15 CUC per person. Takes two hours from Vinales but the beach is pristine, empty and beautiful!
- Pool at Rancho Saint Vincente
Where to stay:
- You can book through Airbnb before arriving! I highly recommend Casa de Campo Frank and Yudeky
Where to eat:
- Order breakfast at your casa! Huge spread of eggs, toast, pancakes, fresh fruit, coffee and fresh juice. Well worth the 5 CUC
- El Olivo - Farm to table vegetables and a wonderfully large menu. GREAT FOOD!
- La Berenjena - Eco & vegetarian friendly restaurant. They have meat options as well!
- Balcon del Valle - A spectacular view and perfect place to enjoy the sunset!
Enjoy every second of Vinales! I know I did!