Hello Lovelies! After exploring the city of Havana, we decided to take two one-day trips—one to Varadero and the other to Viñales to do some more exploring. Nothing screams perfect vacation than being able to visit the city, the beach, and the countryside all in one fabulous trip!
How did we get there? For both trips our house hosts helped us get a private van fit for 6 people to make the day trips out to both Varadero (the beach) and Viñales (the countryside). I told you, our hosts were nothing short of amazing!
Note: Originally we were going to make the trip by taking the Viazul Bus, which cost 10 CUC each way and can be reserved from any hotel lobby in Havana. It proved to be a bit more complicated because we needed to take a taxi to the hotel, where they would pick you up as well as a taxi when we got to Varadero because it does not leave you at the beach. Additionally, we felt that because of the schedule we would be pressed for time so we opted for the private van instead.
How long did it take? Each trip from Havana was about two and a half hours one way. We left the house at about 8am each day and returned at about 8pm. Totally doable considering you could pretty much sleep during travel, which I can’t say I did but Al on the other hand shut his eyes the minute the van started moving.
How much did it cost? Our trip to Varadero and Viñales for six people, which included a private van with air conditioner (a big thing in Cuba), no limit on the amount of time spent there (so basically the entire day) and a private driver that waited for us was 180 CUC for Varadero and 160 CUC for Viñales. Pretty good deal if you ask me!
Note: CUC stands for Cuban Convertible Peso—it is the tourist currency of Cuba and the current exchange rate is $1 USD = 0.87 CUC.
What to do in Varadero? Enjoy delicious mojitos while you bathe in the crystal clear water and get your tan on. Just like any other Caribbean beach there are water sports like kayaking and scuba diving. After a couple of hours, enjoy a nice beachy lunch, waterside of course, at any of the local restaurants. Varadero is a very touristy place so there are tons of options to eat and drink.
Note: There were no costs associated with getting on the beach. Just like anywhere else, there are areas designated for hotel guests and areas designated for the public. Public areas do have chair rentals, so no need to worry about that. Just bring your towels and sunscreen!
What to do in Viñales? Ahh, the beautiful countryside. Unlike Varadero, which is pretty much the beach Viñales had tons to do. We started our journey with a stop at a Tobacco Farm, which didn’t have a name. I know, strange! There are a ton of these, so you can honestly take your pick. We learned all about the process of making cigars and even tried a few!
Next we headed over to Palenque de los Cimarrones, where for 3 CUC you can visit the caves. Unfortunately, for us we spent a little too much time at their famous bar having mango, honey infused cocktails that by the time we gathered ourselves to go in it was time to head to our next destination. What can I say, it’s vacation!
On our way to lunch, we made a quick stop at the “Viñales Mural de la Prehistoria.” It is a mural portraying world history until the age of humans on the side of a beautiful mountain. It is pretty spectacular and a definite must see!
At this point, hunger had kicked in so we headed to lunch at El Paraiso. What can I say?! Between the farm to table food and the breathtaking views this restaurant definitely took the number one spot! There is no menu, so basically they bring out what is in season and what was made fresh on that day.
Oh, did I mention that there is an organic farm on location, where all their food is sourced? I know, foodie heaven! They begin with their house “cocktail”—the Anti-Stress. It is similar to a piña colada expect it is made with five medicinal plants and no liquor. Not to worry, they do serve a bottle of Cuban rum on the side and you are more than welcome to add it to your drink.
While sipping on your delicious cocktail the feast begins. You get fed everything from homemade soup, to veggies, to traditional Cuban food and desserts. The food was amazing and the experience was memorable. I can’t say anything bad about this place. Just wait till you see it for yourself—Travel diary coming up! With full, satisfied bellies we headed home.
Both Varadero and Viñales were amazing and you should definitely visit if you’re ever in Cuba. We felt that visiting these other two locations rounded out our trip and enriched our Cuban experience. Cuba was truly spectacular and I hope to visit again!
Until next time.