Aside from assorted cavemen and maybe Batman, you might have trouble thinking about anyone who might spend time in a cave. But what about yourself? There is something truly remarkable about descending into the depths of the earth and being surrounded by cold ancient rock that has been there for hundreds of thousands of years. While many countries around the world have a network of caves that can be explored, the caves in Cuba are perhaps more user friendly.
The country has recognised the archaeological importance of their cave network and so has protected them. They have also safely adapted a fair number of caves in the country so that they can be explored by visitors of any age or level of physical fitness.
So what are some of the best caves in the country, just waiting to be explored?
Head to Viñales for the Best Caves in Cuba
The sleepy town of Viñales is just a few hours from Havana by car, and it’s home to some of the best caves in Cuba. It’s an agricultural village that is the birthplace of much of the tobacco that goes into those iconic Cuban cigars, but the surrounding national park also draws a lot of visitors. Viñales is surrounded by the Sierra de los Órganos, a low-lying mountain range, and it’s here that three of the most popular caves in Cuba can be found. There are also a number of smaller, lesser-known caves which can only be accessed with a guided tour. This can be a fantastic idea during the height of summer as some of these caves have natural underground lakes which you can swim in.
Please only explore these caves with a guide (who can be hired in Viñales if you haven’t already arranged one) and do not attempt to find and access caves on your own. Having said that, there are still a few rather thrilling caves that don’t require a guide.
Cuevas del Indio
This cave system (known in English as the Indian Caves) is the best choice if you’re at all unsure about the idea of descending into a narrow space beneath the earth. This is because it’s arguably not all that narrow when compared to other caves in Cuba. It’s a broad cave that has had lighting installed, as well as other safety considerations such as handrails and flattened flooring. This makes this cave an excellent choice if you’re travelling with children, the elderly, or anyone with mobility issues.
El Palenque de los Cimarrones
This small cave is also an ideal choice when you want to experience the odd thrill of being inside a cave without too much effort (such as climbing). Also in Viñales, El Palenque de los Cimarrones is in fact a cave that has been converted into an entertainment venue. There’s a restaurant that allows you to actually eat inside the cave, and in the evenings (excluding Sunday and Monday), the cave becomes a nightclub. Cave party anyone?
Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás
Located approximately 15km out of Viñales, the Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás is one of the largest caves in Cuba. To explore the cave requires a reasonable amount of effort and is perhaps not suitable for everyone. But if you decide to take the plunge, it will be something you’ll never forget. You will be given a helmet with a headlamp and will be taken into the cave by a staff member. The whole experience should take a few hours, although this only covers a fraction of this massive system.
Caves Close to Matanzas
There are other caves in Cuba than those in Viñales. Matanzas is also just a short hop from Havana and is sometimes referred to as the Venice of Cuba. Yes, you guessed it. There are a lot of canals and bridges in the town. It’s an extremely pretty place to visit, and once you’ve seen everything above the surface, it’s time to take a peek at what lies beneath.
Cuevas de Bellamar
The grand Bellamar Caves are the main drawcard in this region other than the town itself. They’re estimated to be more than 300,000 years old and there are some 2.5 km of caves to explore. There are some breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites decorating the floor and ceiling, and there is also an extensive underground waterway making its way through the caves, culminating in a pond that is known as the Fountain of Youth.
Caves Close to Varadero
Varadero is a resort town not so far from Matanzas with a number of luxurious resorts. The cave network in this area is not so extensive, and can generally only be accessed as part of a guided tour. Again, please do not attempt to explore caves in this area on your own.
This cave offers a truly authentic caving experience during your Cuban holiday. It’s a small cave which features a beautiful underground swimming lake. The water is clean and clear, although unsurprisingly the water is also dark and quite deep in some places. It’s maybe not a great idea for anyone who has any phobias about swimming, but it’s still an extremely refreshing way to wind down after a hot Cuban day. Despite the fact the water is so clean, there are no fish or aquatic creatures living in it. It’s a steep climb down into the cave, so exercise caution, and again, this cave might not be suitable for everyone.
This doesn’t stop the crowds, however, and this cave can become a little crowded on weekends during the summer months. Please remember that this is strictly a cave, so there is no visitor centre or even anywhere to get changed into your swimsuit. It’s all very basic and rustic, but this is part of the charm!